Since my last post on the Rabbit Run in New Salem, I ran plenty of more races but I didn’t have the time to sit down and write two words on any of those. I doubt I will go back and post about those races since they’re fading away in the mist of memories, but here they are: VFW/SMAC 10k (48:26) in South Deerfield on Memorial Day, Lake Wyola 4.8mi (33:04) on June 10, Northampton Mile (5:50) on June 16, 4 around the Fourth (28:12) in Northampton on June 30, and of course MassDash where we placed 2nd overall, and the weekly Northampton XC 5k Series which is teaching me the hard of lesson of pacing.
(I might write on the amazing experience of MassDash and on the Noho Series, but I won’t promise.)
On Saturday, I drove to Shelburne Falls for the (in)famous Bridge of Flowers 10k. I ran it the first time three years ago and never had the chance to run it again since then.
Finally I was in the Valley at the right time though not at the perfect moment: training has been rocky in the last couple of weeks, first was a strained calf that forced me to take a break to let it heal, then was some kind of stomach flu that locked me home for three days barely touching food. I knew I wasn’t primed for the challenging Bridge of Flowers and simply hoped for the best.
The Bridge of Flowers 10k could be set as a standard to racing in Western Mass: a fun steep hill followed by some fun steep downhill — the race is not for the faint of heart. Still it attracts half a thousand runners from as far as Boston and New York. Competition is fierce and this year was
Tekin Deneko Fikadu Lemma of NYC to win in 32:22, but the Valley is home to some strong runners and I saw familiar faces and names in the first 20.
For me tactically was a good race: I went out in an easy 6:50 pace for the first 2 miles and I felt fresh and relaxed when I hit the infamous Crittendem Hill, an ascent of 400ft (~130m) in half a mile (~800m). I switched gear and I kept strong during the uphill feeling a boost of confidence as I was seeing people fading aways. The uphill felt shorter and when I reached the top I was like is that all?; the hill training is bearing fruits and surely the first leg of MassDash in the Berkshires made me reconsinder the whole uphill running business. I hit mile 3 in 8:47, a good minute faster than three years ago.
After the hill is a gentle-not-so-gentle downhill going back towards Shelburne Falls and I gained some speed reaching mile 4 in 6:30. For the last two miles I was hoping in some second-wind, but the lingering weakness and GI troubles of this week conjured against and I faded a bit. (Plus, though overcast, it was disgustingly humid on Saturday.)
I crossed the finish line in 44:15, a time I’m proud of and though it is just a few seconds shy of my first race there three years ago, I feel (all considered and modulo the flu) this weekend’s was a much better thought and run race than three years ago. Am I finally learning to race smart?