By Nick Woolf
We awoke to a cool, gray morning at the Geiken household. After a relaxing night of Netflix and Will's birthday shenanigans, we got ready in a dazed hurry to pack up for the meet. Soon everyone was streaming into the kitchen one by one to the smell of fresh coffee and bread toasting golden brown. After we all were satisfied with our pre-race meal, we departed in high spirits on the hour long drive into the city.
Searching for parking was an adventure in its own, but with time ticking down until our race started, we rushed to find a spot and did so just north of the park where the race was held.
Arriving with only 45 minutes until the gun went off was not our intended strategy. However, sometimes I believe things separate from your control for a reason. I had no time to over-think the race as we rushed through getting our bibs and setting up for our warm-up at the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies tent. Everyone else was in good cheer and excited to get out on the course and ‘PLOW, PLOW, PLOW!”
The sky was beginning to clear when we ran over to the secret bathroom by the tennis courts to start the warm-up. With no door on the stall and a small distance between the door and the toilet, we were hesitant to utilize this hidden gem. Yet, when duty calls and you have a race on the line, embarrassment is sidelined for discipline. The pre-race rituals completed, our Aggie teammates each got race ready and did their final drills.
The start was a large chute set up in the middle of the road between two sets of metal barriers. We surged to the front to get the prime starting position, and did our strides out onto the course. We had a clear goal of winning this race as a team, and putting forth an impressive showing. I knew that Will is one of those that is currently in the best racing shape, so I planned to look to him for pacing. Then the starter got us all hushed down, and gave the instructions that we have heard a thousand times. The race was about to start.
Usually when I’m standing on the line, I think over my general strategy one more time and think positive thoughts about my fitness and willingness to hurt. I always strive to push past comfort and run a race I can be proud of once complete. In this particular race, I planned on starting strong and hanging with the first pack. Before I could get all the way through with my second play through of my goal race, the starter raised his gun in the air. Bang! No more thoughts as instinct and experience take over.
Right from the start of the race, Will took to the front with Max Norris trailing close and myself bringing up the rear. We kept this formation through the first mile and separated ourselves from the rest of the field. I knew if I kept with this group, no one from behind would be catching us. On the rolling small hills behind the lake, Will the Hill Geiken made his move and gapped both of us. Coming into the last mile of slight incline, the same three of us were lined up but with about 10 yards in between. The last stretch of the Stowe Lake Stampede is almost an entire mile of straight road. You can see the finish line at least 1000 meters out. The question of when to start moving into the next gears becomes all the mind can think about. I slowly increased tempo to catch Max, who still looked strong in front of me. We battled back and forth with surge after surge, in attempts to break the other person. The battle fought for 2nd place pushed us closer and closer to Will. In the last surges of the race, I got into my last gear and we sprinted side by side following Will by 5 yards into the finish line.
Will crossed for the win after a strong race leading wire to wire, and Max edged me out to finish the race exactly as we all started. A strong showing from Sean, Neil, and Reesey placed us as the winning team for the day. This feeling of accomplishment and pure joy that comes from knowing the hard work and dedication is paying off, keeps me going on the day to day. Once the post race excitement wore off, we gathered back up to go on our much needed cool down. To ensure our legs didn't tense up too much and hurt like hell after the long drive home, we made sure to run enough to shake out the lactic acid we had just built up. For the entire 7 miles of our beautiful cool-down I had only one thing on my mind: Bagels and Beer! The classic post-race meal provided by the legendary Gordo. An hour of conversation, deliciously creamed bagels, the occasional stretch, and everyone started to take their leave. Those remaining helped to pack up camp and wish everybody safe travels until we gathered again under our HOKA ONE ONE Aggies banner. We left with a Stowe Lake victory and the Devil Mountain Mile in our cross-hairs.