2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

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.

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A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

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.

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It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

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.

 

Previous Results

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

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2018 Race Recap #43: Shore Park 5k

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.

shore park

Results

Net Time: 23:14.2 Pace: 7:29 Gun Time: 23:18.6

 

2018 Race Recap #42: Worcester City View 5k

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.

Results:

24:03 | 7:44.5 /mi
Overall: 28/324
M: 23/139

     

    2018 Race Recap #41: Canal Diggers 5k

    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.

    I really wanted to quit here.

    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.

    Results

    Time: 21:13 | 6:49.7 /mi
    Overall 55/617
    M: 42/282
    M 40-49: 7/65

     

    2018 Race Recap #34: CMS 52-Week 5K

    How’s that receding hairline treating you there buddy? Photo credit: @ThatKimGordon

    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.

    It’s not so funny after 3+ miles of that nonsense, now is it? Photo Credit: @thatKimGordon

    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.

    Clockwise (last 5):

    July 28, 2018: 24:57. Humid, 76. Disgusting swamp weather.
    June 16, 2018: 25:08. 75, clear. Beautiful.
    February 24, 201824:16. Mid-40’s,  clear
    January 27, 201824:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
    January 13, 201825:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy

    2018 Race Recap #33: Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series, Race #3

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    Know how I know I #didntdie?

    Last week’s race was canceled due to extreme weather: lightning, flash floods, the whole deal. It was a drag because I really had expected to be able to run this race, but like most things it’s important to have a plan B in place: It rained a good portion of the morning so when the weather broke, I went for a run around the reservoir that engulfed my hometown some 120 years ago.

    It’s been a week of really odd weather. Rain. Sun. Humidity. 3-seasons in each day odd, really. Where last Tuesday had me up and running at noon to get my 4+ miles in, today was a bit of a weak effort. I basically counted on this happening, despite the continuing odd weather. This time it paid off…which is good because I would have let myself down otherwise.

    Taking a step back, away from the race recap, I’m working on a running goal of 1500 in 2018 – a 50% increase over my goal of a year ago. Now, I follow a bunch of cats on Strava who are not only killing that, 1500 miles is well in their rear view mirror. I have to work a lot harder to stay on task. Running is not something I particularly like nor does it come particularly easy to me. And, not without some consideration, I have a job that requires some consistency and presence. In other words, I have to take the opportunities when they’re presented and make a conscious effort to make those opportunities. There are only so many hours in a day to make it happen.

    Fast forward a week. I went for a 5+ mile run Monday morning, went to fitness bootcamp at noon, and did another 5+ mile run Monday evening. I woke up today from a fitful sleep, just an anxious, sleepless evening. My legs and abductors were sore all day from the bootcamp work out. Basically, my body was giving me every reason not to succeed.  The humidity was high. The temperature was high. I hadn’t done very much today. All kinds of reasons to underperform for this race.

    So, I decided to do what I did last week: Do a mile or so warm up, and go all out the first mile and see where that left me.  Duke wasn’t running this week, but I still took his admonition for a 24-minute race to heart.  And guess what. It turns out last week the course was about .04-mile longer than this week, and controlling for that, I ran pretty much the same race.  Technically, this one was faster – by two seconds a mile.  Last week I ran a 7:58-mile pace; this week a 7:57. My mile breaks were almost exactly the same:

    Mile 1 – This week 7:23, Last Week 7:32
    Mile 2 – This week 7:55, Last Week :7:54
    Mile 3 – This week 8:36, Last Week: 8:28

    The saving grace for weekly improvement? Mile 1. I was comparatively faster on mile 1 this week over last, than I was last week over this week on mile 3. That slightly shorter distance gave me a 20-second advantage over last week, but otherwise it was pretty much the same race. I’d likely have come in slightly faster had it measured out – I was accelerating downhill across the finish – but it was basically the same. I’m pretty sure the difference in mile 3 was not feeling the competition of having a friend to catch up front. My other running buddies are either ridiculously fast and had long since finished or were behind enough that I wasn’t feeling the pressure to push harder —- to my detriment.

    So, there it is. Essentially the same race I ran two weeks ago. A little faster on the first mile, a little slower on the third. My heart rate was exactly the same for both. It doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but since I’m really kind of searching for a positive here, I’ll take it.

    RESULTS

    July 24, 2018: 24:13
    July 10, 2018: 24:35
    July 25, 2017: 27:48
    July 26, 2016: 25:57
    July 12, 2016: 26:34
    July 5, 2016: 27:32

     

    2018 Race Recap #32: Running with the Wolves 10k

    This was an interesting day: when I went to bed last night, my plan was to go for a run in the morning, hit my bootcamp workout at noon, and maybe do yardwork or something. Then I woke up later than anticipated and I decided that I would just stick with my usual morning routine. I looked at my work schedule and realized bootcamp at noon wouldn’t work, so I decided to run instead and then I’d hit bootcamp a little later in the afternoon or evening.

    As part of my usual routine, I walk down to a local coffee shop, get a coffee – perhaps a breakfast of some kind – and peruse Facebook for a bit. Well, one of my friends had posted something about this race; I had done it a couple of years ago and thought it would be a good thing to try again.  Alas, it was sold out, and when I commented on her post that I was bummed, she suggested that they usually do transfers. In turn I emailed the race director, who to his credit responded quite promptly and said they would transfer.  Perfect, now I just needed to find someone to transfer. I could try bootcamp if my meetings ended soon enough or just lay low at noon and do the workout later on in the afternoon.

    I posted the question on my running club’s Facebook page, but by noon hadn’t seen any comments, so I decided to go back to my second iteration of a plan and went for a 6-mile run at lunch. By this point, I came to find someone had responded and offered a bib.  I hadn’t planned for this, but it was time to roll — I bagged bootcamp plans and made plans to race. One thing I forgot though was to make plans to actually meet the person who had the bib.  That small issue aside, it was a perfect New England summer evening for such a race.

    The course is an out-and-back along a rail trail in Marlborough, MA. The trail crosses a couple of streets, down through an office campus, and back. It’s predominantly downhill for the first half, and then it’s all climb on the way back.

    This evening was low-humidity and about 75-degrees. Just a perfect evening. The start was a little rocky, a narrow street with the expectation runners would stay on the sidewalk until we got to the rail trail, and with cars parked on the side of the street, it made for a little congestion, but once on the trail it was clear.  Given the elevation profile of the course, I knew the first half was downhill, so I decided to go out quickly to be sure I got some benefit from the downhill. I knew from my Monday night training run using another local race course as practice, that my hillwork needs…well, work, so I figured I’d throw my fat body down the hills and do my best to not die on the way back up.  Monday’s run was about 387′ of gain, tonights was about 262′, so I figured I could weather it as long as I didn’t use all my fuel.

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    This more or less worked to my advantage. A couple of times on the way back, I slowed to a walk – my heart rate was really up there and I knew it would be difficult to keep moving at pace, a comfortable few seconds of walking to get that under control and readjust. Surprisingly enough, that turned out to be a pretty good strategy for maximizing my race pace.

    Two years ago, I ran this race to a then personal record 10k time of 56:30. Tonight, I ran 51:00. Now, it’s a USATF certified course which means that the course itself will usually be a little bit longer to ensure the distance qualifies as a 10k. I clocked it at 6.3 miles, the same distance I got when I last ran it.  For a 6.3 mile run, my self-timed pace came in at 8:06 minute/miles, officially its a tad slower at 8:12, but the total time that’s a constant.  51:00.  I’m very happy.

    RESULTS

    July 18, 2018: 51:00

    July 20, 2016: 56:30