Yesterday we ran Trumbull’s Jingle Bell 5K. Joining me on the starting line was the lovely, talented and current Mrs. Thompson. My good friend and frequent workout partner Jack Felling and his SO Lindsey Dean. Also, the fast-rising running talents, Wendy and Mark Levy were in attendance. Last year, Mark ran this race with little to no training and managed a respectable 28:43. This year, fifteen pounds lighter, Mark has been a major force in keeping me motivated as I’ve had the privilege of watching him ratchet up the physical intensity. He was looking towards this race as something of a milemarker on his fitness journey.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Trumbull course, in a word it can best be described as “uphill.” It starts with a long, grinding upward mile. Then, takes a spin through a residential section for a roller-coaster ride on two significant hills before spitting the runners out onto the final 1.1 miles. This final section is mostly straight but I swear to God, mostly uphill.
The race got off to a bit of an awkward start. While the race director was in mid-sentence, telling us we needed to back up forty feet, the cannon went off and so did we. Years from now, no one will remember this little snafu, so I’m still calling the distance “official” and refuse to give back any time to my new PR on the course.
For the first 800 meters or so, I was in first place. Which was kind of cool, I guess. It’s been about ten years since I last led a race and I wish I could tell you I knew exactly what I should do but in my head all I could think was, “Jesus, this must be a really slow field.” Luckily, I didn’t have to think this for too long. Before the first mile, I was passed by not one but two other guys. Somewhat relieved to have the burden of leadership off my shoulders, I settled in for the two big hills in the second mile.
On the first one, I came up on the number two runner and passed him before the crest. I was strong but not that strong. He crushed me going downhill as I made a mental note to work on this skill before my next race. Hill No.2 came up way too fast and though I got up it pretty strong, it took a good two hundred yards for my legs to come back to me. All I kept saying was “I can take this suffering, I can take it.”
The night before the race, I had told Jack that my goal was to come across the finish line having lost control of all my bodily functions. That just once in my life, I would like to put it to myself so hard that I completely broke down. Well, we had a few laughs over what this goal achieved might look like and though I tried my best, for the good of my family and everyone else looking on, none of those images came to pass.
Over the last 1.1, I drove hard but couldn’t gain but a few seconds on the number two runner. I was pretty much all out and just before the final knoll that fell away to the quarter mile downhill finish, I was on the cusp of losing my form. I struggled to keep it together and did so coming across the line in 17:23 (5:36/mile).
I had to do a quick “U-ie” at the end of the chute because in full black, mandex glory was my buddy Jack. All 6’2” of him, kicking hard, head rolling, knees-up effort. He came across in 9th place, first in his age group.
A quick trip to find Nona and Drew had me missing out on Lindsey coming across the line but she also took her age group with a 20:38.
Returning with the kids to the finish, we saw Mom hammer home in 22:17 and Wendy in 27:01 which was a PR for her. She was bested by husband Mark, who knocked off an astounding 5:21 off last year’s time with a sizzling 23:22. His smile suggested a happiness everyone should feel at least once in a lifetime.
After picking up some significant bling, we all headed over to my favorite party of the year. Tom Matthews, colleague, friend and fellow runner (19:53 and 17th place) had his Christmas bash and once again, I was amazed at just how nice life can be. Surrounded by great people, good food, a little exercise under our belts and a world of possibility at our hands, it was a banner day for me and my group of running friends.