2019 Race Recap #22: Wicked Half Marathon

This wasn’t quite a last minute thing, but it hasn’t been on my radar very long. Choosing the “no swag” option, saved $10 off an already super reasonable entry fee, and needing a long run – and preferably a long race, as I’ve been running long solo and a few group runs, but without the competition to push me harder – it seemed like a good idea.

The course incorporates a lot (most?) of the Black Cat race course, so I was familiar with running it without having run this specific race previously. I was hopeful that I could hit a good time – after the Kelley Half last month, I really wanted to test the proposition that it really was the heat that day that doomed my race.

Now, bearing in mind low entry fees typically indicate spartan accommodations – and since this is the same race management company that does the Black Cat, I knew what to expect – I wasn’t disappointed: the starting line was a white spray painted line.

Today’s weather was expected to be warmer than seasonable, and it was: almost 60-degrees at 7 AM and well over 70 by the time I finished. Given this, I was concerned that I may not do as well as I had hoped.

Pretty cool medal too.

To the race: I started out entirely too fast, an utterly unsustainable pace, but for roughly the first half of the race, I kept a sub-8 minute pace going. I started thinking that I had a shot at besting – or at least coming close to – my Horseneck Half time earlier this year. And then…the hill I had forgotten about. Damnit. That slowed me down a bit, but not too much. From that point I got progressively slower and as I got slower, I got progressively more negative in my internal conversation. The old saw that you run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your head? Yeah.

By mile 13, I was really scuffing, but I knew it was close so I picked up the pace. That post 13 stretch (my watch clocked in at 13.3 – as a USTF certified course, I should have expected a longer than advertised distance) was among my fastest of the race. My official time: 1:48:23. Respectable, mid-8 pace, but given that my pace through half of it was sub-8, it really lets you know how much my pace fell off. Learnings? Well Horseneck was consistently about 7:40-8:00 pace. This was 7:11 to 9. Start a little slower, stay fast: my heart rate spiked too high and I had to slow down, had I maintained a slower pace I could have held onto it longer. All things I already knew, but sometimes have to be reminded of. Also, I need to do more hill work; running around Cambridge, MA has shown me that I can maintain pace, but I am missing the hills of Worcester.

I love this area and the course is great: down through downtown Salem, along the harbor in Marblehead, around Ocean Boulevard and back. Salem is awesome. Marblehead is beautiful. I really did like the race. I was disappointed that I didn’t do better, but heartened to find it was a personal top 3 finish. In fact, really pleased that my Top 3 Fastest Halfs, have all been this year. #OlderAndBetter

Finish!

Results:

127/607, M40-49: 17/52, Chip: 1:48:18.7 Gun: 1:48:23

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
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

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2019 Race Recap #21: Canal Diggers 5k

Ok, for all the Worcester AF people, yeah, this should be Canal Diggers “5k,” because it’s never actually a full 5k. Last year I got just 3.1 on my watch, this year 3.08 and I started it further down the chute. More people than I care to admit came up with less than 3. So, yeah, despite the official title, it’s not quite 3.1. And yeah, my 5k “PR” is a bit of a fraud. I’m okay with that.

It was actually a bit chilly today, what with the remnants of Hurricane Dorian swinging through last night. Upper 50’s by race time although it did clear/warm up later on in the morning

I came up about 30 seconds slower than last year. Interestingly enough, I slowed a bit once to encourage a friend to keep going, but I remember last year I was going balls-out and I actually walked a not insignificant portion of the course on Worcester’s Main Street. So while I was slower this year, I think I actually put in a more technically good run.

Part of the reason the race is such a big one is that it pairs up with Worcester’s Pride Day parade, so there are plenty of folks along the course to cheer you on – I love big races for that reason. There’s just something about giving a kid 5 on the way by. I love that.

Sneakerama again won fastest team, despite my having lost 30-seconds from last year. It was great to see my squad do so well today.

5k: 21:43 | 6:59.4 /mi
62/609
M 53/288
M 40-49 12/76

2019 Race Recap #20: Laborious Labor Day 10-Miler

The running club in a neighboring city – The Highland City Striders, which sounds like it could be one of those rival clubs in a redux of “West Side Story” with HCS playing the role of the Sharks and my club CMS playing the role of the Jets…or vice-versa, it doesn’t really matter – hosts a few races each year as does my club. They run the “Running with the Wolves” 10k, where I hit my 10k PR last year, and they run this 10-Miler along with a companion race, the “Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot” at Thanksgiving – it’s the same course, but rebranded for the time of year…and perhaps to allow for continued gratuitous alliteration.

The entry fee is 15 canned goods for donation to the local food pantry. So if getting 10-miles on the odometer early on the morning of Labor Day doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the going out of your way to help someone else in need may.

Either way it’s a good thing. I’ve run this two other times – both as the Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot – and have been eaten up by the “Hosmer Hill” both times. As the race director Mark Vital – an old colleague back in the distant pass – announced at the first time I ran this course, “You may feel like you’re going to get a PR <personal record> as you hit Mile 7…forget it. You aren’t.”

As you come around Mile 7.5 or so, near the memorial beach, it comes into full view. The course is mostly downhill for the first 7 miles or so, but man when you hit 7.6, there it is. It may as well be Mt. Everest. And you run up, hit the crest…and look up. There’s still more to go. It’s ridiculous.

Even knowing that, I did the course again. I haven’t been running very long lately – I mean, I’ve been consistently getting 6, 7, 8 miles – sometimes 9 – but haven’t run long since the weekend I did the Kelley Half Marathon and the ultra trail race, and neither of which was a great time. With this being a long weekend, I took advantage of the situation and ran long on Saturday – 13 miles – followed by my longest run in a long time right after my longest run in a long time on Sunday – 20 miles. Today I wasn’t sure it wasn’t going to go sideways and be a complete train wreck, but I brought my canned goods and registered anyway. My legs felt rather stone-like, but a good number of my favorite people were there to run and since I’ve been commuting to work, I’ve not seen many of them so it was super important of me to be sure I connected with them.

As it happened, and perhaps because I don’t run too many 10-mile races, I came *THIS* close to a PR – foiled really only by the untied shoelace at mile 3. The 20 seconds or so there cost me just enough time, although I can point to more than a few points at which I could have made up time.

It was a good run today, and it gives me some confidence I was lacking heading into this month of racing.

Results 1:22:24

10-Miler History

10-Miler History

Mattapoisett 10-Miler, 
Mattapoisett MA
11/10/20171:22:08
Laborious Labor Day 10-Miler
Marlborough MA
9/2/20191:22:24
Newport 10 Miler, 
Newport RI
6/3/20181:25:32
Black Cat 10M, 
Salem MA
3/11/20171:25:41
Newport 10 Miler, 
Newport RI
6/4/20171:26:27
Tough 10 Mile Turkey Trot
Marlborough MA
11/26/20171:28:56
Tough 10 Mile Turkey Trot
Marlborough MA
11/27/20161:30:26

2019 Race Recap #16: 57th John & Jessie Kelley Half Marathon

A caveat: calling it the 57th Half Marathon is a bit of a misnomer. The race has been run 57 times, but it hasn’t always been a half marathon. It began as a 12-mile race (because, obvi, that makes sense), but became a half marathon in 2017. So, if we’re being real, its the 3rd Half Marathon. They’re really referring to the 57th running of what is now the Kelley Half Marathon, or more specifically the Kelley Road Race. Continuity matters, baby. What whatevs. The entry fee is zero. Always has been.

That’s something I’ve spent not inconsiderable amount of time trying to figure out: how do you mobilize a community of volunteers – there were plenty today from registration to water stops – have free parking at the muni lot, have post-race food, AND race swag (a really nice finisher medal) and ask only donations to the local food bank? At registration you can submit an additional contribution, but it’s totally voluntary. I mean, think about this: it’s a free race, just sign up. If the weather is crummy, people don’t show. BUT they still have the medals. Last year it rained. Today it was swampy, humid air. Now, they take the first 1000 registrations, then they’re “Sold Out.” I know this year they were full, and today 615 runners ran. So perhaps that’s what they bank on – roughly 65%. I don’t know, but I’ve paid more money for races where the medals didn’t show up or were multipurpose – 5k and half – or whatever.

Pretty sweet swag for a $0-cost race

Now, the point here was not to race, but to get my long run in. My friend Derya and I were just going to run and forget about pace because we’re doing a trail race tomorrow. I had a target goal of finishing under 2-hours: I haven’t been running particularly well as of late, and really hadn’t run much more than 8-9 miles at a time for a while. The weather was oppressive and as soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot, I knew I was in for a long slog.

Now, because it starts and finishes at the beach, there were full facilities for restrooms, which was a godsend after driving the 90-minutes to New London with a cup of coffee. The parking at Ocean Beach was free (another head scratcher). The race was chip timed, so there was no particular race to the starting line, and off we went.

By my watch there was some 560′ of elevation gain on the course – not quite, “flat with some rolling hills,” although the race site does disclose a not insignificant hill at mile 10. I didn’t start out racing – over the first 4-miles or so I was running about 8:35 pace- but after mile 3, I had to slow down because my ankles were giving it to me. It was difficult walking and I was wondering at that point if I was going to finish, but eventually I pulled myself together and ran. It was at this point Derya caught me and asked if I needed anything, and since the answer was “no” she took off but not before I complained about my ankles.

A little further up, I caught her and she said she was going to force herself to go slower and asked how my ankles were. Good enough. And that was the last time I saw her.

For the rest of the race, I did intervals – running, then walking, rinse, repeat. Folks along the course had their hoses out – THANK YOU!! – and the volunteers were great handing out water. I had some really nice conversations along the way – I was wearing my Central Mass Striders singlet and a few people cheered me on for it, including one person who seemed to know who I am but for the life of me I had no idea who she was.

I was really struggling at mile 11 when I realized that by the time I was there, I had finished Horseneck just a few months ago. I also tried to remember that the goal wasn’t to race and only to finish in under 2-hours – something that seemed somewhat suspect at this point. It was getting hotter, and apparently more humid if that was possible, and all I wanted to do was anything other than whatever I was doing – which at this point was running.

By the time I completed mile 12, I realized I had an outside shot of hitting my target of 2-hours. Now, look, 2-hours is a great goal for most people – some experienced runners I know have yet to crack that barrier. I’m not taking anything away from them, I hope, when I say that for me generally speaking 2-hours is not a good time. My goal has always been sub-2 hours and I’ve come up short twice: my very first one saw me missing 2 by 48 seconds, and last years Bristols Independence Rhode Race where I was experiencing a chest cold or infection or whatever, but I came in at 2:06. I was hoping today was not going to be the day when I hit #3.

As I turned the corner and realized I was near the finish, I turned everything I had on to cross the line. I could see the clock as I headed into the last 1/10th mile – It had just clicked over to 1:58:00 so I knew I could, I SHOULD, make 2-hours, and I just went. By gun time, I finished 1:59:18. By chip time, I finished a little better – 1:58:47, a little less close than I thought, but either way, I still finished sub 2-hours.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, that I managed the conditions and came in roughly 18-minutes slower than my last half, which just happened to be my PR, but I finished clean.

Results:

211/615, M40-49: 28/63, Chip: 1:58:47.0 Gun: 1:59:19.0

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
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

2019 Race Recap #15: 56th Annual Fred Warren 5.5-Miler

First I have to get this out of the way: It was southern bayou swamp-ugly out there. No less than 87 degrees at race time with humidity easily up toward 90% (at the time I’m writing this it is 79%). The air was just ridiculously heavy and I found it really hard to breathe.

Long about 4PM, I started thinking about how this race was going to run, and it was tough. I was having difficulty contemplating how this would be a good run for me. I was confident this would no go well.

No sooner had I gotten to the starting area, when I had to turn tail and head back to the parking area porta-potties. Hard to tell if it was a benefit to have to…uh…you know…so lighten my body weight, but it was certainly better to have the facilities there than not. That would have made for a very ugly 5 miles.

This is a local race run by my running club, so there were a lot of familiar faces which I certainly appreciated – I took a job recently close to Boston and the additional commuting time has been killing my social life with these folks, so it was appreciated to have the opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces. My daughter even came to race from her new place in New Hampshire, and that made my heart happy.

This was my first race since the North Face at the beginning of June and my first street race since the Worcester Fire Fighters 6k in May. I came THAT close to not having had a race in July. I mean the fact that this is only my 15th race this year astounds me a little given what the past few years have looked like.

Holden is a little town in Central Massachusetts, which means that it’s not flat. The Warren course is a loop, starts generally down for the first mile, rolling hills for the second, down for the next half, up for the mile and then mostly down.

According to my Garmin, the Elevation Gain was 384′ and the loss was 387′, which seems technically impossible given the start and finish are the same…but suffice to say, it’s roughly 385′ of gain.

It can be pretty challenging to be sure.

So at the start of the race, I’d run maybe 3/10 of a mile when my shoe came untied. It’s been more than a year since the LUK 5k when my shoe came undone and my friend Jeff sold me on Lace Locks. I haven’t worn sneakers with laces since…until today. Curiously enough that first mile was pretty quick. I ran the second and third mile at roughly equivalent speeds – with a fair degree of walking in there. The fourth mile, where you see that big up part,took me 9:07 (73′ of gain) and then it was pretty much downhill from there, where I notched the fastest mile of the race and second only to the last 4/10 of the rce where I paced in at 7:13, ultimately finishing 26th at 43:39.

My girl with definitive evidence that she did not finish last.

Now a couple of my friends were pretty well dehydrated, and while both finished, one had to leave in an ambulance for fluids. The heat and humidity were no joke. I’m honestly surprised I did as well here as I did. The lack of racing in general hasn’t helped but my increased sedentary time could not have helped my fitness level. The last few weeks I’ve seen my runs get sloggier and slower. Could be sleep, or bad diet, or whatever, but tonight I pulled through it until it felt good. Which makes it that much setter for me: I PR’d this course tonight by just about 7-minutes officially (for the three times I’ve run this race) and by roughly 3:20 if I include training runs last year. So I may have lost a little off my fast ball recently, it’s nice to know that I’m still racing reasonably well.

My daughter also hadn’t raced in sometime – since the Celtic 5k actually – and hadn’t run more than 4-miles in months, and she rocked the course too: Meaning she did not finish last.

The club puts on an afterparty where awards are announced and there are gift giveaways and food. Incredible value for the $15-20 registration fee. Good fun, great folks.

Results

2019:56th Annual 26th 43:34

2018:54th Annual 58th 50:35
2017: 53rd Annual 33rd 50:31

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

2019 Race Recap #12: Horseneck Half Marathon

I now have 2 Horseneck Half frisbees. I can’t remember the last time I used one

The headline here is “What a difference a year makes.” Last year, I was 5-pounds lighter, but suffering a bevvy of maladies. This was race 12 on the year for me in 2019, 23rd of the year in 2018. Last year my shin was taped up to mitigate my shin splint, this year just a couple ibuprofen to quell the nagging niggits of pain here and there.

I wanted redemption for last years race. My goal time was initially to land in my personal Top 3, and I pegged it at 1:50:00. I haven’t been running particularly well on the street over the last few weeks and my last 3 races were trail races where I typically don’t perform well at all, so not having a point of reference to what my street time would look like I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect. I made a post to Facebook, and Duke predicted 1:45:00; this seemed unfounded but I love the guy and his ambition, so I shot for that. 1:45:00 it was.

The weather was nothing if not perfect. Roughly 60-degrees, a little overcast, perhaps a bit breezy. My buddy Rich and I debated the relative merits of wearing sleeves vs. no-sleeves, ultimately deciding on the singlet, which was the correct answer. As the starting gun went off, we headed out of Horseneck Beach reservation, I kept pace with Rich for a moment or two and then saw the back of his shirt disappear, so I’m guessing the shirt choice was the correct one for him as well.

The course itself is great – the whole area is just fantastic anyway, so I’m sure it would be hard to put together a crummy course – long stretches of old, country roads, stretches of beach roads, and the date on the calendar. They do a nice job with the after party as well: great food and drink. Just a great event.

In complete contrast to last year, everything seemed to be perfect. I got a great night sleep, ate reasonably well, hydration was on point, got to the beach early, and probably most importantly got a mile warm up in – I’ve been finding that my heart rate skyrockets for the first mile or so of any activity, so getting that warm up in has been really important. Since I felt good, I didn’t have that negative self that I battled the whole race last year. At mile 5, I actually said to myself, “Okay, only 8 more miles to go.”

Mile 6 was the first mile I had that was over an 8-minute pace – I don’t think I’ve ever run that far going that fast (fast for me that is), and only had 3 miles that were slower than 8-minutes: Mile 10 inexplicably was an 8:11 pace. I’m not sure what happened there, I don’t recall anything significant happening there, I must’ve just zoned out or something because 2 of the next 3 miles were among my fastest. It turns out Mile 6 was my slowest last year – it has the most ascent of the race at 56′ (it’s a super flat course)

Interesting comparison: my heart rate averaged 2 bpm faster last year. SO I was faster AND in better condition. Despite my apparent weight gain: last year I was about 180, and this year….not.

Here’s your author desperately trying to “hide the pain.”

I knew I was closing in on a personal record, so I was playing this mental game with myself about not stopping. I saw the sign for the 3-mile mark of the 3.5-mile race so I knew the finish was roughly a half mile away and kept telling myself that I have this, that I can get this done at 1:45, I just have to keep running for 4-more minutes. When you’ve been running for 100-minutes, what’s 4-more, right?

It turns out, it was the longest 4-minutes of my life, but in the end I pulled it off. From the beach walk at the end, the course turns right for the last 0.1 mile or so, and I saw a four people ahead of me, so I used the last bit of energy I had to snipe three of them, the fourth got me by a couple seconds.

A perfect ending to a perfect day. So as of this writing, my two fastest halfs have been my two most recent halfs, and since I’m not getting any younger, I’m pleased with this.

Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
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
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