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

Photo
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)