2019 Race Recap 8: Wallum Lake Half

I hadn’t really run a trail since September of last year. I’ve messed around on the trails near Mt. Wachusett with my friend Tom a couple of times, knowing that I’ve registered for the North Face Challenge again (not bad for a race I’ve said twice now that I would never do again), but nothing to the point that I should have to just jump in.

Winter is a tough time to run trails in New England if you don’t like snow (Tom does, so he does run trails then…then again, he likes running generally and trail running in specific so there’s that too), and my focus since January has been training for my last race. So, this was going to be a fairly significant kick in the pants anyway, but honestly I was unprepared for just how much it did kick me there.

I honestly think it was more a mental challenge than physical, but I was clearly not where I needed to be. It was about 1200′ of elevation gain, but it felt much worse. There weren’t many if any severe climbs, but my heart rate monitor/Garmin app tells me that I was working it hard…and it still took me 2:38:01 to complete.

The course is a roughly 6.5 mile figure-8-ish track – so the half is two laps. Mid-way through the second lap I was questioning whether I had gotten off course because I couldn’t remember seeing certain things, but would be reminded again either by physical evidence (footprints in the mud) or geologic marker (flat, glacial rocks). It’s been unseasonably rainy the last few days, so the course was ridiculously muddy as well, with several areas flooded out requiring either full-on attack through, or some pussy-footing around – more often than not I pussy-footed around until the later stages when it was very clear to me that there was nothing more to be gained by skirting the issue.

I really thought I was behind everyone by the time I was coming to the final mile or so. I was beat, and could barely will myself forward. Over the final…we’ll call it .3 mile, I could see another runner just walking and I figured I could probably catch him if he didn’t pick it up. For a fleeting second I wondered if he had already finished and was waiting on someone, but I needed something, anything to motivate me to finish stronger than what I was heading toward, so I pushed. It turns out he hadn’t finished, and I was able to run by him and grab a higher finishing slot. I finished almost a full hour AFTER the winner had. Remarkable considering I don’t run street half marathons at 1:39:00 and this was substantially harder than a street.

Results

39/67

2:38:01.1 +58:46.2

Previous Half Marathon Results

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
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

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2019 Race Recap #6: Celtic 5K

It wasn’t a PR for me, but it wasn’t far off – last year’s Celtic 5k WAS a PR at the time. I actually kind of did my best to torpedo my chances today – well, not really: my actual intent was to continue marathon training, the EFFECT was to not be in prime condition to race today.

Yesterday was the Boston Marathon Rehearsal Run from Hopkinton’s starting line to Heartbreak Hill, at the Boston College campus. My running club charters a bus every year and everyone running the race for the club is invited to go. It’s a cool way to get to and from the run – after all, it’s a 21-mile point to point run, so it’s not like it’s easy to leave a car at the finish and head back to the start. While the streets aren’t closed per se, in several communities (Wellesley and Newton in particular), there are police details to help traffic flow through significant intersections and highway on/off-ramps. Really, a singular way to experience the course outside of race day, and an important opportunity for someone (such as myself) whose never run the course, as well as fun time going to and from.

The Celtic 5k is run to open the Worcester St. Patrick’s Day parade – usually a couple weeks earlier than today, but weather forced the cancellation of both on the 10th. Which turned out fine for me in actuality: On the 9th I ran the Black Cat 20-miler, so probably wouldn’t have been able to run the 5k had it been held: racing and training are two different things. For 2 days following the Black Cat, I was 90-years old walking down stairs and the like. Today, I was sore, but not decrepit.

I volunteered for the first part of the day with my club – handing out shirts and working to solve registration issues for folks; if you ran and picked up your bib today, chances are pretty good I helped you get your race shirt.

As we coalesced in the starting corral, a couple of the folks who ran yesterday and I were discussing race plans. I said I was going to shoot for 8-minute miles today. I was too sore and beat from running the course yesterday that I didn’t see it going well. As it happens, one won the age group at just under 20-minutes, and one finished roughly 30-seconds ahead of me at 22:23. I finished at 22:58 – about 12-seconds slower than last year. I’m actually quite proud of that given how crappy I felt: I actually thought my start cost me some time as well because I started further back in the chute and had to pinball around, but it turns out that was my fastest mile.

My kids raced today too! Second straight year they both ran with me ❤

So, it wasn’t as fast as last year, but still fast enough to be a Top 3 finishing time in my personal 5k history, completed the day after a 21-mile training run. I’ll take it. I’m actually feeling like the training I’ve been doing is paying off: I don’t feel as good or as strong as I did leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, but I seem to be performing pretty well. 3 more weeks!

Results

22:58

Personal Records

Canal Diggers,
Worcester MA
9/8/20180:21:13
Celtic 5k,
Worcester MA
3/11/20180:22:46
Celtic 5k,
Worcester MA
3/24/20190:22:58

2019 Race Recap #5: New Bedford Half Marathon

This race was designed to be a challenge for me: it’s just about a month now before the Boston Marathon and I’m feeling jittery about it, about my training, all that.

You’d think someone looking so shaggy and decrepit would do his best to blend into the crowd.

I was heartened about my pacing last week at the Black Cat 20-Miler, or at least the first 3/4 of it, but concerned about my marathon pace. For me, that race was about getting in a long run, at racing pace, to give me some indication of how the marathon would go. As I expected, I began to break down after mile 15/16, but I ran a consistent pace to that point.

Today, was about running a half at racing pace. Now last year I ran this race to a PR – 1:48:57 – and that was without marathon training, and frankly my headspace hasn’t been good the last few days, running zero miles Friday or Saturday. I was short this week vs. last year by 5 miles. I thought I had a good chance at a PR given my racing of late, and I thought I set an aggressive goal time of 1:45:00. Given I’m +84 miles on the year from where I was last year and have many more long runs under my belt by this point, I felt good about it. This was my lucky 13th race last year, this year it’s my 5th. There may perhaps be a lesson in there.

This is the first half marathon I’ve done twice, so it’s the first course I can do an apples-to-apples comparison with. In every aspect of this course, I crushed last year. There isn’t a mile split that is better last year. My up hills are less bad this year than last – still suboptimal, but no where what it was last year. In reviewing my splits, last year my 10k was 50:31; this year it was 50:05 – so not ridiculously faster, by any stretch – but consistently faster. And I think that’s the message here: I ran a better race over 13.1 miles this year than I did last year, in particular the back half. The front half was good, the second half was better. I like that and I’ll take it.

I’m planning to re-run the Horseneck Half this year, so I’m hopeful I’ll have a better showing. It was during that race that I was suffering a shin splint and I’m convinced that cost me a considerable amount of time.

One update: This year I finished ahead of my friend who made some poop stops along the way last year. He informed me that as he went by the house he eventually stopped at last year, he waved at the people and had a bit of a reunion. I love my running people.

Previous Half Marathon Results

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
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 Race Recap #4: Black Cat 20-Miler

blackcatmiler

This is actually two separate races: the 10-miler and the 20-miler. The 20 is just a second lap of the 5-mile out and 5-mile back course in Salem and Marblehead, MA. I love the area, a relatively ancient area of the country, home of the Salem witch trials and the birthplace of the US Navy. Curiously enough, modern-day Danvers is actually where the witch trials happened and Beverly claims the mantle of birthplace of the US Navy as well. So, there it is.

This years’ course went through downtown Salem, past the State University, into Marblehead, a non-descript turnaround and back into Salem, past the Custom House and the House of the Seven Gables, back to the Hawthorne Hotel. The Marblehead police had concerns around snow removal on the original course and redirected the route from the turnaround at the waterfront.

It’s a great area, and I’m sure it’s challenging to keep some order along the course, given the ancient roads and reliance on volunteers, but honestly I found the course somewhat sloppy: it wasn’t quite clear, for instance, on what side of the (main) road the course should be run – causing several points at which traffic had to be crossed. Its usually a cold(ish) time of year for such a race, yesterday’s weather was on the warmer side, but there were plenty of waterstops. Perhaps it would have been helpful for more course marshals and fewer water stops – I don’t know, I’m not a race director so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt.

The race is inexpensive and the course is nice, the finish line party back at the hotel was definitely what was called for – some nice carbs, and soups. Low key, and on point.

I needed a long run this weekend and it probably wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t race, so this was (as their website advertises) at the perfect time for anyone training for Boston.

My pacing was on point for the first 15-miles or so at roughly 8:15/mile, 15-16-17 somewhat slower at 9:30 or so, and the last mile was my worst – I was just gassed. This was much more about training and much less about training, so it was helpful to see how my experience last week at Stu’s translated here. I still have a lot to work on: leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon last year, I was running faster, racing more and was, frankly, lighter (I seem to have gained 8-pounds) so I have some course corrections to make in the next month.

Results

2:57:43.6  8:54/pace
117/241
19/29 M40-49

2019 Race Recap #1: Freezer 5

Same race as the 2018 Race Recap #1. That’s what happens when you run the same race on New Years Day, it’s almost automatically going to be the first race of the year.

I started last years recap stating that “today was difficult” and explaining that the difficulty comes from the general coldness the day presents.
The Freezer Five is a 5-mile race through Sterling, MA, along a course that’s reasonably wide open, past the municipal airport around and back.  The course itself looks like a wildly out of proportion upside down coat hanger that’s had its hook straightened and stretched out.

Where last years race hovered around 5-degrees Fahrenheit, this years’ race was approximately 50-degrees warmer. There had been a front that came through over night, and the changing pressure yielded some decent winds, which in this case were headwinds the first mile, mile and a half or so, which also happens to be downhill. Now, down hill is where I normally excel, because I can just kind of lean in and throw my fat body down the grade so I was really bummed that I was fighting the wind. I looked around and saw a good number of folks trying to contort their body to be a little more aerodynamic, but when you’re shaped like a potato that’s not easy to do.

The plus side, though, is that since it’s an out and back, that headwind at the start became a tailwind at the end, basically pushing me up hill. This was a huge benefit. I had struggled a little bit between miles 2 and 3 – my right Achilles has been a little tight recently and it was at that point the ibuprofen was wearing off, so I lost a few seconds to walking while I collected myself.

By the end of the race, I had a pretty decent head of steam from being pushed up the hill with the wind and an internal battle to see if I could beat 40-minutes. I did not, but I still ran my butt off – the last 1/20 mile I hit a 5:20-min/mile pace…just in time for the finish line photos to look like I was flailing about. Not a pretty sight. BUT I did accomplish a personal best so I’ll take it. Where if the difficulty is really the temperature, on this day the weather was a benefit and made me better than I really was.

Note the differences between 2018 and 2019 (above)

Distance: 5 Miles

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

2018

What an amazing year. Over the years I’ve learned 365 days is a long time, plenty of room for things to go badly, unexpected obstacles to get in your way, unplanned deviations to change your course. So many opportunities for a few weeks, or even just one event, to color the entirety of the year. This was not that year.

In the span of a few weeks, we went from celebrating my parents in law’s 50th wedding anniversary with two vibrant people to wondering if we would be planning funerals to watching them both bounce back. My mother in law was in the hospital for weeks with an unknown ailment…My father in law went from having a benign tumor to having cancer and a full round of chemotherapy…doubled up so he could go on vacation at the same time. He now is as in better health 2 months later than men 20-25 years his junior. An emotional roller coaster ride if ever there was one. The man is amazing.

My long time neighbor, in failing health for sometime, passed away, leaving her husband of almost 70 years alone for the first time. Watching him handle his sorrow and find himself through it has given me a measure of strength that despite loss – deeply felt loss – the human instinct is to continue on, push forward, be robust and to live, to conquer, to succeed.

We had the good fortune to host close family friends from France at our home for several weeks…and we have the good fortune to have as neighbors good friends who helped support our international efforts. Such an amazing harvest springing from good will. I’m truly fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.

In November the sale of my employer was announced and in December it was completed. I honestly don’t know what the ramifications will be. In a year where we made more, gave more away, enjoyed more time off than we ever have, this was not how the year was supposed to end. Just another circumstance to be understood. Processed. Handled. Meanwhile, we’ve saved money, paid down loans significantly.

With the challenges though were the highpoints. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit England to see dear people we consider our family by choice, and to visit several Caribbean countries over the course of a week and a half cruise with my family. My son got the experience I never did and for that I’m forever grateful. He’ll have memories for a lifetime, and experiences that will make him a much more interesting person. A young man of 13, he’s already been to more than 10 countries (Canada, Mexico, UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica…) For myself, I had the opportunity to travel to Florida for a half-marathon, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for Spartan races, and Washington for a marathon.

We saw our football team lose a Super Bowl and a chance at a second back-to-back Championship season. We saw our baseball team rise to the level of “All Time Great” teams with a 4th World Series in the last 14 years….after going 86-years without one.

My fitness goal was to run 1500 miles, 4.1 miles every day for 365 days. As of now I’m at 1637, for a daily average of 4.5 miles. I promised myself I would push my limits, and I think I have. Of my Top 5 5k times, 4 were done this year with a 5th off by seconds. I ran a flipping marathon – I didn’t see that coming last December. I ran 3 ultras this year. 49 races all together – maybe one more tomorrow to end the year as it has the last two, with the last race being the CMS Weekly 5k. If I do that, that would be twenty two 5ks on the year of 50 races.

Funny thing though, by far my most common daily mileage (the mode for you numbers types) was 0. Zilch. Nothing. 94 times this year – better than 25% of the time actually – I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to get a run in. I think about those days and conclude that had I done just 1 mile in those days, just one, I’d be within shooting distance of 1750 and had I accomplished 4.1 every day, I’d be up over 2000. Which is a logical fallacy – you just don’t run the day after running a 40-mile ultra – but I know I could have done better for myself.

If I take those “0” days out of my daily average – making it an average of the miles I ran on the days I did run vs. yearly daily average – it comes out to something closer to 6.5 miles. My second highest daily running total? 3 miles at 28-times, 3.1 at 20-times. My target of 4.1? I did that 19 times this year: further proof that one descriptive statistic doesn’t give you enough information at all. My college Psych Research Methods professor would be proud that I’ve retained that.

I ran races with my kids from 5ks to Spartans to a Marathon relay. I met some amazing people who were in the process of crushing their goals.

On Sunday, December 30, I’m running the last of 3 10-mile legs with a friend striving to hit 2000 miles on the year – accomplished with a day 364 50k in an all-or-nothing gambit to complete an ultra-marathon AND hit 2000 miles. He’s amazing.

I met and was inspired by a marine master sergeant with an insane fitness schedule, became friends with a stage 4 cancer survivor – the man running for 2000 miles above – and supported friends through divorce and the passing of parents. TIme can pass so quickly that it becomes so easy to lose the forest for the trees. 2018 has been an amazing year, one that I wish were more common: more up than down, more good than bad, more positive than negative. The year hasn’t been uniformly positive, but it has been incrementally more positive than negative. The most important thing I’m taking with me from my experience this year is the realization that it is the people in your life that are the most important factor in how successful you will be: how much support do you have, how much support do you give, who can you rely on and who can rely on you?

I hope for you, dear reader, that your 2018 was as positive as mine. If not, then I hope the coming 2019 will be the year you should have.

2018 Race Recap #48: 5 Miles for the Memory Turkey Trot

It’s been almost a month since my last race. I’m not sure I really like the marathon distance: the half is really attainable, but still a challenge. The marathon just took a lot out of me, physically to be sure, but mentally too. Which is not to say I haven’t been working out, but when I’ve had the opportunity to race, I’ve declined. Then there is the small thing of a late-autumn vacation to celebrate the inlaws 50th (50!!!) wedding anniversary.

10-days on what is essentially a floating buffet and inclusive drink package.  A beautiful caribbean cruise over an extended period of time, but that does two things: makes you a little soft, and acclimates you to caribbean weather.  Which is not New England weather.  Today, Thanksgiving Day, was 12-degrees at race time.  It’s November 22 and it’s 12-degrees.  Seriously?

So the 40-odd miles I put on the odometer on the treadmill did help mitigate weight gain, but did nothing for my hill training.  And Shrewsbury, Massachusetts is not flat.  Needless to say, I was feeling a little less than prepared, but at least I knew it had the potential to be a clusterfluff.  

The first two miles of this course are down hill. The next three are up.  Guess which two were my fastest.  It’s a super course in a super handsome part of the town.  It was almost a pleasure that it was cold out – because it started off downhill, it kind of made for the lack of a warm up.  Now almost exactly at the 2-mile mark, the UP started. The third mile was as steep going up as the second was going down. 85′ in gain vs. 86′ in loss.  That mile wiped me out pretty good.  I did the first two miles with a 7:41 pace. That third was a 9:00.  I ran the rest of the race with a 8:37 – mile 4 had 11′ of gain, essentially flat, and mile 5 had 47′. Both were 8:37.  Normally, that wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but I really did feel underprepared after a month off from anything much more than treadmills.

All in all, it wasn’t the horror show I expected, but it was cold. I normally like cooler weather–  my body isn’t expending energy cooling itself off — but when it’s so cold, I feel all those places where the blood flow isn’t quite what it should be. I feel good that this felt good.

Now, onto Thanksgiving!

Results:

WHich are unofficial because I apparently don’t show up in the results.  Grrrrr.

41:44