I don’t know if this was the former “Shore Park 5k” or just the same setup/course, time of year, or what, but in re-reading that write up there are more than a few parallels – starting with the late registration.
I was trying to decide what to do for a run today, and the RD gave a presentation with a bib giveaway at Sneakerama Thursday evening so I decided to go down and run this. The time of day worked out well so it fit in with my busy lifestyle. <<eye roll emoji here>> The day started off with a slice of cold pizza, a sausage & French toast breakfast sandwich and a large coffee, so why not race a 5k?
This was my fifth marathon. A distance is swore I would never – NEVER – do. Where the Half Marathon is a challenging distance, but still doable, the full marathon is straight pain cave nonsense. The elite runners – the folks who have sponsorships to do this stuff – do this seemingly at will. Sure, they’re training, but it’s also their job. For Joe Average, this stuff is hard work.
The saga of the endless pandemic effects continues. The Black Cat is typically run in March as a training race for the Boston Marathon – with the 20-mile distance being a healthy part of a solid training plan. Well, as we’re aware the 2020 races just didn’t happen, so this got deferred to 2021. Which too didn’t happen on schedule.
Now the company that runs the Black Cat, also runs a half marathon called the “Wicked Half,” a race I ran in 2019…you know, in the “beforetimes.” So, incorporating the majority of both courses and combining the races made sense for 2021 and here we are.
There’s no easy way to say this. It was abominable. The Laborious Labor Day 10-miler is the Labor Day version of the same race a local club – the Highland City Striders – runs near Thanksgiving, the Tough Turkey Trot. It’s basically 8-miles of downhill, until it’s not for the last 2.
On this day, I ran the first 5-miles pretty well. Until I didn’t.
This is one of the situations where I feel like I could have, should have done better. It was a nice day, a familiar – albeit challenging – course. It was a bit of a wake up call for me. “You ran a marathon last weekend!” I heard that a few times, and I’m sure that was part of it, but honestly I know I hadn’t hydrated well. It was a train wreck that never should have happened.
Back in 2019 or so, when I was fresh off my Baystate Marathon personal best, my friend Eric suggested that I should run this marathon. Mostly downhill, beautiful scenery, relatively inexpensive and small. There was a lot to like about this. “Sure. Why not?” and so I pried open my wallet and registered.
As I sat down to write this, I realized I hadn’t read my last write up for this race when it was last held in person in 2019. I was surprised to read that I had essentially the same issues at the same points – I mean, today I didn’t have the foresight to use the porta-potty before the race and paid for that starting about mile 3.5, and my shoelace didn’t come undone – and ran essentially the same race, despite the fact that it was roughly 20-degrees cooler today than then. So, all-in-all, despite running today 27-seconds faster, I’d say I had the better race then.
It’s been a while since I ran a 5k – looks like it’s been since December 2019 since I actually raced one. This was the race that started me toward believing I could become a better runner – faster, do longer distances, more consistent. The club that runs the race –Central Mass Striders – has become important to me as a support system for both running and lasting personal friendships, but also giving back, so since the return of racing in Massachusetts I’ve been volunteering at this race while we work out the kinks on a new course and getting people back into the swing of things.
This week with the July 4 holiday on Sunday, meaning a long weekend for a lot of folks and the generally crummy weather, I figured there wouldn’t be too many people out running this race (I was correct) and with some encouragement that we could get some course monitors, but only if I ran the race, it was an easy decision to make.
Where in the before times the course was around the neighborhoods surrounding Worcester State University and Tatnuck Square in Worcester, and since the college is still not allowing outside events, the club partnered with a fitness club, Worcester Fitness, in another part of the city, to use the course the fitness club had typically used and to use their facilities for registration and the like.
It’s a reasonably familiar 5k route in Worcester, around Indian Lake. Worcester Fitness uses it for their runs, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, and the Greendale YMCA and Bancroft School used to run the Shore Park 5k using it but starting on the other side of the lake.
The first week we ran the race – June 5 – we had 34 participants. 31 the following week. 26 the next two weeks. The month of June gifted us with some beautiful Saturday weather. Today, July was kinder in terms of temperature, but the happenstance of the calendar noted earlier and the rain gave us 15 runners.
I ran a pretty good race today. I didn’t feel great, but I knew I was running pretty quickly, keeping up with the eventual winner for roughly half of the first mile and keeping him within shooting distance for probably 3.5k. I started off in first or second and kept that place for the entirety of the race and I got to High-5 a pair of very enthusiastic course monitors as I ran by which lifted my spirits.
Just as my watch clicked off mile 2, my heart rate was skyrocketing – I haven’t pushed that hard in a long time and it caught up with me – so I actually walked for a short bit while I brought it down. Short races are much different in terms of pacing and I’ve clearly not practiced running hard and short.
I finished with some of the best mile splits I think I’ve had in a very long time, if not ever, and came in second – which has NEVER happened. I’ve never even sniffed second place in any race. This was a top-3 5k effort for me. The dirty little secret here is that it’s probably a Personal Best, given the Top 2 are times earned at Canal Diggers races, widely known in the area as something shorter than 5k. But, it is what it is.
Hello racing, my old friend. I’ve come to run with you again. Sorry for the delayed post here. Reasons.
May 2 and we’re on race #1 of the year. One of the more regrettable casualties of the COVID pandemic has been road racing. It seems that the science has been clear for some time that the risk of transmission outside is pretty low. Now, I get it – low isn’t none, and the science is not wholly conclusive as to what the risk is – but when we’re opening restaurants indoors, it makes little to no sense why racing has taken such a long time to get under way, at least in Massachusetts.
I wasn’t going to register for this race; I hated the way the organizers handled the marathon cancelation last year, and I can carry a grudge especially when being told that my $100 was being kept, but I could run a “virtual marathon” instead. I was convinced to register and in retrospect, I’m glad I did for all kinds of good reasons.
It’s been 7 months and 10 days since my last race. 3 half marathons canceled. 2 marathons. A 50k. 2020 has been a difficult year in a great many ways. Today was at once a throwback to the “before times” — before the world shut down, before we had ever considered such a concept as “social distance,” before we came to see being together and being close as dangerous — and at the same time something new, perhaps alien, but definitely the way we go forward for the immediate future.
Today was a glimpse into what races look like now. It was different, but familiar enough to feel like a race.
After 7 months of not racing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it wouldn’t be what I’ve come to know, but wasn’t sure how it would look. Millennium Running put on what I could consider a masterpiece of COVID-era events, and I’m hopeful others will see the blueprint here. It wasn’t the start we’ve come to know, but they more than made up for that.
In the days leading up to the event, Millennium emailed participants with very detailed directions. Parking in Concord, NH vs. being dropped off. Specific shuttle assignments, physically distanced queuing for the shuttle. Specific groupings based on self-reported projected pace. The physically distanced starting order – time trial format -was taken as an opportunity to give each runner a shout out and a few seconds in their own spotlight.
I was super impressed by the organization and the commitment. Well done.
Now, before I get into the race specifics, while it was a real race, with real people running – en mas and competitively – and while it was a USATF certified course, it was also officially 510′ of elevation gain and a whopping 984′ of loss. Meaning that it’s not like it was a truly difficult course. 13 miles running all out is always difficult, but let’s just say running 13 miles where it’s almost 2:1 down to up stacks the deck differently. Contrast this with the Clearwater Half Marathon where the elevation gain was 344′ with a loss of 367′ and I ran it in 1:56.
Each hill up was immediately preceded by a significant downhill, so you could see the incline, and it always looked worse than it was. Except for mile 10, where the course took you up by the local hospital, and then along an old rail trail – complete with asymmetric rocks and defects in the trail which tripped me up a bit; I came that close to rolling an ankle – that mile was my slowest of the race 8:19.
From a running experience, it was odd to be out there solo from the start, but I think I quickly adapted to the Ragnar accounting of “Kills” until I lost count – right about mile 9 or 10, there was a group of us all bunched up and I was trying to keep track of how many people I passed vs. having been passed. Ultimately I lost count, but that didn’t matter because the competition was it’s own reward. It was an actual race. To this point, I wound up finishing perfectly tied with some guy who likely started half hour or so after me, and whose butt I’d kicked pace wise across the three check points, but he crushed me in the last mile or so.
Were this the “before times” competition I’d have been chasing him head to head, or something close to it. I think this is pure age discrimination straight up.
I generally make it policy to not sign up for races that take me longer to get there than it will to actually race, thankfully in this case while it came close it didn’t cause a policy violation. However, had it, I’d have gladly surrendered the policy to race today. I needed this, and this race delivered. Oh did I mention, it was a Personal Record?
Stu’s was the very first long race I wanted to run. It’s put on by my running club and after associating with folks for long enough, and seeing the race swag, I set my sights on making running this race a goal of mine. This was my third time running the whole course – the first time I ran the race, I ran it as a two-person relay with a high school classmate; this is pretty awesome in and of itself, to share some personal accomplishments with people you’ve known for 30+ years and to do so on multiple occasions.
I wish I remembered what the temperature was last year, but judging from the picture on my recap it wasn’t warm. Today started at 28-F with a 19-F “feel” (whatever that means). I wasn’t quite sure what I should wear – I had my usual Sneakerama team shirt, and when I determined I would be miserable with only that, I wore a fundraising shirt for “4youIWillFight,” an ALS research charitable organization set up by a junior high school classmate of mine who has recently been diagnosed with ALS. As an aside, you can buy a shirt for $20 (+$6 for shipping) by Venmo to @4youIwillfight.
This year marks the third time I’ve been able to accomplish running this race. Last year I actually had the opportunity to run it twice – once as practice. To this point in the year, I’ve run about the same miles I did last year, but this year I’m actually working a marathon training plan. The miles I’ve been doing for the last 9 months or so have been largely in Cambridge, MA – just about as flat as you’re to find, as opposed to the hills of Central Mass. All arrows should have been pointing to not doing well on a course with 1100′ of elevation gain.
This weeks long run was scheduled to be 14-miles at a 8:40 pace, the goal being an 8:10 Marathon in May. While that wouldn’t give me a coveted Boston Qualifier (BQ), it would give me the confidence that I have a shot at one later in the year. So Stu’s was the long run in my plan and I honestly wasn’t sure how well it would go.
I had my music in tow – this is truly a must for me – but I had only a couple sleeves of Gatorade chews for quick carbs, quaffed down a couple bottles of Powerade Extra but that was about it for hydration and electrolytes on course (I did eat an entire bag of gummi worms and a couple of convenience store breakfast empandas beforehand). I felt rested and generally okay, not great, but was ready to go.
I spent the time at the starting line mingling with folks and what not, but for the most part caught up in my own little world. I got out to a respectable start, but after the first mile it was clear I wasn’t going to hang with the fast kids and my friends who actually are fast caught up to me, wished me well, and proceeded to frolic away from me as though I were running away from them. An older gentleman caught up to me, and we chatted for a minute or two, he asking me about the course and what not. He said I seemed popular, and I said that it doesn’t feel that way when all my friends are running away from me…at which he laughed a bit and then proceeded to run away from me.
For the majority of the race, I ran reasonably consistent miles – through elevation gain and loss. Mile 15 onward was a bit of a train wreck – then again, the longest training run I’ve done to this point in this training cycle was 14 miles so I consider that a personal victory, and even then the miles weren’t BAD, just not great.
I finished with roughly an 8-minute PR for the course, and an 8:15 pace (on a plan for 8:40 over 14-miles) although officially it’s an 8:20 pace because 30k is 18.6 miles not the 18.8 my watch registered.
I’m pleased with this and feel like it’s a positive building block toward my ultimate goal of actually qualifying for the Boston Marathon this year, as opposed to volunteering my way to it.