Sunday, May 6, 2007

Westford 5K day of fun

Two or three dozen GBTCers raced today's Grand Prix 5K in Westford, MA. Laura, Brad, Gretchen, and I left Boston at 11:30am since we thought it would take over an hour to get to the race. Well, we got there at about 12:20, two hours before the race would start. To kill time, we drove around town looking for a running store so Brad could buy a pair of men's size 9.5 racing flats. FYI runners -- there is no running store in Westford. We perused the wares at the flea-market-like Puma tent sale, and Brad optimistically stopped at Olympia Sports but came back empty handed. He was more willing to wear his trusty road trainers that a pair of bright orange plastic Puma spikes or heavy basketball mid-tops with velcro. Lucky for him, though, because he proved that you don't need any high-tech lightweight shoes to have a good race.

We basked in the sun for some time before rounding up the team for a warm-up. Several of us (I won't name names!) felt iffy and sore after our Saturday afternoon session of soccer in the park. Oops. I guess runners really don't use those kicking muscles very much because my quads and shins were kind of tight today. I'll have to work on my soccer skills this summer.

The start of the race was comical. Hordes of runners swarmed behind the fluorescent yellow start line painted across a narrow driveway only about 20 feet wide. It was a madhouse. A bunch of the GBTC women who wanted a good starting position but couldn't quite find space on the road huddled on the grass to the left of the start. When the horn sounded, we trampled over big cones and around fast old men before actually crossing the start. So I'm thinking that the conditions of the start tacked on a few extra seconds to each of our times.

The race was fun! The first two miles were flat or downhill, and the course was gorgeous. It was a fast start. I was hoping to go out in 6:10 for the first mile since my legs still feel pretty dead. I thought I was right on that pace -- maybe even slower -- because I didn't feel like I was really exerting myself for the first mile, and I was getting passed left and right. First mile split was about 6:01. I'll take that. Second mile was still pretty flat, and I kept the pace even. I started catching people who blew by me in the first mile. Second mile split was 12:03. Not bad. I kept the pace pretty spot-on until we hit the 2.5 mile mark or so. That's where the course started to climb, and my legs just died. I have no power on hills. I didn't get passed by any one, but I knew my pace had slowed significantly. I really need to work on those hills. Summit Ave. repeats, anyone?

All in all, I think GBTC had a great showing at the race. The women tied for 2nd place, and Allison McCabe outkicked a New Balance gal for 3rd place. Sweet. Laura - who is still in marathon recovery mode and totally dominated our soccer expedition yesterday - ran a solid race, just 10 seconds behind her 5K Grand Prix time from 2006. Gretchen, Fobert, Christy, Audrey, Heather, and Mithu ran solid as well, although I know that their times today are not even remotely indicative of how fast they can run this distance. And props to Audrey for totally coming out and running to support GBTC today. Way to run for the team!!! I ran okay - not great - but okay. I was 20 seconds off my PR, but I'll take that on this hilly course with heavy legs.

More importantly, I had a blast today. Sure, I left my house at 10:30am and travelled for 2 hours (one-way) to get to a 5K race, but I was in the company of my favorite people ever. And Grand Prix races are always so exciting because so many fast and talented people show up. It's not every day that you get passed by men (and women) almost twice your age. Amazing.

Next race is the Grand Prix 12K in two weeks. That race is bound to be uber-competitive since all the folks that ran the marathon will likely show up for that race. After that, I might run the half-marathon in Boston on Memorial Day Weekend. Anyone want to run it with me?

*megha