As they approached the hairpin turnaround, everyone in the race had a split-second chance to study the expression on the leader’s face as he ran back toward them.
Like a poker card shark, frontrunner Alex Carideo was giving nothing away.
If he was in any sort of distress ascending the challenging hill on the north side of Tyler State Park during the Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Covered Bridge 5K on Dec. 11, it certainly didn’t show.
But the Yardley native says that while he might have looked nonchalant on the way to a brilliant 17-minute, 39-second performance over the rollercoaster landscape, he definitely was feeling it on the aforementioned formidable incline.
“That hill was really bad actually,’’ chuckled Carideo during a telephone interview. “I was going like 4:50 (per mile) pace down that hill. It was a lot different going up, especially when I got up near the top. It was more like 6. If you’re wondering if that hill is as hard for me as it is for everyone, it is.’’
Well, to be honest, the 24-year-old Carideo wasn’t going completely all-out. After crossing the finish line, he took a deep breath and did another two miles at race pace in what he considered a “cool down.’’
“My goal was to win the race but if I didn’t have to go all out, and my coach wants me to do more than just a 5K, that’s what I do,’’ he explained.
Carideo actually took up running fairly late in his athletic career. In his early years at George School he was a soccer player who converted to cross country along with his twin brother, Jack.
Later, while studying electrical engineering at The College of New Jersey, Alex trained hard enough to work his way up the team ladder. By his senior year, he finished first in the NJAC championships 10,000 meters in an excellent time of 32:20.
Post-college, Carideo realized he wasn’t quite good enough to compete professionally. But he wanted to stay active in running.
So while beginning a career at HDR as an EIT (engineer in training) in Pennington, N.J., he joined a couple elite training groups, including Princeton Track Club and Leonia Track Clubs, both based in New Jersey.
His dad, Peter, is also an excellent runner and Alex noticed how much fun he was having at the Winter Series.
So he jumped in this year and so far has won all three races he’s entered.
Alex finds the Winter Series slate is a good supplement to his other training.
“My dad’s been a pretty big influence on my running,’’ Alex explained. “He works very hard at running and he taught me that from a very young age.
“After college, I knew I wasn’t good enough runner to be like on any professional teams. Obviously, I’m just doing like local races. The Winter Series is a clear choice for me, it’s local.’’
It’s a nice change of pace from the training he does with the folks at Princeton and Leonia.
“We train pretty hard,’’ he said. “It’s similar to what we did in college, sort of a post-collegiate development program.”
A typical workout might be 3 x 1 mile at 4:56 pace and then some track intervals.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,’’ is Carideo’s honest evaluation.’’
Getting out on the hills of Tyler with a couple hundred runners on a brisk winter morning serves its purpose as well.
“To stay motivated, do something like the Series,’’ he said. “The only advice I would give is the old Nike slogan: Just do it.
“You just have to do it. If you don’t, someone else is out there doing it and they’re going to be better than you and they’re going to beat you. I mean, how good do you want to be? That’s what it comes down to.’’
In addition to running, Alex has taken up cycling to supplement his fitness. He and his dad ride with a Bucks County group which pedals up to 50 miles or more on Saturday morning treks.
Would a triathlon be in the works someday?
“I would say definitely,’’ he replied. “I do want to branch out into marathons and stuff. In terms of biking, I definitely want to give that a shot, because I’ve been injured quite a bit. When I get injured, I go and do the bike. I get into it and I like it as well.
“I find the most benefit, 50 miles or so, biking at just a low effort for me that long increases my endurance,’’ he said. “Like I said, I’ve found that at times when I’m injured and haven’t been running at all but I’ve been biking a lot, that my aerobic system is still very good.’’
In his “spare” time, Alex works at the Princeton Running Company store as an outfitter. It gives him an inside look at shoe technology and ways to get faster.
“It’s taught me a lot about shoes,’’ he said. “Also do a lot with gait analysis, whether you pronate (or supinate) or whether you need a stability shoe, stuff like that. The shoe technology is really interesting, in the past four years, with the carbon-plate shoes and everything.’’
In fact, you might see a pair of those zipping through Tyler on a Sunday morning. They’re easy to spot because they’re the ones leading the pack.
Sunday, Jan. 15
Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Wild Card (4-6 miles), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com