Thursday, October 24, 2013

North Jersey Half Marathon race report

I left work early last Thursday since Gordon was on quad break and headed down with my family to visit Heather's parents for the weekend. On Friday, Heather and I visited our new niece, Maisie, in Lancaster, PA (my brother Alex and his wife Chloe’s first) and Saturday we headed to Pompton Plains, NJ for the 3rd Annual North Jersey Half Marathon.

The race was advertised as flat, and the course drive through looked amazingly so. We arrived at the park where the race began at 7:30 am for the 8:30 start. It was cold, around 40 degrees and I had only brought my CMS singlet and shorts, no hat or gloves. I was confident it would warm up once we got going. Heather also donned the (new) CMS ladies' gear, as we warmed up a bit and made our way over to the starting area.

I noticed one young runner who was answering a lot of questions about what he was hoping to run and how fit he was, etc. and figured he was the local favorite. He mentioned a recent 2:31 marathon and just wanted to run half that time because he had been sick that week.

I had 1:10 in mind and Heather hoped to improve dramatically on her 1:39 best from several years back.

The gun went off and the young guy (Rob Albano) and I went right to the front. We talked quite a bit the first mile and still came through in 5:09. I told him I wanted to run 1:10 and he basically gave me his blessing to go for it. At 2.5 miles, we came to an intersection with a police officer standing in the road and we asked which way to go as we approached. The officer told us to turn right, but Rob thought we were supposed to go straight, so we stopped and talked and deliberated (it was probably only about 5 seconds) and decided to disobey the policeman and continue straight. Fortunately, we made the right call, as did the 223 runners behind us. 

It was a little unsettling to have that happen in the first 3 miles of the race and I was concerned about what other adventures we might have in the final ten miles. After miles 2-5 passed between 5:26 and 5:31 amid much gabbing between Rob and me, I told him I was going to have to pick up the intensity a bit if I wanted to get close to 1:10. He obliged and we ran a 5:22 6th and a 5:21 7th mile.

After that, the miles got a little screwy, but we were really cruising (for me), keeping the (Garmin) pace between 5:00 and 5:15. Mile 8 (little short) was a 4:57, Mile 9 (very short) was a 4:45, Mile 10 (way long) was a 6:05, and had us back where we were supposed to be, with a clock reading 53:32 at 10 miles. At this point, I was losing ground to Rob, but (according to the Garmin) I was keeping the pace pretty consistent. The mile markers were another story. Mile 11 (Garmin measured .82) was a mile PR of 4:18. Mile 12 and 13 + caught me up, but it was hard to know what my time would be or if the course would end up being accurate or not. 

I came through in 1:09:45.3, but more importantly a Garmin-measured distance of 13.26 indicated that the certified course claim was true. Rob won in 1:09:31, quite a bit under his predicted 1:15.

Heather had a similar fate, finishing second by about thirty ticks, but with a huge 12-minute PR. (1:27:01)

Feeling happy about breaking 1:10, but still a little weird about this race, because of the mis-labelled mile markers. With a little better course management, this could be a big-time PR course. It had quite a few turns in one neighborhood, but also a couple long, straight shots down the boulevard on either side, where you could just roll (like New Bedford). Also, no ocean winds to worry about and absolutely nothing resembling an incline.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

tempo miles on the track

Heather and I registered for the North Jersey Half Marathon last night. The race is next Saturday, the 19th, and looks super-flat. This is only the third year they have held the event, and last year's winning time was 1:19, so not sure if I'll have company shooting for 5:20's, but that's ok.

Feeling stiff and sore (from last week's mileage?), I headed to the track on a picture-perfect midday. Temps right around 60 degrees, light breeze, crisp and cool.

Decided on tempo miles, with a goal of seven. Instead of trying to run them all at 5:20-5:24, I thought I would increase the pace as I went, starting out a little slower than 5:20 and ending up a little faster. The goal for the half-marathon will be to improve on my pr of 1:12:13, which I ran at New Bedford in 2007 during my Boston build-up. I remember barely being able to walk afterwards (IT band) and still forcing myself to do a 4-mile cooldown with Andy McCarron. I'd love to be near or potentially under 1:10. With that in mind, I want 5:20's to be pretty comfortable.

.25 miles up to the track, then 2 miles on the track for a warmup.
Started the workout with a relaxed 76-second first quarter, then backed it off too much to run the first mile in 5:31. jogged 100m and back to the start. Mile 2 was a 5:27. Kept the recoveries at ~200m/1:00. Mile 3 = 5:22. Mile 4 = 5:18. Mile 5 = 5:14. Mile 6 = 5:18; decided to forego the recovery jog and just stood near the finish for 1:00 to feel more recovered. Finished up with a 5:11.
2 miles on the track for a cooldown, then jogged back down to my office. Feeling good about next weekend.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

little baby workout

Three days after the Nahant 30k, I was feeling good and decided to take a shot at a workout on the track. Last week, the XC team ran 3 x (2000/1000/500) n the trails in Gordon Woods, so I thought I would do my own version of that workout on the outdoor surface at the Brigham Athletic facility at Gordon.

The goal: 2000m at T-pace (80s/lap); 1000m at I-pace (74s/lap); 500m at R-pace (68s/lap)
Recoveries: 200m after the 2k, 300m after the 1k, 400m after the 1/2k.

What happened:
I warmed up to the track and then ran 8 laps real easy. My legs still had some lingering stiffness/soreness from the long race on Sunday, but I was confident I could run the 2000m pace pretty comfortably. I wasn't sure how it would feel running faster than that, but I wanted to give it a shot. Changed from my adidas boost into the cadence spike for the first 2000m repeat. Came through the first 200 in 35 (a little quick) and then settled in to 40s 200's. First 2k was comfortably done in 6:43 (5:22 for 1600).

Jogged half the track in just under a minute and started the first 1000 at the 200m mark. Worked hard to keep the pace, but ended up in 3:04 which was great. Then easy jogged three-quarters of a lap before the 500. 500m in 85s - right on goal pace.

Set one, done: 6:43/3:04/85.

Starting the second set, the 2000 felt a little harder, but that was partly because I ran it faster. Got ahead of pace and stayed consistently just under 80s per lap for a 6:36 (5:17 for 1600).

Took a little more time on the 200m recovery (1:05), then right into 1000m #2 in 3:05. Jogged the three-quarters of a lap very slowly (1:44) and barely hung on for an 88sec 500m. Feeling like the recent race and the 80-degree weather (don't get me wrong, I'll take 80 degree days in October any time) were getting the best of me, I grabbed a quick drink and decided to run one more 400 at T-pace and call it a workout. Switched back into my trainers and did an 80s 400, then 3+ miles for a cooldown.

Second set: 6:36/3:05/88.

I'd like to re-visit this workout in a couple weeks with fresher legs and a cooler day and see if I can get all three sets done at goal paces. I need to do more of this type of work training at multiple paces; I have always liked to run repeats at the same pace and get comfortable returning to the same pace after each recovery. It is a bit more challenging and more race-like to have to change paces mid-workout.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


September (and the second half of August) have been a busy time with Gordon College XC starting up, hosting an invitational (Pop Crowell on the 21st of September) and back to school, for Ben and me.

Training has continued with fairly consistent weekly mileage in the 50's and 60's, with one lower week leading up to our first meet.

Thankfully, the four races I have been able to do in the last 6 weeks have brought pleasing results.

On August 23, I headed down to Hingham to run for the Mino, and came away with a win in 25:48 over a couple of speedy youngsters that I couldn't shake until the last mile. Breaking 26 always feels nice, especially after failing to do so in my previous two attempts (Carver and Hamilton Firefighter). It certainly helped having company the first four miles. Came away from this one with $100 cash and a $150 gift certificate to Marathon Sports which I used for a pair of Saucony Type A5 racing flats for shorter road races. Got to catch up with former HW and Stonehill star Dianna Chivakos, who works at the Melrose store and recently moved back to the area with her husband Sean.

A little over a week later, I got another win on a steamy Labor Day morning at the Run the Goose 7k. I opted out of the 25k, with plans to race 30k later in the month, and thought this would be the easier option. However, maintaining 5:20's on the hilly path around Goose Cove in Gloucester proved difficult, even with Jordan Kinley lurking in the wings. I won this race last year in 23:05 and had kept the intensity up, as I was targeting the previous course record. This year, I didn't feel like I was as focused or consistent and was pleased to come in at 23:23, with a "W" in my first race as a 37-year-old.

The competitive field got deep on the familiar Back Shore of Gloucester for the Lone Gull 10k on the 15th of last month. I had aspirations of a road PR (32:40 on an uncertified Hamilton course), and running on (mostly) familiar territory helped. A 5:07 first mile got things going in the right direction. 5:18 for the second was a little discouraging. Came back with a 5:10 third, but then a 5:20 4th, winding through the neighborhoods of Eastern Point. Closed with a 5:12, a 5:09 and 1:05 for the last .2+. Came away with a 14th place finish in a competitive race, but more significantly, a 19-second road 10k PR of 32:21. Heather broke 40 minutes for the first time to finish as 2nd among the CMS ladies as they finished 3rd open team.

The CMS men were well-represented with Nate Jenkins and Dan Vassallo going 3-4 overall. Scott Leslie, Greg Putnam and I rounded out the scoring for the first place Open Team. (Above photos of me closing in on a road PR of 32:21 courtesy of Krissy K. - Thanks, Kris!)

Most recently, I laced up the Karhus for the Nahant 30k this past weekend. Not sure of what to expect with limited recent long runs, I let the lead pack go (like I had a choice?) after one mile, hoping some of them (but not Dan V.) would come back to me at some point. Dan was on a mission to win, and he had Brandon Newbould of Whirlaway, Sean Duncan of WMDP (the overall USATF-NE Grand Prix series leader), and a couple of RUN guys (Peter Onea, ??) in tow.

I was trying to stay under 5:40's for as long as I could.

Trying to stay with Justin Freeman on the first trip up the Observatory Hill, in seventh place.
(courtesy of Krissy K.)
Early on (just after 4 miles), I could hear footsteps coming up on me fast and Justin Freeman pulled alongside me. We had already agreed at the starting line that neither one of us was really looking forward to racing 30k, so I tried my best to encourage him with, "We might be able to beat Sean Duncan." Sean was cruising along ahead of us, obviously not racing the leaders. Justin went by Sean quickly into 5th place, and I caught up to him a couple miles later after our first trip up and down the observatory hill. (Quick note: it is amazing what a couple of mountain races will do to your perspective on "hills" during a road race. In 2006, I remember feeling absolutely killed by this climb.) I was keeping the miles in the 5:30's and feeling pretty good as I pulled back alongside Justin and then moved into 5th place. I knew Justin was the 3rd RUN guy (Jim Pawlicki reminded me as he ran past), so I figured the more time I could put on him, the better chance we would have of overtaking them as a team. I was confident Dan would pull away with the win and hoped that Scott Leslie would close on Justin, too.

 Second time up the observatory hill, alone in fifth place. (All photos courtesy of Krissy K.)

To my surprise, I came upon an obviously struggling Tadesse Girma (?) and moved by him into 4th at about 25k. I was hurting the last couple miles (5:49 for 17 and 5:46 for 18), but tried to close hard and nearly broke 1:44, coming through in 1:44:05 with a 2 and a half minute PR, good for fourth overall. Scott had a strong finish for 6th, and we had three men in, good for the win.

Next up, a half marathon?