Two races in one weekend. Great idea, right? I mean, races are fun so how could this possibly be a poor decision? Okay, okay…I know it’s not smart. Unless you’re taking it easy one of them (but then what’s the point of racing?), it can be not only extremely difficult but also possibly put your target race in jeopardy.
Knowing all of this, I still ended up with two double-booked weekends in the month of September (9/10-11 & 9/24-25) and both of those happened to be USATF-NE championship weekends. First up was the mother of all conflicts: the Shawn M. Nassaney Memorial XC Races at my alma mater Bryant
College University followed by the Seasons 20k (USATF-NE Grand Prix race) the next day.
Shawn’s race is arguably the only ironclad lock on my calendar. Even though this past Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, this past Saturday was actually the 16th running of Shawn’s race since we scrambled to put one together late in the fall of 2001. Why we did that then and why we still go back to this day isn’t necessarily to race, but to catch up with old friends, share a laugh and celebrate Shawn’s life. And since we’re there…why not put on the spikes and beat up on each other a little?
Me vs Jay
It turned into yet another battle between me (class of 2001) and my old roommate/teammate Jay Eddy (2002). Alas, only one of the younger alumni (David Hurley, 2015) showed up to challenge us, and it turned into another case of a couple of old guys beating up on each other. But it wasn’t without its drama.
Not knowing what cards the other guys were holding, I took it out hard and led through almost the first mile. Jay made a power move and went by me as we looped the outer track area, just as I was starting to second guess my fast start. When we exited that part of the course, that’s when the fun began.
We studied the course map beforehand (I swear) but still weren’t quite sure where to go at this point. Even the lead bike seemed confused. Jay started running outside the markers (on pavement) but even I knew that was wrong and called him back onto the grass. We all missed a turn somewhere on the field, and from that point on the biker kept looking back with what appeared to be a somewhat panicked look on his face.
It seemed like we were swimming upstream, going into oncoming race traffic and it all felt wrong. I thought Jay was going to break it open and take it, but then he started coming back to me. A thought clicked into my head: “this might end up being a 2.5 mi race…we’re making up our own course as we go along…go now…or we’re just gonna get DQ’d…GONOWGONOWGONOWGONOW…”. Just after 2 miles I made a move and that was it. We ended up throwing in an opposite direction field loop to make up for the one we missed and came it at about 2.95 miles…almost a 5k! Luckily we weren’t DQ’d. It’s all good though, nothing to get fired up over. Like I said before, the race itself is sort of secondary.
Party at Vinny’s/Mid-Double Doubt
That was one hard effort in the books and now it was time to shift my focus to tomorrow’s 20k. But first…there was the traditional post-race fiesta at Vinny’s house. All day, sometimes all night. That’s arguably tougher to recover from than the race itself.
I left my house at 6:30 am for the Nassaney Race and got home shortly after 10 pm. It was a loooooooong day with a hard race effort, lots of food and some drink thrown in (no hula hoop contest this year though). All told there was about 3 hrs worth of time spent in the car. Lining up to race the next day just seemed like a recipe for disaster. Putting in a longer effort on tired legs would be good for my marathon training, but a solid long run would be just as well and less risky. I was really doing this for my team.
Was I crazy for trying this, especially given my injury history? Surely others attempt it, and luckily two people I know did so the very same weekend.
Anja Meichsner, second woman (9th overall in 35:14) at the 2nd Annual Middlesex Fells Trail Running Festival
Matt Germain, 1:18:08 at the Seasons 20k (41st overall in a deep field on a hot, soupy day)
Those guys…respect. But why did they do it? Out of sheer curiosity, I had to ask.
For Matt, it was more for the team: “Team Sneakerama was facing a tough challenge from the November Project at the Canal Diggers 5K (really 3 miles). So I suited up my Sneakerama Uniform and gave it my best on Saturday. Not running the 20K was never an option, I suited up with a race plan of playing it safe and seeing how I felt over the last 6 miles.”
For Anja it was a little simpler. She had won the PBR 5k race the prior two years but decided to try something different so she signed up for the Fells race. It wasn’t until after she had registered that she was offered complimentary entry for this year’s PBR event. “It was more like that I couln’t say no (and there was no reason).” Fair enough! But she did say she wouldn’t do it often as it’s not a very efficient way to train.
Matt is there when his team needs him, as he said the “only reason I would double up is if my team needed me to. Not afraid to do it…just my weekends are busy enough.”
In the aftermath, Anja had no regrets. “It went better than expected- even if the race on Saturday was a killer Hill Race! But short distance, that makes it doable!”
Short distance…heh heh heh…yeah, not for those doubling up with a 20k on the backend! “I ran 15:52 on Saturday and felt really good. Came away with overall victory and Sneakerama won by 6 seconds! Playing it safe on Sunday didn’t really help, it was still a dreadful march over the last 5 miles,” said Matt. “Wish I ran better on Sunday, but fortunately I got gritty teammates who stepped up for me.” The Sisu crew, led by Dan Button, placed 7th in the 20k.
So we saw how Matt handled the 20k to wrap up his double. Now I guess I have to share. Uncharacteristically, I took it out hard. Brandon Newbould is a guy that I have a friendly rivalry with, but he’s owned me this summer. At New Bedford I regretfully let him go early and then ran out of real estate when I was closing in on him at the end. This time, I was going to go with him early! Good thinking, but terrible timing. I was zapped and the weather was brutal. I felt good for the first half and then absolutely imploded the second half. Would it have been different with a conservative start with an eye on a strong finish? Maybe, maybe not. No matter, a lesson was learned…the hard way.
Just finishing the race was hard enough; I just wanted to drop out (such was the suffering) but knew my CMS team needed me. We came into the race tied with the BAA for the overall series lead, and a DNF by me on a day when we had low numbers would be pretty bad. Once I did finish, no more running was to be done (not even a light cool down). I attempted one with Brandon, but had to bail about 20 seconds into it. This double resulted in max depletion, something that hopefully will end up helping me in the long run but that remains to be seen. Fortunately no setbacks occurred. I am a firm believer in experiencing some suffering to help with the mental toughness, and that was some pretty acute suffering over there in Acton!
Saturday: 15:27 for 2.95 XC miles and the win
Sunday: 1:16:27 for 20 soupy kilometers
Looking back on it, the high experienced from a strong win at the Nassaney XC race still outweighs the sobering reality check that was the 20k. Now would I do it again? Yes and no. Lesson learned: I can’t go hard in both races. So for the upcoming double weekend, I’ll be jogging the HS reunion race and then giving a it a more legit shot at the Lone Gull 10k.
In all this talk about doubling I neglected to point out that Jay Eddy also doubled that very same weekend. We discussed before and after the race. Even a little at the after party. Yet when it came time to hammer away on the keyboard…nothing. Totally whiffed. Jay’s final line:
Saturday: 15:34 for 2.95 XC miles and second place (sorry bruh)
Sunday: 16:31 for the win at the Ft. Phoenix 5K Road Race
Tip of the hat to Jay, who came back on tired legs and won easily in his second effort (nearly a 3 minute gap between him and the next finisher). Saturday for the rivalry and revelry, Sunday for padding the pockets a little maybe?