2018 Race Recap #30: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #2

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Good for 17th overall.  I’m pleased.

Another mouthful.  The Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series is a weekly 5k my running club holds on Tuesdays in July. It seems like an overly long title for a mid-week race, but whatever. It’s a legit race, probably moreso than the 52-Week 5k Series the club offers on Saturdays. It’s $5 to enter if you’re not a member, free to members, and it turns out CMS members really like free stuff.  As it happens, it was seeing this on the calendar that initially had me join the club in the first place: $20/yearly dues and if I did these races it paid for itself; also of note, the 52-week 5k price drops from $5 to $3 for members, so for a guy that was into running a truckload of races that year, it made all the sense in the world.

I seem to miss at least one of these races for some reason or another. Last week, it was a vacation. Last summer, I think I may have done one race coming back from falling down a mountain and it was pretty ugly – my time last summer was mere seconds slower than the first time I ran.   The first year I did three of them.

This is the third year I’ve been running to any magnitude. The first year, I didn’t know what to expect from running in summer, didn’t do enough and just rode the struggle bus through it.  Last summer, I spent June and most of July on the DL which left me out of condition and still unaware as to how to run in heat. This is the first time I’ve been able to actually put any real concerted effort into running in heat and humidity.

I can tell immediately that I’m not hydrating myself nearly enough, and I’m finding it’s my willingness to exert myself in less than ideal conditions that is getting in my way — like most things it’s the head that gets in the way more than anything else.

As it turns out, my head got in the way again this evening – just not for the whole race, so I guess that’s progress.

It’s a generally flat course – my GPS recorded a 2′ elevation gain overall: a loop around Worcester’s Lake Park before exiting the park, down a few blocks and back into the park to finish where it starts.  There’s generally a pretty good turnout – usually more than 70 or so runners – and the club does a small cook out featuring under cooked hot dogs and Polar seltzer water.  Hey, what do you want for “free?”  It’s truly a gem of a race, powered solely by an active group of volunteers.

I did a quick mile warm up which wasn’t pretty. I struggled through it at a moderate pace and I could feel every bit of my bootcamp workout from yesterday – nothing like jump squats to really let you know what for. The big difference tonight, beyond attempting to not let my head get in my way, was my running buddy Duke showed up at the last minute after having been stuck in traffic.  He challenged me to a 24-minute race, I said I was going to go all out for the first mile and see where that left me, but that I hadn’t seen sub-25 in some time.

And so it goes: I went out as fast as I could for the first mile and played it by ear from there.  Going back to the volunteers, it was super helpful that they were all out there at apparently strategic points to direct traffic, but it turns out just as I was wanting to quit I would see a friend of mine and obvi didn’t want to look like a wuss or that I couldn’t handle it in front of my friends…and of course once by them, I had to get a safe distance away so they couldn’t see me wussing…but then of course I’d see another friend.  If the antagonist getting in my way is my head, sometimes it’s helpful that circumstances conspire to use that antagonist against itself.

It wasn’t my best race, but it was my best race in a while. Basically, it’s what I needed: I got over the hot weather hump, I exerted myself, pushed myself and showed myself that performing in hot, humid weather doesn’t have to mean a half effort. I finished a full minute (and almost a half!) faster than any previous effort – it didn’t have to be my best race to be a good race. NOTE: My self time of 24:42 seems to be off from the official 24:35. I know I didn’t stop my watch as soon as I crossed the line but I didn’t think I had waited 7 seconds, so I’m not sure what’s up there.

RESULTS

July 10, 2018: 24:35
July 25, 2017: 27:48
July 26, 2016: 25:57
July 12, 2016: 26:34
July 5, 2016: 27:32

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2018 Race Recap #29: Independence Rhode Race Half Marathon

This shot treats me very kindly as it would appear that I’m actually running – I know it’s toward the end of the race because I’ve taken the head buff off and wrapped it on my wrist.

First, please excuse the late posting for this. I’ve been away and frankly, haven’t wanted to go out of my way to post.  This was THE WORST race ever. Hands down. I mean the course was beautiful, but the result – ugh, for more than a few reasons it was terrible.

At the start of the race — 6:30 AM — it was 73 degrees, and I’m guessing no less than 85% humidity.  I was already feeling a tad under the weather during and after the TVRC race on Thursday, but on Friday it hit me full on. I was huffing and puffing for the 5-miler, and I’m not at all convinced I didn’t slurp down some wonderful allergens and/or mold spores or something because Friday I woke up with a 100-degree temperature and coughing up lungies like you might read about. I spent the night on Friday coughing and gakking and wishing for sweet death.

This was going to be a S-show of a race and I really only had two options: DNS or just do it. I chose “Just Do It.”

Leading up to this week, my goal was 1:50.  I was feeling pretty confident that after all my tweaks and dings and dents I was at the other side and could pull off a decent time here.  With the phlegm and general lack of ability to breathe on race day, I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen but I was still hopeful that I would best my worst half time, I mean this was a pretty flat course, ocean front with a generally cool breeze, but no.  The combination of the humidity and the sick-death-pneumonia-black-plague I was suffering wasn’t going to allow anything remotely resembling a respectable time.

I started with the 1:45 pacer and quickly fell behind.  That said it wasn’t until perhaps the 9th or 10th mile, where there was a turnaround in Colt State Park that I saw the 2:00 pacer on the other side of the street heading the opposite way that I realized I was completely screwed.

My running dynamics were reasonably on point – 172 spm average is not far off where I wanted to be at 180, but my stride was terrible and my heart rate was terrible and life was terrible and everything sucks.

ALL OF THAT SAID, My time was my worst half ever. Straight up. No doubt. No excuses.

BUT, it turns out that comparatively, I didn’t have as bad a day as I may have. I mean I have some mitigating circumstances — so does everyone else — but despite my shitty time, I finished about where I would normally finish percentage wise, perhaps a little slower than I may have expected, but overall Dead in the middle. 50.6% for my age.

I had a shitty race. No doubt. But it looks like a lot of other folks had a shitty race too, and I have to imagine not all of them were sick. My race buddy Mike, who was shooting for a 1:45 finished with 2:01, so I know I don’t completely suck.

This will be a redemption race next year, I’m sure, but for now, the humiliation of having put some 3000 miles on my odometer since my first half and this one and finishing 6-minutes slower stings. Worst. Half. Ever.  Redemption will be forthcoming.

Previous Results

Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
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

2018 Race Recap #28: TVFR Woodland Trail 5-Miler Series #1

PhotoPhew.  That’s a mouthful.  The Woodland Trail Series is a 3-part series of trail races through the West Hill Park in Northbridge, MA and Tri Valley Front Runners is a local (predominantly) trail running club.  My club never seems to do well at these events because, well, we’re not trail runners as a group.  BUT the registration fee for these races (3 for like $16) is just too good for any of us to pass up.  It’s pretzel logic, but it’s logic.

The race itself is not comparatively difficult: I came less than prepared for GPS and therefore had to use my FitBit, which is more or less accurate, which registered about 300′ of elevation gain.  It was in the mid-70’s but HUMID. Holy smokes, was it humid. It stopped raining just before the start of the race, which it’s hard to say whether or not that was a good thing.  It’s lightly technical; we started a single track for a bit, but otherwise it’s fire roads and hiking trails.  If you’re conditioned, it should make for a pretty fast course.  If you’re not…not so much.

I did a run on Monday, that felt pretty good overall, but woke up Tuesday with some seriously sore muscles meaning I’ve been slacking a bit on my pacing and was feeling it. That and I’ve been hacking up a lung as well.  So I know this was going to be a tough run.  My friend Dukie told me I was busy looking for excuses, and perhaps I was, but I knew it was going to be a rough run.  It was.  I wish I could tell you it was a self fulfilling prophesy, but I don’t think so.

I’ve done this particular race three times now: I ran it once each of the last two years. Last year I finished about 20 seconds slower than the year before, but I tell myself that was because it was one of my first races back after falling down the mountain.  This year, I finished about 30-seconds faster.  Roughly 2500-miles run over the last two years between running this course and I’m 30-seconds faster.  Worst? My pace was faster those times because the course registered longer. I’m so angry with my performance.  I can blame the humidity — I literally had to wring my shirt out — and I can blame respiratory issues, but at the end of the day, I just wasn’t ready.  Maybe next month.  Or maybe not.  July and 9000-degrees?  Ugh. Onward and upward.

Results:

June 2018: 50:58.39
July 2017: 51:54
July 2016: 51:38

2018 Race Recap #27: CMS 52-Week 5k

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Like so many other areas of my life.  13th of 25 runners. The low side of average.
Where to begin.  I’ve run this race many times over the last three years, so there’s really not much to describe in terms of the course: start at Worcester State University, run in either clockwise or counter-clockwise direction make a couple of turns, and, depending on the direction you’re running, you finish in front of a bus stop or in front of Aristotle.  Today, it was clockwise which means Aristotle was the finish line.

For what seems like forever at this point, I’ve been battling dents and dings related to running: jacked my piriformis doing the To Hale and Back trail race, tried to push through it at varying intervals, which led to shin splints…both of which reduced the amount of actual running and HIIT bootcamp training I could do so basically despite having had a few decent outings, my conditioning is not what it needs to be.

This is the first time I’ve run this course in this direction since February, when I finished with a 24:16 time.  In February and March, I was really at my peak form: hitting personal best times all over the place and feeling AWE-SOME about the whole thing.  The last few months have really kind of sucked and more and more lately I find myself asking no one in particular when I’m going to feel “good” again. The shin splint comes and goes – kind of like a roommate you don’t particularly like or want around – just long enough to take the wind out of my running sails.  I find myself limping sometimes and I’m not really sure if it’s because my shin actually hurts or because I’ve just become accustomed to it.

It seems disingenuous to say my conditioning is for crap because I’m basically running at the pace I was running most of last year, but I’m certainly not where I was the last time I ran this particular course.

Today was a glorious day outside, perfect weather. Perhaps a touch too much pollen in the air, but then again I’m probably just looking for excuses.  I got a quick warm up run in around the WSU campus.  Running in this direction I will often run as fast as I can the first mile – it’s pretty much downhill – and then find a comfortable pace to latch onto for the final two as there is some gradual elevation gain, but it’s otherwise so flat as to not be noticed.

So the result? About a minute slower than the last time I ran it: twenty seconds a mile.  When written out it doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re hauling your butt across 3.1 miles it seems like forever.  Not quite as slow as I ran it in January – by about 7-seconds – but basically it tells me I’ve been shuffled back to where I was 5 months ago.

Time for some more long runs and more frequent longer distances.  This race has a special place in my heart as it was this that gave me the benchmark I needed to see progress when I first started running, it was frequent (and CHEAP!!!) enough that I could keep doing it, and it introduced me to a running community I don’t think I would have kept running without.  That’s why my backsliding hurts so much: it’s literally the benchmark I use for everything else and how I’m feeling about my running condition.

Clockwise (last 5):

June 16, 2018: 25:08. 75, clear. Beautiful.
February 24, 201824:16. Mid-40’s,  clear
January 27, 201824:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 201825:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.

2018 Race Recap #26: North Face Endurance Challenge 50k

No automatic alt text available.If the The Great Inflatable Race was a lark, and the Newport 10-Miler was all business, this…this was pure [expletive deleted] hell.  No, seriously. I hate this race. I’m never doing this [expletive deleted] race again. Which is exactly what I said last year when I finished it: I fell down at mile ten, broke my toe and took a bunch of stitches in my arm.  And maxed out my insurance deductible.

This year the course was changed a bit: they added an extra hour to the cut off, but according to my GPX data they added about 500′ of gain to the course. Whats really interesting is that last year AND this year, they said GPS watches were inaccurate, etc., but I have to say, while my watch did not align with the watch as a whole, it was off by literally 0.1 mile from last years.  If the course actually IS 31 miles, then my watch is consistently inaccurate, so at least I have that going for me. I get that consumer GPS is going to be less accurate than government data, but don’t gaslight me thinking that I somehow screwed up.  Ya know?

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Honestly, this was the best I was going to look all day, at the first summit

The course was incredibly humbling: a couple of friends from my running club – these women are incredible runners – bagged out at mile 15. Trails aren’t for everyone. The elevation gain is front loaded at the first 10-miles: of the 6000’+, a good 3300′ are up front, leaving about half over the remaining 20-miles or so. Gets those legs all good a rubbery for the rest of the course.

The course takes you to the summit of Wachusett Mountain twice, then down and into the state park. Were I actually conditioned for this, it wouldn’t be that bad – there are stretches where the course is downhill fireroads – which should make for a good pace. The problem is that by the time I got to them, I was so drained I literally could not move any faster than I was: I tried to pick up the pace a few times, only to be met with muscles telling me they would cramp if I did.  I spent more than a few minutes along the course stopped, stretching out my back or pulling my legs out of a cramp.  I really thought I had properly prepared myself with nutrition and fuel but clearly that was not the case.

Relive ‘North Face Endurance Challenge 50k’

One take away I have from this is just how beautiful the area is.  I took the time to stop and take a few pictures along the way – by clicking the “Relive” link above you can see the course and the pictures are geolocated on the map.  You really just don’t appreciate how steep these trails can be without actually seeing them.

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Probably not the steepest, nor the least accessible, but then again if it were less accessible I probably couldn’t have taken a picture.

In the end analysis, the distance was pretty much on point from last year, the elevation increased with some modifications to the course. I give the organizers a lot of credit: organizing a 50-miler, 50k, marathon, marathon relay, 10k and 5k and doing it really efficiently. Course markings were good – color coded ribbons matched to your race – and aid stations generously positioned on the course.

I did what I came to do – redeemed by performance, or mishaps, of last year.  While I had not forgotten the theme – redemption – I did forget the course takes you by “Redemption Rock” and had I my wits about me, I’d have taken a selfie there as a reminder. It wasn’t a fast race and all of the same things (sans falling down the mountain) that plagued me last year got me this year – something about training or something sounds vaguely familiar.  BUT I accomplished it, I finished, and unhurt.  That’s a win.

Results

2018: 149/175, 9:50:48
2017: 176/185, 10:11:19

2018 Race Recap #25: BankNewport 10 Miler

If yesterday’s race was a lark, today’s was really all business. I’ve been struggling with injury issues for a couple of months now – and haven’t been running as much or as well as I’d like, with the end result being my conditioning has really suffered. So it was important to me to get out there today and push hard, get it done, do well.  My one goal on the day was not to PR (after my last couple of months, that is going to take some time to get my conditioning back), but to do better than last year.

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I must’ve signed up early. The bibs weren’t in any apparent order, so I have to believe they were assigned in order of registration. Some 2500 runners and I was assigned 124.

I pushed hard – According to Garmin, my average heart rate was 89% of max with the highest being 94%. My Garmin data tells me the “Training Effect” of my run today was a “5.0,” classified as “Overreaching,” the description for which was:

“This activity was very demanding. While it can significantly improve your cardio-respiratory fitness, it can become harmful without enough recovery time and should be done sparingly.”

So, that’s a thing. I know I was huffing, and as I look through my pace data I can see where my heart rate was up there and where took a bit to walk it off: the two line up quite nicely. I also took a quick potty break somewhere in there as well that gave me a little bit of recovery time as well.

It was quite unpleasant, but it was exactly what I was striving for. I’d never run a pace under these circumstances alone, and its for that reason I love races – I push myself harder, beyond that which I would normally do with a casual group run or alone.  And while I know my conditioning won’t just come back to where I was before the chrome started falling off the fenders, its efforts like this that will help me get there sooner than otherwise.

It wasn’t a great pace – although I did beat last year which pleased me. I recall thinking at the time last year how good a race I had run, and to now be able to best it (after having taken a 66-second porta-potty pit stop no less!) was a bit a redemption. I didn’t best it by much (about a minute) but the fact I did means a lot to me, especially after Horseneck where I was still dealing with a shin-splint caused by me working too hard to get through the piriformis strain.

So, it wasn’t the race I anticipated when I registered, but it was the race I wanted to have when I woke up today.

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Finisher’s medal this year was also an upgrade. Last years’ was good, but this one is really nice.

The course itself is beautiful. Stunning actually. The race organizers have done a really nice job of showcasing Newport’s scenery, and not just it’s natural scenery but also its real estate.  I wanted to remember just one address so I could go back and look it up for giggles – which I did (despite my cardiac induced haze). According to Zillow the property value for this almost 46-acre, 7700 square foot home is roughly $20-Million more than my house, and when I say “roughly” its because it exceeds $20-Million. The “similar properties” section displays several homes for sale in Newport, none of which are less than $4.5-Million. So, it’s a nice neighborhood and a beautiful course.

Running really isn’t this much fun. I assure you.

While I won’t link the specific home I’m talking about, I will share a link to an animated recreation of my run on the course so you can get a really good idea of what the course was like.

Relive ‘Newport 10 Miler’

As for results, this was my second fastest 10-mile race of eight. I just can’t help feeling like I was in much better condition and I let it slide BUT I will say it feels pretty good to know that even after having backslid, I’m historically in pretty decent shape.

This is much more representative of the level of “fun” I’m having.

Newport 10 Miler

2018: 1:25:32
2017: 1:26:27

Other 10 Mile Races
Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2016: 1:30:26
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2017: 1:36:10.20
Black Cat, Salem MA 2017: 1:25:40.6
Mattapoisett (MA) 10 Miler 2017: 1:22:08
Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2017: 1:28:56
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2018: 1:26:17.85

2018 Race Recap #24: The Great Inflatable Race

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The battle weary warriors set about yet another challenge side-by-side.

I’m just going to say it: it’s a stretch to call this a race at all.  It’s the least competitive “race” you’ll see recapped here. Arguably it’s not truly a race at all: “a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.” Early on when I started keeping track of such things I decided I would define a race as more than one person was running and that it met at least two of the following criteria: 1) the event has a given course; 2) the effort was timed; 3) there was a bib or that there was some formal means by which runners are kept track of.  THIS “race” barely qualifies this criteria. Basically, it had a course (Kinda. It was loosely cordoned off by cones on one side – Stay to the right of the cones!) and we got finishers medals.  They do check you in, but that was more to account for the event T-shirts (of which they were out of my size) and to distribute wave bracelets.

So, the obvious question is: if you’re going to goof on the thing, why did you sign up for it? A solid question indeed.  A high-school classmate mentioned he had signed up with his daughters and it looked like a fun time. I recruited my boy, found a Groupon, bought in. Look, worst case scenario was that we’d have a fun time. I’m here to say that mission was accomplished. It was fun.

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Exhibit 1 in support of the idea that this wasn’t the most competitive race out there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This was low rent. $27 on Groupon, $27 at the official registration page, but that excluded the registration “fee” tacked on as a percentage of the cost of a ticket – buying a Groupon essentially tells the registration site to “comp” the registration so there’s no fee.  It took place on an auto race track site; they hold flea markets and other such things on the grounds. The race itself used the track’s overflow parking area. The inflatables were basically elements from shopping mall parking lot carnivals: not quite fully inflated, perhaps a little suspect. The biggest threat of injury was friction burn from the vinyl inflatables.

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It was a super casual time, but generally organized. They did a pretty good job of keeping the starting wave organized – what could have been a crushing disaster was kept organized and safe. The inflatable obstacles were placed at reasonable distances – there weren’t an over-abundance of them but there were enough. Lines weren’t bunched up and things moved quickly.

It wasn’t quite 2-miles – again, the competitive thing – which was probably a good thing: the temperature was in the mid-to high-70’s with humidity around 85%.  The air was pretty thick and saturated with pollen. They could have done a lot more with the festival area – they had an Italian Ice truck.

So, I haven’t described the most appealing event, have I? Here’s the thing: I had a good time with my boy with the added benefit of seeing my old friend. I went in expecting a low-rent, casual, mostly-fun event. It met those expectations.

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And there it is – finishers of some of the most bad-ass 2-miles of inflatable fury going.

I don’t have results information, because…well, because.  That whole time thing.  My watch had it done in about 34 minutes.