I Spent Zero Time Editing This.

At various points, I’ve fancied myself a bit of a writer. Really, just a whim, a passing interest that occasionally loops around again – more the way a curiosity catches one’s attention every so often, more than any real interest. Perhaps a means to an end when the spirit moves me to communicate an idea or information more than any particular interest. I don’t even know what the point of this post is.

I deal in quantity, volume. I’m a purveyor of words. Words are tools. My main goal is getting the idea out, push it to words, organize it in some manner, shape or form, get it done, move along. I’ll sometimes have a draft sit for a bit, but its a rarity that it ever sees the light of day.  Just to show my commitment to the process, I’ll sometimes even go back and re-read a post once – perhaps even twice – after I’ve posted it. Sometimes. Generally speaking once it’s fully out of my head, I hit “Publish…” and away we go, usually not to revisit it again.

Then there are people like my friend David.  He’s considered, often poetic. He says what he means, deliberates over every comma, every phrase. Endlessly revises. Words are beautiful and exquisite materials with which to build stories.  By the time he pushes that friendly blue “Publish…” button, his work is as exacting as one would expect of a trained writer – one who doesn’t just fancy himself a writer, but one who is actually a writer, an expert wordsmith. Because, well, because he is a trained writer. He gives the impression of a person who not only speaks in well-thought out paragraphs, but thinks in paragraphs. The difference between my work and his is the difference between a framing carpenter and a finish carpenter.

In light of my previous post, I’d like to be clear that I’m not complimenting him at my own expense. His blog is something different from this one, his style is different from mine, his purpose is vastly different. I use words to communicate some ideas; he uses words to tell stories and paint pictures. He paints a picture of his father; I talk about the lessons my dad taught me. Just really different vibes. I read or listen to (audio books are ahh-maaaay-zing things) no less than 30 books a year, but since I left high school, I can count on one hand the number of novels I’ve read; I’m willing to bet his ratio is more a reciprocal of that than not.

It’s a good thing there are more than 300,000 books published every year in the United States – something for everyone.  By the time I press that friendly blue “Publish…” button on this post, the number of blog posts published today will be more than 2.7-Million and counting. A good number are rubbish, but I have to believe a plurality are posted by well-meaning folks with solid things to say. I also have to believe most are purveyors in words – more like me than like David. “Just get it out.” There are the hucksters, building blogs to convey topics and information designed to get you to subscribe so they can make money, unlike either this one or “willwriteforfood,” but I’m also quite sure most of the people who press that friendly blue button are legitimately seeking to express themselves.

Here’s what I’ve come to find: the people who stick with it, the folks who keep coming back – no matter the interval in which they come back – to bang on their keyboard and hit that friendly blue button are the people that actually have things to say, like another friend of mine. Some ten years and 2000 posts later, he still cranks it out.

There is just so many options out there, that if you’re pushing these things out for a reason other than the sheer enjoyment of writing, the need to read your thoughts written out, the desire to convey thoughts, you’re just setting yourself up and wasting your time. The odds of making money on a blog are remote. You’re not going to get famous. Not even for a minute. Just do what you do without expectation. You’ll be happier for it. If its not a labor of love, then you’re just wasting your and (perhaps more importantly) your readers’ time.

This fulfills my need for a place to dump my thoughts and words; for David his blog fulfills a need to paint pictures with his words.   Thanks for being here and indulging my words. There are millions of other posts dated just today to which you could give your attention and a fraction of those 300,000 books published yearly you could tackle. I don’t know why you’re reading this, only that you are, and I appreciate that. If you’re an aspiring writer, perhaps you’ve got some inspiration. If you’re someone who just surfs blogs, fantastic. I hope you come back. There are so many options and choices and directions to go that I hope I’ve provided something of what you came here to find.

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2018 Race Recap #23: Horseneck Half

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I really like running with these guys. Besides the fact they’re both much better runners than am I, they’re really good people.

Up until yesterday, we thought this race was going to be one rainy, wet mess. Then a hint of promise: Weather Underground forecast rain to stop right about race time and pick up again just after my anticipated finish time with some percent chance of rain during.  Come this morning, the forecast was clouds and fog, and about 60-degrees. Essentially perfect running weather.

Which was good, because I was going to need something close to perfect conditions: I’m pretty much fully recovered from my piriformis strain, but (damn, there’s always a ‘but’) since I’m an idiot and kept trying to push through, I developed a bit of a shin splint, which is painful and has pretty much kept me from running very much at any competitive pace – and yes, I know, I wrote about a 5k I recently ran and won my age group…but take a look at that pace: not exactly world beating – and not pairing up with my previous paces. My conditioning has suffered over the past several (6?) weeks, but I have been mindful to avoid blowing up like a tick weight wise like I did in December when I was last injured. I’ve been going to fitness bootcamp (although, I do have to admit to feeling kind of low and letting that keep me from going more) and being mindful of my calories. I’ve actually lost weight over the last 6 weeks or so, topping out at under 180 for the first time in quite some time. That mindfulness paid off today, to be sure.

Then there was the pre-race issues. I just couldn’t put myself together. The car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t get into the trunk to get the jumper cables because…the car was dead so the fob nor the button inside would release.  Because I took so much time messing around with that stuff, I didn’t get anything to eat. Just a potential disaster looming.  NOTHING was going my way.

The Horseneck course is pretty flat and under the conditions today presented I would normally have looked at it as an opportunity to crush my New Bedford Half time. My buddy Duke, about whom I’ve written previously,  on top of being a captain of industry also happens to be a certified personal trainer (who knew?) and he taped me up pretty good. That bought me more than a few pain-free/reduced miles – without which this would likely have been an ugly crying hot mess. My goal today was really to be competitive with my Clearwater Half time from January – my first distance race after December – but definitely under 2-hours. The layoffs were similar in scope and I wasn’t feeling optimistic.

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Look at these guys pretending they don’t know me.

About 2 miles in, I was questioning whether I’d be able to pull this off – whether it was a lack of proper stretching, or conditioning or what – I was letting doubt get to me. My internal dialogue was becoming poisonous to my race, so I had to shut it off and focus on other things: the scenery, the pace, distance to go, my music.

I could feel the tightness in my quads – damn conditioning – and knew I couldn’t stop so I had to keep running. It was about half way through that I was becoming quite ornery about it, and that was manifesting itself in fighting with the motorists trying to squeeze by runners along the ancient roads of Westport: by and large there was plenty of room for motorists to pull to the side of the road and/or stop to allow cars in the opposite direction to pass by, and yet these morons kept squeezing runners over and the like. One guy actually got into the race course, and started honking at a woman who was probably 100-feet ahead of me. I burned quite a bit of fuel trying to catch up to let this guy know exactly what I thought about that – he was literally so close to her that had she stopped he would have hit her. Sadly, however, the cluster broke up and he continued on his way: I was pleased that she either hadn’t heard him (doubtful) or she ignored him and kept running her race.  I was secretly hoping someone would try that nonsense with me.  My middle finger did get a bit of a workout – I’m not sure I’m proud of that, but sometimes keeping fueled means keeping fueled by anger.

Between mile 8 and 9 I was busy trying to figure out what I had to do to finish sub-2 hours; this is a sure sign that I was allowing that toxic self talk back into my head – giving myself an out: “…okay, so if I average a 10:00/min pace…” Allowing myself wiggle room for failing to perform. I had done well enough to that point that I had some cushioning to meet my goal, but it would be close, and this time that toxicity was outweighed by stubbornness.

As my watch clicked over to 12-miles, I knew I had enough time to beat 2-hours, but then the question was by how much, and would I get my Clearwater time? I kept pushing and actually had my best pace since that second mile. Those last few miles were difficult for me as well because of the headwind, so as we made the turn into the State Reservation, with a little less than a half mile to go it was a god send. Flat, generally wind free, just enough to push myself over the finish in a little less than 1:58:00.  Didn’t beat Clearwater, which was a bit of a personal defeat because I wasn’t happy with that time in January and after the voyage this year I am certainly disappointed, but it was a personal victory in keeping it under that 2:00 mark.

In my very first half – the Black Goose Half Marathon in October 2016 – I finished in 2:00:48 and I’ve been pissed at myself since that I couldn’t find 48-seconds somewhere over 13.1-miles.  From that low to my most recent half where I hit a personal best, I had really hoped when I registered that I’d come close to 1:50:00 or even better my New Bedford Half time.  It turns out I most closely approximated my Cambridge Half Time.  Disappointing, but not heart breaking.

I may have an opportunity to run a half in London next week  (or perhaps some shorter derivation), but unless that happens I’ll have another shot at an improved time next month – hopefully without the issues that plagued me today.  Onward and upward.

The course had a total gain of maybe 30′ (my watch says 358′ gain, 322′ loss…pretty significantly because it’s essentially a loop and I’m pretty sure there’s not 30′ of elevation between the finish and start). Remarkably I had a 176 spm cadence, so it would appear it was mostly in my head. My stride was shorter than usual, so I know I could have been faster, basically “remembering” what an 8:20 m/m pace feels like – I could feel myself moving easily between say 9:15/20 and 8:40, but I was letting my head too much control.  I’ll be working on that one.

Previous Results

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

 

 

Quite the Compliment

A friend of mine ran a Boston Qualifying time of just about 3:17:00 at the Providence Marathon on Sunday.  On Monday before our group run my buddy Duke and I had done a bit of a warm up, and when we arrived back to catch up with the larger group, Bill was there, ready to run. To highlight his stellar achievement, I mentioned that he had just the previous day run a marathon in the time it took us to do our warm-up run. Let’s not pay attention to the fact that here was a guy who had just run a 7:30 min/mile marathon the day before and he was out for a 5-mile run the next day. This guy is pure animal.

On our way home, my boy – he’s 12, mind you – asked me why I always seem to denigrate myself in complimenting others. Obviously, I protested – c’mon, boy, what are you talking about?  I suggested that he was fast running the marathon, not that we were slow running our 5k, but he came right back with the devastating question, “why couldn’t you have just said he was fast?”

And that just kind of hung out there for a while.

What am I going to do? Deny he was right? My 12-year old is a sophisticated enough speaker of English that he recognizes that linguistic habit. He gets the idea that the net effect of doing that is lowering my own standing with other people. In some cultures, that’s not necessarily the case, but in Twenty-first Century America, it certainly is.

I’ve never really thought about it before, but now that its been pointed out to me I can think back as far as high school and see that pattern. To show people how good they are, I have to be less.

That’s not normal.

I think it is a competitive thing for me. I strive to be better, I want to be better, and somehow someone performing at a higher level diminishes my performance. Its a ranking. While most 12-year olds don’t understand linguistics quite to the same level – or perhaps they do, they just don’t articulate themselves that way…or perhaps we just have a relationship that allows him to speak honestly to me – he nailed it. In taking control of the conversation in the way he did by just making an observation, he demonstrated a skill I didn’t know he had and demonstrated an aspect of our relationship I am proud of.

Either way, he not only went straight for the unvarnished truth, he reframed my experience, just. like. that. He listens. He processes.  He knows. We all know kids are sophisticated processors of information – as a parent, I’ve wondered and worried for years just what my kids would say about me to each other many years hence. What they’d each remember of their childhoods with me. What sort of counseling they’d need because of me, or perhaps more specifically what maladaptions would they take with them that work to a certain point and then doesn’t?

I feel a lot better knowing that, while he has definite expressions of a strong personality that will both be a great attribute for him and will also get in his way, he knows enough to be able to process these traits. I listen to him and wonder where he picks certain things up…only to hear myself utter similar things hours or even minutes later, so I know I have to show him the same skill he’s shown me. I also know that I should expect a similar response, “c’mon Dad, that’s not what I’m doing…”

He demonstrated he trusted me to listen to him and respect his point.  We have some tough conversations and yet at the end of the day, he always wants to check in with me and at the start of the day, he always wants me to walk with him to the school bus. He knows me pretty well and he’s comfortable asking me questions like “why do you denigrate yourself?”

So, it was important that I follow up with him, and thus I did. I told him that I thought about what he said, and despite my protestations I thought he was right and would seek to change my linguistic habits. “Great job” is a lot more positive than “That’s so much better than what I could do.” Positive for the recipient, and without denigrating anyone.  Lifting someone up without cutting anyone down. My boy has helped me be a better friend and person.  And, I hope, a better father.

2018 Race Recap #22: Boston Spartan Sprint (Open)

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Team Mo, rocking the bling at the finish.

Early this week, my daughter texted me and told me that her plans for today had changed and was wondering if there was a race we could do. As it turns out, there was.  Of course, I was already registered for the Sprint and was kind of hoping to rip it up, but I would run with her.  And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to make a choice.  Since my debacle with the second Beast a couple of weeks back, I really can’t see my way through to getting another one on the calendar (who knows), so my hope of earning a double trifecta this year has been pretty much shot. So since I had a code for a Sprint I decided to just run a second lap: two laps in the same day only count toward the Trifecta once. Groupon had an afternoon entry AND a discount code, so we were able to pick up a couple of late entries for about $60 each – so I got to run with both.

Also of note, since Spartan considers a second lap of the course a separate race – different bib numbers, second full registration fee, second insurance fee, second shirt, medal – I consider it a second race too. A race like FIT Challenge considers multi-laps an add-on so I consider that the same race. That’s the difference between an entity overly focused on profit margin (and not wholly well run either as illustrated below) and a labor of love that’s actually profitable and well regarded (and well run).

As soon as the first race of the day was finished – it began to rain.  And hard too.  So I took up shelter at the facility’s shooting range and waited for the kids to get there.  Which is another story, and since this is my blog, I’ll happily digress and tell you that story.

On Thursday of this week, Spartan announced it was changing up the usual practice of $10 parking and instead would make parking free and charge $5 per person to ride the shuttle.  After the backlash on social media about this – that it was contradictory to the idea of carpooling, and/or that folks would simply drop off at the facility and then park – it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out quite the way the race anticipated and on Friday they announced a clarification that what they really meant was that it would be $5 per person to ride the shuttle, with a max of $10 per car. Now all well and good for me – because the kids were showing up later and were riding in together, it was $15 instead of $20.

These guys CRUSHED it, and I’m happy they let me tag along.

However, by the time they arrived for our 12:15 heat, the lot was full and they were now redirected to a secondary lot at a college in the next town over – 15 or 20 minutes away.  Now, there was no mention of this lot on the web site and I’m quite sure I received no email about it.  So the kids find the new place, and wait.  And wait. And wait. Because apparently no one told the shuttle drivers to go there…or how to get there.  5 arrived at once, then another that they got on.  Where they would have been 45 minutes early, they now arrived late.  Inexcusable logistics problems by a company that runs races all year across the country AND, let’s not forget this was not the first time they’d run this specific race in this venue.

Remember, it’s now been about 2.5 hours since my first race ended. I’ve been steadily rained on for two hours, muscles cooling off, and pretty sure my body had gone into full recovery mode – even if I’d only run 5-odd miles, it was longer than it had taken me to run the first race.

The rain made the already muddy course ridiculously sloppy – more than a few of the obstacles were almost impassable, Olympus was exponentially more difficult than it was in the morning; the slip wall was true to its name.  The Sandbag Carry and the Herc Hoist were made more difficult with the water having penetrated the bags.  I used the very same station at the Herc Hoist that I had used in the morning and while it’s safe to say fatigue played a part, I’m quite sure it was also much heavier after sitting in the rain.  The bucket carry was more difficult due to the course itself – thicker, sloppier mud made slipping quite the hazard.

All of which said, it was awesome to run with these guys. “Team Mo” was an experience I wouldn’t give back at all. Watching them help each other and support each other. Not a thing better than that.  On this time around the course, I came up with 5.63 miles and 1375′ of elevation gain.

Results (Open)

1:59:51

OVERALL: 1363/ 4655
MALE: 1028/ 2692
M 45-49: 107/ 272

2018 Race Recap #21: Boston Spartan Sprint

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Please like me; I finished and didn’t die.

In all honesty, I’m not thrilled with my first race today. I ran about as well as I could – I’m on the other side of my piriformis issues I think (it flared up not at all today, perhaps a dull ache), but over the last week or so I seem to have developed a compensatory injury in my ankle or perhaps the end of my hammy.  I crushed some of the obstacles I had missed at the Beast a couple of weeks ago (Olympus you’re mine now), I failed one I expected to (the Twister, damnit) but actually did better than expected, and I came THIS close to getting across the rig which I actually hadn’t expected to complete.  Damn Spearman: always a crapshoot for me with that one.

I finished the Spartan Trifecta last year, but the skin of my teeth – I was injured most of the early summer so I missed the Boston Sprint and completed the set with the Fenway Stadium Sprint – since it’s technically a Sprint, it counts, but it didn’t feel like it – so this was the first mud Sprint I’d done since 2016.   It was a good, challenging course. My GPS pulled down a little more than 5-miles so it was on the long end of the Sprint spectrum, but I suspect that’s to make up for the relative lack of elevation gain.

I found the bucket carry to be more challenging than the same obstacle at the Tri State NJ Beast a couple of weeks ago – that one was basically ring around the rosey in a relatively flat spot; this one was up and down through mud, water, and downed trees.  Otherwise, the obstacles and the course really wasn’t all that difficult, but then again I’m measuring it against my recent races at the Beast and the FIT Challenge so perhaps I’m not being fair to the course. There was a grouping of upper body obstacles right in a row that was devious and clearly designed to make the course harder than it might appear otherwise – well played.

There was a non-insignificant amount of mud along the trails and it has been a while since I experienced that aspect of the race, so that was a welcome challenge.

Overall I think I acquitted myself well – certainly didn’t crush it as I had hoped I would, but I’m willing to cut myself some slack for injury and some conditioning loss from not being able to run as much. I pushed as hard as I could and I think I gave it my all.  I was certainly more careful counting my burpee penalties.

Overall, I was pleased with the Sprint course – it was a challenge but not over the top. My watch clocked in at 5.34 miles and 1100′ of elevation gain.  Clearly not my best result, but perhaps that’s just because there were a lot more badass 40-49 year old guys out there today than usual. I’m going to chalk it up to the idea that I’m really just not as competitive as I’d like to believe.

Results Age Group Competitive:

1:40:13

OVERALL: 304/ 409
MALE: 237/ 297
M 40-49: 84/ 104

Today Was A Good Day

There was a moment today, there were a few of us tracking one of the guys in our running group as he was attempting a Boston Marathon qualifying time (BQ) for next year, when it really fully occurred to me.  There we were, every few minutes, checking on Bill’s progress in the Providence Marathon, commenting on the ridiculous pacing. No other reason to be cheering for this guy other than the fact that we know him.

And that’s when it occurred to me. I was volunteering with a group of people who make time in their lives to compete, and who join others for accountability and for companionship. It occurred to me that I care about this guy and his sometimes weird foibles because, like the other people I run with, he’s got a good heart, he’s a good guy, and we all share a common interest in running.

I ran a small 5k that my running group was timing. I didn’t run a particularly good race, but it was good enough for 5th place and an age group win. I’ve never actually won a race before and an AG win is about as good as it gets for me.  My squad celebrated with some goofy pictures.

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Caption: “No! Pants stay on!”

We had a fun time, told goofy stories, and celebrated.

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Another post on the club page celebrated a second members’ BQ time today.  Still another celebrated a third club member’s win in another race- Pack Monadnock 10 Miler – with a roster of other club members to run.  Just a ridiculously supportive group of people, thrown together for the sole reason we like to pursue a common hobby, but who are actually supportive of each other.  It’s not often, indeed I think it’s a special thing, when disparate groups of people come together around a common pursuit and support each other in doing what they set out to do.  I think about my half marathon in March when one of the club members taking pictures saw me coming at mile 13, got visibly intense and excited for me and yelled me on – she was excited for me because I was that close to the goal I had articulated of finishing in under 1:50:00.  I finished in 1:49, something I credit in part to seeing her there yelling for me – it was just enough to kick me in the pants enough to find just a little more in the tank.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Mark Welburn, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and nature

Now, here’s the important thing: not one of those posts were from the person who actually DID the thing of some note – it was only after someone else cheered and crowed about the performance did the individual say something.  There were no “I BQ’d today!” posts, there was a post about the journey from surviving advanced cancer and setting this day as a goal after it had been previously mentioned and even then it was about the journey: if couldn’t be farther away from a “lookit me” post.

There are so many inspirational people and things all around if you just take a few moments to look.  For me, it’s the Bills and Karens of the world, who worked hard, struggled, and pushed to get their goals. It’s also the folks that come out to volunteer and time races and share in others’ celebrations. Why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with people with odd quirks, foibles, and personalities who work hard and are there to celebrate for you when you succeed?

I’ve said before that I actually don’t find running fun, or enjoyable. That’s true. I’ve said I run so I can run, that I like being able to do it. That’s also true. Today was the day I realized that I like it for the community. The accountability, the friendship, and the community.

So, we move on. I’m planning my first marathon, I know someone else who is going to run his first. I’ve cheered for a runner who literally finished last in his first marathon. Why wouldn’t you surround yourself with such people?

2018 Race Recap #20: Corduroy King 5K

Image may contain: 3 people, including Mark Welburn and Jeff Kristoff, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and natureHonestly, this wasn’t my first choice of races when it came up on the calendar. There are a bunch of races I really wanted to be doing today, but familial obligations required I do this one.  Nothing against this race specifically, it’s just I’d rather be doing races with a little more substance to them – a little longer or more difficult. As it happens though, I’ve been dealing with some injury and not running well, so it turns out this was the race I should do. I’m slowly realizing that “what ifs” and “shouldas” do nothing more than suck the life out of your present moment.

It’s also a race to raise money for a good cause – scholarships to an experiential learning program for kids with Autism, so at the end of the day, its not as if anything bad came out of it. Lastly, it was my very first 5k ever a few years ago, so if for no other reason, it should hold a little extra special place in my heart.

The course is about as flat as one gets and it was a smaller group – perhaps 70 or so runners and walkers.  Despite my myriad dents and dings, I got out to a decent start…and about 0.1 mile in I realized my shoe was untied so I had to stop…and let everyone I had just passed, run by me. I picked it back up and ran by them again, this time more or less for good.  My piriformis is still giving me fits, so I wasn’t running as hard as I’d prefer, but for the most part it felt good during the race.

The last 0.1 mile is pretty much down hill, so I started a full on sprint from the 3-mile mark through the finish.  For that tenth-mile, my pace was 6-min/mile.  For the rest of the race it was right around 8-min/mile.  So, a rather disappointing time – made moreso because my running club was timing the race, so I got to be disappointed in the company of friends. That said, I finished 5th overall and won my age division, so I can’t be too grumpy about the situation…and having friends at the finish was a big rush, and may have fueled the sprint I was just talking about – we may never know.

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As it turned out, my kids each won their respective age groups too, so we all got some spiffy medals.

Results:

2018: 24:54
2016: 25:55
2015: 35:40