October 15 Southie, Boston, MA :
Standing on top of a giant hill looking over the ocean in Southie, Coach starts reading off names for the mini meet in Connecticut this weekend. It’s a 5k and it’ll determine the last spots for the conference meet the next weekend. He doesn’t read off my name or make eye contact. Okay now I’m confused. Nashua alumni and my teammate, Craig Hammond, walked up behind me. “Oh yeah Cam I forgot to tell you, we aren’t running that, we got the pass to conferences next week.” Well that explains that.
I was really excited to get to race this. It seems weird, even coming off of injury, to only run 2 real races in a season. Also, in college, conference meets are one of the craziest and most exciting weekends of the year. Competing in the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), our biggest competition is William and Mary, and despite finishing second, last year they swept the floor with us. This year the boys were looking for a change.
Thursday, October 27:
6:00 AM: Although being located in Boston is really cool, it throws off a “normal” running schedule because the sidewalks are not fun or easy to run on in the afternoon. On workout days, we go even earlier to include our teammates working on co-op. This is the workout day before we jump on a bus to University of Delaware for conferences. I wake up, the bag is all packed. I slowly crawl out of bed, get ready, and head out my dorm and across Huntington Ave to our varsity building. We jog out to a track in Brookline, still trying to wake ourselves up.
One big change about college is how fluid the workouts are. If you are struggling and shouldn’t be, coach will cut you a few reps short. Other days, it’s “run 400’s until I say stop”. This was a pre-race workout, and all coach wanted was a fresh squad. Our original 2k was cut to 1200 meters. An easy longer effort to loosen you up. Then three 600’s to tune up the speed and we were apparently ready to go. A quick jog home, shower, and breakfast, and we were ready to go. Twelve boys boarded the bus at 9:00am and we took off. It was a long ride, but as anyone who takes a trip like this will tell you, it was fun and absolutely worth it. We had some amazing food, a course preview on Friday, and plenty of sleep. Then 6:30 on Saturday, we were up and ready to go.
As I toe’d the line, a few thoughts rushed to my head. First of all, for a tiny meet of about 60 people, conference is extremely intense and hyped up. Also, on the verge of my third 8k race, I was feeling more comfortable, even though 5 miles of course was still ahead of me. I had a race plan ready, then the gun pops.
Even though the race was in Delaware, it was incredibly hilly, which was nice as I could get back to what I knew most. However, the first mile is mostly downhill, which is another curveball to deal with. Very quickly a lead pack formed, but I didn’t want to stray from my plan. I stayed relaxed through the 1 mile and up the big hill for the first time. Then, at around 2k, I made a break to bridge the gap. With plenty of hills and turns, it was easy to keep focused on the course. At halfway, heading into the second lap, I was feeling good, at least as good as I could at that point, and I was moving up. It finally felt like I was racing the longer distance, and I got up to the tail end of our front pack, had a strong last 1k, and finished 8th on the team in 26:52.
I definitely hadn’t felt such immediate exhaustion and pain in my legs in a while, probably since running Thetford. However, I knew it was my best race, even if it wasn’t my best time, and that makes the long ride home a lot better and happier. The only thing left to do was to watch the states livestream with Craig. Sadly, his high school got mine, but hey we’ll see about Meet of Champs!