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Monday, June 27, 2011

My Hometown: Plaistow 5K Race Report

"Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around.  This is your hometown."
-- Bruce Springsteen

On June 28, 2003, I ran my first ever road race:  The 23rd Annual Plaistow Old Home Day 5K.  My official time was 25:14.  I paced off of my friend, Sue Wentworth (who taught me an awful lot about running):

I received my first running trophy EVER at this race for 1st place NOVICE female.  Imagine that?  Not bad for a first timer.
I've done numerous 5K's, 5 milers, 1/2 marathons and marathons since that day.  This is the only race that I have done every year, without fail.  It's special for a couple of reasons.  First, it's the anniversary of my introduction into road racing.  Secondly, it's in Plaistow, NH, the place I have called home for over 17 years now.  But, it's not just about a 5K.  It is part of the Plaistow Old Home Days, which celebrates the town.  You can read more about it here:

It's like a slice of small-town America, which is really neat.  There is a parade that happens on Old Home Day, right around 2 p.m.  The route goes right by my street, so my neighbors and I always take chairs down to the end of the road and watch the fire trucks, police cars, Shriners and marching bands.  It lasts for about an hour and is always lots of fun.

The 5K was this past Saturday, 6/25/11.  My friends Gina, Christina, Matt and his sister, Jillian, joined me for the race this year (I like to travel with a posse).  The weather was very sketchy at first.  I awoke to the loud, booming sound of thunderstorms around 5:30 a.m.  I had heard we may have some wet weather, but that it should clear up enough by the time the gun went off at 9.  Everyone arrived at my house between 7:30 and 7:45.  The thunder and lightning had pretty much ceased, but the rain was still falling, moderately at times.  However, runners are a tough bunch.  It would take a lot more than a little rain to keep us from getting out there.

I live less than 1/2 mile from the finish line of the 5K, which is the location of the town hall.  We walked down to pick up our t-shirts & bibs.  The benefit of being so close is we could bring everything back to my place, take care of our last minute "bathroom business" and then leave from my house to do our warm-up.  Matt, Christina and I went out to run 16-18 easy minutes.  Gina and Jillian decided they'd just walk back down.  After our respective warm-ups, we met up at the starting line with about 10-15 minutes to spare.  As we all congregated at the start line, we were asking each other about time goals for the 5K.  I hadn't done a race this short in distance since July 2010.  I had done a couple high intensity track workouts with my friend, Leigh, prior to this weekend, but have been in total marathon mode, racking up 50 mile weeks and focusing on long runs.  Matt said he wanted to break 23 minutes so, in the back of my head, I figured I could use him as a pace car.

We wished each other well and got ready to run.  The gun went off at 9:02 and so did we.  Now, normally when I run, I do not pay attention.  I've done many races where people will ask me, "so what was the course like?"  And I just look at them, blankly, while shrugging my shoulders.  This is the one exception to the rule.  These are roads that I train on ALL the time.  I've run on them several times a week for the past 8.5 years.  I knew exactly what to expect and the nature of the course.  The first mile is flat to downhill, second mile is more uphill and the third mile is mostly flat to downhill.  I checked my split at the 1M marker:  7:05.  I was huffing and puffing, but my legs felt strong.  I could still see Matt, which was a relief.  As I mentioned, the middle mile is a bit challenging because it's a gradual incline that doesn't provide much in the way of recovery.  It's almost like a false flat at times.  You don't really SEE the hills, but you can FEEL them.  At the top of West Pine was the 2M marker:  7:09.  Only 1.1 miles to the finish.  I knew the first .2 of the last full mile was still a gradual climb, but that a .5 mile gradual downhill awaited me on the other side.  It was around this time that I closed the gap and ran slightly off of Matt's right shoulder.  Sensing my presence, he gave me a thumbs up.  I returned the gesture and focused on the task at hand:  getting to that finish line.

It couldn't have gone any better.  And the best part is, we didn't plan it that way at all.  I would edge out in front a bit, then he would take the lead for a little while.  We went back and forth this way until the last tenth of a mile.  We turned it on here as best we could and came through the corral.  High fiving each other, we walked it out for a bit, trying to catch our breath.  Christina, Jillian and Gina came in shortly afterward.  We all had pretty good days and, oddly enough, it ended up being near perfect running weather; cool and cloudy with a light mist/drizzle that fell in the first half mile.

After Matt, Christina and I went on our cool-down run, the preliminary race results were posted.  Matt ran a 22:23 and I clocked in at 22:25, only four seconds slower than my 2010 Plaistow time.  Here is the link for the 2011 race results:
I was quite pleased, considering I really didn't know what to expect.  I had been in kind of a "racing funk" for a while.  Taking some time off and just focusing on training runs seemed to help.  Now, I'm excited about the summer racing season again and am already looking towards my next race; a 5K on Sunday, July 10th in Wakefield, MA.

It's always nice to run well and finish strong, no matter where I race, but when it's in your hometown, it's even more meaningful.  Since 2005, I've been able to finish in the top four of my age group.  This year, I placed 2nd in the F20-39 division.  I'll be turning 40 in December, so to celebrate my last year with an age group award was very special.  Another piece of hardware for the collection:

Thanks to my friends, Christina, Gina, Matt and Jillian, for sharing this special event with me, the Plaistow Lions Club for organizing this event and the Town of Plaistow, for all you do in making Old Home Days special and fun.

See you next the MASTERS DIVISION!!!!

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