The day finally came: with my first official cash payday–I had won a free pair of shoes, some gear, and a couple gift cards before–I can finally call myself a sub-elite kind-of-professional athlete. Man, it feels great to finally have that label.

Unfortunately, the payday felt a bit bittersweet.

The event was the Mew’s Tavern Gear n’ Beer 6.9k, which these  postgame  interviews suggest would probably be Rob Gronkowski’s favorite road race in New England. My old teammate Brendan Boyle had given me the heads up on an easy cash prize a few months before and indicated that there may be a team prize, so he, Mark McGurrin–another Brown alum– and I registered in the hope of a good run, some cash money, and some free beer and 15134607_1146584618711621_6113979308125682021_nfood after. It would undoubtedly be a winning event, for Boyle and I, who would be in contention for cash prizes, and for McGurrin, who wasn’t in any sort of shape relative to his past self, but who recently joined the Heartbreakers in Boston, is still fit enough to finish better than the NARPs out there, and who loves few things more than free beer.

On the whole the race was a success! Despite a scare when NE Distance’s Sub-4 Steve Mangan showed up at the line, Mangan was only doing a fartlek, so Boyle and I managed to finish 1-2 while Mark came in sixth, annihilating the individual and team competitions. I also met a dude from Carlinville, IL, which we dudes from southern Illinois hardly ever get to do around the northeast, so that was an awesome random occurrence.

See, this was where the fun ended. Because Katie Spratford, also from NE Distance, set a course record, I found out that if I’d run about 5 seconds faster (i.e. not turned around to give a kid a high five in the last mile of the race and run through the line) I’d have come home with an extra 500 bones. Considering I only ran 4:58 pace and didn’t want to push too hard with Manchester coming up Thursday, this would have been marginally more effort on my part for a 166% pay increase. And, despite Mark, Boyle, and I wrecking the team competition, team prizes were only awarded to corporate and family–not student– teams. Essentially, we left $600 on the table. To say that I’m still butt-hurt about it would be an understatement.

But to race is to live and let go of the month of rent or whatever else you could have bought with $500 prizes you could have easily won. So it goes. Not bitter…

Anyway, the last month of training and racing has been a general trend upwards. Mayor’s cup was pretty crap (24:50 ish for 8k), and USATF New England’s was mediocre, but a huge improvement over the previous effort (came through 8k in 24:40 and closed for a 30:42 10k at Franklin Park). While I wasn’t hugely pleased with either effort, consistently putting in solid miles and workouts over the last few months has brought me back to life, and obviously coming through 8k ten seconds faster than two weeks before is a sign of progress. Not to mention, I’d run a conference the day before and been up late waiting for a non-reserved table at Los Andes, so while this wasn’t my focus during the race, I definitely hadn’t prepared the way I would have liked to.

It was also fun to run with my sister around, who came for a pretty great weekend visit and managed to capture the beauty of the squad during the race and of myself, falling to the ground on the cooldown. Now, I just have to put the final piece of the puzzle of competition together.

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For that, I’ll be heading out to Manchester on Thursday and seeing some family along the way. If I survive the hill, who knows what can happen! Will I finish top 10? No, barring some great accident, probably not. But will I get a gift card to somewhere in Connecticut? The world holds its breath.

After that, I’ll be running Club Cross in Tallahassee, where I don’t know what to expect, but I’m certainly looking forward to testing myself and chasing the Great Edinburgh vest after a bunch of other guys drop out.

Anyway, gotta get back to work and remember how to compete again. Can’t spend my whole day writing blogs in the office!

Until next time,

J