2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint.  I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00.  That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable.  I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much.  I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.

It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it.  It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.

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A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog  that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races.  In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is.  Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.

The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.

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It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

As for organization, it’s the BAA.  It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of  6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.

 

Previous Results

Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

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2018 Race Recap #45: Rugged Maniac New England

It’s hard to call an untimed event a “race,” but it is still an opportunity to go out an challenge yourself. Even better when you can do it with your kids.  The thing I love about this race is that it’s designed to be attainable, it’s not about consequences for not completing an obstacle, but rather about the joy of participating. It’s just fun, and if you fail an obstacle, it just means you get a little more wet.

We bought the additional laps – RMX – and I had hoped to get three laps in, but time constraints only allowed for 2, which, as it turned out, was more than enough – I was ridiculously sore the rest of the day for some reason. You might think that after having done, I don’t know, 8?,  obstacle courses this year I wouldn’t be as messed up basically playing in the mud, but here we are.

The course this year clocked about 3.5 miles. It’s held on a BMX track so there’s some decent elevation changes that can be challenging. There’s nothing really innovative about the obstacles – essentially the same from previous years – but that’s okay, because they’re just fun: trampolines, inflatable water slides, hanging on a rope and sliding across water.  It was great seeing some first timers out there, having fun and pushing themselves.  25 or so obstacles packed into the course ensures that it’s never too long before you hit one.

It’s reasonably priced, fun, and a good time to be out with friends and family. This is my fourth time running this particular race at this venue and I keep coming back because it’s fun, affordable and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Here’s their sales pitch on the RM website:

Picture this:  You arrive at Motocross 338 on September 29th or 30th with a carload of your most adventurous friends.  As you step out you notice the people around you admiring your group’s coordinated “Avengers-in-bathing-suits” costumes and your on-point Hulk-green body paint. In the festival, people are already riding the mechanical bull and playing beach volleyball (Rugged Maniac is definitely more than just a mud run), but you’re more interested in the stein-hoisting contest on the main stage.  You make a note to sign up for that and the pie-eating contest after you run.   You see obstacles in the distance – mud-covered people jumping over fire, bouncing on trampolines, rocketing down a huge water slide – and your surging excitement confirms what you already knew: Today is going to be awesome!

Now, by virtue of the fact the race is untimed, there are no “results” per se. My self timing of the two laps netted about 7-miles in 2-hours and a couple seconds.  The plus side of a mid-morning heat is that by the nature of the marketing (above) the majority of folks come out later on, yet the day’s temperature is perfect. By the second lap, the course was pretty full, which meant delays and bottlenecks at some obstacles – there would be people waiting at the fire jump for the course to clear, then they’d go, and at the end of the jump, they’d stop and gather creating a bit of a hazard for those in the jump and of course exacerbating the bottleneck. A little supervision by the volunteers would have been helpful there.

All in all, though, it remained true to the reason we did it: it was fun, lowkey and a good experience together.

One Month: Marathon Valor Run #MCM4OVF

valor runONE MONTH. In 30 days I toe the line at my first marathon at the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. I’m using the opportunity to raise money for an Army veteran in need through the O’Connell Valor Fund. 25 pledgers have helped me raise $1750 of my $2000.

Although the training miles have piled up, I’m not going to qualify for the Boston Marathon, especially not with the qualifying times changing, but more specifically I’m not that good a runner. I’m hoping to finish in the 4:15:00 – 4:30:00 range — only an hour or so (30%) longer than my BQ time. Supporting this run is not about supporting a runner seeking any glory other that the personal victory of finishing a marathon. This is about doing good, giving back.

The O’Connell Valor Fund has presented me the family this fundraiser will support and they have a devastating and heartbreaking story.  Our veteran was medically discharged from the Army, disabled and unable to work, he has been undergoing treatments at the Veterans Administration. Meanwhile, his wife had been supporting the family and his son with special needs had been contributing to the family income.

Earlier this year, his son committed suicide in the family home. If not devastating and traumatic enough in and of itself, his family now stands on the verge of losing everything as his wife has been unable to work as a result. After months of working with local resources, they’re able to move out of their home – away from the trauma and closer to his treatment options.

Our veteran has been vetted through Veterans Count, the philanthropic arm of the Easter Seals Military & Veterans Services, and the O’Connell Valor Fund directs 99% of their funds to Veterans just like this.  To learn more about why I’m doing this, I detail it here, but simply put, it’s a labor of love and to give back.   The money raised here will help our Veteran move away from the trauma, and move back toward regaining his life.

I would consider it an honor for you to express your support for this effort, no matter how small.  I need just 10 people to pledge $1 a mile to reach the goal.  10! I’ve been presented this veteran because I believe I can raise this money.  The sad part is that while his story is heartbreaking, there are many many more stories just like his. We need to do better for the men and women who have served our countries and for their families.  I know there are 10 people who can help make this happen.

You can make a flat dollar contribution or pledge an amount per mile (26.2!!) by clicking the graphic above or just following this link.

Contributions/Pledges are tax deductible.  Thank you for your consideration and support.

Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

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Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.

2018 Race Recap #44: Joe English Twilight Challenge Marathon Relay

I love this race. This year is the third time I’ve run this event, and it was a special one for me: this year my daughter was my relay partner.  She even let me name the team with a dad joke: “A Running Joke.” A ridiculous and terrible pun, but I think it’s funny.

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“A Running Joke”

The Joe English Challenge is a host of different events all held on the same 2.6-mile loop course at Freestyle Farm – a horse farm in Amherst, New Hampshire: a 6-hour, marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, half-marathon relay. I was planning to run the 6-Hour Ultra (afterall, I AM training for a marathon and I need the long run) but then I asked her if she would consider doing it and she said yes – she’s running a half marathon in a few weeks so the training is important for her too. I’ll take a shorter run for the partnership of my daughter any day.

It’s an equine training facility, so the trails aren’t technical. There’s some up- and down, rolling hills. The course itself is great: volunteers have bonfires along the course and cheer you on. The start/finish festival area is a big old horse barn where you can spread out a blanket, bring chairs, picnic, whatever. AND they have a great spread of food, up to and including vegetarian options.  Just a super, thoughtful, well done event.  Proceeds go to support the Amherst Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving open space in the town. Additionally, there’s another event they do earlier in the year that I’ve thus far failed to do, but it’s been my intention to do it.

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Clearly, this was before the race started.

I didn’t realize how much better a runner I have become over the last year: while I’ve fought through some injury this year, I’ve not had anything that’s laid me out quite the way it did last year, and with that healthy time I’ve been doing more and varied running…and exercising in general.  Last year my fastest pace was slower than three of my five loops this year and even on the two that were slower, they were slower by 8- and 4- seconds respectively.  My fastest pace last year was the only one that compared to this years’ running…and I ran a race this morning!

think“Find Your Inner Wild” is a slogan for another race too, but you know I don’t think anyone is going to confuse this event for that one.

There were 5 marathon relay teams this year: the first couple of years I ran this event there were maybe 3, but consistently mine is the only two-person relay team so I like to think there’s something special about that.  The first two years I ran with my friend Andy: in 2016, we actually WON the event with a time just over 4-hours. I’ve never won anything before nor after.  In 2017 we were actually faster than the year before and finished second (third was only about 40 seconds slower overall!!). This year, my daughter and I finished 4th with a time of just about 4:17:00 or so – I didn’t think to take a picture of the results and it’ll be some time before the results are posted online but I’ll update when they’re posted. The winners actually finished in just over 3-hours. Preposterous.

I’m super proud of her, and super happy for having had the experience. Maybe, she’ll see fit to run with her old man again next year.

Results:

2018: 4:15:52
2017: 3:54:09
2016: 3:57:36

2018 Race Recap #43: Shore Park 5k

A last minute thing, I mean like really last minute. Like 10 PM the night before last minute. Hard to say “no” when your friend offers you a bib for a race.  I’ve actually run the course before for a group “fun run,” so I as familiar with it – not terribly hilly: it’s a full loop, and somehow my watch recorded 105′ of gain and 125′ of loss, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

It’s a pretty cool (64 degrees), low humidity (56%) day so it was a really good day for a race, unlike say last week.  It was also a decent size (I’ll say roughly 180 runners) but not “major,” but the infrastructure around it – police details, radio station playing music, and the like – would have suggested a much larger race.

I quite liked the vibe of the start/finish line, but have to say there could have been a little more attention to some of the essentials.  There was about 10-minutes between the playing of the National Anthem in the parking lot and the start of the race on the street; runners were congregating at their respective paces (the race gets points for this) and spilling into the street, whereupon a police officer came up and asked people onto the sidewalk because the street was open to traffic and there were 3-officers assigned to the detail.  Now, I would think 3 should have sufficed to direct traffic around runners, but apparently not.  The first mile or so was fine (except for the quick under the interstate overpass, where work was being done – can’t do much about that), but as we reached a main street, there were no volunteers or police presence to stop cars entering the street from side streets, and a few more aggressive drivers were busy honking at the runners.  This was not an inexpensive race – day of registration was $40 – so paying customers could have – rightly so – expected a little more in the way of amenities.

Other than those slights, it was a nice race with a pretty good course on a very nice day for running.  It was the first time I’d ever actually placed in my age group (3rd!) and I finished 15th overall in a race with more than 16 runners. I wasn’t as fast today as I was a couple of weeks ago, but that’s okay – that race is likely to be my high water mark for some time (if not forever) – because I was faster than last week, although I’m sad that the weather seems to have that great an effect on me.  That said, when the winner finishes a 5k at 20:23, I feel pretty good finishing where I did at 23:14…even if mile 3 was slow and plodding: I should’ve knocked another 30 seconds off that time.

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Results

Net Time: 23:14.2 Pace: 7:29 Gun Time: 23:18.6

 

Ba-dee-ya! An exhortation to be happy.

Do you remember the 21st night of September? I bet you just sang those lyrics in your head as you read them.

Even before Maurice has those first few words out of his mouth, I’m moving my arms and doing a chair dance. September is one of those songs that I am absolutely convinced has always existed. It’s brilliant. Nothing shy of brilliant.  And it means absolutely nothing. Nothing.  It’s just an exhortation to be happy.

Allee Willis, said this of Maurice White: “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.” ba-dee-ya.

No one cares that it means nothing. Just as no one ever cared that there was literally no meaning to September 21 either. I’m willing to bet that even after 30 years, you don’t even know all the words. The only reason they matter at all is that it gives us all a chance to hear Maurice sing.

It’s about the vibe.  It’s about how it makes you feel.  It’s musical ice cream: it makes you happy even if the flavor really isn’t your favorite. I love this song for that reason – it just makes me happy, I feel good listening to it. The way Ice Cream feels in your mouth, there’s nothing in this world better.

Compare this with something like Snuff” by Slayer: even if Slayer is your go to, the vibe will never make you feel “happy” (unless you’re a psychopath) and yeah, the lyrics matter for that reason:

“…Torture, misery
Endless suffering;
Pleasing to the eye
To this you can’t deny…”

The world holds so much Snuff, and far too little September.  Its far too easy to be angry – that ignorant social media post, something shocking in the news, that unfair decision at work. What’s a little bit harder is being happy – just making the decision to be happy. To ignore that social media outrage, to remember very little in the news is actually news, that work is only one part of your life.

So today, on this 21st day of September, even if there has never been a 21st of September in your life worth singing or dancing about, hit the play button right now and give yourself a gift of 3.5-minutes of happiness.   Make the choice to be happy.

Ba-dee-ya.