Monday, June 29, 2009

Kissing Cranmore Mountain

As the bottom of my heels burned up sprinting down Cranmore Mountain, I was wishing for something flat to give my quads rest. I fought gravity up and down the mountain yesterday. I just wanted to let the heels cool down. I expected a bloody mess when I pulled the footware off minutes after finishing the race and cooling off in the cool stream 100 yards from the finish line. Todd Callaghan praised the benefits of the cold water. I washed the Cranmore earth off my legs, proud to have survived the event. I was reticent before the race but I had an objective of putting a demon to rest.

One hour of punishment. Punishment that I neglected to tolerate three years ago at Cranmore for three fun loops up and down. Yesterday was only two loops that Paul Kirsch put up for the National Championship where the top three men and women would be selected for the US team to compete at the World Championship.

I gave some honest advice to a runner on my way into the 2nd lap yesterday heading into the second loop as he was dropping out and walking toward me and back to end his journey prematurely. I yelled at him and told him not to drop out, he'll regret it. I turned back to look at him and made sure he followed back onto the course. I told him to walk it out, just finish it up. The guy in front of me looked back at me thinking I was crazy for yelling at a competitor to get his ass back in the race. The beaten runner got back in the race.

I looked forward, following my advice to just finish and did not care how many steps running, walking or crawling it took. I just looked forward to getting the race over with. I was not so much a competitor as I was a participant making the best of a situation of gravity and a ass kicking contest against Cranmore Mountain. Cranmore Mountain got the best of me. I will get back there next year. Yeah, I am getting fitted for a straight jacket too. No surprise there.

Learned a few things yesterday or at least it caught my attention I had time to think during the race....

1. Walking up steep sections is acceptable. Elite runners of both sexes around me were walking or maybe it is called power-hiking? Damn, some folks were pulling away from me as I got no where trying to run or slip on lichen covered rock. It looks silly kissing the ground, leaning on the knees, but power hiking seems to work.

2. Small, petite, woman kick ass at this mountain stuff. They just shuffle up the steep sections with tiny strides. I feel like a heavy ape with a dumb stride. The 'running form police' tried to pull me off the course at the top but they wanted me to burn up my heels running down the mountain. I appreciate that.

3. These mountain runners are incredible. I don't know how they can tolerate the pain of climbing, straining the lower back, calves, and quads. I can tolerate it for short periods of time, but I relent.

4. Running up against gravity is one thing. Running down at break-neck speed is another and quite hard on the legs and body as I was reminded this morning. Glad that I still have the skin intact on my heels (for now).

5. My attitude changed while going up in the second lap. I chatted it up with Kristen and Joe as I stumbled past them in a climb. There was some funny dialogue, R-rated comments and questioning of my sanity. It helped me cope. I'll have to get the clip up here. In summary, I was trying to use humor to get through the next twenty minutes.

6. I usually like to race down-hill with the best of them. But my burning heels were telling me otherwise. It is humbling to step aside and run in the tall grass to try to slow down and let people pass without much care. I tried to alter my stride or run on my toes flying down the hill to ease the slippage in the New Balance 790's.

7. The transition game of a burning ascent onto something flat is comical. I was reminded of the duathlon event from getting off a bike and into a run. The lactic acid build up and release makes jello of one's legs for a bit.

It's not all piss and vinegar though. I had a great weekend. Joe Shairs and family let Kristen and I crash at their condo in Bartlett the night before the race, sparing me a 2.5 hour drive on Sunday morning. We had a great dinner on Saturday and capped it off with a 2 hour documentary and history on the Boston Bruins. Milt Schmidt, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely!

Here is a picture of me walking or something past Kristen. No doubt cursing, mumbling, and thinking about another hobby.

Lap 1 took me 29:10 and Lap 2 took me 31:04. Unofficial time which was stopped in the finish line chute was 1:00:14. Kristen's movie clip of my hobbling finish into the time clock was 1:00:12. Here is Joe and Kristen yelling at me on the 2nd lap. Finally, please take a look at Scott Mason's photos. He took a lot of nice shots and captured the moments of the race.

Loon Mountain is next Sunday folks. It's a cool race that has a famous section of calf and quad burn depending on the stride. Better yet, it has some down hill in there to mix it up a bit and provide relief from ascending.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Squantum 5 Mile Road Race, Pub Series # 4

I ran my first New England Runner Pub Series race tonight in Quincy (Marina Bay). The start of the race is at Marina Bay Beach Club, formerly Water Works, which is half a mile from work. I won the race two years ago and have done plenty of training on the course by means of being minutes from work. The rain was coming down pretty steady but it let up about twenty minutes before the race. I ran into some ol' competitors and friends: Chris Spinney, Solomon Tsegai , Don Fay, Deon Barrett, Chris Simpson, and Bryan Doldt. Bryan, Deon, and Chris were my teamates with the Greater Boston Track Club several years ago.

I was pretty tired this week, coming off Northfield Mountain and an upbeat 14 miler over the weekend. In addition, I got in plenty of hills in Breakheart Reservation over the last two nights after work. The race was no doubt going to be competitive as there are plenty of talented runners who have been racing the pub series this year. Tonight was no exception. Kevin Gray took it out hard with Joe Navas in tow. I settled in and next to Terry McNatt for the 1st mile. I did not get my 1st or 2nd mile split but was keeping pace with Terry.

Andrew Holmes (2nd place in the last two years at this race) from HFC passed us and he pulled Lee Danforth with him shortly after two miles. I was fading a bit going through mile three in 16:19. I knew it was going to be a battle to the end with Terry. Sure enough, we passed through mile three and four together. I was cutting tangents like a veteran trying to shake Terry over the last two miles. I held him off by one second into the finish. I turned to him in the chute and thanked him for keeping me honest during the race. Eight place in a competitive field and a course PR with a 27:29.

The Achilles was barking a bit in the easy 2 mile cool down with Don Fay. The rest of the night was low key at the Beach Club with one ticket for food (Hot Dogs and Hamburgers) and the other for a beer. I caught up with some folks and touched base with some co-workers. Time to rest up and maybe a day off tomorrow.

Looking forward....

Good luck to CMS and friends at the Mt. Washington Road Race this weekend. I also want to welcome Scott Leslie to the men's open team. He ran 2:32:56 at Boston this year. He will be at Mt. Washington racing for CMS and is looking forward to the Ollie Road Race and the Bay State Marathon. Lastly, I want to wish Mark Kimball a speedy recovery after being struck by a truck while running with his wife last week. I hear he is getting better each day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Northfield Mountain recap

I was torn on which race to go to on Saturday, June 13. I wanted to race the Market Square 10K in Portsmouth, NH where I set my 10K PR set 10 years ago (33:03) and had a decent race last June getting under 34 minutes. On the other hand, I have run the first two races of the USATF New England Mountain series and the Northfield Mountain is race number three. It is also the New England Trail Championship. Dave Dunham has been the race director and puts on a solid event. Who else can set up the course the day before, direct the race, and race it - very well mind you.

Kristen and I got up at 4:30 and were out the door with the GPS set up at 5:35 in the VW Gti. We got to Northfield at 7:30 after a stop for gas in Fitchburg as the Gti got thirsty for 93 Octane. Kristen was volunteering to help out at the water stop with and take some photos. She got to ride up the auto road with Al Bernier in the Subaru.

I did a warm up with a small CMS crew that was made up of Eric Morse (good to see him racing again), Dave Dunham, and Tim & Abbey Mahoney. Before I got to the starting line, I was greeted by Mark Asaro who was thanking me for being a gentleman; offering encouraging words to his son, Peter, during the last 300m of Pack Monadnock. He thanked me for not outdueling his son. I told him that I had no energy to pass him on what felt like a 30% grade and gave every effort just to catch up to the guy. Peter finished two seconds ahead of me at Pack.

At 9:00am sharp Dave gave the race of over 200 the final instructions and gave the first row on the starting line his traditional high five as we were off with two commands. I settled in with Tim Mahoney after the first minute. Justin Fyffe, Josh Ferenc, and Eric Morse were dueling it out for the 1st mile. I had a split of 5:39 which is moving pretty good. The climbing soon began and I shuffled up the hills. Todd Callaghan and Tim Mahoney got around me between 2 and 3 miles. My effort was hard enough so I just wanted to keep them close until the outlook point. The course is practically all down hill after that. I managed to surge pass Tim a half mile before the water stop and set my cruise control to match Todd's stride who had his sights on Greg Hammett in front of him.

The next 3K is runable downhill for most but causes some pain for the next day. Paul Low has seen a low four minute mile in this stretch in the past. I couldn't gain any ground on Todd and Greg was keeping his distance on him. I heard the occasional foot steps behind me but never checked to see who it was, assuming it was Tim (it was). At one point on the down hill, my left foot started to burn up in the heel. This is typical here due to the speed at which I am running and occasional breaking - putting much force on the feet. The New Balance 790 held up pretty good but I was expecting my toes to rip through the toe box toward the end of the descent.

The course levels off after 5.3 miles or so and you can see the race in front of you as it is a long stretch (3/4 of a mile?). I could make out Justin's yellow, Lasportiva shirt about two mintues ahead. I heard he had a good battle with Andy McCarron over the past two miles. I was trying to stay focused on Todd who still had 10 seconds or so on me and I did not want to get caught by Tim or anyone else in the last mile and a half. I hustled into the home stretch for 8th place with a time of 38:59, my second quickest time on the this course. I ran 38:32 last year on a hot day and a dog fight battle with Todd Callaghan and Tim Van Orden over the last two miles.

I was happy with the effort. CMS did very well, placing nine runners in the top twelve. See the overall results and the awesome photos by Scott Mason. I ran the course again after the race with a big crew that included Todd Callaghan, Tim Mahoney, Tim Van Orden, and a few others to pick up the flagging and mile markers. A big thanks to everyone. The company was great and it offered another 45 minutes of hilarious conversation.

I am looking foward to the Cranmore Hill Climb where I DNF'd two years ago. That race will be followed by Loon Mountain and Ascutney Mountain Challenge in July. These are tough races but I am up for the challenge. Meanwhile, I am going to run the Squantum 5 mile road race this Thursday which is minutes from work in Marina Bay (Quincy). It is part of the New England Runner Pub Series so it should be competitive. I am looking to better the 28:43 that I ran in 2007.


I slacked on writing about my blazing 16:35 (chip time) at the Rhody 5K last Sunday, June 7th, in Lincoln, RI. I averaged 5:21 pace per mile and did not crash as bad as I felt with 800m to go. My splits were 5:15, 5:23, 5:21, and :36. I am not sure I trust the mile three marker. I don't have much to say about my effort other than my legs were exposed for the lack of interval training. I had zero turn over and that is the number one requirement for a 5K, period. CMS as a team did well, finishing 5th, with the top five guys getting under 15:58. Full results.