Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Doyle's Emerald Necklace 5 Miler

I am a little over a week late in getting this out, but here is my write up on the Doyle's Emerald Necklace 5 Miler from April 9th.  This race was not a USATF Grand Prix race, but it is a race that I made sure was on my race schedule.  This is my 3rd consecutive year running here and surely won't be my last.  The course rolls through Franklin Park and basically runs from Doyle's Cafe and back, but not on the exact same path.  There is a great after party in the parking lot, so we always get here real early and set up a tent with a fold out table so we have a home base.  More on that later in the blog.  I really enjoy this course and I have run well each of the previous 2 times I have toed the line here, so I was hoping today would not be any different.  Last year I ran 28:26 for 18th place overall and was 3rd Master.  This year I would be competing in the 50 - 59 age group and was hoping to place a little further up overall and in my new age group.  My time goal was to try to break 28 minutes, but anything under last years time would make me happy.  I have been running well for the last few months and training has been consistent, so that seemed like good goals heading in.

The race started out on a road in the park that had a few wash outs spots of sand and water, so you had to navigate through the good spots but it was not an issue.  I made sure I was out well enough that I could see the road conditions and plan accordingly in those spots.  The weather was awesome as well.  The sun was out and there was a little wind to cool you off since no one is really acclimated to any sort of heat yet.  Anyway, in the first mile I ran along side one of my over 50 rivals Greg Picklesimer and an over 40 rival Joe Navas, which seemed like an appropriate spot for me.  I had no illusions of staying with Greg the entire race and he pulled away as we approached the 1st mile marker as expected.  Joe and I went back and forth for another mile and then he got a gap on me before the turn around point.  We had gone through mile 1 in 5:26, which is a little on the rich side for me in a 5 miler, so I adjusted over the next 2 miles.  I had 16:29 through 3 miles on my watch, so I was where I wanted to be time wise and kept pushing onward.  Mile 4 had a little head wind, but it felt good.  Like i said, nobody is acclimated to the heat yet, so I am sure I was not alone in appreciating the cooling effect it had.  During mile 4 I watched Joe pull a little further away from me to the point where I knew he was out of reach no matter how good of a last mile I could throw down, but again I was on the pace I wanted and kept competing with another runner just in front of me.  Mile 4 was my slowest mile, but that made sense on this course.  Mile 5 has a fast last half mile with a little down hill as you start to leave the park and go through the picturesque stone bridge.  At that point I was in hot pursuit of the runner in front of me.  I did not want to make my move too early and decided to sit on him until we got through the stone bridge.

There is a little down hill path right after the stone bridge for about 100m and then it is 1/4 mile straight away on the road back to Doyle's.  I made my move on the down hill and then it was time to hang on for dear life over that last flat 1/4 mile!  As I got closer to the finish line I could feel the pressure subsiding as I had opened up a little gap.  The clock was coming into view and I could see that I was close to finishing in 28 min.  The legs were going as fast as they could so there was no last burst of speed to be had.  However, I was able to hold off my competitor and crossed the finish line in 28:05!  That was a 21 second improvement over last year and a PR (Personal Record), so I was very pleased.  I did not know my place at that time (13th overall, 2nd senior and 3rd over 40), but that would have to wait till they posted the results.  I had other things to attend to, like the after party!!

I came through the finish line and shook a few hands, but kept walking to our table with the bottle of water I got in the finish shoot.  I placed the bottle on the table we set up and then went straight to the beer trailer.  The race is sponsored by Sam Adams and they start pouring beer as soon as the 1st competitor crosses the finish line.  One of the perks of finishing quickly is that there is no line at the beer trailer.  A few of us who finished up front, went back and forth to the beer trailer several times and stocked up so our teammates would not have to stand in line when they finished.  We had a great group to hang out with after the race and everyone had a blast.  The NE Runner Gang was set up next to us and several other teams were all hanging out listening to the DJ and having a great time.  This is one of my favorite races for this reason!  Usually everyone has commitments to get too right after a race, but most people hang out for the after party here.  If you have never done this race and like after parties, I highly recommend running the race next year.  I know I will be there!!

Next up on my race docket is the James Joyce Ramble 10k on April 30th.  It is the USATF Master 10k Championship so it should be very competitive.  Stay tuned and thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Bedford Half Marathon

Well the winds of change were blowing right in our faces for this one.  I have never experienced anything like it in a race situation.  Sure we have all run in the wind at some point, but this was relentless and down right overpowering at some points.  There is always wind in the latter part of this race along the water and we all knew we were going to get pelted hard in that section.  I kept trying to convince my self before the race that this is a loop course and that we would get some tail winds to balance out the effort, but I never felt a tail wind that made all that much difference.  I also felt like the back stretch miles, which are always fast miles, had a head wind toward the end.  That's when I knew what was coming in a couple more miles, but I must admit I never expected it to be as bad as it was.  Here is my race recap.

The race started out as usual with a fast first mile even though there was a strong head wind.  I usually try to hold back a little in this mile, but the wind made it hard to do that.  For the next 2 miles I tried to reel in a large pack of runners so I could draft off the back of the pack, but they were just that little bit too far ahead for me to reel them in.  I tried twice and almost got there, but the effort was getting to rich for my blood.  By the time I got to the first hill, the course changed direction and the wind was not as bad.  That pack had broken up, so I think I wasted a lot of energy early for nothing, as I struggled on the hill in the 4th mile a bit.  My splits through 4 miles were 5:47, 5:53, 5:43 (playing catch up) and 6:01 (up the hill).  Not horrible up the hill, but a little slower than I wanted.  Then we hit the back stretch which is one of my favorite sections of any race I have ever run.  It is slightly downhill for the next 5 miles and many of us have set 5 mile PR's mid race on this stretch.  I felt like there was a little tailwind in the early part of the back stretch, but then it dissipated.  I had gone with a singlet, arm sleeves and light gloves for race attire, but I found my self heating up a bit.  My arms were getting a little numbing sensation from the tight arm sleeves which I seldom wear, so I decided to take them off.  Fortunately Jim Dandeneau was in the press truck which was driving along side me at several points in the race so I handed them over to him.  One less item to worry about.  I took the gloves off shortly after that too!  Anyway, back to the race.  I usually try to get a good rhythm going on the back stretch as soon as we enter the neighborhood and that is exactly what I did.  I had a 5:23 mile there and tried to keep it rolling, but the spits were going in the wrong direction.  Not by much, but still in the wrong direction for this terrain.  I was 5:23, 5:35, 5:47, 5:42, 5:42 for that 5 mile stretch.  I was feeling pretty good even though the splits were not as fast as I wanted, but the wind was picking up as we drew closer and closer to the waterfront sections, so the splits made sense.  I must have felt pretty good as I found the energy to clown around a little with the guys I knew in the press vehicle as evident in the photo below from Tom Derderian.  I do not think Bob was having as much fun though!

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes, tree and outdoor

Then we hit the water front and the fun stopped very quickly.  The bay was nothing but white caps, so I knew we were in for a rough run the rest of the way.  I had made a good push in the previous mile to separate myself from the pack I was in and try to catch up to the next pack, but that actually did not work in my favor.  I never got close enough to latch on to them and then I headed into the worst wind mile on the course out in front all alone with no one to work with or keep me honest, etc.  The wind was so bad from 9 to 10 that it was standing runners up in their tracks and blowing you back and or sideways.  I lost some concentration in that mile running alone and ran a 6:44 mile.  My split through 10 miles was 58:21 even with this horrible mile mixed in, so I was doing fine time wise but the next few miles were going to be nasty.  Any lingering thoughts of PR's went out the window at that point.  As a result of my lack of concentration, the pack I had dropped earlier caught back up to me.  One of the guys in that pack was my training partner Bob Jackman.  Bob said he and the pack ran approx 6:34 for that mile, so that made sense as to how they caught back up to me so quickly.  Either way, I had to let it go, regroup and competed with the group around me now.  So Bob and I headed forward with our heads down trying to break the wind and maintain a decent pace.  The sand was blowing in your eyes and mouth, and when the wind hit you from the sides, it was blowing one leg into the other.  I almost got tangled up in my own legs on a couple of occasions.  We were all hoping the wind would die down at every corner or at the break wall door, but it never really let up until the hill at 12.  I am assuming the wind speed was approx 30 mph sustained with gusts of 40 to 50 mph.  This is just a guess on my part, but that's my story and I am sticking to it.  Bob and I were running together for most of the final miles.  We competed hard up the last hill with those around us, but I think I had a little extra motivation as there was an older runner (aka my age) just a few strides in front of me from the Summerville Road Runners.  I did not know if he was a Master or a Senior, but it really did not matter.  I did not want to give up any team points to a Master or a Senior.  I passed him near the top of the hill and put the push on from there to the corner where we take a right hand turn and head home.  From that down hill to the finish I was able to pass a few more runners and finish strong.

My splits from 10 to the finish were 6:44, 6:28, 6:01 and 6:03 up the hill, so other than mile 10 I was pleased.  I ended up finishing in 85th place overall and was the 4th Senior overall.  I was also 11th over 40 and scored on both the CMS Seniors Team (2nd Scorer) and Masters Team (4th Scorer) for the 2nd race in a row.  The CMS Masters team was 2nd place overall and the Seniors team was 1st place, so I was really happy to be a scoring part of both teams.  It was the 2nd week in a row that the Seniors Team took the team prize, so a great effort by the old guys!!  This was what I joined CMS for and was super excited again to be part of a team win!

After the race a bunch of us headed over to the Pour Farm for an adult beverage and some food.  It was nice to get out of the wind and relax before heading home.  Next up on the race docket is the Boston Tune Up 15k in Upton, Ma in 2 weeks.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Amherst 10 Mile Race Review

This past Sunday I ran the Amherst 10 Miler for the first time.  This was the first race of the USATF-NE Grand Prix Series and I had been looking forward to it for months!  I found this to be very ironic, because for years I would basically avoid this race.  The course had a reputation for not being PR friendly and was also very hilly.  I am not the best hill runner and I was not on a team competing in the Gran Prix, so I saw no point in racing there and running slower than I wanted in a 10 miler.  I would typically joke when asked if I would do Amherst, that "I was not looking for a good time, I was looking for a fast time".  I could not have been more wrong on so many levels!  Being trapped in my RI bubble I never really took into account the team competition aspect of the series or the level of competition that would be at this race, especially in the Masters and Seniors age groups.

I left RI at around 7:35am and got to the race at about 9:15am.  It was an easy ride and I got there early enough that parking was not an issue.  Race time was at 11am so there was plenty of time to chit chat with friends and meet some of my new CMS teammates.  There were a lot of familiar faces around and some new ones too.  I had on my CMS jacket and a bunch of CMS people I did not know were coming up to me to introduce themselves & / or just to wish me good luck.  It was great!  We also had a small RI contingent (Me, Bob, Jackie, Martin and Mike D) come up to the race as well.  The weather was good, but not as good as the day before.  I had pretty much decided it was a gloves and singlet day, as I usually do.  I am not one to get too cold while running and I like the feel of just a singlet when racing.  When it came to time expectations, I was still a little undecided on my time goal.  I knew that I was at least going to try and break 60 min, regardless of how difficult the course was.  I had never run here before and other than Dave Dunham's Pre Race report and my conversations with my training partner Bob Jackman, I knew very little as to what to expect.  My thoughts were that I was in better shape at this time of year as opposed to last year when I ran The Foxboro 10 miler.  I ran 59:32 there and was assuming that the added fitness and more difficult course would at least balance each other out and that sub 60 should be attainable.  After a discussion with Bob, we both kind of decided to try and run low 59ish and see how it played out.

I seeded my self in the 4th or 5th row at the narrow starting line and had a good start.  Bob and I had discussed staying in control and going out in 5:50 for mile one, which is exactly what I did.  Mile 2 was a bit quicker (5:25) but there was some down hill so the effort was not too much greater.  Then I saw the hill!!  It looked pretty long and pretty steep.  As I stated above I am not the best hill runner, so I wanted to make sure I did not overdo it on the early hills and then have it come back to bite me later in the race.  The next 2 miles were mostly uphill and my splits reflected it.  I was 6:17 and 6:16 for miles 3 and 4, but feeling strong.  Once up the hills, the course ran on a dirt road for over a mile.  The dirt road was hard for the most part, but you could feel your feet sink in if you ran in some of the more heavily traveled spots on the road.  Most of the dirt road took place during mile 5 and my split was 6:02.  I knew there was some down hill coming and was biding my time till I could see it.  Once I saw the course was heading down hill, I ran that down hill pretty aggressively.  I am a pretty good down hill runner, so I was hoping to make up some of the time I lost on the earlier up hills.  Mile 6 and 7 were 5:35 and 5:25 respectively, so I certainly made up some time there.    At this point I had been going back and forth with my CMS Seniors teammate Ed Sheldon and working my way back to Bob Jackman who had gaped me on the early up hills.  I believe Ed and I both caught back up to Bob at the end of mile 7 or in the early part of mile 8.  That was probably why I ran a 5:25 in mile 7.  We all ran together for a short stint and mile 8 was 5:39 for me, but I had trouble hanging right with them and was back a few strides.  Plus I knew there was another hill coming and wanted to conserve a little energy for the hill.  Even though I was back a few strides, I still felt like I was within striking distance of both of them.  Then we hit the hill and I sort of knew they would need to falter for me to catch them.

My split for mile 9 was 5:50 which I was happy with.  Then at the top of that hill we started to descend back toward the finish area.  I was excited to be going down hill at this point in the race and really did not realize there was another up hill just around the corner.  I must admit I was mentally unprepared for another hill.  For what ever reason I had it in my head that the last big hill was at mile 8 and paid no attention to the fact that the course over lapped mile 2 on the way back to the finish which was going to be a good climb.  I was tired of running up hill and just tried to buckle down and get over the top of the hill and then finish as best I could.

My split was a fairly slow 6:13 for mile 10, but I held my own.  I do not believe I gave up any places in that stretch, so at least that hill did not cost me any spots.  I am sure everyone was feeling the same at that point.  There was a little down hill on the way back into the finish area and I had someone right on my tail entering the parking lot.  I knew I had to work the last 200m in the parking lot hard to stay in front of him.  I was able to hold him off, but ironically due to the Chip Timing rule, he actually finished a couple of tenths ahead of me in the overall results even though I crossed the finish line before him.  He was a Open Runner so it did not effect me other than overall placement, but there is something so wrong about crossing the line in front of someone and then having them listed in front of you!!  Anyway, that is a story for another day.  My finish time was 58:34, which needless to say I was very happy with especially on this course.  I was 4th Senior overall and 2nd Senior on my team.  I also scored 4th on the Masters Team, which was real cool as well.  What a great way to start off the series.

After the race at the finish line area it was great to have so many teammates around.  Everyone was congratulating each other and asking how it went, etc.  The team aspect of the series was something I really wanted to be a part of and I was not disappointed.  I had a smile from ear to ear and not just because I ran well individually.  I was honored to be a part of the winning Seniors and Masters teams.  The team aspect is something I have preached to DJ for years and also something that was missing from my racing.  Not any more!!  Onto New Bedford!!

*Thanks to Scott Mason for the awesome photos!  Check his race photos out at www.scottmasonphoto.com

Saturday, February 25, 2017

USATF-NE Indoor Maters Championships

Still playing catch up on the Blog, but better late than never as they say, so here goes.  I competed in the USATF Indoor Master Championship on Sunday January 29th.  The event was held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA Center) here in Providence.  I have run at this facility in this event a couple of times in the pass and I have also watched many of DJ's races here over the last 4 years.  I am not a big track guy or even a short distance guy, so this was more or less just for fun.  There are not many track meets for us old guys here in RI so when it is in your own back yard you kinda have to run it!  My intentions were to use the meet as a work out and not really taper for it.  Two weeks before the meet, I had done a hard long run in Scituate, RI and my legs were still feeling a little flat.  The 18.2 mile loop we do around the reservoir is very hilly and the quads take a beating if you run it hard, which is what we did.  It is was a great run to get ready for Amherst, but not so great for a track meet.  I had not had any opportunities to do any real speed work either, so I really had no idea how I would perform.  I was entered in the 3000m and in the Mile.  The 3000m was my main focus and the mile was more or less just to get in another hard effort on the day since I was there anyway.  I was hoping to break 10 minutes in the 3000m.  This is something that had eluded me the last 2 times I have run this meet on this track.  I know I am in better shape than I was last year, but that did not help at BU two weeks earlier when I ran the same time as last year (4:59).  I had some tactical mistakes at BU this year, so I blamed the lack of progress on that and was hoping that I could see some improvement in the 3000m this year at this event.

I towed the line with my training partner Bob Jackman who had basically the same time goal as I did.  There were the usual suspects in the race from the various running clubs in the area, so I knew there would be plenty of people to work off of.  The gun went off and I wanted to just start clicking off 40 sec laps.  I filed in behind a pack of guys that I knew would attempt break 10.  The first 2 or 3 laps were all 41's for me and I did not like that at all, so I moved in front of a few people and started trying to bring the pace down a little to get back on track.  After a few laps of 39's I was feeling better about the race.  I am not one to run from behind and like even splits in most races.  Eventually Bob went in front of me and was running with Chris Magil and Mike Maceedo.  The were running 3 wide so I sat behind them for a few more laps.  Then Chris picked it up a bit more and Mike went with him, while Bob held pace.  I moved up and passed Bob but Chris and Mike's pace was a little too rich for my blood.  I let them go a bit and figured Bob would come back on me soon enough, but I did not care.  I had managed to keep clicking off 38's and 39's, so I had made up the lost time from earlier and actually had a couple of seconds in the bank now.  So with 2 laps to go I knew I just had to hang tough and I would have my sub 10 min 3000m.  I was able to negative split those last 2 laps and dropped a few more seconds of my pace.  I finished in 9:54 and was 1st 50 year old, so all in all I was real happy with the time and the racing effort.

As soon as that race was over I got some fluids in me and ate a Pop Tart, which is my favorite pre and post race food.  There may be a blog post solely about Pop Tarts in the future!!  Then I jogged about a mile and was ready for the mile.  I did not really care about my time in this race all that much.  I just wanted a good effort and the work out, but I figured I might as well try and run 5:00 pace and see where it gets me.  Bob was not in the mile with me, but I knew a few guys in the race.  The gun went off and I quickly found myself in 2nd place leading the chase pack.  After a couple of laps, I could tell that the rest of the pack behind me was content to pace off of me and let me set the tone.  I have seen this happen to DJ a bunch of times.  You do all the work and then they all try to out kick you in the last lap.  It is a sound strategy, but it kind of irritated me a bit and fueled my desire to hold them off.  Nothing personal, I just did not want to do all the work and then get out kicked.  Anyway, I felt surprisingly good the entire race.  I was running approx 5:05 pace and with 2 lap to go I was still feeling [pretty good.  I held pace for the next lap and then I put in a little surge at the start of the last lap.  I oddly did not have that dead leg feeling that we all know so with 100m to go I kicked as hard as I could.  I could feel myself pulling away from the pack, which does not happen too often, but did not dare to look back.  Once I hit the straight away, I was still accelerating and new I would maintain my place as the "First Looser" (aka 2nd Place:-) in the race.  I finished with a surprisingly quick time for me of 5:03 mile and I again was 1st over 50.

After the race a bunch of us typically head over to Ogie"s Trailer Park, which is just around the corner from the PTCA Facility, for a beer and something to eat.  I usually joke around for the entire week before this meet, that I am only doing it so I can go to Ogie's for the post race festitivies.  The tater tots are to die for!!

Now it is on to more comfortable race distances for me.  The Amherst 10 Miler is next for me and is the first race of the USATF-NE Grand Prix.  Details will follow for this race much quicker now that I am up to date on the blog.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

So it is 2017 and I am 50 years old!!  Holy shit when did that happen!!  Well it actually happened a month or so ago, on December 29th, 2016.  I was well aware it was coming and have been planning for it for quite some time.  Unlike most "regular" people I was looking forward to it!  Runners are not normal people!  Anyway, I have been fortunate to stay in good health and have stayed injury free for many years while not regressing at this advanced age, so entering a new age group was actually a very exciting proposition for me.  Plus, I have always known that when DJ goes off to Stanford University in the fall, the constraints on when and where I race would not be governed by his race schedule any longer and I would have some opportunities to race more.

So with the impending "Empty Nest" on the horizon, I stated wondering what I could do to make my own running more exciting.  I decided that I wanted to race on a team that participated in the USATF Grand Prix series.  This was a big decision for me, as I knew I would not be able to do this with my current club the Tuesday Night Turtles.  I had never raced in anything other than a TNT singlet for the past 14 years and was the President for a 7 year stretch as well.  I did not want to look like I was abandoning them, but I also knew that if I wanted to compete as a member of a team in the Grand Prix series I would have to do it for another team.  Once I was comfortable with that decision, it was time to actually find that team.  Back in the Fall, I started nonchalantly poking around with different friends in the running community and on different teams.  I also had many a discussion with my training partner Bob Jackman on runs and with him and Scott Mason on Tuesday nights at the bar after our Tuesday group runs.  I respect both their opinions greatly and they both said point blank "CMS is the place for you!!".  I knew a few of the CMS guys from the local racing circuit and from the snowshoe circuit and I always got along well with them.  I knew they were very competitive and had a great group of guys, so I decided to see if they needed another 50 year old in the fold.  That was when I talk to my friend Martin Tighe.  Martin is a CMS guy who was a Turtle as well.  Martin basically did exactly what I was looking to do when he turned 50 a few years back.  After talking with Martin, I was sure that CMS was the place for me and started to put the plan in motion.  After a few email with Dave Dunham and Jim Pawlicki, I was on the team!

I started this new chapter of my running life by running in the BU Mini Meet on New Years Eve in a CMS singlet.  I ran the mile that day and broke 5 min (4:59) so it was a good start to my CMS career by breaking 5 at 50!!  I also ran in the USATF Masters Indoor Championship on 1/29 in my CMS singlet.  More details on that to follow in the next blog update.  Thanks for reading!!