2019 Race Recap #13: Worcester Firefighters 6k

2019 Finisher Medal

An unusual distance, 6k. First the story. Sometime during the evening on December 3, 1999, a cold storage building at 299 Franklin Street, Worcester began burning. The building was apparently known for housing squatters, and in this case a couple had set a fire for warmth. By the end of the day, 6 firefighters were unaccounted for, and whose bodies were not recovered for another 8 days.

Thomas Spencer, 42
Paul Brotherton, 41
Timothy Jackson, 51
Jeremiah Lucey, 38
James Lyons, 34
Joseph McGuirk, 38

This race memorializes these firefighters in it’s name and distance – 6k. Worcester holds another race, named specifically for Jay Lyons, earlier in the year for fundraising toward a memorial scholarship at Doherty High School in Worcester. I ran that race last year, although I missed it this year.

The Firefighters 6k is a great city race, this 19th year of the race there were over 1000 runners. There’s a wonderful finish festival with burgers, free treats from Worcester Based sponsors Table Talk Pies and Polar Beverages, and the swag is also pretty sweet. Now, I’m not much on swag for 5(-ish)k races, but this one is not most. The finisher medal really is something.

Inscribed on the back are the names of the six firefighters who died in that fire 20 years ago this year.

Team Sneakerama representing.

For the last two years, I’ve run the Newport 10-Miler and for some inexplicable reason I failed to register for it this year. So given my availability, I was able to join Team Sneakerama for this race instead. Now the course itself is just shy of 6k – where 6k is roughly 3.73 miles, the course winds up being about 3.6. Sure there are probably some hacks that could be made, but at the end of the day it’s close enough. Just enough longer than a 5k to make it a little more challenging. It’s pretty flat, there are a couple of tunnels to run through that go down and, by definition up on the way back, and the finish is a slight incline at the top of the hill by Institute Park. I found it a fast, flat course as it wound through Worcester.

Pretty fly for a white guy

It was pretty hot for a day that was projected to be overcast, if not a little rainy – the shade was cool, but man in the sun it got hot fairly quick. I was running a little too fast to be sustainable under most circumstances, but seeing people I know on the course was great and really kept me going. By the time I got to the 3 mile point, I really wanted to quit, stop and walk, but my competitive nature got the better of me and I slogged through. At mile 3.3, I really had had enough but again, saw friends and kept going. That slight incline to the finish seemed like it must’ve been 500′.

I was somewhat surprised at the results. I had been shooting for a 7:50/8:00 minute pace, but wound up with an unofficial 7:17. My official pace was 7:04 (because of the whole difference between 3.73-miles and 3.6-miles). I’m really super pleased, because this really could have been a train wreck between the humidity and my general feeling of grumpiness. End of day, I finished with a respectable time – especially given I have 5k finishes that are slower.

Also, more importantly, Sneakerama finished as second fastest team – losing to the Wormtown Milers, who poached a couple of ringers from my club CMS. My saltiness aside, it was a fun race and I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

RESULTS

26:22
Overall: 68/1067
M: 62/457
M 40-49: 7/91

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2018 Race Recap #48: 5 Miles for the Memory Turkey Trot

It’s been almost a month since my last race. I’m not sure I really like the marathon distance: the half is really attainable, but still a challenge. The marathon just took a lot out of me, physically to be sure, but mentally too. Which is not to say I haven’t been working out, but when I’ve had the opportunity to race, I’ve declined. Then there is the small thing of a late-autumn vacation to celebrate the inlaws 50th (50!!!) wedding anniversary.

10-days on what is essentially a floating buffet and inclusive drink package.  A beautiful caribbean cruise over an extended period of time, but that does two things: makes you a little soft, and acclimates you to caribbean weather.  Which is not New England weather.  Today, Thanksgiving Day, was 12-degrees at race time.  It’s November 22 and it’s 12-degrees.  Seriously?

So the 40-odd miles I put on the odometer on the treadmill did help mitigate weight gain, but did nothing for my hill training.  And Shrewsbury, Massachusetts is not flat.  Needless to say, I was feeling a little less than prepared, but at least I knew it had the potential to be a clusterfluff.  

The first two miles of this course are down hill. The next three are up.  Guess which two were my fastest.  It’s a super course in a super handsome part of the town.  It was almost a pleasure that it was cold out – because it started off downhill, it kind of made for the lack of a warm up.  Now almost exactly at the 2-mile mark, the UP started. The third mile was as steep going up as the second was going down. 85′ in gain vs. 86′ in loss.  That mile wiped me out pretty good.  I did the first two miles with a 7:41 pace. That third was a 9:00.  I ran the rest of the race with a 8:37 – mile 4 had 11′ of gain, essentially flat, and mile 5 had 47′. Both were 8:37.  Normally, that wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but I really did feel underprepared after a month off from anything much more than treadmills.

All in all, it wasn’t the horror show I expected, but it was cold. I normally like cooler weather–  my body isn’t expending energy cooling itself off — but when it’s so cold, I feel all those places where the blood flow isn’t quite what it should be. I feel good that this felt good.

Now, onto Thanksgiving!

Results:

WHich are unofficial because I apparently don’t show up in the results.  Grrrrr.

41:44

2018 Race Recap #43: Shore Park 5k

A last minute thing, I mean like really last minute. Like 10 PM the night before last minute. Hard to say “no” when your friend offers you a bib for a race.  I’ve actually run the course before for a group “fun run,” so I as familiar with it – not terribly hilly: it’s a full loop, and somehow my watch recorded 105′ of gain and 125′ of loss, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

It’s a pretty cool (64 degrees), low humidity (56%) day so it was a really good day for a race, unlike say last week.  It was also a decent size (I’ll say roughly 180 runners) but not “major,” but the infrastructure around it – police details, radio station playing music, and the like – would have suggested a much larger race.

I quite liked the vibe of the start/finish line, but have to say there could have been a little more attention to some of the essentials.  There was about 10-minutes between the playing of the National Anthem in the parking lot and the start of the race on the street; runners were congregating at their respective paces (the race gets points for this) and spilling into the street, whereupon a police officer came up and asked people onto the sidewalk because the street was open to traffic and there were 3-officers assigned to the detail.  Now, I would think 3 should have sufficed to direct traffic around runners, but apparently not.  The first mile or so was fine (except for the quick under the interstate overpass, where work was being done – can’t do much about that), but as we reached a main street, there were no volunteers or police presence to stop cars entering the street from side streets, and a few more aggressive drivers were busy honking at the runners.  This was not an inexpensive race – day of registration was $40 – so paying customers could have – rightly so – expected a little more in the way of amenities.

Other than those slights, it was a nice race with a pretty good course on a very nice day for running.  It was the first time I’d ever actually placed in my age group (3rd!) and I finished 15th overall in a race with more than 16 runners. I wasn’t as fast today as I was a couple of weeks ago, but that’s okay – that race is likely to be my high water mark for some time (if not forever) – because I was faster than last week, although I’m sad that the weather seems to have that great an effect on me.  That said, when the winner finishes a 5k at 20:23, I feel pretty good finishing where I did at 23:14…even if mile 3 was slow and plodding: I should’ve knocked another 30 seconds off that time.

shore park

Results

Net Time: 23:14.2 Pace: 7:29 Gun Time: 23:18.6

 

2018 Race Recap #42: Worcester City View 5k

Some days are better than others; some races go better than others. In the greater scheme of things, this wasn’t a terrible race for me, it’s just that in view of last week’s race, my time was disappointing. Where last week was cool and humidity non-existent, today was in the 80’s with 97% humidity. It was gross.

I was feeling crummy about the time – 24:03 – and feeling like it should have been better, until I saw the results. I mean, the winner today was preposterously fast – really good runners are preposterously fast if it’s cool or hot or humid or what. Needless to say, I’m not a really good runner.  But my 24:03 time was good for 28th in a race with more than 28 runners – 324 in total, although that said there were a fair number of walkers – so its clear to me that the weather slowed a lot of folks down.

The course has a fair amount of elevation gain, and as it turns out, I’ve run the course a couple of times already this year without realizing it so I had some experience with it. I should’ve done a long run today, The Marine Corps Marathon is only a few weeks away now, but I committed to doing this and looking back I’m glad I did because I think it would’ve been an ugly mess.

I’ve generally stayed away from 5ks other than the ones my running club puts on because I’ve been focusing on the longer distance races, sometimes though a quick short race is helps let you know how you’re progressing and I think that’s what was accomplished today. So no personal records, but a demonstratively solid progression.

Results:

24:03 | 7:44.5 /mi
Overall: 28/324
M: 23/139

     

    2018 Race Recap #41: Canal Diggers 5k

    I wasn’t going to run this race – there was a 10k trail race I was looking at and was leaning in that direction. I like trail races, they’re physically challenging and generally inexpensive. This one was less than $20 after a coupon code. BUT, I was beseeched at my Thursday fun run and couldn’t resist: there’s something about running with your tribe that makes racing fun. When you know people, and can hang around before and after, the experience is great.

    The course is pretty (read here: very) flat and most folks come up just short of 3-miles on their watch. I registered exactly 3.1 on mine and I’m not sure what that says about my stuff. The course starts and ends just off Worcester’s Kelley Square – future home of the Worcester Red Sox – by the DCU Center (or as we old timers call it, the Centrum) up to Main Street, and back.  It’s also put on by the Hibernian Hall, which is evident by the fact you’re given 2 beer tickets on your bib…with 1 food ticket that you can convert to a beer ticket if you want.

    I found the course over all well marked and staffed, my only issue was just coming out of Kelley Square, the course got a little tight and it was clear not everyone lined up according to their projected pace, so there were a bunch of people bottlenecked and weren’t moving as quickly as I would have preferred.  Other than that, it was great.

    At about mile 2.2, I started to realize I had pushed too hard and actually walked a bit. I was competing back and forth with a teenage girl from a local school team and when she started to walk, I felt like I had just been given a pass that I took.  I realized, though, that I had an opportunity to PR and didn’t want to quit on myself so I picked it up again.

    I really wanted to quit here.

    Going back to the whole tribe thing, when you see your friends volunteering on the course, it’s super helpful to your morale. As it happens I saw a few friends spectating and volunteering especially at the last half mile or so and when you see these folks cheering for you, it’s the best motivation in the world to keep going.  As I came down the last bit of course, under the bridge where I really just wanted to quit but didn’t, and around the corner where I could see the finish, I pushed through with every little bit I had left.

    I’m pretty sure I was close to death as I crossed that line: I honestly cannot remember the last time I left everything out there on a 5k course. Fully gassed. I thought I would never be as fast as I was for the Celtic 5k. I remember feeling great that day, running with my kids, and just blowing the lid off.  I didn’t feel particularly great for this race but I felt confident. I wasn’t going to run this race, but I’m happy I did.

    To make it even better, I helped Team Sneakerama win fastest team.

    Results

    Time: 21:13 | 6:49.7 /mi
    Overall 55/617
    M: 42/282
    M 40-49: 7/65

     

    2018 Race Recap #17: Jay Lyons Memorial 5k

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    Pretty slick race shirt. Got a pint glass instead of a finisher medal – I’m not sure how I feel about that, finisher medals are actually a little more useful to me than additional glassware, but it’s something.

    The Jay Lyons 5k is now in its 18th year – a memorial race for one of six Worcester Fire Fighters who died fighting a warehouse fire in 1999. If there is a race worth running, certainly it is this one.

    I have to say I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go. It was a gamble and one I may have lost had I gone for that additional lap yesterday. The day started much later than usual – even for a weekend day – and when I did actually get up, I had a hard time actually walking around.  I was pretty much 90-years old all morning.

    After 3-laps at FIT last year, I couldn’t walk for a week.  I mean I really hammered myself good.  This year, while sore, I’m self ambulating so that’s a good sign.  I may not have been with an additional 3 miles and 1400′ of gain, so I may have learned a lesson.

    Image may contain: 8 people, including Kim Gordon and Stephen Laska, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoor
    Running is such fun.  Look how happy everyone is. Photo Credit: Debbie Linder

    So, today was pretty much lazy – I did some laundry, did some errands, but otherwise laid pretty low.  According to my Fitbit, by noon I had accumulated maybe 1,800 steps, when I’ve been averaging about 20,000 daily.

    By the time I had my bib, and the National Anthem began playing, I still wasn’t sure how well I was going to be able to run: the ibuprofen started to wear off and I was very much feeling the dents and dings from yesterday’s course.

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    Repping Team Sneakerama. Something about running with this team brings out my better efforts.

    The fire truck horn sounded and the runners were off. My first mile was pretty good, but it was clear to me that it was going to be a bit of a battle and that first mile was definitely going to be my best: a 7:20 pace.  Mile 2 was reasonable, but clearly slower at a 7:40 pace. I was feeling the wear and tear by that point and when my watch went off with the 8:04 pace for mile 3, I knew I had only a little more course left and with what gas was left in my tank, I laid it out there. The course was really, really flat and a little more than a 5k – I recorded 3.18 miles, and in that time I hit a 6:41 pace.  Now, I’m left to wonder if I could have pulled off a better pace had I paid more attention to my mile 3 time although I’m quite sure it would have had the opposite effect.

    It’s a nice, pretty easy course, that I think I would normally have had a good shot at a personal record.  Even still, it wasn’t a bad time at all – a friend noted that a few months ago that would have been close to a personal record, and indeed that is true.  I’m happy with the overall result and glad I took the opportunity to run.

    Team Sneakerama took home quite a few individual trophies and a team award – I have to say for a relatively small race, funding a great scholarship for one of Worcester’s High Schools, there were a HUGE number of awards.

    Results

    24:18,  7:49.3 pace
    Overall: 47/362
    M: 39/165
    M 40-49: 12/39

    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.

    Results:

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