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