Sunday, December 23, 2012
Having never done one of these meets I had no clue how it would flow and so I got there really early (9am for a 10am meet) not knowing what time I would run. I asked one of the BU athletes at check in for her best guess on when the mile heats would start and she said, "Eleven-thirty, maybe?" Yikes. I had a lot of nervous energy so after a quick jog over to Star Market for some quarters to feed the parking meter, I shed some layers and did some jogging on the 1-lane warm-up track that surrounds the actual track. At just past 10 o'clock, they started with the 3000m heats.
They called the first heat as the "8:35 and under" section and I thought a bunch of the guys must have given some wishful seed times. But no. The whole field was comprised of college runners or recent college grads, mostly D1 guys. Eric Ashe of the BAA, and BU alum, won the heat in 8:06.07 (!) and every guy in the heat was under 8:35. Wow. I was a bit intimidated at that point but as the heats wore on, it became clear that there really were runners of all ages and speeds and that with so many runners in each event, you wound up with really tight grouping in the heats so there was real racing going on throughout, with almost nobody ever running in no man's land. The heats went fast with very little down time in between--as soon as the last runner in a heat went by, they called the next section onto the track like clockwork. And so it went.
The last 3 heats of the 3000 had 16-20 runners each so they got through it in 4 heats and immediately started with the 400. They announced that there would be 12 heats of the 400 but I figured those would fly by so it was probably only 15-20 minutes until the mile heats would begin. I moved my gear bag down onto the infield and intermittently did some more jogging and some strides and drills to stay loose. I still had no idea how many mile heats there would be, or which section I would be in but judging by the number of skinny people still warming up or stretching on the infield, I knew there would be a whole bunch.
The 400 indeed went by in a flash and they called the first mile heat to check in--the sub 4:20 heat. As the heats went by the seed times were only inching up incrementally and by the 4th heat they were still calling 4:40 and under. Apparently the calendar worked out such that a lot of high school kids were able to make this 2nd of the 3 mini meets and most of them were running the mile. Around this time I bumped into Kieran Murphy, a friend from the Shamrock Running Club. He had run these before and it was good to see a familiar face and get some coaching on how things would go.
Eventually they called my seed time (I had given 5:05 which was a wild guess based on my best 5k from October) and I found out I was seeded 11 of 12 runners in the 8th of 13 sections of the mile. After waiting around all day, everything seemed to speed up now and the next thing I knew they were calling the 7th section onto the track and I would be up next. I took off my watch, stuck my lane number on the shoulder of the ole Greater Lowell singlet, moved over toward the starting line and watched the end of the 7th section.
Then they called us onto the track and, just like that, the waiting was over. My seed time put me into a crazy mix of a heat with about 3 other masters men, a whole bunch of high school boys, and a couple of recent college grad women. On the line I had a tall high school kid to my left and a petite New Balance Boston woman to my right. The official checked each of our numbers, confirmed our last names and then the starter gave us our instructions.
"Bang!" We were off.
Immediately the tall kid inside me on the line threw a flying elbow right into my chest and it was game on. Within 30 meters I was near the back of the pack just hanging on for dear life as this crazy organism hurled itself around the roller derby track. When we came around the 2nd turn onto the front straightaway I was near panic but once I saw the clock I settled down. I hit the finish line at 38 seconds which was right where I wanted to be--except in the haze of racing I didn't even process that that was actually my 209 meter split, not the 200, so I was ahead of schedule. I was just fine where I was near the back. I went through 400 (again, actually 409) in 74/75 and by the 800 I was sitting dead last but hit it right at 2:30. Now it was all starting to get fuzzy. Kieran was doing some really good in-race coaching for me, yelling splits and telling me what to do. He told me to "stay on that CSU guy!" and I obeyed, moving past someone to get on the CSU guy's shoulder. People were coming back and I was passing them and having to run in lane 2 for most of the time now.
The last split I remember was 1000, which was about 3:06/3:07. Kieran was telling me 600 to go and for a split second I heard it as 6 laps and momentarily backed off before I processed what that meant--holy shit it was go time. Kieran yelled again, "You have to go by him, NOW!!" and as utterly insane and crazy as that sounded, I moved out and started grinding my way past the CSU guy. The entire rest of the way was one giant mess of trying to work past other runners and none of them giving in--just complete and utter hand to hand combat for the entire last 600. By the time I was on my last lap I was trying to go by another tall high school kind and his coach was screaming at him from the infield not to let me go by. The kid never gave in and as I whipped myself around the last turn I got ready to throw every last gasp of energy I had at the final straight.
I simultaneously could not even believe how much my throat and chest (and whole body) were burning at this point, or how totally unfazed I was by it.
Off the final turn I think I remember seeing the clock at 4:51 and just running out everything that was in me, practically throwing myself through the finish line. It was all blurry and messy but I just did inch past the kid I had been racing for the whole last lap even though that didn't matter any more. It was all about the clock now. I knew I had broken 5 and only at that moment did I mentally acknowledge how important it had been to do that, and how, deep down, sub 5 had been the only goal I had from the moment the idea of entering this meet even took seed in my brain. The hit of adrenaline, the knowledge that I had done it, and the unbelievable burning in my chest and head was quite the rush--I recommend it.
I managed to let go the railing without falling down (nice!) so I staggered down the banked turn onto the infield where Kieran congratulated me and I kinda-maybe gasped some words of thanks or at least tried to. It was a while before I could breathe somewhat normally and the dry air triggered a whole avalanche of asthma and allergy issues for me that I'm still dealing with and probably will be until mid week. Whatever. It was completely worth it.
At the end of the day I ran 4:58.94 for 6th out of 12 runners in the 8th of 13 sections at a low-key, holiday all comers meet. It was one of the best running experiences I have ever had--my first track race and first sub-five-minute mile since high school.
As I drove home from BU I felt like Zeus standing on Mount Olympus throwing thunder bolts at the tiny people below. If my throat hadn't been so sore I might have yelled out the window at people on the street, "Hey, I just ran a sub-five-minute mile, what did YOU do this morning??"
It was that awesome.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
|Team Johnny's Angels|
|The after party!|
Saturday, November 24, 2012
|The RunningAhead crew before the start of Monkey 2012. Photo credit: Elly Foster|
Monkey, a.k.a. The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon is the creation of a crazy person named Trent Rosenbloom. It is run in Nashville's Percy Warner Park and is built on the famous "11.2", an 11.2-mile run on a scenic road that makes a winding loop through this very hilly and beautiful 2,500 acre wooded park. I first met Trent and a lot of the other Nashvillians at this race in 2008 when I decided to find out what all the fuss was about, having read about it endlessly on the RunningAhead.com forums. That first trip to monkey was incredibly fun and I made a lot of friends and not too many enemies--so I always wanted to go back at some point.
Upon landing in Nashville on Saturday mid-day we pointed the rental car straight to downtown and tried to find a typical Nashville tourist joint to eat some barbecue, hear some live music and drink some beer. Done. That was incredibly easy to do. We stumbled upon Rippy's, went to the roof deck and sat outside enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon. After leaving Rippy's we immediately made our presence known when we interrupted the shooting of a scene from the t.v. show "Nashville" on our way to our rental car. If you're watching that show in the near future you may hear a couple of Boston accents in the crowd noise yelling, "Hey that guy is from Nashville!" and "All these people are from Nashville, you asshole!" Yeah, that was Sully and me. Alas.
|Ben (in blue) would win. Pauly (in yellow) would be the only master to break 3.|
|Just before pulling the pin and dropping out of the lead group|
Even though I told myself repeatedly that I was in no condition to think of this like a regular marathon, that it was just going to be a 26 mile long run, I got sucked out a little fast. Over the first 3-4 miles, I had the leader and eventual winner and course record holder, Ben Schneider, in sight and all of the lead pack including EJ, Sully, my nemesis Andy (aka Thunder), John Ramsay (aka the King of Beasts), another RA'er named Pauly and the eventual women's winner Leah Thorvilson and a bunch of others, was strung out over a few hundred yards in front of me. Even though the pace was incredibly easy at that point, I knew that with a longest run of 15 miles, if it felt easy it was probably way too fast. I started looking over my shoulder and trying to find a group to fall back with--it was too early to be running in no man's land already. One one of the switch backs I saw Bash and another RA'er, Candice, running together and decided to drift back to them. Bash and Candice caught me around mile 5 or 6 and it was nice to have some company. We ran together until around halfway when Candice dropped back a bit but Bash and I were joined by another RA'er, Abe. The three of us ran together until about 16, when Abe took off and decided to try and hammer the last 10. At that point Bash sped up a bit too and I was by myself. Having to only run the last 10 alone was a lot more manageable than the last 20, though, so I was okay with it. The pace was still feeling pretty easy but every step at that point was my longest run in 2 years and I was starting to feel it in my knees, quads and feet.
|You mean I'm finally done?|
|Can we get a van like this at every race, please?|
It got warm, we hung out for hours socializing, getting stung by yellow jackets and laughing. It was all way too much fun to describe and I saw way too many friends to name here. Really, you had to be there.
The awards at Monkey are hand-made crotchet monkeys, of course. I did not win one, of course. For reasons I cannot quite explain, this bothered me and I sat there thinking that if (when) I come back to this race I want to be in decent enough shape to be able to compete for a goofy looking crochet monkey. Yes, yes I did think that. Runners are weird, what can I say.
|EJ with his crotch monkey for 2nd master. So envious.|
Yeah that didn't take. At 8am the next morning there we were dressed in running gear and heading over to PWP again for some off-piste shuffle jogging. It actually turned out to be just what the doctor ordered--the downhills were painful but all in all I felt a million times better after that little 4.6 mile jog than before it.
|Trent, Bash, me, EJ, Eric, Drew, Jen, Jessica, Paul (photo by Robert Lopez)|
I have left out a tremendous amount of details here but hopefully you get the picture. Monkey was too much fun not to do again at some point.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
After slacking off since Baystate 2010, and hardly racing at all in that time, I have strung together a minor build up of mileage over the summer and in September I have simultaneously turned up the intensity on workouts AND raced three times with plans for a fourth race in the month. The results of these races has not been my primary concern--getting out and really running hard has--but it has been tough at times to turn in results that are well below my expectations for myself, and made worse by the fact I am running them on tired legs that are still in shock from the increase in training intensity. All three races have been on courses I have run multiple times, by design so that I could also get some sense of where my fitness is.
The races so far:
Street Faire 5k --17:49 for 4th. This is not a fast course (it starts up hill for the first 2/3 mile) but I have run 17:18 here when I was in good shape and it runs through my neighborhood so I basically have no excuse not to run it. I ran fairly even splits but just had no pop in my legs. My main goal was to make sure I was back under 18 minutes so mission accomplished, I guess.
Lone Gull 10k -- 37:35 for 7th. Blech. Close to if not a personal worst. This IS a fast course but I was in no condition to take advantage of it. I did two big LT workouts during the week after the 5k the Sunday prior, so my legs were just barely hanging on. I ran okay through 5 miles--I was on sub 6 pace to that point--but then the week caught up to me and I kind of imploded. I was running hard the whole time and never gave in, but the 6th mile was about a 6:30 and I was about done. It was my third really quality workout of the week, though and capped my first 70 mile week in ages (maybe since 2010?) so no complaints. This was a very different experience from the last time I ran this race in 2009 when it was part of the Grand Prix. That day I ran 35:59 but came in 79th. This time, a minute and a half slower was good for 7th and I was alone for most of it. It's still a great race on an absolutely beautiful course in Gloucester.
Wilmington Half Marathon -- 1:21:08 for 8th. Also a fast course and one that I have run a few times when in good shape (including having won it in 2010.) I came into this race feeling much better than the two previous weeks. I am starting to adjust to the training load and I unintentionally skipped my big Thursday workout due to meetings at my daughter's school so I was well rested by comparison. I had hoped to be around 1:22 so was pleasantly surprised to be clicking off miles in the 6:10-6:15 range (after the first mile which is probably short) with relative ease. I went through 6 miles in 37:05, which means I ran remarkably even splits, and felt good almost the whole way. The weather didn't hurt as it was a spectacular early fall day. This was faster than I ran on the same course in 2008 (1:21:29) when I was arguably in the best shape of my life though not nearly as fast as when I won it in 2010 (1:19:12). At least I am within the range of previous results instead of in personal worst territory, so that's good. And there's really no better workout in the world than a hard run half marathon.
The plan right now is to try and close out September with the Paddy's 5k on Sunday the 30th and then move on to October where the results will start to matter to me a little more. Onward.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Alas. He gave himself the requisite pep talk about trusting the process then looked at the time. He had 90 minutes before he needed to be at the field to coach micro soccer.
"Fuck it," he said to the empty room.
Then, if for no other reason than to declare emphatically that he was, in fact, training through, he changed his t-shirt, put on his trainers and headed out the door for another 5 mile recovery run. "Besides," he thought, "those runs when you're bonking and having protein sweats from the first step are the ones in which the money gets made."
He wasn't entirely sure it was a great idea and his knees and ankles protested for a mile or so. But despite the light headedness and sweating the run served its exact purpose--he felt much better when he finished, than he had when he started.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I guess I should mention the races. On June10th, I ran the Samantha's Harvest 5k because it was right here in Reading and I know the people who put it on. Last year my buddy and training partner Dan was the one who measured the course and helped organize it on race day. This year Dan was just a tad busy with his growing family and lets just say the organizational and logistical proficiency of the race committee suffered as a result. They laid the course out all wrong and it wound up being more like a 3.2-mile race. I thought I was in "about 18 flat" shape and wound up at 18:28 on a warm day with no competition.
Even though I knew that course was long and it was just a rust-buster, the 18:28 wasn't sitting right with me (that would be personal worst) so a week later I jumped in another 5k, this one on a certified course and with more professional organization. I ran 18:01 (actually 18:00.08) at the Brendan's Home Run 5k in Belmont. I guess I was right about being in about 18-flat shape. Even though it's what I thought, it is still a bit of a let down to think that I'm struggling to break 18 right now when the goal is more than a minute faster. It's okay, I keep telling myself, there is time. Maybe I will do it tomorrow at the Lynnfield 4th of July 5k--it would be nice to get that off the plate--but it won't change my approach at this point.
May and June were all about building a fire--check. July and August will be about forging the steel. September is for sharpening and polishing the blade. And if all of that goes according to plan then in October I may just have a chance to ride into battle and settle an 8-year-old grudge with a certain windmill. So it goes.
Here's the thing though: I'm starting to feel my age. Up until now I can't honestly say that I've had to make a single concession to father time. All of the limitations I have ever put on my training were to do with life, work, family--never what my body could handle. But at 42 I can definitely say the training feels different and I am not responding as fast as even two years ago. I can definitely see I will need to pace myself on this buildup. I may even have to be somewhat conscious of my diet which will be totally new territory for me. I have always been able to eat basically whatever and whenever I felt like when in any kind of serious training and the weight would just melt off of me. This time it's proving a bit stickier. I am still only about 8 lbs away from racing weight but that's only down about 2 lbs from 2 months ago when I really got underway. I am pretty sure some minor adjustments will take care of that, but it's still a new wrinkle for me.
There are upsides too--I am much better at reading my body, knowing what I can and can't get out of it on any given day. But to be sure there's the nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe I waited a year or two too long to give an honest go at this. I don't think that's the case, but right now I'm only 90% sure.
Either way it should be a fun summer. The family has some good stuff planned, we have already had some good beach days, and I am looking forward to getting after it on the roads, trails and track. It feels good to be a runner. Onward.
Friday, June 1, 2012
|My dog and "Mr. Glove"|
At first glance, the 248.8 miles I ran in May did not stand out to me as anything special, but then, because I'm a dork, I went and did some research in the old running log to find it was my highest mileage month since (gulp) September of 2010. That was the month before my last marathon and the last time I was really racing at an acceptable level. And, yes, I am very proud of the fact that when I logged my run last night after Thirsty Thursday, I did not immediately put my running shoes back on and go out and jog a quick 1.2 miles to make it an even 250 for the month. I may geek out over training stats at times but I at least know my limits.
The good news is it was a remarkably easy 248 miles. It took a little creativity at times to squeeze runs in early, late or occasionally in the middle of the day, but somehow I managed to run every day of the month except one (Mother's Day) and did not feel like I was in any way stressing myself out. I also had some decent workouts and mixed up the paces pretty well. By the numbers it was 31 runs, mostly in singles (one double the day before the off day), with generally two moderate workouts and a "long" run per week. My long runs these days are topping out at around 12-13 miles and my workouts are nothing serious yet, mostly timed intervals, fartleks and a few turnover type workouts on the track. All my easy runs have been under an hour, mostly a lot of little 6-7 milers that you barely notice. This was just laying a base layer for the real training that's still to come. That's the plan anyway.
In June I may actually even run one or two of those "race" things that runners are always talking about. Crazy, I know.
As for what the picture of Jasper with his friend, Mr. Glove has to do with any of this? Nothing, really. I just thought it was a cool picture and really you can never go wrong with cute dog pics.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
There is no snow in my yard now. The grass is actually quite green as it has been a very wet and cool spring--except, unfortunately, for Marathon Monday for those unlucky enough to have been running the annual Hopkinton-to-Boston footrace. Alas.
I am a couple of weeks into one of what very well may be just another start in a series of fits and starts. I am really hoping it will stick this time, though. Tonight I wasn't able to make it to Thirsty Thursday workout because of an open house and my daughter's middle school but I made sure to get home in time to get a run in before the open house and then I showed up at Grumpy Doyle's to meet the Thirsty Thursday crew around 9pm when they were a couple of beers ahead of me. Mark informed me that from now on we do workouts on Thursday. It seems I'm not the only one fed up with being a regular person and looking to get back to some kind of training.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
In honor of this momentous accomplishment I will now head on over to RunningAhead and hit the Donate button to the tune of $25,000--a dollar per mile. (Okay not really but you should feel free to.)
Saturday, March 3, 2012
An hour later, after calming her down to a manageable level and helping her through her math and Spanish work, I finally sprung from the back door. The snowstorm had picked up and it was almost laughable to be heading toward the track to run. At the traffic light a couple hundred yards from my house I debated turning around, going back home to change into my jeans and heading to Grumpy's to wait for Mark and Dan--since I was pretty sure they would be done running by the time I got to the high school anyway. "No," I thought, "I need to earn it."
It took a few minutes to drive across town since the DPW seemed to be sitting out this storm and the roads were a total mess. As I rolled slowly down the hill in front of the school, I could see that Mark and Dan's cars were still there but they were nowhere in sight (out running the roads) so I parked in front of them and headed over to the track to run circles in the snow until they came back. I got in two and half miles before they showed up on the track, then another mile or so with them before I felt like I had enough call it "not a zero" in the running log and we all headed to the pub for some beers and food.
That's an honest day's work.
On Friday I got out for a quick 7 after the snow stopped and before I had to head to a meeting. Not a great week mileage mileage-wise but at least I never gave in. With a solid weekend I'm back on track.
And also, this happened:
Friday, February 24, 2012
Don't look now but I've run 7 days in a row. After Sunday's 14-plus-mile Lynnfield loop with Mark and Mike, which was probably a couple of miles longer than I needed, I just took it really easy all week with only one goal: get out every day. On Wednesday, I even met Dan for my first o'dark early run in months. Will need to do much more of that. Now with just a 20 mile weekend I can wind up in the 50s the easy way for the week. That's respectable.
On another note, I have noticed that the worse the weather, the less considerate drivers are of runners. Today was about as lousy as it gets--35 and pissing down rain. I'd honestly rather bitter cold or snow. I had to wait several minutes, in a marked crosswalk mind you, to get across Lowell Street as driver after driver saw me standing in the rain getting colder and colder and couldn't spare the energy to pump the brakes. It seems strange to me but I guess I only see it from the runner's perspective. Probably weather like that just puts people in a foul mood.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I will take some serious organizing this time--I need to get back to being an early morning runner, which I really haven't been with any consistency in almost a year. Life is busy, things are going well. I have a pretty big day job, my four daughters range from high school freshman to kindergarten and have active extra-curricular lives and of course there's The Beast, the 100 year old house, the aging parents, the real-life stuff we all have. The hardest thing, oddly, is trying to always be the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed. Somehow I feel like that's part of my job. Those are things I know I will have to manage and it wont be easy. But it beats the alternative of being a regular person, I'm finding.
In the mean time, my friend Jeff has been on a tear lately both with his running and his blogging. It's great to see him having success with the program he's on, and best yet believing in the program and believing he can make a lot more progress. That's all you can really ask out of this sport. I remember what it's like to be in that place and it's inspiring to see. None of us but a handful of elites will ever do anything truly significant in this sport so it mostly comes down to how you want to see yourself, how you want to experience the world. As Jeff said:
Running and racing is a way of leaving the ordinary behind. To speak romantically, we transcend the ordinary by plunging deeper into it, finding out what the limit is through surpassing it. Running and racing gives us a chance to talk about what we think matters: heart and effort, courage and fear, hope, suffering, and determination.That and maybe running and racing is a way of appreciating a few laughs and a few beers with our friends a little more.