Roland Lavallee was getting a little itchy.
After an almost two-month layoff from competitive running, he was anxious to know how his 100-mile weeks of pounding the pavement had paid off.
The 32-year-old Lavallee satisfied that itch last month when he hopped into his car and made the 45-minute drive to Newport.
On a last-minute decision, the North Smithfield resident stood among the 2,508 participants that competed in the UnitedHealthcare Half Marathon. By the time he finished his 13.1-mile journey through the city streets of Newport, one thing was clear for one of R.I.’s top long distance runners.
The training is paying off and he’s still right on pace for his goal of qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Running solo from virtually the start to finish, Lavallee blazed to a personal-best effort of 1 hour, 6 minutes, 40 seconds for the Oct. 17 race. He won by nearly nine minutes over second-place finisher Kevin Gorman of Norwood.
“I had been training really hard throughout the fall,” said Lavallee, who just completed his fifth year of coaching boys’ cross country at Mount St. Charles Academy, his alma mater. “I was feeling so good, so strong, I just needed to get out and race.”
His scintillating performance, where he averaged a crisp 5:06 per-mile pace, was less than two minutes from the standard for qualifying for the Marathon Trials in Houston on Jan. 29, 2012.
For the half marathon, that standard is a time 1:05:00.
Considering he was not pushed throughout the race and was competing on a course that was not suitable for fast times with its rolling hills and ocean wind, Lavallee knows a 1:05 effort is within his reach based on what he ran in Newport.
“I am not somebody who needs a flat course,” he said. “But with the Newport winds and all the different turns in the race, you can’t run a fast time there. There’s no doubt in my mind that a different time and different place, I can be knocking on the door for 1:05 flat.”
Lavallee, a member of New Balance-Boston, didn’t take too much time off from the half marathon. A week later, he had his racing flats back on his feet and finished a very respectable eighth overall at the Mayor Cup’s cross-country race at Franklin Park where he ran the 8K distance in 24:13. Lavallee was just 19 seconds off the winning time and had the same clocking of seventh-place finisher Nate Jenkins of Saucony. Two years ago, Jenkins placed seventh at the U.S. Marathon Trials for the 2008 Olympics.
Lavallee’s main objective to running the Mayor’s Cup race was to help his team. Led by his top finish, New Balance placed second among the 12 elite teams.
“I wasn’t even fully recovered (from the half marathon),” he said. “My coach asked me if I wanted to run and I’d be a hypocrite if I said I couldn’t. I always talk to my runners (at Mount) about being a team. There was no pressure. I just went out there to see what I got. I went out there and held back and ran 4:42 for the first mile. I was 9:42 at two miles. I ran 24:13 and was almost close to breaking 24 minutes. The year before I finished tenth and ran 24:41.”
Lavallee, who averages about 90-105 miles per week, is content with his progress.
“I am gaining a lot of strength,” he said. “I am running twice a day and it’s just paying dividends.”
With the winter season approaching, Lavallee plans to run a few 5K race on the indoor track surface. But he’s not veering away from the roads. There’s another possible crack at 1:05 at the end of January where he is leaning towards competing in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. The race, which is part of the Chevron Houston Marathon, will also serves as the U.S. Championships. In other words, some of the best runners from the country will be at the starting line.
In last year’s event, Minnesota’s Antonio Vega won with a time of 1:01:54.
“Goal-wise, I am looking at indoor track and probably doing a few 5Ks and I am thinking of the Houston Half Marathon, which is a fast course,” Lavallee said. “That’s one of my goals right now. That’s where I am at. What’s also nice is I just got over (being sick) and I will have a good two months before the race.”
Lavallee could also try and qualify for the Trials by running a marathon in 2:19:00. That’s an option he is considering, but he would prefer to go the half-marathon route.
The deadline for qualifying is 30 days before the race.
“I’m not panicking. I know I can do it,” he said. “That’s what I got in my brain now.”
Seekonk High took home team honors this past Saturday at the MIAA Eastern Cross-Country Tournament at Franklin Park.
The Warriors claimed the Division VI title with a 55-133 win over second place Ipswich. Seekonk bunched four of its scoring runners in the top 10, including a second-place finish from senior Nate Larrimer. Larrimer was just eight seconds behind individual winner Kieran Kinnane of Ipswich with his time of 16:43 for the five-kilometer course.
Ryan Brown, a senior, placed seventh overall with a 17:24 clocking. The senior tandem of Cody Archambault (17:28) and Mark Hafley (18:22) finished ninth and 10th, respectively. Junior Dan Mendes rounded out the scoring for the Warriors by taking 27th at 18:22.
The Lady Warriors also have a strong placement in the girls’ Div. VI race, taking second behind team champion Dover Sherborn with 98 points. Dover finished with 58.
Senior Jen Salit paced Seekonk by taking third overall with a time of 20:02 for the 5K course. Emily Gagliardi, a senior, was tenth at 20:51. Also scoring for the Warriors were sophomore Alyssa Taylor (23rd, 21:39), senior Anna Spencer (29th, 21:58) and senior Rachel Spencer (45th, 22:26).