2019 Race Recap #23: TARC Fall Classic 50k

This race was one of my first few ultras back in 2017. I did three that year: The TARC Spring Classic, the North Face Endurance Classic, and this one. And for the last two years, it was that race that remained my personal record. Now, the North Face is unlike the TARC races – where TARC is designed for experienced and beginner ultra runners, NF is designed to suck the life and spirit out of all.

In 2018, I only did the North Face and again, while faster than my first ill-fated effort, it wasn’t anywhere close to as fast as my Fall Classic time. They may both be 50k, but they’re as different as a sensible Toyota Corolla and a Tesla Model S with a death ray package.

This was my third 50k this year – unlike 2017, I’ve run 2 since NF. The East End Trail Race last month was an abomination. I finished just shy of 8-hours on a course that never should have taken me that long; not only was the course not technical, but to finish it 40-some-odd minutes faster than NF was just wrong.

Let he who hath understanding reckon the number of the kind-of-beast, for it is a human number. It’s number is six hundred and sixty…three.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

My goal today was 6:00:00. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off – I know my usual trail race pace is somewhere around 14:00 – I’m decidedly not fast, but I thought I had a good shot. It was going to be generally cool for the majority of the morning. I got a good night sleep and was ready.

The course is a quick loop around a cornfield and then three loops around the Great Brook reservation trails. Things started sub-optimally when just before the race, my headlamp quit. Turns out, the batteries were corroded. *SIGH* A few miles into the race, I got stung by a bee (wasp more likely) on the big fleshy part of my calf. Then for giggles I fell. I ran reasonably well that loop, BUT I had a bit of a time bomb brewing and I needed to take care of it.

Fortunately for me, I was able to hold out until I got back to the start/finish area, where I was able to (just in time) avail myself of the porta-potty. So that took a few minutes (mostly the time was spent struggling to get my shorts back on) and then to get my hydration vest on.

While I very clearly lost a step on the second loop, nothing much happened of note…well, I got stung again, but at this point it didn’t really matter. The last loop was really difficult; I had to really push through some adversity – nothing race threatening, but just the overall experience. My knees really started to bother me when they never have before. Where normally it’s just exhaustion/fatigue getting the best of me, today it was my knees. No matter how hard I pushed, it was the knees. For the first time in ever, going up on the trail felt better than going down.

The course was super well marked, professionally timed. TARC does such a nice job with these races. Everyone brings something for the aid station, whomever marks the course takes great care – it’s obvious it’s a labor of love. And you can’t beat the entry fee – $25. They do a great job. If you’re into awards or swag, this isn’t your race, but if you like running trails and a challenge you’re in the right place.

So, 50k #7 – and third in four months (WOW! North Face was 4 months ago? Really??) and a PR by 40-minutes. I’ll take it.

Results

33/76 6:08:18.1

Previous 50k Results:

TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA 9/28/20196:08:18
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 MA 6/9/20189:50:48
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA 6/10/201710:11:19

2019 Race Recap #22: Wicked Half Marathon

This wasn’t quite a last minute thing, but it hasn’t been on my radar very long. Choosing the “no swag” option, saved $10 off an already super reasonable entry fee, and needing a long run – and preferably a long race, as I’ve been running long solo and a few group runs, but without the competition to push me harder – it seemed like a good idea.

The course incorporates a lot (most?) of the Black Cat race course, so I was familiar with running it without having run this specific race previously. I was hopeful that I could hit a good time – after the Kelley Half last month, I really wanted to test the proposition that it really was the heat that day that doomed my race.

Now, bearing in mind low entry fees typically indicate spartan accommodations – and since this is the same race management company that does the Black Cat, I knew what to expect – I wasn’t disappointed: the starting line was a white spray painted line.

Today’s weather was expected to be warmer than seasonable, and it was: almost 60-degrees at 7 AM and well over 70 by the time I finished. Given this, I was concerned that I may not do as well as I had hoped.

Pretty cool medal too.

To the race: I started out entirely too fast, an utterly unsustainable pace, but for roughly the first half of the race, I kept a sub-8 minute pace going. I started thinking that I had a shot at besting – or at least coming close to – my Horseneck Half time earlier this year. And then…the hill I had forgotten about. Damnit. That slowed me down a bit, but not too much. From that point I got progressively slower and as I got slower, I got progressively more negative in my internal conversation. The old saw that you run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your head? Yeah.

By mile 13, I was really scuffing, but I knew it was close so I picked up the pace. That post 13 stretch (my watch clocked in at 13.3 – as a USTF certified course, I should have expected a longer than advertised distance) was among my fastest of the race. My official time: 1:48:23. Respectable, mid-8 pace, but given that my pace through half of it was sub-8, it really lets you know how much my pace fell off. Learnings? Well Horseneck was consistently about 7:40-8:00 pace. This was 7:11 to 9. Start a little slower, stay fast: my heart rate spiked too high and I had to slow down, had I maintained a slower pace I could have held onto it longer. All things I already knew, but sometimes have to be reminded of. Also, I need to do more hill work; running around Cambridge, MA has shown me that I can maintain pace, but I am missing the hills of Worcester.

I love this area and the course is great: down through downtown Salem, along the harbor in Marblehead, around Ocean Boulevard and back. Salem is awesome. Marblehead is beautiful. I really did like the race. I was disappointed that I didn’t do better, but heartened to find it was a personal top 3 finish. In fact, really pleased that my Top 3 Fastest Halfs, have all been this year. #OlderAndBetter

Finish!

Results:

127/607, M40-49: 17/52, Chip: 1:48:18.7 Gun: 1:48:23

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23
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
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
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 #18: Boston Spartan Super

It seems I say this with every recap of late. Race day was not my day. I sucked. It was horrible and I hated every minute of it. Last week I ran a half marathon and then a 50k the next day. On both I wrote more than a few excuses. For this race, there was no excuse. I sucked.

I ran terribly. I failed almost every obstacle there was to fail. I actually accepted a leg up on one obstacle (“The Box”) that I’d never seen before. I’ve run probably 15 Spartan races and there was stuff I’d never seem – this is generally a good thing – but it told me that I’d not done what I needed to do.

I signed up for the 10 AM heat because it was advertised as a SGX Coached Heat. I knew I wasn’t going to “race” it, for years now I’ve been dealing with a rotator cuff injury and rather than getting it surgically repaired, I’ve been taking a wait and see approach – I mean, in my day to day life, I do just find without having had my rotator cuff repaired. In a fine example of “how to show your customers you really don’t care,” there was no SGX coach. The MC was desperately calling for someone, but there wasn’t anyone on site. No one. They didn’t care enough to have someone there. That pissed me off and started my day on the wrong note. (as an aside, as of this writing, Spartan has not responded to my comments above on the Facebook event page).

Not that having a coach would have substantially helped my race, but honestly I was really hoping for the coaching and Spartan couldn’t have cared less – they didn’t have a coach on site. Unforgivable in my opinion. An epic fail.

I’m not a fan of the facility. It’s a motocross track and while there’s a lot of wooded area, the RD basically takes the track and uses tape to direct traffic. There is plenty of opportunity for the motivated cheat to cut the course. If you’re charging $150 to run a race, you need to do do better. I paid $50 on a coupon I got because I ran the Super last year so perhaps I shouldn’t be so pissed off. And yet, here we are.

My running hasn’t looked very good lately, and I’m sure it has to do with my recent job change – my commuting time having exponentially increased – but I also know I haven’t done the upper body work I should. This race was such a train wreck that I don’t even want to talk about it. I failed so many obstacles that I should have conquered I’m actually embarrassed.

Another day perhaps, but my shoulder is still not right – it may never be right and I should probably take that lesson. I know I said last year that I was probably done with OCRs, but did want to give this one a shot. With this in the rearview, I am pretty sure I’m done except for the one off Sprints.

Results

2:42:08

Ranking

OVERALL 1364/ 4542

MALE 1137/ 2896

M 45-49 97/ 263

2019 Race Recap #17: East End Trail Race 50k

Okay, first things first. Yes, I ran an excruciating half marathon this weekend, but I didn’t run it to race. I looked at it as a training run. It was hot, and challenging, and I did 13 miles. Fine. It’s all the things I didn’t do during the week that did me in today – and much, much less about yesterday. Now, would I advise following this weekend’s routine? Not a chance. That said, I didn’t sleep well, didn’t hydrate appropriately, didn’t actually train well. I was a disaster waiting to happen.

As it happened, a disaster didn’t happen, but a lot of things could have gone better for me today. Like, everything could have gone better for me.

This is a solid race. They seem to have done it right – a 10k (one loop), a 30k (three loops), and a 50k (5 loops). Now, let’s be honest. The 10k loop is closer to 6.5-miles – not a big deal in trail racing, but add that over 5-times and all of a sudden you’ve got 33.5 miles. Those two miles matter big when you’re struggle bussing those last two to the finish.

The venue was great. The organization was great. They could not have done anything to make this a better experience for the runners. Down to the fact they had cooling towels at Mile 4 and the start/finish. Best. Thing. Ever.

Curiously enough, I don’t have much to say for the race recap only because it was the same one race 5 times. It was challenging without being difficult for the sake of difficulty. It was mostly runnable track, except for the fact that I was toast and basically walked where I should have been running.

I expected better of myself. Over the first 16. 4 miles (what an odd number, you might be forgiven for thinking – it’s because my watch died there), there was 740′ of elevation gain. SO basically 1500′ of gain for the race, which shouldn’t have been an issue. I expected to finish in 6 maybe 6.5 hours. I finished in just under 90 – seconds away from DFL, until some rando came running from the woods and claimed that spot.

Building blocks. I get it. I know it was my mind more than body that got to me today. I will be working on that.

That said, this was my 6th 50k and it was my 3rd best – despite being almost DFL. So, not a terrible day. Right? I am disappointed that two months ago I ran North Face a little less than an hour slower – on a mountain with a substantially more technical course. So some backsliding I’ll have to work on before my next Ultra in September.

Results

26/27. 7:51:45

2019 Race Recap #16: 57th John & Jessie Kelley Half Marathon

A caveat: calling it the 57th Half Marathon is a bit of a misnomer. The race has been run 57 times, but it hasn’t always been a half marathon. It began as a 12-mile race (because, obvi, that makes sense), but became a half marathon in 2017. So, if we’re being real, its the 3rd Half Marathon. They’re really referring to the 57th running of what is now the Kelley Half Marathon, or more specifically the Kelley Road Race. Continuity matters, baby. What whatevs. The entry fee is zero. Always has been.

That’s something I’ve spent not inconsiderable amount of time trying to figure out: how do you mobilize a community of volunteers – there were plenty today from registration to water stops – have free parking at the muni lot, have post-race food, AND race swag (a really nice finisher medal) and ask only donations to the local food bank? At registration you can submit an additional contribution, but it’s totally voluntary. I mean, think about this: it’s a free race, just sign up. If the weather is crummy, people don’t show. BUT they still have the medals. Last year it rained. Today it was swampy, humid air. Now, they take the first 1000 registrations, then they’re “Sold Out.” I know this year they were full, and today 615 runners ran. So perhaps that’s what they bank on – roughly 65%. I don’t know, but I’ve paid more money for races where the medals didn’t show up or were multipurpose – 5k and half – or whatever.

Pretty sweet swag for a $0-cost race

Now, the point here was not to race, but to get my long run in. My friend Derya and I were just going to run and forget about pace because we’re doing a trail race tomorrow. I had a target goal of finishing under 2-hours: I haven’t been running particularly well as of late, and really hadn’t run much more than 8-9 miles at a time for a while. The weather was oppressive and as soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot, I knew I was in for a long slog.

Now, because it starts and finishes at the beach, there were full facilities for restrooms, which was a godsend after driving the 90-minutes to New London with a cup of coffee. The parking at Ocean Beach was free (another head scratcher). The race was chip timed, so there was no particular race to the starting line, and off we went.

By my watch there was some 560′ of elevation gain on the course – not quite, “flat with some rolling hills,” although the race site does disclose a not insignificant hill at mile 10. I didn’t start out racing – over the first 4-miles or so I was running about 8:35 pace- but after mile 3, I had to slow down because my ankles were giving it to me. It was difficult walking and I was wondering at that point if I was going to finish, but eventually I pulled myself together and ran. It was at this point Derya caught me and asked if I needed anything, and since the answer was “no” she took off but not before I complained about my ankles.

A little further up, I caught her and she said she was going to force herself to go slower and asked how my ankles were. Good enough. And that was the last time I saw her.

For the rest of the race, I did intervals – running, then walking, rinse, repeat. Folks along the course had their hoses out – THANK YOU!! – and the volunteers were great handing out water. I had some really nice conversations along the way – I was wearing my Central Mass Striders singlet and a few people cheered me on for it, including one person who seemed to know who I am but for the life of me I had no idea who she was.

I was really struggling at mile 11 when I realized that by the time I was there, I had finished Horseneck just a few months ago. I also tried to remember that the goal wasn’t to race and only to finish in under 2-hours – something that seemed somewhat suspect at this point. It was getting hotter, and apparently more humid if that was possible, and all I wanted to do was anything other than whatever I was doing – which at this point was running.

By the time I completed mile 12, I realized I had an outside shot of hitting my target of 2-hours. Now, look, 2-hours is a great goal for most people – some experienced runners I know have yet to crack that barrier. I’m not taking anything away from them, I hope, when I say that for me generally speaking 2-hours is not a good time. My goal has always been sub-2 hours and I’ve come up short twice: my very first one saw me missing 2 by 48 seconds, and last years Bristols Independence Rhode Race where I was experiencing a chest cold or infection or whatever, but I came in at 2:06. I was hoping today was not going to be the day when I hit #3.

As I turned the corner and realized I was near the finish, I turned everything I had on to cross the line. I could see the clock as I headed into the last 1/10th mile – It had just clicked over to 1:58:00 so I knew I could, I SHOULD, make 2-hours, and I just went. By gun time, I finished 1:59:18. By chip time, I finished a little better – 1:58:47, a little less close than I thought, but either way, I still finished sub 2-hours.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, that I managed the conditions and came in roughly 18-minutes slower than my last half, which just happened to be my PR, but I finished clean.

Results:

211/615, M40-49: 28/63, Chip: 1:58:47.0 Gun: 1:59:19.0

Previous 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
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
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 #15: 56th Annual Fred Warren 5.5-Miler

First I have to get this out of the way: It was southern bayou swamp-ugly out there. No less than 87 degrees at race time with humidity easily up toward 90% (at the time I’m writing this it is 79%). The air was just ridiculously heavy and I found it really hard to breathe.

Long about 4PM, I started thinking about how this race was going to run, and it was tough. I was having difficulty contemplating how this would be a good run for me. I was confident this would no go well.

No sooner had I gotten to the starting area, when I had to turn tail and head back to the parking area porta-potties. Hard to tell if it was a benefit to have to…uh…you know…so lighten my body weight, but it was certainly better to have the facilities there than not. That would have made for a very ugly 5 miles.

This is a local race run by my running club, so there were a lot of familiar faces which I certainly appreciated – I took a job recently close to Boston and the additional commuting time has been killing my social life with these folks, so it was appreciated to have the opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces. My daughter even came to race from her new place in New Hampshire, and that made my heart happy.

This was my first race since the North Face at the beginning of June and my first street race since the Worcester Fire Fighters 6k in May. I came THAT close to not having had a race in July. I mean the fact that this is only my 15th race this year astounds me a little given what the past few years have looked like.

Holden is a little town in Central Massachusetts, which means that it’s not flat. The Warren course is a loop, starts generally down for the first mile, rolling hills for the second, down for the next half, up for the mile and then mostly down.

According to my Garmin, the Elevation Gain was 384′ and the loss was 387′, which seems technically impossible given the start and finish are the same…but suffice to say, it’s roughly 385′ of gain.

It can be pretty challenging to be sure.

So at the start of the race, I’d run maybe 3/10 of a mile when my shoe came untied. It’s been more than a year since the LUK 5k when my shoe came undone and my friend Jeff sold me on Lace Locks. I haven’t worn sneakers with laces since…until today. Curiously enough that first mile was pretty quick. I ran the second and third mile at roughly equivalent speeds – with a fair degree of walking in there. The fourth mile, where you see that big up part,took me 9:07 (73′ of gain) and then it was pretty much downhill from there, where I notched the fastest mile of the race and second only to the last 4/10 of the rce where I paced in at 7:13, ultimately finishing 26th at 43:39.

My girl with definitive evidence that she did not finish last.

Now a couple of my friends were pretty well dehydrated, and while both finished, one had to leave in an ambulance for fluids. The heat and humidity were no joke. I’m honestly surprised I did as well here as I did. The lack of racing in general hasn’t helped but my increased sedentary time could not have helped my fitness level. The last few weeks I’ve seen my runs get sloggier and slower. Could be sleep, or bad diet, or whatever, but tonight I pulled through it until it felt good. Which makes it that much setter for me: I PR’d this course tonight by just about 7-minutes officially (for the three times I’ve run this race) and by roughly 3:20 if I include training runs last year. So I may have lost a little off my fast ball recently, it’s nice to know that I’m still racing reasonably well.

My daughter also hadn’t raced in sometime – since the Celtic 5k actually – and hadn’t run more than 4-miles in months, and she rocked the course too: Meaning she did not finish last.

The club puts on an afterparty where awards are announced and there are gift giveaways and food. Incredible value for the $15-20 registration fee. Good fun, great folks.

Results

2019:56th Annual 26th 43:34

2018:54th Annual 58th 50:35
2017: 53rd Annual 33rd 50:31

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