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!
WHich are unofficial because I apparently don’t show up in the results. Grrrrr.
I’m actually not entirely sure where to begin with this recap. This was an emotional event by design and a personally important event. This affected me on several levels. Let me start with how I came to this point, what I decided to do with this, the results of the work I’ve put into it, and finally the meaning behind the race itself.
Earlier this year, I learned that the Marine Corps Marathon was accepting lottery entries and just like the way I’ve managed the rest of my life, I entered the lottery because it didn’t require any sort of real commitment: if I were accepted via the lottery, I could choose to register or not, unlike, Say, the Chicago or New York Marathons where in order to enter the lottery you have to cough up your credit card that will be charged if you are accepted to enter via the lottery. I remember I sent my registration fee to my undergraduate college because it was refundable vs. the more prestigious school that had a non-refundable deposit. When you’re making $3.60/hr, $100 means a lot…I guess.
At any rate, I entered the lottery on the last day I could. Within a few days I was notified I was accepted for entry and that I had only a few days to register…which I did on the last day. Now that I’d committed, I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with it.
Now that I’d committed money to my race, I needed a reason to do this. I actually hadn’t anticipated getting into the lottery, although the lottery is apparently not as lucky as one may expect.
Given the Marine Corps Marathon IS hosted by the Marines, and is an exposition of not only the organizational prowess of the Marines, but also the expression of gratitude for the fallen, this is something much more than any other race in which I’ve participated. This is a city built on the expression of history. I’m proud of the fact that I ran this to raise funds for modern Veterans facing the problems of modern life.
I met a woman on the shuttle over to the runner’s festival from Crystal City. We discussed the weather – a generally innocuous topic when speaking with strangers – she felt very cold while I thought it was perfect running weather, perhaps even balmy. It turns out she was from Barbados, which would explain our differing sense of the same experience. It further turns out she was exactly the person I should meet heading to the race: a professional motivational speaker and life coach, she had me ready to run through a brick wall by the time we were off that bus. I appreciated her friendship for the 15 minutes or so that our lives intersected, because she really did help me see this for what it was: living my best life and giving back. Thank you for that Joya.
Now, my goal for my first marathon was 4-hours. I’m never going to time qualify for the Boston Marathon, unless I can maintain my pace for the next, say, 30-years, but I am interested in maintaining a respectable pace. So the 4 hour mark was kind of important to me for reasons. End of day, for the Marine Corps Marathon, I ran 4:03:17. A little disappointing – I got a very nasty cramp between miles 24 and 25 that effectively derailed my 4-hour attempt – but overall reasonably respectable. According to one site, in the 2011-2012 marathon season the average time for any person, regardless of gender or age, was 4 hours, 24 minutes and 0 seconds; the median finish time for men was 4:17:43. I’m sure there’s some variation from 2012 to today, but it seems like a reasonable number that shouldn’t vary too too much.
The first couple of miles are up hill, not unlike the hills I run in and around Worcester, so while I was used to it, I wasn’t feeling it early on. I was stiff and just didn’t feel up to it, at one point asking myself if I was going to be able to finish. After that first hill though, the payoff was the downhill for a couple of miles, which had me feeling much better about things, and from there until the finish line it was reasonably flat. I was on cruise control for more or less the majority of the race. There were a few places where I was running out of gas – more than I care to admit, frankly – but I was still on pace for that 4-hour mark. I was actually pacing with the 3:45 runners for a while, but clearly by mile 22 I was running on fumes. and it was clear 3:45 was not going to happen for me. The finish is uphill toward the Iwo Jima memorial, and curiously enough I had enough in the tank to run up and past several others because of the hills around home – thank you quads!
Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon
Record time for the fastest marathon ever run
Total number of U.S. marathons held annually
Total number of people who finished a marathon annually
Now, this was an amazing race and I’m glad I took the opportunity to run it. I loved the crowd support, and seeing folks lining the streets. My own family was along the course to root me on, and the energy was palpable. Running 26+ miles is hard, but running with others is certainly motivational.
Before I left Washington, I made it a point to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Of the times I’d been to Washington, I’d somehow never been able to get into the cemetery: it was either closed or my schedule didn’t permit it. This time though, it was important to me to be sure to visit: for perspective, to remember, and maybe most importantly to be sure I gave back just a little more. I was moved by the race’s “Blue Mile,” I was there raising money for veterans in need; I needed to show respect for those who have come before me and who have given their lives. I needed to give something to them too. It’s an amazing place, and I was humbled being there. Godspeed, soldiers.
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint. I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00. That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable. I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much. I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.
It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it. It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.
Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races. In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is. Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.
The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.
As for organization, it’s the BAA. It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of 6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.
Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was a bit of a lark. I wasn’t sure I would actually run the race, but I did have to get my miles in. We have house guests this week, one of whom I’ve been running with: he is into Nordic walking, so while I run, he does his walking and it works out well. Recently, the running club has promoted a “walking” aspect to the race, actively seeking walkers to do a timed walk of the course. He was down with the idea, so he and I went down to Worcester State to do the 5k.
While they’ve been here a few days, I seem to have gained about 5-pounds which is definitely an unhappy development – especially since over that time I’ve run 16 miles. We may have stayed up a bit later last night than would generally be considered appropriate training regimine, and with that in mind I figured today would be a train wreck.
It wasn’t. Well, not really. It still wasn’t great – better than the last time I ran it last month, with the closest comparator being last November’s 24:55 time. It’s 11-seconds faster than last month which is a positive, but in re-reading my description of the race (nagging injury, conditioning) and my action plan (increase mileage, more frequent long runs) I see that really hasn’t done too much – enough to get me 11-seconds, but not much else. I went out HARD in mile 1 – a 7:01 min/mile and despite my best efforts, I realize that was entirely too fast – it was a fast group today, and to my detriment, I tried to keep up with the big dogs. I’m not sure of my actual pacing after that, as my watch lost the satellite connection midway through the second mile and for some reason when it reconnected, it decided that I had run an additional .3 mile. I know about where that happened based on the map it drew, but as far as doing the math to figure out what my actual pace was for that mile, it’s going to be lost to history. But, what I do know the time translates to about an 8:02 pace for the overall race, and given that I know my first mile was 7:01, it’s not really hard to figure out that at least one of the following miles was pretty disgraceful.
I have noticed this past month or so running in the heat and humidity — prior to this year its something that to this point I have not done with any consistency either due to injury or motivation — I am a big sweaty mess. Almost as if someone poured a bucket of water over my head. Today, I had to wring out my headband. Just. Gross. I don’t know why this is or if it’s normal to get that disgusting, especially after a short race like a 5k. I don’t know if that’s my body telling me that my conditioning is terrible, or if it’s normal, or what. I do think, though, that it reflects the effort my body is putting out and that it means I’m working far harder (at least on these hot, humid days) than my pace would suggest. So, perhaps come October, when the weather is cooler and far less humid, I’ll be in far better condition to go back to tearing up these races.