Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Ashenfelter 8k: race report

Ashenfelter is an awesome race!  I have run this race in 2009, 11', 12', and again this year, 2013.  My own performances have been mixed each time I have run it (25:51, 26:15, 26:49, and 25:52). But I am always eager to go back.

Reasons I like racing the A8K:
1-A fast competitive field comes out to run-Random Africans you've never heard of, Collegiates home for T-day or recent College grads, and the GSTC army of running clone-bots, they can all be found here!
2-Cash Prize (small but effective, that's what she said!) to the top 3 overall
3-Top 3 finishers in each AG get a nice commemerative jacket
4-Top 100 finishers get a beautiful painted coffee mug
5-Shake hands with one of the oldest living American Olympian's, Horace Ashenfelter! He won gold in the 3,000 steeplechase in the Helsinki Summer Olympic Games in 1952!
6- You will see all your favorite NJ club running friends on Thanksgiving day when everyone is in a good mood!
7-There are lots of snacks that you would want after running an 8k road race!

The conditions today were tough, 15-20mph winds here and there, one seemed to find me just as I ran up a hill after the 3rd mile mark.  The temperature was about 28F at race time. I was in half tights and short over them, insulated arm sleeves, a racer beanie, and some duct tape over the end of my shoes so my toes didn't get too numb (it helped a bit I swear!).  I didn't feel terrific, I'll blame poorly timed eating from last night.
The start: Note guy on left w/neon vest and orange glasses, he knows what my palm feels like in the center of his back. He had no business standing there if he couldn't react any faster than he did. He finished about 7-8mins behind the leaders, that is a selfish racer, not cool!

How it all went down: The first 1/2mile was a weird scramble with a few pretenders in the way and trying to be in mix.  This is typical.  However, then as the true competitors for the top spots formed up, they all suddenly slowed down. It felt like we went from a 5:00pace to 5:40pace. after 3seconds of this, I made a surge ahead to maintain the pace.  So there I was in the lead for about 100m...and the pack of about 8 runners went by me and we all cruised through 1mile in 5:05-5:06.  They surged away and split 5:00 for the next mile, and a few were probably quicker than that.  I on the other hand wasn't feeling great rather suddenly, and obviously slowed down to a 5:16. So from about 1.2 until aout 3.5miles I was rather alone and just chasing a gap, fighting to figure out if I had it in me to close it back up or to even just maintain and not fall further back.
 Just after passing the 4mile mark, some audibly loud breathing behind me, got louder. I knew someone was close, and I knew I couldn't do a whole lot about it. I could tell I was losing a step. This breathing was so distracting!  As we climbed the last incline in the course, we made our last turn back onto Ridgewood Ave, and then he was alongside me.  I looked over to my right, it was David Nash, a very good runner in his own right.
Nash and I ran either side by side or with me 1/2 a step ahead for most of the last 1000m.  Just when I thought I could surge enough to break him, he'd respond and get right back on me.  The one last surge with about 80m to go was enough to get some separation, and still his last effort was very nearly successful. Sometimes a competitor will drag you out of a rutt when a race looks like it will end in worthless disaster. I ran the last .972miles in 4:58, which is a 5:06pace. Compared to when I ran 1 second faster in 2009, this was a faster last "mile" by about 8seconds.  More importantly I beat Nash for 9th overall by .04seconds! This is the closest margin I have ever beaten someoen by I am pretty certain.  So here's to you, David Nash! I would have probably wouldn't have performed as well without you pushing me all the way into the line. After we each caught our breath, we came face to face and congratulated each other on a great effort. We were both glad for it. You have to trust me, moments like that on a race course are more rare than you'd think. We gave each other something that only two true athletes can give to each other, everything that they have left down to the wire.

Getting close the end, fighting to hold off the always competitive David Nash

1 second later he nearly got me, i held him off by .04 seconds, 10th is mine! Thank You for a great race David Nash!

Lead pack at 3.5miles, L to R Chris Croff, Chris Johnson, Mystery-African-Guy#1, Andrew Brodeur, Stephen Mennitt, and Mystery-African-Guy #2. Things spread out not too long after this I imagine. These guys are not slow.
 My reaction to a 25:52: Given several factors, I am frustrated but as usual, further motivated to keep working and fighting. Finishing 9th against this field is good, but good is the ugly, talks-too-loud, annoying cousin of great. I missed getting a pr by 2seconds...grrr.  However, if not for the guy chasing me the last mile, and this were a 10k instead of 8k I believe I would have held out to the end\ with another 5:10 mile there instead of one 5:06 mile that accelerated in the last 1/4mile considerably. So, this still bodes well for the Club National 10k XC race coming in mid-december. So, to coin a new phrase, I'm finding seeds in the bird shit.

Further implications in regards to Club National 10k XC: Had I run the kind of race I'd hoped for, I might have caught one of my teammates, and been an arguable 8th man for the "A" team. But it is fairly apparent that I will end up on "Ze B squad".  Maybe, "The B squad leader"? If you've seen The Life Aquatic w/Steve Zissou...you are now having a light chuckle. If you haven't, watch it (or at least the scene below), read this again, then chuckle lightly.


1 comment:

  1. It was great to watch you haul out there on the way back in while I headed to the final turn around. Yesterday was fast group. I really love this race and it can reward those ready to race with really really fast times. Nice job!

    I get a little flustered when I hear people refer to the A8K as a "Turkey Trot", which it is actually a Team Championship race. To me Turkey Trots are more like fun runs, and when runners show up thinking this is a casual race, people who have no business lining up in the front end up there, like the guy in neon.

    Just some thoughts about seeding...this train wreck of self-seeding happens a lot at the A8K because placement is by gun time, not chip time. With this being the last 700 pt race of the year, runners competing for age group price money or for open and masters team scores want to be up front, especially in a race of almost 3000. I know I wanted to be as close to the front as I could and I was still 10 seconds back. Ladies beat me by gun time who I beat by chip. That could matter in the Grand Prix for some.

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