2020 Race Recap #1: Freezer Five

Another January 1, another Freezer Five. It’s the fourth one I’ve done now. Curiously, it wasn’t as warm nor as windy as last year; wasn’t as cold as it was in 2018. The course was in better shape despite the “winter weather event” we had the previous two days than it was in 2017. More people showed up than in 2018, fewer than last year, roughly equivalent to 2017 though fewer.

It’s the first time I’ve ever had the #1 bib – due only to the time of registration, not actual seeding or anything – but it was kind of fun. Of particular note to me because this will likely be my last race in the M40-49 Age Group. Not sure what to make of that.

White glove treatment!

In comparing my year over year, I see that last year I found I struggled between miles 2-3. This year it was at the end of 3-and into 4. Nice to know that my struggles are getting progressively further from the start. Depressingly enough, I was maybe 0.4 Miles from the finish when I stopped to check my heart rate – that hurt. You’ve just run 4.5 miles, the finish in sight and you can’t pull yourself together. Ouch. The big difference though, was my actual splits:

Mile20202019
17:087:45
27:407:59
37:558:39
48:058:08
57:567:49
Basically even when I struggled I still beat last year – except for Mile 5 and then only because there was that wild tailwind last year that pushed me uphill.

Last years pacing was so much more interesting, Miles 1 &5, 2&4 more or less matching up and then that dreadful mile 3. This year I clearly went out too fast – I perhaps would have last year as well, but for the headwind – but I wonder how well I’d have run if I could have had the same conditions as last year.

This was the 11th time I’ve run the course – 4 as a race, and 7 as recreation/workouts – and it was the fastest yet. I ran it in May and hit a 7:57 pace – a personal record for the course, and faster than my previous race times! So, doing this in less than 40-minutes in a race was a bit of a personal achievement. Despite my better time against the course, I actually finished slower against the field. I’ll chalk that up to the beautiful 50+ degree day last January 1 and more day of registrations.

I woke up today after a great night sleep, but still roughly 7 pounds heavier than I really want to be, so I’m pleased for the pace and the result. As always it’s a great way to start the new year, by going out and kicking some ass on January 1.

And we’re onto 2020! Happy new year!

Distance: 5 Miles

2020 Time: 39:16 | 7:51.2 /mi : Overall 52/215 | M 41/114 | M 40-49 19/37

2019 Time: 40:34 | 8:06.8 /mi : Overall 67/289 | M48/128 |M 40-49 13/34

2018 Time: 44:24 8:52 pace: Overall 76/157 | 58/91 | M 40-49 19/20

2017 Time: 43:04 8:36.8 pace: Overall 100/254 | 71/132 | M 40-49 22/28

Life Comes at You Fast: 2010's

Life comes at you fast.

My most difficult events in order of difficulty: North Face 50k, 7 Sister Trail, Boston Maratjon, Baystate Marathon and Joe English Challenge.

I remember a car accident I had in 1989. It was late spring/early summer: I remember that because this kid was going to his high school graduation. It was raining pretty good and it was mid-afternoon in Needham, Massachusetts. I was leaving my summer job to go to my regular part time gig in Franklin, Massachusetts, so it was rush hour. This kid and his mom driving her brand new Camry was trying to turn left across 5 lanes of rush hour traffic. I was in the left lane and the giant Ford Explorer on my right stopped to let them out from the side street as they made their attempt to cross traffic.

I could see the nose of the car moving into my lane and I stuffed my foot onto the brake as quickly as I could, but wound up driving my 1974 Chevy Nova directly into their left front fender. Hit it so hard that the hood buckled and pulled the other fender in.

I could replay that moment over and over again. Slowest 2 seconds of my life. And yet it happened so fast.

We often fail to see how things are developing, but see it all come together in slow motion. Just like that car accident.

Funny that accident should have happened 30 years ago, a few months before the dawn of the 1990’s. Bill Clinton, Nirvana, Windows 95. 2019 came at me fast, and yet I saw it in slow motion. Not unlike the decade itself.

I knew my work life was set to change, but didn’t know when or how. It came down to the wire, but I not only maintained employment continuity, I think I found myself an even better opportunity I never would have sought out had I not been pushed to it. It took me the entire six months I was given, as my former employer transitioned to become another company, but in the end the stress paid off. It comes with a fair amount of consequences and I wrestle with how long I can keep everything in balance. I’m eternally grateful to have been afforded the time to transition. I knew the change was coming, but not unlike that accident, it was slow to develop and when it hit, it did so with a crash.

That transitional change changed a lot in terms of my plans and expectations. It has caused quite a bit of disruption in my day to day. I have less free time so I have to make it all work. I see less of my running friends, but I make the effort to see them when I can. I’ve experienced this loss of community as an actual loss.

One of the direct consequences has been that I’ve actually done more running than I planned to. Because I leave for work so early in the morning to beat traffic, I get there so early that there’s no one actually there. So I can run. Coupled with the shower, it’s perfect. I can often get 7, 8,9, 10 miles in. It’s time I can use to get right in my head and be ready for my day.

My boy started High School. I’m so happy that he took the opportunity to take the path his dad did and go to parochial high school. I want for him the experience I had. Thusfar he seems to be flourishing, actually played football and is getting A’s. I couldn’t be any more proud of him.

My girl, she’s starting to thrive on her own. I hated to see her leave, because I knew she wasn’t coming back, but she’s building her life and I’m so happy for the time she was here under this roof. It’s funny, life isn’t unlike that car crash. All the little things you don’t notice eventually come together and hit you with impact. I could see it happening, i knew when she left this last time she was striking out on her own. I just wasn’t really ready for that. She’s got herself a career path job and finding her own way. It’s sad to look out and see your job as a parent has transitioned to a much different place than you were ready for.

I can’t believe 2019 is at an end. A decade is at it’s end. Back in 1977, Mrs. Flynn asked her first grade class what they thought the year 2000 would be like. At that moment, 2000 seemed so far away. I was expecting the final Star Wars installment to be released. My mind was blown that I would be 30 when that happened. As it happens, I was almost 50 when Episode IX happened. Hell, Episode I wasn’t released until 1999. (And if we’re being honest, it kinda sucked.)

At the end of 1989, I wanted to make a new start with the new decade, a decade in which I rightly figured I’d graduate college, get married and start a family. I did all those things, but not really according to plan. And in 1999, at the turn of the millenium, I was starting over.

We plan on getting married, buying a house and having a family, what we don’t plan for is that marriage not working out and keeping the rest of your family together. I am a lucky man. I was able to pull the pieces together, and have a vision for getting married, buying a house and growing my family.

At the end of 2009, I was mourning the loss of my dad, and realizing that at some point I’d grown into middle age, questioning so many things. The end of the last decade was really, really difficult. It also set into motion the relationships that helped define this decade, relationships spanning the globe and influencing my family for what I hope is years to come.

The last 10 years have been nothing if not transformative. Trial and tribulation at home. Delivering one child to adulthood, another on his way. Dispensing with bad habits, creating new good ones. I like to think that I’ve embraced mid-life and created the me that I wish I had the good sense to create back in 1989.

I’ve had two jobs in the last 10 years, and I’ve loved them both. How many people can say that? I’ve gone from being morbid obesity to…well, regular obesity but with the potential to run a half marathon in 1:43.

In the latter years of this decade I’ve probably run 200 races. It astounds me that I am that guy.

2019 has been the culmination of so much work. My fastest 3-half marathons were this year. I ran the Boston Marathon, something I never knew I wanted to do until I realized I did. I have an truly interesting and aspirational group of friends; people I can ask to do dumb things with me and they say…yes.

I am thankful that I’m going into 2020 healthy and happy. Something not everyone can say. My family is whole and strong, and thriving. And something I’ve not always been able to say, I actually have a strong social network of people I care about and who care about me. I’m forever thankful for that.

The 2020’s will see their challenges: I lost my uncle – my dad’s classmate – this year, and I’m sure this decade will see more of my childhood pass into memory. I’m hopeful, though, that there will continue to be more good than negative. I hope to see my boy graduate high school and go to college, perhaps marriage and a family for my daughter.

Overall, I’m going to look back at these last 10 years with a significant fondness. The people who have meant the most to me at the start of the decade, continue to mean the most to me. I’ve spent the decade adding to that cadre. That seems like a very, very good thing.

Have a wonderful and safe new year. Happy 2020. Bring it on.

2019 Race Recap #27: Jingle 5k

Literally the 4th 5k of the year – after all, this was the Year of Being Badass, so 5ks aren’t typically considered badass. BUT this was an opportunity to run full bore in a way that I 1) don’t usually and 2) haven’t in some time.

This wasn’t really even a planned thing, it just kind of happened. So, I wasn’t at all sure what I should expect. The holidays are always really tough for me: I always put on weight, my training suffers, winter messes with my brain. The last 5k I ran, I ran slower than the year over year by 10-seconds a mile. Now, the Canal Diggers is notoriously a “fast” 5k because it’s a short course, but 30-seconds is a lot to make up. I wasn’t at all sure how I’d compare year over year here.

The weather was warmer than last year, may be a blessing, may be a curse. Not wholly sure. The field of runners was smaller by about 200 – so I’m not sure what that was about. Given that there was race day registration and that it was significantly warmer than last year, it’s hard to know why fewer people showed up. MY tribe was all there, and that made the difference for me.

The wind. Oh my goodness the wind. I went out for a mile warm up run and watched a guy chase his touque across a parking lot at least as long as a football field. This information would come in handy later on though. And as sad as I am that he lost his hat, the lesson I learned was “it’s windy out there, buckle up.”

So I compared my splits year over year. Last year I was ridiculously fast the first mile and then progressively faded. This year I was ridiculously consistent. Mile 2 I slowed down and actually walked but ultimately paced out nicely. End of day, I beat my last years time by…

Love my tribe

5 seconds.

Now, the last one I did year over year was the Canal Diggers, where I lost 30-seconds, or 10-seconds a mile. At that point in the year, I was feeling okay about my conditioning, so this was a bit of a reality slap. To finish 5-seconds faster in December? Bring it.

Comparatively speaking, I finished slower against my groups except for my AG. Easily explainable by the fact there were fewer guys my age running. By a lot. That said, next year I level up and those old bastards had better be looking out for me.

The headwind was tough, and that cost me not so much in the stretches were there was a headwind, but later on after I’d been working so hard against it. PHEW!!

results

43/486 23:24.9 7:31/M

49 M 5TH 40-49

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