Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bay State Marathon recap…and SO MUCH MORE!!

Sunday, October 21st was the 30th Bay State Marathon in Lowell.

The race served as the USATF-NE Championship for the marathon distance and the final (7th) race in the Grand Prix series.

Coming into the race I was 9 points behind Ryan Carrara in the 40-44 age group, but I knew he wasn’t running the marathon.

I also trailed Judson Cake (Dirigo) by one point, but he wasn’t going to be there either.

Dave Bedoya (BAA) had the same total as me, but I didn’t expect him to be there either after talking with him at Lone Gull a few weeks ago.

Finally, teammate Al Bernier was one point behind me.

I knew I would need to win the age group in order to get the 10 points to catch Ryan, and if I could do that the rest would take care of itself.

Going in, I figured I could run under 2:40, but it had been seven years since my last road marathon, so I had a lot of doubts during the weeks leading up to the race.

I hoped I might be able to break 2:35 and even harbored some thoughts of running close to Jason Porter’s Masters’ course record of 2:33:44 set in 2010.

Preparations for the marathon:
went well, although I had a bit of an accelerated training plan.

As of September 1st, my longest run of the year was 18 miles, and that was in May, so I realized what I needed most was some runs with more time on my feet to approximate the toll the marathon would take.

With some ongoing knee concerns, I was unsure about how my body would respond to runs of two hours, but I set some goals of increasing my long runs fairly quickly so that I could get 3-4 20-mile runs in by the early part of October.

On Labor Day (September 3), I ran an 18-mile loop which included a nice flat stretch on the Topsfield/Danvers rail trail.

This trail would turn into my bread and butter for long runs. The long straight flat stretches are not unlike the Bay State course. Although, admittedly, the surface is a bit softer.

On Labor Day, I started out with a mile around 7:00 pace, which was smart, and then proceeded to run the next 6 between 6:08 and 6:23, which was not as smart.

By the end I had to stop and walk and felt fatigued like I hadn’t in a long time.

I finished in 2:07, which was a 7:04/mi. average, even with an 18th mile in excess of 11 minutes.

I was encouraged about completing the run, but unsure about attempting anything longer…

However, six short days later, on September 9th, I gave it a go at 5 in the morning.

Most notably, it was about 30 degrees cooler than it had been the previous Monday.

I made provisions for a mid-run snack/water break by running out about 5 miles and then running back home. I grabbed some water and Stinger chews and then ran the second half carrying some more of each.

I started a little smarter than I had on Monday (and I was half-asleep), running around 7:00/mi. for the first 5 miles and picking it up from there gradually.

I ran around 6:45’s for the second five miles and then ran in the 6:30’s the rest of the way.

It was my first 20-mile run since March 1, 2015 (Caumsett 50k DNF) and it felt pretty good in 2 hours and 14 minutes!

That afternoon I did some more easy running while my three older kids rode bikes and then my Dad even joined in on foot for a mile or so.

I finished up the historic day running some strides with my son Ben the night before his first day of middle school XC!

(Probably fortunately,) my next long run would have to wait more than a week because I had made plans to race the

Downtown 5k in Providence with my CMS ‘mates.

I did a 13-mile run with faithful teammate/training partner Kevin Hankens on Friday at 6:56/mi. pace.

On Sunday I headed to Providence, hoping I might be able to crack 16:00 for the first time as a 40-year-old.

I figured I’d be well under my “Masters PR” of 16:41 that I had run last December at the Beverly Reindeer Run.

I did a little over 3 miles for a warmup and really enjoyed the roads of Providence. It was warm and sunny and a pretty good day to race a 5k.

I talked with Judson at the start and found a spot a couple of rows back.

The start was fast and I felt like I was tiptoeing for the first quarter mile because it was so packed and I was trying to avoid tripping.

I was able to keep the pace in the low 5’s (even though I hadn’t done much running that fast, if any, in my recent training) and worked my way up through the masters’ field, going by Nat Larsen, Judson and finally Andy Gardiner.

Sprinting up the final hill I was closing on (13-year-old!!!) Aidan Cox, but I couldn’t get to him before the finish line.

My net time was 16:01 and my chip time was 15:58, so I sort of met my goal of breaking 16.

I thought I was first 40+ when I crossed, but soon learned that Dan Smith had run under 15:50!

I had a nice cooldown with Ryan Carrara and Brad Klinedinst, enjoying more of the city of Providence and then grabbed lunch at the best Chipotle I’ve ever been to (near Brown) before heading home.

That night, I did a little over two and a half miles with my dad, encroaching on the property lines of neighbors more than I would have if I were running solo. 😊

Two days after Downtown, I took another crack at a long run.

Tuesday mornings Heather has Rebekah with her at work for a few hours, so it has been a window of opportunity for me if I want to get out for a longer run during the week.

I set up my deck railing (in the rain) for a mid-run fuel stop, and planned on attempting 22 miles.

On my way out, I was feeling good, so I decided to just continue trucking on the rail trail and forego the midway stop.

The rain was everything from a fine mist to a full torrential downpour, and it was a nice distraction most of the way.

After a 7:03 opening mile, the rest of the run was between 6:14 and 6:45 per mile, and my slowest mile after the 4th was a 6:39 15th.

I started to wonder if maybe I should hope for rain at BayState.

Friday of that week, I did my third of four Tempo workouts.

The first had been a 20 minute road run on September 7th at about 5:45 pace.

The second was 4 x mile on the track at around 5:25/mi. on September 11th.

The plan for #3 was 2 x 20-minutes with about 10 minutes of recovery in between.

I warmed up just over a mile and a half and jumped into the first one. (This was on the roads.)

I managed to cover 3.58 miles in the first 20:01, which averages to 5:35 per mile.

I recovered for 9:45 at 6:52/mi. and then did the second 20 minutes at a 5:38 average.

Three days later it was time for 24 miles!!

And I mustered a 6:23/mi. average for the distance, giving me a huge boost of confidence a month before Bay State.

I tried another workout on Wednesday, which was a bit of a fail, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it for long, because Sunday was

Lone Gull!

This was my third time racing the Lone Gull 10k, and once again it served as the USATF-NE Championship for the 10k in the road Grand Prix.

I was looking to improve on my 33:02 that I ran at James Joyce in late-April, although I really didn’t have any reason to suspect that I’d be able to. That race was a big surprise and a highlight of this year.

The Lone Gull course is definitely faster than James Joyce, but my recent focus had been on long runs and overall volume with a dash of Tempo work, nothing really at 10k pace or faster.

The “new” Lone Gull course which eliminated the scenic but turny neighborhood loop seemed like it would be even faster.

Each of the previous times I’d run Lone Gull I came away with a new road PR at the distance, running 32:21 in 2013 and 32:10 in 2014.

I lined up a row or two back at the (new) start (before the bump) and we were off!

The first mile was quicker than my 5:18 goal, and I was feeling a little clumsy at points, like I wasn’t going to be able to hold it together, then I settled in around 5:20 for the next two.

Three GBTC guys came by me in mile 4 and I picked it up to try to hang with them, once I was racing the co-ordination issues sort of just went away.

I could see Brandon N. and Scott Leslie most of the way, so that was a good sign.

Mile 5 I was right back at goal pace and hoping I could hang on, and the new finish was definitely fast - I was able to close hard for a 32:41 gun time, 32:38.6 net.

I was first master, 30th overall and very pleased with the outcome here!

The next week called for 20 more! Which came on Tuesday, just two days after the 10k.

I ran fairly evenly with a 66-minute first 10 miles and a 64-minute second ten.

It was cool and rainy (and beautiful) again.

Even though I had maxed out at 80 mpw, I went into full-on taper mode here.

Most notably, I did 18 the next Tuesday which included 3 x 2-mile tempo. I was able to stay under 5:30 for the first two, but the last one was a struggle at 11:25. It was hot and I think that was a factor.

That Sunday I did 15 one week out.

I drove up to pick up my number on Saturday and was in and out of the hotel fairly quickly.

I had been tracking the weather and it looked like the start was going to be cold and wet, but when race day dawned it was a little warmer than forecast and not raining much at all. I was in my car at 6:10 am parked on the street near the finish and my car thermometer said it was 48 degrees.

I jogged back and forth between my car and the Tsongas Center a couple times to use the bathroom, kill time and say hi to a few people.

Scott Leslie hit me up with a much-appreciated non-caffeinated GU that I hung onto for a short warmup with Greg Englehart and Dan von Staats (two former Cape Ann League runners from my coaching days a decade ago).

I had long sleeves on under my CMS singlet right up until the start and just ditched it by the starting line a few minutes before they got us going.

Early on, I felt like the crowd was very thin where I was running ~6:00/mi. Dan Vassallo came by in the first mile and asked how I was doing and I told him as much.

Greg, Jon Chesto and I found each other in the first couple miles and stayed together till just about 20. Most of the miles were between 5:55 and 6:05, and Joe Shairs on his bike kept us aware of the group behind us that was a little bigger than ours and not far back. I was tempted to try to run harder a few times, but it seemed like me knee would misfire if I tried too hard, so that was probably a blessing in disguise, because it kept me in check.

My dad was at 3, 12 and 22 and Heather was at 7 and 17. Both had snacks and encouragement on a chilly day that wasn’t spectator-friendly, albeit quite good running weather.

Co-ordination issues crept up early (around 2 miles), subsided, came back around 7, went away again, came back at 11, and never reared their head significantly after that. Of course, when I hit the wall at 20, I was going slow enough that my legs were fine.

Somebody had drawn a wall on the road at mile 20 which I scoffed at the first time by (around 10 miles) and decided I would ignore when I came by it again. I had fallen off of Greg and Jon a little at 18 and worked to close the gap, coinciding with Scott Leslie’s plea as he went by me.

At 20, I was more or less even with them, but it didn’t last long.

The 6:00 miles that had seemed comfortable for so long turned into 6:20’s all of a sudden. I got passed by a handful of stronger and/or smarter runners from the pack behind us between 20 and 23, and I was just hanging on.

I was waiting for the wheels to come fully off, but I managed to reverse the trend a bit the last few miles as the finish line got closer.

Garmin splits had my slowest mile a 6:25 22nd. Fastest was 5:43 for the 12th.

I dipped back under 6:00/mi. pace for the last quarter-mile or so and just barely crossed before the clock changed to 2:38:00.

I was 13th overall and 2nd master (but first 40-44). Jon Chesto, who I had run with for the first 20 miles is 47 and finished 42 seconds ahead of me.

2:37:59.4 was my guntime and 2:37:57.5 my nettime.

In my foil blanket, I found Heather and my dad, changed into warm clothes while successfully avoiding cramping, and had some amazing Starbucks hot chocolate.

I caught up with CMS teammates Hankens and Principe, as well as CAL alums Englehart and von Staats who all ran PR’s for the distance!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bradford Valentine Race Report

(and rest of the week recap)

Saturday was the 27th Annual running of the Bradford Valentine Race in nearby Haverhill, MA. Road races are at a premium at this time of year, so Heather and I registered last week and enlisted my mom's help with the kids so we could run it together for the first time since 2008. There is a 5-Mile and a 6k and male/female team opportunities in a variety of categories, including husband/wife.

Here's a condensed history of our experience at the race through the years:

Heather (6k all four times):
2008 - 27:00 (pushing Ben in stroller)
2007 - 25:13
2006 - 26:47
2005 - 25:44

Me (5M six times):
2008 - 28:05
2007 - 26:21
2006 - 27:23
2005 - 27:43
2001 - 29:10
2000 - 29:33

We won the husband/wife team competition in '05 and '07.

I had pre-race goals of 28:00 ("C") / 27:30 ("B") / and 27:00 ("A").

I was reasonably confident in my ability to break 28, based on recent splits at longer distance races, and felt ok about my chances at 27:30. It's not a fast course, with some good hills and quite a few turns, but my biggest concern was that the roads wouldn't be clear and that would prevent the race from being fast at all. Cold and wind are always possible in early/mid-February, but we got a gem of a mid-winter day in that respect, with temps in the low 40's at the start and insignificant winds.

Heather and I warmed up on the last mile of the course and the roads looked pretty runnable. We had driven in on the first almost-two miles and those looked fine, so I knew if there was any unsure footing, it would be on the middle "neighborhood" miles. We met up briefly with Alex Vlahos, one of my former Ipswich runners, who was running the five-mile and his teammate Hannah, who was in the 6k. Also saw Pat Fullerton at the starting line, who said that there was one hill around 3.5 miles that might be a little snowy.

I tucked into the second row on the starting line and after a brief announcement or two, we were off!

It felt great to be racing, and I quickly found myself in third, as Pat Fullerton (CMS) sped off to an early lead with Jon Lindenauer in tow. I tried to keep Lindenauer within striking distance as we made our way up the long straight climb the first mile and a half. I knew there was a pack of guys all capable of running well under 6:00-pace including Sam Fazioli (Whirlaway), Dan Chruniak (Wicked), Tim Catoggio and Alex. Before the mile, the 6k runners turned to the right and I wondered if any of those guys had chosen the shorter option.

I checked my watch when I realized I must have missed the mile mark (or, as it turned out, there wasn't one) and the Garmin said "5:58" and "1.13 miles". That seemed pretty hot to me, considering we were climbing, but I felt pretty good and tried to roll with it. At the top of the hill, I had closed to just a few meters behind Lindenauer and I could hear footsteps (I thought more than one pair) behind me, coming on strong. As we rounded the first right turn onto the road by Bradford Ski Area, Sam went by me and pulled alongside Jon.

At this point I wondered if Sam would pull away, and secretly hoped he would, which I thought might help me get by Jon. Instead, the two of them ended up running side-by-side and pushing each other the rest of the way. I was only a second back at two miles (by watch, again no marker), but in miles three and four they put 15-20 seconds on me. I was pleased that the roads were well-salted and free of any ice and snow except in a couple small instances.

A little after three miles we rejoined the 6k runners, which made it a little harder to maintain contact with Sam and Jon, but I was really just doing my best to stay as close to 5:30's as I could and see which of my time goals I could hit. It would have been nice to work with them a little more closely, but I benefited from their speed either way.

The hill by the golf course at 3.5 that Pat F. had warned about came and went without incident. I know from my Garmin splits that I was basically running 5:40-pace for miles 3 and 4, which was slower than I would have liked, but I honestly thought beforehand that these miles could be close to 6:00 if the roads were bad, so I will take it.

By mile four, I was back on the road that Heather and I had warmed up on, so I knew how far we had to go and what the roads were like and I was able to pick up the pace a little. The last quarter-mile is a nice downhill and I was able to take advantage of that and close pretty hard. I still wound up 20 seconds in back of third, but I was happy with an official time of 27:13, my fastest 5-mile since I turned 40. Full results here.

Heather was there, cheering me in, and as I turned back to get her race report, I could tell she was excited with her 24:05. We cooled down together over the full 5-mile course, Heather wanted to get some more miles in and make the day into a long day of prep for the Hampton Half next month. We got back just in time for awards and wound up winning the husband/wife category (after a ten-year hiatus from the race - glad the Mahoneys and Vassallo's weren't there, or it wouldn't have happened). Heather was third woman overall and I was first Master.

Today I did almost eight easy in the cold February rain.

65 for the week for the fourth 60+ week in a row.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Running into the second half of winter

The first week of February has been busy, but I've been able to get out and run so far and here's the report:

Work has been a bit more challenging, with some new clients coming onboard I've been stretched a bit to find good caregivers to take care of everyone who needs help. Honestly, it's been "more challenging" like two customers in a row asking for no pickles on their mcdonald's cheeseburgers, I'm just not always the most eager to tackle change. Or my other analogy was that answering the latest client requests has been as demanding to me as life for the Old-time Mainer on his front porch who has two out-of-towners stop and ask him for directions in the same week. I can't really be too put out about it; it means Marathon Home Care is growing, and that's something we want.

I had a great run to kick off the month on Thursday, the first. I ran out to the snowman-shaped neighborhood on Lord's Hill in Wenham and ran 3x the neighborhood loop with two minute recoveries in between. The loop starts with a big climb (in either direction) and includes some good up and down running throughout. I had run 2x the neighborhood once in January and the loops each took me right around 12 minutes, so I was hoping to add one more in this time without slowing down. I ended up running the first and third loops in reverse direction, partly to make it more interesting and partly because there is a Strava segment up the first big hill that I wanted to grab. I ran 11:55, then 11:58 the normal direction, then 11:55 again on the last one and ran home feeling good like I should after a tempo-type workout. (I ended up missing the hill segment by a couple seconds, but snatched it this Tuesday instead. It is a TOUGH hill to run up fast, and the old segment was run at 5:40 - something pace, so I have been going into oxygen debt immediately, like Gimli trying to keep up with Aragorn and Legolas)

On the cooldown home, I was letting my mind wander a bit to work stuff and warmer weather races as I turned into my neighborhood. I saw my 70-year-old neighbor Mary, out in her apron but no coat, and as I approached her, she reached down with bare hands into the snow and came up firing at me with a snowball. It was such a great 'tension breaker I was practically laughing when I got home. (Notably, Mary is the mother of five boys, one of whom ran sub-4 in the mile after college, and now has 20 grandkids and her first great-grandchild as of a month or so ago, not that I stop and talk to her much...) 😉

Friday, I met Alex Vlahos at his office in Beverly at lunch and ran almost seven miles with him at 7:38 pace. It was snowy and icy on the sidewalks so we stuck to quieter roads than normal.

Saturday, it was pretty cold again, and I bundled up for an out and back 10 miles by the Beverly Airport at 6:41 pace.

Sunday, Jose Ortiz met me in Ipswich right after church and I joined him for fifteen miles with alternations of 3 minutes on, 2 minutes off for the last three miles. The first twelve passed quickly in spite of the freezing rain, as we got to catch up. It was the first time I had seen Jose in a few years, and we have had some close battles with each other on the roads at Grand Prix events and the Yankee Homecoming 10-mile.

When we got ready for the first "three minutes on" I had in mind 5:40-pace or maybe 5:30 if we were feeling good. Jose had said they were half-marathon to marathon pace, and he is shooting for 2:30's at Boston and probably 1:11-1:13 at New Bedford before that. I knew it would be a stretch for me, but the intervals weren't that long, so I thought I'd be ok.

To my surprise, on the first one, I found I just could not hang with Jose. I was a good 5 seconds back after a minute and a half of running. I probably finished all four pick-ups at least ten seconds in arrears of him. I wasn't sure if I was just tired from the twelve miles, or not in as good shape as I thought I was, or getting sick, or what.

But when I finally caught up to Jose afterwards, I found out what was wrong: he was trying to average 5:30-5:40 over the entire time, including the two minutes off, so he was running the three minutes on at 5:00-5:10 pace. So I was ok with being dropped at that pace.

With the 15 miles with Jose, I wound up with 66 for the week, my highest mileage week since just after the Patriots won their fourth superbowl against the seahawks on the malcolm butler interception.

Monday, I woke up with a bit of a cold and thought I'd be beat up from the run with Jose the day before, but felt surprisingly good at the start of my run. At about three miles, I felt like death, and struggled until about 5, and then was ok at a slower pace, finishing up 9 miles.

Tuesday, I went out and ran the snowman again, relaxed and still recovering from the week before - 8 miles at 7:11-pace.

Yesterday, I had planned to run before it snowed, but a morning meeting ran over by an hour, so it had already started snowing when I got out at noon. I fell once early on some ice that was under a dusting of new snow, but then as the snow got deeper, it was easier to stick in on the unplowed roads and untreated sidewalks. Another 8 miles at 7:19-pace.

Still haven't shaken this cold, it's gone from a sore throat/Superbowl loss hangover to a cough/nasally drip, but it hasn't kept me completely doan and out, so I'll try to keep running through it with a little longer run today (maybe ten or eleven when the ice melts) and back to 6-8 tomorrow before heading to Bradford on Saturday with Heather for the Valentine 5-mile/6k race.

I'm looking forward to having an actual race to write about soon!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January 2018 Recap

The first month of the New Year is on the books, and it was fairly successful by most measures. I wish I had gotten a race in, but weather caused Whitaker Woods to be moved, which hopefully means I'll race more than once this month.

Total Mileage for January:
243.8 in 29 days of running (2 days off with stomach bug)
8.4 miles/day for days run; 7.86 miles/day for the whole month

This was my second consecutive month over 200 miles, for the first time since 2015, and my highest single month total since March 2015 (256.92).

As far as January's go, this was in the middle of the pack - I've had some big first months of the year, including 2015 (475.38), which is the most miles I've ever run in any month. It's hard to imagine running twice as many miles as I did this month, since it didn't feel like I was slacking off. I was just completely committed that January three years ago. There would be a link here to the video of the wilesthing saying, "My wife says I need to be I am." but I think it's been removed.

(Since I've been compiling data lately...)

January mileage:
1. Jan. 2015 - 475.38 (#1 mileage month all-time)
2. Jan. 2013 - 389.73 (#5 mileage month all-time; #1 mileage month of 2013)
3. Jan. 2012 - 342.43 (#15 all-time; #2 mileage month of 2012)
4. Jan. 2011 - 246.96 (big dropoff from 3 to 4; #8 mileage month of 2011)
5. Jan. 2018 - 243.8
6. Jan. 2014 - 224.49
7. Jan. 2007 - 176.2
8. Jan. 2016 - 62.6
9. Jan. 2017 - 18.76

(Where are 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010?)

It's a big improvement from the last two years, and I hope foreshadows a year of greater consistency (and success) than the past couple.

My longest run was 16.13 at 6:07 pace on the 3rd of the month, which I'm also counting as one of three workouts. The other two were on the 19th (2 x 2-mile T on hilly roads) and the 24th (3 x mile T on the track).

Also, notably, I ran with Heather twice, including a longer run as we prep for a half in March.

I ran three times, including one of the workouts, with Alex Vlahos and Nate Hausman, and once each with just one of them.

And the inaugural run of the Bill and Bob's Famous Track Club with Jordan Kinley, Kevin Hankens and John Page happened last Saturday.

Also, the hat that I'm wearing in the banner pic (at Gil's Fat Ass 50k in Bradley Palmer, January 2015) has gone missing, so keep an eye out, please - my mom knit it for me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Looooong overdue Reach the Beach race report

(I was originally going to post this in late September, to put it in context - the kitchen has been done since early October.)

Since my last update (September 10), a few things have happened, not the least of which is that we have made some significant progress on our complete kitchen remodel. The cabinets are in, the flooring is down, the walls are painted. All the new windows are in, the countertop is on (yesterday), the lights are in and functional. Still waiting for the stove and sink to get re-connected which will be huge (hopefully Friday). We've been doing dishes in the bathroom sink and grilling/picnicking/toaster ovening since the beginning of July. My wife's patience has been tremendous. She even let me have my way with the dining room wall, which was perfectly fine sheetrocked, but I got to cover it up with some huge (18" and 24" wide) pine boards from a local sawmill. I think it looks nice.

The running story is that I continued between 50-60 miles a week for two more weeks, then had to cool it a little last week, took a few easy days and a few days off, and resumed activities this Monday with a new focus...

The first week since my last update was getting ready for the Reach the Beach relay, which CMS 'mate JJ had invited me into only a couple weeks prior as a fill-in for an injured team member. The relay runs from Bretton Woods in the northwest corner of the White Mountain National Forest down to Hampton, NH on the southern coast. The distance has varied over the years, but this year's course was 203-ish miles. It's always around 200 miles.

Monday (the 11th) I did 5 miles with Nate Hausman from Gordon before lunch.

Tuesday I did 6 and a half miles in the morning and then 3 and a half at night in the dark with a headlamp and reflective vest to get ready for Reach the Beach - two of my three legs were in the dark.

Wednesday I ran down to Patton Park in the morning and met Abram KJ for a Cutler loop. I had planned to run home, but was feeling pretty gassed afterwards, so gladly accepted a ride home from him.

Thursday I did 6.6 on the roads in the morning at 7:11/mi. pace.

Friday I got the kids to school, then loaded up my gear and headed to Hampton. I met up with the team - Jim Johnson, Kevin Tilton, Matt Veiga (all of CMS); the legendary Josh Ferenc; Eric MacKnight and Shaun Donegan from metro-Saratoga, NY and a bunch of NH guys I didn't know - Andrew Huebner (who ran 2:17 last year), Andrew Drummond, Chris Dunn (a different one than I was expecting), Matt Garfield and Derrick Hamel.

We piled into the team minivans and headed north. I was in van 2 (runners 7-12) with Hamel, Huebner, Garfield, Dunn and Tilton. Kevin was also our driver for the majority of the 24 hours we were out there. We indulged in some pre-race chit-chat on the ride, grabbed lunch at Subway and got to Bretton Woods around 2:30 for our 3:30 start. I was nervous about how well I'd be able to run on only a few weeks of consistent training. I knew the projected expectation was 5:45/mi. for me, but I was really hoping to just run 6:00 pace, especially for my first leg, which was 8 miles in the dark.

Here's an early shot of all of us at Bretton Woods, before our 3:30 takeoff:

Matty V. started things off for us, running the first leg up and down Bretton Woods. There were only five teams starting at 3:30, all the other teams had gone off earlier in the day at half-hour intervals since 6:00 am. Teams were seeded based on their expected times and Jim had given us an ambitious goal of all sub-6:00 pace legs, with some significantly faster.

It was hard waiting around with all the normal pre-race nerves for such a long time: we got to Hampton at 10:30 in the morning, got to Bretton Woods at 2:30, the race started at 3:30 and I didn't run my first leg until 8:00 pm. It was cool to see our guys run so well and that just built up the excitement as I waited my turn. Matt came down the hill in the lead and we never gave it up. From the time JJ took the second handoff we just passed teams the whole rest of the way.

Those of us in Van 2 hung around for the first couple exchanges, then we drove ahead to exchange 6, where we (Hamel) would receive the baton (snap bracelet) from Ferenc. At the exchange, the sun was setting and we were getting ready to have to start wearing our night gear, which we would don from 6 pm to 7 am. Derrick ran a really strong first leg for us, keeping the momentum that the van 1 guys had generated while it was still light out. When Andy Huebner left on his first leg (#8), I knew my time was drawing near and the darkness was finally settling in.

My first leg started at the Madison Elementary School and ran 8 miles along Silver Lake, mostly on Rtes 113 to 41 before turning onto Ossipee Lake Road and ending at a Lutheran campground where I would hand to Chris Dunn (the younger - recent USM grad). I knew the pace had been hot for our boys most of the way, but I was really just looking to run 5:50's or something, so when my Garmin beeped in the dark and showed "5:19" for the first mile, I was a little scared, a little excited. I tried to stay relaxed and managed a 5:34 second mile. Mile 3 was a 5:39 and could sense the slowing trend, but I still had 5 miles to go. I passed one runner each of the first three miles and wouldn't see another soul until mile 6.

Mile 4 was a 5:50 and I had a gut check. I was still ahead of goal pace, but losing time each mile. The leg was mostly flat, but I didn't know what was ahead and I also had no sustained efforts of this length in any recent training...

Mile 5 was a little downhill and I managed to claw out a 5:42.

Mile 6 continued mostly downhill and that was a 5:43 and I felt safe.

Finished with two 5:44's, although I know I slowed quite a bit over the last quarter mile on the dirt roads before I handed to Chris. And I still really ran up on him (foreshadow) before handing off.

I was pretty delighted with a 45:19 for 8 miles based on the running I had been doing. Even in the two weeks since, the glow has faded, but at the time I was really feeling good about it.

I had my longest leg out of the way (my next two were 3.5 and 4.1 miles) and that was a relief. But the fun was just beginning...

We closed out our turn with Dunn and Tilton and then grabbed some food at the exchange (Kevin's elementary or middle school!) Then we drove ahead to exchange #18 where we hoped to catch a little rest before we got the baton back from van 1.

It was a little after 10:00 pm when we finished up, and we were expecting them around 1:30 am, but it took us a long time to drive the course down to the exchange zone. I think we got there at 11:30 or so, still giving us two hours of potential rest, but there was little if any actual sleep that took place, and I didn't have any of it. I stretched out on the grass a couple times and reclined in the front seat of the parked minivan, but the closest I came was a couple really good yawns.

At 1:20, van 1 came in, tired but psyched - they had been passing 50-60 runners per leg - and shortly after that Ferenc cruised in and handed to Derrick and we were off again.

Derrick, Andy H. and Matt G. all had tough second legs, in the dark, hilly, foggy and tired. Matt and I sort of bumped at the exchange as he came off his long leg and I tried to go hard for a short three and a half miles on no sleep at 3:30 in the morning. I cranked a 5:08 opening mile, and then didn't have a whole lot of gas for the next two, but they were ok (5:36, 5:38) based on everything. The last half-mile (my second leg was only three and a half miles) I was trying to pick it up and had a left turn off the main road, then a right onto this sidewalk that led into the exchange where Chris Dunn the younger was waiting. I had a nice little downhill and came soaring in and Chris wasn't quite moving fast enough and I basically ran right up his back. We both went down on the concrete, I was right on top of him and only scraped my knuckles, but I was so dazed by the whole thing I couldn't react very quickly to get off him. I found the crumpled baton underneath us and handed it to him. He had let out a noise of exasperation, frustration and some other stuff as he went down, but he got up with a bloodied knee and took off for his 8 mile leg!

At the next exchange I apologized and he said he forgave me, but that he had run angry the whole way. Can't say I blame him. I had quite the adrenaline boost myself from the whole ordeal, but it wasn't going to last until 8:30 when I would need to run again.

Kevin finished off our second turn in Brandon Newbould's backyard by Bear Brook State Forest just before sun-up and we all re-convened briefly (both vans) before Matty V. took us into the home stretch. We were psyched to be into the final 12 legs, but still had some ground to cover. Going back through some now four-month-old texts, I can see Jim's 7:23 am announcements that "Andy (Drummond) got the scalp" and "we are in first". With 8 runners left to run we had overtaken every team, some of which had started 10 hours before us. Granted, this is not an ultra-competitive event, it's more of a team-builder, but we were certainly taking advantage of the opportunity to do both (compete and team build).

Our van stopped at Dunkin's for some breakfast and I was grateful for the sausage egg and cheese and the coffee in preparation for my final four-mile leg. Derrick, who was running first for us, had a really short leg, so we had to leave him before he got the baton to make sure we had Andy H., our next runner in place to receive. Derrick absolutely crushed his final leg, and handed to Andy, who had a long stretch for his final effort. Things were getting a bit blurry at this point with the lack of sleep, hard running, adrenaline, caffeine, etc., but we were joined by a now-finished van #1 at each exchange and it was fun to have the always beaming Ferenc around before, during and after my final push. I got the baton from Matty G. in an otherwise quiet office park and took off, hoping to run my last 4.1 miles respectably. I was cruising at 5:40ish pace toward North Hampton until I hit a red light crossing route 1 and had to wait for 40 seconds to get going again. There was a safety official there, but he held me up until the light changed. Not that 40 seconds makes a huge difference over 203 miles, but it nonetheless killed my final leg and dropped my average pace to 5:50's. Plus, standing still for that long in the middle of my final leg made for a killer re-start when I could finally go again. I handed to Chris Dunn the younger, with no collision this time, and cooled down a mile or so while Ferenc drove our van ahead. I was feeling really good at this point, all things considered, happy to be done, but proud to have acquitted myself ok on a team that was far fitter than me.

Here's a picture from Andy D. of me finishing up my final leg:

Chris handed to Kevin and we all drove ahead to Hampton Beach to run it in with him. We were excited to see him striding up the sand toward us, and chased him in to the finish chute, as the announcer told an empty parking lot who the winners were. We congratulated each other and then all headed home to crash before the awards and after-party started. It felt a little funny to be competing so hard with noone around to see it, but it was a great time. Not sure if it will ever happen again, so I'm glad I got to be a part of it!

Overall, we ran 203 miles in 19:13:22.4, which means we would have broken 19:13 without my two delays (traffic and collision). We averaged right around 5:40/mi. the whole way and ended up among the fastest teams to ever complete the relay. (Hard to compare times because the course has varied over the years. However, there were a couple Bucknell alumni teams the first years that ran comparable times to ours. And I think another Tilton team that was close, too.) It would have been interesting to have another team nearby running a similar pace.

Here's the link to Andy Drummond's awesome video for anyone interested who hasn't seen it yet on facebook:

Team Cutters Reach the Beach 2017

And photo album.

Friday, January 26, 2018

End of the week/Racing Plans/Random Thought

The last two days (since I claimed spring was kind of here) it has been more seasonably normal and back in the 20's. The sun has been bright though, at least midday when I've gotten out, and it is noticeably stronger than it was during the super cold from a couple weeks ago. This leads me to my random thought:

(Yesterday on the run I was thinking about how strange it is that winter begins with the shortest day of the year and it also begins ten days before the end of the calendar year. I'm always thinking about the days getting longer during the winter months and trying to celebrate each minute of extra daylight, so I was dividing the year into other categories and I came up with this:

if you divide the year into 5 equal portions, you come up with 73 day intervals. If you centered the "first" interval around the shortest day and just for simplicity call that December 21, you'd have the shortest 20% of the year, which I'll call "the dark fifth", from November 15th - January 26th, which means that today is the last day of that interval. It gets a little trickier from there, but I decided that I would add the 37 days from Jan. 27 - March 4 and the 36 days from October 10 - November 14th and call these "the gray fifth". It's confusing because they're not continuous, but it's just a gray season before the dark season and a gray season after. "The bronze fifth" is March 5-April 9 and September 3 - October 9. Silver is April 10 - May 16 and July 29 - September 2. and, finally, the golden fifth runs from May 17 - July 28, centered around the (sometimes) longest day of the year, June 21.)

I ran eight miles in 57 minutes on the William Fairfield loop.

Today I did the Lord's Hill full snowman loop in reverse for 8 miles in 56 minutes.

I went over 200 miles for the year (just before JJ crests 300). The only month last year that I ran 200 miles was December, so I'm definitely staying ahead of where I was.

I'm also signed up for 5 races already, which is an unprecedented amount of foresight, and I'm hopeful I can make it to them all:

Bradford 5-mile and 6k; Sat., Feb. 10 - Heather and I are planning to run the husband/wife category for the first time since 2008, which ended a string of four years straight for us. We were first in '05 and '07 (we both ran our best times in '07). Since our last appearance their have been some really fast years (Mahoneys and Vassallos) and some years when we probably could have won. It will be fun to be back after ten years away.

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe 4-mile; Sat. Feb. 17 - this is the reschedule and should work out because I'll have some freedom to travel while Heather and the kids take to NJ for school vacation.

Half at the Hamptons; Sun. Mar. 4 - Heather and I signed up with five friends in support of our friend Amber's debut at the distance. I'm secretly hoping I might have to make Derrick Hamel work to run sub-1:15 for the win.

Merrimack River 10-mile Trail Race; Sat. Apr. 14 - I've only run this once before in 2015, post-Caumsett, in 1:04:58. I've been looking at the Master's records and particularly wondering if I have a shot at the 41-year-old single age mark of 1:02:30 that Ethan Nedeau ran a few years back. It would require being faster than I was at age 38, but I was pretty banged up and discouraged at that point in the year. I was running a fair amount still, but something was definitely wrong.

Mount Washington Road Race; Sat. June 16 - I get to go back for the first time since 2015, when I had hoped for a 1:05 (some months before) and mustered a 1:20:15. Improving on that time will be the first order of business, followed by a sub-1:15 goal, which I hope might enable me to be a part of a competitive CMS Master's Team.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

spring is kind of here

I know that three years ago on this date we hadn't even gotten our first blizzard yet, that kicked off a fairly epic stretch of winter weather, but it feels like winter is over. We had some early snow and then it got really cold, and it's been really mild lately.

Yesterday I was waiting and waiting for the temperature to rise before I went out, it was supposed to be in the fifties, but it seemed like we stuck around freezing way longer than forecast. Finally, at about 2:30, with 35 degrees on the thermometer, I headed out, hoping everything wasn't too icy. I had gone about a mile and went up this little hill and at the top it was a different season. It was real foggy and about 20 degrees warmer. I stayed in this pocket of warm air for the rest of the run, I think it was the warmer coastal air finally moving inland. When I got home it was fifty at my house.

Sunday at noon, with Heather's parents still toting all our kids around and the Patriots' game still a few hours off, Heather and I got out together on the roads for 6.7 in 51:46. I took her over to Lord's Hill and up the main climb as a part of my efforts to get her on some hilly terrain on the days she's not on the treadmill. We also jacked up the treader with some 3/4" pine to get it slightly uphill with the broken incline feature.

Monday I ran a slight variation on my eight mile loop, heading south instead of north on 97 and running a loop over by the beverly airport. 9.73 miles in 1:05:08.

Yesterday my run in the fog was 8.61 in 59:37.

Today, I met up with Alex Vlahos and Nate Hausman at the Gordon College track for some tempo miles. Alex was really excited (so was I) and Nate was nervous about the workout. We did two easy miles on the track and then set off on the first one. The goal was 3 x 5:48 or so and keep the recoveries short. The first one was right on, although the first lap was fast and the third was slow. I led and Alex was right on my heels the whole way, which was great incentive to keep moving. The recovery was a little long, but that was fine, and we headed into the second one. The first lap was quick again, but then we stayed consistent, for 5:44 second. The second recovery was long again, but this was a January outdoor track workout, so I wasn't feeling like we had to be too strict. The third we were running 84's for the first three laps and then we closed with an 81, for 5:33 on the last one. Did a couple mile cooldown on the roads and called it a (good) day.