2019 Race Recap #27: Mill Cities Relay

This was a bit of a change of pace for me. For a number of reasons, I wasn’t available to follow through with my original plan for this weekend, but sometimes – when you put yourself in the right position – things work out. This was one of those times.

27 miles. 5 legs. 2 states. Not sure about the river

Earlier this week, I just happened to find a Facebook message hanging in suspension because it came from someone with whom I’m not connected, so it didn’t show up flagged. It turns out it was sent a week or so previous asking me if I’d be interested in running a relay race.

Honestly, I thought my opportunity had passed but as it turned out it was still open – as it happens, all the fast people I know are all the same fast people other people know and they were all committed. Suffice to say, I was the fastest person still available – which is to say, my team was scraping the bottom of the barrel when picking me up off the bench.

So flipping cold, my beard froze

I don’t mind

Truly.

I’m a middle aged dude whose found running really late. I do okay, but I’m never ever going to be anyone’s speed demon. I just like that people think I can contribute. That’s all. And that’s what this was, but man…I thought I was competitive. Not so much.

The race is 27 +/- miles from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts, including some of the same course as the Bay State Marathon, I ran the first leg. 5.6 miles. Roughly 200′ of elevation gain. I haven’t been running well so I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect from this leg. Or any leg really. My running has been really labored and really slow; I’ve suspected it was a combination of a few things not the least of which were dehydration, sleep, and poor nutrition. Since I couldn’t really do much about the nutrition thing so soon, I decided to control what I could control. I got a good night sleep, eazed off the beer, hydrated appropriately, and ate well.

It was 5-degrees when the race started. at 8 AM That’s cold, for the uninitiated. That temperature probably helped me out, if I’m honest. I maintained a 8-minute pace for the leg – a pace I hadn’t kept in some time – and my heart rate was well under control too. I’m sure that the issue was my hydration because my average HR was substantially below what I had been doing, with shorter mileage and slower pace over the last week or so.

The swag isn’t so great, but the vibe was everything. Although what I take away from the logo is that 27 miles is greater than 5 legs which is greater than 2 states which is greater than 1 river. Which might be true in most cases, but what if that river is the Mississippi? Seems like a bit of an over generalization.

I felt generally pretty good, although I was cognizant that I was working hard, but I feel like that that was the external pressure of running a race versus a training run. I knew my leg was 5.7 miles or so, so when you’re less than 10-minutes into the race and figuring, “Oh, I have less than 5 miles to go..” it may be a long day.

For a guy my age, my heart rate was high – but not obscenely high – and I maintained a 7:56 min/mile pace for my leg. I’m pleased with that – even given that was one of the slower marks for my leg (and perhaps for the race, I’m not sure). This puts me at exactly 1947 miles for the year – 72 miles from my secret goal of 2019 miles; my stated goal of 1600-miles was surpassed back on October 7 with a 5.6 mile run. According to my spreadsheet I’m on pace for 2071 miles – over the last couple of months my averages have dipped; there was a point at which I was averaging close to 2100 miles.

My knee has been bothering me since the TARCkey Trot, so I’ve been easing up on that, but I really want to be sure I’m keeping my fitness level up. If 2019 has been the year of doing badass things, I want 2020 to be the year of doing an increasing number of badass things. Longer races, Longer training runs.

2019 has kicked ass.

Results

My team “Friends of Wormtown” finished 64/185. Definitely not last, in 3:17:23 Literally seconds slower than the Assembly Square Animals and the Bionic Women. I like to think I helped here.

2019 Race Recap #26: TARCKey Trot 6-Hours

It’s been a week since the race, so I figured I should probably get something written before I forgot everything. First, it was freaking cold, and really just uncomfortable if I’m being honest.

These people are my tribe

I was feeling pretty crummy about how many miles I got in – I mean it was only a few weeks ago I smashed 31 miles at the Joe English 6-hour, and here I was with roughly 21 miles. The big difference wasn’t really the weather, but the elevation gain. 400′ per 5k loop. Joe English gave me 2897′ of gain over that 6-hours and 31 miles. This course gave me 2988′ over just under 22 miles. Not an easy race.

A week on, my knees are still giving me grief.

Here’s a great illustration of what I’m talking about. Elevation gain. Leaves. Challenging but not technical.

I was miffed with myself that I decided I didn’t have one more lap in me – I may have pulled it off, I may not have, the timing was pretty close. I felt like I should have at least tried, but the way my body responded over the next two days – DOMS from hell, I was literally 95 years old – told me I’d made the correct decision.

The course itself was beautiful, a gem really. Who knew that in the middle of Arlington/Winchester/Lexington, MA there was this little gem of hills, and trails, and goodness? It was a 5k loop of hilly, wooded trails. Challenging, but not overly technical. What made it more difficult for me was the fact that because it’s fall in New England, leaves coated the trails, obscuring what may lie underneath. That’s not to say I’d have been faster or gotten further, it’s just to say that since I wasn’t familiar with the trails and couldn’t see, I was probably overly cautious in attacking large swaths of the course. That said, the weather leading up to the race was really favorable so there wasn’t any real moisture/slipping on the leaves.

The best part though was running with friends. We had a big contingent of folks running – and hanging out to watch – which really made for a fun event.

TARC does such a nice job coordinating their races too. Super low frills, low entry fee, “Fat ass” type vibe with the aid stations – bring something for the station please! I can’t say enough good things.

Results:

Overall:37/90 GP:26 21.7 Miles

2019 Race Recap #25: Baystate Marathon

It is not generally considered to be good race preparation to run an ultramarathon the week before you run a marathon. During this training cycle, I ran 20+ miles three times – this is generally considered to be good training practice, but the thing is I ran 50k trail ultras as 2 of those runs…and they were within the last 3 weeks.

So, that’s a thing. I’ve decided I’m fully overcome by madness at this point.

I’m sure the descent into madness began slowly. So much so that it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly when it began. Perhaps it was the first time I attempted to run an ultra-marathon with my friend Rich…in a blizzard. Or maybe it was simply the result of so many gateway “52-Week 5ks” with Central Mass Striders. Or long runs with Duke, training for nothing. Perhaps full psychosis began the weekend I ran two Spartan Beasts. Regardless. Five weeks ago, I ran a half marathon. A week later a 50k to a personal record. Two weeks after that (last week) a second 50k to a PR. Today, Baystate Marathon. To a PR.

It seems to me — and this may be the speech of madness speaking —that with age 50 screaming up to me faster than I care to admit, I have two choices because putting fingers in my ears and humming isn’t going to work. I can either walk dignified toward it, or I can scream like hell back and let Father Time and all who bear witness know that I am not going quietly. Today, I screamed like hell. Quite mad, indeed.

I’m so pleased with the consistency of my pacing throughout the race – a real Goldilocks pace. Not too fast, not too slow. I started to lose my bearings Miles 23 & 25, but overall it went well.

I was really happy to have been running with friends – it was great to have people you know with you, to keep me accountable and to help keep accountable. Kristina and I relied on each other for most of the race – I wouldn’t have come close to my time without her having been there. Eric started out too fast and blew up later on, but we did get to run together for a bit.

It was also super important to have support on the course too. Derya came out to watch the three of us at several places along the course and Mrs Mo and Junior were waiting at the finish for me. Nothing like having the support of your people.

Running with friends is awesome. Photo credit Derya

This was the time result I was hoping for from Boston those months ago, for whatever reason that didn’t happen then. Today, I’m actually thinking I could qualify for time at some point. I need more work, but there remains that possibility. Were I competing in the F50 age group, it would be a BQ…but alas, not so much.

The course itself was super flat – by my Garmin there was 538’ of gain. To put that in context, running around super flat Cambridge, Mass for 7 miles earlier in the week netted me 335’.

Huffing and puffing to the finish. Roughly 0.1 mile from the finish line. Photo credit: #Daeganator

There were ample water stops and enthusiastic volunteers, both of which were appreciated. Some points were more easily run than others – squishing down to essentially only the breakdown lane in spots to half a street in others. The finish chute was a little awkward to navigate but the finish festival was solid. Would’ve been better with a finishers beer, but can’t ask for too much I guess.

Here’s the professional shot near the finish line. Note how quickly she’s gained on my since the previous one.

It was a good course – not my favorite but good enough. The organization was good and the overall experience was on point.

Results

3:47:10.0 Overall

482/1112

Marathon History

2019 Baystate Marathon 3:47:10
2018 Marine Corps Marathon 4:03:17
2019 Boston Marathon 4:05:47

2019 Race Recap #24: Joe English Twilight Challenge 6-Hour

Races against the clock. I’m not really sure how to categorize them really. I mean I’ve done a 6-hour trail race before – “To Hale and Back” and lasted 17-miles or so before I decided it was too cold and pulled the plug. Hard to call 4-hours/17-miles an “ultra” anything.

The flip side is that I’ve also done a 12-hour race, where I lasted roughly 9.5 hours before I “finished” (the requisite number of laps) and therefore quit for the day and drove home to sleep (helpful hint: don’t do that). I ran about 40-miles in that event, but I honestly don’t know anything about how long it took me to do any of it.

So I’m in this funny place, because this was my best 50k – I love that I can say that…the N>1 and it’s “my best one.” – but my second 6-hour so it technically doesn’t count toward a 50k PR. Screw it. It counts. Gee that was easy.

Back row is me, Derya, and Mark. Jen is in the middle row on the far right.

It turns out that by my watch, this had roughly 100′ more of elevation than the TARC Fall Classic a couple of weeks ago. The Joe English course is an equestrian trail, so it’s not technical at all, but there are a few spots where the course takes you DOWN quickly and then UP…if I had to guess before hand, I’d have said the TARC trail had more gain, but…here we are.

The course is a 2.6 mile loop, the challenge is to run it as many times as you can in the 6-hours. My goal was 12 – I wanted the 50k mark. My friend Mark also set his goal at 12. My friends Derya and Jen both were shooting for the marathon distance of 10.

I stayed with Mark for the first loop, and part of the the second before he scampered off. I ran into Derya at the end of my third loop and we ran together the rest of the evening, particularly important as her phone died suddenly and since that was her light source it was kind of important for her race that she could see. Were it not for my wheels coming off, she may have had a shot at 12 loops as well.

Sweet swag..although I hate to tell them that “Find Your Wild” is also Ragnar’s tag line…

We caught up with Jen once or twice and some other people I knew who were running as well – I love this event, and I love seeing people I know on the trail as well, even if I don’t know them very well, it’s nice having a few minutes to chat.

I was able to hit 12 loops in just under the 6-hours. Mark went looking for Derya and me, so he eeked out a 13th not much before the 6-hour mark clicked off. Jen, Derya and I were there to see him come in, which was great.

Jen got her goal, Derya got 11, I hit my 12 and my PR 50K, and Mark did his longest race AND hit 13 – he finished 4th and second male.

I love this event – it’s the first one I’ve done now for 4 consecutive years – and I’m so happy to have shared it with friends. So, second 50k in two weeks, second 50k PR in two weeks. Onward and upward!

Results

8/29, M 6/21, 6 12 laps, 05:49:49.12 , 31.4 Miles.

50k History

Joe English Twilight Challenge, Amherst NH10/12/20195:49:49
TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA9/28/20196:08:18
TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA9/30/20176:48:39
TARC Spring Classic, Weston MA4/22/20176:56:46
East Side Trail Races 50k, Easton MA8/4/20197:51:45
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/8/20198:42:03
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/9/20189:50:48
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/10/201710:11:19

2019 Race Recap #23: TARC Fall Classic 50k

This race was one of my first few ultras back in 2017. I did three that year: The TARC Spring Classic, the North Face Endurance Classic, and this one. And for the last two years, it was that race that remained my personal record. Now, the North Face is unlike the TARC races – where TARC is designed for experienced and beginner ultra runners, NF is designed to suck the life and spirit out of all.

In 2018, I only did the North Face and again, while faster than my first ill-fated effort, it wasn’t anywhere close to as fast as my Fall Classic time. They may both be 50k, but they’re as different as a sensible Toyota Corolla and a Tesla Model S with a death ray package.

This was my third 50k this year – unlike 2017, I’ve run 2 since NF. The East End Trail Race last month was an abomination. I finished just shy of 8-hours on a course that never should have taken me that long; not only was the course not technical, but to finish it 40-some-odd minutes faster than NF was just wrong.

Let he who hath understanding reckon the number of the kind-of-beast, for it is a human number. It’s number is six hundred and sixty…three.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

My goal today was 6:00:00. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off – I know my usual trail race pace is somewhere around 14:00 – I’m decidedly not fast, but I thought I had a good shot. It was going to be generally cool for the majority of the morning. I got a good night sleep and was ready.

The course is a quick loop around a cornfield and then three loops around the Great Brook reservation trails. Things started sub-optimally when just before the race, my headlamp quit. Turns out, the batteries were corroded. *SIGH* A few miles into the race, I got stung by a bee (wasp more likely) on the big fleshy part of my calf. Then for giggles I fell. I ran reasonably well that loop, BUT I had a bit of a time bomb brewing and I needed to take care of it.

Fortunately for me, I was able to hold out until I got back to the start/finish area, where I was able to (just in time) avail myself of the porta-potty. So that took a few minutes (mostly the time was spent struggling to get my shorts back on) and then to get my hydration vest on.

While I very clearly lost a step on the second loop, nothing much happened of note…well, I got stung again, but at this point it didn’t really matter. The last loop was really difficult; I had to really push through some adversity – nothing race threatening, but just the overall experience. My knees really started to bother me when they never have before. Where normally it’s just exhaustion/fatigue getting the best of me, today it was my knees. No matter how hard I pushed, it was the knees. For the first time in ever, going up on the trail felt better than going down.

The course was super well marked, professionally timed. TARC does such a nice job with these races. Everyone brings something for the aid station, whomever marks the course takes great care – it’s obvious it’s a labor of love. And you can’t beat the entry fee – $25. They do a great job. If you’re into awards or swag, this isn’t your race, but if you like running trails and a challenge you’re in the right place.

So, 50k #7 – and third in four months (WOW! North Face was 4 months ago? Really??) and a PR by 40-minutes. I’ll take it.

Results

33/76 6:08:18.1

Previous 50k Results:

TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA 9/28/20196:08:18
TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA9/30/20176:48:39
TARC Spring Classic, Weston MA4/22/20176:56:46
East Side Trail Races 50k, Easton MA8/4/20197:51:45
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/8/20198:42:03
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA 6/9/20189:50:48
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA 6/10/201710:11:19

2019 Race Recap #22: Wicked Half Marathon

This wasn’t quite a last minute thing, but it hasn’t been on my radar very long. Choosing the “no swag” option, saved $10 off an already super reasonable entry fee, and needing a long run – and preferably a long race, as I’ve been running long solo and a few group runs, but without the competition to push me harder – it seemed like a good idea.

The course incorporates a lot (most?) of the Black Cat race course, so I was familiar with running it without having run this specific race previously. I was hopeful that I could hit a good time – after the Kelley Half last month, I really wanted to test the proposition that it really was the heat that day that doomed my race.

Now, bearing in mind low entry fees typically indicate spartan accommodations – and since this is the same race management company that does the Black Cat, I knew what to expect – I wasn’t disappointed: the starting line was a white spray painted line.

Today’s weather was expected to be warmer than seasonable, and it was: almost 60-degrees at 7 AM and well over 70 by the time I finished. Given this, I was concerned that I may not do as well as I had hoped.

Pretty cool medal too.

To the race: I started out entirely too fast, an utterly unsustainable pace, but for roughly the first half of the race, I kept a sub-8 minute pace going. I started thinking that I had a shot at besting – or at least coming close to – my Horseneck Half time earlier this year. And then…the hill I had forgotten about. Damnit. That slowed me down a bit, but not too much. From that point I got progressively slower and as I got slower, I got progressively more negative in my internal conversation. The old saw that you run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your head? Yeah.

By mile 13, I was really scuffing, but I knew it was close so I picked up the pace. That post 13 stretch (my watch clocked in at 13.3 – as a USTF certified course, I should have expected a longer than advertised distance) was among my fastest of the race. My official time: 1:48:23. Respectable, mid-8 pace, but given that my pace through half of it was sub-8, it really lets you know how much my pace fell off. Learnings? Well Horseneck was consistently about 7:40-8:00 pace. This was 7:11 to 9. Start a little slower, stay fast: my heart rate spiked too high and I had to slow down, had I maintained a slower pace I could have held onto it longer. All things I already knew, but sometimes have to be reminded of. Also, I need to do more hill work; running around Cambridge, MA has shown me that I can maintain pace, but I am missing the hills of Worcester.

I love this area and the course is great: down through downtown Salem, along the harbor in Marblehead, around Ocean Boulevard and back. Salem is awesome. Marblehead is beautiful. I really did like the race. I was disappointed that I didn’t do better, but heartened to find it was a personal top 3 finish. In fact, really pleased that my Top 3 Fastest Halfs, have all been this year. #OlderAndBetter

Finish!

Results:

127/607, M40-49: 17/52, Chip: 1:48:18.7 Gun: 1:48:23

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap #21: Canal Diggers 5k

Ok, for all the Worcester AF people, yeah, this should be Canal Diggers “5k,” because it’s never actually a full 5k. Last year I got just 3.1 on my watch, this year 3.08 and I started it further down the chute. More people than I care to admit came up with less than 3. So, yeah, despite the official title, it’s not quite 3.1. And yeah, my 5k “PR” is a bit of a fraud. I’m okay with that.

It was actually a bit chilly today, what with the remnants of Hurricane Dorian swinging through last night. Upper 50’s by race time although it did clear/warm up later on in the morning

I came up about 30 seconds slower than last year. Interestingly enough, I slowed a bit once to encourage a friend to keep going, but I remember last year I was going balls-out and I actually walked a not insignificant portion of the course on Worcester’s Main Street. So while I was slower this year, I think I actually put in a more technically good run.

Part of the reason the race is such a big one is that it pairs up with Worcester’s Pride Day parade, so there are plenty of folks along the course to cheer you on – I love big races for that reason. There’s just something about giving a kid 5 on the way by. I love that.

Sneakerama again won fastest team, despite my having lost 30-seconds from last year. It was great to see my squad do so well today.

5k: 21:43 | 6:59.4 /mi
62/609
M 53/288
M 40-49 12/76