2018 Race Recap #6: CMS 52-Week 5k

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This is the first time this year I’ve raced the course counter-clockwise. I’m usually much faster going clockwise: the first mile or so is downhill, and then the elevation gain is slow and gradual. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a relatively flat course anyway, but there is some elevation change.  Running clockwise gives me that pronounced elevation loss to get my pace up and just burn through the first half of it.  Running counter-clockwise has always posed me some issues.  It starts out pretty flat, the elevation loss is gradual (the reciprocal of the clockwise course, obvi) and then a half mile of the last .8 of the course it just up.  Again, not “UP”…but up.  Suffice to say, the better runners in the group seem to like the counter-clockwise better; the less well heeled runners, the clockwise direction. As you’ll see below, my track record going in this direction is spotty and erratic.  At least one of the times – February 11, 2017 – was affected by a snowpacked course: I wore obstacle course specific shoes to maintain some traction on the street, but even without that outlier my paces are uneven.

It was pretty chilly to start – about 28 degrees: when you’re standing around a sweatshirt leaves you still a little cold, but warm enough that choosing gear is a bit of a challenge. Should I take off the Under Armour? Will a cold weather shirt suffice?  Gloves? No gloves today, sweatshirt and cold weather shirt.  Athletic pants.  All of which seemed to be the right choice for me as I was neither overheated or cold.  One caveat: while running the Upton State Forest Half Marathon last year,  I wiped out and skinned my knee and (I think) broke my left pointer finger. It hasn’t felt right since, and it has been the first finger to get noticeably cold since.

On the “go” command, I was off at a decent clip.  I had my watch under my sleeve as I was using the sleeve to cover my hands in lieu of gloves so I really couldn’t see the pace or time. I was just running.  I kept up with the fast kids for a short moment, but they were gone pretty quickly.  At the first mile the watch vibrated, so I pulled up my sleeve to see and it was about a 7:20 pace.  That astonished me.  The second mile was about a 7:40 pace, quite astonishing to me.  Ah, but June Street.  That point when running clockwise is a nice shot down, is much less friendly to me when it’s a harrowing shot up.  I just couldn’t maintain my pace, and slowed way down.  I finished that mile with an 8:20 or so pace, so not horrible in terms of my usual pace, but certainly enough to kill my shot at a sub-24 minute race.

The upshot is that I ran a pretty strong race overall, faltered a bit toward the end, but still wound up with a personal record for the Counter-Clockwise direction and truly for the course in either direction overall.  It was a good race day.  Overall, I finished in the middle of the pack, 10th of about 21 or 22.  9th was within my grasp, but I was outflanked by a far better runner – finishing as close behind him is a personal victory to begin with,  never mind having had the chance to finish ahead of him.  So, I’ll add that to my awards case too.

Weather

28 Degrees and Clear.

Counter Clockwise Direction (Last 5):

February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17
January 28, 2017:  24:48

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2018 Race Recap #5: Blizzard Blast

Blizzard Blast is a winter themed 5k(ish) obstacle course race, “No Offseason.” Winter themed and also happily, winter run.  Obstacles include the Christmas Tree carry and Christmas light crawl.  There’s a heavy emphasis on beer kegs – monkey bars, carries – and the named sponsor is Shock Top beer, so it’s hard to know which came first although I did note that “Anheuser Busch” was stamped on most (if not all) of the barrels.

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No Offseason!

Some obstacles are expected – what would an obstacle course race be without wall climbs, for example – but some were novel: there was a paintball target, and a saucer-sled element.  The course also made use of elements within the park where it was held. Overall, I’m glad I finally did this race, but I’m pretty sure I won’t do it again; it was great to get out and do an OCR this early in the year, but it was a little more low-rent than I would have hoped and not quite as challenging as it could be.  If I do it again, I’d have to do the multi-lap option to increase the challenge.

 

There were plenty of shuttles from the parking to registration and to the course, and I know I’m going to sound like a curmudgeon here, but I just really hated the logistics of parking at the Cawley Stadium, taking a bus a few miles down the road to register/bib-pickup and then get on another bus to head back off in the other direction to the event…and to repeat that at the end.  Fine, I get that there’s no parking at the park and I’m used to shuttles, but four rides is just a bit much.

Now, about the experience of running the race.  Running with my son, we didn’t really push too hard with running but he did challenge himself on the obstacles.  This was more about the time together and much less about the overall competition, but it was really good to see him exert himself.  He grabbed a pretty heavy tree for the tree carry, attempted every obstacle and finished most of them. The only one that I truly had an issue with was the keg kingdom, aka monkey bars with hanging beer kegs.  I got two swings into it and for whatever reason decided that it wasn’t going to happen today; I’m not entirely sure what was in my head there.

Overall we did have fun, and we came across the finish line together.  A very nice bonding time.  We finished 1:22:18 – right about middle of the pack.

1:22:18   A little overcast, about 45-degrees.

2018 Race Recap #4: CMS 52-Week 5k

cms_logo_smallToday stood for the proposition that sleep, good nutrition and perhaps a bit of rest during the week are helpful to running a race, but also that a healthy, positive internal dialog is probably THE most important aspect of good performance.  Hardly news, indeed, but sometimes reminders are helpful.

I got a really good night sleep after an emotionally draining day of work – such a good night that I woke up a little too late to work my planned run to Worcester State to volunteer for the weekly race, and run back. I took my time, ate breakfast, took the dogs out, and then headed over.  I even stopped at Starbucks on the way.

How come when I look in the mirror I don’t look this fat?

Since Clearwater last week, I hadn’t run at all, to my shame.  My plans have been to do 28-miles a week, and to this point I’d been either on point or close and had missed only two days of running this year.  I basically missed all this week and I was feeling guilty about it.  Arriving early today, I took the opportunity to do a quick warm up run of a mile or so and was surprised by the pace I clocked myself doing: a 7:49 pace.  Unusual in that I don’t usually push myself that hard warming up or really outside of a race – and oftentimes not even then.

Then there was the crowd today: a lot of fast looking people showed up.  It’s an informal gathering, so people show up on a whim, and the people who felt the whim today “LOOKED” like the kind of people who run fast.  I know, a total stereotype or so it would appear. More on that in a minute.

A few announcements and what seemed like a quick “GO” we were off.  I ran the first mile at a ridiculous pace – a personal best for a mile.  I knew I had gone off too fast, but I’m working on my internal dialog to keep myself on task, to keep my thoughts positive (“if we can keep this pace…”) instead of the negative (“You’re going to bonk out if you keep this up…”), so I kept reminding myself of the distance I’d come, and that a personal best awaits so just keep going.  I was feeling reasonably strong, but the second mile was considerably slower.  First Mile: 7:09. Second Mile: 7:57.

As soon as the second mile clicked off as completed on my Garmin, I had to slow down.  I was zapped.  Picked it back up and ran…and slowed to a walk again.  I did that a few times, but ultimately sucked it up.  I had lost focus on my inner dialog: it’s not that I was saying “I Can’t,” it’s that I wasn’t having one. As soon as I realized that absence, I was able to control my pace again. I picked up my pace and hit mile 3, finishing with a rather surprising 8:20 pace for the mile.  When I was running I was running strong.

I finished the course in 24:24 or a 7:49 overall pace.  The last 0.1 mile was 7:29 – I’m guessing the last 0.6 mile of the race was actually about that pace.  It was tough carrying my carcass over the line, but it felt good when I did.  My friend Mike had finished perhaps 90-seconds ahead of me and he was waiting at the finish to cheer me in…a fact to which I was apparently oblivious as I came across the line.  It was a bit of a struggle bus ride, but I finished with a personal best for the course and my second fastest 5k.

Now, not to take the shine off my pace today, there may have been something in the air; the top finisher came seconds away from a course record with a time just under 15-minutes, and second came in about 45-seconds later at 15:36.  Perhaps a good rest, decent nutrition and positive internal talk all influence race performance, but sometimes the day just carries itself.

Clockwise (last 5):

January 27, 2018: 24:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 2018: 25:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.
October 28, 2017: 24:53 Sunny and 56 degrees.
September 16, 2017: 25:56  Cloudy, humid, 60’s.

 

2018 Race Recap #3: Clearwater Half

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorI wasn’t sure how well this race was going to go. I hadn’t run more than 7 miles at one time since December 7 and the last time I ran longer than 10 miles was the Cambridge Half Marathon in November.  Being laid up in an immobilization boot for the better part of December, I went from December 7 to December 31 without running.

Since then, I’ve run every day in 2018 except two – January 4, the day of a blizzard that shut down just about everything, including the gym, and yesterday when I just couldn’t get my stuff together to run the weekly 5k before I headed to the airport.

So, it’s race day.  The thing that saved the day from ignominy is the fact that Florida is as flat as a pancake.  The only elevation gain was from the two bridges and the out and back course.  344′ of gain.  It saved the day, and cursed the day, but more on that later. The race started at 7:05 and about 58-degrees.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the race. My night sleep was sketchy, but my nutrition was on point.  Up and out to packet pick up by 5:30 AM, with a cup of coffee and an ill fated trip to the porta potty set the stage.

About 0.5 mile into the race was the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge.  I wasn’t sure I was going to accomplish this in the time I wanted, yet the next song to come up on my playlist was “Barometer Soup” by Jimmy Buffett.  Feeling the Margaritaville vibe with the view of Clearwater was magnificent.

I wasn’t sure what the race held, but I was happy I was there.

The coffee helped get my metabolism going, but unfortunately caused some other issues for me, which wasn’t immediately a problem but about 4 miles in they began.

Just before the second bridge, there was a breakfast place that had obviously just fired up their offerings with the net result was all I could smell was bacon…for like a mile. THAT would’ve been AWESOME if I weren’t battling the GI ninja.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sunglasses and textIts also the day of the AFC Championship Game – Patriots vs. Jaguars.  So, ever the master of race couture, I wore a TB12 jersey…the whole race. Not one hater on the course, some fist bumps, high fives, hoots.  It was fun and served the purpose I set out to achieve wearing it.

I was fully on pace for a personal record right up to Mile 12, right where the last bridge started inclining and I just couldn’t push any further.  For that half mile, I pretty much walk-ran the bridge.  The second half was down hill, including a ramp down into the park.  I’m pretty sure that mile split was 13:00 m/m for the first half, and 7:00 for the second.

Ultimately, I finished with a 1:56:32 time.  Not my worst by a long shot, and about 3.5 minutes shy of my best.  Much like Cambridge was in November, this was an opportunity to PR – an opportunity lost.  BUT, it was a personal victory; I’d not had a long run in months, I haven’t been running well at all.

A sub-2 hour half marathon is, in my book, a good race.  It didn’t feel like a good ending, but over all it felt like a good race.  I wound up with an 8:56 pace, with the last three miles taking their toll on my pace.  Lessons to build on.

Addendum:

I was disappointed and not a little salty that the Half Marathon finisher medals weren’t available at the finish line, but the communication around that really was top notch.  It was a regrettable situation, and the RD clearly regretted it.  We got a note at the finish, an email to follow up and I received this by week’s end.

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It’s a really slick medal, and truly the reason it wasn’t available (beyond the shipping issues) was that they had a custom medal for each distance; whatever happened behind the scenes, the public face of it was handled well and appreciated.  Not every race does that (I have two “Half Marathon-5k” medals and one “Marathon & Half Marathon”)   So while it was a drag at the time, it’s pretty sweet swag overall.

Results

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: #2 CMS 52-Week 5k

cms_logo_smallWhat a weird day.  I woke up to 59-degree weather, perhaps a touch overcast, but otherwise a very pleasant January morning.  Now, it was widely reported that today was going to be strange, going from a high of about 59 to a low of 7 – or there about – so I was paying attention to the weather forecast, but my iPhone was telling me it was going to be about 57 and overcast through about 11 AM or so, so I figured I was good to go.  Put on a short sleeve shirt, a pair of shorts and a light fleece.  ‘Ret to go.

At about 8:20, it was still about 58-59 and overcast, to script, when I went into the Worcester State University building to register.  I came out to a noticeably colder day – I’m guessing it must’ve lost 4 degrees in the time I was inside.

I went for a quick warmup run, during which it started to rain on me.  Back at the University building, I took off the fleece after deciding to run in shirt sleeves – after all it was still very much in the mid-50’s.

At about 8:50 we headed out to the starting line, and I quickly decided shirt sleeves was not going to be my thing today – according to Apple, it was now about 47-degrees and it was pouring.  Back on went the fleece, as I regretted having registered for this.

Here’s the start. Note here, I’m comfortably ahead of the pack – this doesn’t stand very long because I’m a terrible runner who knows nothing of pacing.

Running the course clockwise today probably helped as it’s mostly downhill, but there was a strong headwind during mile 2 – there were times I find myself unable to breath the wind was coming in so hard and fast at me, but by mile 3 the sun was out again  and it was probably in the low 40’s.  Just flat out crazy weather.  I’m sure my perception of the temps is off, but the story does play itself out in my splits with mile 2 being the slowest of the 3.

Note the lack of anyone near me at the finish (there’s a 0.1 mile overlap on the course to complete the 5k, which explains the Similar angle). Not really hard to tell the start of race pic from the race finish pic is it?

Official time: 25:14, not my best, not my worst.  It’s another minor victory for being the fastest 3-miles I’ve put down this year after having been laid up in December. I figured I’d  be chasing 26-minutes today, so I felt good that I didn’t.

Clockwise (last 5):

January 13, 2018: 25:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.
October 28, 2017: 24:53 Sunny and 56 degrees.
September 16, 2017: 25:56  Cloudy, humid, 60’s.
February 25, 2017:  24:36 cloudy, warm and 52 degrees.

2018 Race Recap: #1 Freezer Five

Image result for freezer five sterling maToday was pretty difficult.  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.

It’s not terribly challenging in terms of elevation profile: some slight elevation loss, some slight elevation gain. What makes it challenging is really just getting out there in the cold – today was somewhere around 5 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

I was about 20-seconds/mile slower today than I was a year ago.  A year ago the course was actually in much worse shape with snow, but it was definitely warmer.  I really felt the effect of having been laid up the better part of December, the result of having been relegated to a walking boot for most of the month.  The good news there is that while the doctors originally thought I had a partial Achilles tear, it turns out that it was tendinitis. So while the net effect of the boot was positive (my Achilles felt GREAT today), and despite the workouts I was doing while in the boot, I hadn’t changed my eating (read here more calories going in, fewer going out) so I packed on some pounds. Combined with a vast reduction in cardio work over that time, I was huffing and puffing my way through this.  In November, a group of us ran this course and I did it slightly faster than I ran the race last January, so I’m sure I could’ve hit this harder this year had I not been forced to take some time off running.  On the one hand, it would be easy to think of a missed opportunity, but really today is about giving myself grace: I came off the bench with a last minute decision to run and made it happen.

I considered my time today a minor victory given those circumstances and am generally pleased by the effort I put in out there.  It was difficult: between December 11 and today I had run 4 easy-miles yesterday.  I’m a little sore all over right now, but I’m glad I went out there and did it.  Onward and upward.

Distance: 5 Miles
2018 Time: 44:24 8:52 pace
2017 Time: 43:04 8:36.8 pace