Sunday, May 14, 2017

ECTA Spring for the Trails Half Marathon - Ipswich

ECTA represents the Essex County Trail Association. Straight from their site, they exist to protect access to the trails and open lands throughout Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Topsfield, Essex, and West Newbury. Yesterday, ECTA hosted the 2nd Annual Spring for the Trails Half Marathon. This presented an opportunity for me to see the fun trails in Willowdale State Park from the Ipswich entrance off Linebrook Rd.

I warmed up on the course, seeing the opening mile and the closing quarter mile. The fire roads would be easy but the single track gave a hint that concentration and quick feet would be required. Someone said it would be similar to Lynn Woods. The biggest difference would be the crazy constant turns and switchbacks that kill momentum that you may secure on the wider fire roads.

Early on, I was in 3rd place. Junyong Pak was the leader followed by Dave Long. I  forget his name (was introduced following the race), but a tall gent from Beverly who teaches at Landmark School, with a blue Adidas top was glued to my heels. He got bored and passed Dave and I after a few miles which were mostly single track, quick turns, and pace limiters.

ECTA Spring for the Trail Half Marathon course map


I opened up my stride on the wider fire roads and passed Dave after 3 miles. I closed the gap between Junyong and I who relinquished the lead between miles 3 and 4. I was pushing pretty well, closing in. Then we came upon a three way intersection and no course markers (pink ribbons) were in sight. Left, right, straight? I yelled a few expletives. Junyong turned around and yelled that he found the course, which was a 90 degree left hand turn we both missed about 15 seconds back. The pink ribbon was low on the ground and the red arrows indicating a turn was not there. I guess you can’t get comfortable with the expectations that a marker will be quite obvious as it was perfect up until that point on the course. I was on alert from that point on to pay extra attention.

I lost some ground to Pak while regrouping but was curious how the runners behind me, would fare upon the same error that we made (I heard some other runners missed a turn in the race but I did not know if this was the turn they missed).

Dave was no longer behind me, at least visibly, so I forced on to stay with Pak as long as possible. This took us to the water stop at 6.3 miles. I was about 5 seconds back but needed to grab some Tailwind at the table. I walked through, drinking and gulping two cups. I lost a few seconds and contact with Pak from there on. I saw him just a few more times in the next two miles but that was it. The twists and turns on the single track were brutal. Look at the course map from mile 7 to the finish. The legs and hips were taking a beating.

There was just enough elevation change to break balls too. But it was all good. The occasional Mountain Biker said I was right behind another runner (Pak) but I knew better. That could be minutes ahead. The switch backs over the last three miles allowed you to look over and see you is ahead or chasing. I saw Dave Long at one point and figured I had a minute up. Still, no time to let up, I pressed onward with tired legs, hoping for some fire road and less single track.

The race photographer I came upon said that just a mile remained which hinted that the course would be less than 13 miles. He was right. In the end, the course measured out for 12.4 for me.  I heard 12.3 mile were tracked by others.  I finished in 3rd with a time of 1:28:13 which would have placed me 4th in the 2016 results.

Results are not posted at this time. I am not sure what the times were for everyone. Pak was at least a few minutes ahead of me and Dave Long was maybe a minute behind me. I got a beer glass and a beer ticket for Ispwich Ale (good to see you TJ!) at the Ipswich Clam Festival starting at 1pm from Carol a few minutes after finishing. The race was giving New England Runner gift certificates to the every 25th runner in the race.  The race director, Carol, said she recalled Joe Shairs and I running the first ECTA race 13 years ago. She remembered the snow flurry we had. Good memories indeed.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Boston Marathon recap

Below is a recap of how I reached the finish at the Boston Marathon (3:34:33). It was the slowest and longest two hours of my running life after my first calf cramp one hour and forty one minutes into the race (around 14 miles?)

4:30 - alarm goes off after waking up every 90 minutes to urinate water consumed all night

5:29 - Krissy takes me to Wakefield to pick up a bus ride with other North Shore runners

5:34 - realize I did not bring a running hat, start to pound Coconut water for the first time in months.

7:20 - arrive and park among the buses. GLRR has a massage table out next to their bus. Must be nice.

7:30 – go hunting for the CMS and SRR buses after a United Services porta john visit

8:30 - a lady in the Hopkinton Village fell in love with my Amherst 10 mile shirt from two years ago so I took it off and gave it to her.

9:25 – no hat to be found, Arthur Besse comes through with his Brooks running cap for me back on the North Medford Club bus

9:30 – walk to the start through the village

9:34 – Eric Narcisi flies up with his bib on, going to race after months off from running (photos are taken with the three of us). His Six03 singlet cries beer stop at mile 18. Turns out I was right, but had the wrong mile.

Arthur, Eric, and I on our way to the corrals at Boston
9:40 – in corral 8 with Thomas Bok (SRR), Brian Tinger (SRR), and Ephram Ezekiel (Whirlaway)

10:00 – gun goes off, and go nowhere, waiting for 7 corrals of runners to move ahead

10:05 – cross the start line and start my Garmin

10:20 – when will these down hills stop?

10:22 – where is the shade?

10:40 – “Hey, that is a nice 1967 Volkswagen Beetle!”
Dude in the chair behind it says, yeah, that I am correct.
Of course I am J It was a sweet looking Beetle too.

10:40:09 – turn right to brag to Regina Loiacano about the ’67 Beetle and I run into another runner who was slowing down. Apoligies, red faced, disaster averted for the time being.

10:45 – get a contact high in Framingham as they light up freely on Patriots Day with crowds now 4 deep

11:00– still running mostly on the left side opposite Thomas Bok and occasionally in the presence of Regina

11:10 – over an hour of running and feeling beat up, want to throw middle fingers up in the air to the photographers in the bucket truck over the course

11:20 – “hey buddy, get ready for the scream tunnel on the right here in Wellesley”
“Huh?”
“Oh, first timer eh? Go to the right hand side when you hear the girls screaming up ahead. Go get a hug or a kiss”
The guy does as I tell him. Sweet!

11:25 – I hear someone behind me ask someone on the side of the road “hey, you got a cell phone?” Not sure if the dude dropped out.

11:30 – I notice Thomas Bok is not taking Gatorade or Water. Meanwhile, I have not let a water stop go by without a visit.

11:35 – this Nathan waste band is the bees knees. Get me ready for an ultra. I have everything but the kitchen sink in there. 3 GU's, 6 SaltStick tabs, 8 Hylands Anti Muscle Cramp tabs……

11:41 – oh shit, a calf cramp on the right. WTF. Slows down the pace….

11:45 – hate running into Newton Lower Falls and I am holding back, another cramp ensues crossing Rt 95.

11:50 – looking forward to the Clif Shot station at 17 miles where Krissy is. I think I will bail out of the race there.

11:51 – I can’t bail, I have a bag waiting for me at the Park Plaza with the CMS crew. I can’t tell peeps the next day that I dropped out. Not an option today, slow and steady Jimmy.

12:10 – Clif Shot station and Krissy misses me (for a photo) and my high five, low five, staggering past, see ya. She does take note of my sign language of the hand of a gun to my head and frown (not my day, just shoot me now).

12:11 – Krissy is sprinting past me, phone in hand, I am like WTF?! She stops and points the vertical phone at me. I am now on video, I better smile. I do, and shuffle onward.

Krissy took this photo after 17 miles
12:20 – right turn at the firehouse, yay, some hills, better slow down some more Jimmy, more cramps are firing in these calves.

12:35 – in the hills, struggling, but not enough to deny a kid handing out popsicles. Best darn blue popsicle I had in 33 years. I aced the intake in 4 squeezes but man that brain breeze is real.

12:40 – I see a Naughty Seltzer on the left in the hand a sunglassed lady. I reach out and ask if I may. She pulls it back with a dirty look even behind the RayBan’s. I pass, parched. She smiles “oh my god, Jimmy, I did not know it was you!” Too late Yvette, I may cramp if I stop and come back for that. Thanks anyway.

12:45 – this downhill past BC is hurting, more stress on my quads, if these cramp, I am in serious trouble. Just six more miles Jimmy.

12:59 – afraid that I am going to fall over the Green Line trolley track, seriously. Also note that the air temp is cooling.

1:05 – shade and a lot of drunk students. Gregory would call these college co-eds. I am so tempted to stop for Jello Shots but can’t see with my head down and shuffle through. This is my mile 23 shuffle of shame.

1:10 – notice some back and forth with a few run, walk, run, walk yo yo’s. I still shuffle, not giving into that or walking. Meanwhile, calves cramp up every now and then.

1:11 – good news is that the Citgo sign is on the horizon

1:16 –a dude with a “Big Bird” costume, is now kicking my ass. Nothing I can do about it. He gaps me 100 yards in about 45 seconds. Shoot me now.
1:25 – Kenmore Square is good, my last water and Gatorade stop. I do not want to see another cup of Gatorade for about six years.

1:31 – right on Hereford, left on Boylston. Nice t-shirts. I follow those instructions. It is a wind tunnel. People screaming. I smile. Can’t help it. Ear to ear. Just grateful to get here. No joke. I pick up the pace, daring a cramp to trigger. It does not for my last quarter mile. Must have gotten back down to 7’s.

1:33 – cross the line and feel a huge sense of releif. Definitely emotional with relief. Boston volunteers are the best. So helpful and supportive. I take a medal around the neck from someone smiling. Thank you. I really did earn it, the hard way. 

With Krissy back out on the course at 17 miles hours later

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Doyle's Emerald Necklace 5 Mile Road Race Jamaica Plain

Jamaica Plain, MA, April 9, 2017

I have always wanted to race the Doyle’s Emerald Necklace 5 mile road race. I seem to always have a conflict and sometimes it is the day after the Merrimack River Trail Run. I rolled into Jamaica Plain, passing the usual fall racing scene of Franklin Park. I met up and warmed up with the TNT/CMS/RI crew of Robert Jackman, David Principe, and Michael Daniels for a warm up which gave me a good look at the first and last miles of the race. After the warm up, I threw on the Somerville Road Runner singlet to support their critical mass in the Pub Series. Robert and David wore their TNT gear. We ran back over to the start which was ¾ of a mile away.

We had 20 minute delay (sounds like this happened last year too), standing on the starting line with no movement wondering what was going on. Nothing big but the starting line crew made us wait it out for the official word to go. The extra time allowed me to catch up with Greg Picklesimer (one of his first road races back I the day) and Joe Navas who seems to have settled on a marathon in Quebec in August.

Finally, the race took off and rolled along the edge of the Franklin Park golf course.  I had a 5:41ish mile and was strides away from the Level singlet of Kevin Gorman, Army singlet of John Page, and CSU’s Kevin Delaney. This was right where I wanted to set myself up to run 28:59 (my race goal). We ran over to Franklin Park and did a 180 at the base of Bear Cage hill. Those guys put some distance on me but I was rolling well with Mike Slinsky who was an absolute stud in the late 90’s when I hit the road race scene. He would tear up the Yankee Homecoming 10 mile race in Newburyport like no one’s business. His name is on his singlet these days and no longer lives in Fishkill, NY – but that is OK ‘cause he is still rocking Oakley’s. Still got respect for the man at 47.

I passed Mike more than half way through the course. I now ran back past the start line and had about a mile back to the finish at Doyle’s CafĂ© where I was running up the back of Robert Jackman and John Page. I yelled to Page and told him he’d better get moving. We had one more hill to climb out of the golf course and then it was all downhill into a nice flat finish. I managed to pass John 100 yards from the line. I finished 21st and timed out for a 29:04, two ticks behind Robert and 6 up on John. 

Check out the results.  

You can learn from the best. I walked over to the tent where the TNT boys and I had our gear. I watched Robert and David closely relaying beers back and forth, laying them out on the table in the tent for which we seemed to own. It was hilarious. In a blink of an eye, the table was full with beers. Like I said, you got to learn from the best. They were content so I scrapped in a few more miles so I did John Page and Kevin Gorman. Let’s just say I did not have to wait in any lines for a beer when I returned.

Trailing John Page
Photo by Pensri Pilotte

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cohasset Rotary Road Race by the Sea 10K

With the Frank Nealon Boston Tune Up 15K cancelled early on Saturday, I started to consider a replacement race for the weekend. The Cohasset Rotary Road Race by the Sea 10K was an option for Sunday. Dan and Katrina Vassallo were heading down to the race. We picked up Gregory Putnam on the way. Dan has a lot of history at this race (multiple wins) while it was also a local one for Gregory when he lived on the South Shore. I got feedback from both on the course terrain and what to expect which was emphasis on a rolling course after 2.5 miles.

The three CMS jacketed amigos strutted into registration. 2/3 of these guys were locks for overall win and masters win. Me? Get in a hard effort before Boston, break in the shoes, and not embarrass the CMS singlet. I rolled out at the start, finding a 5:42 opening mile on Atlantic Ave. I was in about 13th place. A few strides ahead, I noted what looked like another master runner in a black singlet (Dave Dugan). He was popular among the few spectators on the course. I caught up to him at mile two, the ocean visible to our right. The hills came upon us. I would lose a few strides to Dave going up the hills but I would rebound on the other side with some effort.

The race course took a 90 degree left onto Forest Ave, off Jerusalem Rd, with us now leaving the scenic ocean to our right hand side. It was the steepest hill so far and it took the wind out of my sails (actually all of them did). Dave went by me with encouraging words. Once at the top, I managed to reel him back in and get back ahead of him. Kids were now on the course sporadically, seeking high fives so I reached out. Must have made their day! I passed by any and all water stops along the way. 4 miles went by and it started to get quiet behind me. I did not want to peek pack, just wanted to keep the pressure on myself. I would keep in touch with the applause behind me from there to the finish. Dave was close all the way to the end where I was just 9 seconds up on Dave at the finish line. I placed 8th overall, 2nd master behind Gregory (by 2.5 minutes), with a time of 37:02 (5:58 per mile pace).


I turned back to acknowledge Dave for the battle during the race. I headed out for a cool down with Dan (he got the win with his best time on the course) and Gregory. They planned on the 3.75 loop that we warmed up on. I cut that short and went through another neighborhood that dropped me right off to the finish line and common area (about 2 miles). Anthony Everett, news anchor and host of Chronicle, handled the awards and called out the winners, top 3 in each age group in an expedited fashion. The age group winners walked into the hall and did a sweep of one of three tables according to your place. My 2nd place got me a small swag bag from the race sponsors. Earlier, I scored a 1980’s style trucker hat from a free bin. That was worth it. 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Bedford Half Marathon

I ran another edition of the New Bedford Half Marathon today. The race served as the 2nd race of the USATF New England Grand Prix Series. I car pooled with Nakri and Greg. My results summary was 176th place, chip time 1:23:15 (6:22 pace per mile), and gun time of 1:23:24. It might be a personal worst for the half marathon distance when I was considered healthy.  I ran 1:19:21 last year with similar weekly mileage.

The head wind at 9.5 miles was comical. I do not think the tail wind and head wind offset each other today but I have no excuses. Everyone had to deal with it. I expected to see some early mile splits close to six flat but I was giving 6:20’s from the get go. In the hills through 4, I just got through them to get through them. The stretch after four miles, my legs just could not get going but managed my quicker miles from 4 to 8 as expected. My head was down into the wind for miles 10 and 11. I was surprised that I managed to pass a few people from there and in the closing miles. I felt that I finished strong, lost a spot or two in the last 600m but I competed to the line.

Looking at the splits for the day, I noticed that I did not break out of the 6 minute range per mile. The splits ranged from 6:03 (mile 5) to 6:40 (last mile). The CMS teams ran very well placing 4th, 2nd, and 1st in the open, masters, and seniors divisions respectively. I closed out the day with the chowder, fish sandwich, and plenty of Polar Beverages. I caught up with competitors and CMS teammates regarding their races, results, and upcoming plans. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Black Cat 20 mile

The Black Cat 20 mile road race was a change of pace and temperature. In came the cold and wind on Saturday. Single digits with the wind chill? Nick Taormina and I talked about the approach and expectations. He was going to take 6:30 pace out for the first 10 mile and pick it up. I was looking for anything south of seven minute pace and some confidence. We had a few 20 mile runs so far in the past month at 7:24 and 7:21 pace. I would not say those gave me any confidence other than I can cover 20 miles.

As last year, I broke it down into quarters. The first quarter was feeling out the legs without concern for pace as I ran to Devereaux Beach in Marblehead and turned around to hit a head wind. Splits were 6:42, 6:40, 6:47, 6:34, 6:44. I got on the heels of a decent pack of six that included Brian Tinger and Mike Paulin into the wind. This contingent had a mission but it did not include Tinger and I as the pace quickened down Derby Street in Salem. I took my first gel from my pocket and got a bottle of water from the water stop after 8 miles. I would carry that bottle through 11 miles.

It looks like I ran 1:07:34 as I passed the half way point and headed out for the second 10 mile loop. The second quarter of the race had mile splits of 6:38, 6:43, 6:38, 6:57, 6:52. Brian Tinger and I were still keeping company. I took my two Hammer Endurolytes capsules before 11 miles with the water bottle I kept from 8 miles. A few minutes later, I tossed the water to the opposite side of the road next to Salem State. The bottle cap popped off on impact but the bottle settled nicely on the sidewalk in case I needed it on the way back before mile 16.

Back into Marblehead, I got a chance to see the front of the race coming at us on the approach of Devereaux Beach. Nick was running very well in 4th place. Tinger and I took turns fighting the wind going back into Salem as we passed mile 15. The splits for the third quarter of the race were 7:05, 6:52, 6:54, 6:45, 7:06. Mile 16 took us past Salem State.  I did not want to reach for the water on the sidewalk for fear of cramping up. It was a mile later on Lafeyette Street last year where I started to have leg cramps. 

So far all was good for me with Tinger and another runner headed toward the Salem Willows on Derby Street. I could sense that they wanted to pick it up and they did at 18 miles. Then we turned toward Dead Horse Beach. I faced a few gusts of wind that pushed me back. No wonder why the volunteers at the water stop were hunkering down in the SUV. I do not blame them. It was a tough day.

The last two miles had me slowing down and losing pace to Tinger and the other runner. Then the inevitable, calf cramps just before 19 miles. First the left and then the right triggered. I crossed the finish line in 16th place with a time of 2:17:28 (about five full minutes slower than last year, 6:39 pace vs 6:52 pace this year). 

The last five mile splits were 7:01, 7:10, 6:53, 7:12, 7:13. I grabbed the medal and ran back to see if I could find Nick who was yelling for me 400m before the finish. I could not find him so I jogged slowly back to the car and got out of dodge. The run did not fill me with much confidence with the calves blowing up. It was reminiscent of how my last three marathons have gone; calf cramps coming at some point, then shuffle to the finish. Thankfully, today was not a day that required another 10K after 20 miles. Looking forward to Boston…….


Monday, March 6, 2017

Amherst 10 mile

The Amherst 10 mile road race kicked off the 2017 USATF New England Road Race Grand Prix on Sunday. I ran my first Amherst 10 mile road race 20 years ago in 1997 (9th place for 56:35). It was not a championship race that year (it was a year later). My coach, Tom Derderian, who designed the course back in 1975, was getting me ready for a slew of races in ’97 which included the Grand Prix Road Race Series. 

Nakri Dao, Joe Armstrong, Greg Putnam and I arrived in Amherst in just under 2 hours. The weather was fair for February – clear pavement, mostly cloudy, average temperature of 38 degrees and a steady WNW wind of over 15mph. I ran two light warm up sessions before the start after settling into my racing flats and lined up about six rows back from the front of the start.

My goal was to break 60 minutes. However, each mile that I passed race showed that an average of 6 minute miles were out of the question. The early hills put me behind the 8-ball and a disappointing 5 mile split of just under 32 minutes. The good news is that some downhill stretches were to follow. The legs responded a bit with low 6 minute miles until the last two miles where I was in the hurt locker physically and mentally. Friend, Mike Paulin tried encourage me to go with him in the last mile (up the hill and into the wind) but I was cooked. I finished in just under 63 minutes. Glad my team did not need that effort to score. Fortunately, CMS had plenty of depth to take the masters team win (open placed 2nd and 50+ won).

Place 137
Gun Time 1:02:56.9
Net Elapsed 1:02:55.0
6:17 pace per mile
23rd - 40-49 age category

So that is where I am for a 10 mile effort, about 2 minutes slower than the NH 10 mile race last summer (just under 61 minutes) and over 3 minutes slower than the Amherst 10 mile two years ago. I will keep the mileage up around 60 mile per week with a day per week of interval based training.

Can you tell where the hills were?