As I sat down to write this, I realized I hadn’t read my last write up for this race when it was last held in person in 2019. I was surprised to read that I had essentially the same issues at the same points – I mean, today I didn’t have the foresight to use the porta-potty before the race and paid for that starting about mile 3.5, and my shoelace didn’t come undone – and ran essentially the same race, despite the fact that it was roughly 20-degrees cooler today than then. So, all-in-all, despite running today 27-seconds faster, I’d say I had the better race then.
The untied shoe in 2019 likely cost me a wash on that mile, I had a better mile 3 today, but a much better mile 5 two years ago. By that point today I was suffering a bit of terror from the aforementioned miscalculation, but also my piriformis has been giving me a little grief lately and I could definitely feel that bad boy getting aggro with me.
In 2019, I finished 26th. Today, I finished 23rd. Seems like a reasonably consistent field.
Fred Warren passed away in 2020, and it was nice to be able to meet his son today – a genuinely nice person who was pleased to volunteer setting up the start/finish area and that the club was continuing to run the race. As it happens, Fred started the club that became Central Mass Striders, so in a real way we wouldn’t be here without Fred.
It’s been a while since I ran a 5k – looks like it’s been since December 2019 since I actually raced one. This was the race that started me toward believing I could become a better runner – faster, do longer distances, more consistent. The club that runs the race –Central Mass Striders – has become important to me as a support system for both running and lasting personal friendships, but also giving back, so since the return of racing in Massachusetts I’ve been volunteering at this race while we work out the kinks on a new course and getting people back into the swing of things.
This week with the July 4 holiday on Sunday, meaning a long weekend for a lot of folks and the generally crummy weather, I figured there wouldn’t be too many people out running this race (I was correct) and with some encouragement that we could get some course monitors, but only if I ran the race, it was an easy decision to make.
Where in the before times the course was around the neighborhoods surrounding Worcester State University and Tatnuck Square in Worcester, and since the college is still not allowing outside events, the club partnered with a fitness club, Worcester Fitness, in another part of the city, to use the course the fitness club had typically used and to use their facilities for registration and the like.
It’s a reasonably familiar 5k route in Worcester, around Indian Lake. Worcester Fitness uses it for their runs, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, and the Greendale YMCA and Bancroft School used to run the Shore Park 5k using it but starting on the other side of the lake.
The first week we ran the race – June 5 – we had 34 participants. 31 the following week. 26 the next two weeks. The month of June gifted us with some beautiful Saturday weather. Today, July was kinder in terms of temperature, but the happenstance of the calendar noted earlier and the rain gave us 15 runners.
I ran a pretty good race today. I didn’t feel great, but I knew I was running pretty quickly, keeping up with the eventual winner for roughly half of the first mile and keeping him within shooting distance for probably 3.5k. I started off in first or second and kept that place for the entirety of the race and I got to High-5 a pair of very enthusiastic course monitors as I ran by which lifted my spirits.
Just as my watch clicked off mile 2, my heart rate was skyrocketing – I haven’t pushed that hard in a long time and it caught up with me – so I actually walked for a short bit while I brought it down. Short races are much different in terms of pacing and I’ve clearly not practiced running hard and short.
I finished with some of the best mile splits I think I’ve had in a very long time, if not ever, and came in second – which has NEVER happened. I’ve never even sniffed second place in any race. This was a top-3 5k effort for me. The dirty little secret here is that it’s probably a Personal Best, given the Top 2 are times earned at Canal Diggers races, widely known in the area as something shorter than 5k. But, it is what it is.
I’m only about a month behind with this recap, so I’m likely leaving a bunch of details out. It turns out that it’s a little hard to keep all the balls in the air when there are a hundred balls in the air, and they’re made of lead, and the clown in the corner of the room is throwing water balloons at you.
BUT a race is a race. This was the second of two that are on my calendar that wasn’t deferred from last year.
Unlike a lot of trail races, this one was really well marked – there was never a question as to where a runner needed to go. There were appropriate aid-stations every 4 miles or so.
About 5k into the race, there’s a really technical “killer hill” that accounts for most of the elevation gain of the event. Basically straight up, over boulders and the like. Otherwise, the trail itself – although there is a healthy sample of single track trail – isn’t terribly technical. I made the strategic error of wearing my Salomon Speedcross shoes thinking it would be a lot more technical, which compromised some of the cushioning and comfort another choice would have provided. It’s not child’s play – rocks and roots and all kinds of potential ankle twisters are afoot – but it wasn’t highly technical. It was warm and that too slowed things down.
I had made a plan for 3 hours for completion. It took me 3.5 and I really thought I had blown it because I only saw a smattering of other runners near me since that killer hill and the ones I did were basically running away from me, but as it turned out I finished 57 of 133. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to be ashamed of either. My ultrasignup ranking essentially stayed the same and I finished right about where their projections would have put me.
Hello racing, my old friend. I’ve come to run with you again. Sorry for the delayed post here. Reasons.
May 2 and we’re on race #1 of the year. One of the more regrettable casualties of the COVID pandemic has been road racing. It seems that the science has been clear for some time that the risk of transmission outside is pretty low. Now, I get it – low isn’t none, and the science is not wholly conclusive as to what the risk is – but when we’re opening restaurants indoors, it makes little to no sense why racing has taken such a long time to get under way, at least in Massachusetts.
I wasn’t going to register for this race; I hated the way the organizers handled the marathon cancelation last year, and I can carry a grudge especially when being told that my $100 was being kept, but I could run a “virtual marathon” instead. I was convinced to register and in retrospect, I’m glad I did for all kinds of good reasons.
Leading up to the actual race itself, I was feeling less than secure that it was even going to happen based on the organizers lacking communication around last year’s cancellation, the lack of course maps, lacking attention to COVID protocols, an out-of-date website and their social media “don’t worry about it” answer to me about the status of the event combined to make for an uneasy vibe. But, they got it together enough to actually run the race.
The COVID protocols included a waved start, where 4-runners would go off every 10-seconds, we had to wear a mask at the start for the first mile of the race and at the finishline – to the point that as I was coming down the finish line chute, one of the finish line volunteers was directing me to put my mask on. I’m sure that if there’s a finish line picture (again, one of these small details they didn’t seem to get quite right) it’s of me in my adled race mind, fumbling around looking for a face covering.
The course was reasonably well marked, until the last we’ll say 1-2 miles. There were plenty of opportunities for wrong turns and confusion. The marathon bibs were blue and the half marathon bibs were red, but the directional arrows on the streets were the opposite. This wasn’t a problem for most of the race, but at end it caused some difficulty for some folks not named Morrissey. There was another spot that where a volunteer would have been helpful between mile 12 and 13 – we knew there was a left turn to head toward the finish, but there was one spot where it wasn’t entirely clear and I saw at least one person start to head up that way. Last, down by RISD, there was a little plaza area where to go straight was to go down three steps or so (seems like an unusual obstacle to put in the middle of a race course) or down a handicapped ramp (again, another odd choice). Since the course was open, there were a few kids on scooters that were going down the ramp, so I was left to run down the steps. I can only think I must’ve missed the “real” option and in which case, course marking rather than the course was the issue – either way, it was suboptimal.
The last 0.1-mile or so of the course was a slight uphill – which felt like an unnecessary challenge, but helped provide a slight decent to the finish.
Overall it was a good race, a good day.
Overall: 116th of 670 Male: 73rd of 253 Male 50 to 59: 6th of 52
2020: New England Half Marathon 1:42:52 2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32 2021: Providence Half Marathon 1:43:53 2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58 2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23 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 2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47 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 2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1