One more race before Arizona.
This time I decided to sign up for the Stony Creek Road Race a four mile run in Branford. I was planning to ride over to the race, run it, then bang out a four hour ride. But instead we got a real soaking overnight and with the rain still coming down half an hour before the race, I decided to park at the nature trail, do a 15 minute run into Stony Creek and warmup, then run a little over an hour and an half afterwards.
My legs were tired when I got there. I'd pushed a little harder during the week this week and I felt it this morning.
I'd said to Margit that it would all be easy if Jesse Efrom was there. Jesse, who works at SoundRunner here in Branford, is like that shutdown corner no one will throw at. If he's at any local race i this area, chances are you will get thumped. He's got real talent. Any thought of picking up another win at this race (and it's been probably a decade) went out with the rain water when I saw him.
I lined up and we got started pretty much on time, good news when you don't want to lose any time.
John Tolbert was one of seven or eight guys ahead of me early. I knew John would be my toughest competition in my age group and I also knew with a good run, he would easily beat me. He got a nice gap early, and I used it to pull myself away from a couple of early challengers and settle into sixth, where I would stay for the whole race.
At about half a mile, I found myself audibly chuckling at the degree to which Jesse was burying me. I lost a 5K to Jesse by 2:00 earlier this year. Granted, not my best race but he was first and I was second and he beat me by two minutes. Over 3.1 miles.
When we hit the first hill, me watching JT's back, any thought of a big comeback went out the window. Quads, hamstrings, calves, all were letting their presence be know, insidious. Because I'm hurting doesn't mean I'm hurt (apologies Coldplay). This was going to be a strength run and my goal after all was just to keep it under 24:00 minutes then run another 1:35, assuming I was at about 40 minutes total.
As I crested the hill and headed for the turn that would take us back onto Stony Creek's main road and headed out again, I saw jT show some hesitation in the turn.
There were wet leaves in the turn, a lot of them.
A not-so-subtle reminder of the change of seasons (although it was warm).
We headed back out towards the fire station, except we banged a left before it and started up the toughest hill on the course. It was clear to me by this point past 1.5 miles that I was just going to be working at holding onto sixth. But I was still staring at JT's back, focused on the guy in front of me.
We crested the hill and I got my two mile time shortly after that, which was followed by the race's big downhill, a long turning affair on 146 that we usually exceed 30 mph on our bikes. It was a little frustrating running along 146 here because I simply wasn't catching JT I was concerned in fact that I was not going to avoid being caught. I kept plugging away though and the truth is, I like this course and this run, so it wasn't all bad.
We left 146 and ran a short loop with another hill and then by the small bridge at the old mill there was a sponsor's sign- growyogacreek.com or something. My brain couldn't make any sense of the URL whatsoever.
Back on 146 JT's lead had grown. We had passed three miles and I knew that I had to open it up as much as possible.
I was working pretty hard for average results and could feel the number of long races I'd done in the last month, plus being woken up at 5:50 AM by my son. Still, I was holding my own. I got near the final turn back onto the street the finish was on and a woman yelled 'Go red.' I thought 'Damn. Someone must be right behind me.' Then I realised that I was red- I was wearing my Hammer Nutrition kit.
I turned onto the street and I couldn't see the finish. Although I run on this road all the time, I'd lost track that there are not one but two bends in the street.
Finally, I saw the finish and the race director JB was waving me in. The clock was in the high 23:30s and I managed to get in about 6 seconds under 24. After running that 23:54, I took off my chip, congratulated the guys that beat me, sucked down some Clif Shot Blocks and water, and started my run right back up.
I did get another hour and thirty-five minutes of running in and all in all it was a great workout, which is a lot more important right now than whether I ran well.
But I did have some fun on a course I haven't raced on in a long, long time.