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.
Where the course direction usually alternates between Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise, this was the second straight week of Counter Clockwise running. It’s a safety issue the RD puts into place when the course has snowpack or otherwise sketchy conditions: when the course isn’t fully clear of snow, it makes sense to run against traffic to be sure cars can see you, and you them, when there’s a spot on the course that may result in some last second corrections.
Such as it was today after a pretty hefty snowstorm Thursday.
It was pretty cold this morning, chilly – upper 20’s, low-30’s – but the wind…oh, the wind was blowing just making it very chilly to be out in running clothes. I did a couple of one-mile warm up runs around the Worcester State campus: nothing too fast or strenuous, but just enough to warm up the muscles, wearing a warm up jacket to get used to the wind and cold.
And then, almost just like that, it was 9 AM. Runners’ set! Go! And we were off. While I wasn’t thrilled to be out there running this morning, I set off at a pretty good pace – I ran the first two miles faster than I have run any two miles: 7:16 and &7:28 – but consistent with the approach I’ve been taking lately with these short races (go all out for as long as I can and just try to keep pushing it), long about mile 2.7 the wheels just came off. I actually marked the point on my watch so I knew the point at which I had pretty much given up. The first .7 of that mile I was running at 8:03 – which, had I kept my mind on, I would have crushed my first sub-24 minute time on this course. The rest of the course I ran at an 8:29 pace. Worst? At the very last second, the guy behind me came and sniped my place. I deserved that, and frankly had I realized he was there, it wouldn’t have changed anything: I was beat. Coming around the last corner and down the final 0.1 mile stretch, there was this headwind that combined with my relative exhaustion made it feel like I was moving in slow motion.
Positives: I’m very close to cracking that 24-minute barrier on this course. Today I came 11-seconds short. 11 flipping seconds. Gah. All because I was satisfied with what I had done to that point. I couldn’t push it further for 0.4 more mile. That’s going to sting for a bit, but will hopefully motivate me for tomorrow.
Counter Clockwise (Last 5):
March 10: 24:11, 32-degrees, windy
March 3: 24:30 40-ish degrees, cloudy
February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17
This was a long, challenging race. It was something I had set my mind on last year: I had been contemplating doing the full race, but friend of mine had said he wasn’t ready to do the whole thing and I did a 2-man relay with him. As it happened, he was far more prepared for the 15k distance than was I and I’m quite sure I never would have finished or at least wouldn’t have finished in anything approximating a respectable time.
This year, I was sure I was ready for the challenge. This would be my longest street race, and as it turns out my longest street run too, something which even the most uninitiated among us should recognize as an issue: you really can’t properly train for a race when the race itself is longer than the preparation you’ve put into it. I’ve been averaging 35-or-so miles a week, but my long runs have been about 10 miles a piece and a luck would have it, my first 10 miles or so have been pretty good: my 5k times have been really good…my half marathon times alright. This one? Adequate. While anticipated, the cramps that hit me just after mile 18 (an official 30k would be 18.6 – this registered on my Garmin as 18.8) were not anticipated. I’d made it this far, what could go wrong?
The course itself loops around the Wachusett Reservoir. Built in the late 1800’s- early 1900’s, it was the largest body of water in Massachusetts until the Quabbin Reservoir was built. Beginning in Clinton, through Sterling, into West Boylston, then Boylston, returning back to Clinton. The elevation gain is just under 1100′ according to my watch, but the gain/loss isn’t really the story. It’s HOW the gain/loss is distributed. There’s few flat stretches: you’re either going up or you’re going down. It’s not easy.
I was generally keeping my pace pretty well through about mile 9, when I began to get markedly slower. At mile 17, I got markedly slower still. Mile 18 and beyond was my slowest stretch, a good portion of which was uphill and with my poorly planned training it’s not at all surprising. What was surprising was about 0.4 miles from the end, I got hammered with a cramp in my calf. Down I went. Then my gut. It took a bit to get back up and moving.
There was never a point when I was feeling good or comfortable, it seemed like it was a personal struggle from mile 4 on. I consider that to be a personal victory: staying well out of your comfort zone for a long period of time is growth. I could have done better: I could have trained harder, I could have run harder, I could have been better prepared over and above what I had already done to prepare. But I didn’t. What I DID do, though, was gut it out. I wasn’t comfortable up through mile 10. I was downright uncomfortable from at least mile 14. Physically in pain at Mile 18.
BUT it got done. I stuck with it when it would have been easier to quit. Then again, had I been willing to quit under these circumstances, I likely wouldn’t have come to this point: I wouldn’t have been in position to run this race in the first place.
As it happens this was also Week 9 of the 2018 52-Week race. Over the last, we’ll say 30 hours, the weather has been a touch sketchy. A Nor’easter blew through the area beginning yesterday, with threats of upward of 12″ of snow for Central Massachusetts. Winds whipped around all day yesterday, knocking out power lines, downing trees and on the coast high tides flooded significant swaths. For all the threatened fury, however, Central Massachusetts received some decent winds, but a mere dusting of snow.
By 8:00 AM, it was perhaps 37-38 degrees, a stiff breeze blowing on occasion, and cloudy as though more rain threatened. Just the kind of day where I look around, look up, and wonder if I really want to run this race. Chilly, but not cold. Gray, but not dark. About as middling as you can get. Even as I showed up at Worcester State, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run or if I was just going to hang out and volunteer: after all, I do have a bit of a race coming up tomorrow and I’m not entire sure I’m ready for it.
As I walked in the room, the lone Central Mass Striders (CMS) volunteer greeted me, and wrote my name down. Whelp, I’m registered. I guess that means I’m racing today. I was a little concerned because I woke up a little stiff this morning, so I went and did a warm up mile to shake out the cobwebs and that helped a lot. It was surprisingly fast; I thought I was moving far slower than I actually turned out to be moving, more stutter steps than outright strides, but it felt good.
Today’s race was Counter Clockwise, so that meant rather than finish at the Aristotle statue, we start there. The first couple of miles felt pretty good. Not only was I moving at an historically fast pace for me, I maintained it pretty well through those first two miles. Of course, “pretty well” is a relative expression – there’s an 8-second pace difference between the two miles, but for me to maintain that sub-8 minute pace for 2-miles it’s a personal victory. Mile 3 is the one that ALWAYS gives me fits because it’s uphill and it was especially difficult today with the headwind blowing from the remnants of the storm. Again, I found myself traipsing up part of the hill because I’d burned so much fuel trying to maintain the pace on the first two miles. I’m going to have to get more mentally strong there because I know I missed a sub-24 minute race because of it…or at the very least gave up a shot at a personal record on that course because of it.
Overall, I finished with a 24:30 time – historically a great time for me so I can’t be too upset with myself, but I am upset in as much as I could’ve been faster and I hate that I settled for less.
Counter Clockwise (Last 5):
March 3: 24:30 40-ish degrees, cloudy
February 17: 24:22
October 21, 2017: 25:13
March 18, 2017: 24:42
February 11, 2017: 26:17
I tried something a little different for myself today. I have been doing some quick warm up jogs recently; before the last race I did a mile around the Worcester State campus. Today, I went out early and ran the entire 3.1-Mile course counterclockwise. I didn’t burn myself up doing it, but I did have a nice little 8:20 pace going which is actually faster than some of my race times so I wasn’t sure how I would perform today.
As it turns out, I gained 8 seconds on my previous personal best in this direction on this course – and 6 second on my previous best on this course in either direction. This one didn’t feel as fast as the previous two races, but it turns out I conserved a little more energy instead of blowing the doors off the first mile. I thought I just felt a little sluggish, but the second and third miles were faster.
Over the last few weeks, my resting heart rate has come down quite steadily as well; by mile 1 my heart rate had spiked far above what might be considered 100% at my age, but came down to a more manageable rate when I slowed down just a little bit. While I knew my conditioning was getting better and I knew it should play out in my race time, I didn’t know how it would play out. I’m encouraged. Slower first mile made for a couple of faster miles thereafter.
I’m hoping to get a long training run in tomorrow, so no racing, but the weather may have something to say about that (in which case, it’ll be the treadmill). I’m scared and excited about the Stu’s 30k Race next weekend, which will be my longest street race ever.