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

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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)

2018 Race Recap #39: Newton Hill XC Series #3

Here it is, the third Tuesday in August, which means the third Newton Hill trail race. Same course, different day. I love these race series because they provide the opportunity to see how much you can improve over the course of a week, measured against the same terrain. Sure weather changes everything – where last week was like running in soup, today’s race was held in beautiful 68-degree weather, maybe overcast, on a dry course. No mitigating factors from weather at all. Simply beautiful. August in New England can be funny like that – I can tell you from experience that while not unheard of, one should not expect August 21 in New England to be considered “Gorgeous.” And yet, it was this day.

Climbing that first hill after the turn-around.  Photo Credit: Kim Gordon

And it was precisely for this reason that there was the largest crowd of the summer show up for the race. There was an Indigo Girls style duo playing music on the common, so there was a bit of an assembly in the park. Just a great vibe where last week it was just an oppressive, wet nasty mess.

Photo Credit: Kim Gordon

For sure, this was the best Newton Hill race I’ve done yet, but it just didn’t “feel” that way. There were a few spots – about a half mile in, after the out and back and where the course makes a turn up a hill – where I felt strong and it was a good track.  There were others where I just felt beat down a bit.

Now it would be easy to say, “Well, you just ran an Ultra a couple of days ago…” but that’s belied by the group run I did last night – one of my faster paces on the course over time and really would have been faster had I not been running with my buddy Dukie who’s just coming back from an injury. So that’s not it.

So here’s where it gets interesting.  Here’s my pacing over the race series this year.

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

What’s interesting is that last weeks race was the superior one in terms of overall performance – despite the soupy weather.  I felt stronger today and it was the last mile – the one with the most drastic hills (despite the overall elevation loss, most of the change happens here) that I thought I had lost the most ground week-over-week, but it turns out it was my best effort and it was the other miles that I lagged.  That’s surprising to me, and yet, the numbers don’t lie. I’m going to go all out and say that when I was on, I was really on, but suffered the consequences I guess.

So, tonight I feel like I pushed myself hard and while the pacing doesn’t reflect it, I know I pushed it. Despite having run 40 miles on Friday/Saturday. for a 1/10-mile at mile 2.1-2.2 had I just taken the opportunity to keep running instead of taking a break and walking, I’d have finished sub-26 minutes.  That stings and something I’ll have to remember next week.

RESULTS

August 21, 2018: 26:57. High-60’s, beautiful.
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
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)

2018 Race Recap #38: Anchor Down Ultra

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Schwag.

“The Smallest State’s Longest Races.” Six Hours, Twelve Hours, 24-Hours, 100-Miler. The time based races are a hard deadline in which to run as many miles – or in this case loops – through Bristol, Rhode Island’s Colt State Park as you can in the allotted time.  For this series of races, the race director has set 8-loops as “finishing” for the six-hour race, 16-loops for the 12-hour, 20 for the 24-hour.  Each lap is roughly (but officially) 2.45 miles.

It’s not all pavement, it’s not all trail. It’s roughly 0.9 mile of trail. 1.5 mile of pavement, with the remainder being grass.  And for all intents and purposes, it’s pretty flat.  All races start at 7 PM making the challenge less about the course – after all, the course it’s terribly difficult in and of itself – and more about the individual endurance required to overcome gnarly roots in the dark, after a full day of living, over an extended period of time during one of the hottest, most humid times of the New England summer.

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Here we are just before the start of the race. Look at how clean and spiffy I look in my donut socks and dry shirt.

The race organizers did such a super job marking the course, and staffing it with volunteers at the start/finish and the half way point.  Food – salt, sugar, hydration – at the festival area, hydration and ramen soup at the half way.  There’s a camping area at the starting festival area to set up your own stuff.

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This was just after lap 5 – roughly 12.25 miles in. Juxtaposed against the picture above, I’m pretty sure it’s clear that I was a big, sweaty mess.

The day wasn’t overly hot, but it was humid. By mile 13, I was drenched in soggy wet clothes. My feet and shoes were wet and gross.  That was a few hours into the race. Because of the odd mix of terrain, I wasn’t quite sure what shoes would be most appropriate: trail shoes, street shoes? I decided on a pair of older model On Cloudsters I’ve got. I like them for running my local rail trail and they’re generally quite sturdy so you don’t feel every little thing on the ground. As it started getting dark in the overgrown woods, I tripped on one of the ubiquitous series of gnarly roots along the trail and landed on my hands and knees. No major damage there, but I could feel my leg starting to cramp as soon as I hit the ground, so I hopped back up and continued on.

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You can see where I ate dirt on my left leg. I’m not sure when this was taken other than to say, it’s quite clear my delirium was in full swing.

From that point, though, I decided I’d power walk the trails – my mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion were combining to make night time trail running somewhat more dangerous that it might otherwise be – and just run the pavement. Upon my return to the festival area, I changed out my shirt, and changed from my Ons and donut socks, to a pair of ankle socks and Nikes more befitting street running. I felt every little root after that – probably not a bad thing, to keep my head in the game – but they allowed me to be the best runner I could be on the pavement given my situation.

I finished Lap 16 in 9-hours 17-minutes so I had plenty more time to get back out there and rack up some more miles – and grab higher placement on the finishers list – but I was so dead, exhausted I just couldn’t see myself going any farther. By that point it had started to rain pretty good and I just wanted to be done. My friend Ilya had come to watch Rich and I run, so he ran the last 3 laps with me – something for which I am very thankful, as he made me push myself just a little harder than I may have otherwise.

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Flavor Flav looked at this thing and said, “No man, that’s too big…”

So I left satisfied with 39.2 official miles (my Garmin clocked 40.8) with time still on the clock. I arrived home after a drive home that was something just shy of terrifying, at 6:15 – with 45-minutes still remaining in my race.  I’m bummed that I didn’t get more, but satisfied I left it all out there on the course. Several folks from my running club ran the 6-hour and another guy and his son ran the 12-hour, so there was support and people I knew there which helped make the experience a little less solitary.

Results

12 HOUR Race; 20/35, 16 Laps, 9:19:27, 39. Miles.

2018 Race Recap #37: Newton Hill 5k Cross Country Series #2

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Photo Credit: @thatkimgordon

This week was a little different weather wise from last.  Today wasn’t quite as hot, but my goodness it was humid; it must’ve been like 1000% humidity and it was total swamp weather. Gross. I sweat like a pig any way, never mind when the air is essentially water. I look like someone has dumped water over my head.

Fact is the it rained most of the day – at various intervals it misted, poured, stopped, poured…just one of those days – but by about 5:30 PM it had stopped for good.  BUT the humidididididity. Holy smokes.

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Run an out and back, then up a hill. At this point, I’m feeling pretty okay. In about 1/10th mile, I’m going to be falling on my face, because I’m quite literally dying. Credit: Kim Gordon.

The rain probably tamped down attendance – it certainly seemed like it, but there were maybe 38 runners this evening and 39 last week so perhaps it was just perception. Not bad, really, for a Tuesday evening race without adding in the nasty conditions.  Since it’s a trail race, rain does have a deleterious effect on the track and with the rain the park festivities were canceled (no band, vendor tents and such) so perhaps it was just the lack of an event going on around the race that made the race seem smaller.

They’ve been running this race since August 2003 – 15 years of Tuesday night trail races…in Massachusetts’ second largest city (and alternately, between Providence RI, New England’s second largest depending on population – it seems to go back and forth). I think it’s pretty cool that you can run a trail race in the middle of a city.

371′ of gain, up and around the trails behind Doherty High School. Kinda muddy, wet. To be sure, I had my opportunities – I’m sure I could have pushed myself harder, but didn’t. There were a few times I was surprised at the pace my watch was recording, figuring it was glitchy or something. That last mile was slower than I would have thought, so perhaps it was glitchy, but I know there was one pretty significantly large hill that it felt like was forever and I know it slowed me down.

Overall, I generally felt pretty good about this race on this evening.  I didn’t kill it, but it didn’t kill me and I could definitely see improvement over last week.  Last but not least I got to talk to a friend of mine who is running the Anchor Down Ultra on Friday with his son – such a great experience and I’m so happy to be a part of that.

Relive ‘Evening Aug 14th’

 

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)

A Little Low

I’ve come to really appreciate an active lifestyle. Let’s be clear about something: I really do not like running — the best part of running is the end — but I really do appreciate being able to run.  Take yesterday’s Spartan: I really, really liked being able to run the trails, hit the obstacles, and accomplish them.  The harder you work in practice, the easier these things are, the more you’re able to do. It’s a great rush to be able to accomplish these things.

And yet today, today I took a vinyasa yoga class, which was wonderful. It was good for the body and the head. I stretched, I bent, I worked the core. For 90-minutes I contorted myself into positions I’m not sure I should have and under most conditions I would have torn something — I’m sure of it.

I had a great day overall: we celebrated my parents-in-law 50th anniversary, spent the day with people I love and came home to a warm home. And yet, my headspace is all off.

Other than yoga, which while awesome for the body and the head, I did something closely approximating nothing today. The yoga is bending and stretching, but it’s not cardio and it’s not moving the body forward. It’s great – I like being able to bend and twist – but I also like to move forward. Somehow today messed with my head. I feel low, and tired, and run down.

I’ve felt this way before, but when I’ve been injured and CAN’T run or be active.  And certainly not after one day of inactivity. It’s been ONE Day. ONE. And my head just isn’t right. Tomorrow’s a new day, a new opportunity to get going and be who I want to be. THis week culminates in a 12-hour ultramarathon. Its not like today is every day, it’s only one day, and a good one at that. I’m in a good place, I mean this is someone who has a reasonably privileged life complaining that his head isn’t right after one day of inactivity. I have a good family, I have good health, I have a good life.

But you know, sometimes we have expectations of ourselves and our life that sometimes just don’t live up to reality. Your head has to accept that as much as your body has to. Just like most things in life, though, it doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it does mean you can’t let it mess you up.

I’m trying to internalize that message, and really, really trying to absorb it. One day is not every day. One day is just that: one step on the rest of the journey. No one knows just how long that journey may be, so it’s incumbent to make the most of every day, but you know you also have to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack.

2018 Race Recap #36: Boston Spartan Super

Man, I was killing this course – KILLING IT – until I got to the last mile and a half. Seriously, my wheels came flying off and that ended it.  Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though, shall we?

In terms of Spartan Races, the Boston sites – in this case Carter & Stevens Farm, but also the Boy Scout Camp in Rutland that Spartan has used for Sprints the past couple of years – are pretty flat, fast courses. In comparison, the Palmerton Super was some 4000′ of elevation gain, versus todays’ 1400′. It’s a very nice facility – wide open, wooded, muddy AF, all kinds of things that make for a good obstacle course. It’s a cow farm, right? I mean, it’s flat, it’s muddy. Spartan also does a really good job of compensating for that in terms of obstacle selection and spacing.

The fact that it is August 11 and 70-degrees, overcast, kind-of-crummy really didn’t hurt.

By and large, this is a trail run with some obstacles thrown in there, and I was KILLING IT. This is where the whole compensation thing comes into play, though, I finished in a little over 2 hours, 35 minutes – on a course measuring 8.6 Miles by my watch. Thing is though that were this a 7-mile course, I’d have finished in just under 1 hour, 45 minutes.  Seriously. That last 1.6 miles took me over 50 minutes to complete between the obstacles, my faulty wing and the burpees.  I’ve had a messed up shoulder for a while, but that means that I’m basically going to fail a bunch of obstacles I should otherwise complete, like monkey bars for instance.

Pretty much everything was stacked toward the end: I failed the spear throw (a 50/50 proposition for me anyway) and everything else: multi-rig, monkey bars.  I usually get the Herc Hoist, but between my sore wing and the rain soaked bags that did me in. I got the rope climb by some virtue, but otherwise I sucked that stretch.

I was really pleased with my performance for the most part, but that last stretch really messed me up.  On ward and upward.

 

Results:

TIME (CHIP) FINISH 2:35:47
Ranking
OVERALL  366/ 554
MALE 306/ 409
M40-49 109/ 139