Where to begin. I’ve run this race many times over the last three years, so there’s really not much to describe in terms of the course: start at Worcester State University, run in either clockwise or counter-clockwise direction make a couple of turns, and, depending on the direction you’re running, you finish in front of a bus stop or in front of Aristotle. Today, it was clockwise which means Aristotle was the finish line.
For what seems like forever at this point, I’ve been battling dents and dings related to running: jacked my piriformis doing the To Hale and Back trail race, tried to push through it at varying intervals, which led to shin splints…both of which reduced the amount of actual running and HIIT bootcamp training I could do so basically despite having had a few decent outings, my conditioning is not what it needs to be.
This is the first time I’ve run this course in this direction since February, when I finished with a 24:16 time. In February and March, I was really at my peak form: hitting personal best times all over the place and feeling AWE-SOME about the whole thing. The last few months have really kind of sucked and more and more lately I find myself asking no one in particular when I’m going to feel “good” again. The shin splint comes and goes – kind of like a roommate you don’t particularly like or want around – just long enough to take the wind out of my running sails. I find myself limping sometimes and I’m not really sure if it’s because my shin actually hurts or because I’ve just become accustomed to it.
It seems disingenuous to say my conditioning is for crap because I’m basically running at the pace I was running most of last year, but I’m certainly not where I was the last time I ran this particular course.
Today was a glorious day outside, perfect weather. Perhaps a touch too much pollen in the air, but then again I’m probably just looking for excuses. I got a quick warm up run in around the WSU campus. Running in this direction I will often run as fast as I can the first mile – it’s pretty much downhill – and then find a comfortable pace to latch onto for the final two as there is some gradual elevation gain, but it’s otherwise so flat as to not be noticed.
So the result? About a minute slower than the last time I ran it: twenty seconds a mile. When written out it doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re hauling your butt across 3.1 miles it seems like forever. Not quite as slow as I ran it in January – by about 7-seconds – but basically it tells me I’ve been shuffled back to where I was 5 months ago.
Time for some more long runs and more frequent longer distances. This race has a special place in my heart as it was this that gave me the benchmark I needed to see progress when I first started running, it was frequent (and CHEAP!!!) enough that I could keep doing it, and it introduced me to a running community I don’t think I would have kept running without. That’s why my backsliding hurts so much: it’s literally the benchmark I use for everything else and how I’m feeling about my running condition.
If yesterday’s race was a lark, today’s was really all business. I’ve been struggling with injury issues for a couple of months now – and haven’t been running as much or as well as I’d like, with the end result being my conditioning has really suffered. So it was important to me to get out there today and push hard, get it done, do well. My one goal on the day was not to PR (after my last couple of months, that is going to take some time to get my conditioning back), but to do better than last year.
I pushed hard – According to Garmin, my average heart rate was 89% of max with the highest being 94%. My Garmin data tells me the “Training Effect” of my run today was a “5.0,” classified as “Overreaching,” the description for which was:
“This activity was very demanding. While it can significantly improve your cardio-respiratory fitness, it can become harmful without enough recovery time and should be done sparingly.”
So, that’s a thing. I know I was huffing, and as I look through my pace data I can see where my heart rate was up there and where took a bit to walk it off: the two line up quite nicely. I also took a quick potty break somewhere in there as well that gave me a little bit of recovery time as well.
It was quite unpleasant, but it was exactly what I was striving for. I’d never run a pace under these circumstances alone, and its for that reason I love races – I push myself harder, beyond that which I would normally do with a casual group run or alone. And while I know my conditioning won’t just come back to where I was before the chrome started falling off the fenders, its efforts like this that will help me get there sooner than otherwise.
It wasn’t a great pace – although I did beat last year which pleased me. I recall thinking at the time last year how good a race I had run, and to now be able to best it (after having taken a 66-second porta-potty pit stop no less!) was a bit a redemption. I didn’t best it by much (about a minute) but the fact I did means a lot to me, especially after Horseneck where I was still dealing with a shin-splint caused by me working too hard to get through the piriformis strain.
So, it wasn’t the race I anticipated when I registered, but it was the race I wanted to have when I woke up today.
The course itself is beautiful. Stunning actually. The race organizers have done a really nice job of showcasing Newport’s scenery, and not just it’s natural scenery but also its real estate. I wanted to remember just one address so I could go back and look it up for giggles – which I did (despite my cardiac induced haze). According to Zillow the property value for this almost 46-acre, 7700 square foot home is roughly $20-Million more than my house, and when I say “roughly” its because it exceeds $20-Million. The “similar properties” section displays several homes for sale in Newport, none of which are less than $4.5-Million. So, it’s a nice neighborhood and a beautiful course.
While I won’t link the specific home I’m talking about, I will share a link to an animated recreation of my run on the course so you can get a really good idea of what the course was like.
As for results, this was my second fastest 10-mile race of eight. I just can’t help feeling like I was in much better condition and I let it slide BUT I will say it feels pretty good to know that even after having backslid, I’m historically in pretty decent shape.
Other 10 Mile Races Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2016: 1:30:26
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2017: 1:36:10.20
Black Cat, Salem MA 2017: 1:25:40.6
Mattapoisett (MA) 10 Miler 2017: 1:22:08 Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2017: 1:28:56
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2018: 1:26:17.85
Up until yesterday, we thought this race was going to be one rainy, wet mess. Then a hint of promise: Weather Underground forecast rain to stop right about race time and pick up again just after my anticipated finish time with some percent chance of rain during. Come this morning, the forecast was clouds and fog, and about 60-degrees. Essentially perfect running weather.
Which was good, because I was going to need something close to perfect conditions: I’m pretty much fully recovered from my piriformis strain, but (damn, there’s always a ‘but’) since I’m an idiot and kept trying to push through, I developed a bit of a shin splint, which is painful and has pretty much kept me from running very much at any competitive pace – and yes, I know, I wrote about a 5k I recently ran and won my age group…but take a look at that pace: not exactly world beating – and not pairing up with my previous paces. My conditioning has suffered over the past several (6?) weeks, but I have been mindful to avoid blowing up like a tick weight wise like I did in December when I was last injured. I’ve been going to fitness bootcamp (although, I do have to admit to feeling kind of low and letting that keep me from going more) and being mindful of my calories. I’ve actually lost weight over the last 6 weeks or so, topping out at under 180 for the first time in quite some time. That mindfulness paid off today, to be sure.
Then there was the pre-race issues. I just couldn’t put myself together. The car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t get into the trunk to get the jumper cables because…the car was dead so the fob nor the button inside would release. Because I took so much time messing around with that stuff, I didn’t get anything to eat. Just a potential disaster looming. NOTHING was going my way.
The Horseneck course is pretty flat and under the conditions today presented I would normally have looked at it as an opportunity to crush my New Bedford Half time. My buddy Duke, about whom I’ve written previously, on top of being a captain of industry also happens to be a certified personal trainer (who knew?) and he taped me up pretty good. That bought me more than a few pain-free/reduced miles – without which this would likely have been an ugly crying hot mess. My goal today was really to be competitive with my Clearwater Half time from January – my first distance race after December – but definitely under 2-hours. The layoffs were similar in scope and I wasn’t feeling optimistic.
About 2 miles in, I was questioning whether I’d be able to pull this off – whether it was a lack of proper stretching, or conditioning or what – I was letting doubt get to me. My internal dialogue was becoming poisonous to my race, so I had to shut it off and focus on other things: the scenery, the pace, distance to go, my music.
I could feel the tightness in my quads – damn conditioning – and knew I couldn’t stop so I had to keep running. It was about half way through that I was becoming quite ornery about it, and that was manifesting itself in fighting with the motorists trying to squeeze by runners along the ancient roads of Westport: by and large there was plenty of room for motorists to pull to the side of the road and/or stop to allow cars in the opposite direction to pass by, and yet these morons kept squeezing runners over and the like. One guy actually got into the race course, and started honking at a woman who was probably 100-feet ahead of me. I burned quite a bit of fuel trying to catch up to let this guy know exactly what I thought about that – he was literally so close to her that had she stopped he would have hit her. Sadly, however, the cluster broke up and he continued on his way: I was pleased that she either hadn’t heard him (doubtful) or she ignored him and kept running her race. I was secretly hoping someone would try that nonsense with me. My middle finger did get a bit of a workout – I’m not sure I’m proud of that, but sometimes keeping fueled means keeping fueled by anger.
Between mile 8 and 9 I was busy trying to figure out what I had to do to finish sub-2 hours; this is a sure sign that I was allowing that toxic self talk back into my head – giving myself an out: “…okay, so if I average a 10:00/min pace…” Allowing myself wiggle room for failing to perform. I had done well enough to that point that I had some cushioning to meet my goal, but it would be close, and this time that toxicity was outweighed by stubbornness.
As my watch clicked over to 12-miles, I knew I had enough time to beat 2-hours, but then the question was by how much, and would I get my Clearwater time? I kept pushing and actually had my best pace since that second mile. Those last few miles were difficult for me as well because of the headwind, so as we made the turn into the State Reservation, with a little less than a half mile to go it was a god send. Flat, generally wind free, just enough to push myself over the finish in a little less than 1:58:00. Didn’t beat Clearwater, which was a bit of a personal defeat because I wasn’t happy with that time in January and after the voyage this year I am certainly disappointed, but it was a personal victory in keeping it under that 2:00 mark.
In my very first half – the Black Goose Half Marathon in October 2016 – I finished in 2:00:48 and I’ve been pissed at myself since that I couldn’t find 48-seconds somewhere over 13.1-miles. From that low to my most recent half where I hit a personal best, I had really hoped when I registered that I’d come close to 1:50:00 or even better my New Bedford Half time. It turns out I most closely approximated my Cambridge Half Time. Disappointing, but not heart breaking.
I may have an opportunity to run a half in London next week (or perhaps some shorter derivation), but unless that happens I’ll have another shot at an improved time next month – hopefully without the issues that plagued me today. Onward and upward.
The course had a total gain of maybe 30′ (my watch says 358′ gain, 322′ loss…pretty significantly because it’s essentially a loop and I’m pretty sure there’s not 30′ of elevation between the finish and start). Remarkably I had a 176 spm cadence, so it would appear it was mostly in my head. My stride was shorter than usual, so I know I could have been faster, basically “remembering” what an 8:20 m/m pace feels like – I could feel myself moving easily between say 9:15/20 and 8:40, but I was letting my head too much control. I’ll be working on that one.
Honestly, this wasn’t my first choice of races when it came up on the calendar. There are a bunch of races I really wanted to be doing today, but familial obligations required I do this one. Nothing against this race specifically, it’s just I’d rather be doing races with a little more substance to them – a little longer or more difficult. As it happens though, I’ve been dealing with some injury and not running well, so it turns out this was the race I should do. I’m slowly realizing that “what ifs” and “shouldas” do nothing more than suck the life out of your present moment.
It’s also a race to raise money for a good cause – scholarships to an experiential learning program for kids with Autism, so at the end of the day, its not as if anything bad came out of it. Lastly, it was my very first 5k ever a few years ago, so if for no other reason, it should hold a little extra special place in my heart.
The course is about as flat as one gets and it was a smaller group – perhaps 70 or so runners and walkers. Despite my myriad dents and dings, I got out to a decent start…and about 0.1 mile in I realized my shoe was untied so I had to stop…and let everyone I had just passed, run by me. I picked it back up and ran by them again, this time more or less for good. My piriformis is still giving me fits, so I wasn’t running as hard as I’d prefer, but for the most part it felt good during the race.
The last 0.1 mile is pretty much down hill, so I started a full on sprint from the 3-mile mark through the finish. For that tenth-mile, my pace was 6-min/mile. For the rest of the race it was right around 8-min/mile. So, a rather disappointing time – made moreso because my running club was timing the race, so I got to be disappointed in the company of friends. That said, I finished 5th overall and won my age division, so I can’t be too grumpy about the situation…and having friends at the finish was a big rush, and may have fueled the sprint I was just talking about – we may never know.
As it turned out, my kids each won their respective age groups too, so we all got some spiffy medals.
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.
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.
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.
Registering for this one was a bit of a lark. I’d just finished the Celtic 5k earlier in the day and was feeling pretty good about myself. So I started noodling around with upcoming Half Marathons (because that’s a thing most people do, right?) and found this one. It’s not terribly close to me but it did fit the parameters of my customary rule (don’t take longer to drive to a race than it will take you to run the race) and the extended forecast seemed like it would be a good running day. I was hung up on the late entry fee and was desperately seeking a discount code.
If I joined USATF, I could get a $25 discount code – membership is $30, so it would’ve been a net increase of $5 which I was considering – but then I happened upon a 501(c)3 charity partnered up with the race organizers: Donate $60 to the organization and get a comped race entry. Perfect. Made even more perfect is that the Arredondo Family Foundation does some really good work.
Their mission is to empower military families in the prevention of military related suicides and to provide support through education, financial relief and support services.
So, on Sunday night with about 30-minutes left in the online registration window, I pressed “submit” on my race entry. I was in. Now, what was I in for?
Well, according to at least one online write up, it is a good course: scenic and flat-ish, but with a couple of “significant” hills…the second at mile 12! Oh c’mon. Known for it’s blustery conditions, they said it can be challenging. Oh great. I then click on over the the course map (who cares, I don’t know what I’m really looking at) at the bottom of which was an elevation map. THAT’s what I was looking for. Kind of a mixed bag for me. Most of the gains are at the start of the race, then about 9 miles of descent or flat streets. I figured if I could just lump my lard-butt past the first three miles or so, I’d be golden.
Which is pretty much how it played out. The weather was just shy of perfect – a bit of a wind, but not often pushing against me, mostly blowing me sideways. The sun was out, it was on the cool side (low 30’s) but overall pretty nice.
A good group of people from my running club showed up and it was nice seeing them along the course. One guy who’d just returned from a European jaunt of what seemed like a couple of months (I mean like back on Friday…jet lag must’ve really been doing a number on him), passed me a couple of times. The first time he informed me that he stopped at a porta potty but couldn’t get anything going, so he wasted that time. About 45-minutes later he ran by me, telling me that he stopped and pooped in someone’s house. Not the usual conversation, but I’ve learned that runners are generally pretty open about such things. What blows my mind about this is that he continued on and finished a couple of minutes ahead of me. He’s a really good runner and was already convinced he’d have a “crap time” (his words, not mine, although it does ring a little true after telling this vignette, doesn’t it?) Funny, his crap time is my personal record, but hey. Everyone runs their own race.
By the 10k split, I was thinking I had a really good chance to PR – that split was my fastest 10k time.by quite a bit: 50:31. I bested my 10-Mile time by about a minute as well, and by that point my internal dialogue was pretty much talking about keeping moving, keeping a steady pace. Mile 12 was pretty much what I thought it would be. That ascent grabbed about a minute off my pace, I slowed down quite a bit, but got through it. I’m quite sure the cold weather helped me out there: at Clearwater back in January, a similar situation at mile 12 really bonked me out. I was much less well prepared for that race than this, but doubt creeps in: that’s why controlling that internal dialogue is so important.
With maybe 0.2 mile give or take, one of my friends from the running club was on the corner taking pictures and saw me. She got all wide-eyed and yelled at me that I still had a really good chance to get 1:50:00. So I pushed just a little harder, and around the corner was a slight downward hill, so I sprinted as hard as I could that last it of distance to the finish. I’m not really sure exactly where I found the juice, but I did.
My gun time was 1:49:19, but my chip/net time was 1:48:57 – either way I beat that 1:50 time with just a little urging on from someone in the right place at the right time. A little further away from the finish and I may not have pulled it off, a little closer and it wouldn’t have mattered. Serendipity and luck combined with appropriate training and a few friends never hurt anyone.
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
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.
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.
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.
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.