Rob Gomez had a pretty good last weekend of racing, and you don’t even need to count Sunday. He had a pretty good last weekend of racing on Saturday alone. In the morning, he won the Moxie Day 5K in Lisbon Falls, start time 7:30 a.m. Less than 12 hours later, he won the 6 p.m. Run for the Gym 5K in Springvale. In each race, his time was 15 minutes, 26 seconds.

So as you might expect Gomez, 26, of Westbrook, is actually having a pretty fine season. He won the YMCA Fit Fest 5K in Auburn on June 12, in 15:13 (4:55 pace). That’s his fastest 5K this season (although he won the Friends on the 4th 5K at Winthrop in 15:07.80, he isn’t counting it because he’s not sure about course certification).

On June 26, he won the Run For Cash Memorial 5K (the event honors Army Capt. Christopher Scott Cash, who died in Iraq in June 2004) at Old Orchard Beach, in 15:25. The previous weekend, Gomez bagged the Sea Dogs Father’s Day 5K, in 15:24.

That’s the event he seems to care about most, and it’s not really because of his performance. It’s because daughter Juliette, who will turn 6 on Aug. 5, was there to watch him finish with a big smile on her face, and inform people later that “my daddy got first!”

“I was so happy to see how proud she was,” Gomez remembers.

If there’s a Gomez quality as remarkably consistent as his race times, it’s his invariably deflecting credit to fellow runners/friends/competitors, including but far from limited to Josh Zolla, Jeff Sprague, Erik McCarthy and Curtis Wheeler. And not only fellows, since elites Kristin Barry and Sheri Piers, with whom he sometimes trains, come in for a lot of praise. (“It’s easy to get in shape when you’re training with those two.”)

Maybe not that easy. Waldoboro native and Bates grad Gomez trains to the tune of 80-85 miles weekly (including a race, a speed workout and a long run), amidst family time, job obligations (he’s a lab support specialist at General Dynamics in Saco, and second-year cross country coach at Biddeford High), and continuing education, toward a master’s in organic chemistry at the University of Maine.

And, “there are so many races I like to do or would like to do, so many (charitable) causes I like to support, I get in over my head a little bit. I don’t have Ethan Hemphill’s legs. But I enjoy every one of (the races) so much. And the fact that I’m even out there near the top is thanks to all the friends and runners, Dirigo teammates, who’ve really encouraged me and helped me run.”

Top of the list is roomie Sprague, also out of Medomak Valley High, and a formidable racer (a casual search of his times showed a 1:11 third-place at the unflat County Open half-marathon two summers ago). A little more than three years ago, Gomez had fallen out of running and out of shape (carrying up to 210 pounds on his 5 feet 10½ inches) when Sprague cooked up the idea of their training for the Chicago Marathon.

Cooked indeed, as 2007 was the blast-furnace, 88-degree Chicago that saw the marathon give up and shut down after 3 1/2 hours. Gomez “started seeing black spots around 18K, and thought I’d better start walking and hydrating.” He managed to finish in 3:04, Sprague in 3:20, fine times but nowhere near what their shorter-race times would indicate.

Now back down to almost 150 pounds, Gomez is looking toward the Houston Marathon on Jan. 30, assuming he can gets a number through the lottery (limited to 11,000 entrants). Before that, he’s got some Beach to Beacon 10K business to attend to.

Recent workouts have included mile repeats on the Cape Elizabeth course on Wednesday evenings, sometimes with a dozen or more Dirigo teammates. The goal is to run even splits. The pace is “a little under 5 minutes.” (Last year Gomez ran 32:13, 5:12 pace, for 25th overall and sixth place among Mainers.)

“Come to find out, that sixth mile is a bear,” Gomez notes good-naturedly. “But the key to that mile is, just knowing that those three hills are coming and preparing for them. As long as you can grind up the hills and get to the ‘cage’ (inside the fence and into the fort), the crowd will carry you.”

He’s also happy to share a B2B tip offered by Dirigo teammate and two-time Beach to Beacon Maine champ Andy Spaulding.

“Over that last hill before you get to the gate, it would seem to make sense to follow the curve and keep to the right,” Gomez explains. “But once over the hill, the course cuts left. So it makes more sense to stick to the left-hand side of the road. That’s actually the quickest tangent to get to the gate.”

(If you’re a non-elite, of course, you’ll have dozens of people clogging that diagonal.)

Up at the front of the race, Gomez isn’t concerned that he might be giving anything away. “I know how much I’ve benefitted from other people’s help and advice … All the people, that’s really why I love racing in Maine.”

Spaulding elucidates: “I think I figured this one out on my own, but for proper attribution of this tip, it was (race president) Dave Weatherbie who years ago told me how Khalid Kannouchi practiced that very hill prior to the race and made sure he went up on the left, stayed left for the first part of the down, and then cut the tangent over to the park entrance driveway on the right (which also gives you a much better angle to make that turn).” 

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

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