2018 Race Recap #12: Celtic 5k

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The funny part is that just before the race started, I was trying to point out the “Care Bear,” but he was otherwise cloaked in anonymity amongst everyone wearing the green race shirts discussed below. Photo Credit: Kim Gordon.

I haven’t been “into” 5k’s very much in some time – I run my running club’s weekly 5k races, but other than that I haven’t been seeking them out. I’m trying to be more of a longer distance runner — I’ll choose a longer distance over the shorter most times.  I was asked to run with the primary sponsor, Sneakerama, so why wouldn’t I do that?

As an aside, Sneakerama is a small, local business that just does some really great running centric stuff: Steve sponsors a lot of local races, does a free weekly “fun run” from the store, packet pick ups for races.  Things like that.  And look at the Yelp and Google reviews. Steve conducts his business the way you would hope a business owner would: he gives back to the community, and doing good by the community is always good business.

Race shirts, stylized after Glasgow, Scotland’s Celtic FC’s kit – or, for we Americans, Celtic’s soccer uniform.

The Celtic 5k is part of a trifecta of “St. Patricks Day” races in the area, and there’s usually a pretty big turn out so they do a nice job of swag.  It’s a fun take.  The best part of the day was that the family got involved too: the kids both registered and my wife volunteered giving out the Celtic FC stylized shirts.


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Someone is dubious either about taking the selfie or about the race – I’m not entirely sure which. Note the photobomber on the left giving the rabbit ears. Smooth move there, Farkus.

It’s a very simple, flat(ish) and fast, out-and-back course.  As a large race, it caters to runners of all skill levels and abilities: it’s more about the party than the race itself, and that’s fine.  As I said earlier, it’s a good time. When you’re finished, you get some finisher swag, a bottle of water, perhaps a banana or a slice or two of pizza if you want it.  Beer? Hell, yeah. This is Worcester.  There are no less than 15 official after-parties and a beer garden.

A quick warm-up around Worcester’s Elm Park and I was ready to go.  Good as clockwork, the National Anthem played, and at 11 AM sharp, the horn sounded.

The first mile was smooth.  I thought it would be more difficult getting past some of the slower folks that some how decided it was a good idea to crowd the finish line, but it didn’t play out that way.  Dodged and weaved, ultimately finding some clear running room.  When my watch buzzed after a mile, I couldn’t believe how fast a pace I was running: 6:58. Mile 2 was a little less speedy, about 7:2.  I was struggling a bit as the first mile and a half or so was a slow ride down hill, a turn around to start the out and back meant that the distance we’d been running slightly downhill was now slightly uphill…although when I’m going up, it always seems far more significantly up than it was going down.  #Perception.

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Team Sneakerama: For the Long Run.

Now into mile 3, I was definitely feeling it and were I not racing I would have slowed, walked, or maybe even paused the Garmin, today I pushed through. Where yesterday I emotionally gave up, today I doubled down.  I was angry with myself after the race yesterday and I was determined not to be that guy again today. I was far too close to a personal record that I was not going to give it up.

Over that last mile, I went back and forth with one of the guys from my running club. He usually bests me and the fact that I was even close to him was exciting (and yes, he’s in his 60’s and crushing it on a regular basis. He went by me at the turn, I went by him a little before the second mile marker, he came up behind me and offered some encouragement as he went by, and just past the Mile 3 marker, the finish line in sight, I pushed through, passed him, and crossed the line in a personal best 22:46.  My goal was to beat yesterday’s time, and get as close to 23-Minutes as possible.  I was suffering at the end, I mean it took a LOT to push that last 0.1 mile, but it happened for me today.  Who knows if I’ll ever run another 5k that fast, it’s not easy for a squat guy with stubby legs to move that quickly – a runners’ build I do not have – so I will cherish the feeling of today.


Overall: 91/2054
M: 77/825
M 40-49: 16/203



2018 Race Recap #11: CMS 52-Week 5k

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SNIPED: Just didn’t see this guy coming. Photo Credit: Kim Gordon

Where the course direction usually alternates between Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise, this was the second straight week of Counter Clockwise running. It’s a safety issue the RD puts into place when the course has snowpack or otherwise sketchy conditions: when the course isn’t fully clear of snow, it makes sense to run against traffic to be sure cars can see you, and you them, when there’s a spot on the course that may result in some last second corrections.

Such as it was today after a pretty hefty snowstorm Thursday.

It was pretty cold this morning, chilly – upper 20’s, low-30’s – but the wind…oh, the wind was blowing just making it very chilly to be out in running clothes.  I did a couple of one-mile warm up runs around the Worcester State campus: nothing too fast or strenuous, but just enough to warm up the muscles, wearing a warm up jacket to get used to the wind and cold.

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12-Seconds away from another goal: to get below 24:00:00 on this course.

And then, almost just like that, it was 9 AM.  Runners’ set! Go! And we were off.  While I wasn’t thrilled to be out there running this morning, I set off at a pretty good pace – I ran the first two miles faster than I have run any two miles: 7:16 and &7:28 – but consistent with the approach I’ve been taking lately with these short races (go all out for as long as I can and just try to keep pushing it), long about mile 2.7 the wheels just came off.  I actually marked the point on my watch so I knew the point at which I had pretty much given up. The first .7 of that mile I was running at 8:03 – which, had I kept my mind on, I would have crushed my first sub-24 minute time on this course. The rest of the course I ran at an 8:29 pace.  Worst? At the very last second, the guy behind me came and sniped my place.  I deserved that, and frankly had I realized he was there, it wouldn’t have changed anything: I was beat. Coming around the last corner and down the final 0.1 mile stretch, there was this headwind that combined with my relative exhaustion made it feel like I was moving in slow motion.

Positives: I’m very close to cracking that 24-minute barrier on this course.  Today I came 11-seconds short.  11 flipping seconds.  Gah.  All because I was satisfied with what I had done to that point.  I couldn’t push it further for 0.4 more mile.  That’s going to sting for a bit, but will hopefully motivate me for tomorrow.

Counter Clockwise (Last 5):

March 10: 24:11, 32-degrees, windy
March 3: 24:30 40-ish degrees, cloudy
February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17

2018 Race Recap #9: CMS 52-Week 5k

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I like small races because it allows me to say I had a “top 10 finish” despite being slow and paunchy.

As it happens this was also Week 9 of the 2018 52-Week race.  Over the last, we’ll say 30 hours, the weather has been a touch sketchy.  A Nor’easter blew through the area beginning yesterday, with threats of upward of 12″ of snow for Central Massachusetts. Winds whipped around all day yesterday, knocking out power lines, downing trees and on the coast high tides flooded significant swaths. For all the threatened fury, however, Central Massachusetts received some decent winds, but a mere dusting of snow.

By 8:00 AM, it was perhaps 37-38 degrees, a stiff breeze blowing on occasion, and cloudy as though more rain threatened.  Just the kind of day where I look around, look up, and wonder if I really want to run this race.  Chilly, but not cold. Gray,  but not dark.  About as middling as you can get.  Even as I showed up at Worcester State, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run or if I was just going to hang out and volunteer: after all, I do have a bit of a race coming up tomorrow and I’m not entire sure I’m ready for it.

As I walked in the room, the lone Central Mass Striders (CMS) volunteer greeted me, and wrote my name down. Whelp, I’m registered. I guess that means I’m racing today.  I was a little concerned because I woke up a little stiff this morning, so I went and did a warm up mile to shake out the cobwebs and that helped a lot. It was surprisingly fast; I thought I was moving far slower than I actually turned out to be moving, more stutter steps than outright strides, but it felt good.

Today’s race was Counter Clockwise, so that meant rather than finish at the Aristotle statue, we start there.  The first couple of miles felt pretty good. Not only was I moving at an historically fast pace for me, I maintained it pretty well through those first two miles.  Of course, “pretty well” is a relative expression – there’s an 8-second pace difference between the two miles, but for me to maintain that sub-8 minute pace for 2-miles it’s a personal victory.  Mile 3 is the one that ALWAYS gives me fits because it’s uphill and it was especially difficult today with the headwind blowing from the remnants of the storm. Again, I found myself traipsing up part of the hill because I’d burned so much fuel trying to maintain the pace on the first two miles. I’m going to have to get more mentally strong there because I know I missed a sub-24 minute race because of it…or at the very least gave up a shot at a personal record on that course because of it.

Overall, I finished with a 24:30 time – historically a great time for me so I can’t be too upset with myself, but I am upset in as much as I could’ve been faster and I hate that I settled for less.

Counter Clockwise (Last 5):

March 3: 24:30 40-ish degrees, cloudy
February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17

2018 Race Recap #8: CMS 52-Week 5k

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Aristotle and me.  We’re tight.  My self timing skills were a tad off this week it seems: the official time was 24:16.

I tried something a little different for myself today. I have been doing some quick warm up jogs recently; before the last race I did a mile around the Worcester State campus. Today, I went out early and ran the entire 3.1-Mile course counterclockwise. I didn’t burn myself up doing it, but I did have a nice little 8:20 pace going which is actually faster than some of my race times so I wasn’t sure how I would perform today.

As it turns out, I gained 8 seconds on my previous personal best in this direction on this course – and 6 second on my previous best on this course in either direction. This one didn’t feel as fast as the previous two races, but it turns out I conserved a little more energy instead of blowing the doors off the first mile. I thought I just felt a little sluggish, but the second and third miles were faster.

Over the last few weeks, my resting heart rate has come down quite steadily as well; by mile 1 my heart rate had spiked far above what might be considered 100% at my age, but came down to a more manageable rate when I slowed down just a little bit. While I knew my conditioning was getting better and I knew it should play out in my race time, I didn’t know how it would play out.  I’m encouraged. Slower first mile made for a couple of faster miles thereafter.

I’m hoping to get a long training run in tomorrow, so no racing, but the weather may have something to say about that (in which case, it’ll be the treadmill). I’m scared and excited about the Stu’s 30k Race next weekend, which will be my longest street race ever.

Relive ‘CMS 52-Week 5k’


Clockwise (last 5):

February 24, 2018: 24:16. Mid-40’s,  clear
January 27, 201824:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 201825:14   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.

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.


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

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.