Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Ras Mor 5k Race Report

Might as well get this report done while the memories are fresh.

The down and dirty... 14th place, 15:27, splits were 4:58, 4:59, 4:54, xx.

I linked up with D-Kaz and a few others from the Whirlaway crew at the Dascomb Park&Ride and we made our way down to Boston uninhibited. The weather forecast called for misery, cats and dogs, 15 mph winds, heavy rain, and anything else that might be frustrating to a runner. But, the conditions on the ground actually weren't too terrible. Kaz found us a space at the parking garage behind the Asgard Restaurant which played host to the New England 5k Championships. After a quick stop at the registration tent to grab our bibs and soak our feet, we returned to the van to gear up for an average warm-up.

We decided to run the course, loping casually along Mass ave where I thought the race course would follow. I was feeling mighty slow, and judging by the attitude of my group, we all were pretty pleased with 8 minute miles for the warm up. By the time we returned to the van, I was aerobically warm but the rain had constricted my quads and achilles so I was intentional about warming those areas before starting drills.

Drills done, throw-away shirt on, most of the team assembled, it was time to get to the line. Human congregation is an interesting thing. For a few minutes, dozens, if not a couple hundred runners were ambling back and forth along the street, intentional about not crossing the starting mat which, everyone must know, might disrupt factual reporting of results. Then, because of the time to the start of the race, without announcement or ceremony, the many dozens of runners suddenly halted their warm up activities and moved directly for the starting line. Being my distractable self, I missed the boat on that last move and wound up way back, pushing my way up into the 5th or 6th line of runners.

After a humorously awkward race-start announcement with a brief period of "wait... get ready... just a minute... okay... almost ready now...." the race was off! I had been ready to wail on those first few meters and to secure a spot in a group running about 4:50-4:55 per mile, but instead found myself almost running into a stopped car. I didn't hit the car, but after an awkward first 600m I instinctively I knew I was off the pace by a long shot. I rolled wide left and began moving, but now I was afraid of making too abrupt an adjustment and burying myself in lactate. Thus began my passive-aggressive race tactics.

From here the story gets pretty brief. I passed a bunch of people, but mostly because they slowed down. I hit the mile mark in 5:02 by the official's clock, 4:58 by mine because I didn't start my watch until I passed the first mat. I saw a large swarm of runners probably 10 seconds or less ahead of me, but I just didn't have the courage to chase them down quickly. I ran the second mile intelligently, but again passively, as I hit 2 miles at 4:59. I came alongside former teammate Louie Saviano. He put in a surge to stay with me and I was likewise encouraged to fight for my place and surge past him. (Thanks, Lou!) So I moved on, catching maybe 3-4 more people.

It was no surprise that in the final mile master's stud Mike Galoob came by me. He should be credited with waking me out of my passive 5:00 pace jaunt. I realized that he too was probably not having the perfect race and yet was willing to attack the last mile to make something out of it. I tucked in behind him refusing to allow a gap to open. Suddenly it dawned on me: we're only racing 5k! There's less than 800m left! The ever-important question arose: how do you give all you can in 800m? It dawned on me quite quickly that the answer is: you train for it! Well, I gave it the best I had with the little speed-work in my bank. I closed hard with a 4:54 and a faster last 10th.

Upon finishing I immediately hit the sidewalk to cheer in my teammates. I knew it was a good one for Whirlaway, but I wasn't sure how good. Certainly we benefited by being the toughest, no-excuse, driven bunch around, but we also benefitted by the masses preparing for Boston who probably couldn't justify racing 5k in the low 40s with rain. After all were finished, we ran a 3 mile jog over to the river. Brandon, Sam and I then incorporated 2 miles of 5:20 pace followed by an easy run back in for a 6+ mi cooldown.

Pleased with 12+ on the day. Pleased with finishing 14th. PUMPED with the Open team finishing 1st!!

Next up... well, in the immediate future, I'm not sure. Probably Red's Shoe Barn 5 mile. BUT, on May 25th, I'll be racing the Vermont City Marathon. All training, which I might begin reporting again, will have that race as a focus. It's marathon time.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Race Report: New Bedford 1/2 Marathon

Three weeks ago I ran the Jones 10 Miler out in Amherst, MA. I was optimistic about my chances at a PR, but the winds of fortune left me stranded and searching for a port-a-potty from mile 4 all the way to the finish line. I decided not to report on that race out of desire to avoid a big, public, pity party. Even though I could rationally say that a 57 minute 10 miler was not my best effort when intestinal distress is a non-factor, the disappointing race shook my confidence.  I knew that it would be pretty difficult to gain significant fitness in the 3 weeks leading up to this past Sunday's half marathon, so I opted to run and enjoy the miles as they came.

I had basically one very quality effort since Jones. Last Saturday, Tim Mallard and I ventured onto the Boston Marathon course for a planned 17 miler which became 20. We had an amazing run, clipping off 6:30s for the first 10 and dropping a 60:32 for the back 10. I knew I would feel tired after that effort, so I took Sunday off and then began a really hectic work week, resulting in four days off in a row. To be expected, my legs were tight and achy and with a half marathon on the horizon I was pretty anxious about getting my body ready to go. I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday returning to status quo, running 3, 8, and 5 miles at easy paces.

Then Sunday's 1/2 marathon arrived and just about everything worked out for me.

My approach was to run relaxed through 4 miles, no matter what that meant in terms of pace. I guessed that 5:30-5:40 would be a safe place to start and friends like Louie Saviano, Tim Mallard, Richie Spitsburg (and many others) appeared to have a similar idea. We formed a massive pack of at least 20 following a pack of probably 20+ going 5-10 seconds per mile faster. I was towards the head of our chase pack but the wind was becoming a nuisance so I welcomed a few guys looking to press a bit and I drafted well as we hit the early hills in miles 2-4. I hit 4 miles averaging a hair over 5:30 and it occurred to me that I was at a similar pace last year and feeling far worse. This year I was relaxed, mostly avoiding the headwind, and in a position to attack.

I moved in the 5th mile as the welcomed downhill miles began. I found a great rhythm and broke away from the pack that had protected me through the windier sections. I began leapfrogging from one small group to the next, pausing in each slip-stream to evaluate whether it was time to settle in or continue rolling. By mile 6-7 I found allies in guys like Francis Cuscik, Chris Mahoney and Adam Goode and we rolled together for quite a while, running down victims of the fast early pace of the large lead pack. Miles 5-10 for me were awesome, going 5:09, 5:12, 5:05, 5:15, 5:12, 5:17. Garmin told me later that I ran 32:12 for the middle 10k of this race. I also split 10 miles in a PR of 53:13. Sweet!

As I hit 10 miles I caught eventual winner of the women's race, Kim Smith. Unfortunately, catching her coincided with the worst headwind of the race. It was as bad as last year, and drafting the tiny runner just in front of me was useless, so I begrudgingly pushed on as Smith jumped into my slip stream. I wasn't sure if there were rules about lead women drafting men, so I was conscious of trying to get away from her. I caught several more victims of the fast early paces set by the front pack, but a few of them hung on and we formed a fragile group charging into the viscous headwind. Soon, a couple stronger guys came flying by despite the wind and some members of my group clung onto them and got away from me. It was back to just me and Kim trudging away and into the final mile.

We hit the hill and someone I couldn't recognize was shouting that Whirlaway had the top 2 spots and that "every single second" counted for the team battle. It was at this moment I stopped feeling sorry for myself and the slow miles 11 and 12 and charged up the remainder of the hill. I would hold my position to the finish line with a huge PR of 10:46 (net time). I was pumped! In fact, everyone around me seemed thrilled with their races. I'm sure there were exceptions but it was such a cool celebration as everyone was hugging and congratulating one another. There were tons of PRs. Smith finished in just a hair over 1:11 and I was surprised that she found me and thanked me for pacing duties during miles 10-12. She asked me about my racing goals; I made something up as I have nothing concrete at the moment, but anyway, it was cool to see her excitement at her win and to chat with her for a minute.

In sum, I was really thrilled with my race despite the nasty wind over the final 5k. I executed my plan and was confident in my ability despite an odd week leading up to the race. The open team had a good performance and if Dan Princic hadn't had the misfortune of starting the race 4 minutes late, we would have placed 2nd instead of 3rd. With some guys on the mend and returning to form, the future looks exciting. As always, it was a blast seeing so many faces in the running community and catching up with old friends.

Next up, a 5k in Cambridge on March 30th. I'll do a few speedier sessions in preparation while I begin thinking about a more significant race like a marathon for later this Spring...

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