2018 Race Recap #44: Joe English Twilight Challenge Marathon Relay

I love this race. This year is the third time I’ve run this event, and it was a special one for me: this year my daughter was my relay partner.  She even let me name the team with a dad joke: “A Running Joke.” A ridiculous and terrible pun, but I think it’s funny.

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“A Running Joke”

The Joe English Challenge is a host of different events all held on the same 2.6-mile loop course at Freestyle Farm – a horse farm in Amherst, New Hampshire: a 6-hour, marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, half-marathon relay. I was planning to run the 6-Hour Ultra (afterall, I AM training for a marathon and I need the long run) but then I asked her if she would consider doing it and she said yes – she’s running a half marathon in a few weeks so the training is important for her too. I’ll take a shorter run for the partnership of my daughter any day.

It’s an equine training facility, so the trails aren’t technical. There’s some up- and down, rolling hills. The course itself is great: volunteers have bonfires along the course and cheer you on. The start/finish festival area is a big old horse barn where you can spread out a blanket, bring chairs, picnic, whatever. AND they have a great spread of food, up to and including vegetarian options.  Just a super, thoughtful, well done event.  Proceeds go to support the Amherst Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving open space in the town. Additionally, there’s another event they do earlier in the year that I’ve thus far failed to do, but it’s been my intention to do it.

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Clearly, this was before the race started.

I didn’t realize how much better a runner I have become over the last year: while I’ve fought through some injury this year, I’ve not had anything that’s laid me out quite the way it did last year, and with that healthy time I’ve been doing more and varied running…and exercising in general.  Last year my fastest pace was slower than three of my five loops this year and even on the two that were slower, they were slower by 8- and 4- seconds respectively.  My fastest pace last year was the only one that compared to this years’ running…and I ran a race this morning!

think“Find Your Inner Wild” is a slogan for another race too, but you know I don’t think anyone is going to confuse this event for that one.

There were 5 marathon relay teams this year: the first couple of years I ran this event there were maybe 3, but consistently mine is the only two-person relay team so I like to think there’s something special about that.  The first two years I ran with my friend Andy: in 2016, we actually WON the event with a time just over 4-hours. I’ve never won anything before nor after.  In 2017 we were actually faster than the year before and finished second (third was only about 40 seconds slower overall!!). This year, my daughter and I finished 4th with a time of just about 4:17:00 or so – I didn’t think to take a picture of the results and it’ll be some time before the results are posted online but I’ll update when they’re posted. The winners actually finished in just over 3-hours. Preposterous.

I’m super proud of her, and super happy for having had the experience. Maybe, she’ll see fit to run with her old man again next year.

Results:

2018: 4:15:52
2017: 3:54:09
2016: 3:57:36

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2018 Race Recap #43: Shore Park 5k

A last minute thing, I mean like really last minute. Like 10 PM the night before last minute. Hard to say “no” when your friend offers you a bib for a race.  I’ve actually run the course before for a group “fun run,” so I as familiar with it – not terribly hilly: it’s a full loop, and somehow my watch recorded 105′ of gain and 125′ of loss, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

It’s a pretty cool (64 degrees), low humidity (56%) day so it was a really good day for a race, unlike say last week.  It was also a decent size (I’ll say roughly 180 runners) but not “major,” but the infrastructure around it – police details, radio station playing music, and the like – would have suggested a much larger race.

I quite liked the vibe of the start/finish line, but have to say there could have been a little more attention to some of the essentials.  There was about 10-minutes between the playing of the National Anthem in the parking lot and the start of the race on the street; runners were congregating at their respective paces (the race gets points for this) and spilling into the street, whereupon a police officer came up and asked people onto the sidewalk because the street was open to traffic and there were 3-officers assigned to the detail.  Now, I would think 3 should have sufficed to direct traffic around runners, but apparently not.  The first mile or so was fine (except for the quick under the interstate overpass, where work was being done – can’t do much about that), but as we reached a main street, there were no volunteers or police presence to stop cars entering the street from side streets, and a few more aggressive drivers were busy honking at the runners.  This was not an inexpensive race – day of registration was $40 – so paying customers could have – rightly so – expected a little more in the way of amenities.

Other than those slights, it was a nice race with a pretty good course on a very nice day for running.  It was the first time I’d ever actually placed in my age group (3rd!) and I finished 15th overall in a race with more than 16 runners. I wasn’t as fast today as I was a couple of weeks ago, but that’s okay – that race is likely to be my high water mark for some time (if not forever) – because I was faster than last week, although I’m sad that the weather seems to have that great an effect on me.  That said, when the winner finishes a 5k at 20:23, I feel pretty good finishing where I did at 23:14…even if mile 3 was slow and plodding: I should’ve knocked another 30 seconds off that time.

shore park

Results

Net Time: 23:14.2 Pace: 7:29 Gun Time: 23:18.6

 

2018 Race Recap #42: Worcester City View 5k

Some days are better than others; some races go better than others. In the greater scheme of things, this wasn’t a terrible race for me, it’s just that in view of last week’s race, my time was disappointing. Where last week was cool and humidity non-existent, today was in the 80’s with 97% humidity. It was gross.

I was feeling crummy about the time – 24:03 – and feeling like it should have been better, until I saw the results. I mean, the winner today was preposterously fast – really good runners are preposterously fast if it’s cool or hot or humid or what. Needless to say, I’m not a really good runner.  But my 24:03 time was good for 28th in a race with more than 28 runners – 324 in total, although that said there were a fair number of walkers – so its clear to me that the weather slowed a lot of folks down.

The course has a fair amount of elevation gain, and as it turns out, I’ve run the course a couple of times already this year without realizing it so I had some experience with it. I should’ve done a long run today, The Marine Corps Marathon is only a few weeks away now, but I committed to doing this and looking back I’m glad I did because I think it would’ve been an ugly mess.

I’ve generally stayed away from 5ks other than the ones my running club puts on because I’ve been focusing on the longer distance races, sometimes though a quick short race is helps let you know how you’re progressing and I think that’s what was accomplished today. So no personal records, but a demonstratively solid progression.

Results:

24:03 | 7:44.5 /mi
Overall: 28/324
M: 23/139

     

    Refuse to Contribute Story 4: David Goggins

    Although he’s a public person, unless you follow ultramarathoning you’ve probably never heard of him. And even if you do follow ultramarathoning, you may not have heard of him. He is one of those personalities I see from afar, I don’t know him, I don’t know how heavily curated his “story” is nor just how much what he puts into the world is actually his or if it’s what he thinks the world should see.

    This matters not one ounce to me. What he puts out to the world is all about striving to be the best you can possibly be. Which is great, but who is he and why should I care?

    A quick read of his Wikipedia page answers those questions.  He’s got asthma, has battled obesity, and has had a congenital heart defect repaired. A lot of us have faced these or similar challenges – my weight over the course of my adult life has yo-yoed between 175 and 230.  He tried and failed to get into USAF Pararescue twice before succeeding and eventually becoming a SEAL. The work he’s done since reads like a guidebook of mind over matter.  This is an exceptional person and I want to believe the majority of what he puts out to the world is actually his belief system.  You cannot do what he has done, you cannot overcome what he has overcome without the fortitude and strength of mind he expresses.

    His Facebook post of Monday, September 10 struck a nerve for me. It resonates as true and I can see the truth looking back as far as High School: I’ve said for years that I was a mediocre student, but my comparator group was far more high performing than I gave credit for at the time; had I gone to my public high school, I would have been a mediocre student there too…but my comparator group would have been less high performing and I would have set my targets lower.

    His message? Be mindful of your comparator group.

    If you are always comparing yourself to mediocre people, that’s exactly what you will be! A lot of people think that they are at the top of their game because they are the best amongst a group of people who don’t even [care].

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    He goes on, much like Bill from yesterday’s post (“it’s supposed to be hard,”) that “mediocrity feels good.” Lower your expectations. He acknowledges that performing at high levels is uncomfortable, and people shy away from people that make them uncomfortable. Comfort is a drug, it becomes addictive.

    A week before he said:

    The most important conversations you will ever have are the ones you have with yourself. You wake up with them. You walk around with them. You go to bed with them. Eventually you act on them. Rather it be good or bad.

    We live in a world full of haters and jealous people. People so [messed] up in their own lives that they can’t move forward so they put their hate for themselves on you. This world is full of distractions- a lot of them are from other people, social media, some are self-imposed. In a world full of distractions, you must learn to live in it undistracted, unphased.

    Never let the weakness of this world infiltrate your mind! To do that you must truly know yourself! Don’t allow people to puppet master you from being [flipping] great!

    Here he’s speaking the language of refusing to contribute. You’re in control of your own greatness. THAT is a powerful and scary message: it means that if you fail to be great, it’s on you. How many of us want that much power and control? Control your negative self talk, live your best life, conquer your goals, avoid mediocrity.  Don’t allow anyone elses’ mediocrity, no one else’s reasons for not striving for better be your reasons.

    We all have our challenges and opportunities. Accept them, but do not excuse them. Compare yourself, your results to those you wish to emulate. We’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Choose the right 5 people. If you choose to be angry, you will make certain choices. If you choose to make a difference, you will make different choices. But make no mistake, you’re making the choice.

    2018 Race Recap #41: Canal Diggers 5k

    I wasn’t going to run this race – there was a 10k trail race I was looking at and was leaning in that direction. I like trail races, they’re physically challenging and generally inexpensive. This one was less than $20 after a coupon code. BUT, I was beseeched at my Thursday fun run and couldn’t resist: there’s something about running with your tribe that makes racing fun. When you know people, and can hang around before and after, the experience is great.

    The course is pretty (read here: very) flat and most folks come up just short of 3-miles on their watch. I registered exactly 3.1 on mine and I’m not sure what that says about my stuff. The course starts and ends just off Worcester’s Kelley Square – future home of the Worcester Red Sox – by the DCU Center (or as we old timers call it, the Centrum) up to Main Street, and back.  It’s also put on by the Hibernian Hall, which is evident by the fact you’re given 2 beer tickets on your bib…with 1 food ticket that you can convert to a beer ticket if you want.

    I found the course over all well marked and staffed, my only issue was just coming out of Kelley Square, the course got a little tight and it was clear not everyone lined up according to their projected pace, so there were a bunch of people bottlenecked and weren’t moving as quickly as I would have preferred.  Other than that, it was great.

    At about mile 2.2, I started to realize I had pushed too hard and actually walked a bit. I was competing back and forth with a teenage girl from a local school team and when she started to walk, I felt like I had just been given a pass that I took.  I realized, though, that I had an opportunity to PR and didn’t want to quit on myself so I picked it up again.

    I really wanted to quit here.

    Going back to the whole tribe thing, when you see your friends volunteering on the course, it’s super helpful to your morale. As it happens I saw a few friends spectating and volunteering especially at the last half mile or so and when you see these folks cheering for you, it’s the best motivation in the world to keep going.  As I came down the last bit of course, under the bridge where I really just wanted to quit but didn’t, and around the corner where I could see the finish, I pushed through with every little bit I had left.

    I’m pretty sure I was close to death as I crossed that line: I honestly cannot remember the last time I left everything out there on a 5k course. Fully gassed. I thought I would never be as fast as I was for the Celtic 5k. I remember feeling great that day, running with my kids, and just blowing the lid off.  I didn’t feel particularly great for this race but I felt confident. I wasn’t going to run this race, but I’m happy I did.

    To make it even better, I helped Team Sneakerama win fastest team.

    Results

    Time: 21:13 | 6:49.7 /mi
    Overall 55/617
    M: 42/282
    M 40-49: 7/65

     

    2018 Race Recap #41: TVFR Woodland Park 5-Miler #3

    It’s the last Thursday in August, which means it’s the TVFR Woodland Park Race series finale. I ran the race in June, and missed it in July due to having some out of town houseguests.  Now the race in June was the precursor to my abominable Independence Rhode Race finish — 2:06:00 Half Marathon, my worst time ever — with what turned out to be a chest cold. I was a big, sloppy, wheezing, ugly, hot-mess and I was not happy.

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    The TVFR bibs are always on point. Just enough oversized, and there’s no mistaking what race you’re running.

    Today, I was a grumpy, tired, itchy hot mess. I’ve been having some kind of allergic reaction to something and the anti-itch drug I’ve been prescribed is doing some funky things, but it’s working so no complaints.  After a night of sub-optimal sleep, and what seemed like the longest day ever, I toed up the starting line and really couldn’t have wanted to do this race less.

    I didn’t run yesterday – we all need days off on occasion – and I definitely think that helped my race this evening. I started off in the middle of the pack because I didn’t really expect much, but actually found the running was pretty good and I was able to shuffle past a few people. On the trail, I found my running pretty consistent and I ate up the majority of the elevation gains – it’s not a difficult course, but there can be some challenging parts.  I didn’t let myself slow too much or take breaks, and it really paid off in the results.

    It was a really pleasant evening which really contributed a lot to my ability to do that. I also took a bootcamp class this morning which definitely contributed. When I commit to going to bootcamp consistently, I know I’m a better runner for it – evidence was in my race tonight.

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    My tribe.

    So, tonight, despite my crummy headspace, I really had a good race. I’m feeling a little tired, a little drained, the way you feel when you leave it all out there. According to my Garmin, the “training effect” for this race was 4.3 (Highly improves your aerobic fitness if repeated 1–2 times per week with adequate recovery time), keeping my heart rate pretty consistently high over the 5-miles. I knocked 4-minutes off my time from June – my goal was 45:00, which was always going to be a stretch, and I came close. It was a good race tonight.

    Results:

    August 2018: 46:55.3
    June 2018: 50:58.39
    July 2017: 51:54
    July 2016: 51:38

    2018 Race Recap #40: Newton Hill XC 5k #4

    Yup. Another Tuesday in August, another Newton Hill trail race.  This was nothing short of brutal: something close to 90-degrees and 70% humidity.  Last week’s weather was beautiful and pleasant and I had a decent race. Decent, but not great. I always have an excuse; last weeks was that I did the Anchor Down Ultra on Saturday, so my legs were a lot like concrete and that’s why I didn’t kill the course. The week before was mid-70’s but humid AF, and Week 1 was similar weather to today, but cooler, believe it or not.  Hey, it’s August in New England. Kind of like a box of chocolates the weather is.

    Pursuant to recent trends, tonight’s crowd was roughly 38 or 39 runners – last week was the exception, but then again it was really, really nice.  The other races this month have been about the same crowd regardless.

    In keeping with my comparison from last week, it’s pretty plain to see how much the weather affected my race. I mean I’m not a very good (trail) runner in general, so anything less than perfect conditions is going to affect me. I’ve come to that conclusion, that I’m just not that good.

    Mile Pace by Race
    Mile Week 4 Week 3 Week 2 Week 1
    1 9:36 8:56 8:42 9:19
    2 9:04 8:22 8:16 8:56
    3 10:21 9:56 10:17 10:06

    Just all around my worst of the four races this year.  Now the caveat: according to my watch I finished 28:17 this week; my official time week 1 was 28:15, so likely a 2-second difference, but the paces are wildly off (Note: the official time turns out to be exactly the same as week 1). That’s because my watch also registered a shorter course this week than week 1. It’s a trail so it’s always approximate, but I’m sure there was some variance and what not. So, the sum total is that Week 4 basically looks like Week 1. Same sort of pacing across the race, similar weather, similar result. If anything I suppose I COULD argue that today was crappier and I was only a couple of seconds worse, but that would be disingenuous.

    Kind of a bummer result, but pretty much what I might have bet on.  I wanted better but after about .5 mile, I knew tonight wasn’t going to be my night.   With a race like this, I think it’s instructive to look at the placement for some kind of idea how the race was. By using that metric, week 2 was my best, and I can certainly say it felt like my best race.  So another race series closed out, another summer heading toward completion.

    Results:

    August 28, 2018: 28:15. 89/90 Degrees, 70% humidity. (20/38)
    August 21, 2018: 26:57. High-60’s, beautiful. (28/60)
    August 14, 2018: 27:13. Mid-70’s, 1000% humidity, and generally rainy most of the day. (17/39)
    August 7, 2018: 28:15  82 degrees, and swampy humid (20/39)
    August 22, 2017: 30:21 Clear, muggy and 82 degrees. (27/47)
    August 15, 2017: 29:56  Mostly clear and 72 degrees (37/49)
    August 8, 2017: 32:52  Clear and 72 degrees. (39/46)