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)

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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 #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)

2018 Race Recap #35: Newton Hill 5k Cross Country Series #1

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20th place this evening was not last. And I didn’t die.

Where Tuesdays in July hold the “Lake Park Summer Fitness 5k Series,” August holds the “Newton Hill 5k Cross Country Series” for the Central Mass Striders.  The races support the Friends of Newton Hill at Elm Park, an organization that supports the trail improvement in this area of Worcester behind Doherty High School.

Last year the course was modified due to construction around the park, but this year it’s back to it’s usual course. It is more or less the same – although I’d argue that the detoured course last year was probably less challenging or so it seemed: I’m looking at the elevation gain between the two courses and it looks like there may have been an additional 60′ of gain last year.  Of course, it’s self serving for me to claim this course was more challenging this year.

Today’s weather was BRU-TAL – 81 degrees, 74% humidity, heat warnings. Just gross, awful swamp weather. I took a quick warm up run and I was basically wearing wet clothes.

The course measured out on my watch at 2.99 miles and 344′ of gain.  Last years modifications yielded about 2.94 miles and about 410′ of gain.  I’m sure the longer distance makes up for some of the difference in gain, but probably not the totality.  I’m mindful though that trail running is inexact so everything is “approximate” anyway.

Now, last year on August 8, I ran this race at 32:45 – my worst 5k run in forever. I remember being so angry with my performance, but in my defense it had only been a few weeks since being able to run again so my conditioning and endurance were completely compromised. The next week, I ran it 29:56 – less bad, but still bad. I remember feeling pretty good about it, having showed some improvement. The following week, I went back down to over 30-minutes again. I was so angry with myself I didn’t stick around to collect up the shirt you get for doing three of the races. In retrospect, that evening was the closest to this evening of the three races.

There were a few times this evening that I disappointed myself – taking a few moments to walk to recover my heart rate. A few times I should’ve kept going and I let up on myself. Maybe the right move, maybe not. Hard to know beyond giving myself  something to improve the next time. All of that said, I think I did really well tonight – finished about middle of the pack, right about where I usually am. Which means my 28:17 time is pretty much par for the course, but vastly better than anything last year.

RESULTS

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 #34: CMS 52-Week 5K

How’s that receding hairline treating you there buddy? Photo credit: @ThatKimGordon

Today was a bit of a lark. I wasn’t sure I would actually run the race, but I did have to get my miles in. We have house guests this week, one of whom I’ve been running with: he is into Nordic walking, so while I run, he does his walking and it works out well. Recently, the running club has promoted a “walking” aspect to the race, actively seeking walkers to do a timed walk of the course. He was down with the idea, so he and I went down to Worcester State to do the 5k.

While they’ve been here a few days, I seem to have gained about 5-pounds which is definitely an unhappy development – especially since over that time I’ve run 16 miles. We may have stayed up a bit later last night than would generally be considered appropriate training regimine, and with that in mind I figured today would be a train wreck.

It wasn’t. Well, not really. It still wasn’t great – better than the last time I ran it last month, with the closest comparator being last November’s 24:55 time. It’s 11-seconds faster than last month which is a positive, but in re-reading my description of the race (nagging injury, conditioning) and my action plan (increase mileage, more frequent long runs) I see that really hasn’t done too much – enough to get me 11-seconds, but not much else. I went out HARD in mile 1 – a 7:01 min/mile and despite my best efforts, I realize that was entirely too fast – it was a fast group today, and to my detriment, I tried to keep up with the big dogs. I’m not sure of my actual pacing after that, as my watch lost the satellite connection midway through the second mile and for some reason when it reconnected, it decided that I had run an additional .3 mile. I know about where that happened based on the map it drew, but as far as doing the math to figure out what my actual pace was for that mile, it’s going to be lost to history. But, what I do know the time translates to about an 8:02 pace for the overall race, and given that I know my first mile was 7:01, it’s not really hard to figure out that at least one of the following miles was pretty disgraceful.

It’s not so funny after 3+ miles of that nonsense, now is it? Photo Credit: @thatKimGordon

I have noticed this past month or so running in the heat and humidity — prior to this year its something that to this point I have not done with any consistency either due to injury or motivation — I am a big sweaty mess. Almost as if someone poured a bucket of water over my head. Today, I had to wring out my headband. Just. Gross. I don’t know why this is or if it’s normal to get that disgusting, especially after a short race like a 5k. I don’t know if that’s my body telling me that my conditioning is terrible, or if it’s normal, or what. I do think, though, that it reflects the effort my body is putting out and that it means I’m working far harder (at least on these hot, humid days) than my pace would suggest. So, perhaps come October, when the weather is cooler and far less humid, I’ll be in far better condition to go back to tearing up these races.

Clockwise (last 5):

July 28, 2018: 24:57. Humid, 76. Disgusting swamp weather.
June 16, 2018: 25:08. 75, clear. Beautiful.
February 24, 201824:16. Mid-40’s,  clear
January 27, 201824:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 201825:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy

2018 Race Recap #33: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #3

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Know how I know I #didntdie?

Last week’s race was canceled due to extreme weather: lightning, flash floods, the whole deal. It was a drag because I really had expected to be able to run this race, but like most things it’s important to have a plan B in place: It rained a good portion of the morning so when the weather broke, I went for a run around the reservoir that engulfed my hometown some 120 years ago.

It’s been a week of really odd weather. Rain. Sun. Humidity. 3-seasons in each day odd, really. Where last Tuesday had me up and running at noon to get my 4+ miles in, today was a bit of a weak effort. I basically counted on this happening, despite the continuing odd weather. This time it paid off…which is good because I would have let myself down otherwise.

Taking a step back, away from the race recap, I’m working on a running goal of 1500 in 2018 – a 50% increase over my goal of a year ago. Now, I follow a bunch of cats on Strava who are not only killing that, 1500 miles is well in their rear view mirror. I have to work a lot harder to stay on task. Running is not something I particularly like nor does it come particularly easy to me. And, not without some consideration, I have a job that requires some consistency and presence. In other words, I have to take the opportunities when they’re presented and make a conscious effort to make those opportunities. There are only so many hours in a day to make it happen.

Fast forward a week. I went for a 5+ mile run Monday morning, went to fitness bootcamp at noon, and did another 5+ mile run Monday evening. I woke up today from a fitful sleep, just an anxious, sleepless evening. My legs and abductors were sore all day from the bootcamp work out. Basically, my body was giving me every reason not to succeed.  The humidity was high. The temperature was high. I hadn’t done very much today. All kinds of reasons to underperform for this race.

So, I decided to do what I did last week: Do a mile or so warm up, and go all out the first mile and see where that left me.  Duke wasn’t running this week, but I still took his admonition for a 24-minute race to heart.  And guess what. It turns out last week the course was about .04-mile longer than this week, and controlling for that, I ran pretty much the same race.  Technically, this one was faster – by two seconds a mile.  Last week I ran a 7:58-mile pace; this week a 7:57. My mile breaks were almost exactly the same:

Mile 1 – This week 7:23, Last Week 7:32
Mile 2 – This week 7:55, Last Week :7:54
Mile 3 – This week 8:36, Last Week: 8:28

The saving grace for weekly improvement? Mile 1. I was comparatively faster on mile 1 this week over last, than I was last week over this week on mile 3. That slightly shorter distance gave me a 20-second advantage over last week, but otherwise it was pretty much the same race. I’d likely have come in slightly faster had it measured out – I was accelerating downhill across the finish – but it was basically the same. I’m pretty sure the difference in mile 3 was not feeling the competition of having a friend to catch up front. My other running buddies are either ridiculously fast and had long since finished or were behind enough that I wasn’t feeling the pressure to push harder —- to my detriment.

So, there it is. Essentially the same race I ran two weeks ago. A little faster on the first mile, a little slower on the third. My heart rate was exactly the same for both. It doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but since I’m really kind of searching for a positive here, I’ll take it.

RESULTS

July 24, 2018: 24:13
July 10, 2018: 24:35
July 25, 2017: 27:48
July 26, 2016: 25:57
July 12, 2016: 26:34
July 5, 2016: 27:32

 

2018 Race Recap #30: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #2

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Good for 17th overall.  I’m pleased.

Another mouthful.  The Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series is a weekly 5k my running club holds on Tuesdays in July. It seems like an overly long title for a mid-week race, but whatever. It’s a legit race, probably moreso than the 52-Week 5k Series the club offers on Saturdays. It’s $5 to enter if you’re not a member, free to members, and it turns out CMS members really like free stuff.  As it happens, it was seeing this on the calendar that initially had me join the club in the first place: $20/yearly dues and if I did these races it paid for itself; also of note, the 52-week 5k price drops from $5 to $3 for members, so for a guy that was into running a truckload of races that year, it made all the sense in the world.

I seem to miss at least one of these races for some reason or another. Last week, it was a vacation. Last summer, I think I may have done one race coming back from falling down a mountain and it was pretty ugly – my time last summer was mere seconds slower than the first time I ran.   The first year I did three of them.

This is the third year I’ve been running to any magnitude. The first year, I didn’t know what to expect from running in summer, didn’t do enough and just rode the struggle bus through it.  Last summer, I spent June and most of July on the DL which left me out of condition and still unaware as to how to run in heat. This is the first time I’ve been able to actually put any real concerted effort into running in heat and humidity.

I can tell immediately that I’m not hydrating myself nearly enough, and I’m finding it’s my willingness to exert myself in less than ideal conditions that is getting in my way — like most things it’s the head that gets in the way more than anything else.

As it turns out, my head got in the way again this evening – just not for the whole race, so I guess that’s progress.

It’s a generally flat course – my GPS recorded a 2′ elevation gain overall: a loop around Worcester’s Lake Park before exiting the park, down a few blocks and back into the park to finish where it starts.  There’s generally a pretty good turnout – usually more than 70 or so runners – and the club does a small cook out featuring under cooked hot dogs and Polar seltzer water.  Hey, what do you want for “free?”  It’s truly a gem of a race, powered solely by an active group of volunteers.

I did a quick mile warm up which wasn’t pretty. I struggled through it at a moderate pace and I could feel every bit of my bootcamp workout from yesterday – nothing like jump squats to really let you know what for. The big difference tonight, beyond attempting to not let my head get in my way, was my running buddy Duke showed up at the last minute after having been stuck in traffic.  He challenged me to a 24-minute race, I said I was going to go all out for the first mile and see where that left me, but that I hadn’t seen sub-25 in some time.

And so it goes: I went out as fast as I could for the first mile and played it by ear from there.  Going back to the volunteers, it was super helpful that they were all out there at apparently strategic points to direct traffic, but it turns out just as I was wanting to quit I would see a friend of mine and obvi didn’t want to look like a wuss or that I couldn’t handle it in front of my friends…and of course once by them, I had to get a safe distance away so they couldn’t see me wussing…but then of course I’d see another friend.  If the antagonist getting in my way is my head, sometimes it’s helpful that circumstances conspire to use that antagonist against itself.

It wasn’t my best race, but it was my best race in a while. Basically, it’s what I needed: I got over the hot weather hump, I exerted myself, pushed myself and showed myself that performing in hot, humid weather doesn’t have to mean a half effort. I finished a full minute (and almost a half!) faster than any previous effort – it didn’t have to be my best race to be a good race. NOTE: My self time of 24:42 seems to be off from the official 24:35. I know I didn’t stop my watch as soon as I crossed the line but I didn’t think I had waited 7 seconds, so I’m not sure what’s up there.

RESULTS

July 10, 2018: 24:35
July 25, 2017: 27:48
July 26, 2016: 25:57
July 12, 2016: 26:34
July 5, 2016: 27:32