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

 

 

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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

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

2018 Race Recap #19: Tri-State NJ Beast

Yup. Day #2.  Second one in two days.  For a middle aged, marginally fit guy pushing to find his limits, this was an expression of that journey.  Guess what? I found the limits. I have to say that of some 130 races over the last 2 and a half years or so, this is the most humbling…no humiliating I have felt.

First the course specifics and details.  Sunday clocked in at 14.1 miles – just about a mile shorter than Saturday’s course. I haven’t looked at the maps of both to know if there was actually a mile less or if my watch was inaccurate or what – actually it would be more than a mile less because on Sunday, I missed the spear throw that I made Saturday and had to take a penalty loop.  More on penalties later, because they play a substantial role in my story of Sunday. Elevation gain Sunday was up over 5200′ compared with 5000′ Saturday which would definitely be reflected in that spear penalty as it was just straight up…forever…or so it seemed.

I missed obstacles I got on Saturday, I got one Sunday that I had missed Saturday which felt good. The lesson of the day, though, is that Spartan races are more than physical challenges – they’re mental challenges.  I pushed through this race, and was physically compromised to be sure, but I did it. My mental acuity though, my mental acuity failed.  I failed 3 obstacles with a burpee penalty – 30 burpees and a time penalty.  When I crossed the finish line – I actually took some time to pull myself together before jumping over the fire at the finish – I felt like I had crushed the race.

I later found that I had been disqualified.  It seems I had failed to complete the requisite 30 burpees on ALL 3 failures.  ALL of completing progressively fewer – including the penultimate obstacle on the course – which is the one I apparently didn’t put in the minimum.  I KNOW I counted 30, but knowing you counted 30 clearly doesn’t mean you completed 30.  So, I failed.  And while I finished, and not technically a DNF, I was disqualified.  Rules violation and rules are rules. I’m beside myself upset, all that time and effort to blow it on the last one.

At first I was frustrated because I thought it was glitch or misunderstanding at one station. I was firmly convinced of it.  Then I was angry.  But while I could argue one station, I can’t argue with three.  I blew it. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to look at a bright side, but I don’t see a bright side right now.  I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m humiliated.  You’ve got to play by the rules and if you don’t you have to pay the consequences.

Mental exhaustion. Physical exhaustion.  Whatever. Fact of the matter is that I pushed my limits and found that I’m not where I thought I am.  Perhaps that’s the bright side – knowing how exertion affects my mental acuity will help me down the road.  Perhaps. Right now, I just feel defeated.  “Disqualified.” Basically says “cheat.”

When I decided to start recapping each race this year, it was an accountability instrument. I wanted to see my progress through the year, and I wanted to see my opportunities to improve.  I honestly never thought I would fail or at least fail for these reasons.  I thought I was better than that, but now that I know I’m not, I never ever want to be here again.  Failing is one thing – its human – but “disqualification,” damn. I never want to feel this way again.  In failing I know I’m pushing, growing, becoming better. I’m trying hard to see this in that way. I desperately want to see it that way. That’s all just framing – what matters is what I do with it.  The story you tell yourself is irrelevant if you don’t do something to improve from it.

 

 

2018 Race Recap #18: Tri-State NJ Beast

Last summer, I had planned to do the Savage Race in Massachusetts, but has to bail due to injury.  I traded my deferral code for Savage to a guy for a Spartan code which became this race.

The Beast is the longest and most difficult of Spartan’s three standard race distances: Sprint, Super, and Beast. Once past Beast, you get into the Ultra or Ultra Beast which is generally speaking some variation of the Beast course, and several Hurricane Heats which are a variation of the race.  Touted at 13+ miles, 30+ obstacles.  My watch totaled 15 some odd miles and, honestly I didn’t count the obstacles.  This was my third Beast – my second time here at Vernon – and (I think) my tenth Spartan race and I’ve found over time that it’s a fool’s errand to focus too much on distance traveled or on obstacles completed.

What started out as a raw, overcast day turned into a bright, sunny 70-degree slice of perfection. Not too hot, not too cold.  The site is the Mountain Creek Resort,  a New York City metro area ski resort. Unrelated to the race itself, while out on the course, there are definitely signs the resort has its troubles. In all honesty, I wasn’t entire sure the complex was actually still operational and the Wikipedia entry kind of explains its current state.  Another proximate ski area, Tuxedo Ridge in Tuxedo, NY has also had its financial difficulties and has hosted its share of Spartan Races as well.  Its hard to know if the financial difficulties are related to the willingness to host an obstacle course race or if its mere coincidence.

This years Beast seemed less difficult overall.  The thing with Spartan is they’re not terribly innovative and they trot out generally the same obstacles year over year.  This race seemed much more of a trail race through the hiking trails of the resort and less the mountain slog that I’ve seen at Killington (oh dear God, the quads!!) and to a lesser degree here last year. There was some mountain climbing but it wasn’t the gratuitous “we’re making you climb this because we can” sort of climb.

I was running with a first time Beast participant and it was a challenging race for her, so I don’t want to discount the level of difficulty involved, its just that it seemed like an easier course over last year.  I’ll be taking another stab at it in a few hours so we’ll see how my experience Saturday affects my performance Sunday.

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My usual Beast race buddy and my first time runner.

I had been really nervous about how my butt injury would hold up, but it held up pretty well – no major discomfort at all, perhaps a few twings here and there but overall nothing that would hold me up.  I was able to hit several obstacles I didn’t think I would which was a bit of a minor victory – any time you can avoid burpees is a good time – and for the most part even the ones I failed limited the burpees with an additional course trail instead.  (Innovation!!!)

Spartan did a little something new with the Ultra Beast course this year, by adding a 3 mile addition to the first loop of the course. This really seemed to mess up a lot of the folks we encountered along the way and it would appear a good number of them missed the course cut off to continue.  More than a couple were complaining about the hellish trail in that 3-miles. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps that was some of the more difficult trail the Beast course was lacking.

The obstacles seemed to be more standard than they have been in the past: the buckets at the bucket carry were prefilled, the farmer’s log “logs” were concrete atlas stones with handles built into them instead of actual, you know, logs. The sandbag carry was far more difficult than I remember it being in the past – large wreck bags instead of the sand filled pancakes that had been the obstacle – and the Herc Hoist seemed far more heavy than I remember it being, although several days of rain previous to race day may have helped both of those items become more heavy than anticipated.

I clocked 15.1 miles and just over 5000′ of elevation gain.

Overall, not my best time ever – I ran the Men’s elite heat (well, kinda – since my friend isn’t a male, she couldn’t run in the men’s elite heat so I delayed my start) and finished last in my age group and something like 3 slots off last for the heat.  Overall though, according to Athlinks, I finished solidly in the middle as I usually do.  I finished about 7 minutes slower than last year – we’ll see how I do Day 2 after having experienced the course.

Spartan Beast

Tri-State NJ 2018 6:09:12
Tri-State NJ 2017 6:02:24
Vermont Beast 2016 8:37:50

When Not In Rome…

Over the past year, year and a half or so, I’ve been tracking my daily miles run. Looking back at this week last year, I ran 9.5 miles all week.  There’s a couple of reasons for that: First, my convalescence from doing three laps at the FIT Challenge – my muscles were basically stone for the week following, it was ugly – and second, we were in Italy for the week and I was more interested in sight seeing and drinking wine than I was in running.

So this week I’m determined to make some mileage gains against “year ago Mo,” but there is one slight complication: while I’m recovering quite nicely from the DOMS resulting from FIT, thank you very much, I tweaked myself a few weeks back at To Hale and Back – my butt is really giving it to me. More specifically I’m pretty sure I’m battling through a little something called Piriformis Syndrome (either that or hip cancer…these Internet diagnoses can be a little touch and go).

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The most recent Sneakerama Fun Run.  Bonus points if you can find me.  Photo Credit: Lisa Genatossio

It was letting up by the time I started FIT, but I could feel by butt radiating pain not too long into it.  It was low key most of the previous week, zinged me pretty good at the Thursday night Sneakerama Fun Run, but evened out for Saturday after resting on Friday.  Even the next day after FIT at Jay Lyons, it was bothering me – not quite as much as the stiffness in my leg muscles over all, but it was still there.  Who knew that running another 70-miles with a joint that was screaming about a repetitive use injury would exacerbate things?

It really kicked in last night at my running club’s group run – normally I’ll bang out 5 (last week 7!) miles, but this time I just did 4.  A day after running a 7:40 5k with sore muscles, I couldn’t get much beyond a 9:30+ pace.  It was ugly crying hot-mess all the way.  Tonight I banged out 3.7 at a very similar pace, limping all the way.  If anyone saw a 90-year old running around the Wachusett Reservoir this evening, that was me.  Small victories though: where a year ago I scraped by with 9.5 miles on the entire week, I hit 10.8 today.  Of course, I’m also not vacationing in Italy this week – so it’s truly a mixed bag with a net negative.

The stretches outlined in the link above combined with a heating pad and some analgesic cream seems to be having the desired effect. I do have to say that a nice hot heating pad on your butt is a not-unpleasant experience.

I’ve been playing with signing up for a long trail race or half marathon against doing nothing on Saturday.  After my run this evening, I was pretty much decided that “doing nothing” was going to win, but with some stretching and this heating pad I may reconsider, but I have to do it quickly – the half marathon registration window closes tomorrow and it looks like there may only be 11 or so more slots available.  Decisions, decisions.

I mean this heating pad is off the chain.

What I’m particularly happy with is that while I’ve been in a considerable amount of pain, I have been able to keep going; perhaps not as long nor as far as I would prefer, but I’ve been able to go.  I spent six, maybe 7 weeks on ice last year due to injury and I was still able to hit my running goal for the year. It is on that I set my goal for this year, but that requires that I stay healthy.  28-29 miles a week for 52-weeks.  Miss a week means amortizing 30 miles across the remaining weeks.  I can’t afford to lose time.

I know from my heart monitor data that I’m basically maintaining cardiovascular on the past couple of runs – not much exertion…can’t get moving fast enough to get my heart rate up high enough, long enough, but maintenance will suffice for the time being.  Maintaining means I’m not losing ground and that’s the next best thing to gaining ground.

I’ve forgotten how nice a warm heating pad feels.  And on your butt too?  Sublime. How have I not thought of this before now?

Well, I’m going to head to bed and hope that tomorrow morning enough of my aches and pains and dings and dents have given way so I can get a few miles in before work.  If I can’t be in Italy, I may as well run, right?