Even though the Litchfield Hills race fell on Sunday I am going to devote my blog this week to my trip up there while it’s still fresh in my mind. After a moderate early week workout, I was excited to fly to Hartford, CT and then drive into Litchfield for my first race back in almost 9 weeks! I was nervously excited to see if my body was getting back to normal and a race is the best way to figure that out as workouts can only provide so much feedback.
I arrived in Hartford, CT on Saturday afternoon and was met by a driver who then took myself and a female Russian runner to the Forman School in Litchfield, CT where I was slated to be staying. The picturesque drive took about 45 minutes and upon arrival there was a bag full of snacks and goodies waiting with my name on it (a runner’s dream). Even though the Forman School offered a solid lodging option, I was lucky to be able to spend the weekend with a local host family that Esther had gotten to know during her previous 2 trips to run the LHRR. Cliff and Jeanine Cooper were gracious enough to allow me to tag along with Esther and they were amazing hosts. Although the Litchfield community is small, they are very proud and passionate about running and their race. The 7.1 mile race is one of the biggest weekends of the year in town and as I have said previously, there is always something special about the road racing scene because the races often showcase a community’s love of running and Litchfiled, CT is no different.
After being chauffeured (again) by Esther to the Copper residence, she and I did an easy course tour. LHRR is famous for Gallows Lane which falls between 6 and 6.3 miles. It is a nasty, nasty hill that you can never truly prepare for. The challenging course also offers almost 2 miles of gravel road and even a small section of a single track trail! This is without even mentioning the high temperatures that also usually affect performances on race day!
After reacquainting myself with the Gallows climb (I’d raced the 2012 edition of LHRR), the Cooper’s had some local runner friends over for a pre-race cookout. The food was delicious and it was fun to mix and mingle with other runners and learn more about the community. And with Esther being the defending female champion, she was the STAR of the night as I stood by her and smiled politely when people asked with complete seriousness how far back I would finish from her the following afternoon! I delicately tried to convey that I run professionally for ZAP and that I thought with I’d run well enough to beat her the next day.
With a 1 pm race, I did a 20 minute walk around 9 am the following morning and then sat down for a light breakfast. I then hung out and prepared for the 85 degree temperatures that were being called for. I like to mix water with Pedialyte prior to a race as it provides all the electrolytes I need with much less of the sugar that Gatorade has. I decided to race in a cold, wet hat and also shortened my warm up from 50-55 minutes to about 40 minutes. I also warmed up in a cold, wet, long sleeve shirt to try and keep my core body temperature as low as possible prior to the gun going off. All of these measures proved helpful and I got to the line feeling fresh and ready to go.
The first mile of the race is very downhill and a group of 10-15 Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Moroccan runners sped off hitting the 1 mile mark in 4:16. I was intent on being conservative due to my brief hiatus from racing and hit the 1 mile in 4:32 with BAA runner and friend, Brian Harvey. I do NOT like letting guys go that early but I decided to be smart and run my own race on this day. I quickly passed several runners who were already falling off of that large lead pack and began steadily working my way through the field. By around 4 miles I was in 7th place and closing on a Moroccan runner who appeared to be struggling in 6th. I could also see the lead group of 5 splintering a bit and knew that I need to keep my head down if I had any chance of bridging the gap. I hit 5 miles in 24:32 as I sped by the Moroccan who, to my surprise, stuck right on me as I surged by. We then proceeded to surge back and forth as we approached Gallows Lane. Following the hill I surged by him again, gapping him by 15 meters or so, thinking I had done enough to at least secure 6th place. Unfortunately he came back on me over the last half mile and despite the fact that the 4th and 5th place runners were fading badly, I had run out of room to work myself further to the front. I finished the race in 7th place, running 35:53. Overall, it was a very encouraging performance all things considered. I truly believe this effort will set me up well to go chase a PR at the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon in two weeks.
AND…Esther was able to defend her 2013 title with another big win in 2014! This was her first race back after her awesome performance at the Boston Marathon in April and she delivered another tough, gutsy race as she pulled away from my current ZAP teammate Stephanie Pezzullo (aka Pezz) in the final mile. It seems I will remain secondary in the hearts of the native Litchfieldians for another year as Esther furthers her fame in town. I hope to come back to the race next year and try to become the first male American winner since 1992!
Here is my last week of training (6/1-6/7):
Sunday: AM: 16 miles (8×20 seconds post run) PM: 1 hour walk
Monday: AM: 8 miles
Tuesday: AM: 12 miles (2k+6 to 1 fartlek workout) PM: 4 miles
Wednesday: AM: 8 miles PM: 7 miles
Thursday: AM: 12 miles
Friday: AM: 9 miles PM: 4 miles
Saturday: AM: travel to CT PM: 7 miles (4×30 seconds post run)
Total: 87 miles, 10 runs