Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wicked Half Marathon

I have averaged a half marathon per year since my debut in 1997 in the Bay State Half Marathon in Lowell, MA. Oddly enough, I have never run in a half marathon that was not a USATF New England Championship event. I ran in them to support my team that was competing against other teams from New England. Other than that, I never had the half marathon distance on my agenda. With the Bay State Marathon on my radar next month, I thought it would be a good idea to test out the legs in Salem today for the Wicked Half Marathon. This would be my second half marathon this year as I ran in the New Bedford Half Marathon (New England Championship) in March. Today's weather was a bit humid as I am certain the dew point was higher than the air temperature for the 7am start. I settled into 5th place immediately. The four gents in front, Tim Cataggio (Stonehill), Dan Princic (WRT), Mark Hudson (WRT), and CMS t'mate Scott Leslie were sub-5:20 pace from the gun and I wanted to fluctuate around 6:00 mile pace for 13.1 miles. I went through the first mile in 5:38 which was the quickest of the day. Soon after I began to feel a hot spot on my Achilles from the Lunaracer2 that I just began wear testing yesterday. They felt fine yesterday but were messing with me too early in the race today, especially going up hills. I almost dropped out of the race a few times in the first four miles for fear of making hamburger of my Achilles. All I could think of was raw skin, blood, and doom for the training leading into Bay State.I wanted to do a 180 and walk back to the start. That would have resulted in embarrassment running into 900 plus half marathoners, throw my pride in the dumpster, and leave Kristen wondering where I was as she was out on the course snapping photos.

I managed to make it to Marblehead after a decent hill and the hot spot burned. I kept going as it was not too bad when it was flat and if I changed the stride a bit here and there. Meanwhile, I was familiar with the route out to Marblehead Neck. It was a daily training route from my Salem State College days. Soon, I felt another burning sensation around my ankle from the velcro strapped timing chip to match the hot spot on the Achilles a few inches below. Good times. The only good thing was that the mile splits were fluctuating around the goal pace of six minutes. I saw Kristen several times as she was on the bike and doing her thing with the Nikon D60. Brett Rickenbach was on the bike and provided words of encouragement while exiting Marblehead Neck and heading back toward the finish seven miles away. I cheered several hundred runners now coming at me on the opposite side of the road on the causeway. Giving them support took my mind of my issues. The miles, intersections, police detail, and Kristen went by pretty effortless and without
dwell on the burning ankle from mile 7-12. My ten mile split was 59:37 and from there on in, just wanted to hold the pace. I got into the finish with a time of 1:18:28. It is a personal worst
in terms of
time by at least three minutes.
I owned fifth place the whole race and seemed isolated from those in front and those in back of me. Aside from a healthy blister, the Achilles was not as bad as I expected. I have a nice tattooed cut circling around the ankle from the Velcro timing chip.

Aside from the drama of considering bailing out early in the race and my Achilles burning up from the racing flats, I found that the initial posted had errors such as an erroneous finish time of 1:19:39 for myself. I quickly brought it to the attention of the timing table right at the finish line. Doug Bollen (pictured below with my finish line crossing) actually
had written down the place, bib number, and time that he saw on the clock for the top five men and women so I saw a quick resolution in the making so I walked away with his assurance that it would be corrected. Several other runners complained of mistakes so I am sure there was a bigger issue, even with the chip timing. The young lady in the timing tent said that she'd have a look at it. 30 minutes later, the posted results were updated with a 1:18:39, eleven seconds slower than the photo, Doug's recorded notation, and my watch. I brought it up again with the timing tent on my way out. Thankfully it was corrected when I looked up results tonight.

I am looking forward to running with some teammates tomorrow morning on the trails of Bradley Palmer State Park and Appleton Farms.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nahant 30K

For a coastal town surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, this is not your easy sea-level endeavor hosted by the North Shore Striders. However, if you take a few moments and glance around, you can't beat the scenery in Nahant. The goal for the day was to engage in a marathon paced effort for the 18.6 miles (30 kilometers). After running 6:01 pace on this course in 2008, it was easy to yearn for the same pace. I also nailed that same pace this past Monday at the tough - Cape Ann 25K. It turned out, today, that I was a bit aggressive with the anticipated pace and did not want to go overboard too early. One mile passed in 6:08 with Tomoaki Uchiki (GBTC) and Dan Verrington, master ace from CMS. When asked, Tomoaki agreed that 6:00 per mile pace was his goal so that validated that I was in good company for the outset for Dan and I. However, our pace was averaging 6:08 pace through the first few miles. I did not feel particularly light footed and was reminded of the Cape Ann effort early and often. Dan dropped back and Tomoaki and I kept company through ten miles (60:35) up and down the hills. He began to pull away and chase down Rich Smith (GCS) and Joe Donnelley (GCS) who were less than 30 seconds ahead out around the Northeastern owned campus. I got as close as 15 seconds to Rich but he held his own reeling in Joe as we were out on the bike path of the causeway (16 miles). I started to feel the day's pace as I passed by what was going to be the finish in two miles with a quick loop around red rock and back. My pace slowed in this stretch with mile 17 clocked in with my slowest mile of the day (6:30). As I approached the finish line, Kristen was taking photos with her Nikon D60. To my surprise, my dad was standing there with her and cheering me on (he got there five minutes before my arrival). I gave him a high five while the finish line 40 yards away and around the left hand turn awaiting my tired legs.

My official time was 1:53:30 (6:06 per mile pace), 2nd in my age division (excluding the overall winner) and 7th overall. I did not bother with a cool down, instead opting for a banana and a can of Sprite. I gave Tomoaki, Rich Smith, and Joe Donnelley credit for hanging tough through the wind over the last five miles. These guys, as well as I, hope to toe the starting line at the Bay State Marathon on October 17. I went to the car, traded my flats in for my crocks and a warm long sleeve shirt. Then I headed back onto the course about 200m from the finish and directed runner traffic for the last 1/3 of the race who had about 2 miles left.

Not all is good news. I most certainly flared up my left Achilles which was hinting to me on Wednesday that something may be brewing. This miserable issue kept me out of racing the Bay State Marathon in 2008. I will keep close tabs on this one. Unfortunately, 55K of road racing in six days may put a damper on the running and racing in the near future. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Around Cape Ann 25k

I agreed to run 6:00 pace for this famous Cape Ann race 24 hours earlier with John Ayers. I had my doubts I could hold it but would give it a shot. CMS mates Greg Ward and Neel Tarneja showed up this morning feeling a six minute pace was in store as well. I started out with another CMS mate, Patrick Rich, who moved up into the correct chase pack behind Patrick Moulton after 800m. John Ayers was to my right, sizing up the field ahead. He moved ahead after the 5:58 mile to run with Greg and Neel. GBTC's Jon Chesto and Tomoaki Uchiki caught me and kept me company through 7 miles. Tomoaki felt good and moved ahead to chase down the Ayers pack that seemed to have a 55 second lead on us. I managed to hang with Jon Chesto until we passed Ayers at 13 miles. Pressing the pace a bit, I put a small gap on Jon and finished 9th overall, 1:33:13, 6:01 pace per mile. Hitting the goal pace throughout and for the race felt good. I will see how the legs recover this week. I am sore now (my back and shoulders are beat from three days of Kayaking) but want to heal up for a potential run in the Nahant 30K road race next Sunday.

CMS got the team title with Patrick, Greg, and Neel. Thanks to Krissy for biking the course and snapping some photos.