Posts Tagged ‘martha’s vineyard’

Martha’s Vineyard Half Marathon: Race Recap

June 8, 2017

In theory, many months ago, the title of this post was supposed to be “Martha’s Vineyard Marathon,” but theories don’t always pan out. I had it in my head that I wanted to use this race to make an attempt at a BQ. The brutally honest truth is that I lost my fire somewhere in the early stages of training, which, coupled with an injury, left me at a pretty low point in my running morale. After a string of good results, which prompted the BQ thoughts in the first place, this turn in the opposite direction felt particularly brutal and there were times when I really just hated running. Nothing felt right, not even the simple act of one foot in front of the other. I eventually came to realize two things: 1. I was not enjoying this process and did not find it fulfilling, as I thought I would. 2. I missed being a triathlete. I missed the biking and, yes, even the swimming workouts. So, I made the decision to drop down to the half marathon distance for this race and put my focus back on tri training. This seems as good a time as any to give a shout-out to my longtime friend, Jason L., who DID accomplish his goal of BQ’ing at the Eugene Marathon. Jason put in an inspiring amount of hard work and miles, and it was pretty awesome to see him crush his goal. Good work, buddy. Now, on to the race.

This was the inaugural running of the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon/Half Marathon. Unlike, as far as I know, all the other races run on the island, this was put on by a national race company, USA Endurance Events, as opposed to locals (see MV 20 Miler and Vineyard Triathlon). While the race did benefit two Vineyard non-profits, it’s my understanding that they did not do much, if anything, to reach out to the local running scene. This lack of coordination revealed itself most readily in volunteer situation, which I’ll address later. Should anyone from USA Endurance Events happen to be reading this, that would be my first note for you. The locals will help, but you need to work with them to ask for it!

We arrived on island Saturday afternoon and headed to the race “expo” in Oak Bluffs. As it turned out, the expo consisted of bib and t-shirt pickup plus a few branded pieces of apparel and some Gu products for sale. What stood out for me was the complete lack of race information readily available. For example, no one seemed to know how to determine which of the three waves you were supposed to run in nor how the pacer situation was being managed. These turned out to be minor complaints in the end, but it also seems like information that would be easy enough to put on the race website.



The race swag included a mesh drawstring bag, t-shirt, and running cap.


After lunch at one our go-to spots, Slice of Life cafe, we headed to our home for the weekend at the Winnetu Resort. Because R had to do work, I passed the time reading my new graphic novel, Lucifer, and I may have also enjoyed a two Bloody Mary’s.


Something something, calming the nerves makes me race better, something something.

Dinner was my now preferred go-to fish piccata (sole piccata to be exact) at Chesca’s in Edgartown. Of course, before turning in I laid out my race kit, which I’d like to think was suitably matchy-matchy.


Brooks Launch 3 for race day.

As it usually does, race morning came way too quickly. After a stop at Espresso Love for an English muffin with butter, we headed to the start location, which was different from the finish location, at Martha’s Vineyard High School. From what I understand, there were also buses that took racers from several locations to the start, but I can’t say how well that system worked. Two things stood out about the start setup. First, there were FAR too few porta-potties for a race of around 1600 people. Second, the guy MC’ing the race (who knew races had MCs?) really straddled the line between fun and encouraging, and simply intolerable. A barefoot white dude with dreads, this guy punctuated every statement with a Little John-esque “YEAH!” If it helps you get an idea of this gentleman, bear in mind that the pre-race music was almost exclusively Rusted Root. I’m serious.

It turned out that Wave 1 meant racers anticipating a sub-8 pace for both the marathon and half. I found the 1:40 pacer, a nice bearded guy named Brian from Beast Pacing, and we set off down the bike path on our way to Oak Bluffs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the path was not as crowded as I thought it might be, given the number of racers. It helped that it was still pre-season for tourists so there were not many bikers out. As for the race itself, the course mostly wound through woods in the middle of the island. There was one stretch of dirt road that lasted about a 1/4 mile, which is not called out by the race. I did hear that the marathon had a roughly 2 mile stretch. Both of these were somewhat sandy, not hard-packed dirt, and the race simply has to make a point of noting these in future course descriptions.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava

There are no real steep climbs, but several long inclines that seem to go for a while. In fact, the course is net downhill.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava (1)

The most mentally draining part of this race is a stretch that I have done many, many times, which is essentially the part on the map above from “Ocean Heights” to Oak Bluffs, where the finish was. While it’s a very pretty stretch, often with water on both sides of you, it’s a long, straight shot, and I was really struggling at that point. I did my best to focus on the scenery and maintain as much forward progress as I could muster.


Finally, I made it to Waban Park. The finish was somewhat of a tease, as you had to run up a road parallel to it, then make a sharp turn for a final stretch of about 100 yards on grass to the line itself. Though I’ve finished the Vineyard Triathlon on this stretch, and it didn’t feel too bad, this part of the park felt tremendously awkward running on. Maybe it was just the fatigue, but I couldn’t find a comfortable stride and kind of stumbled to the finish.


Of course, I messed up my finish line pictures by worrying about my watch, but heaven forbid I have an incorrect Strava record!


As you can see from the pace chart below, I was right on target for a 1:40 finish…until I wasn’t.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava (2)

Still, I learned after the race that I had finished third in my age group, which was my first time placing in my AG in a “real” road race. Though I was a bit disappointed with my time in general, this picked me up a bit, and made me look at the race in the context of my current training and focus, which was not on PR’ing for that half marathon. In fact I’d only run one 10 mile run leading up to it. So, all things considered? I wound up feeling pretty good about the race in general.

Now, for a list of things I hope the race changes for next year:

  • More expansive “expo” featuring MV businesses and races.
  • Many more porta-potties at the start.
  • More water stops.
  • Better staffed water stops.
  • Better trained staff at water stops.
  • I’ve heard the signage needed to be better for the lead runners.
  • No dirt sections on the course.
  • Better stocked post-race provisions.

All in all, a good race with some definite room to improve. I have a feeling I’ll be back again for it next year!


Vineyard Sprint Triathlon

October 28, 2015

Sometimes it takes a while to get up a race recap because things are busy at work, or in life in general.  Sometimes I’m just super lazy.  We may never know which of the two resulted in the delay in getting up this recap of the 2015 Vineyard Triathlon.  For the first time, the race included a sprint distance, which is what I opted for, not wanting to tack on another 1/2 Ironman at the end of the season.  The sprint distances were 1/3 mile swim, 13 mile bike, and then a 5K run, pretty standard fare for sprints.

Races on Martha’s Vineyard, as a general rule, are low-key affairs.  If you go into any race, with the possible exception of the Vineyard 20 Miler, expecting the same experience and logistics as a “mainland” race you’ll wind up stressing yourself out and will have a less positive experience as a result.  For example, that same week I ran a 5K in Edgartown that failed to mention on its website that 2 miles would be on singletrack trail and required roughly 5 round-trip shuttle trips to get everyone from the “start” aka finish of the race to the actual location the race started.  Chalk it up to Vineyard racing.  What this meant as it relates to the Vineyard Tri is that we were getting emails from the RDs up until a couple nights before the race with logistics info on packet pickup, transition info, etc. instead of the 30 page Athlete Guide you might get from a WTC race.  While this might be a little scattershot of an approach for some, the RDs replied quickly to follow up emails to address any missing info.  While the emails certainly conveyed the needed info, I think a comprehensive guide on the website might help centralize information and avoid any confusion for next year.

So, on to race day.  It being off-season on MV, parking was the easiest I’ve ever had for a triathlon, maybe for any race ever.  After body marking, I headed into transition to set up my area.  One nice thing about the race was that the transition area didn’t close, like ever.  This avoided the rush and stress that can come when trying to make sure everything is set up before it closes.  At the same time, be prepared to make your own spot without much guidance on where to go as the only real direction was for the half Iron distance racers to rack in one spot and the sprint racers in another section.  Again, different from a larger race, but not an issue unless you get stressed out by that sort of thing.

Speaking of getting stressed out…the state of the ocean on race day was most definitely my biggest source of stress.  It was a grey day and the swells were strong.  The sea was, indeed, angry that day, my friends, so much so that it caused a friend to bag on the sprint race.  Still, the water temp was pretty perfect at least.

IMG_6168 IMG_6182 IMG_6183

I didn’t attempt any warm-up in the ocean, partly because I didn’t want to wig myself out, partly because I allowed absolutely no time for it.  When the race started on the beach of Oak Bluffs I took my normal position towards the back of the pack, knowing it’d be especially necessary on a day like that to find my own space and not worry about other racers among the waves and in my first ocean race.


Almost immediately I knew this was going to be a slog of a 1/3 of a mile, not because of my swim shape (at least not any more than usual) but because of the conditions.  Heading out to the first buoy meant swimming into the waves, which meant it was nearly impossible to sight.  I also was not a fan of the constant up and down movement in the water, which served to really throw off my rhythm.  There’s simply no way around the fact that this was a brutal, somewhat demoralizing swim for me, but it did not end the race.  Eventually I made my way out of the water, up the beach, across a street, over about a foot tall stone wall, and into transition to move on to my strengths.


[A note for the RDs, should they be reading this, on the swim: While the green color of the first buoy likely wouldn’t be a problem on a sunny day, it was difficult to sight on a gray day combined with the water color.  Similarly, the orange t-shirts of the in-water volunteers nicely matched the orange swim buoys, making it tough to tell quickly where one was supposed to be swimming to!]

I most definitely could have made up some time in T1 if I hadn’t let my swim time get to me.  I don’t think I was hustling through it quite as quickly as I could have but, that’s how it goes!


You can’t tell from this picture, but I’m rocking my new Black Dog socks in this picture.  And, what’s that you say?  New bike?  Why, yes!  That is a new bike!  Right before the race I took the plunge and got a 2014 Cannondale Slice TT bike from Cannondale Sports Cambridge.  I digress here slightly to, once again, praise my friends at this great shop and, in particular, Craig The Manager.  They did both the fitting AND cutting down of necessary components, i.e. the seatpost and aerobars, all in the course of a day, allowing me to take the bike down to Martha’s Vineyard with me and race on it.  I’d also like to thank Greg at Edgartown Bicycle for doing a fit check and adjustment, and bailing me out with a quick pedal installation (along with quick ordering of a rear hydration system).

I set out on the ride hoping for a fast result on the new machine.  With only 131 ft. of elevation gain over 13 miles, it promised to be a fast course, with a tailwind on the final stretch along the water.  Despite a summer of riding on the island, I had spent very little, if any, time on the first half of the course, which made it a little more mentally engaging.  Combined with having a fair number of people to chase down after the swim, I had plenty of motivation to keep my legs pumping, particularly after being chased down by Chilmark Coffee Company proprietor Todd Christy on his roughly 84 year old bike.  Now, one thing I did not plan for was the effect the salt water would have on my respiratory system, or nasal system, or something.  Basically my nose was leaking the entire ride, which was not especially comfortable.  Next time I’ll know to grab some tissues in T1 and stuff them in my pocket.

The highlight of the leg was definitely the stretch from Edgartown back to Oak Bluffs along the beach, which is really the highlight of most rides on MV for me.

Bike Leg

Even though I’d been riding my CAAD8 with aerobars, the Slice is an entirely different animal and I was still getting used to the position during the race, which meant being up on the horns more than I would have liked at the end of the race when I could have really taken advantage of the aero position.  Still, I came in with an official time of 36:27, roughly a 21 mph average, and good for the second fastest bike split on the day.


As I ran my bike into transition, Rebecca excitedly told me I was in fifth place overall, an unexpected development.  This gave me an extra incentive to try to have a quick transition, and soon I was off to see if I could hunt any of my fellow competitors down.



I felt pretty good heading out on the run and figured I had little to lose by just going for broke on it.  The only real hill on the course came a little under a mile into the leg.  I’m sure it felt a lot steeper than it actually was, but it definitely hurt at the time.

Run Elevation

Soon after the crest of the hill I caught up with Todd, who not only updated me on placing, but really encouraged me to keep pushing on and finish strong.  It really was the boost I needed to keep driving towards the finish.  The next two miles were fairly uneventful, and I ended up with splits of 7:11, 7:12, and 7:07.  It felt great to close with my fastest mile, not something I usually do in either road races or triathlons.

I came into the finish line feeling fairly triumphant and pleased with how the race went as a whole.


I ended up coming in 4th place overall and taking my first Age Group win for a triathlon, pretty neat I’d say!  Rebecca and I celebrated with an amazing lobster roll from the Net Result, but not before enjoying some amazing espresso drinks from Chilmark Coffee.  With what may be the absolute coolest perk ever for a race, Chilmark Coffee donated free coffee (including lattes etc.) to the race via a mobile coffee bar.  Immediately after racing, Todd got right to work pulling shots.


Good guy Todd is a good guy.


With the race only being in its second year, there were bound to be some growing pains with it.  Some constructive suggestions I’d make for next year would be:

  • Clearer directions from the water to transition
  • Block out the transition area by race number
  • Designating mounting and dismounting zones for the bike leg
  • More clear markings for the turn to the finish line on the run

Before signing off, I’d add this note: Be nice to RDs.  I haven’t always followed my own advice here, but ever since my tantrum at the Marblehead JCC Tri, I’ve really worked on that aspect of my racing.  RDs work tremendously hard to put on any event, let alone a triathlon, and do their best to put on a great event for the athletes.  If you think the race could be improved in some way, take the time to talk about it with the RD, who wants you to come back and have a great race the next year.  Alight, off my soapbox.

This was a fantastic, fun, unique experience of a race.  This is literally the one chance you get to do a triathlon on Martha’s Vineyard and I’m really looking forward to coming back and defending my age group next summer!

Thank you as always to Rebecca for cheering and taking all the great pictures you see here!

Happy racing all!




Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler Race Recap – PR Weekend!

February 20, 2014

The Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler has come and gone, as has my 20 mile PR.  This is now the fourth time I’ve participated in this race, and I say “participated” because I have finished the race 3 times but only ran the last 14 miles of the race last year while training for the TARC 50K.  What made this year unique was that the race came as part of my training under Coach Luke Humphrey’s training plan, which is a far cry from years past when I came into the race under…no…training plan.  I knew going into the race that I had largely stuck to my prescribed workouts, particularly when it came to the core of speedwork, tempo runs, and long runs.  Where in previous years I had been nervous about just finishing the race, this year my nerves were based on hoping that I could run as well as my training runs suggested I’d be able to.  If nothing else, I had the dual goals of breaking 3 hours for the first time in this race, and setting a new 20 mile PR, hopefully besting my 2:57:34 from the 2013 Black Cat 20 Miler.  My previous Vineyard best was a 3:01:52 in 2011.

We got to the Vineyard Haven ferry station with plenty of time to spare and found it full of runners, all gearing up for a nice little jaunt through the Vineyard.  The fact that the race is 20 miles, in February, on an island, means the race is going to be a somewhat self-selecting group, apparent in the number of super-skinny folks limbering up in the warmth of the ferry terminal.  Thankfully, I was too busy making my customary laps of the restroom to have too much time to be intimidated by the other racers and, before I knew it, it was time to get outside and toe the line.

The race starts by immediately leaving Vineyard Haven, precariously crossing a metal bridge into Oak Bluffs.  I tried to settle myself into what felt like a controlled, but not loping, pace.  A mistake I’ve made in previous years was being so concerned about the distance that I really ramped down my pace, which affected my form and, I believe, led to pain later in the race that I might not have experienced otherwise.  Also different from year’s past was that I started the race on my own, as opposed to running with a buddy.  Because I won’t be able to count on having someone to run with come the marathon, I have to be able to run long distances comfortably on my own.  I went through the first mile feeling comfortable in 8:10 before headed up and around East Chop in Oak Bluffs, which features some great panoramic vistas and even a lighthouse.  All very vineyard-y.  Here’s how the course looks, according to Strava.

Course Map

Miles 2-5 are fairly nondescript, to be honest, taking you towards the shore in OB, though Mile 3 does feature one of the bigger climbs of the race, which Strava only has at 33 ft. gained.  You get a nice little downhill in Mile 4, following the race course of the Oak Bluffs Memorial Day 5K, headed down to OB Harbor.  It’s really Miles 6-10 that are the best part of the course, at least scenically.  These miles take you along the ocean and beaches on your left and ponds on your right, allowing you to zone out whenever needed to get lost in the scenery.  Friends Brendan and Seth were out on the course cheering on their respective wives and got some great pictures around the 7 mile mark.

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Seeing them gave me a nice little boost at that point.  As nice as the scenery is, the miles are basically a straight shot and before too long you start wondering when the end of that stretch is going to come.  Despite the growing desire though to make the turn inland, signalling 10 miles had gone by, I was feeling very comfortable with my pace, generally in the low 8s for non-water stop miles and and 8:10s for those with water stops.  I passed the halfway point at 1:21:xx and started to get confident that I was in for a PR day.  The plan going in had been to try to run the first 10 miles comfortably then just see what I could do on the second 10.  The problem was I started that plan too early and then went too hard, with Miles 8-12 going: 8:17, 8:15, 8:06, 7:51, 7:55 before jumping back up to 8:15, never getting back down to the low 8s again.  I’d like to think that if I had just stuck with my earlier pacing, I wouldn’t have dropped off so precipitously in the last 5 miles of the race, but the only way to test that theory will be to actually run an even pace over a long distance and see what happens.

The second half of the race is far less scenic than the first half, and introduces some rolling hills into the mix.  Nothing is ever very steep or very long, but they are there, and they are there having already run 10 miles, making them feel even more THERE.  Not surprisingly, things really started to feel like they were headed downhill, more in a figurative sense than a literal one, around Mile 15, as has been the case in year’s past.  With the miles beginning to feel more and more slog-like, I did my best to focus on the runners ahead of me, still trying to pick them off despite my flagging reserves.  When the runners I had been targeting started to walk, I re-doubled my mental efforts to just keep on putting one foot in front of the other, determined not to walk at any point other than through water stops.  Of course, the race doesn’t take it easy on you through the last miles, with a long hill at miles 16-17 and another one at mile 19.  Though they only gain 22 and 16 feet respectively, at that point they felt like Mt. Washington and Everest in succession.  Here’s how the course looks overall from an elevation perspective.


Making the race that much harder  was that snow had really started to come down at around the 15 mile mark, starting slowly but building up rapidly.  Though I normally don’t mind running in snow, these flakes were gigantic and often found their way into my eyes along with getting my top layer wet.  Still, it’s New England winter racing, and we persevere, as we must.

Finally, though, the time came to cross County Rd. and make the turn to the home stretch.  At this point I knew I had sub-2:50 in the bag, but wanted to get that new PR as low as possible.  Rebecca had earlier done the first 10 miles of the race as part of the newly-founded relay race (though her teammate sadly wasn’t able to run due to illness that day) and was at the finish cheering me on, along with our friends, who all did a great job supporting us.  Brendan got some great shots as I came towards the chute, as did the race photographer.



Final Time: 2:47:42, good enough for a pretty significant PR and CR to boot!  The takeaway from the race is that my training plan is getting me where I want to be, but I still have work to put in, and I really need to work on both my pacing and fueling for future races.  Exhibit A re: pacing is below.



Still, I think I can get better at that, and the more miles I put in in between now and Patriot’s Day, the better chance I have of not letting the last 10K prevent me from reaching my goals.

Happy running to all!