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!