With Larry Defeyter (left) and Steve Bond (right)
On Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I joined over 1100 runners and walkers for the second annual Michael Bratton II Memorial Turkey Trot in Nevada City. This was my last race of the year and the final race in the Gold Country Grand Prix series. However, I had already sort of stopped training seriously since the Helen Klein 50 Miler and I had, instead, been focusing on assisting my kids with emptying out their enormous Halloween baskets.
I needed a third place in my age group here, and, as Steve Bond pointed out in his "Run for Your Life" Union newspaper column, all I had to do was stay on the course, and [an Age Group] first would be mine.
Runners warm up at the start
To make sure I would stay on the course (something I had a problem with last year at the Draft Horse Classic 10K, and consequently cost me a top three place in my grand prix age group), I ran the course once with Sid Heaton the week before the race (thanks Sid!). As it turned out though, the race was organized impeccably, and getting lost was not an issue. Volunteers lined the many intersections of the course and even the local police was out at some of the more dangerous intersections.
Sean was guaranteed a (grand prix) second place in his age group and Rocky had fourth place pretty much locked up. Unless some of their opponents did not show up at all, there was not much more they could do. Running their 11th grand prix race, however, makes them possibly the only two GP participants that have actually run all the races in the grand prix. Only kids can do this, because one of the races is the kids' race, in which only children up to 12-years old can participate. There are plenty of adults (like me), who have run all the races this year and I heard that they might take the kids' race out of the series next year to even it out.
Although I had a comfortable lead in the age group, there was also a small chance of a shot at a top three male overall place in this year's grand prix, but I could only get that if I placed first in my age group among the Grand Prix participants. For a large part that was going to be determined by whether Nevada City's speed demon Larry Defeyter would run the 5 or the 10K. Fortunately for me, he had signed up for the 5K, so there was still hope.
Sean and Rocky's friend Hayes had a narrow, one-point lead over Rough and Ready's Austin Violette and this final race would decide who would win the 13-15 age group.
Prior to the race, Michael Bratton's father gave an emotional speech. The support from the community had been overwhelming and the already huge race (for local standards) had almost doubled in size in only its second year (around 1100 participants!). After that, we were off. The race started and ended on the track and followed some of the cross country trails around the Nevada Union high school as well as some of the nearby roads.
Final Sprint of 2007
I started out at an easy 7-minute mile pace and let the speedy 5K runners and some of the fast 10K runners go ahead. At the first turnaround, I was in 9th place of the 10K runners. An out-of-town 10K runner, Nelson Lauy, was leading the entire field. He would go on to win the race in 31:56! Note: the course was a bit short in both the 5 and 10K.
The field spread out quickly and after the 5K turned towards the stadium, I found myself running pretty much by myself in 9th place. I was still in first place in my age group (grand prix-wise), so I figured I had a real shot at making the top three overall of the series, but then, all of a sudden at mile 4, a runner named Jason Higelin, who looked like he could be part of the 30-39 AG passed me in a burst of speed. I had seen him in another race, so I was not sure if he was part of the grand prix. To be sure, I thought, I really should try to beat him.
Jason slowed down after a little while and I slowly started catching up to him. When the 10K course connected with the 5K course again, we started passing lots and lots of walkers. Most of them were oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on, so we lost quite a bit of time zig-zagging through the crowd, calling out "on your left," which some walkers actually interpreted as "move to your left," resulting in a few unplanned walk breaks.
5K Age Group Winners Chris Bodelato (Left/first overall) and Larry Defeyter (4th overall, with new haircut)
I finally passed Jason on a long downhill just before the stadium, but on the next uphill, he once again, charged past me in another unbelievable burst of speed. He slowed down again soon though and kept running about 15 yards ahead of me. Jason entered the stadium and I hit the track only a few seconds behind him. That was it, I was not going to go out without a fight! I accelerated and blasted by Jason with about 150 yards to go.
Fully expecting a counter attack, I just kept sprinting at sub 5-minute mile pace. One more corner, I looked back, and noticed I had already created a 5-second gap, so I just kept running as fast as I could to the finish line, arriving in 41:51 (9th place overall, third in the 30-39 AG for this race, and first in the Grand Prix participants' AG). As it turns out, Jason was in the 20-29 AG, and I don't think he was participating in this year's GP!
Hayes picks up first place in his AG, winning this year's AG in the GP
Hayes finished first in his age group in the 10K, maintaining his one point lead over Austin, who won the 5K race in his AG. Sean and Rocky ran the 5K, but did not place in the top-three. They now have 2nd and 4th place in their Grand Prix AG. We hung around for the awards and talked to other runners about next year's race schedule. There is going to be a Grand Prix awards ceremony on the 9th of December.
10K Age Group Winners
Gordy Ansleigh, who easily won the 60-69 AG in the 10K, came around with flyers for his Cool Yule Jingle Jog 5 and 10K on Christmas Day (10:30 a.m. start). Benefits go to the Gordy Tooth Fairy Fund (Gordy is in need of an expensive tooth repair). So, maybe this was not my last race after all...
Next up: Weekend TRT section hikes as long as it does not snow!