Father’s Day

June 15, 2008 was to be my dad’s last Father’s Day. We tried to take him for breakfast, but he used all his energy walking down the stairs and getting into the truck and just couldn’t get into the restaurant. He was so weak, I had to carry him. It was difficult getting him out of the truck, and we tried to get this to work so much, but just lost sight of the fact it wasn’t going to happen.

We eventually decided to call it, placed an order to go, carried breakfast out in styrofoam containers and ate the now pathetic breakfast back at my sisters. Just a disaster all the way around.

It was a disaster mitigated only by the time we spent with him. It wasn’t well thought out, breakfast was just what we did, so why not take him to breakfast? I should have known he was so weak and made other accommodations. I should have done something different, but I relied on what we always did instead of what would have been more thoughtful. 11 years later, I regret that one of the last days of my dad’s life, one that was meant to recognize what he meant to me, stands for that failure.

I wish I could say I’m better at these things because of it, I’m not. I wish I could say I did something better for him, but I didn’t. Today it was just hanging there in my mind, like the gloom here in New England on this, Father’s Day 2019: 66-degrees, rainy, dark and gray.

I had a chance to visit his memorial this week, spend a few moments with him front of mind, perhaps a prayer. Something I do not do often enough. The memorial park is a peaceful place, quiet – especially mid-day mid-week. The day we laid him to rest fresh as though it had been the day before. It was good to share that time alone with the man.

His dad’s marker is across the memorial park – Dad was a special guy, devoted to his father, and specifically picked a marker within easy eye shot of his dad’s – and I recall as a youngster heading out to the park on Sunday after church, so he could pay his respects. Kneeling on one knee, crossing himself, and praying, I recall the man hurting. I was a child when my grandfather passed away, and although I missed him as much as a child can I didn’t quite understand how Dad could still be so sad years later.

Its now been 10 Fathers’ Days since we buried my Dad, many more than had passed in my recollection above. I get it now, in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten it from the moment I entered the room with his now lifeless body the night he died. I kneeled by the edge of his grave marker on one knee, crossed myself, even prayed a bit and couldn’t help but to cry. Recalling him in the same place, mourning his dad, lets me know that I need to bring my son more often, so he can see that it’s okay and normal and good to feel these things. Even after all this time, that its not a weakness.

I started writing this post this morning. I was really feeling the regret. Today, my Father’s Day was pretty much the routine. I was around family who came together to celebrate the dads among us. I sat around and watched baseball, ate some pulled pork sandwiches, and drank a few beers. No special circumstances, just what we always do. It was good.

And I realized that while Father’s Day 2008 was a mess, it wasn’t because he didn’t feel loved. He didn’t complain that he didn’t want to go, he tried to make it work – perhaps it was just that routine that he wanted desperately to have as much as I did. I’ll never know that, and while I regret that I hadn’t better considered present circumstances and made more thoughtful choices, I need to remember he didn’t feel forgotten. He didn’t feel unloved or ill-considered. I didn’t do my best that Father’s Day, but I was there. Maybe that’s most of what matters: today everyone was just there, we were together.

Today was Father’s Day and despite my attempt at a pity party for myself, my Dad may well have just given me another gift. Perhaps the day wasn’t a disaster mitigated only by the time we shared together, but rather was a cherished time because we shared the time together – even if was eating soggy eggs out of a take away container.

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2019 Race Recap #14: North Face Endurance Challenge 50k

In terms of my commentary about the race itself – course markings, watch issues – I don’t think I could say anything differently from last year. This is a very well done event, easy registration, good festival area, good course markings. There were a couple of times this year I found the markings a little wonky, but I think that was more me than the course itself.

What I really want to talk about is my experience of the race. 31 miles is a significant distance under the best of circumstances. This race covers roughly 6000′ of elevation gain – more than a mile going up. It’s quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve now done it three times.

Last year I finished in 9 hours, 50 minutes. Since last year, I’ve run 2 road marathons. The distance, while still quite significant, doesn’t feel quite as daunting. I also ran the 7-Sisters trail race, a race that while shorter by 2/3s was more technical and were it longer, and probably not much longer, I would likely say IT was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. So, I feel like I was reasonably prepared for this race.

Truth be told, I hadn’t hydrated well enough over the preceding days. I now know that, but otherwise I was ready. I felt good through the majority of the race. There was a couple of points where I could feel some cramps coming on but was able to hold off any real difficulty until after the mile 26 check point. At that point, however, it was clear to me that my running for the day was pretty much over. Sad really, as there were some imminently runnable downhills that would have been nice to crush.

The thing about technical trail running for me is that it is hard on the body, you really have to stretch yourself, but more importantly than that it’s refreshing, revitalizing. Here’s what I mean by that: in a world where your attention is monetized, you cannot afford not to be paying full attention all the time out here. The odd rock, or root, or decent all demand your attention or you will trip. What’s that person behind you doing? Should you let them pass? Are THEY paying attention?

When I’m running on a road, there’s the occasional car to be mindful of, but otherwise there’s a lot of room for internal dialogue to creep in. I wear headphones and listen to music most of the time to drown out that negativity. On the trail, your mind don’t have that luxury – it has to be focused on the task at hand.

Today, I woke up sore, with a few dents and dings, but mentally quite refreshed. Like spending the day in mediation, being present. It’s hard to do that in modern life, so I’m thankful for having had that time.

I wrote last year that I was bummed about failing to have foresight enough to grab a selfie at “Redemption Rock.” ✅

I took well over an hour off my time from last year, but when you look at my official splits you can definitely see where the cramps really started to affect my race. All in all, a solid effort that I’m pleased with.

RESULTS

2019: 113/164, 8:42.03
2018: 149/175, 9:50:48
2017: 176/185, 10:11:19

2019 Race Recap #13: Worcester Firefighters 6k

2019 Finisher Medal

An unusual distance, 6k. First the story. Sometime during the evening on December 3, 1999, a cold storage building at 299 Franklin Street, Worcester began burning. The building was apparently known for housing squatters, and in this case a couple had set a fire for warmth. By the end of the day, 6 firefighters were unaccounted for, and whose bodies were not recovered for another 8 days.

Thomas Spencer, 42
Paul Brotherton, 41
Timothy Jackson, 51
Jeremiah Lucey, 38
James Lyons, 34
Joseph McGuirk, 38

This race memorializes these firefighters in it’s name and distance – 6k. Worcester holds another race, named specifically for Jay Lyons, earlier in the year for fundraising toward a memorial scholarship at Doherty High School in Worcester. I ran that race last year, although I missed it this year.

The Firefighters 6k is a great city race, this 19th year of the race there were over 1000 runners. There’s a wonderful finish festival with burgers, free treats from Worcester Based sponsors Table Talk Pies and Polar Beverages, and the swag is also pretty sweet. Now, I’m not much on swag for 5(-ish)k races, but this one is not most. The finisher medal really is something.

Inscribed on the back are the names of the six firefighters who died in that fire 20 years ago this year.

Team Sneakerama representing.

For the last two years, I’ve run the Newport 10-Miler and for some inexplicable reason I failed to register for it this year. So given my availability, I was able to join Team Sneakerama for this race instead. Now the course itself is just shy of 6k – where 6k is roughly 3.73 miles, the course winds up being about 3.6. Sure there are probably some hacks that could be made, but at the end of the day it’s close enough. Just enough longer than a 5k to make it a little more challenging. It’s pretty flat, there are a couple of tunnels to run through that go down and, by definition up on the way back, and the finish is a slight incline at the top of the hill by Institute Park. I found it a fast, flat course as it wound through Worcester.

Pretty fly for a white guy

It was pretty hot for a day that was projected to be overcast, if not a little rainy – the shade was cool, but man in the sun it got hot fairly quick. I was running a little too fast to be sustainable under most circumstances, but seeing people I know on the course was great and really kept me going. By the time I got to the 3 mile point, I really wanted to quit, stop and walk, but my competitive nature got the better of me and I slogged through. At mile 3.3, I really had had enough but again, saw friends and kept going. That slight incline to the finish seemed like it must’ve been 500′.

I was somewhat surprised at the results. I had been shooting for a 7:50/8:00 minute pace, but wound up with an unofficial 7:17. My official pace was 7:04 (because of the whole difference between 3.73-miles and 3.6-miles). I’m really super pleased, because this really could have been a train wreck between the humidity and my general feeling of grumpiness. End of day, I finished with a respectable time – especially given I have 5k finishes that are slower.

Also, more importantly, Sneakerama finished as second fastest team – losing to the Wormtown Milers, who poached a couple of ringers from my club CMS. My saltiness aside, it was a fun race and I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

RESULTS

26:22
Overall: 68/1067
M: 62/457
M 40-49: 7/91

2019 Race Recap #12: Horseneck Half Marathon

I now have 2 Horseneck Half frisbees. I can’t remember the last time I used one

The headline here is “What a difference a year makes.” Last year, I was 5-pounds lighter, but suffering a bevvy of maladies. This was race 12 on the year for me in 2019, 23rd of the year in 2018. Last year my shin was taped up to mitigate my shin splint, this year just a couple ibuprofen to quell the nagging niggits of pain here and there.

I wanted redemption for last years race. My goal time was initially to land in my personal Top 3, and I pegged it at 1:50:00. I haven’t been running particularly well on the street over the last few weeks and my last 3 races were trail races where I typically don’t perform well at all, so not having a point of reference to what my street time would look like I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect. I made a post to Facebook, and Duke predicted 1:45:00; this seemed unfounded but I love the guy and his ambition, so I shot for that. 1:45:00 it was.

The weather was nothing if not perfect. Roughly 60-degrees, a little overcast, perhaps a bit breezy. My buddy Rich and I debated the relative merits of wearing sleeves vs. no-sleeves, ultimately deciding on the singlet, which was the correct answer. As the starting gun went off, we headed out of Horseneck Beach reservation, I kept pace with Rich for a moment or two and then saw the back of his shirt disappear, so I’m guessing the shirt choice was the correct one for him as well.

The course itself is great – the whole area is just fantastic anyway, so I’m sure it would be hard to put together a crummy course – long stretches of old, country roads, stretches of beach roads, and the date on the calendar. They do a nice job with the after party as well: great food and drink. Just a great event.

In complete contrast to last year, everything seemed to be perfect. I got a great night sleep, ate reasonably well, hydration was on point, got to the beach early, and probably most importantly got a mile warm up in – I’ve been finding that my heart rate skyrockets for the first mile or so of any activity, so getting that warm up in has been really important. Since I felt good, I didn’t have that negative self that I battled the whole race last year. At mile 5, I actually said to myself, “Okay, only 8 more miles to go.”

Mile 6 was the first mile I had that was over an 8-minute pace – I don’t think I’ve ever run that far going that fast (fast for me that is), and only had 3 miles that were slower than 8-minutes: Mile 10 inexplicably was an 8:11 pace. I’m not sure what happened there, I don’t recall anything significant happening there, I must’ve just zoned out or something because 2 of the next 3 miles were among my fastest. It turns out Mile 6 was my slowest last year – it has the most ascent of the race at 56′ (it’s a super flat course)

Interesting comparison: my heart rate averaged 2 bpm faster last year. SO I was faster AND in better condition. Despite my apparent weight gain: last year I was about 180, and this year….not.

Here’s your author desperately trying to “hide the pain.”

I knew I was closing in on a personal record, so I was playing this mental game with myself about not stopping. I saw the sign for the 3-mile mark of the 3.5-mile race so I knew the finish was roughly a half mile away and kept telling myself that I have this, that I can get this done at 1:45, I just have to keep running for 4-more minutes. When you’ve been running for 100-minutes, what’s 4-more, right?

It turns out, it was the longest 4-minutes of my life, but in the end I pulled it off. From the beach walk at the end, the course turns right for the last 0.1 mile or so, and I saw a four people ahead of me, so I used the last bit of energy I had to snipe three of them, the fourth got me by a couple seconds.

A perfect ending to a perfect day. So as of this writing, my two fastest halfs have been my two most recent halfs, and since I’m not getting any younger, I’m pleased with this.

Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
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
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 #11: Boston Spartan Sprint

Sometimes, I’m just way more motivated to recap a race than others. This is one of those times. So, it’s taken me a week to put this together. Real life is starting to get in the way of this stuff: this time it was Mothers’ Day, and then during the week other activities more demanding of attention.

This is the second time I’ve run the race with my kids – we ran the same race, the same weekend last year. This year, the oldest brought her boyfriend, I’m not sure if that was his or her attempt to ingratiate me, but I do appreciate the initiative and really, he ran a great race.

Last year the venue was the Scout Camp in Rutland, MA. This year it was at some moto-cross course in Charlton MA. Since it had been raining for a good portion of the week, someone at Spartan made the determination that a change of parking venue was in order, and thus it was decided to have racers park in Rutland – roughly a 30-minute drive from the lot to the venue. This was decidedly sub-optimal for the Mo’s as we live equi-distant to both venues: no reason to drive 30-minutes to Rutland to take a bus 30-minutes to Rutland and 30-minutes back, when we could drive 30-minutes to Charlton and take our chances.

As it turned out, mid-way through the morning, an official announcement was posted on the race Facebook page that the lot in Rutland was full, and for the rest of the weekend parking would be at the venue in Charlton. Just really messed up logistics: according to the page, they called some 22 different parking lots (again, ostensibly because the original and apparently final lot was unusable), contracted a slew of school buses, brought a bunch of people out of the way and likely inconvenienced a good number of folks who didn’t check the FB page when they were ultimately going to park in Charlton. Dumb. And a complete fail.

I didn’t much like the venue, at least for a Spartan race. Because it’s a moto-cross, there are bike trails, paved areas, and the like where the Rutland Scout Reservation and the Carter & Stevens Farm, both previous Boston Spartan venues, at least feel a little more rural in feel. I like the Spartan brand because they tend to avoid these moto-cross venues: Terrain Race, Rugged Maniac and lower-market brands use these venues, so it feels like Spartan is in a cost reduction mode with this place.

Probably my all time favorite fire jump pic.

This was my first obstacle course race of the year – my shoulder was really giving it to me by the last race last year, so I deliberately laid off the OCR and concentrated more on street running. My shoulder was sore by the end of the day, but it was fine the next day as I avoided any jarring yanks on it (which did mess with my performance, I’m sure of it).

I’d forgotten the difference in degree of difficulty between the Sprint and the Super – I’m really looking forward to the challenge of the Boston Super in August now, even though it’s in the same venue.

RESULTS
TIME (CHIP) FULL COURSE 1:30:48
RankingOVERALL 2034/ 4521
MALE 1489/ 2696
M45-49 171/ 278

Of specific note, we all finished in sequential order, which makes my heart happy.

2019 Race Recap #10: 7-Sisters Trail Race

I was already put on notice regarding just how difficult this race is when they start putting emergency numbers on the front and all my personal emergency information on the back. I’m pretty sure the only information missing was my Blue Cross member number and blood type. These people are not fooling around.

This isn’t a 10-miler. Not a half marathon. Something in between. But it’s definitely among the most difficult things I’ve done. Somewhere between 11 and 12 miles, the official website says the elevation is “over 3500′” (I got about 4700 on my watch in just over 11 miles). It’s highly technical single track trails on an out-and-back course, which means then that there are some interesting intersections when the fast guys are coming back.

I had it in my head that it would be similar to the “Vulcan’s Fury” trail race in Pawtuckaway NH. That’s roughly the same distance over slightly less technical trails, but upon reflection when I did that race in 2017, I clocked in a little over 1800′ of gain. Sooo, like not like this race at all, basically.

Before the races last weekend, I hadn’t run a trail in quite some time, so one can easily imagine what was going through on that first mile when I realized just how out of my depth I really was. Combined with the rain over the last couple of weeks, this was something else.

To give some context as to just how out of my league I was, over the last 3-miles or so of the race, I was going back and forth with this guy who had started after me (his bib was in the 400’s and the waves went out numerically) who was wearing what looked not wholly dissimilar from a track suit and street running sneakers. Let that sink in: highly technical, glacial-rock and exceedly thick, muddy trails and this cat is rocking a pair of Under Armours for street running….and we’re competing for time. So, yeah, it wasn’t my best performance. For a really good description of the race, here’s an entry from RunnersWorld that helps you get a feel for it (and perhaps some of the psychos who run it).

On a clear day, the views would be amazing: across western mass, likely into New York, Vermont and Connecticut. Sadly though, with the low hanging clouds still stubbornly hanging around (there was a light rain earlier in the day, with the weather hanging around at least into Sunday) the only thing to see was the gray.

My friend Jen also ran the race and didn’t die. Here we are celebrating not having died.

Results

Place GUN

CHIP
PACEGENDERAGEAGE PLAGE GRP
3564:01:594:01:5920:09M4992M40 – 49

Full results

2019 Race Recap #9: Blue Hills Trail Races Fox Trot 10-Miler

Cameron: “I’m dying.”
Ferris: “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.

My favorite descriptor for a negative situation is “Dumpster Fire.” I laugh every time, it’s just such a funny mental image comparing an event or happening to a flaming container of trash. Urban Dictionary contributor Guitarist1234 nails why I start this recap thus:

I knew upon registering it wasn’t going to be a stellar performance, given the race the day before was also going to be of some distance, but after having run that race, I knew how badly out of trail condition I was. I’ve never been a particularly good trail runner, but I’m at least generally competent, and that day I was marginally competent.

Sometime later, I knew it was going to be something substantially below “not a stellar performance” when I realized that I was also going to the “Awesome 80’s Prom” the evening before. So to recap: Trail Half Marathon, 80’s themed night out, 10-mile trail race.

The question isn’t what are we going to do. The question is what aren’t we going to do.”

So at the appointed time Sunday morning, I met my friends at the registration table, and picked up my bib. I had paid $12, I was going to run this race (despite having protested the evening before that I had only paid $12 so it’s not like I HAD to run this race…) I was moving on approximately 4-hours sleep, a can of Monster, and certainly had a head a little larger than usual with a decidedly greenish-hue to my complexion. Dumpster fire.

This course was shorter than the advertised 10-miles. My watch clocked in at roughly, but I have some questions about the watch’s trail accuracy there. Other folks seemed to come in at somewhere between 9.4 and 9.5. The half marathon the day before came in at 13.9, where others’ came in at about 13.4 so I know something’s hinky with the calibration there. BUT what I do know is that it is calibrated with itself, so I feel confident saying that on Saturday there was roughly 1200′ of elevation and Sunday – on a shorter course – there was about 1425′. My point here is that I felt like this was a harder course and it would seem to be backed up by that, despite my having spent the majority of this post discussing why I was such a… dumpster fire.

The race director was clear that this was the wettest he’d ever seen the course. Fantastic. And I can tell you for sure, it was wet. Muddy, at points it was almost a river race. It started on a car road heading up, and my friend Tom who had just said that he wasn’t in condition to race for 10-miles, took off like he had been shot out of a cannon as soon as the horn sounded. So I knew I was clearly out of my element.

I started off “okay” enough, but the wheels came off pretty quickly. My first couple of miles were respectable enough, but by mile 3 the wheels were completely off between my lack of proper preparation, and increasing elevation gain I was toast. From there, I varied between sub-optimal and poor performance wise. I did finally catch up with my friend Jen to come in ahead of her by about 30-seconds, but that was only because of a net elevation loss on that stretch.

For what it’s worth, Tom finished roughly a half hour ahead of me. Meaning he ran a trail race 10-miler with 1400′ of gain at slightly slower pace than my best 10-mile road races.


Results

90/112 1:58:08