Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Last Two Weeks - Part Two: trip to VT

I followed up the Yankee Homecoming 10-miler with 13 on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday, and 16 on Friday (12 and 4). The 4 was on trails around Bridgewater Corners, VT, where I stayed for 5 days as part of a Gordon Athlete Leadership Retreat.

Saturday I drove about 10 miles south from Bridgewater to Plymouth, VT to meet the one and only Joshua Ferenc for a trail run. After a short time of confusion, driving around looking for each other, we both pulled into the parking lot of the Salt Ash Inn. Somewhere between there and Josh pulling his shoes out of his roof rack, I realized this was going to be a run to remember.

I had stocked up on snacks from NE Running Company and brought a water bottle to carry on my waist. I asked Josh if he was going to carry anything and he told me no. He also admitted that he usually wasn't prepared for runs like this. I abandoned my game plan and left my shirt and all supplies in the car. I figured that Ferenc knew what he was doing, even if he said he didn't.

We were without a map, but eager to get going, so we started up a long dirt road across route 100 from the Inn. (Est. started elev. around 1200') As we neared the top of the dirt road, we asked our first stranger for directions, and were guided across the old Round Top (now Bear Creek) ski area. This dumped us out onto Roundtop Road, which climbed pretty steadily for a mile or so, before becoming Old Plymouth Road (as we entered N. Shrewsbury). We passed a few trails on our right that went into Coolidge State Forest as we sought out the long trail/AT . The "road" was overgrown and dirt and very runnable and Josh and I got to know each other by talking about New England runners we both knew. Josh did a great "JJ during a 50k" impression which I didn't have to use my imagination much to envision. I also heard some great tales throughout the run of legendary Keene St. performances. As a DIII coach, it was pretty exciting to hear about the impressive things that Josh and his teammates accomplished (and that current Owls continue to do under Pete Thomas' guidance). Josh had an awesome perspective on team culture, being a good teammate, etc., all stuff that is critical to team success.

We popped out of the State Forest and checked a sign at the parking lot. Getting our bearings, we continued to the end of the road and took a right on the CCC Road. At a fork, we ran into some more folks with a map and chatted them up while we looked things over. We ended up going right at the fork and finding a trailhead, where we got into the real VT woods for the first time (almost 8 miles/about 1 hour in). We thought we were on the Long Trail, but looking at maps afterward I don't think we were. The terrain got a lot more interesting, and Josh let me lead (as is his custom, he told me) through some beautiful woods as we climbed over both peaks of Shrewsbury (3700ish') and eventually to the summit of Killington. We had a couple great spots to look out over the valley and surrounding mountains. At the top, we chatted with a few friendly hikers and began our descent on the Juggernaut ski trail, which Killington used to advertise as 10 miles long. I wondered if it could actually be 10 miles to the bottom - we were over 2 hours in by now. The mood was light and the conversation was good, even as fatigue and dehydration took hold. Josh was more daring than me (no surprise) and quenched his thirst from a mossy mountain stream near the summit of Killington. This provided giardia conversations that lasted the rest of the run.

After a mile or two of winding down on Juggernaut without getting much closer to the bottom, we hopped on the Great Bear trail and followed that to the Sunrise Trail. It was a long way down. We ended up somehow having to climb back up as we approached the bottom, which neither of us was thrilled about at that point. Finally, we emerged at the (old) Sunrise base lodge, only to discover we had a long 6 miles left on route 100 back to our cars. We had been on our feet for over three hours and covered about 20 miles through the mountains. To add insult to injury, as we slowly started making our way back to Plymouth the road was marked every 100 meters, reminding us just how far we had to go. We were both feeling gassed, and when Ferenc told me he wasn't ashamed to call it quits, I took him up on it.

We decided to try our luck at eliciting some help from the locals and I was the first one up. At the first house we stopped, which was an inn, a woman was outside on her phone when two weary mountain men wandered up. "Could we get a ride or maybe just something to drink?" I asked her. She was without wheels, but she brought out two giant cups of homemade iced tea that hit the spot. Unfortunately, that wasn't helping the dead legs at all.

At the second house, it was Ferenc's turn to try. A guy with a mohawk and his girlfriend had just pulled into the driveway in a big pickup and Josh liked our chances. I let him lead the way while I slowly approached, waiting for a thumbs up or some other indication that we had found our help. Sure enough, Josh waved me over and we piled in the back for the ride to Plymouth. The guy probably didn't save our lives, but he certainly made them a lot less difficult than they would have been. We thanked him profusely at the Inn and he turned to head back.

Josh and I decided we wanted something else cold to drink, and being in Vermont, there was a country store only several miles away. We drove to a store in Plymouth just across the street from the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. It was a very clean and very old country store. As we entered, I noticed a lot of ribbon candy and rock candy but nothing that would quench our thirst. The woman at the counter was counting out her register, getting ready to close the store, so I asked her if she had anything cold to drink. When she replied, "All we have is Moxie," I noticed Josh starting to lose control of his emotions, so I quickly asked for two. We popped those babies open in a couple rocking chairs on the front porch and that pretty well cemented a perfect first date with Josh Ferenc. (Ed. note: He told me I had him at, "Want to go for a run?")

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last Two Weeks - (Part One) Yankee Homecoming

It's been two weeks since my last update and a lot has happened.

The week after Bear Brook was highlighted by a tired 26:49 at the Hamilton Firefighter "5"-Mile road race (Tuesday) and 18 miles at 6:14 pace on Friday.

I ended up with 82 miles for the week.

The following Tuesday, July 29, Heather and I headed north to Newburyport for the 55th Annual Yankee Homecoming 10-Miler. This would be my tenth trip to the race, and seventh consecutive time running.

Previous Results:
2000 - 57:41 (32nd place)
2005 - 1:15:26 (304th - stepped off course around 6 miles, then finished with Heather)
2006 - 56:58 (9th)
2008 - 56:50 (49th - Grand Prix year)
2009 - 55:14 (13th)
2010 - 54:20 (10th)
2011 - 53:34 (5th)
2012 - 54:32 (9th)
2013 - 53:39 (12th)

My goal coming in was to improve on the times I had run here and hopefully get a new 10-Mile PR (53:19 at '06 Apple Harvest Ramble).

This race is also a full-on reunion with seemingly every person from every corner of my life converging on Newburyport High School. We caught up with newly-minted CMS member Layce Alves along with Jim P., and Nick T. for a pre-race photo from Roger Perham. (Before we had a chance to pin our numbers on...)

Warming up, we ran into my best friend growing up, Ben, and his new wife, Megan, who live in Newburyport and were running the 5k.

I bumped into my top incoming Gordon freshman women, Kasey, and her family. She was taking a shot at the 10-Miler for the second time.

I saw a formidable crew of Cape Ann League coaches and alumni - the Keiran sisters (Tina - UVM and Sarah - UNH), a bunch of former Newburyport Clippers (in the 10-Mile and the 5k), Eric McDonald (UMass-Lowell and Pentucket HS) and coaches from Amesbury (Ernie), Triton (Joe), Newburyport (Foley and Hennigar), and North Reading (Spinney). Noticeably absent was Ipswich HS coach Marty Binette, who I always see here.

Also ran into several others during the two and a half mile warmup around town.

Saw Brandon Newbould and my first "Strava-friend" Steve Dowsett at the starting line and then the gun went off.

The plan was to run 5:20's comfortably early on and hopefully have some strength left to close harder than that at the end. Historically, the first few and the last couple miles are the fastest, but I usually struggle from 4-7. Because I had my Garmin set to take splits every measured mile, my splits didn't reflect the course markings. I know I was just under 5:20 for the first and was 10:40 for 2 miles.

I got a kick out of seeing (80-year-old?) Jack Welch at the water stop on High St. just after the mile mark where I always see him. Jack was a Navy Seal, a legendary football coach at Ipswich High School (the stadium is named after him) and now coaches throws there.

Jose Ortiz (who finished just ahead of me last year) and I were working together for the early part of the race. We were about 10 seconds in back of Brandon and Justin Freeman, and I wanted to be up with them, but also wanted to be smart. As we came into the downtown area just after 2 miles, I saw Don Hennigar in front of the running store where he works and he gave me a cheer. I always get so charged up from there all the way through town, with the streets lined with spectators, and I took a breath and tried to stay in control and not get carried away. The next mile or so is always spent weaving through errant 5k runners (can they please just put a rope up some year?) and then between 3 and 4 miles we get sweet relief and it gets lonely out there.

I think the 3-mile split was 16:06 and 4 was in the 21:20's. There are a couple rolling hills up to mile 5, and somewhere in this stretch I got ahead of Jose and into 6th place by myself. I wouldn't pass or be passed again. Halfway split was almost identical to my 5-mile race time from a week before (26:48). I felt good, but not great, and realized I had my work cut out for a PR. I probably ran from miles 5-7 better than I ever have before, but I lost a little more time off of 5:20 pace (about 10 sec in two miles). The climb up Hoyt's Lane to 113 was a grind. As I got onto 113 (High St) which leads all the way back to the finish, I could see Brandon and Justin ahead (45-60 seconds?) and made after them. I always like this stretch, up and over 95 and back to the school because there is almost always someone to chase.

At times over the last two miles I thought I was closing, but I also knew that the two of them working together would be hard to get. My 8 mile split was 43-flat. I would need to run 10:18 for the last two miles to PR. I went for it, for what it was worth, but mile 9 was a 5:19. Mile 10 I dropped down to a 5:10 and came through in 53:29, good for 6th place, my best time at Yankee Homecoming and second-fastest 10-Miler ever.

Krissy K. got some good finish line shots - I liked this one the best:

I caught up with a few of the guys ahead of me, had a pat on the back for Justin Freeman (once again, he was first 37-year-old) and asked Ruben about what had happened up front where I couldn't see. I was really impressed/surprised to see in the results that Brandon had closed to only seconds behind third place and put a lot of time on Justin over the last couple miles.

Full Results

Heather cracked the top ten women for the first time here, finishing 9th, and lowered her PR for 10M by over a minute to 1:05:28!

Cooled down with Mr.'s Pawlicki and Dowsett on the quiet (and quickly darkening) streets of Newburyport.

Then we met up with good friends Russ and Carmen Queen at the Grog in Newburyport for dinner afterwards. They had run the 5k together - Russ' second race of his life (and second in two nights) after making his debut at the Asbury Grove Mile on Monday.

It's been a time to generate a little positive press for Gordon, and I have had a couple cool opportunities to do so. Tuesday morning, before the Yankee Homecoming, I sat down for about 30 minutes with Joel Richardson as part of his program, "Looking Back on Track". We talked about coaching the teams at Gordon as well as my running.

The next day I had an email to do an interview with the Boston Globe for the North section. Hopefully, that will see the light of day and the publicity will do some good for our program.