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

Friday, July 4, 2014

Halfway Point of 2014

My homemade shirt didn't help US win.
With nothing to do on this rainy 4th of July, I began looking back over my paper running log. Despite a slight/minor discrepancy somewhere (2 miles) between Strava vs estimations on long trail run distances, I've enjoyed looking at some statistical information as well as reflecting.  I am technically "halfway" through the running year.  I've had some highlights and a few low-lights thus far.

Some quick stats and reflections on 2014 to date, as of 30 June 2014:

Total miles YTD:
1294 miles

Avg. miles per week:
49.7 (26 weeks)

Miles Biked (yes you read that correctly): 
11.5 miles

Days run
156/181 total days

Days Off:
25/181 total days

Days with Double:
12 days

Average Miles Per Day: 
7.15 (including off days)

Days missed due to injury:
3 days, (very minor Achilles tendon)

Highest weekly mileage:
68+ miles -- Week #17, 4/21-4/27 (April vacation week. Not having school really helps!)

Lowest weekly mileage:
17 miles -- Week #25, 6/16 - 6/22 (when I missed time with my achilles tendon issues)

Shortest run
2 miles (with Mason to explore/show him Pelloni Preserve)

Longest run:
21-22 miles, either Narragansett Trail FKT attempt OR a long Burlingame Run with Gazelle & Jonny

Biggest accomplishment YTD:
Narragansett Trail FKT attempt. I really, really enjoyed the hell out of this.  Although I fell apart at the end and had nothing left, it was a fun time and, for me, a fairly significant accomplishment.

# of Races:
7 total, (2 5K trail races, 1 5K road, 1 10K trail, 1 10 mile trail, 1 trail 1/2 marathon, 1 5 mile road)
Apparently, variety is the spice of life.

Best race YTD:
Brrrlingame 10 Mile Trail Race.  This is an easy and obvious pick. As Jonny eloquently pointed out immediately after the race, this distance is simply my "vDOT Buster".  I LOVED the course and ran really well on it.  As stupid as it sounds, I already have begun thinking about it again next spring.

Worst race YTD:
 a tie between Old Mountain Field Trail 5K and Belleville Trail 10K. Just a total shit show suffer-fest from beginning to end.  I hated these from the gun.  Didn't run very well in both and paid the price the entire time.  OMF I was just coming back from a knee injury and was out of shape.  Belleville just sucked because I'm a pussy.  I've come to accept that I just am not a snow runner.  Sad really.

# of PRs:
3 technically I guess
5 mile road: 28:28 (Clamdigger 5 Mile Road Race)
10mile trail: 63:48 (Brrr-lingame 10 Mile Trail Race)
1/2 Marathon trail: 1:29:53 (Big River Trail 1/2 Marathon)

Total Deerflies Killed YTD:
only 18 but that is most likely going to show a logistical growth pattern over the next 20-30 days.

Beer Consumed:
N/A...cannot accurately be measured....but I have recently begun to limit my intake numerically per week (yes I track that now too).

A true patriot....
Clearly, I am somewhat pleased by the Gansett Trail run.  Some of my other particular observations and reflections.

- I am also somewhat pleased for the most part with my speed work effort.  I have slacked off here at various times throughout the year here and there so far but I do feel like with a few outlier weeks removed, I've done a decent job of not only consistency but also some variety in terms of types of workouts, distances, paces, etc.

- I would like to run more doubles, especially over the summer. 1-2 per week is good, at least until later in the year, or at least until school starts up again :(

-It was SUPER surprising to realize that I have not raced, really raced, since the Clamdigger 5 miler on 13 April! Wow!  This immediately leads me to think I need to jump in something right now.  However, July has two fun ones on tap (Run With the Beavers 10 Mile Trail race and the infamous Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile road race).  Looking forward to both of these!

-Technically, my weekly average is a little lower (49.7 miles/week) than I'd like.  50-55 is good for me as a year round average, with summertime climbs up into the 70s, but what are you going to do?  I love stats but don't want to chase stupid numbers.  Quality over quantity any damn day of the week.

-I'm looking forward to shifting gears a bit and using July as a stepping stone to gobble up 10 mile races and then focus on marathon training.  I just like "longer" race distances.  I do not have the turnover, leg speed, ability etc. to race short distances.  Eventually (next year?) I'd like an trail "ultra" somewhere--but by ultra I mean 30 miles or so. Who do you think I am, Adam Wilcox or something?

- I continue to love running.  It never really gets old, other then random days here and there when I don't feel motivated to run.  It is important to note that once I do return from running on these rare days, I NEVER regret running and ALWAYS feel better.

See you all out on the roads and trails.