2021 Race Recap #8: New England Green River Marathon

May be an image of 6 people, including Iain Ridgway, people standing and outdoors
To the far left, waring bib #467 is my club mate, Iain Ridgeway, starting the race. He finished 7th,with a course record for the age group of 2:46:49.1. To put just how fast a marathon that is, I finished almost exactly an hour later, didn’t finish last AND set a personal best. The guy in the middle wearing #504? He won at 2:30:42.3. That’s a 5:45 minutes per mile pace. I raced a 6:11 mile once in a 5k and it almost killed me.

Back in 2019 or so, when I was fresh off my Baystate Marathon personal best, my friend Eric suggested that I should run this marathon. Mostly downhill, beautiful scenery, relatively inexpensive and small. There was a lot to like about this. “Sure. Why not?” and so I pried open my wallet and registered.

Continue reading “2021 Race Recap #8: New England Green River Marathon”

2021 Race Recap #7: TVFR Woodland Trail Series Race 3 of 3

The Woodland Trail Series is billed as 3 5-mile races. The August race historically starts 30-minutes early to accommodate the series awards ceremony and the potentially waning daylight, etc. This year, the third race was also 2-miles shorter. Not sure why, but for a race that costs $6 and which this year donated roughly $500 to the local food bank I won’t complain. Besides, it was 91-degrees at the start time (6PM) and according to Strava, it felt like 103, so it’s entirely likely 5-miles may have in fact killed me.

It’s not hard to see just how much I was affected by the heat and general grossness of the weather.
Continue reading “2021 Race Recap #7: TVFR Woodland Trail Series Race 3 of 3”

2021 Race Recap #6: TVFR Woodland Trail Series 2 of 3

It’s the end of July and this is recap number 6 for the year. Significantly below that which I have come to expect, and yet this race eclipses my total for 2020’s race (and everything else) COVID-shortened activity year. That said in the 5 races I did last year, the distance covered was 66.7 miles. If we include the unofficial “Bill’s Fat Ass Challenge” at the end of the year as race 6, we’d be talking about 98.7 miles.

Continue reading “2021 Race Recap #6: TVFR Woodland Trail Series 2 of 3”

2021 Race Recap #3: Horseneck Half Marathon

This was the result that wasn’t supposed to happen. The Sunday before this race, I’d punctured my foot and couldn’t run for a few days. In fact, the day after the race – a full 8 days after the injury – I’m still really sore. I didn’t sleep well for a few days before the race. My eating has been not good. The night before, I’d had the opportunity to join some lifelong friends after a long, cold pandemic to watch a classic of our generation outside on a projection screen. This was wonderful, but not necessarily the battery recharging one would normally recommend. End result? Two half marathons this year, both in my Top 3 at the time. I’ve run this race 3 times, the last two are in my current Top 3.

The race has just started and I’m already clearly not happy about it.

Of course I don’t know what happened to my bib – these were mailed out several weeks beforehand, and in the chaos of what has become my day to day, it likely got thrown away in my most recent Purge. Because of this, I needed to get to the race that much earlier to square away that issue. And of course, Westport MA is about 90-minutes away and requires leaving the state, crossing Rhode Island and re-entering Massachusetts. That 8 AM start quickly gets pushed back by commuting time and administrivia when you have to change your bib-number (Orignally 67, New 933).

That squared away, I was able to get a warm-up mile in around the parking lot. This race is normally held in May, but was pushed out a month in hopes that COVID restrictions would be lifted – which they thankfully were – but that had the consequence of messing with beach traffic as well.

The last time this race was run, 2019, I had a pretty good race. It was a cool day, I ran well, I felt good. I set a personal best that day. This time it was not a cool day, I don’t think I ran particularly well, I was in considerable pain, and I set a personal record. Go figure. I actually walked a bit near the end because I was losing my stuff and I needed to keep it together.

A beautiful day to be living

As I read the post from that 2019 race, I recalled having the same conversations this time at almost the same places albeit with a different tone. “Okay, only about 8 miles to go…” was more like how much more time do I have to do this. My negative internal dialog was really coming out full bore on me. I cranked up the Trent Reznor/Ministry “Supernaut” remake on my playlist and struggled on.

This time, my 8-min miles came at miles 9 and 10 – although I just missed at miles 6 and 8 with 7:59. I see I struggled at mile 6, 9 and 10 in 2019 as well – actually I ran mile 9 3-seconds faster that year than this, but my 2 8-min miles this year were fewer and faster than the 3 I had then.

So those 4 miles were still fast for the short, barrel shaped guy writing this post, but the rest of the miles really were faster than I’d have imagined I’d be. One friend suggested that the tetanus shot I’d received Monday (after puncturing my foot) should be investigated as a performance enhancing drug. My overall pace was something like 7:50. On my best day running, I don’t run at 7:50 and not for 13-miles. Last years pacing was more consistent, but not as fast. This year was faster, but with a lot more variability. Perhaps an effect of training (or lack thereof), I have a good base, but I haven’t been running long nearly as much as I need to.

I’m sore today, my foot hurts, but I feel good that the race was well run.

RESULTS

Gun Time: 1:42:31
Chip Time: 1:42:27
Chip Pace: 7:50
Overall Place: 70 of 563
Gender Rank: 53 of 241
Age Group Rank: 8/44

Previous Results:

2021: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:42:27
2020: New England Half Marathon 1:42:52
2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2021: Providence Half Marathon 1:43:53
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

2021 Race Recap #2: Soapstone Mountain Trail Race 24k

I’m only about a month behind with this recap, so I’m likely leaving a bunch of details out. It turns out that it’s a little hard to keep all the balls in the air when there are a hundred balls in the air, and they’re made of lead, and the clown in the corner of the room is throwing water balloons at you.

BUT a race is a race. This was the second of two that are on my calendar that wasn’t deferred from last year.

Unlike a lot of trail races, this one was really well marked – there was never a question as to where a runner needed to go. There were appropriate aid-stations every 4 miles or so.

About 5k into the race, there’s a really technical “killer hill” that accounts for most of the elevation gain of the event. Basically straight up, over boulders and the like. Otherwise, the trail itself – although there is a healthy sample of single track trail – isn’t terribly technical. I made the strategic error of wearing my Salomon Speedcross shoes thinking it would be a lot more technical, which compromised some of the cushioning and comfort another choice would have provided. It’s not child’s play – rocks and roots and all kinds of potential ankle twisters are afoot – but it wasn’t highly technical. It was warm and that too slowed things down.

I had made a plan for 3 hours for completion. It took me 3.5 and I really thought I had blown it because I only saw a smattering of other runners near me since that killer hill and the ones I did were basically running away from me, but as it turned out I finished 57 of 133. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to be ashamed of either. My ultrasignup ranking essentially stayed the same and I finished right about where their projections would have put me.

results
Overall 57/133
GP: 45
TIME: 3:29:19

2021 Race Recap #1: Providence Half Marathon

Hello racing, my old friend. I’ve come to run with you again. Sorry for the delayed post here. Reasons.

May 2 and we’re on race #1 of the year. One of the more regrettable casualties of the COVID pandemic has been road racing. It seems that the science has been clear for some time that the risk of transmission outside is pretty low. Now, I get it – low isn’t none, and the science is not wholly conclusive as to what the risk is – but when we’re opening restaurants indoors, it makes little to no sense why racing has taken such a long time to get under way, at least in Massachusetts.

I wasn’t going to register for this race; I hated the way the organizers handled the marathon cancelation last year, and I can carry a grudge especially when being told that my $100 was being kept, but I could run a “virtual marathon” instead. I was convinced to register and in retrospect, I’m glad I did for all kinds of good reasons.

Leading up to the actual race itself, I was feeling less than secure that it was even going to happen based on the organizers lacking communication around last year’s cancellation, the lack of course maps, lacking attention to COVID protocols, an out-of-date website and their social media “don’t worry about it” answer to me about the status of the event combined to make for an uneasy vibe. But, they got it together enough to actually run the race.

The COVID protocols included a waved start, where 4-runners would go off every 10-seconds, we had to wear a mask at the start for the first mile of the race and at the finishline – to the point that as I was coming down the finish line chute, one of the finish line volunteers was directing me to put my mask on. I’m sure that if there’s a finish line picture (again, one of these small details they didn’t seem to get quite right) it’s of me in my adled race mind, fumbling around looking for a face covering.

The course was reasonably well marked, until the last we’ll say 1-2 miles. There were plenty of opportunities for wrong turns and confusion. The marathon bibs were blue and the half marathon bibs were red, but the directional arrows on the streets were the opposite. This wasn’t a problem for most of the race, but at end it caused some difficulty for some folks not named Morrissey. There was another spot that where a volunteer would have been helpful between mile 12 and 13 – we knew there was a left turn to head toward the finish, but there was one spot where it wasn’t entirely clear and I saw at least one person start to head up that way. Last, down by RISD, there was a little plaza area where to go straight was to go down three steps or so (seems like an unusual obstacle to put in the middle of a race course) or down a handicapped ramp (again, another odd choice). Since the course was open, there were a few kids on scooters that were going down the ramp, so I was left to run down the steps. I can only think I must’ve missed the “real” option and in which case, course marking rather than the course was the issue – either way, it was suboptimal.

The last 0.1-mile or so of the course was a slight uphill – which felt like an unnecessary challenge, but helped provide a slight decent to the finish.

Overall it was a good race, a good day.

Overall: 116th of 670
Male: 73rd of 253
Male 50 to 59: 6th of 52

Previous Results:

2020: New England Half Marathon 1:42:52
2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2021: Providence Half Marathon 1:43:53
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

2020 Race Recap #5: Tackle the Trail

After 7-months of not racing, I had the truly good fortune to have back-to-back weekends where I got to do just that. Last week, New Hampshire hosted the New England Half Marathon. This week Connecticut hosted “Tackle the Trail.”

This race they offered “On Ground” and “Virtual” options – as though the “Virtual” folks don’t actually run on terra firma – but yeah the idea is there. Additionally, there were options between “Individual” and “Relay” teams. My squad chose various flavors of relay. I ran the full 20-miles.

This is what we get for swag now. Neck gaiters.

This is a cool thing to participate in, not just because it’s an actual race – we’re midway through October and I’m talking about Race #6 here, so this is a big deal to me – but it raises money for students at Quinebaug Valley Community College. I’m led to believe roughly $100,000 was raised.

By my Garmin, it was a little more than 700′ in elevation gain, so not overly challenging. Segment 2 was “technical” trail…technical as compared with the fire-road/rail-trail the rest of the race was run on, which is to say, not technical. However, I’m always slower trail running, and because it was a relay, there were more opportunities to stop: I took off my windbreaker at one point and left with with a volunteer (as the course looped back there, so I could pick it up), I stopped to tie my shoes, pick up my windbreaker, give the windbreaker to a friend to hold, etc. I may have goofed up a bit on the on-course directions as well. This said, it wasn’t my slowest trail half marathon (in fact, I reckon it would be my fastest were it a half), wasn’t even my slowest road half marathon.

I seemed to get faster and stronger as the race went on in the later miles, which was nice. I was concerned with making the 4-hour cut off time, but finished in a little more than 3.

I look almost disturbingly happy here.

The course was well manned, and well marked (except for the runner brain in me that misunderstood a sign, but that’s okay). The COVID protocols weren’t quite as rigid as last week’s race – of course it was a smaller race, and a trail race – so it was a rolling start, start when you start as opposed to start at x-assigned time. That said, they did have protocols around spectators, gathering, etc. It was appropriate given the size of the race.

RESULTS

Place: 21/46
No.: 43
Age: 50
6.5 Mi: 57:14
10.7 Mi: 1:36:08
15.9 Mi: 2:27:51
18 Mi: 2:46:39
Finish: 3:04:21
Pace: 9:14

2020 Race Recap #4: New England Half Marathon

My 15th and fastest half marathon.

It’s been 7 months and 10 days since my last race. 3 half marathons canceled. 2 marathons. A 50k. 2020 has been a difficult year in a great many ways. Today was at once a throwback to the “before times” — before the world shut down, before we had ever considered such a concept as “social distance,” before we came to see being together and being close as dangerous — and at the same time something new, perhaps alien, but definitely the way we go forward for the immediate future.

Today was a glimpse into what races look like now. It was different, but familiar enough to feel like a race.

New England Fall Foliage on display en route to the start.

After 7 months of not racing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it wouldn’t be what I’ve come to know, but wasn’t sure how it would look. Millennium Running put on what I could consider a masterpiece of COVID-era events, and I’m hopeful others will see the blueprint here. It wasn’t the start we’ve come to know, but they more than made up for that.

Governor Sununu came out to give a brief talk and to send off members of the first group. The governor. Almost as if this were an important event. This set up could literally be the bluebrint for COVID-era races through the end of the pandemic.

In the days leading up to the event, Millennium emailed participants with very detailed directions. Parking in Concord, NH vs. being dropped off. Specific shuttle assignments, physically distanced queuing for the shuttle. Specific groupings based on self-reported projected pace. The physically distanced starting order – time trial format -was taken as an opportunity to give each runner a shout out and a few seconds in their own spotlight.

I was super impressed by the organization and the commitment. Well done.

Mask protocol was expected in all areas, except while running. Each runner had 10-seconds between the last runner’s start and theirs, in which time their name and hometown was announced and during which they could dispose of their mask or otherwise adjust their face covering. This is me with my friend Jeff who was running his first half marathon.

Now, before I get into the race specifics, while it was a real race, with real people running – en mas and competitively – and while it was a USATF certified course, it was also officially 510′ of elevation gain and a whopping 984′ of loss. Meaning that it’s not like it was a truly difficult course. 13 miles running all out is always difficult, but let’s just say running 13 miles where it’s almost 2:1 down to up stacks the deck differently. Contrast this with the Clearwater Half Marathon where the elevation gain was 344′ with a loss of 367′ and I ran it in 1:56.

Each hill up was immediately preceded by a significant downhill, so you could see the incline, and it always looked worse than it was. Except for mile 10, where the course took you up by the local hospital, and then along an old rail trail – complete with asymmetric rocks and defects in the trail which tripped me up a bit; I came that close to rolling an ankle – that mile was my slowest of the race 8:19.

From a running experience, it was odd to be out there solo from the start, but I think I quickly adapted to the Ragnar accounting of “Kills” until I lost count – right about mile 9 or 10, there was a group of us all bunched up and I was trying to keep track of how many people I passed vs. having been passed. Ultimately I lost count, but that didn’t matter because the competition was it’s own reward. It was an actual race. To this point, I wound up finishing perfectly tied with some guy who likely started half hour or so after me, and whose butt I’d kicked pace wise across the three check points, but he crushed me in the last mile or so.

Were this the “before times” competition I’d have been chasing him head to head, or something close to it. I think this is pure age discrimination straight up.

Official time: 1:42:51.7. Good grief, I look old here.

I generally make it policy to not sign up for races that take me longer to get there than it will to actually race, thankfully in this case while it came close it didn’t cause a policy violation. However, had it, I’d have gladly surrendered the policy to race today. I needed this, and this race delivered. Oh did I mention, it was a Personal Record?

1:42:52

Division: M50-54
Division Place: 16/39
Gender Place: 156/376
Overall Place: 217/910

Previous Results:

2020: New England Half Marathon 1:42:52
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

Halfway Through 2020

It’s been months since I wrote here. The recap for my last race, as it were.

This was going to be a year of ridiculously badass things. Marathons. Ultramarathons. Chasing Boston Marathon qualification. No one saw coronavirus coming.

It’s been a rough three months, and I have to say there is a lot of fraying around my edges. When things started being cancelled, I saw it as an over-reaction. Bummed out that the New Bedford Half Marathon had been cancelled, I set up a “Cancellation Running Festival” where the main attraction was a half marathon course (substantially more hilly than New Bedford), but since there had been so many other races canceled that weekend I added a 5-mile course and implored folks for design their own distance. More than a few people showed up.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and nature
Who knew this would be our last big “get together?”

After this, the world went to shit. This was literally the last best day of the year for me. I’m sad thinking it is further away from today than it was from January 1. Yet, here we are.

In the intervening time, I’ve experienced all of the gifts quarantining has given: emotional upset, loneliness, existential dread, but also a sense of accomplishment and ownership I may not have had otherwise, time free enough to run more, and commute less. A few others tossed in there for good measure as well: health scares, discord. This has been an amazing half-year. If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure if I mean amazing in a positive or negative because it’s been a lot of both. I know there are so, so many people hurting from illness, from a loss of economic security, from racial injustice, I know my situation is small, but I also have to believe it’s not atypical – I know my experience is being repeated over and over again.

As it happens, today is the 12th anniversary of my father’s passing. As I look back, I realize that I do a wonderful job of throwing myself a pity party every year. But the theme is always consistent. I screwed it up.

I spent today doing what I usually do, just thinking about all the things I could have and should have done better. After a full day of going back and forth about what I should do, I finally decided to go to the cemetery.

I spent 15 maybe 20 minutes in silence at his marker. Just listening. Taking in the sounds. Remembering that day we laid him to rest in the memorial park, how badly the honor guard had messed up folding his flag, but I told them not to refold it. All of those things. And then I got up to leave.

As I drove out I was thinking about what I could have done to honor his day. And then I realized it. I parked my car, and ran back to his marker. On 9/11, I ran 9.11 miles. Today, I was going to run 7.6 miles around the memorial park. And so I did.

My niece leaves him a coffee every year. This year because of coronavirus, maintenance has been scaled back, and so her coffee from Memorial Day was still there.

It was cathartic and I got to explore the memorial park in a way I hadn’t ever taken the time to do before. As 7.6 clicked off my watch, I stood in front of dad’s marker – I was there at 7.6 when I wasn’t there for 7/6.

I felt at peace running through the park. Focusing on my body, how it felt. I had some reason to run a distance. I didn’t have to question it, it just felt right. I needed 7.6 miles.

And when I finished, I stood by his marker, knelt, crossed myself, and then wiped some sweat from my forehead and crossed his marker, leaving a little bit of me with him today.

How many countless times I wish I had him here to ask him advise or for his opinion, knowing he was always in my corner. A guy can always use someone who is always unabashedly in his corner, and it is always so much better when he’s your dad.

Today was hard, but it ended well. Maybe I have just a little more forgiveness left in me.

2020 Race Recap #3: Stu’s 30k

Stu’s was the very first long race I wanted to run. It’s put on by my running club and after associating with folks for long enough, and seeing the race swag, I set my sights on making running this race a goal of mine. This was my third time running the whole course – the first time I ran the race, I ran it as a two-person relay with a high school classmate; this is pretty awesome in and of itself, to share some personal accomplishments with people you’ve known for 30+ years and to do so on multiple occasions.

I wish I remembered what the temperature was last year, but judging from the picture on my recap it wasn’t warm. Today started at 28-F with a 19-F “feel” (whatever that means). I wasn’t quite sure what I should wear – I had my usual Sneakerama team shirt, and when I determined I would be miserable with only that, I wore a fundraising shirt for “4youIWillFight,” an ALS research charitable organization set up by a junior high school classmate of mine who has recently been diagnosed with ALS. As an aside, you can buy a shirt for $20 (+$6 for shipping) by Venmo to @4youIwillfight.

This year marks the third time I’ve been able to accomplish running this race. Last year I actually had the opportunity to run it twice – once as practice. To this point in the year, I’ve run about the same miles I did last year, but this year I’m actually working a marathon training plan. The miles I’ve been doing for the last 9 months or so have been largely in Cambridge, MA – just about as flat as you’re to find, as opposed to the hills of Central Mass. All arrows should have been pointing to not doing well on a course with 1100′ of elevation gain.

This weeks long run was scheduled to be 14-miles at a 8:40 pace, the goal being an 8:10 Marathon in May. While that wouldn’t give me a coveted Boston Qualifier (BQ), it would give me the confidence that I have a shot at one later in the year. So Stu’s was the long run in my plan and I honestly wasn’t sure how well it would go.

I had my music in tow – this is truly a must for me – but I had only a couple sleeves of Gatorade chews for quick carbs, quaffed down a couple bottles of Powerade Extra but that was about it for hydration and electrolytes on course (I did eat an entire bag of gummi worms and a couple of convenience store breakfast empandas beforehand). I felt rested and generally okay, not great, but was ready to go.

I spent the time at the starting line mingling with folks and what not, but for the most part caught up in my own little world. I got out to a respectable start, but after the first mile it was clear I wasn’t going to hang with the fast kids and my friends who actually are fast caught up to me, wished me well, and proceeded to frolic away from me as though I were running away from them. An older gentleman caught up to me, and we chatted for a minute or two, he asking me about the course and what not. He said I seemed popular, and I said that it doesn’t feel that way when all my friends are running away from me…at which he laughed a bit and then proceeded to run away from me.

For the majority of the race, I ran reasonably consistent miles – through elevation gain and loss. Mile 15 onward was a bit of a train wreck – then again, the longest training run I’ve done to this point in this training cycle was 14 miles so I consider that a personal victory, and even then the miles weren’t BAD, just not great.

My second race in the M 50 age group and I already look like grandpa coming down to dinner

I finished with roughly an 8-minute PR for the course, and an 8:15 pace (on a plan for 8:40 over 14-miles) although officially it’s an 8:20 pace because 30k is 18.6 miles not the 18.8 my watch registered.

Last year vs this. Remarkable in its consistency.

I’m pleased with this and feel like it’s a positive building block toward my ultimate goal of actually qualifying for the Boston Marathon this year, as opposed to volunteering my way to it.

RESULTS

2020: 2:35:25: Overall: 88/247
2019: 2:43:53: Overall: 81/221
2018: 2:52:05: Overall: 170/319