2020 Race Recap #4: New England Half Marathon

My 15th and fastest half marathon.

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.

New England Fall Foliage on display en route to the start.

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.

Governor Sununu came out to give a brief talk and to send off members of the first group. The governor. Almost as if this were an important event. This set up could literally be the bluebrint for COVID-era races through the end of the pandemic.

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.

Mask protocol was expected in all areas, except while running. Each runner had 10-seconds between the last runner’s start and theirs, in which time their name and hometown was announced and during which they could dispose of their mask or otherwise adjust their face covering. This is me with my friend Jeff who was running his first half marathon.

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.

Official time: 1:42:51.7. Good grief, I look old here.

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?

1:42:52

Division: M50-54
Division Place: 16/39
Gender Place: 156/376
Overall Place: 217/910

Previous Results:

2020: New England Half Marathon 1:42:52
2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2020 Race Recap #3: Stu’s 30k

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.

My second race in the M 50 age group and I already look like grandpa coming down to dinner

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.

Last year vs this. Remarkable in its consistency.

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.

RESULTS

2020: 2:35:25: Overall: 88/247
2019: 2:43:53: Overall: 81/221
2018: 2:52:05: Overall: 170/319

2020 Race Recap #2: Old Fashioned Ten Miler

Racing is definitely becoming less important to me than getting good training runs in. I made a calculated decision some time back that fewer, higher challenge races was where I wanted to go. As a result, my race totals have consistently dropped over the last few years while my aggregated miles per year have consistently increased.

So, the Old Fashioned Ten Miler is a race I’ve done three times now. The first time I did it, it was a part of the “bad ass combo,” a 5k race they tack on before hand, which can be a bit of a challenge – I mean, 5ks are meant to be balls out, and then to run a 10 miler after, that is a feat. BUT, I’m kind of out of the business of getting medals for completing a high-cost 5k, so I’ve not run that in some time.

When I did do it the first time, it was a personal best…my 10-miler time was crap, but the 5k got crushed.

This is a race through the streets and back roads of Foxborough, Massachusetts. If you’ve ever watched a Patriots game, you’ve seen the rotary near the town center, with the town name on a sign. The course runs by there, down past a school, behind Gillette Stadium’s private access road. It’s a nicely organized race, starting and finishing at Schneider Electric and the Foxboro Company. And because it’s sponsored by Ashworth Awards, there is some SWEET Swag for finishing.

I haven’t been feeling great about my running lately, some of which is because I’m still in winter hibernation I suppose, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The fact that I haven’t been racing much at all – my first and only other race on the year was New Years’ Day’s Freezer Five – so all those slow, plodding and high heart race runs led me to believe it could get ugly out there.

As it happened though, the weather was just shy of perfect – about 40 degrees Fahreneheit.

Despite my new Age Group, and despite my lack of confidence going into the race, it turned out to be my fastest 10-Mile time, with my overall pace beating out my then-PR pace 5k time three years ago. My ten mile pace was faster than my 5k. There’s even a youtube of the finish line – don’t blink, you may miss me finish! The funny part is that when last I ran this race in 2018, I finished just 2 places (both overall and in gender) behind where I finished this year. Except the field was much, much smaller.

So, results:

Place:  172 of 690 (24.93%)Gun Time: 1:18:28.32

Chip Time: 1:18:20.79
Gender Place: 113 of 299 (37.79%)

Age Grp: M 50-59  21 of 82
Pace: 7:50/M

Age Grade: 0.6285

PREVIOUS RESULTS

2020: Chip Time: 1:18:20.79 / 7:50 pace
2018: Chip Time: 1:26:33.84 / 8:38 pace
2017: Chip Time: 1:36:10.20 /9:37 pace


2020 Race Recap #1: Freezer Five

Another January 1, another Freezer Five. It’s the fourth one I’ve done now. Curiously, it wasn’t as warm nor as windy as last year; wasn’t as cold as it was in 2018. The course was in better shape despite the “winter weather event” we had the previous two days than it was in 2017. More people showed up than in 2018, fewer than last year, roughly equivalent to 2017 though fewer.

It’s the first time I’ve ever had the #1 bib – due only to the time of registration, not actual seeding or anything – but it was kind of fun. Of particular note to me because this will likely be my last race in the M40-49 Age Group. Not sure what to make of that.

White glove treatment!

In comparing my year over year, I see that last year I found I struggled between miles 2-3. This year it was at the end of 3-and into 4. Nice to know that my struggles are getting progressively further from the start. Depressingly enough, I was maybe 0.4 Miles from the finish when I stopped to check my heart rate – that hurt. You’ve just run 4.5 miles, the finish in sight and you can’t pull yourself together. Ouch. The big difference though, was my actual splits:

Mile20202019
17:087:45
27:407:59
37:558:39
48:058:08
57:567:49
Basically even when I struggled I still beat last year – except for Mile 5 and then only because there was that wild tailwind last year that pushed me uphill.

Last years pacing was so much more interesting, Miles 1 &5, 2&4 more or less matching up and then that dreadful mile 3. This year I clearly went out too fast – I perhaps would have last year as well, but for the headwind – but I wonder how well I’d have run if I could have had the same conditions as last year.

This was the 11th time I’ve run the course – 4 as a race, and 7 as recreation/workouts – and it was the fastest yet. I ran it in May and hit a 7:57 pace – a personal record for the course, and faster than my previous race times! So, doing this in less than 40-minutes in a race was a bit of a personal achievement. Despite my better time against the course, I actually finished slower against the field. I’ll chalk that up to the beautiful 50+ degree day last January 1 and more day of registrations.

I woke up today after a great night sleep, but still roughly 7 pounds heavier than I really want to be, so I’m pleased for the pace and the result. As always it’s a great way to start the new year, by going out and kicking some ass on January 1.

And we’re onto 2020! Happy new year!

Distance: 5 Miles

2020 Time: 39:16 | 7:51.2 /mi : Overall 52/215 | M 41/114 | M 40-49 19/37

2019 Time: 40:34 | 8:06.8 /mi : Overall 67/289 | M48/128 |M 40-49 13/34

2018 Time: 44:24 8:52 pace: Overall 76/157 | 58/91 | M 40-49 19/20

2017 Time: 43:04 8:36.8 pace: Overall 100/254 | 71/132 | M 40-49 22/28

2019 Race Recap #27: Mill Cities Relay

This was a bit of a change of pace for me. For a number of reasons, I wasn’t available to follow through with my original plan for this weekend, but sometimes – when you put yourself in the right position – things work out. This was one of those times.

27 miles. 5 legs. 2 states. Not sure about the river

Earlier this week, I just happened to find a Facebook message hanging in suspension because it came from someone with whom I’m not connected, so it didn’t show up flagged. It turns out it was sent a week or so previous asking me if I’d be interested in running a relay race.

Honestly, I thought my opportunity had passed but as it turned out it was still open – as it happens, all the fast people I know are all the same fast people other people know and they were all committed. Suffice to say, I was the fastest person still available – which is to say, my team was scraping the bottom of the barrel when picking me up off the bench.

So flipping cold, my beard froze

I don’t mind

Truly.

I’m a middle aged dude whose found running really late. I do okay, but I’m never ever going to be anyone’s speed demon. I just like that people think I can contribute. That’s all. And that’s what this was, but man…I thought I was competitive. Not so much.

The race is 27 +/- miles from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts, including some of the same course as the Bay State Marathon, I ran the first leg. 5.6 miles. Roughly 200′ of elevation gain. I haven’t been running well so I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect from this leg. Or any leg really. My running has been really labored and really slow; I’ve suspected it was a combination of a few things not the least of which were dehydration, sleep, and poor nutrition. Since I couldn’t really do much about the nutrition thing so soon, I decided to control what I could control. I got a good night sleep, eazed off the beer, hydrated appropriately, and ate well.

It was 5-degrees when the race started. at 8 AM That’s cold, for the uninitiated. That temperature probably helped me out, if I’m honest. I maintained a 8-minute pace for the leg – a pace I hadn’t kept in some time – and my heart rate was well under control too. I’m sure that the issue was my hydration because my average HR was substantially below what I had been doing, with shorter mileage and slower pace over the last week or so.

The swag isn’t so great, but the vibe was everything. Although what I take away from the logo is that 27 miles is greater than 5 legs which is greater than 2 states which is greater than 1 river. Which might be true in most cases, but what if that river is the Mississippi? Seems like a bit of an over generalization.

I felt generally pretty good, although I was cognizant that I was working hard, but I feel like that that was the external pressure of running a race versus a training run. I knew my leg was 5.7 miles or so, so when you’re less than 10-minutes into the race and figuring, “Oh, I have less than 5 miles to go..” it may be a long day.

For a guy my age, my heart rate was high – but not obscenely high – and I maintained a 7:56 min/mile pace for my leg. I’m pleased with that – even given that was one of the slower marks for my leg (and perhaps for the race, I’m not sure). This puts me at exactly 1947 miles for the year – 72 miles from my secret goal of 2019 miles; my stated goal of 1600-miles was surpassed back on October 7 with a 5.6 mile run. According to my spreadsheet I’m on pace for 2071 miles – over the last couple of months my averages have dipped; there was a point at which I was averaging close to 2100 miles.

My knee has been bothering me since the TARCkey Trot, so I’ve been easing up on that, but I really want to be sure I’m keeping my fitness level up. If 2019 has been the year of doing badass things, I want 2020 to be the year of doing an increasing number of badass things. Longer races, Longer training runs.

2019 has kicked ass.

Results

My team “Friends of Wormtown” finished 64/185. Definitely not last, in 3:17:23 Literally seconds slower than the Assembly Square Animals and the Bionic Women. I like to think I helped here.

2019 Race Recap #25: Baystate Marathon

It is not generally considered to be good race preparation to run an ultramarathon the week before you run a marathon. During this training cycle, I ran 20+ miles three times – this is generally considered to be good training practice, but the thing is I ran 50k trail ultras as 2 of those runs…and they were within the last 3 weeks.

So, that’s a thing. I’ve decided I’m fully overcome by madness at this point.

I’m sure the descent into madness began slowly. So much so that it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly when it began. Perhaps it was the first time I attempted to run an ultra-marathon with my friend Rich…in a blizzard. Or maybe it was simply the result of so many gateway “52-Week 5ks” with Central Mass Striders. Or long runs with Duke, training for nothing. Perhaps full psychosis began the weekend I ran two Spartan Beasts. Regardless. Five weeks ago, I ran a half marathon. A week later a 50k to a personal record. Two weeks after that (last week) a second 50k to a PR. Today, Baystate Marathon. To a PR.

It seems to me — and this may be the speech of madness speaking —that with age 50 screaming up to me faster than I care to admit, I have two choices because putting fingers in my ears and humming isn’t going to work. I can either walk dignified toward it, or I can scream like hell back and let Father Time and all who bear witness know that I am not going quietly. Today, I screamed like hell. Quite mad, indeed.

I’m so pleased with the consistency of my pacing throughout the race – a real Goldilocks pace. Not too fast, not too slow. I started to lose my bearings Miles 23 & 25, but overall it went well.

I was really happy to have been running with friends – it was great to have people you know with you, to keep me accountable and to help keep accountable. Kristina and I relied on each other for most of the race – I wouldn’t have come close to my time without her having been there. Eric started out too fast and blew up later on, but we did get to run together for a bit.

It was also super important to have support on the course too. Derya came out to watch the three of us at several places along the course and Mrs Mo and Junior were waiting at the finish for me. Nothing like having the support of your people.

Running with friends is awesome. Photo credit Derya

This was the time result I was hoping for from Boston those months ago, for whatever reason that didn’t happen then. Today, I’m actually thinking I could qualify for time at some point. I need more work, but there remains that possibility. Were I competing in the F50 age group, it would be a BQ…but alas, not so much.

The course itself was super flat – by my Garmin there was 538’ of gain. To put that in context, running around super flat Cambridge, Mass for 7 miles earlier in the week netted me 335’.

Huffing and puffing to the finish. Roughly 0.1 mile from the finish line. Photo credit: #Daeganator

There were ample water stops and enthusiastic volunteers, both of which were appreciated. Some points were more easily run than others – squishing down to essentially only the breakdown lane in spots to half a street in others. The finish chute was a little awkward to navigate but the finish festival was solid. Would’ve been better with a finishers beer, but can’t ask for too much I guess.

Here’s the professional shot near the finish line. Note how quickly she’s gained on my since the previous one.

It was a good course – not my favorite but good enough. The organization was good and the overall experience was on point.

Results

3:47:10.0 Overall

482/1112

Marathon History

2019 Baystate Marathon 3:47:10
2018 Marine Corps Marathon 4:03:17
2019 Boston Marathon 4:05:47

2019 Race Recap #22: Wicked Half Marathon

This wasn’t quite a last minute thing, but it hasn’t been on my radar very long. Choosing the “no swag” option, saved $10 off an already super reasonable entry fee, and needing a long run – and preferably a long race, as I’ve been running long solo and a few group runs, but without the competition to push me harder – it seemed like a good idea.

The course incorporates a lot (most?) of the Black Cat race course, so I was familiar with running it without having run this specific race previously. I was hopeful that I could hit a good time – after the Kelley Half last month, I really wanted to test the proposition that it really was the heat that day that doomed my race.

Now, bearing in mind low entry fees typically indicate spartan accommodations – and since this is the same race management company that does the Black Cat, I knew what to expect – I wasn’t disappointed: the starting line was a white spray painted line.

Today’s weather was expected to be warmer than seasonable, and it was: almost 60-degrees at 7 AM and well over 70 by the time I finished. Given this, I was concerned that I may not do as well as I had hoped.

Pretty cool medal too.

To the race: I started out entirely too fast, an utterly unsustainable pace, but for roughly the first half of the race, I kept a sub-8 minute pace going. I started thinking that I had a shot at besting – or at least coming close to – my Horseneck Half time earlier this year. And then…the hill I had forgotten about. Damnit. That slowed me down a bit, but not too much. From that point I got progressively slower and as I got slower, I got progressively more negative in my internal conversation. The old saw that you run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your head? Yeah.

By mile 13, I was really scuffing, but I knew it was close so I picked up the pace. That post 13 stretch (my watch clocked in at 13.3 – as a USTF certified course, I should have expected a longer than advertised distance) was among my fastest of the race. My official time: 1:48:23. Respectable, mid-8 pace, but given that my pace through half of it was sub-8, it really lets you know how much my pace fell off. Learnings? Well Horseneck was consistently about 7:40-8:00 pace. This was 7:11 to 9. Start a little slower, stay fast: my heart rate spiked too high and I had to slow down, had I maintained a slower pace I could have held onto it longer. All things I already knew, but sometimes have to be reminded of. Also, I need to do more hill work; running around Cambridge, MA has shown me that I can maintain pace, but I am missing the hills of Worcester.

I love this area and the course is great: down through downtown Salem, along the harbor in Marblehead, around Ocean Boulevard and back. Salem is awesome. Marblehead is beautiful. I really did like the race. I was disappointed that I didn’t do better, but heartened to find it was a personal top 3 finish. In fact, really pleased that my Top 3 Fastest Halfs, have all been this year. #OlderAndBetter

Finish!

Results:

127/607, M40-49: 17/52, Chip: 1:48:18.7 Gun: 1:48:23

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2019: 13th Wicked Half Marathon 1:48:23
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1

2019 Race Recap #21: Canal Diggers 5k

Ok, for all the Worcester AF people, yeah, this should be Canal Diggers “5k,” because it’s never actually a full 5k. Last year I got just 3.1 on my watch, this year 3.08 and I started it further down the chute. More people than I care to admit came up with less than 3. So, yeah, despite the official title, it’s not quite 3.1. And yeah, my 5k “PR” is a bit of a fraud. I’m okay with that.

It was actually a bit chilly today, what with the remnants of Hurricane Dorian swinging through last night. Upper 50’s by race time although it did clear/warm up later on in the morning

I came up about 30 seconds slower than last year. Interestingly enough, I slowed a bit once to encourage a friend to keep going, but I remember last year I was going balls-out and I actually walked a not insignificant portion of the course on Worcester’s Main Street. So while I was slower this year, I think I actually put in a more technically good run.

Part of the reason the race is such a big one is that it pairs up with Worcester’s Pride Day parade, so there are plenty of folks along the course to cheer you on – I love big races for that reason. There’s just something about giving a kid 5 on the way by. I love that.

Sneakerama again won fastest team, despite my having lost 30-seconds from last year. It was great to see my squad do so well today.

5k: 21:43 | 6:59.4 /mi
62/609
M 53/288
M 40-49 12/76

2019 Race Recap #20: Laborious Labor Day 10-Miler

The running club in a neighboring city – The Highland City Striders, which sounds like it could be one of those rival clubs in a redux of “West Side Story” with HCS playing the role of the Sharks and my club CMS playing the role of the Jets…or vice-versa, it doesn’t really matter – hosts a few races each year as does my club. They run the “Running with the Wolves” 10k, where I hit my 10k PR last year, and they run this 10-Miler along with a companion race, the “Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot” at Thanksgiving – it’s the same course, but rebranded for the time of year…and perhaps to allow for continued gratuitous alliteration.

The entry fee is 15 canned goods for donation to the local food pantry. So if getting 10-miles on the odometer early on the morning of Labor Day doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the going out of your way to help someone else in need may.

Either way it’s a good thing. I’ve run this two other times – both as the Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot – and have been eaten up by the “Hosmer Hill” both times. As the race director Mark Vital – an old colleague back in the distant pass – announced at the first time I ran this course, “You may feel like you’re going to get a PR <personal record> as you hit Mile 7…forget it. You aren’t.”

As you come around Mile 7.5 or so, near the memorial beach, it comes into full view. The course is mostly downhill for the first 7 miles or so, but man when you hit 7.6, there it is. It may as well be Mt. Everest. And you run up, hit the crest…and look up. There’s still more to go. It’s ridiculous.

Even knowing that, I did the course again. I haven’t been running very long lately – I mean, I’ve been consistently getting 6, 7, 8 miles – sometimes 9 – but haven’t run long since the weekend I did the Kelley Half Marathon and the ultra trail race, and neither of which was a great time. With this being a long weekend, I took advantage of the situation and ran long on Saturday – 13 miles – followed by my longest run in a long time right after my longest run in a long time on Sunday – 20 miles. Today I wasn’t sure it wasn’t going to go sideways and be a complete train wreck, but I brought my canned goods and registered anyway. My legs felt rather stone-like, but a good number of my favorite people were there to run and since I’ve been commuting to work, I’ve not seen many of them so it was super important of me to be sure I connected with them.

As it happened, and perhaps because I don’t run too many 10-mile races, I came *THIS* close to a PR – foiled really only by the untied shoelace at mile 3. The 20 seconds or so there cost me just enough time, although I can point to more than a few points at which I could have made up time.

It was a good run today, and it gives me some confidence I was lacking heading into this month of racing.

Results 1:22:24

10-Miler History

10-Miler History

Mattapoisett 10-Miler, 
Mattapoisett MA
11/10/20171:22:08
Laborious Labor Day 10-Miler
Marlborough MA
9/2/20191:22:24
Newport 10 Miler, 
Newport RI
6/3/20181:25:32
Black Cat 10M, 
Salem MA
3/11/20171:25:41
Newport 10 Miler, 
Newport RI
6/4/20171:26:27
Tough 10 Mile Turkey Trot
Marlborough MA
11/26/20171:28:56
Tough 10 Mile Turkey Trot
Marlborough MA
11/27/20161:30:26

2019 Race Recap #16: 57th John & Jessie Kelley Half Marathon

A caveat: calling it the 57th Half Marathon is a bit of a misnomer. The race has been run 57 times, but it hasn’t always been a half marathon. It began as a 12-mile race (because, obvi, that makes sense), but became a half marathon in 2017. So, if we’re being real, its the 3rd Half Marathon. They’re really referring to the 57th running of what is now the Kelley Half Marathon, or more specifically the Kelley Road Race. Continuity matters, baby. What whatevs. The entry fee is zero. Always has been.

That’s something I’ve spent not inconsiderable amount of time trying to figure out: how do you mobilize a community of volunteers – there were plenty today from registration to water stops – have free parking at the muni lot, have post-race food, AND race swag (a really nice finisher medal) and ask only donations to the local food bank? At registration you can submit an additional contribution, but it’s totally voluntary. I mean, think about this: it’s a free race, just sign up. If the weather is crummy, people don’t show. BUT they still have the medals. Last year it rained. Today it was swampy, humid air. Now, they take the first 1000 registrations, then they’re “Sold Out.” I know this year they were full, and today 615 runners ran. So perhaps that’s what they bank on – roughly 65%. I don’t know, but I’ve paid more money for races where the medals didn’t show up or were multipurpose – 5k and half – or whatever.

Pretty sweet swag for a $0-cost race

Now, the point here was not to race, but to get my long run in. My friend Derya and I were just going to run and forget about pace because we’re doing a trail race tomorrow. I had a target goal of finishing under 2-hours: I haven’t been running particularly well as of late, and really hadn’t run much more than 8-9 miles at a time for a while. The weather was oppressive and as soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot, I knew I was in for a long slog.

Now, because it starts and finishes at the beach, there were full facilities for restrooms, which was a godsend after driving the 90-minutes to New London with a cup of coffee. The parking at Ocean Beach was free (another head scratcher). The race was chip timed, so there was no particular race to the starting line, and off we went.

By my watch there was some 560′ of elevation gain on the course – not quite, “flat with some rolling hills,” although the race site does disclose a not insignificant hill at mile 10. I didn’t start out racing – over the first 4-miles or so I was running about 8:35 pace- but after mile 3, I had to slow down because my ankles were giving it to me. It was difficult walking and I was wondering at that point if I was going to finish, but eventually I pulled myself together and ran. It was at this point Derya caught me and asked if I needed anything, and since the answer was “no” she took off but not before I complained about my ankles.

A little further up, I caught her and she said she was going to force herself to go slower and asked how my ankles were. Good enough. And that was the last time I saw her.

For the rest of the race, I did intervals – running, then walking, rinse, repeat. Folks along the course had their hoses out – THANK YOU!! – and the volunteers were great handing out water. I had some really nice conversations along the way – I was wearing my Central Mass Striders singlet and a few people cheered me on for it, including one person who seemed to know who I am but for the life of me I had no idea who she was.

I was really struggling at mile 11 when I realized that by the time I was there, I had finished Horseneck just a few months ago. I also tried to remember that the goal wasn’t to race and only to finish in under 2-hours – something that seemed somewhat suspect at this point. It was getting hotter, and apparently more humid if that was possible, and all I wanted to do was anything other than whatever I was doing – which at this point was running.

By the time I completed mile 12, I realized I had an outside shot of hitting my target of 2-hours. Now, look, 2-hours is a great goal for most people – some experienced runners I know have yet to crack that barrier. I’m not taking anything away from them, I hope, when I say that for me generally speaking 2-hours is not a good time. My goal has always been sub-2 hours and I’ve come up short twice: my very first one saw me missing 2 by 48 seconds, and last years Bristols Independence Rhode Race where I was experiencing a chest cold or infection or whatever, but I came in at 2:06. I was hoping today was not going to be the day when I hit #3.

As I turned the corner and realized I was near the finish, I turned everything I had on to cross the line. I could see the clock as I headed into the last 1/10th mile – It had just clicked over to 1:58:00 so I knew I could, I SHOULD, make 2-hours, and I just went. By gun time, I finished 1:59:18. By chip time, I finished a little better – 1:58:47, a little less close than I thought, but either way, I still finished sub 2-hours.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, that I managed the conditions and came in roughly 18-minutes slower than my last half, which just happened to be my PR, but I finished clean.

Results:

211/615, M40-49: 28/63, Chip: 1:58:47.0 Gun: 1:59:19.0

Previous Results:

2019: Horseneck Half Marathon 1:43:32
2019: 42nd New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:45:58
2018: 41st New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
2017: Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
2018: Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
2018: Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
2018: Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
2017: Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
2019: John & Jessie Kelley-Ocean Beach Half Marathon: 1:58:47
2016: Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48
2018: Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
2017: Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
2019: Wallum Lake Half Marathon (Trail):2:38:01.1