Posts Tagged ‘Racing’

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.

IMG_9861

 

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

IMG_9863

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.

IMG_9868.JPG

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.

IMG_9885

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.

IMG_9904

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.

IMG_9906.PNG

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

IMG_9907.PNG

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!

Advertisements

Timmmmberrrrman!

August 21, 2015

I’m writing this in between continuously stuffing my face because of my constant, insatiable hunger.  Who knew that completing a Half Ironman would leave one so hungry?  Oh, spoiler alert, I completed my first Half Ironman at the Timberman 70.3 race!  This blog entry will serve as my “race recap,” of the aforementioned finishing.

After I decided I wanted to make a 70.3 race my goal for this racing season I got a number of recommendations to do Timberman, which had the benefits of being late in the season and fairly close.  I was looking for a late in the season race to have an opportunity to get in a good amount of outdoor riding and open water swimming.  I mainly succeeded at the first goal and got in enough OWS either swimming at Walden Pond or in races to feel comfortable heading into the race.  Of course, I also had planned on using the summer to get in a lot of brick workouts and that plan…failed.  Miserably failed.  And, of course, that came back to bite me come the run leg.

We headed up to New Hampshire on Saturday morning and made our way to Gunstock Mountain, where the Ironman Village was located as well as a meet and greet for Make-A-Wish racers with none other than Andy Potts.  Andy, I call him Andy, gave a stirring message about the good we can all do in the world for others, “you don’t have to help everyone, just start with the person next to you.”  During his talk, he got quite choked up, which of course got me quite choked up.

Potts Choked Up

It was incredibly inspiring to hear him speak, not to mention hearing from the Wish kids themselves.  Alex didn’t speak, but his story provides a great example of the difference Make-A-Wish can make.

Wish Kid

Of course, there were photo ops to be had.

IM Village

The eagle-eyed of you may note that I am simultaneously representing both the old and new Slipstream Sports teams with my Garmin argyle New Balances, and Cannondale argyle water bottle.  It was roughly about this time that I realized I had unimaginably left my wallet back home, roughly 90 miles away.  Me.  The guy who loves buying race swag.  That guy.  I had a near panic-attack at the thought of not being able to check in without photo ID, but some very lovely volunteers devised a clever way to check my identity, i.e. they covered up my birthday on the entrants form and then asked me what it was.  Disaster averted.  I did end up buying one piece of swag, thanks to R having a second card of my credit card on her, a Timberman bike jersey.  The rest of the village was fairly meh, with a couple tents selling some Gu products and other things that you might have forgotten to pack, like spare tubs, CO2 cannisters, etc.  While I did pick up some Salt Stick salt tabs, I did regret not getting some Base Salts for the race.

After Gunstock, we made the short 10 minute trip over to Ellacoya State Park where the actual race takes place.  This presented one of the aspects of race organization I had an issue with, namely the complete lack of parking assistance in a space that very much needed it.  We had absolutely no idea where we were supposed to park, or even how to get out of the parking lot once we did.  After that, however, it was a breeze to get my bike racked up in transition.  Knowing there was a possibility of rain in the forecast, I covered my bars and seat with garbage bags, which proved to be the right call after thunderstorms swept through the area.

IMG_5564

 

With logistics behind us, and a sweet new Make-A-Wish tri top in hand, we headed to our bed and breakfast, the Nutmeg Inn.  For those reading this with an eye towards potentially doing Timberman 2016, I’d encourage you to book your accommodations early.  We were happy enough with the Inn, and they were kind enough to get up at 4:30 a.m. to make sure there was coffee ready for the racers staying there, but the options run out quickly for places close to the start.

Fast forward to the bracing buzz of the alarm at 4:30 a.m., and race day was finally upon me.  I did my best to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on homemade sourdough bread that the inn owner made for me (super sweet, right?), and we headed over to the park.  One of the great perks of racing for Make-A-Wish was the VIP area they had set up for racers and family members.  This meant we had a place to hang out before the race along with a supply of water, Cokes, and other goodies.  But, the absolute best part was the dedicated Port-A-Potties, which meant no lines!  That they were decked out in disco lights made them all the cooler.

Make A Wish Potties

R and I made our way over to the swim start and I took some time to get acclimated in the water along with some easy swimming to loosen up.  The water was really pretty perfect, just cool enough to make it comfortable in a wetsuit.

Swim Warm Up

After watching a bunch of other waves go off, it was finally my turn to begin with the second set of M30-34.  I made an effort to smile throughout the day to keep my spirits and energy up, not to mention reminding myself to have fun.

Swim Smile

The other guys in my wave clearly shared my general antipathy towards the leg, with only a handful of them eager to be right in the front of the pack.

Swim Start

My biggest concern with the swim, other than, you know, distance and speed, was staying on course.  I have such a tendency to veer that it can add a not-insignificant amount of yards to the distance, which I cannot afford.  Luckily, this course had a number of intermediate buoys in between the turn buoys, giving ample targets to sight to.  I did my best to maintain an even effort throughout the swim and, while I did get passed by people that started in waves after me, I didn’t get that same feeling of sluggishness I did during the Mass State Oly.

I didn’t start my stopwatch during the swim, but did note when we started time-wise.  As I made my way out of the water, I was surprised to see that I had gone roughly 43 minutes, much better than my anticipated best case scenario of 50 minutes, given that I had just swam a pool mine in 39:50.  My official time was 43:54, which I will take every day of the week, and twice on race day.

Swim Transition

The path to transition was nice grass, and took us past wetsuit strippers, an experience I’d never had before.  I had no clue what to do, but had seen them in Ironman videos.  So, I got down on the ground, some volunteer grabbed the suit, and then he pulled it off in one fell swoop.  It was AWESOME.

Swim Transition (2)

I didn’t exactly rush through T1, trying to take my time to make sure I had the fuel I planned on bringing .  Of course I forgot one pack of Skratch Labs chews and only brought one salt tab, instead of two, but, c’est la vie.  After a few minutes, I grabbed my bike and made the fairly long trek out of transition.

Bike Exit

As you can see, I decided to go with my XX2i sunglasses and The Athletic socks.  Thankfully R noticed that my tri top rode up in the back, leaving a perfect opportunity for a “tramp stamp” sunburn.

Tramp Stamp

Glad I put sunblock on that spot!  Also, apparently my move was the fist pump all day when passing the Make-A-Wish cheer tent.

Bike Fist Pump

I rolled out onto the course, trying to stay at a moderate pace, knowing the first 11 miles or so of the course included some pretty good climbs.  Here is the elevation profile from my Garmin.

Bike Elevation

There are two Cat 4 sections as identified by Strava, and roughly 2700 ft. in elevation over the course.

The advice I’d heard over and over going into the race was to go easy those first/and then last 11 miles and open up a little more over the middle part, all the while saving energy for the run.  Of course, unsurprisingly, I screwed that up.  I actually felt reasonably good on the hills, attempting to stay in my saddle as much as possible to avoid overcooking my legs.  To my surprise, I even passed people on the climbs, which are anything but my strength.  With the hard opening behind me, I opened up some, still trying to stay in a zone where I wasn’t laboring to breathe.  However, when I hit the 40 mile mark at an average of 20 mph, I knew I had probably made a mistake in pacing, given that I’d never ridden that fast in any training ride.  Oops.

For fueling, I took two bottles filled with Skratch Labs drink mix as well as Skratch Labs chews and Untapped Maple Syrup.  I tried to drink every 5 miles or so and take solid fuel every 10 miles, which I more or less executed.  I did drop a nearly full pack of chews though at mile 5 while trying to get it back into my top tube bag.  That’s what I get for not practicing zipping and unzipping the bag.

As for the actual course, I think I was expecting something a little more…scenic?  It’s not that it was a bad course, though there were a few fairly rough sections of pavement along the way, it was just…road.  There was almost always a good amount of shoulder to ride on, and I never had trouble passing anyone.  The course was well-marked with plenty of volunteers.

I slowed down some from mile 40, partially because I was getting tired, partially because I was trying to preserve what little I had left in my legs.  In the end, I averaged 19.4 mph (based on my Garmin start and stop) with an official leg time of 2:51:27, 90/185 in my division.

I felt pretty good heading out for the run, throwing on my New Balance Zante Boston shoes and visor, while downing two salt tabs ahead of what was sure to be a hot, hilly, run.  From what I’d been told, the run course would be a fairly unrelenting, rolling, course.  The intelligence was right.

Run Elevation

I really didn’t have much of a game plan heading into the run, which was just as well, as it would have fallen apart fairly quickly anyway.  Simply put, I was cooked, and the walking started somewhere around mile 5.  The real anxiety came in the first mile though, when I realized I’d completely forgotten to grab my race belt in T2, which meant I was running without a bib.  While I was somewhat concerned about being DQ’ed as a result of not having a bib, I admit I was probably more worried about not getting my pictures!

The course followed the lake shore, though I was expecting more of a view, and was basically an out-and-back done twice, even though it’s described as two “loops.”  On the first “back,” I started walking most of the uphills, then trying to run after.  I got a little pick up during a random French chat with a Canadian before going through the spectator area and seeing R before starting lap 2.  I had asked that she have a Coke ready for me, and she was spot on with it.  It was a welcome respite in the heat, and I thank Todd Christy of Chillmark Coffee for the suggestion.

Run Coke

I knew heading out for Lap 2 that it would be a slog.  I grabbed a couple minutes rest while an extremely nice woman who was doing…something or other…in transition was able to grab my race belt.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about that aspect of the race.  I also managed another fist pump for Make-A-Wish.

Run Fist Pump

Truly, there’s little to say about the second lap which was, for all intents and purposes, the same as the first.  I gave everything I could, but was eventually really held up by calf cramps starting around mile 12.  This seems to be an inescapable problem for me in long races.  Hopefully at one point I’ll be able to dial in my fueling to avoid this problem.

Eventually the finish line was in sight.  I couldn’t exactly kick it in for fear of my calves completely seizing, but I limped across the line with a final time of 6:00:17, and a run split of 2:14:59, 93/185.

Run Finish

And, with that, I became a Half Ironman.  On R’s advice, I slowly made my way over to the lake to try to cool down some, as I was feeling roughly the same way I did after running the Boston Marathon in the heat, as you can probably sense in the picture below.

 

 

Lake Sitting

The lake felt absolutely wonderful, and I started to feel a little better after the dip.

All in all, Timberman was a fantastic experience, and one I’m very proud of.  I’m fairly certain there will be another 70.3 in my future, though I’m not entirely sure which one it will be.  I re-learned the same lessons I have from previous races, including that a lack of brick workouts will bite you in the ass, and nutrition is best not left to chance.  I also learned to actually trust myself and my training a little more heading into race day.

Many thanks to R for putting up with me during the race weekend and being a great photographer and sherpa on race day.

Enjoy the ride, dear readers!

Pilgrimman Triathlon Race Recap: The OK, The Good, and The Ugly

September 30, 2014

It seems as if a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry, which is unsurprising I suppose given that a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry.  I’d feel bad about that, but truth be told there’s really been very little to write home about as I’ve spent the summer trying to prepare myself for this past weekend’s Pilgrimman Olympic Distance Triathlon.  The advertised distances for the race were 0.9 mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 6.6 mile run.

I’m not entirely sure why, but there seems to be a naming convention for triathlons that includes “-man,” particularly if they include a 70.3 distance or longer, see Timberman, Eagleman, Pumpkinman, etc.  Though the timing is a bit off to be associated with Thanksgiving, Pilgrimman did take place in the Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, MA, Myles Standish being a passenger on the Mayflower and first commander of Plymouth Colony’s militia.  Check out the flow on the pilgrim.

I set Pilgrimman, in its inaugural year, as my target race for my inaugural season training for triathlons and spent the summer building up my swim and bike strength while trying to maintain a semblance of running shape.  Of course, when I signed up for the race I didn’t have a very good sense of exactly where it was, nor did I know that registration would close at 7:30 a.m.  These two factors combined led to a 4:50 a.m. alarm so I could make sure that my whole race day wouldn’t be scuttled by a failure to get through registration on time.  This leads me to my first gripe with Pilgrimman, two gripes actually.  First, registration did not close at 7:30.  This gripe has more to do with being annoyed that I lost out on maybe 30 extra minutes of sleep and less to do with an insistence that races keep their word about when they say registration will close.  Frankly, it’s a good thing if they accommodate stragglers.  Still, it was clear that the 7:30 time was unnecessarily early.  Second, they had run out of all but extra-large size t-shirts by the time I checked in, around 7:20 a.m.  This was particularly vexing given that the shirt was included in the registration fee and I doubt there were many triathletes interested in XL size t-shirts.  Big deal?  Nah.  Annoying and an issue that should be addressed next year?  Yes, absolutely.  In any event, I was glad I had everything ready to go the night before so I didn’t have to wake up any earlier than I already had to.

2014-09-27 20.51.36-1

With registration materials in hand, I headed over to the transition area and got all markered up.  I wouldn’t exactly say the transition area was especially clearly laid out, but it was good enough and I was able to snag a primo piece of real estate on the bike rack.  Unlike at the Dam Triathlon, this time I had a decent sense of how to set up my transition area with the hopes of cutting down on my T1 and T2 times from my first attempt.  I munched on a half a pack of Honey Stinger chews to go along with my breakfast of toast and butter (note I include these details mostly in anticipation of a potential coach reading them at some point and critiquing my pre-race fueling) and passed the time talking with some fellow competitors, including one older gentleman rocking a wicked sweet pair of jorts over his tri-kit.  Finally, with everything in place, it was time to head down to the beach for the swim.

Despite my instincts towards laziness and an aversion to swimming any more than absolutely necessary, I convinced myself that everyone else who was in the water warming up must have some better idea about the right way to get ready for a swim than I did.  So, ever so slowly, I made my way into what turned out to be cold, cold water, at least to my delicate sensibilities.  Though all I wanted to do was rush back to shore and get warm, I ducked under the water and embarked on a roughly 50 meter warm-up swim.  OK, it wasn’t a lot, but I think it let me get over that first chest-crushing rush of coldness and anxiety that could otherwise completely sabotage the swim leg.  Fast forward through other age group swim starts and it was finally time to start.

That's me, bending down.

That’s me, bending down.

The swim was 3 laps for the Olympic distance, laid out in rectangular fashion with a short beach run from the end of each lap to the start of the next.  I’d like to think that I maintained a fairly even pace throughout the swim, slow that pace may have been.  There were two notable exceptions to the swim going pretty smoothly, the first being when, during the third lap, I veered too far left going around the first buoy (in a counter-clockwise fashion) and had to course-correct back up to the second buoy so that I didn’t cut the course.  Next, on the home stretch I somehow found myself swimming perpendicular to the beach, which, if you are unfamiliar with how races work, is not a good idea.  This is not a good idea, at all.  Thankfully I didn’t get too far before realizing my mistake, and powered through to the beach, dragging myself out of the water and beginning the trudge uphill to the transition.  Final time for the swim was 36:22, a 2:18 pace, good enough for a solid 109th place…out of 146…dang it.  I’m a slow swimmer.  Still, the performance was about what I would have expected, which makes it fine by me.

I tried doing the whole “running” thing but mostly ended up yogging and walking to my bike.  Learning from a mistake I made at Dam, which essentially boiled down to not listening to my mentor Jocelyn’s advice, I put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit for this race, which meant I didn’t have to spend time pulling them on in T1.  I was dismayed to see that my helmet, which contained my sunglasses and gloves, had been knocked to the ground off my handlebars, but I can’t say it really cost me any time as a result, just annoyance.  I made it out of T1 in 3:44, a big improvement from the 5:01 it took me at Dam.

On to the bike leg.  The course was an out-and-back format, 7 miles out, 7 back, therefore requiring 2 circuits for the full distance.

Bike Course

Though the elevation gain doesn’t seem to reflect it, the course felt like it was an endless series of slight hills with very few flat stretches to speak of.

Bike Elevation

After the end of lap 1, I took one Salted Watermelon Gu and also removed my cycling gloves, which were threatening to numb my hands entirely.  Both turnaround spots featured hairpin turns around a cone, which leads me to the first of my 3 gripes concerning the bike leg, the first being the hairpin turns, which I found difficult to navigate in a narrow space and a big momentum killer.  Frankly, I don’t know what could be done to avoid this, but I don’t like those kind of turns in road races, let alone on the bike.  Next, traffic issues were a major concern for me.  On the first lap I had a run-in with a car that I felt got too close to me on a turn and exchanged some pleasantries with the driver.  I know it can’t have been easy for cars to pass riders given riders going both ways on the road, but as a result I ended up stuck behind cars going up a hill because they refused to pass the rider in front of me.  I’ll give the Pilgrimman RDs some credit for course management in terms of giving directions to riders as I understand from various Facebook posts that there were major issues in the sprint race the day before.  Still, course management remains a concern for me.  Finally, though I love volunteers and am grateful they were there for the race, I found that they crowded the road when handing out water, though maybe I just don’t know how these things work in triathlons, never having been offered water on a bike before.  I’m willing to chalk that last gripe up to personal discomfort with people being too close to me on the bike.

[EDIT: Pilgrimman has announced that the course will be changed next year to a closed course, which is great news.  I really respect how quickly they have moved to address concerns from racers, it’s the mark of a good RD and they should get credit for their alacrity.]

Some shots from the bike leg!

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_8572

I didn’t pass as many people on the bike leg as I did at Dam, but I was still pretty happy with an average pace of 18.7 MPH.  That said, I have a feeling that I extended myself too much, sapping crucial energy for the run.  My time ended up at 1:29:39, good enough for 62nd place on the bike leg, which I can be pleased with.  I quickly racked my bike, gulped down some Gu Brew and a salt tab (thanks to Alett for the suggestion), pulled on my New Balance 890 v4s and headed out of the transition zone to begin my last leg, with a T2 time of 2:11, down from 2:42 at Dam.

I started the run feeling tightness in my quads, and that was about as good as I’d feel all run.  The run course started uphill.  The run course continued uphill.  The run course never stopped uphilling.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, still, the course just felt brutal to me, even though it probably might not have been so hard if it was just a road race.  I had to stop about a half mile in for a bio break – it would not be the last time I had to stop running.  It didn’t take too long to get the feeling that I just did not have very much left in my legs for the run and I soon became fairly demoralized by the feeling that I was running on what seemed to be a net uphill loop, which I previously did not think was possible (that’s a lie, there was a long period in high school when I argued that the Stratton Brook XC course was more uphill than downhill, despite being a loop).  I likely wasn’t in the best frame of mind, but I do have to point out my final two gripes for the course, both having to do with the water stops on the run.  The first probably has to do with me being a curmudgeon, but at the mile 1 water stop the volunteer asked if I wanted water, bottled water, or Gatorade.  I don’t blame the volunteer, and again maybe this is me not understanding the triathlon world, but at that point I just could not process or deal with trying to figure out why I was differentiating between “water” and “bottled water.”  Upon reflection, I’ll move this gripe into a personal preference clash as, maybe, triathletes like getting bottles of water they can carry with them and sip as needed.  Maybe some people put this feature of the race into their plus category.  However, I think my second gripe, now technically my first, is legitimate, namely that the Gatorade on the course was really, really gross.  I’m not sure what went wrong with the mixing process, but something did go terribly wrong, leaving it tasting really bad.  Perhaps this is all to say that maybe I should consider using a fuel belt in the future such that I can have better control over my own hydration needs, something I’ve never worried about in a road race, but, again, triathlon is a different world.

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_9387

As for the run course itself, other than feeling ludicrously hard, it was quite pretty running through the forest, at least during the times I could let myself appreciate the scenery.  All my fellow racers were friendly and encouraging, despite everyone around me appearing to be in some sort of pain or another.  Here are some pictures that relate to the course, and my slow, slow splits thereupon.

Run Course Run Elevation Run Splits

At long last I took the final turn onto the path leading to the finish, which, of course featured another slight incline.  I finished hot, exhausted, but proud.

IMG_4710

Oh, did I mention it was hot?  Like really hot?  Like “unseasonably warm” but hotter?  Well, it was hot.  Was I pleased with the run, which should have been my best leg?  Definitely not.  But, was I proud of the accomplishment of finishing?  You betcha.  There’s plenty to build on and I learned a lot of lessons about both training and racing, including:

  • Do.  More.  Bricks.
  • Swim more, swim faster when swimming more.
  • Run longer distances during training.
  • More bricks.
  • Think about adding a heart rate monitor to racing to not over-exert on the bike.
  • Be less fastidious in transition.
  • Swim straighter, sight more often.
  • Finally, more bricks.
  • Eat a better breakfast pre-race.

I’m sure there are more things I could have done better both in training and racing, but I’ll have to figure them out as I go along.  For now, I can be content with placing pretty darn squarely in the middle of the pack, 76th place overall and 6th in my age group.  I know I can do better.  I know I will do better, and I can’t wait until next tri season to prove it.

2014-09-28 12.49.45

p.s. I don’t want to come off overly harsh on my race experience.  This was a first time race, and it can’t be easy to stage a triathlon in its first year.  Overall it was a very good experience and all the volunteers were outgoing and helpful.  Fixing the t-shirt ordering and traffic issues would go a long way to smoothing the race experience as a whole but, on the whole, I think it was mostly a job well done by the RDs.

2014 Dam Triathlon Recap – I’m A Triathlete?

July 15, 2014

It’s been far too long since an update here, and now all of a sudden it’s like, wait, what, triathlon?  That’s right, dear reader, triathlon.  Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  In the summer of ’97 I participated in my first triathlon at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT.  At the time, the format was a 1/4 mile pond swim, roughly 8 mile bike ride, then 5K trail run.  The weekly summer race series is still going strong, though they’ve switched up the bike to a 5 mile trail ride.  All the same, pretty neat that the tradition lives on these many, many years later.  At the time of these races not only did I not have a wetsuit (though most racers weren’t using them in the fairly warm water), not have a road bike, instead using my Mongoose mountain bike, but I was running in long mesh shorts and a cotton tank.  That’s right.  Frickin’ COTTON.  I shudder at the thought.  It would be a long time before I embraced the split short as anything but a cross country race piece of apparel.  But, embrace it I have since then.  About the only “legit” gear I had was were my trusty Nike Zoom Country racing flats.  Through the magic of technology, I have been able to take what were once actual physical photographs from those races that could be held in one’s hands and converted them into “digital files,” that I might share them with you.

1048279_10101578151857830_1242313049_o 1039809_10101578151678190_1893153074_o 1048615_10101578151239070_1075576101_o (1)

Sigh, look at that fine head of hair.  Also, please note the old school TYR swim briefs in the middle picture.  Cool briefs, bro.  I’m sorry if that came off as sarcastic, I really do think that dude rocks the grape-smuggler look with panache.

Between those heady high school days and this past weekend, despite having a love affair with road bikes and roughly a dozen solid intentions to get into triathloning, I only followed the sport from the sidelines while concentrating on road racing, geeking out over bike tech, and swimming every now and then for a couple weeks when injured.  Case in point, I purchased a Zoot wetsuit in November 2012 but did not open it until June 2014.  And so, I existed as a pure runner, at least until my wife and I decided to each get bikes.

After a number of test rides and trips to bike shops, which was very difficult work, let me tell you, I finally decided on a Cannondale CAAD8 bike, which seemed to be a good compromise between an “endurance” bike and a “racing” bike in terms of comfort and geometry.  Sure, I could be making that up, but it sounds right at least in my head.  Also, it’s pretty, don’t you think?

10404521_10102312301401260_2124894403487107289_n

I…like taking pictures of my bike.

Concord Ride Mass Ave Bridge

I joined up with local triathlon club Zoom Multisport and starting joining them for Track Tuezday workouts at the Harvard Track and gorgeous Walden Wednezday open water swims (OWSs) at Walden Pond in Concord, starting to get used to swimming in my wetsuit and the difference between pool swimming and non-pool swimming.

Walden 1

Walden Team

I mean, beautiful, right?  Not the worst way to start a day, if I do say so myself.

Now that we’ve established that I had a modicum of training under my belt in the three ancient disciplines of triathlon, let’s get onto the race recap of this past weekend’s Dam Triathlon.  That Dam race (I feel it necessary to overuse the Dam/damn thing as the race itself certainly did) consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, “13” mile bike leg, and “5K” run.  I use quotes to indicate that although the race may have said one thing about the distances, my Garmin said otherwise, as did others’.  In the end, the bike was likely more like 12.5 miles and the run 2.9.

Alright, let’s finally get to the race.  Friend and Zoom teammate Jocelyn picked me up bright and early and we loaded up her Subaru with my bike alongside hers, because taking anything other than a Subaru to a race involving bikes would be a USAT violation.  Arriving in Amesbury, I was downright giddy to go through the pre-race procedures of getting Sharpie’d up with my number and getting my ankle timing chip.  Then it was time to set up my transition spot, which just happened to be right next to another Zoomer, Greg.  Now, I’ve seen transition set-ups before, but somehow trying to do my own filled me with anxiety.  Above all, I didn’t want commit any newbie faux-passes.  Here’s what I ended up with.

2014-07-12 07.44.44

I even managed to do that nifty thing where you hook your bike onto the rack using the saddle…and it didn’t fall down!

And for my fellow shoe geeks, shoes.

Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.

Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.

Headed to the shore for the start of the race, Rebecca flagged me down and gave me some last minute words of encouragement.  She also got a pre-race shot.

They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes.  Instead, they wrote "NOVICE" on the regular ones.

They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes. Instead, they wrote “NOVICE” on the regular ones.

My swim wave was second in the water behind the elites and was to be a “waist-deep” start, which I didn’t know existed until that day.  I tried to relax a little bit before the start by joking around with my fellow swimmers to calm my nerves and it must have worked because, for my first time in open-water swimming, I didn’t have any moment of panic when I got into the actual swim.

I'm in the white cap.

I’m in the white cap.

My only strategy on the swim itself was to survive and maintain forward momentum.  I achieved the forward momentum goal, and survived as well, but definitely could have done a lot better job when it came to sighting, not that it likely would have done anything to change the fact that I left the water second to last in my age group (12/13) and behind a number of athletes that started 6 minutes after I did.  But, hey, I swam a half mile both without drowning and without collapsing on the beach in a huffing mess after it was over.  Final time for the swim was 17:49, which I’m pretty sure is a time I should be happy with given my training paces.

Photo by Rebecca.  Editing by Snapseed.

Photo by Rebecca. Editing by Snapseed.

2014-07-12 08.20.47

It would be fair to say that my first transition was glacial in pace. In fact, it took a whole 5:01.6.  I should have listened to J’s advice to put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit and swam with them and I should have gone sockless rather than spending the time to dry off my feet, quite deliberately it would seem given the time.  Other than that, I’m not entirely sure what I could have done to get through the transition faster, but I’m sure as I get some more tris under my belt it’ll just…happen.  Finally, all set up, I made my out of T1.

2014-07-12 08.25.08-2

On to the bike!  I figured I’d be able to make up some time here and set off to do just that.  Then I missed the second turn, roughly 1/8 mile into the leg.  Oops.  Backtracking, I made it onto the real course and set my sights on the cyclists ahead of me.  Riding in the drops, I got into a good rhythm, focusing on keeping my cadence up and “spinning” rather than “pushing” the pedals.  Soon I was making up ground on, and then passing, other competitors, eventually settling in with about 4 or 5 other cyclists that I would trade spots with throughout the remainder of the leg.  I have to say that there was a moment around Mile 8 where I just had to smile, thinking “I’m racing on a bike right now, and that’s pretty neat.”  It was a truly unique moment in my pursuit of athletics, and one I enjoyed tremendously.  My final time on the bike was 39:24, good for a 19.1 MPH average according to Strava, my best MPH average over any distance to date, and 7/13 for my age group.  Speaking of Strava, here’s your Dam bike route map and elevation chart.

Dam Strava Bike

Sadly the official race photographer didn’t get any shots of the bike leg, but thankfully Rebecca was on the spot and got some!

2014-07-12 09.05.02-2

And then it was into T2, which I managed to navigate a lot faster than T1, likely because it mostly involved changing shoes and taking off my helmet.

2014-07-12 09.07.18

And then onto the run, which I hoped would be my best showing.  I slipped on the trial pair of Hoka One One Conquests the Hoka rep procured for me and made my way out to the course.  Although perhaps a bit heavier than the shoes I would normally race a 5K in, I was looking forward to the cushioning that the Hokas would give my legs and the Speed Laces were perfect in aiding my attempt to speed up my transition.  Also, they matched my Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, which is very important.

2014-07-12 09.07.38

Almost immediately, I was hit with the exact same problem I would have way back in high school switching over from the bike to the run…calf cramping.  Also, that whole legs feeling like “bricks” thing was exactly on-point.  I stopped at the side of the road to stretch out my calves whereupon Zoomer Lindsey came up on me and encouraged me to get going.  Thankfully that bit of stretching did the trick and I didn’t have any other issues with them.

The run course was about as hilly a”5K” course as I’ve run, which hills definitely took their toll on my already beaten legs.  I tried to keep my sights set on the runners ahead of me and do my best to pick them off as I could.  Given that I’ve run, and written about, my fair share of road races, I can’t say there was a lot to blog home about when it came to the run leg other than to note that, even in the heat, my Pearl Izumi tri shorts and Zoot tri top were both comfortable to run in.

After one last uphill push, there was a quick corner to turn before finally hitting the finish line, 1:25:48 after I started with a 20:53 run split, which was 5/13 in my age group.  Here’s the pace and elevation chart.

Dam Run Leg

And then, I was done, with a neat and glittery medal in hand.

2014-07-12 12.12.05

 

Flush with excitement, I met up with Rebecca and my fellow Zoomers whereupon we all helped ourselves to the Kegs and Eggs that makes the Dam Triathlon such an appealing race, i.e. one local beer plus some eggs, sausage and blueberry muffin.

The Dam Triathlon was a Dam good way to start my Dam life as a triathlete, or at least an adult triathlete.  Many lessons were learned, and there are many more to come, no doubt.   I’m very grateful for my supportive wife being there to not just cheer me on and take great action shots, but keep me posted on how I’m doing in the field.  Coming out of the water she told me “there are white caps behind you,” which was not quite technically true as there was only one white cap behind me, but it made me feel better nonetheless.  Also thankful for my Zoom teammates, in particular J, who helped me with innumerable training and race-day questions, and then provided more encouragement on the course.

Next up, the Borderline Running Club Triathlon, a 5 mile bike to a pond, 500 yard swim, 5 mile bike back to the start, then a 5K run and then, at the end of September, the Pilgrimman Triathlon, my attempt at the Olympic Distance!

Run, and tri, happy!

 

 

 

Blue Trailer Lockers

May 16, 2014

With races everywhere instituting new, strict security policies, the bag check amenity is getting harder and harder to come by.  This can often mean running back and forth between wherever you managed to park your car, then to packet pickup, then back to the car, then back to the start, all while trying to not be over/under-dressed in the time before the race.  In short, it can be a pain in the neck.  Enter Blue Trailer Lockers!

I first became aware of Blue Trailer while training for the Boston Marathon this winter.  As a very cool way to market themselves, Blue Trailer had a table set up on Beacon St. with goodies for the troves Saturday morning runners out on the course.  Essentially, Blue Trailer Lockers brings a mobile set of, that’s right, lockers to races for you to securely store your gear in. Lockers can even be rented online in advance of your race.

Blue Trailer Lockers at a race.

Blue Trailer Lockers at a race.

Pretty nifty idea, right?  And absolutely worth the cost to know your gear is safe and secure.

Here’s where you can find Blue Trailer Lockers in the near future!

May

17 – TI Disco Fever

18 – Newton 10K

24 – Gold Star Run For Honor

25 – Great Hyannis Road Races

June

1 – Old Sandwich Road Race

7 – York Hospital 5K

14 – Flag Day 5K

21 – Sharon Timlin 5K

29 – Bands on the Run Half Marathon

July

4 – Hingham Road Race

12 – Jamestown Half Marathon

13 – Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

20 – Salisbury Beach Relay

So, check out Blue Trailer Lockers on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with their latest activities, your bag will thank you!

NOTE: This is not a paid advertisement, just a cool service offered by people who care about runners that I thought you should know about!

First Race Advice

October 17, 2013

With the glut of Thanksgiving Day road races almost upon us, I thought I’d have a go at putting together a guide for runners taking on their first road race.  I’m going to focus on race day (and logistics leading up to it), as opposed to training, as the ins and outs of training can vary so greatly for various abilities and race distances.  So, here goes!

Pre-Race

Leading up to race day, do as much reconnaissance on the race itself as you can, particularly what the course will be like and the logistics for getting there.  You also should check on important details such as when and where packet pick-up is and whether or not you’ll be able to check a bag somewhere.  Just recently I had to have a forced 1 mile warm-up run/jog when I found out I couldn’t check my bag at a race and had to get back to my car to drop it off then run back to the start with about 2 minutes to spare.  Not the way to start a race calmly!

Most races will post some sort of course description on their web sites.  Sometimes this just means fairly generic description like “loop course with rolling hills” or “flat and fast out and back.”  Other races may post a map showing where the race goes, and the most helpful races will post an elevation profile showing where any hills are on the course and what they look like.  There are 4 basic types of race course descriptions that may be used:

1. Loop – These races start and finish at the same location without covering the same ground at any point during the race.

2. Out and Back – Pretty much what it sounds like.  Run a set course out to a given point, usually a cone, turn around the cone and head back in.

3. Lollipop – A combination of the loop and out and back.  Picture running a straight path to a point, then doing a separate loop that brings you back to that point, and then running back along the first stretch.

In your training before the race, take the time to try out anything you think you might want to do on race do, including the shoes and clothes you’ll wear, fueling devices you might use (e.g. handheld water bottle) and actual fuel (Gels? bites? water? sports drink?).  Not that I always adhere to it, but the familiar adage is “Never try anything new on race day.”

The night before your race, there are things you can do to try to alleviate the stress of race day.  I always make sure to lay out the clothes I both want to wear for the race and the clothes I want to wear before and after.  If the weather looks uncertain, I’ll give myself multiple options.  If I have it already, I’ll make sure I know where my bib is and make sure I have safety pins as well.  Next, I pack my race bag.  Depending on your personal preferences, and the weather, your bag might/should include:

  1. Post-race clothes (if different from pre-race)
  2. Bib – Make sure to check the timing device, if there is one, on the bib, it may be very important that it not be folded!
  3. Safety pins
  4. Anti-chafe stuff (Body Glide, NipGuards, etc.)
  5. Phone arm band/holder
  6. Watch
  7. Headphones – Make sure you find out whether your race allows headphones, an increasing number of races do not.
  8. Gloves
  9. Hat
  10. Arm sleeves
  11. Compression socks/sleeves
  12. Energy food
  13. ID
  14. Bib, double check this one.  You do not want to forget it!

Get a good night’s sleep, imbibe if you will, but make sure to drink water the night before.  You don’t want to wake up dehydrated!

Race Day

Set an alarm.  Set multiple alarms if you need to.  Everyone has their own morning routines, of course, and foods they like to eat before running.  This is one of those things you want to practice before the race.  There’s a big difference in what you’ll want to eat before a run at 6 pm versus one at 8 am.  Some like oatmeal, some toast and peanut butter.  Find out what works for you while trying to avoid too much fiber, fat, and dairy, which could cause an upset stomach.  Personally, I’ll have something like a pack of Honey Stinger energy chews or Honey Stinger Waffle.  I also like to give myself lots of time to enjoy a cup of coffee or two and take a shower to wake myself up some.

If a Turkey Trot is indeed your first race, give yourself PLENTY of time to get there and park, as many tend to draw large crowds, particularly a race like the Feaster Five or Manchester Road Race.  There’s nothing worse than the stress of parking the car and racing to the start line.  If you haven’t done packet pick-up yet, go do it then check your bag if possible or stash it in your car.  Because I said I wouldn’t comment on the actual running part, I won’t opine on the merits of a warm-up, but if you find you like to do one for your training runs, make sure you leave yourself time for it before your race.  Oh, and give yourself plenty of “facilities” time.

There will generally be a call for runners to start heading to the start line about 15 minutes or so before the race, or you may just notice a herd of people heading in one direction.  Generally speaking, it’s safe to follow that crowd, unless they’re all muttering “I’m not doing this race!  I’m going home!”  Then, don’t follow them.  Some races will have corrals set up for different anticipated paces, others just rely on you to place yourself where you think you should be.  I highly encourage you to place yourself in the right pace area, though a little optimism is okay there.  If you’re nervous about the mass start, place yourself farther back in the field.  Of course, the closer to the front you are the fewer people you’ll have to navigate through.  If the race is chip timed, make sure to start your watch when you cross the chip mat, not when the gun goes off.

During the Race

I’m not going to cover race/pace strategy here, sticking to my promise not to address the actual running.  But there are some things you’ll want to be aware of for the actual race.  Nearly every race longer than a mile will have water stops.  How many they have can vary widely with the distance.  Some 5Ks have a stop every mile, some will only have one halfway through the race.  Find out if you can before you start running so you can manage your hydration properly.  Most races will also have mile markers on the course so you can gauge where you are, some will even have clocks at certain intervals showing the race time.  As you go through water stops, try to grab water from the last volunteers, as it’s usually less crowded at that end.  Also, be sure you know what you’re drinking as some races will offer both water and sports drink at the same stop.  If you are going to walk while drinking, step to the side of the race course so you don’t hold up other runners.  If you plan to drink on the run, pinching the cup to form a spout can make it easier to get liquid down, rather than spilling it all over yourself.

Most of all, enjoy the race.  Racing hurts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it!  Give a high 5 to a little kid, thank volunteers and spectators for being there.  If there are photographers on the course, don’t be afraid to give a smile!  Make the race your own!

Post-Race

Tired though you may be, try to keep walking after the race, especially in crowded races where a backup could develop at the finish line.  There will almost certainly be water available at or near the finish line and, often, some food as well such as bagels and bananas.  Though you might not feel like eating immediately, be sure to grab the food anyway for later.

Technology has made it easier than ever to get your race results.  Some even have them posted immediately through computers at the course, some will send you email/text alert with your time and placing.  If in doubt, Google something like “Manchester Road Race 2013 results” after the race and you may hit on a coolrunning.com link or something along those lines.  Pictures usually take longer to be posted on commercial sites, but typically are available within a week of the race.

Now, all you have to do is relax and enjoy the feeling of having completed your first road race!

Do you have any helpful advice for first-time racers?  Did you use this advice and find it helpful/unhelpful?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Run Happy,

Michael

2013 B.A.A. 10K Race Report

June 24, 2013

Whew, that was a hot one!  The summer racing season officially kicked off for me with the BAA 10K, the third running of the race and the second leg of the BAA Distance Medley.  This race had particular significance because it was the first BAA race after the Boston Marathon.  As a result, the race sold out in record time, with runners around the state, and maybe even country, eager to defy any suggestion that the attacks have changed the way we live and race in Boston.  The BAA encouraged runners to show their pride by wearing yellow and blue, so I debuted my Hanson’s Yellow Team Brooks singlet, which is quite yellow and Brooks HVAC Synergy Short II shorts in blue.  On my feet were the Brooks Pure Connect IIs, in which I hadn’t yet run over 5K.  I ended up being quite happy with the Connects for the 10K distance, though I’m not quite sure if I could get away with them for a half marathon.

Despite very much wanting to participate in this show of spirit, I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to the actual race.  Ever since the TARC 50K, I’ve been struggling to come back from an IT band injury.  I haven’t been happy with my fitness and I think the injury caused me to overcompensate in a way that has made my quads feel like rocks.  Some runs have just felt like I’ve been running underwater.  Generally speaking, I don’t like to race when I don’t feel like I can shoot for a result I’ll be happy with.  But, as Rebecca reminded me, it would be quite silly to waste an entry fee, especially when I would have taken a spot someone else would have wanted in the sold out race.  So, with about a week to go, I made the commitment to myself, and put it in writing to new coach Will Feldman, that I was going to do the race and use it as a test of my fitness.  I might not get a time that I’d be super-excited about, but at least I’d know where I was in my progress, and where I had to go.

As per usual, we didn’t get out of the house when we wanted to and ended up in a bit of a mad dash to the start, which did give me a chance to get in a quick warm-up jog without then having a long wait to when the race would actually take off.  In what I believe was a new feature to the race, there would be multiple waves based on projected time.  Although runners were free to put themselves wherever they wanted, for once it seemed like everyone did a fairly good job of lining up in an accurate corral.  I went to the back of Wave 1, which had a projected pace of 7:00-7:59/mile.  I honestly could not say I had any clue where in that range I would end up falling, but I at least had aspirations not to fall outside of it.

As the race started on Charles St., in between the Commons and Garden, I tried to just settle into a nice little groove.  I’ve found that I perform best at the 10K distance when I feel like I’m comfortably pushing myself while staying in control of my breathing and form, unlike a 5K where I generally feel like I’m close to red-lining for most of the race or a half marathon where I know I have to keep a good amount of energy in reserve.  It really made a huge difference to be able to start with other racers that were going my pace, instead of having to fight through people who put themselves too far up as I was mostly able to avoid the weaving and dodging that is commonplace at these larger races, particularly so with the BAA 5K.  Though relatively flat overall, the first hill on the course comes when running under Mass Ave.  I’m really not sure why, but this little bump has always thrown me off.  Knowing that, I tried to power through it and maintain some momentum after the hill.  I think it worked as a mental trick.

To call the course interesting would be a lie.  In fact, it’d be a mean lie to tell someone.  It’s an out and back race, largely along Commonwealth Ave.  One nice aspect of the course though is that there are markers for each kilometer, which makes you feel like you’re steadily making progress.  As we made the turn from Bay State Rd. on to Comm a little after the Mile 2 marker, the main hill of the course loomed before us.  Essentially, there is a long gradual incline up Comm to the Mile 3 marker, at which point you hit a cone and then head back down.  What I love about this part of the race is that, depending on where you are in the field, you get a close-up view of the elites streaming past you.  This proved to be a great distraction from the hill and I didn’t mind expending some energy to cheer them on, particularly Americans Jason Hartman, fourth place at Boston and first American, and local fast dude Nate Jenkins.  I also saw running club friend, Shannon, a Goon Squad Runner, and a few GLRR runners, all on the opposite side of the cones from me as they made their way on to the finish.  Focusing on the distractions, the hill didn’t seem so bad this year, despite the sun beating down on us, but I knew there was still a long way to go to the finish.

I really felt like I was beginning to falter as I made my way downhill on Comm.  It doesn’t really help that you can see a bump up in the road at the end of the downhill, which, at least for me, killed any momentum I might have built up.  I could also feel my quads starting to yell at me, but not to the point where they felt like they were locking up.  I have to think that there was a combination of pure fatigue and heat fatigue working on me at this point, especially as there was no shade relief to be had on this part of the course.  I did my best to keep my rhythm going but knew that my better miles of the race were behind me.  I only hoped that I had banked enough time early on to maintain a decent overall pace.  Sadly I wasn’t able to see Rebecca as she made her way along the course, but at least keeping an eye out for her provided another welcome distraction from the road ahead.

Action shot...somewhere...on the course.

Action shot…somewhere…on the course.

Once more through the pass under Mass Ave and we were on what I call the Alphabet Section of Comm Ave.  The streets in the Back Bay section of Comm go down from H to A (Hereford to Arlington) meaning it’s very easy to know exactly how many blocks you have to go on the street.  I did my best to avoid looking at the street signs but only made it to Dartmouth.  Still, the end of the street was in sight.  I was happy to see a large crowd of people at the turn, but dismayed at their enthusiasm.  If you’ll allow a brief digression here, I feel compelled to comment on the state of crowds at road races.  For the record, I’m totally cool with races that feature no crowd support, it’s always a bonus to have it there.  I enjoy some races like the Hartford Half Marathon because there isn’t a constant crowd, so you can settle in, but in the sections where there are people, they cheer vociferously.  The contrast is nice.  For most of the BAA 10K there were few people along the course.  However, in contrast to Hartford, when I came upon a large contingent of people, they were largely silent.  Everyone is standing around looking at their phones waiting for the specific people they came to cheer, and not cheering on anyone else.  This is a completely foreign concept to me, especially at a BAA race.  I took it upon myself to urge the crowd to make some noise, and, to their credit, the people responded.  I even had a runner thank me after the race for doing so, so I guess I wasn’t alone in my feelings.

Running down Commonwealth Ave. towards the finish!

Running down Commonwealth Ave. towards the finish!

In any event, back to the final kilometer of the race, which takes you around the Public Garden on Arlington and Boylston St. before a final straightaway to the finish on Charles St.  That last straight always feels terribly long, and with the sun taking its merciless toll I struggled to find one last reserve of energy from which to summon a kick.  I finished the race in 47:27, a 7:39 pace, which I was surprised to later learn was 14 seconds better than last year’s race.

Race Results

With my medal!

With my medal!

I’ll take the early season result as encouragement that my fitness level isn’t quite as terrible as it feels and keep pressing forward with my training.  I’m glad Rebecca encouraged me to go through with the race, even in the sweltering conditions.  We enjoyed a nice brunch after at Joe’s American Bar & Grill with Rebecca’s Reach The Beach teammate Vanessa and her BU Law boyfriend, Ramon.  A race and brunch?  Makes a pretty great Sunday for me!

Me and Becca Post Race

Rebecca and me post-race in all our medaled glory!

Run Happy!

Why Do You Race?

February 9, 2010

When does 3.1 miles become 5 kilometers?  When it’s done in a race.  A recent comment from a fellow Twirunner (Twitter Runner?) and Running Blogger, who’ll go anonymous unless she says I can say otherwise, got me thinking about what it is that compels me, and others like me, to enter and run in races.  She told me that she missed her goal pace for a 4 mile race by 14 seconds per mile and seemed pretty bummed about it.  I won’t make the obvious point that 99% of the US population would have loved to be at her level of fitness (unless I just did), but I will make the point that she was running the race not to come in with a podium finish, but to achieve a personal goal, which I believe is a large part of why the vast majority of us choose to enter races rather than simply say “OK, I’m going to wear my racing flats for this run of 3.1 [or 6.2, or 13.1, you get the point] miles and go for a personal record today.”  For me at least, entering a race allows me to focus on that moment being the one that I have planned on as the time I am going to reach for a new low [time].  Races are my vehicle to get to a place that I would not trust myself to get to on my own.

Of course, it helps to have dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of people running alongside you, but when you’re gasping for breath and bearing down for that final kick, it’s just you and the road.  For me though, it’s not just the other racers or the crowd that make the experience worthwhile, although both played a huge role in finishing my marathon.  Call me silly, but I love the ritual of racing, picking out just the right singlet, shorts, and even socks, lacing up my wicked light flats, pinning on my number using the same method I have since high school, even going to pick up the race packet, all these things put me in the mood to run faster than I would stepping out the door any other day of the week.  Walking up to the line, I get that same feeling of nervous energy, whether I’m going for a PR or just hoping to cross the finish line on two feet.

Ironically, that has also made me somewhat of a race snob.  Last Thanksgiving I did a 5k run with my newbie sister-in-law, for whom it was a first race ever.  We walked into the building where registration was taking place to learn that 1. there were no pins for numbers, 2. despite the registration form having a spot to fill in t-shirt size , there would be no t-shirts (it should be noted that I LOVE race t-shirts and still have the one I got at my first road race 14 years ago in Hartford, CT), 3. there were no Port-A-Potties, and 4. the course was neither closed to traffic nor marked.  The best part may have been the fact that the official timekeeper was a guy with a Timex watch.  The Manchester Road Race it was not (have any readers done that race?).  I’m pretty sure I did a good amount of complaining to my wife about the lack of “amenities,” complaining she was not inclined to hear given the early hour and cold temperatures.  Whoops.

Well, this post has turned into something of a ramble, but editing has never really been my thing.  Think of it as artsy stream-of-consciousness writing, Portrait of The [Runner] As a Young Man, if you will.  My question to you is, why do you race?  I’m pretty sure you, faithful readers, range from sponsored runners to those just getting started in the sport and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy trails.