Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Old Mountain Field Trail 5K -- Take II

I've realized that I did not race all that much in 2014.  Prior to this race, I had only managed 11 races all year--8 trail races (two 5Ks, one 10k, one 8 miler, two 10 milers, one 1/2 marathon, and one marathon) and 3 road races (5K, 5 miler, and 10 miler).  Sort of sad but at the same time it also helps to reinforce my sneaking suspicion that I enjoy training--just running-- even more than I do racing.

At any rate, it was rather fitting that, due to scheduling, my first race of 2014 was the Old Mountain Field Trail 5K and my last (first race of this new South County 4th Season Race Series) would also be OMF 5K.  Wow, that was a somewhat awkward sentence. Given the cool, dry conditions I was rather excited to redeem myself from the snowy shit show of January's race.  I was coming back from knee issues in January's version and consequently was fat and out of shape.  Oh yeah, it was freezing cold and there was about 6" of snow on the ground at that one too.  If that doesn't qualify as a recipe for disaster then I don't know what does. Well, perhaps a school bus driver high on crystal meth would be more representative of an epic failure but since that's not running related I'll stick to what I know. 

I arrived at this year's race a little late for my liking but was easily able to get my bib, and run a relaxed partial course warm up with Gazelle and Mark F.  The course looked great and I made mental notes of several locations at which I could rip and make moves pass people if I needed to.  Given the nearly entire single track nature of this race, (other than the XC style open field start and return finish) I knew positioning was at a premium.  Any little advantage I could gain would be important.  

I did one short stride from the start and then lined up in the front among my WTAC brethren, a slew of Tuesday Night Turtles, and several other semi-familiar faces.  At the "gun", everyone took off, per usual, at a suicidal pace to clear the outfield fence and loop around into an optimal position before entering into the single track approximately a 400m(?) away. As we entered the woods I was already nearly redlining and wasn't sure of my spot in the field but recognized fellow runners that were around me so I knew I was probably okay. After working around a several unknown people and a few I did know (Dave Principe), I settled in behind Jonny in my usual position as we crossed over the last real footbridge before entering mud and rocks.  Now, a brief departure from this grammatically terrible race recap to clarify a few things about this "race tactic" of mine:

Apparently, over the past several years, I've developed the annoying habit of settling in behind my running partner in crime, using him for pacing purposes, and then trying to pass him near the finish.  I'm not sure if this is acceptable or not.  It certainly is never a conscious goal or strategy of mine.  It just always unfolds this way. As my wife graciously pointed out later that evening, "You did it again, didn't you? That's kind of a dick move."  Wait a damn minute - "dick move"? I have two major issues with my lovely lady's declaration: 1.) Can I be blamed for using a fellow training partner, with whom I log a lot of training miles and that is very close to my fitness level (actually a little bit faster and more fit), as a pacer of sorts during a race? I don't see it as a dick move! The guy sets a perfect pace and effort (for me) nearly every single race, nearly every single distance, especially on ALL trail races!  He always goes out faster than I'd like and throws in surges when I don't want to--yet I know I must hang with him if I have any hopes of running a good race.  2.) it's a R-A-C-E! Isn't the goal to run smart and then leave your blood, guts, and dick dragging in the dirt behind you at the finish in every attempt to pass as many people as possible?  

Rant over.

Anyway, I fought to hang with Jonny and when he passed several people I too tried to surge just after and move around them.  Near the heart/center of the twisty course we closed in on a fellow racer, but really more of a triathlete, Tom Gruczka.  I was a little bit upset as usually we "dispose" of him earlier in races but here we were, "late" in the race, working hard trying to catch him.  At the same time I also became frustrated by the absence of another familiar face, Steve Brightman.  I love trail races but they're also the bane of my existence because runners can get out ahead of me and hide.  As a result, if the distance is less than 10K, I stand no chance of hunting them down.  Gruczka, like the gentleman that he is, allowed us to pass and offered words of encouragement.  I offered spit, snot and a moaned grunt back at him.  It was now that I began to get giddy.  Jonny and I were closing in on local speedster, and brick shithouse, Bronson Venable.  The dude was  IS very fast and would absolutely obliterate my pansy ass at a road race.  However, we found ourselves consistently closing the gap on him near the end of the trail before it spilled back out to the final 600m or so finish back across the outskirts of the grassy ball field.  

Along this point I watched as Jonny pulled away a bit and moved past Venable. Two things didn't happen here. In a recent race (Li'l Rhody Runaround) I was right behind my running friend and watched him just fly away from me over the last .9 mile of road and beat me by about ten seconds.  I expected the same thing to happen here.  Also, I figured that Venable would drop the hammer and leave us both in the dust a la  Road Runner ("meep meep"). I was surprised to find Jonny move in front of Bronson but then they stayed within range! As we turned the corner around right field, I pulled closer and when we climbed a tiny rise back up to the final finishing 75m or so to the finishing chute I began pushing really hard.  I passed Jonny and Venable! Unfortunately, seconds later, Venable blew past us as though we were standing still.  I know that sounds rather cliche but he seriously had A LOT left in the tank.  Apparently, a finishing kicker, I am not.  

The three of us finished 5th, 6th and 7th, literally 1 second apart.  After choking back a little gorge behind the bleachers, I shook hands with those around us and gave congratulations.  We watched all the finishers come pounding in and I figured that WTAC had managed to beat the Tuesday Night Turtles in the team competition (we did but it was closer than I thought).

Bunches of us went out on the course a little later to trade war stories, run a short cool down and pick up race flags.  I was pleased with my effort of 19:26, 6th OA (results here) -- about 10 seconds faster than my last comparable race over this course in 2012. Another quick word about the course itself: what it lacks in elevation, it certainly makes up for in twists. Holy shit, the twists and turns, coupled with the narrow trail make it tough but super fun to race on.  I feel that no matter what one's pace on this course, given the nature of the environment and footing, it would feel fast (despite not being fast in actual time/pace). Plus, a 5000m TRAIL RACE? Really? What's not to like about that? Redlining out of the gate with bloody quads and mud everywhere.  Yes, please!

Overall a great day! I look forward to battling those dastardly Turtles over the next 4 races. If you've never run these races as part of the series, they're worth checking out-- low key yet highly competitive, cheap ($10!), and over excellent terrain. Plus, I can try and finish ahead of you. I need all the help I can get in the character development and confidence fortification departments. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

HRG - The End Is Neigh

My stupid attempt at running every road in Hopkinton, RI is drawing to a close.  The "Hopkinton Road Gobble", though not officially commenced this year, is one of my child-like projects for 2014. I used (already counted) many of the roads that I had run in the past 1-3 years. I didn't really start keeping track of it officially until this year.  My reason for it is....well, I don't really have one.  I guess it is just that you have to run the boring miles too. Not everything can be awesome and adventure filled.  Why not keep track and then attack specific areas as the town's roads dwindle down? Plus, I will then refer to myself and request that my immediate family refers to me as either "The Champion", "Champion", or even just "Champ" 

Currently I have 13 public roads left, three of which are partials (10%, 50%, and 66% remaining).  There are also 8 "not so public" roads left to go. With this, the unwritten rule is they must be run until confrontation/told to turn around/wild dogs with big testicles and sharp teeth.  By far the majority of roads are north of I-95.  Only four of them are south of I-95 (Crowthers, Dormar, Courtney, and Malo). 

The goal is to finish it by the end of 2014 at which point my CHAMPION belt should arrive in the mail.  

Here is what is left. I was going to post my own map with notes but it is not really clear.  It is blurry.  It is tiny.  It is cryptic.  I am lazy. View a street map of Hopkinton, RI (pdf):

Kenney Hill Rd (10%) Gun Club Path
Stacy Ln Gordon Way ?
Boulder Rd Dormar Rd
Carlton Ln Crowthers Pl
Malo Dr St. Joseph's Way ?
Courtney Ln Bitgood Dr
Marshall Driftway Blitzkrieg Terr
Reynolds Ct Ryan Cir
Bell Forest Ln
Teaberry Ln
Old Blitzkrieg Tr
Skunk Hill Rd (50%)
Woody Hill Rd (66%)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014 Li'l Rhody Runaround

Just as in real life interactions with adults, especially over heated, passionate topics, it is often best to wait at least twenty four hours before expressing, via electronic media, one's thoughts, feelings, views, etc.  Many times, if we simply click "reply" or "post" and begin typing, we find that in retrospect we shouldn't have done so immediately. We may come across as ignorant, conceited, arrogant, or simply misrepresented or understood.  

I've followed these guidelines with regards to posting a write-up about this year's Li'l Rhody Runaround 8 mile trail race because it would've just been "HOLY SHIT!" in all caps.  Now that I've had a little bit of time to reflect, I feel that I can accurately summarize what happened as well as, most likely, why much of it happened. 

This is signature event for the Westerly Track & Athletic Club (WTAC).  Last year's numbers (400+) runners was a record and we had anticipated roughly equal to that number again this year.  As many know, the pre-race planning and race day logistics (set up, clean up, etc.) can be a bit overwhelming.  However, the club was super organized and efficient.  I arrived at 0830 to begin setting up.  Even at that early time (race start 11:00), individuals were already there cleaning, setting up registration, etc.  We had a slew of volunteers that made everything so much easier.  Given all of our help, I actually found myself able to "relax" a little bit, chat with running friends/acquaintances, and head out for a large group 2 mile warm up on the first mile or so of the road/trail mix of the course. I switched into Inov-8 Flite195s which are slipper like and probably not appropriate for this race but I've run it in them before so decided to stay with them. 

After all of the usual pre-race, last minute details, I lined up in the front row with all of the usual suspects plus several new and somewhat frightening faces (Ben Nephew, Ryan Carrara).  I joked with Garvin next to me about projected finishes.  He snorted and laughed at my predicted hope of top 12 finish but I was trying to be realistic.  There were some fast guys there--I could see them.  Tom Grucska also chatted me up and asked how I was feeling.  I said I'd let him know in, hopefully, 48:59 or there about when the race was over.  He chuckled and just responded 'Ok, guess I'll just be talking to you much later then as that is too fast for me.'

At the gun, the usual mad slightly downhill dash to the open dirt road began.  I know that ALL races begin with bursts off the line but this race in particular seems more panic stricken as all faster and knowledgeable runners are battling for position before the impending bottleneck as the road enters single track trail just shy of the first mile.  I knew I was going to go out fast but there were already 10-15 guys ahead of me and I was running at what felt like 5K effort (5:20-5:27ish).  I knew that was NOT sustainable and not wise so I backed off a little only to watch with dread as my fellow racers that were around my projected fitness and abilities gapped me even more.  Damn. I settled in behind Garvin who kept a spicy yet "relaxed" pace.  I tried to keep reminding myself of the overused adage: "run your own race" and continually kept monitoring/self-assessing how I felt.  This hurts a little but I'm not in huge oxygen debt.  I'm ok.  But, damn this is uncomfortable.  

I didn't begin passing people until after the campground.  Around the long straightaway and wooden footbridges I slipped past an unknown runner who was beginning to fade badly.  I had closed a tiny bit on Bob Jackman, Jonny, Brightman and Ben Nephew but once they trail began twisting back and forth on itself around the covered bridge and beyond I became a little demoralized.  All this effort and you're not gaining really.  

Fortunately, about a half mile later I began making up ground and began reeling in Steve Brightman.  I moved around him and he appeared to grunt and try to surge to stay with me (at least that's what it sounded like) so it was quite encouraging to pull away and put him to rest.  He is right around my fitness level (given past trail races against him) so there was a slight uptick in positive reinforcement at that point.  

We spilled out onto the short Buckeye Brook Rd section and I began sneaking up on Jackman's tail.  I need to develop a little more confidence in myself and my abilities as I may have actually considered backing off slightly when it came time to pass Bob.  I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do.  Am I pushing too hard at this point (about 4.25 miles)? Should I be surging past him here?  What if I blow up later?  F**k it.  Go for it.  I snuck past him and dove back onto the single track trail and what begins the "fun" part of the race.  

I had managed to catch up to Ben Nephew here and was hot on his heels.  This should have been encouraging but once again waves of self doubt swept over me.  Uh-oh, you're really overdoing it if you're all over New England's greatest trail runner.  This guy would beat you by 30 minutes (at least!) on any longer ultra trail race.  What are you doing? As we scrambled up the small rock face, Nephew took an outside path that I've never seen anyone take before.  He leaped over a chasm on the outer edge rather than hug the left hand side/face of the rock ledge.  In trail races I'm prone to follow in the footsteps of whomever I'm chasing. I took the same path and smiled a little immediately afterwards.  I've run that section "a few" (40? 50?) times but never had I taken that route before.  Hmm.

I knew it was going to be a good day, despite starting to feel serious effects of hard racing on trails, when we began the "climb" up the "steps" area towards the exposed granite ledges a few minutes after our ledge leap.  I was all over Nephew's back and itching to pass, if only for visual ability.  This time, rather than hesitate, I pushed around him and kept trying to give it a go up the incline to where the Ornsteins were resting in their annual photo shoot spot.  I was hurting but gave a small nod and a wiggle of the eyebrows (probably looked like I was just a purple corpse though--JEEZ! why do I look so awful in race photos?) and took the hard right that follows.  I estimated that I was in 6th place at this point and that is where I'd remain for the rest of the race. 

Hammering is a relative term but I really tried to keep going after it.  I pulled closer to Jonny near the Schoolhouse Pond trail and tried to hang with him for the rest of the technical rocky section.  Two years ago I would've "easily" blown by him but he has definitely developed his chops so to speak over small rocks and glacial till.  Man, he was flying over them.  I feel that it was this fact that was one of the main causes for my success at this race--everyone around me was flying too and pushing me faster than I thought I could go. 

I continued to hang behind Jonny by 5-10 meters and planned to let it rip on the road and try and pass him at some point.  Boy was I wrong.  We both spilled out onto the road and I realized that, although I was running  hard here (5:22 pace) Jonny was crushing it.  He pulled away and there was absolutely nothing I could do to hang on.  The pain and fatigue here were troublesome but what bothered me the most was the annoying "SLAP-SLAP-SLAP" of my Inov-8s on the asphalt.  I NEVER slap like that but it sounded/felt like I was running in Vibrams.  It surely would've annoyed me to hear runners' chasing me slapping like that.

I pushed it in and had NO clue what my time was.  Intentionally, I never once glanced at my watch as pace in the woods off of GPS is useless and there really are no accurate distance references.  Just run hard and see what happens.  I think I actually chuckled audibly when I turned the last corner around some trees and saw low 47:00s on the clock.  Holy shit! Is that right? Is this real life right now?  I couldn't believe it. 

After I made it through the chute, I congratulated those around me and made small talk while quickly recovering.  I pushed any thoughts of actual finishing time out of my mind and just focused on the overall effort and race itself.  I knew that I had just ran a life timer.  By this I simply mean, one of those perfect races in which there is very little that you could do differently and you absolutely kill your personal best (by nearly 2:00 !!).  Crazy. Full overall results here

After a 2.5 mile cool down with the same group that warmed up, the usual post race festivities unfolded.  We then cleaned up garbage, food, etc. and I traveled over to Jonny's for some post-race libations (perhaps 1 too many but screw it, I ran an amazing race!). I still cannot believe I ran that fast and both Jonny and I kept periodically reminding each other of our success, (giggling like little school boys).

Several people have commented on the fact that it was a fast race today.  The conditions definitely were optimal (temp, no wind, dry, etc.) but like Greg H. stated, it was really more due to the fact that there were a lot of fast, fit guys there pushing the hell out of each other.  This in itself made it a great race for so many people (Jonny's epic PR, Galoob's CR, top 10 people sub 50 mins, etc.)

For you stat rats, some lifetime results from Li'l Rhody.  Note that in 2005 I was sick, 2006 I ran Mews instead--wasn't man enough I guess (20:59), and in 2013 I was injured with knee issues.

Not too sure what happened in 2007. Guess I just got excited.  Can you analyze the data and conclude when I really started taking my running/training seriously?

What a fun day.  Now however, I'm wishing I ran an easy shakeout the day after (Monday) for as I'm typing this (Tuesday) I have some soreness in the usual "unusual trail race" places.  Time for rest, a few easy runs and then get back after it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I'm such a slacker lately with this blog.  I'm too lazy (busy?....nah, just lazy) to update weekly mileage/training posts.  I enjoy reading the posts of others but apparently I'm just unfocused and unmotivated.  Since my last entry (Nipmuck Marathon write up), I've done nothing special.  However, I have enjoyed the hell out of running. Here are just a few notable (and some not-so-notable) "highlights" and musings from the past month.

There'll be no gambling at Bushwood!

~ I've been really NOT enjoying my job lately.  Too much like a "business" (said in a Judge Elihu
Smails "Caddyshack" voice), and driven around just test scores and data gathering.  What are we doing?!?  I found myself coming home stressed out, headaches, totally fucking miserable, and taking out my emotions on my family around me.  Luckily, running helped me alleviate stress and put things in perspective.  What would we do without it?

~ I have had the privilege (honor?) of running a few times the Matt Pelletier, of Hartford Marathon recent fame--and on TRAILS no less!  Jonny is friends with him and set up a few early morning trail runs in West Greenwich and in Arcadia.  The first time it was strange ('holy shit I'm running with MP!') but the second time was relaxed and more casual/fun.  It is funny to note that he is slower on trails and mentioned several times about having difficulty with footing and "keeping up with us".  Ha!  If only I could throw down 5:10 miles for 26.2 on roads.

Big buck putting down a little
Eau de Muddy
~ Confession: with hunting season exploding around us (no pun intended), I frequently come across "scrapes" on trails/off to the side of trails.  I'm not sure if these are made by hunters, laden with scent to attract deer or by the actual rutting bucks themselves. Added liquid scent marks territory and sends out a signal flag to all other mammals in the area. Either way, I've realized that I enjoy "spraying" in them too, whether they are made by four-legged herbivores or two-legged shotgunners.  It's fun to imagine the angst, confusion, fury, etc. that my running-generated waste causes them. Imagine if the hunter is sitting in a tree stand nearby and sees me doing it?  Stupid, immature trail runners--haven't been shot yet.  So, ya know, I've got that going for me, which is good.

I miss having a dog (sometimes)!
~ Speaking of mental health and Jonny's healing powers, yesterday was a "mental health" day from work.  Despite it being my 13th wedding anniversary, my wife passively set up a longer morning run for me with Jonny.  We pieced together a trail-road-trail mix that got us about 16.5 miles and allowed me to bag 4 more roads for the Hopkinton Road Gobble (HRG).  It was nice to have company for an obscure and spread out northwestern part of the town that I would've struggled to bag on my own otherwise.  Stolen, sneaky miles are sometimes the best ones! Additionally, someone tied a loose German Shepherd puppy (about 1-1.5 yrs old?) to the back of my truck.  We returned from the run tired but surprised to find a hound there.  We finally called animal control and they knew the dog's owner--and returned the dog to him (a mile or so away from the trail head on a local farm).
Later in the day, as part of our matrimonial festivities, the Mrs. and I took a stroll and hid two letterboxes in Bluff Point. It is rather corny and childish but it is fun to carve your own rubber stamps and create little caches and hide them in the woods.  Feel free to look them up and learn all about the hobby here (for general LB) and try and find them. So fun to play in the woods.  Yet near the end of the approximately 4 mile hike, my wife muttered something about it being so much easier to just run rather than walk/hike trails.  I couldn't agree more.

~ I'm realizing now that I didn't really race as much as I should have this year.  Maybe my goal for next year should be to race more?!? I like having only 2-3 big, A-goal races but I think that in order to prevent stagnancy I need to let 'er rip a little more often.  I enjoy the workouts and building/training towards a race.  Why not take advantage of the end result a little more often?

~ Li'l Rhody Runaround and the South County 4th Season race series are fast approaching.  I'm really looking forward to these (sans snow) to see where I'm at individually as well as how I shake out compared to some friends, teammates and competitors.  Great way to wrap up 2014 -- hopefully!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nipmuck Trail Marathon 2014

This year has not been an entirely successful one for me thus far.  Don't get me wrong, it has not been bad at all.  In fact, it's been a great deal of fun and I've run well but the inevitable decrease/drop off for PRs, that we all know is going to come sooner or later, might just be upon me.

I didn't PR at the Blessing of the Fleet in July (missed it by 8-9 seconds) but still ran well in the "awesome" conditions for that swelter-fest.  I didn't PR at the Super 5K back in February which seems to be my flattest and fastest opportunity for a go at sub 17 for 5,000m (it's so nice and cold outside!).  I never got the chance to take a stab at my other looming PR of the mile - still stuck at 5:01 (twice!).  My last marathon, last October, was a PR in 2:51 by over 3:00 but it was still short of my goal of 2:49:59.  I did PR at the Clamdigger (5 miles) but somehow, I hate that race--it always leaves me feeling disappointed and I don't know why.

With all of that being said, I sort of arbitrarily signed up in the early summer for Nipmuck Trail Marathon. I do love me some trails and I seem to perform alright at longer distances.  However, I really have my sights set on that sub 2:50 road marathon goal.  So what was there to accomplish from Nipmuck?  Well, the price and the timing were both right.  I'm cheap and the middle of October was out as my wife is running Baltimore Marathon in a few weeks. That limited my options for October marathons so......  Nipmuck it is (was?).

All summer and early fall I'd been running often with Jonny and Seth, two "veteran" Nipmuckaz (just made up that term but it sounds bad ass!), and had the chance to pick their brains about the course, footing, field size, footwear, pacing, fatigue, and everything else in between.  They were both my sages.  Not wanting to break the chain of wisdom and knowledge, I "allowed" them to drive me to Nipmuck and show me the ropes. After the obligatory dark car ride, race discussion, registration/bib pickup, bathroom stops, and chit chat, we were finally ready to roll. The weather was PERFECT for racing-cool/chilly (my toes were numb!), slightly overcast to partly sunny, drying, etc.  I wasn't sure if I felt confident, worried, anxious, apprehensive, or what.  However, after very brief directions we were told "Go" we did.

I took off at a comfortable pace, up the short incline to the turn off onto south side single track and found myself in about 5th place behind, Jonny, some shirtless stud, Seth and another bearded, skinny trail runner that lives off soy, veggies, and mystical chakras.  After a few minutes I moved around the beard guy and then moved around Seth for vision purposes.  I was worried about lines of sight with footing as well as making sure I kept Jonny and the shirtless ripped tri-guy in my field of view.  They were running together at what seemed to be a decent pace and given the fact that Jonny was experienced with the course and pacing, I trusted them. Unfortunately, as I closed in on them and eavesdropped on their long conversation, generally centered around running, I realized I had to piss again.  I held it in for as long as I could and then around mile 4, stopped, pushed (pee, not race pace) as hard as I could.  I didn't hurt myself in the power washer urination mode but I watched the two leaders disappear out of sight.  Damn it! I pushed it (pace) moderately hard briefly to reel them back into sight and then relaxed again, feeling better that I could see them and they were within range.

We reached the southern terminus/aid station turnaround (D) and the three of us came together (45:XX). I took a tiny sip of Gatorade and then we moved back out for the slow climb out of from the river back to the start line (A). I was feeling pretty good still and enjoyed being part of the conversation.  That still is so strange to me -- conversing, like really talking and having a full fledged conversation, during a race is whacky.  But it helped pass the time. I also learned that the obviously fit guy with us was the one and only Samuel Jurek, who Jonny and I had wondered (worried) about. Although he warily evaded giving us his results last year at Boston, ("I did alright"), I knew it must have been a good one (FYI: SJ ran a 2:31...YIKES!).  I was happy we were hanging with him although at that point, none of us were working really all that hard.  It still felt like a peppy long trail run.

At the start/finish (45:31), we crossed into the northern portion which was deemed much more difficult due to elevation ups and downs, despite having slightly easier footing.  The three of us remained together for a few minutes but then Jurek dropped the hammer! He disappeared...and then there was just Muddy and Jonny.  I settled in behind Jonny and although our conversation lessened we still interjected grunts, groans, and negative overall comments and jokes.  I laughed when Jonny complained at one point, as we started to both feel discomfort that we should have just done a long trail run in Patchaug State Forest instead of this.   The continual short ups and downs were starting to really wear on me.  I still had energy but my hips, hip flexors, and entire circumference around both patellae were starting to get sore.  I tried to push it out of my mind as I knew we still had quite a way to go. In addition, some of the tougher climbs and descents were coming up quite soon (around mile 18 or so).

After a bombing dirt road downhill section, we run briefly on asphalt to the Iron Mine aid station.  Jonny and I both bypassed it as we had Gu and handhelds and began what was perhaps the most miserable part of the course.  Removed from the marathon itself, this short but rough section would be really fun to run. However, positioned where it is, it was a bear.  Jurek passed us on his return trip and we each uttered small positive statements.  Damn, he was looking strong and moving!  When we arrived at the stairs to descend to the Boston Hollow station (northern terminus) I almost ate shit.  I slipped twice and nearly fell as my legs were so sore and stiff I struggled with the treads.  I had to hold on to the railing and barely made it into the turnaround/checkpoint.  I took some gatorade, refilled my hand held, thanked the volunteers and Jonny and I took off again.

The ascent was awful.  We both felt awful and it was really discouraging seeing others (Seth in particular) bombing past us. They were flying and we felt so slow -- quite discouraging. We passed more and more people still on their way out and they were all quite polite, helpful, encouraging and positive.  Unfortunately, I could only manage grunts at this point or a whispered " too."
Any descent was killing my knees and legs. When we returned back towards Iron Mine check point, we saw Crutchley coming towards us. He looked fine and despite his encouragement/questioning, I could only moan in response.  I may have mentioned something like "hurts" and we moved on.

At this point there was about 3.2 miles left in the race.  Clearly, if one hasn't already done so,  this is a "normal" time/spot to fall apart during a marathon.  It's funny that despite feeling like a bag of shit, I still managed to will myself forward.  I briefly entertained the idea of stopping quickly at the last real aid station (Iron Mine) but quickly decided against it.  Jonny did pause here to refill, rest, eat, etc. (?) but I just kept going.  I knew that if I stopped/paused I most likely wouldn't be able to get going again and I refused to walk the rest of the way in.  This overall strategy almost backfired on me as I ran openly and stretched out my legs a little on the asphalt section.  When I turned and began climbing the long inclines on the dirt road sections, I nearly lost it.  Somehow, I managed to keep pushing and grinding it out up the dirt road.  I was crushed when I looked up and saw the incline keep going upward but quickly rejoiced when I realized that I had run past the single track turnoff and didn't have to keep going up the road.  I giggled (yes, literally) and doubled back several meters to the single track turn off into the woods.  Fuck you, dirt roads--I'm done with you!

Luckily, I sort of gained a second (third?) wind on this single track section.  I had eaten my final gel back on the asphalt roads and possible felt a tiny boost, albeit possibly mental, at this point.  I was able to accelerate and run sort of faster and more open on this slightly easier section of trails. In fact, I was running so care free that I tripped and took a hard digger on my back/right shoulder.  Instead of lying there I grunted, pulled myself up and immediately started running. The fear of being caught from behind is a powerful impetus to keep on keepin' on.

I continued to feel good less bad during this stretch and was super encouraged by the tenth of mile blazes painted on the lower portions of the trees.  0.8. 0.6. Awesome, I'm getting there! Almost done!  Unfortunately, the world of suffering came crashing back down when I had to climb the last rock face ascent near the end.  I immediately felt super nauseous and came rather close to puking here.  I slowed to a walk "power hike" for about 6-8 seconds here to scale the incline before getting back into gear and bombing (at least it felt like) it down the screaming descent to the finish.

I was so happy to be done.  My official time was 3:31:55 (results here). I was pleased finishing 2nd overall. Very soon after Jonny rolled through and then Seth shortly after him for the WTAC 2, 3, 4 "sweep".

Start/Finish to D A to D 45:50:00
D back to S/F D to A 45:30:00
S/F to Iron Mine A to H 27:26:00
Iron Mine to B. Holl. H to J 31:43:00
B. Holl to Iron Mine J to H 32:35:00
Iron Mine to Finish H to A 28:44:00

We hung out, moved around, ate food, chatted and then rolled out.  I was surprised by how decent I felt only 20 minutes after the marathon and even more shocked by how great I felt the rest of the day and now several days after.  I did have the normal soreness in the hips, hipflexors, etc. but no knee pain which was SUPER encouraging. I was worried about them.  Also, at the time of this writing, (Wednesday afternoon--3 days later), I feel GREAT.  No major soreness at all. This is such a different feeling from a road marathon.  Man, those damn things beat you up and grind you into shit.  Nipmuck pummeled me but the trails are clearly better for your body in the long run.  Although harder than roads, the slower pace and predominantly softer footing clearly is a blessing. Also, as an added bonus, the course officially is 26.4 so I guess I technically ran an ultra! Later in the afternoon I chilled in my garden with a few four Torpedo Double IPAs and reflected on what an INCREDIBLE weekend I had.  My father and I dominated stripers on Saturday and then I ran well in my first ever trail marathon on Sunday, only to find myself sitting in the fading sunlight sipping beers. #winning

Perhaps my favorite part is that since I feel so good, I can't wait to run a little later this afternoon. I did a very easy 2 mile shakeout on trails the day after and then took yesterday (Tuesday) off.  Rarely have I been so excited to run so soon after 26.2. Usually there is a period of a let down or funk.  Hopefully, that is not the case now because man, I love running!

With no immediate plans on the horizon, its just about me and my running. My wife is trying to talk me into jumping into the Baltimore Marathon on 18 October and trying to crush it but I'm too cheap--no way am I paying for that without proper preparation.  Just fun, easy running with beers and hard days/quality but unfocused workouts mixed in as my mileage drops back down again to reasonable amounts (45-60 per week).

Hope I don't get too fat and out of shape before the start of 2015 (and, ugh, the Boston training cycle begins).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Long Runs, Boat Slips, Marathons, and Tiny Tuna.

Some important information flowed my way over the past few days that caused me to react and make several decisions and adjustments, ultimately all of which revolve in some way around running.

-The Incoming Info-

1. My wife informed me that she would be doing her long run this weekend on Saturday morning as she is volunteering (why?) at a water stop table at Surftown Half Marathon on Sunday.  That sort of felt like it came out of left field but regardless of how I perceived this lovely news, I would be forced to revisit my long run window of opportunity.

 2. I received certified mail from the new owners of the "marina" (house) where I currently keep my fishing boat in Jerusalem, across from Galilee.  They would be tripling the dock fee from what I am currently paying, which in their defense is ridiculously low given the location.  Sad news! I cannot afford it and won't be returning back there after a solid three year run. Sad....

3. In the daily avalanche that is the shit show of  emails in my Inbox, I stumbled across a second reminder that registration for 2015 Boston Marathon would be opening soon.  My time last year of 2:51:05 meant that I could early apply in the second wave before those in my age group time of 3:10:00.  Hmmmmm.

4. Fishing reports over the past several days have indicated that one of my nagging "fears" have been allayed.  Bonito (Sarda sarda) and False Albacore (Euthynnus alleteratus) have invaded/exploded in southern RI waters (FINALLY!) over the past two days!  Two years ago I was able to clean up on several days in September.  Last year, however, they never materialized and skirted the waters of our coast as they migrated south-I got nothing.  They're here! I need to greet them accordingly.


1. I had to switch my long run (next to last "big" one before Nipmuck?) to Friday afternoon.  In what felt like an after-school detention, I ran from school on a mix of roads and trails for over 2.5 hours, back to home.  It was fun but at times I felt really overworked, warm, and tired.  A couple of gels at two different times helped but the final two miles back home on local roads was really tiring (managed to maintain respectable low 7:00s pace though) and literally nauseating.  Nice to get 22 miles on a late Friday afternoon but it did leave me waking up this morning (Saturday), scratching my head wondering what to do at 0530 besides sit around in my underwear,scratching myself, blogging and drinking coffee.  Despite having to sneak it in, at least "it" is done.

2. Given the looming blackhole surrounding my boat at its slip, along with my wife's Saturday morning long run theft, I had to adjust my fishing schedule.  My father and I will be heading out Sunday morning instead.  Hope we get into albies! They are absolutely, pound-for-pound, one of the most fun fighters in the Atlantic that humble anglers like myself have access to in tiny boats.  Each trip out from now until mid October is something to be cherished.  Nothing lasts forever.

Almost time to leave the promised land....sadness for sure. 

3. In a mix of emotions, I quickly (wtf was I thinking?!?) registered, or rather "applied" for Boston in 2015.  Ugh.  I hate the hype and hooplah but having never run it I feel obligated to do it once....and most likely ONLY once. As I hit 'send' and then received a confirmation number I immediately exhaled a nervous (?), hesitant sigh and actually muttered something along the lines of "Damn it".  I think Gazelle is also registered so at least I'll have a long run partner in the darkened cold mornings of January, February, and March.  That is if I get in -- which I should given my early application/time.
So stupid but I need to chase the Unicorn! 

4. Back to fishing, which I love almost as much as running.  I tied a couple of flies while drinking beers last night.  It was fun evening- basement, music, beers, and fly tying, all while visions of small members of the tuna family danced around my head.  I felt like a kid the final few days before Christmas.  I also changed up some of my spinning gear so that I can actually throw flies (albie and bones' favorite lure) as I'm not skilled enough with my actual fly rod to take on these salty missles. Not being a religious man, I cannot pray for albacore and bonito on Sunday just as I cannot pray for the New Orleans Saints to cover the spread and line my pockets.  Prayer is for fools in that 50% of the time, it works every time.  But I can hope and pretend and fantasize about one of the tiny torpedoes ripping line off my reel on yet another blistering run away from my boat.  A scenario such as that would leave me feeling complete and whole and would be a great way to round out my final month at my king of boat slips.  Stupid and corny I know but if you've ever had the experience, you'd understand!

So, there it is.  It's going to be fun watching it all unfold.  However, it all turns out, at least I'll continue running, fishing, and drinking beer -- the Muddy Triple Header of Pleasure. 

Tight lines and fast times.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Last Sunday I ran a really fun solo Tour de Burlingame in the early morning hours.  At 90%+ humidity with a dew point of 74 degrees, it was a sweaty shit show.  Minus the ridiculous, raw, bloody chafing in the groin and nether regions, it was a really fun run. I ran for 3:01 on primarily single track trails and covered just about the entire park (regions/areas)--NW, NE, SE, SW and most of Vin Gormley.  I felt great the entire time and never dogged the pace.

Unfortunately, about two hours into the run I ran through a huge, thick, sticky spider web.  After spitting it out and clawing at my face, I forgot about it--easy to do when you've already run through and eaten fifteen of them already on the same long run.  However, approximately five or six seconds later I felt a very sharp, acute pain on the back of my head.  My initial reaction was "BEE!".  I swatted back around my head but never felt the crunch of an exoskeleton nor the familiar angry buzzing.  The pain continued throughout the rest of the run but my diminishing energy and fatigued legs detracted from the prominence of the "sting".

Over the course of the next several days, the spot where I was "stung" has hardened into a small knot and is very sensitive to the touch.  This is normal for a bee sting yet now I have spreading pain and hot tenderness radiating outward across the back of my skull and down into my neck.  It really hurts to turn my head to the side and occasionally, depending upon my body position, I get shooting pains down into the back of my head and neck.

Which one of you fuckers got me?

I'm thinking I wasn't stung but rather I was bitten by a different member of the Phylum Arthropoda -- spider!  Not sure what kind it was as I never saw or felt it but I'm pretty sure that, given my conditions, it was definitely NOT a bee sting.  Now I'm left wondering what to do. My regular physician probably won't be helpful yet I refuse to go to the hospital or a walk-in clinic.  At the same time I can't sit here and do nothing if the pain continues and actually worsens/spreads.

I know what NOT to do--don't Google spider bite.  Ugh!  Doing so is (was) the equivalent to sitting through my Introductory Microbiology course in college and thinking/worrying that you have every single infectious disease known to man.  Now Google hits leave me wondering if I have necrotizing fasciitis or some other weird disease.  Yuck.  The good news is that I can still run.  I ran a fun (hard) mixed track workout yesterday morning and I'm happy with the results.

To my knowledge I've never been bitten by a spider before.  Hopefully swelling and pain will just subside. At any rate, this will certainly not deter me from continuing to run trails.

But still, I truly hope I don't die. How will I run then?!?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Some Summer Data

Summer is about over.

Well, that is not exactly true but it is truthy --truthy for me at least.  Back to school and I am ready for it.  I need focus.  I have fun and enjoy myself but a little structure is a very good thing.

I've enjoyed myself this summer and run a fair amount but now I'm reflecting on how quickly it went by {pauses for sympathy.....}

Some useless (maybe) data--

Hopkinton Road Gobble
I feel like I'm making some headway now in working towards my goal of running every road in the town of Hopkinton, RI.  It is silly and meaningless but now that I've marked down progress on a map, it is still just that -- a goal.  

A few rules of the HRG:
1. All public/town roads (signs, named, dark on the map) must be run entirely to count.  All "private roads" (maybe signs, named, sketchy, gray/light on the map) should be run completely as well UNLESS
a. confronted by property owner. NOTE: may engage them in fake story (i.e. "Have you seen my dog? He took off on me. He's a sort of black lab mix.)
b. blatant "Keep Out", "Private Property", and "You Smell Purty" signs are encountered then:
        - turn around is okay, as long as at least 51% of road has been run
        - keep running and cross my fingers

2. I may drive to a location to bag roads but cannot drive elsewhere after. For example, I drive to "Sexy Bottom Lane" and run a few roads; I cannot hop in my truck and then drive elsewhere in town to run different roads.  One drive, one run. 

3. Trails are encouraged, especially as connectors between roads.

4. If I ever  When I accomplish this I am going to purchase a fake, but awesome looking champion belt and just wear it around my house periodically.  You know, like over my shoulder sometimes. Sometimes wear it around the waist, a la  the Ultimate Warrior style.

As for where I'm at now:
Getting closer.....if you can even read it
According to the cryptic Hopkinton town map shown above, I've almost the entire south side (of Rte. 95) down except for 4 short public roads (black) and 3 "privates" (light gray). Anything shaded in pink/red has been "gobbled" thus far. 

It looks like north of 95 will still take some work.

The Summer of Whatever
I realized several days ago, (panicked actually) when I looked at the calendar and realized that summer was almost over.  Where was all of my mileage?  Last year I felt as though I consistently ran in the low 70s ever week with a bunch of harder, M pace efforts on the long runs.  Now, given my Nipmuck trail marathon the first weekend in October, I've apparently lost that consistency and focus.  I dug out my logs from the last several years and looked at summers past.  To be somewhat consistent, I counted summers from the week that the solstice began,(first FULL week after the solstice), through the last day of summer vacation/first day of school week--again regardless of day started.  Here's what I came up with (note weeks 10 and 11 are school start up) :
Mohawk Hudson marathon : 2:59 (554 summah miles)

Clarence DeMar Marathon: 2:54 (525 summah miles)

Smuttynose Marathon: 2:51 (696 miles)

Nipmuck Trail Marathon: ? (528 miles so far, into week 9)
Or to look at it another way

So when analyzed, it all means.....what?  I'm not sure.  My memory, despite being devastated by my affinity for fun, did somewhat accurately recall last years run of 70+ weeks.  This year has indeed been staggered.  But again, I'm not sure at all what these data show.

Weight Matters
I am not now, nor have I ever been a slave to the scale.  However, over the last two years I have become mildly (stress mild) concerned (observant?) of my weight.  As we all know, a drop of just 1 pound can yield a shave of 1-2 seconds off mile pace, fitness level aside.  This summer of tried to step on the scale 3-4 times per week and even occasionally record it in my running log. Sorry guys, no graphs here.  I just cannot seem to lose weight.  I feel ike Fat Bastard's infamous line in Austin Powers: "I eat because I'm fat and I'm fat because I eat", or something to that effect. Marathon training is supposed to slim you down but I seriously remain steady and even GAIN a little weight when in the summer time training mode.  I'm hungry around the clock.  2 breakfasts and two lunches a day with a hearty dinner, beers, and snacks in between do not equate to weight loss.  I can't help it -- I'm always hungry from running.  Oh, and tired too.  I'm always tired and naps are right up there in top three or four summer time activities. 

PS-if you're wondering, this morning I was at 154 lbs. upon creaking out of bed, stiff, crackly and ornery. Tomorrow, could be 154, could be 153, could be 158, could be 160.  No joke.  Fucking yo-yo over here. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blessing of the Fleet Weekend (More Than Just A Race)

This past Friday, 25 July, kicked off an important series of events in my annual summer of decadence. Not only was it the highly anticipated Blessing of the Fleet 10 Mile Road Race, it also marks another unofficial Muddy Milestone -- "halfway"point of summer.  Ahhhhhh, the highs and lows of the last weekend in July. In addition, this weekend also signaled another amazing event (more on that later).

The Race #s:
*these splits are according to my spacewatch and are not necessarily "official" however, they're all I've got.  There is normally a 3-4 second delay when I hit start so I did note that the first mile split was 4 seconds faster than actual race times.  As such, I've taken the liberty of simply adding 4 seconds to that mile split on my watch to match what is possibly the real splits. Others are off somewhere too but just so you can see relative trend(s):

1-5:47          6-6:03                 58:48, 22nd overall.
2-5:47          7-5:50                 Official results here
3-5:51          8-5:53
4-5:57          9-5:54
5-5:56          10-5:33

The Race Recap:

In usual Blessing fashion, I arrived almost two full hours early to pick up my bib # and sit around, thinkin' 'bout runnin'.  After changing and texting Jonny (fresh off his trail 1/2 marathon in the morning!), I met up with him in the ball field parking lot as well as (randomly), with Galoob who had biked there.  We ran a 2 mile easy, out and back warm up along the first part of the course (Galoob went farther) and then returned to the truck for final drinks and strolled to the start.  

After fighting my way to the front I noticed a slew of  not-so-familiar faces in the front corral, recognizable as simply "frenemies".  During a few strides I ran into Marie Davenport who, after inquiring about my goals, wished me well.  Settling back in near the front, Beth appeared out of the ether and wished me well too.  Nice to see familiar faces from WTAC.  Finally, after brief introductions we were off.

I held back slightly in the beginning but still was running a bit too spicy on the infamous gradual negative slope first mile. I enjoyed making mental notes of those that went by me during this first mile that I knew I was going to catch later on.  Nothing special as we rolled through the second mile.  I was on pace and happy, running alongside Ms Davenport.  I figured if I could stick with (just behind) this former Irish Olympian, I'd be in great shape.  

During miles three and 4, along Scarborough beach, there was a bit of a slight headwind which was noticeable enough to slow down the perceived pace.  It was here that I made what is possibly my only major mistake of the race.  I watched Marie and a pack of about 10-12 twenty-something year olds pull away from me.  I didn't want to get hung out to dry here and go into the wind straight ahead and all alone.  I pushed harder than necessary to try and stay with them but to no avail. I got gapped and was alone.  The extra effort was probably not the smartest move on my part.

We finished up mile four (the only "official" split I definitely remember was mile 4 - 23:30) and swung out onto Rte 108 for the much maligned miles 5 and 6.  No matter how hard I try here, I always find these to be my slowest miles of the race year after year.  I was over 6:00 pace for mile six so obviously the trend continued.  I still manage to reel in a very significant number of runners here (10-12?) but I struggle doing so.  I took more water here and dealt with a crappy stitch in my left side. I never really get these so it was a treat trying to deal with it.  Eventually it went away, but not until well into mile 7.

Finally, we turned off onto Kinney Avenue where I always feel like the real race starts.  I passed 4-5 more people and settled in alongside a very thin and fit looking runner.  At one point he mumbled something along the lines of "Go" or "Going great" or something akin to this.  I asked if he was looking for sub-58 minutes or there about (at least that's how it sounded in my mind before it spewed from my mouth).  He replied that he was shooting for low "58-ish".  I told him to "take me home".  He was able to mutter something about my Level Renner singlet, so I was "all set".  Hmm.

As the complimentary guy and I passed back along by the start line I really began to struggle. I had another stitch (again?!?) and started to really feel like shit.  Luckily, it seriously is advantageous to settle in behind someone and let them sort of pull you along.  We continued along through into mile 9, up the small climb to Avice Street.  I began feeling a tiny bit better, probably mostly due to mental awareness - the end is neigh!

Once we turned back out onto Kingstown Road I began picking up the pace.  It's a long way to go to the finish but you have a slight yet noticeable downhill grade.  Time to rip--except I was on fumes.  Very disappointing to watch my running partner over the last few miles slowly pull away by 4-6 seconds.  The mirage of all mirages taunted me ("where the *%$# IS that finish line?") but eventually I got there.  I saw the clock and knew that not only was I not going to PR but I was going to end up running even slower than last year! Damn.  To add insult to injury, I heard the announcer say my bib number and my name, followed up by "It looks like we might have our first female finisher!". Really?  I know I finished up like a softy but seriously?  I look like a female?  Wow.

I milled around for about ten minutes chatting up the other guys and their amazing outputs (PRs galore!) and then ran a four mile cool down with Galoob.  Later, after changing up, I met my parents at their friends' home where they entertained me with beer, food, and a fire.  

A good day despite the slightly disappointing outcome.  The conditions were perfect for a later July PR on this course.  That is what is the most frustrating.

I awoke the next morning, (after sleeping in until almost 0800!), and ran an easy three mile shakeout.  No time to dwell on the negatives, I had a huge day of cross training ahead of me.  

I was SUPER excited to be involved in a bachelor party for a friend who is getting married in August.  He is one of the co-owner/founders of Gnarly Bay, an AMAZING local company that produces absolutely amazing HD videos.  They do some for fun/themselves but have also produced/worked with the likes of NASCAR, NFL Films, Katie Perry, and everything else.  Chances are you've probably already seen their work, you just may not realize it. Below is a video of a party/video they put together for their brother in law a few years ago when he got married.  They are the coolest guys I know, hands down. I was absolutely honored to be included in the festivities of the day.   

Bachelor Rambo--taking a break from rescuing POWs
Anyway, this was not a normal bachelor party. It involved early morning abductions, a rented 1970s sheriff car (which mistakenly caught on fire), a moped, rowboats, spray on tans, Rambo outfit, paintball guns, swimming, explosions and fireballs from a real pyrotechnics company, firetrucks, smoke bombs, water balloons, mortars, paint bombs, wooden cages, slingshots, Vietcong outfits, fake guns, dunk tanks, barefoot soccer, BBQ, Kegkickball, Cornhole, Spike Ball, late night fireworks (I almost lost an eye!) and more. I got to be a "bad guy" VC foot soldier all day long. All of it was filmed and documented by Gnarly Bay film crews via multiple cameras! Major sweating, digging, running, crawling, screaming.  I was exhausted! Why do the strippers/traditional boring bachelor party thing when you can play Rambo movie/war all day long, centered around kegs of good beer? Hopefully they'll  be producing another video within the year to document this amazing outing.  Look for me in my cameo appearance!

The event was best summed up by a fellow attendee and one of the P.O.W.s that were rescued: "If I were eleven years old, this would be the greatest fucking day of my life!".  Indeed.  I'm 36 and it is seriously in my top 5. But boy did I pay for it--I was exhausted and really banged up!

After sleeping in again, I awoke Sunday morning covered in welts (shot in the back multiple times while retreating into the underbrush) and super sore.  Not sure how much was from the Blessing and how much was from playing Charlie all day.  I rolled off a 10 mile loop in North Stonington, smiling during much of it and feeling good. 

When I got home I reflected upon my weekend.  I tried to crush a race and ran pretty well despite not succeeding fully.  I'd rather fail at a big goal than not try for it and simply strive for and accomplish a mediocre one.  I also got to play all day and night Saturday.  13 consecutive hours of playing war, party games, and eat drink and be merry antics will leave anyone smiling. I challenge you to try it and not have a blast doing it. 

After showering, I checked my phone and saw that a friend had sent me the image below.  The picture rounded out the weekend nicely and between the video above, the shenanigans from the weekend, and all of the friends that I surround myself with (childhood, school, running, etc.), it further cemented the fact that it really IS about having fun and making the most of the opportunities to do so. 

Play on....

Get busy livin' or get busy dying.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Half Century Data Tracking

Yesterday was Gazelle's 50th birthday party.  The ageless one ran a 50K in the morning on local roads as a way to celebrate his waning youth.  Impressive indeed.  However, what is probably more impressive is that I'm nearly positive he did most of it, if not the entire thing, with a smile on his face.

In the afternoon and evening he hosted a get together for running friends and family to help celebrate the milestone (fifty years old, not the 50K.....I think). I enjoyed the food and beer but especially had fun on the inflatable water slide (injury anyone?).  It was a rather "fit party" with a lot of athletic personalities.  As people are wont to do at these gatherings, in between discussions of workouts, rest days, training cycles, etc.; I overheard someone tallying ages of the small group of four or five people standing around in close proximity.  Years add up quickly when you begin autosumming them in the virtual spreadsheet of life. As I strolled back over for another beverage, I wondered what the total tally of miles ran (or swam or biked) that day were. Adding up ages is easy, and usually humbling, but adding mileage is awesome. I first became hip to this trend several years ago when Greg Hammett got hitched up in NH.  I've never been to a skinnier, healthier, more fit wedding...EVER!  There were so many runners there that day that it was mind boggling. In a similar fashion, my twisted mind began thinking about the party goers at Gazelle's bash.  Being that it was Saturday I knew that most of my running colleagues had ventured out to do something earlier in the day. Hmmmmm...

Half Century Mileage Inventory
Jonny 18.5 run
Me 18.5 run
Gazelle 31.3 run
Seth ? ?
Crutch 4 run
Mike B 17 run
Tommy 5K 16 bike
Shara ? ?
Tommy 5K 17 run
Pard ? ?
Schonning ? bike/run
Polly ? ?
Elise ? bike
Beth 31 bike
Mandy 8 run
Sarah ? ?
Nate V. ? ?
Amanda O. 1.7 swim

Too many missing data points here to draw any real conclusions other than this: 163 miles total at least and my friends and acquaintances are having fun in the same ways that I like to.  End of study.  I was frustrated when I got home because I should have just asked everyone.  My wife pointed out that nobody there would've been at all even remotely offended if I simply walked around and surveyed the people at the party. Too bad I didn't have a little foresight to prepare a data sheet ahead of time and do just that. Next time. I guess I'm becoming conditioned to strolling around at parties and eavesdropping on conversations that do not involve politics, taxes, wars, etc.  Instead, most of what I heard yesterday were lines like "After my warmup I felt good so I decided...." and "There were no waves at all so today's swim was actually easier...." and "Well, I took a Gu at mile....." and "MP workouts are so good because...." and "My achilles kept me on the shelf for about four weeks but I'm back to normal base training now....". Weird and dorky is the new normal I suppose. 

At any rate, it is fun to have fun friends that are fit.  We clearly cannot stop the aging process but we can continue to engage in activities that make us feel young -- even if, post exercise, they remind us that we are indeed NOT getting any younger. Damn, my hip flexors are a little sore this morning.

At least I'm not as old as Jeff.

Happy birthday, Gazelle, you ol' buzzard. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Run With The Beavers 10 Mile Trail Race

Racing Rodentia...
The third time is a charm I suppose with this race. I had missed the Li'l Rhody Runaround last November due to some minor knee issues so I wasn't in the running for the R.I. Trail Racing Triple Crown.  Also, a scheduling conflict with the Blessing of the Fleet race in the first year and a family vacation the second year left me with no major hopes or aspirations other than losing my Beaverginity in this, the race's third year.  I had done my homework with regards to badgering running friends about the course yet I still didn't really know what to expect other than the following:
1. It is 10 miles
2. It is 2 x 5 mile loops
3. It is a mix of single track, dirt roads, etc.
4. It has a fair amount of small granite rocks that make for interesting running on much of the course.

With these facts, and my hankering for racing (no races in almost THREE months!), I was chaufeurred by Garvin and Seth up to Pulaski State Park in Chepachet, RI (wherever the hell that is). It was sunny, slightly warm, but not oppressively humid when we arrived. After checking in for my bib (#110-my anticipated time?), I went back to the car to change and then ran a warm up with Greg, Jonny, Seth, Garvin, et al.  Even on the warm up I settled into the familiar (neurotic) angst that accompanies single track, yet slightly faster-paced racing: "I'm right behind people! I cannot see the ground in front of me. I'm tripping over rocks and roots! I need space!".  After lining up back at the start amid banter from fellow friends and races, many of whom I haven't seen in quite awhile, (Gunshow), along with some words from race director, Bob Jackman, and we were off!

After a short, small hill climb up a dirt road, the course turns right and ducks into single track.  I was in about 7th-8th place behind Greg, (already hammering/pulling away from the field), Jonny, Steve Brightman, Garvin, Bob Corsi and a few other unknowns.  Annoyed by the lack of vision with regards to footing, I settled in and began grinding away.  I figured it was going to be misery when I already began wondering where the hell the water stop was.  Rumor had it around the 2.5 mile mark and although I didn't plan on taking water at it, I was surprised by how long it took, at least perceived by me, to get there. 

Along the long dirt road stretch I pulled along side one of the unknowns ahead of me.  He politely inquired if I knew who was ahead of us, pulling away.  Further inquiry was something along the lines of "Is that one of the Hammett brothers?".  Apparently their reputations precede them.  I huffed a correction akin to it was actually Steve Brightman way up there, looking strong.  Moments later I managed to grunt, mostly for my own consolation, "Don't worry, he'll come back to us on the second lap. We'll catch him then....hopefully".  The unknown guy replied that he was only running the 5 miler so he wasn't really worried about it.  Graciously, as we veered left back onto single track again he let me pass/offered the lead position in front of him.

I missed my actual split for the first lap but I believe it was somewhere around the high 33:00s? Not sure here--but I do know that I wasn't really feeling great.  The combination of race effort coupled with the constant abbreviated, stutter stepping really was wearing me out.  The yin and yang of double loop courses was making itself readily apparent here.  The good thing about double loops is that you know what to expect the second time around.  The bad thing about double loop races--you know what to expect the second time around.

PS- you can "watch" some of the race here. I question it's overall accuracy (stupid GPS) but it is still kind of fun to view...

At this point I was in 5th place I believe - waaaaaay behind Greg, Garvin and Brightman dueling for 2nd, and Jonny in 4th. As Garvin pulled ahead and Brightman was still significantly ahead of us (10 seconds maybe?), I inched closer to behind Jonny.  It is nice running "with" (tailing?) him on races like these as the two of us have fairly equal fitness and abilities and Jonny had knowledge of the course.  I trust his judgment.  Despite feeling like shite, I knew I had to try and hang off his shoulder.  Unfortunately, I kept tripping, stumbling and nearly falling numerous times.  Fatigue was starting to set in already.

I grew excited as we approached a short, steep, rock and detritus laden downhill section of single track.  I love flying down stuff like this.  I was comfortably ripping down it on the first loop (Garvin let me go by him here) so I figured I would definitely be able to pass Jonny here.  Much to my chagrin, he managed to bomb down it too with no hesitation.  In fact, he pulled away from me! For a few seconds I was furious--how dare he cruise down a sketchy, rocky section?!? Doesn't he know that he is not supposed to do that?  Apparently, someone has been "practicing".

I was not quite as graceful
Jonny and I began reeling in Brightman.  Finally, at a muddy section, just after a turn, Jonny surged past SB into third place and opened up a small gap.  Panicking, I felt awful but realized that if I wanted to stick with him I'd have to do the same thing.  I surged and caught back up to Jonny, only to almost fall again.  We approximately 5-7 seconds ahead of Brightman here when I did what I do best--dragged my lazy feet and tripped.  I sprawled out on my stomach (a la  Charlie Hustle) and grunted.  Immediately, deja vu set in as I felt just like Big River Trail 1/2 marathon from the spring - trailing Jonny, tiring, tripping and falling and watching him pull away. Quickly, I leaped back to my feet and resumed pursuit.  I had to dig down and waste a bit of what little energy I had left just to get back up to 3rd place/4th place battle. Why the f*$# do I fall so much?  I'm not that clumsy, am I?

Jonny and I traded positions a few times near the end of the race.  Luckily, out of fear of what Brightman was doing/where he was, I was able to surge just a bit and hold Jonny off. I crossed the finish line in 1:08:17 (overall results here), good for 3rd overall.  

We then milled around, tried to rehydrate, and watched the battle for team competition settle out - WTAC vs Team HammBoj.  I knew it was going to be close when Seth rolled through in 1:12:XX (2 minutes or so faster than his time last year).  The top female came through right around then as well looking  fit and fast.  Some online stalking revealed that she was/is indeed a darn good runner, clearly much more fit than I am. As for the team battle, Greg's big lead/win was going to make it interesting.  Luckily, we came out on top in a much closer than anticipated final tally of overall times. 

After snacking and awards, I cooled down on some of the single track with Greg before we moseyed over to the pond for a refreshing dip.  All in all, a good day and a great way to get back into racing after a near Phish-like hiatus. Obviously, I got drunk later in the day because, in addition to running and tripping/falling on trails, that is also what I do.

Next up, Blessing of the Fleet on Friday, 25 July.  Same distance, different terra firma