2018 Race Recap #34: CMS 52-Week 5K

How’s that receding hairline treating you there buddy? Photo credit: @ThatKimGordon

Today was a bit of a lark. I wasn’t sure I would actually run the race, but I did have to get my miles in. We have house guests this week, one of whom I’ve been running with: he is into Nordic walking, so while I run, he does his walking and it works out well. Recently, the running club has promoted a “walking” aspect to the race, actively seeking walkers to do a timed walk of the course. He was down with the idea, so he and I went down to Worcester State to do the 5k.

While they’ve been here a few days, I seem to have gained about 5-pounds which is definitely an unhappy development – especially since over that time I’ve run 16 miles. We may have stayed up a bit later last night than would generally be considered appropriate training regimine, and with that in mind I figured today would be a train wreck.

It wasn’t. Well, not really. It still wasn’t great – better than the last time I ran it last month, with the closest comparator being last November’s 24:55 time. It’s 11-seconds faster than last month which is a positive, but in re-reading my description of the race (nagging injury, conditioning) and my action plan (increase mileage, more frequent long runs) I see that really hasn’t done too much – enough to get me 11-seconds, but not much else. I went out HARD in mile 1 – a 7:01 min/mile and despite my best efforts, I realize that was entirely too fast – it was a fast group today, and to my detriment, I tried to keep up with the big dogs. I’m not sure of my actual pacing after that, as my watch lost the satellite connection midway through the second mile and for some reason when it reconnected, it decided that I had run an additional .3 mile. I know about where that happened based on the map it drew, but as far as doing the math to figure out what my actual pace was for that mile, it’s going to be lost to history. But, what I do know the time translates to about an 8:02 pace for the overall race, and given that I know my first mile was 7:01, it’s not really hard to figure out that at least one of the following miles was pretty disgraceful.

It’s not so funny after 3+ miles of that nonsense, now is it? Photo Credit: @thatKimGordon

I have noticed this past month or so running in the heat and humidity — prior to this year its something that to this point I have not done with any consistency either due to injury or motivation — I am a big sweaty mess. Almost as if someone poured a bucket of water over my head. Today, I had to wring out my headband. Just. Gross. I don’t know why this is or if it’s normal to get that disgusting, especially after a short race like a 5k. I don’t know if that’s my body telling me that my conditioning is terrible, or if it’s normal, or what. I do think, though, that it reflects the effort my body is putting out and that it means I’m working far harder (at least on these hot, humid days) than my pace would suggest. So, perhaps come October, when the weather is cooler and far less humid, I’ll be in far better condition to go back to tearing up these races.

Clockwise (last 5):

July 28, 2018: 24:57. Humid, 76. Disgusting swamp weather.
June 16, 2018: 25:08. 75, clear. Beautiful.
February 24, 201824:16. Mid-40’s,  clear
January 27, 201824:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 201825:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy

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2018 Race Recap #33: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #3

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Know how I know I #didntdie?

Last week’s race was canceled due to extreme weather: lightning, flash floods, the whole deal. It was a drag because I really had expected to be able to run this race, but like most things it’s important to have a plan B in place: It rained a good portion of the morning so when the weather broke, I went for a run around the reservoir that engulfed my hometown some 120 years ago.

It’s been a week of really odd weather. Rain. Sun. Humidity. 3-seasons in each day odd, really. Where last Tuesday had me up and running at noon to get my 4+ miles in, today was a bit of a weak effort. I basically counted on this happening, despite the continuing odd weather. This time it paid off…which is good because I would have let myself down otherwise.

Taking a step back, away from the race recap, I’m working on a running goal of 1500 in 2018 – a 50% increase over my goal of a year ago. Now, I follow a bunch of cats on Strava who are not only killing that, 1500 miles is well in their rear view mirror. I have to work a lot harder to stay on task. Running is not something I particularly like nor does it come particularly easy to me. And, not without some consideration, I have a job that requires some consistency and presence. In other words, I have to take the opportunities when they’re presented and make a conscious effort to make those opportunities. There are only so many hours in a day to make it happen.

Fast forward a week. I went for a 5+ mile run Monday morning, went to fitness bootcamp at noon, and did another 5+ mile run Monday evening. I woke up today from a fitful sleep, just an anxious, sleepless evening. My legs and abductors were sore all day from the bootcamp work out. Basically, my body was giving me every reason not to succeed.  The humidity was high. The temperature was high. I hadn’t done very much today. All kinds of reasons to underperform for this race.

So, I decided to do what I did last week: Do a mile or so warm up, and go all out the first mile and see where that left me.  Duke wasn’t running this week, but I still took his admonition for a 24-minute race to heart.  And guess what. It turns out last week the course was about .04-mile longer than this week, and controlling for that, I ran pretty much the same race.  Technically, this one was faster – by two seconds a mile.  Last week I ran a 7:58-mile pace; this week a 7:57. My mile breaks were almost exactly the same:

Mile 1 – This week 7:23, Last Week 7:32
Mile 2 – This week 7:55, Last Week :7:54
Mile 3 – This week 8:36, Last Week: 8:28

The saving grace for weekly improvement? Mile 1. I was comparatively faster on mile 1 this week over last, than I was last week over this week on mile 3. That slightly shorter distance gave me a 20-second advantage over last week, but otherwise it was pretty much the same race. I’d likely have come in slightly faster had it measured out – I was accelerating downhill across the finish – but it was basically the same. I’m pretty sure the difference in mile 3 was not feeling the competition of having a friend to catch up front. My other running buddies are either ridiculously fast and had long since finished or were behind enough that I wasn’t feeling the pressure to push harder —- to my detriment.

So, there it is. Essentially the same race I ran two weeks ago. A little faster on the first mile, a little slower on the third. My heart rate was exactly the same for both. It doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but since I’m really kind of searching for a positive here, I’ll take it.

RESULTS

July 24, 2018: 24:13
July 10, 2018: 24:35
July 25, 2017: 27:48
July 26, 2016: 25:57
July 12, 2016: 26:34
July 5, 2016: 27:32

 

Marine Corps Marathon Fundraiser

I mentioned some time back that I was going to run the Marine Corps Marathon as my first (perhaps last, who knows) full-marathon. What I haven’t done is share here what I’m doing with it.

After I decided I would run the race, I decided I wanted it to mean something more – to give back a little bit. The Marine Corps Marathon promotes physical fitness, generates community goodwill, and showcases the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps. I wanted to do something that would live up to those values and organizational mission.

With that in mind, I reached out to the O’Connell Valor Fund to pair me with a Veteran in need for whom I can raise money and awareness of veteran’s issues.  It was important to me to do this on my own terms – not raise money as part of a fundraising commitment for a charity issued a block of entries where the money goes down a rabbit hole. I’m running this using my own funds, paying my own way, and without a set commitment. I do have a fundraising goal, however, and it’s on the basis of that goal that OVF has done amazing work to vet and pair this fund raiser with a veteran in need.

To that end, The O’Connell Valor Fund, Inc. has presented a Veteran for me to sponsor as part of my Marine Corps Marathon fund raising effort.

He is a current era Army Veteran who was medically separated. He has increasing medical needs requiring frequent trips to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and emergency rooms (ERs). Before this spring, his wife was full time employed in a good profession and his adult son with special needs also contributed financially to the household.

However, earlier this spring, his son committed suicide in the family home.  Consider this for a moment and really, really let it sink in.

Given the nature of the her job, she is not able to return to work at this time and an already struggling family is now struggling emotionally, physically and financially. Many agencies have worked very hard with the family in the last few months to help them while they grieve. They are at a place now in which they are willing/needing to move out of their current residence. These agencies are working with them to increase the level of support services from the VA in the home and working with his wife around plans for reentry into the workforce. The family will need additional financial support to help them move and leave the home where the incident took place and move closer to the VA.

And THAT is where my little idea to give a little back is going.  These stories are real, this is the story of a very real struggle. I am forever thankful to help make a difference in another life in this way.  The tragedy and greatness of this effort is that the O’Connell Valor Fund has many other cases similar to this one and there are many ways to help – everyone, EVERYONE has the opportunity to give back, sometimes you just need to set your mind to making a difference. You don’t have to give a dollar to a nameless, faceless organization or fundraiser. The OVF spends 99% of all received money on the veterans it supports.  This is literally helping local.

To help in my fundraising efforts, please visit my fundraising page or, even better, donate directly at the O’Connell Valor Fund website. Thank you for your support, even if that is a share on Facebook. What matters is making a difference.

About the Event: The mission of the Marine Corps Marathon is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps. Annually ranked as one of the largest marathons in the US and the world, the MCM has been recognized as “Best Marathon in the Mid-Atlantic,” “Best for Families” and “Best for Beginners.” Runners from all 50 states and more than 50 countries participate in the MCM and an annual calendar of events including the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA in May and the MCM Event Series conducted aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Organized by the men and women of the United States Marine Corps, the MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, instead celebrating the honor, courage and commitment of all finishers.

About the O’Connell Valor Fund: 

Our goal is simple – help our U.S. Military heroes, next-of-kin, and families better cope with daily life so they can heal with some peace of mind knowing basic essentials are covered. This might include a monthly utility bill payment, groceries for the week, making sure their child’s birthday is a little extra special, and many other basic essentials many of us take for granted. Please donate whatever you can using the Donate link above. Thank you! The O’Connell Valor Fund, Inc.

Contributions made to this campaign are tax-deductible.

2018 Race Recap #32: Running with the Wolves 10k

This was an interesting day: when I went to bed last night, my plan was to go for a run in the morning, hit my bootcamp workout at noon, and maybe do yardwork or something. Then I woke up later than anticipated and I decided that I would just stick with my usual morning routine. I looked at my work schedule and realized bootcamp at noon wouldn’t work, so I decided to run instead and then I’d hit bootcamp a little later in the afternoon or evening.

As part of my usual routine, I walk down to a local coffee shop, get a coffee – perhaps a breakfast of some kind – and peruse Facebook for a bit. Well, one of my friends had posted something about this race; I had done it a couple of years ago and thought it would be a good thing to try again.  Alas, it was sold out, and when I commented on her post that I was bummed, she suggested that they usually do transfers. In turn I emailed the race director, who to his credit responded quite promptly and said they would transfer.  Perfect, now I just needed to find someone to transfer. I could try bootcamp if my meetings ended soon enough or just lay low at noon and do the workout later on in the afternoon.

I posted the question on my running club’s Facebook page, but by noon hadn’t seen any comments, so I decided to go back to my second iteration of a plan and went for a 6-mile run at lunch. By this point, I came to find someone had responded and offered a bib.  I hadn’t planned for this, but it was time to roll — I bagged bootcamp plans and made plans to race. One thing I forgot though was to make plans to actually meet the person who had the bib.  That small issue aside, it was a perfect New England summer evening for such a race.

The course is an out-and-back along a rail trail in Marlborough, MA. The trail crosses a couple of streets, down through an office campus, and back. It’s predominantly downhill for the first half, and then it’s all climb on the way back.

This evening was low-humidity and about 75-degrees. Just a perfect evening. The start was a little rocky, a narrow street with the expectation runners would stay on the sidewalk until we got to the rail trail, and with cars parked on the side of the street, it made for a little congestion, but once on the trail it was clear.  Given the elevation profile of the course, I knew the first half was downhill, so I decided to go out quickly to be sure I got some benefit from the downhill. I knew from my Monday night training run using another local race course as practice, that my hillwork needs…well, work, so I figured I’d throw my fat body down the hills and do my best to not die on the way back up.  Monday’s run was about 387′ of gain, tonights was about 262′, so I figured I could weather it as long as I didn’t use all my fuel.

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This more or less worked to my advantage. A couple of times on the way back, I slowed to a walk – my heart rate was really up there and I knew it would be difficult to keep moving at pace, a comfortable few seconds of walking to get that under control and readjust. Surprisingly enough, that turned out to be a pretty good strategy for maximizing my race pace.

Two years ago, I ran this race to a then personal record 10k time of 56:30. Tonight, I ran 51:00. Now, it’s a USATF certified course which means that the course itself will usually be a little bit longer to ensure the distance qualifies as a 10k. I clocked it at 6.3 miles, the same distance I got when I last ran it.  For a 6.3 mile run, my self-timed pace came in at 8:06 minute/miles, officially its a tad slower at 8:12, but the total time that’s a constant.  51:00.  I’m very happy.

RESULTS

July 18, 2018: 51:00

July 20, 2016: 56:30

2018 Race Recap #31: Palmerton Spartan Super

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Some foreshadowing here in this picture: I finished and didn’t die.  So if you’re still interested in reading more, please continue.

This completes my third Spartan Trifecta in the last three years. Something I considered almost impossible when I started my fitness journey in 2016 has become somewhat routine. Perhaps routine is a little too blasé, but it’s something I’ve come to expect of myself and use to push myself toward more. Of course, it’s also something Spartan uses to push for more sales…but no reason to go down that road. It’s about delivering whats advertised.

Last year, I missed the opportunity for a few Sprints – I’d registered for the Boston Sprint, but couldn’t do it due to injury and finished the trifecta with the Fenway Spartan Sprint. A little weak, frankly. So, it was kind of important to get a little redemption this year.  As it turns out, redemption has its own hazards that are outside the scope of this recap.

A Spartan Trifecta is the completion of a Sprint (3-5 miles), a Super (8-10 miles) and a Beast (13+) in the same calendar year.  Now, there are specific rules around completing these – can’t do multiple, same day laps and what not – but otherwise reasonably straight forward.  So, it turns out a Stadium Sprint (the Fenway Sprint I did in November, while it counted as a Sprint for the Trifecta, was a little more than 2 miles…not really heavy lifting) counts.  Not all races classified as Sprint, Super, Beast are equivalent.

My first trifecta in 2016, I ran the Killington Vermont Beast – widely regarded as one of the hardest of the Beasts. (At least according to this list, I’ve done top three of the 5 hardest courses…irrespective of length). Last year and this, I bagged off Killington because I’d done it once and went to Vernon, NJ instead.  I’ve done the Super in Barre, MA twice – it’s a cow farm. It’s relatively flat, and frankly almost the distance of the Sprint that’s also held on the farm.  An obstacle race of any distance is a challenge, but matched up against the Palmerton Super I did today, it just pales.

The FIT Challenge matches up very well in terms of difficulty — elevation gain, number of obstacles, challenge of obstacles — in fact I’d say it exceeds almost anything Spartan offers, particularly in terms of price. The Multilap FIT Challenge stacks up well against today’s Palmerton Super, but I will say today’s race was the only one I’ve done that I would compare FIT unfavorably against Spartan.

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I don’t look as beaten down here as I know I felt.  Still shiny and clean, I think it was about here that I took my shirt off because it was disgusting.

There are a couple of reasons for the difficulty of today’s race not attributable to the race itself – I slept terribly, I hydrated terribly this week, the shoes (that I’ve worn for 65 previous miles) were ridiculously narrow (perhaps the heat?) and blistered both my feet, the promised hotel “breakfast” was an urn of coffee and a pre-packaged muffin (“That’s it?” “Yeah – that’s it”). All of those are controllable variables and ones with any sort of attention to detail can be overcome. There are reasons fully attributable to the race that made it more difficult – it’s July vs. April, it took me just a little longer to do 11+ miles at FIT than it did for me to do 9 miles today, FIT was 4100′ of gain, today was 3500′, and burpees.  Perhaps it’s just the recency effect, but this felt subjectively more difficult.

I accomplished obstacles I’ve failed previously; I failed obstacles I shouldn’t have. Same story as usual, really. The one I’m most proud of? The goddamned Spear Throw.  Seriously.  I wrenched my gimpy shoulder earlier and the fact that I could even lift my arm was victory enough. That wrenching came back to bite me elsewhere, but at that point, hitting Spearman was victory enough.

This was definitely a Spartan Race I’m happy to have completed, and to have used to complete a Trifecta. I’ll be happy to not do this race again, however. In fact, after having wrenched my shoulder again – I’ve had difficulty with my rotator cuff for no less than the last 6-years – this may well be my last go at obstacle course racing. I’ll do the Super in Massachusetts again in a month to complete my “unofficial” 2x trifecta (for reasons explained about my second Beast attempt and because of that I set up my second Sprint on the same day as my first — remember, same day multi-laps don’t count — in a remarkable twist of pretzel logic to avoid deep regret), but other than that I may well have raced my last OCR. Which saddens me, I mean it’s OCR that I latched onto as the reason I wanted to get in shape, but I’m really worried that my shoulder may well have to be surgically repaired and if so, it would mark the first time I’ve run into the “at my age” syndrome where “at my age” I can’t really afford the time to rehabilitate. On that note, I guess we’ll see, but as of today I’ve completed a Spartan Trifecta on one of the hardest courses offered, not by literally sliding into home at the friendly confines of Fenway Park.

Results:

Time to finish: 4:21:23

OVERALL 1704/ 5078

M45-49 103/ 314

2018 Race Recap #30: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #2

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Good for 17th overall.  I’m pleased.

Another mouthful.  The Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series is a weekly 5k my running club holds on Tuesdays in July. It seems like an overly long title for a mid-week race, but whatever. It’s a legit race, probably moreso than the 52-Week 5k Series the club offers on Saturdays. It’s $5 to enter if you’re not a member, free to members, and it turns out CMS members really like free stuff.  As it happens, it was seeing this on the calendar that initially had me join the club in the first place: $20/yearly dues and if I did these races it paid for itself; also of note, the 52-week 5k price drops from $5 to $3 for members, so for a guy that was into running a truckload of races that year, it made all the sense in the world.

I seem to miss at least one of these races for some reason or another. Last week, it was a vacation. Last summer, I think I may have done one race coming back from falling down a mountain and it was pretty ugly – my time last summer was mere seconds slower than the first time I ran.   The first year I did three of them.

This is the third year I’ve been running to any magnitude. The first year, I didn’t know what to expect from running in summer, didn’t do enough and just rode the struggle bus through it.  Last summer, I spent June and most of July on the DL which left me out of condition and still unaware as to how to run in heat. This is the first time I’ve been able to actually put any real concerted effort into running in heat and humidity.

I can tell immediately that I’m not hydrating myself nearly enough, and I’m finding it’s my willingness to exert myself in less than ideal conditions that is getting in my way — like most things it’s the head that gets in the way more than anything else.

As it turns out, my head got in the way again this evening – just not for the whole race, so I guess that’s progress.

It’s a generally flat course – my GPS recorded a 2′ elevation gain overall: a loop around Worcester’s Lake Park before exiting the park, down a few blocks and back into the park to finish where it starts.  There’s generally a pretty good turnout – usually more than 70 or so runners – and the club does a small cook out featuring under cooked hot dogs and Polar seltzer water.  Hey, what do you want for “free?”  It’s truly a gem of a race, powered solely by an active group of volunteers.

I did a quick mile warm up which wasn’t pretty. I struggled through it at a moderate pace and I could feel every bit of my bootcamp workout from yesterday – nothing like jump squats to really let you know what for. The big difference tonight, beyond attempting to not let my head get in my way, was my running buddy Duke showed up at the last minute after having been stuck in traffic.  He challenged me to a 24-minute race, I said I was going to go all out for the first mile and see where that left me, but that I hadn’t seen sub-25 in some time.

And so it goes: I went out as fast as I could for the first mile and played it by ear from there.  Going back to the volunteers, it was super helpful that they were all out there at apparently strategic points to direct traffic, but it turns out just as I was wanting to quit I would see a friend of mine and obvi didn’t want to look like a wuss or that I couldn’t handle it in front of my friends…and of course once by them, I had to get a safe distance away so they couldn’t see me wussing…but then of course I’d see another friend.  If the antagonist getting in my way is my head, sometimes it’s helpful that circumstances conspire to use that antagonist against itself.

It wasn’t my best race, but it was my best race in a while. Basically, it’s what I needed: I got over the hot weather hump, I exerted myself, pushed myself and showed myself that performing in hot, humid weather doesn’t have to mean a half effort. I finished a full minute (and almost a half!) faster than any previous effort – it didn’t have to be my best race to be a good race. NOTE: My self time of 24:42 seems to be off from the official 24:35. I know I didn’t stop my watch as soon as I crossed the line but I didn’t think I had waited 7 seconds, so I’m not sure what’s up there.

RESULTS

July 10, 2018: 24:35
July 25, 2017: 27:48
July 26, 2016: 25:57
July 12, 2016: 26:34
July 5, 2016: 27:32

Ruminations on a Decade

Graduation from college.  You KNOW it's the early 1990's by the teal necktie.  You just can't get a good teal necktie anymore...:)
College graduation. A proud day for the both of us.

Ten years ago this evening, I was on my way home from having beared witness to my father’s passing. Lost, and more than a little alone, the drive home from my sister’s was surreal.  I honestly can’t remember much of the half-hour drive. Even today, ten years later, I still goof the details.  Like scheduling my remembrance on July 1 instead of July 6 for some reason.

I could get maudlin and tell you about how that flub fits in with just about everything about my dad – despite my best efforts, I always let circumstances get away from me instead of taking control of them. Even at his funeral, the priest almost forgot to let me deliver the eulogy and I didn’t stand up vociferously enough.

Instead, I’m going to choose to focus on what I did do, because I’m pretty sure that’s what he would have chosen to see – effortlessly, doubtless – because he didn’t spend too much time on himself, he did however spend a lot of time on his family.  On duty, and on love.

When I had the opportunity, I asked him to be my best man. I wanted him to be beside me at my wedding.

Honestly, that’s the only thing I can think of. Literally the only thing. Everything else seems disappointing. I didn’t make the speech for him that I wanted to because I let the coked-out wedding DJ blow past it.

I didn’t spend the time with him that I needed to. I don’t think I ever really showed him how much I wanted to be like him from the time I was 12. I don’t know that he ever really understood just how important he was to me. Christ, 24-hours before he died I was telling him that I had something else to do other than seeing him. Why is it that everything I can think of has me failing, why can’t I seem to match up? I’m not at all sure that he held me to that standard, why am I holding myself to that?

So, here I am, ten years to the day, perhaps even to the hour, that I’m ruminating on my relationship with my father on the day he passed. Holding myself to a standard that I’m not sure he held me to. I’m sure he didn’t see his value: his brothers both fought in World War II, he spent the Korean War in military school. He chose a cemetery plot in a direct line from his father’s. He spent a life time trying to live up to his father and brothers and I wonder if because of that he let me off the hook. Perhaps I was the beneficiary of low expectations.

He was a good man, and he deserved so much more from life. I’m proud he was my father, I just hope he knew that. I loved the man and I’m sure he knew that, so perhaps I wasn’t as big a failure as I fear. I just wish I knew for sure.