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

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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 #3: Stu’s 30k

Man. March 3 and only on race #3. When I ran this race last year, it was race 10. That said, I have bigger goals this year: more miles, not necessarily more races. In about a month, I’m running what I believe to be a once-in-a-lifetime race for me: The Boston Marathon. So, I’m training and training doesn’t really entail running a bunch of races – although it does entail running some 🙂

This is one of them.

This was the 40th running of the Stu’s 30k. It’s 18.6 miles around the Wachusett Reservoir in Clinton, West Boylston and Boylston, Massachusetts. My watch registered up over 1000′ of elevation gain, but I’m going to note here that my watch isn’t always the most reliable reader of gain. The mapmyrun course outline has the gain at roughly 400′, but I don’t think that’s accurate either – the Strava feed of my connections who ran the race are all roughly at about the same gain: between 980′ on the low end and roughly 1100 on the high end. Suffice to say it is not only a hefty distance, but it’s not an easy course either. For the Marine Corps Marathon, I registered 755′ of gain..over 8 more miles. Boston racks up roughly the same, with an overall loss. Suffice to say, it’s a difficult course. As an aside, here’s a page with some great elevation maps, if you’re so inclined.

As I read the entry from last year, some themes continue:

I was generally keeping my pace pretty well through about mile 9, when I began to get markedly slower. At mile 17, I got markedly slower still.  Mile 18 and beyond was my slowest stretch, a good portion of which was uphill and with my poorly planned training it’s not at all surprising.  What was surprising was about 0.4 miles from the end, I got hammered with a cramp in my calf. Down I went. Then my gut.  It took a bit to get back up and moving.


There was never a point when I was feeling good or comfortable, it seemed like it was a personal struggle from mile 4 on. 

2018 Race Recap #10: Stu’s 30k

Funny reading this. I felt really comfortable right up to the half marathon point – maintaining a pace that would have been one of my better half marathons at roughly 1:50:00 – and really only started to get markedly slower at mile 15, and 18…well, 18 is just hell anyway, but I got through it. And about 9-minutes faster than last year. No cramps, no fuss. No 14 mile personal struggle. It was actually a good race – could have been better with more attention paid to hill work, something I will commit more time toward going forward.

Results 2:43:53

Overall: 81/221

M 40-49: 24/38 M: 63/116

Last year

Results 2:52:05

Overall: 170/319
M:  115/170
M 40-49: 35/47

2019 Race Recap #2: CMS 52-Week 5k #6

Wow. Not a whole lot to be happy about today. I mean, I actually got out and raced, which was something I haven’t done in a while — the last time I was this late racing a second race of the year was in 2016 when I was doing my 46 races for 46 years campaign.

Now, I’ve had the great fortune to be selected for a time waived bib for the Boston Marathon, so I’ve been doing my best to train for that without worrying too much about racing, but while the long runs are good I know racing helps me push myself.

Today was NOT good. I got up early and ran 6.5-miles with a group from my club – that 8:50 pace felt like I was pushing so I know I have a lot to recover. It was another 90 minutes or so before the 5k, so I’m sure my body went into recovery mode, but good gracious my race was tortured.

I finished at 25:44 – the slowest I’ve run that course in no less than 18-months and among the slowest times in two years. I could write it off because I’d run earlier, but that’s just excuses. I need to spend more time focusing on the speed work, which I just haven’t done.

It was a spur of the moment thing, so there’s not a lot of detail to give here; I’ve run this course more than any other, I know it well, I just didn’t perform.

Clockwise (last 5):

February 9, 2019: 25:44 Cold, windy 22-degrees
July 28, 2018: 24:57. Humid, 76. Disgusting swamp weather.
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.

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 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

2018 Race Recap #47: Marine Corps Marathon

I’m actually not entirely sure where to begin with this recap. This was an emotional event by design and a personally important event. This affected me on several levels. Let me start with how I came to this point, what I decided to do with this, the results of the work I’ve put into it, and finally the meaning behind the race itself.

Earlier this year, I learned that the Marine Corps Marathon was accepting lottery entries and just like the way I’ve managed the rest of my life, I entered the lottery because it didn’t require any sort of real commitment: if I were accepted via the lottery, I could choose to register or not, unlike, Say, the Chicago or New York Marathons where in order to enter the lottery you have to cough up your credit card that will be charged if you are accepted to enter via the lottery. I remember I sent my registration fee to my undergraduate college because it was refundable vs. the more prestigious school that had a non-refundable deposit.  When you’re making $3.60/hr, $100 means a lot…I guess.

At any rate, I entered the lottery on the last day I could. Within a few days I was notified I was accepted for entry and that I had only a few days to register…which I did on the last day. Now that I’d committed,  I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with it.

Now that I’d committed money to my race, I needed a reason to do this. I actually hadn’t anticipated getting into the lottery, although the lottery is apparently not as lucky as one may expect.

img_7753
Finished!

Given the Marine Corps Marathon IS hosted by the Marines, and is an exposition of not only the organizational prowess of the Marines, but also the expression of gratitude for the fallen, this is something much more than any other race in which I’ve participated.  This is a city built on the expression of history. I’m proud of the fact that I ran this to raise funds for modern Veterans facing the problems of modern life.

I met a woman on the shuttle over to the runner’s festival from Crystal City. We discussed the weather – a generally innocuous topic when speaking with strangers – she felt very cold while I thought it was perfect running weather, perhaps even balmy. It turns out she was from Barbados, which would explain our differing sense of the same experience. It further turns out she was exactly the person I should meet heading to the race: a professional motivational speaker and life coach, she had me ready to run through a brick wall by the time we were off that bus.  I appreciated her friendship for the 15 minutes or so that our lives intersected, because she really did help me see this for what it was: living my best life and giving back.  Thank you for that Joya.

Now, my goal for my first marathon was 4-hours. I’m never going to time qualify for the Boston Marathon, unless I can maintain my pace for the next, say, 30-years, but I am interested in maintaining a respectable pace.  So the 4 hour mark was kind of important to me for reasons. End of day, for the Marine Corps Marathon, I ran 4:03:17. A little disappointing – I got a very nasty cramp between miles 24 and 25 that effectively derailed my 4-hour attempt – but overall reasonably respectable.  According to one site, in the 2011-2012 marathon season the average time for any person, regardless of gender or age, was 4 hours, 24 minutes and 0 seconds; the median finish time for men was 4:17:43.  I’m sure there’s some variation from 2012 to today, but it seems like a reasonable number that shouldn’t vary too too much.

The first couple of miles are up hill, not unlike the hills I run in and around Worcester, so while I was used to it, I wasn’t feeling it early on. I was stiff and just didn’t feel up to it, at one point asking myself if I was going to be able to finish. After that first hill though, the payoff was the downhill for a couple of miles, which had me feeling much better about things, and from there until the finish line it was reasonably flat.  I was on cruise control for more or less the majority of the race.  There were a few places where I was running out of gas – more than I care to admit, frankly – but I was still on pace for that 4-hour mark.  I was actually pacing with the 3:45 runners for a while, but clearly by mile 22 I was running on fumes. and it was clear 3:45 was not going to happen for me.  The finish is uphill toward the Iwo Jima memorial, and curiously enough I had enough in the tank to run up and past several others because of the hills around home – thank you quads!

Marathon Statistics Data
Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon 0.5 %
Record time for the fastest marathon ever run 2:01:39 hours
Total number of U.S. marathons held annually 570
Total number of people who finished a marathon annually 581,811
Data from statisticbrain.com

Now, this was an amazing race and I’m glad I took the opportunity to run it. I loved the crowd support, and seeing folks lining the streets. My own family was along the course to root me on, and the energy was palpable. Running 26+ miles is hard, but running with others is certainly motivational.

Before I left Washington, I made it a point to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Of the times I’d been to Washington, I’d somehow never been able to get into the cemetery: it was either closed or my schedule didn’t permit it.  This time though, it was important to me to be sure to visit: for perspective, to remember, and maybe most importantly to be sure I gave back just a little more.  I was moved by the race’s “Blue Mile,” I was there raising money for veterans in need; I needed to show respect for those who have come before me and who have given their lives. I needed to give something to them too. It’s an amazing place, and I was humbled being there. Godspeed, soldiers.

Results

RACE TIME: 04:03:17

OVERALL PLACE: 3744 of 27640

DIVISION RANK: 3696 of 21158