2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint.  I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00.  That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable.  I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much.  I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.

It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it.  It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.

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A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog  that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races.  In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is.  Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.

The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.

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It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

As for organization, it’s the BAA.  It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of  6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.

 

Previous Results

Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
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

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2018 Race Recap #45: Rugged Maniac New England

It’s hard to call an untimed event a “race,” but it is still an opportunity to go out an challenge yourself. Even better when you can do it with your kids.  The thing I love about this race is that it’s designed to be attainable, it’s not about consequences for not completing an obstacle, but rather about the joy of participating. It’s just fun, and if you fail an obstacle, it just means you get a little more wet.

We bought the additional laps – RMX – and I had hoped to get three laps in, but time constraints only allowed for 2, which, as it turned out, was more than enough – I was ridiculously sore the rest of the day for some reason. You might think that after having done, I don’t know, 8?,  obstacle courses this year I wouldn’t be as messed up basically playing in the mud, but here we are.

The course this year clocked about 3.5 miles. It’s held on a BMX track so there’s some decent elevation changes that can be challenging. There’s nothing really innovative about the obstacles – essentially the same from previous years – but that’s okay, because they’re just fun: trampolines, inflatable water slides, hanging on a rope and sliding across water.  It was great seeing some first timers out there, having fun and pushing themselves.  25 or so obstacles packed into the course ensures that it’s never too long before you hit one.

It’s reasonably priced, fun, and a good time to be out with friends and family. This is my fourth time running this particular race at this venue and I keep coming back because it’s fun, affordable and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Here’s their sales pitch on the RM website:

Picture this:  You arrive at Motocross 338 on September 29th or 30th with a carload of your most adventurous friends.  As you step out you notice the people around you admiring your group’s coordinated “Avengers-in-bathing-suits” costumes and your on-point Hulk-green body paint. In the festival, people are already riding the mechanical bull and playing beach volleyball (Rugged Maniac is definitely more than just a mud run), but you’re more interested in the stein-hoisting contest on the main stage.  You make a note to sign up for that and the pie-eating contest after you run.   You see obstacles in the distance – mud-covered people jumping over fire, bouncing on trampolines, rocketing down a huge water slide – and your surging excitement confirms what you already knew: Today is going to be awesome!

Now, by virtue of the fact the race is untimed, there are no “results” per se. My self timing of the two laps netted about 7-miles in 2-hours and a couple seconds.  The plus side of a mid-morning heat is that by the nature of the marketing (above) the majority of folks come out later on, yet the day’s temperature is perfect. By the second lap, the course was pretty full, which meant delays and bottlenecks at some obstacles – there would be people waiting at the fire jump for the course to clear, then they’d go, and at the end of the jump, they’d stop and gather creating a bit of a hazard for those in the jump and of course exacerbating the bottleneck. A little supervision by the volunteers would have been helpful there.

All in all, though, it remained true to the reason we did it: it was fun, lowkey and a good experience together.

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

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.

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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

     

    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