Monday, May 27, 2013

Vermont City Marathon

Pulling out, removing gloves, seeking new shoes at 3 miles.
Photo by Krissy

The Vermont City Marathon has been on my list of races to run and had an open window this year. In addition, I knew several people from the North Shore (Wicked Running Club) that were running it. I made the decision about a week after the Boston Marathon to sign up. This was good timing as I really did not want to vest a quarter of the year into the rigid marathon training. I put in a six week dose of weekly long runs and a half marathon to prep for this marathon. Brett Rickenbach (2:48 personal best), Mike Paulin (2:54 personal best), and Brad Gates are regulars at the Danvers 5K races and we talked about running a sub three hour race in Burlington, VT. So we had a plan as well as getting Brad through his first marathon.

The forecast was mid 50's and rain all weekend in Burlington. When we got into Burlington on Saturday, it was in the low 40's. There was a fair amount of wind. I went to the marathon expo to not only get my number but to purchase some gloves for the race. I had a nice dinner with Krissy and the Wicked Running Club members later in the evening. I got plenty of sleep and woke up ten minutes before the 5:30 alarm for a quick shower. I looked out the hotel window hoping to see clear skies but it was not meant to be. Rain. I had some oat meal, 4oz of Cranberry juice, 20oz of water, a coffee, and a banana before taking a 20 minute shuttle from the hotel to the start. I borrowed a trash bag from the hotel kitchen (wink, wink) to stay dry before the race. I found the gang and we dropped off our bags at the bag drop and walked over and into the start coral about ten rows from the front line. We stood for 15 minutes with zero warm up in the cold windy rain. I removed the bag about a minute before our start. We were off. There were several turns and we were navigating around puddles. Brett would let us know if we were too fast or too slow.

Shoe changeout in pit row. Krissy at the ready.
Photo by Scott Mason
Around 2.5 miles, I felt a sharp pain in my calf. I freaked out. I was ready to blame the thin Inov8 flats I had on. I looked for Krissy around 3 miles for which I knew she would be at taking photos. I also packed my Nike Lunaracer 2 flats in her bag along with GU and Sport Beans just in case I needed them at mile 3, 9, and 15. I only had the shoes in there with anticipation of getting a blister in the Inov8 flats in the wet weather. I found her on the left hand side of the road in her yellow Boston Marathon Volunteer jacket. She was easy to find in the surprisingly large crowd of spectators. I yelled over to her and pointed down at the ground - my sign langauge for "I need to change out these f@!?$& shoes" while removing my gloves. She let her camera go and took the Nike flats out of her bag. My hands were cold and I could barely untie my shoes. I got one off and fumbled to get one Nike on and get it tied. I took my time to get it right and not have to deal with having them come untied later in the race. I recall whining about my calf to her and Scott Mason who
was on camera too. I had a Vermont Sta
Smiling up the hill at 15 miles.
Photo by Krissy
te Police Officer holding me up to get the other shoe on. It must have been comical to all spectators. Check out the photos that Scott got on page three. Before I left the scene in my new footwear, I gave Scott that worried look and said "I won't be finishing this race today." I was certain that calf was going to cramp up later or cause other issues. I took off and got back into the race losing at least 90 seconds. The calf felt the same but did not get worse. My mind was heavy on defeat already. However, I imediately felt more cushion from the Lunaracer and was able to run on my heels more than I could in the Inov8. The race had an out and back so I could see the front of the race come at me and allowed me to judge how far behind I was from the gang. They were not too far but it took me to about mile 9 to catch them without any surging as I was not sure how the calf was going to react. It was stable and so was I when I got back to them. Finally. I kept the drama to myself as they were happy to see me back in the fold.

The miles went by as we got into a nasty head wind at the 1/2 way mark of the marathon. The split was around 1:29:17 so we were on pace for a 2:58 marathon. Good so far but we had many miles to go. Our group started to dodge puddles and the Lake Champlain waves on the bike path. Soon we charged up the big hill at mile 15. Krissy was there smiling. It was nice to see her and nice to still be running this race. I was right next to Mike. Brett looked like he was pulling away by a few seconds and Brad was behind us. We all got together a few miles later when Brett brought up that he got some pain in behind his knee. He fell back a bit and Mike pulled ahead. I stayed in between them while still taking inventory of how I was feeling. At this point, I did not want to do anything to distrupt a good swing and introduce any muscle cramps. I was starting to pass people while keeping my sub 6:50 pace through 20 miles. By 22 miles I reeled in Mike who got at least 10 seconds ahead at one point. We shared the bike path for the last four miles of the race with the wind now at our backs. We pulled into Waterfront park which had healthy crowd all the way into the finish line. Our last 100 yards were on the muddy grass. A look at the clock on approach showed we were well under 2:58, pretty much our goal. We crossed the line side by side with a 2:57:26 (net time), 2:57:33 (gun time). I earned my 2014 Boston Qualifying time (needed a sub 3:10). I am pretty sure I will register this September for Boston. Brett pulled in just over 3 hours and Brad toughed out a 3:04 for a solid marathon debut. I shuffled through after getting the heaviest finishers medal ever (I need to hit the weights), got some warm clothes on, food in the belly, got into a few photos, found Krissy and took the first shuttle back for a hot shower at the hotel. Despite the drama early in the race, I am happy with how the execution went. Although I was super cautious, it was really spot on through out the race.
Mike Paulin and I approaching the finish line.
Photo by Krissy
KeyBank Vermont City Marathon text updates:
10 miles course time 1:08:12, pace 6:50 min/mi
Half marathon course time 1:29:17, pace 6:49 min/mi
20 miles course time 2:16:01, pace 6:49 min/mi
Finish 2:57:26, pace 6:47 min/mi
72nd second place out of 2608 runners
Full Results

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quincy Half Marathon

With the upcoming Vermont City Marathon, I felt getting a ½ marathon under the belt would be a good idea. I like the idea of a sustained effort for a good duration leading up to a marathon. I searched around the running calendar and found the Quincy Half Marathon of which I always wanted to run but had conflicts in the past. It sort of fell into my favor this year as the race was to be held on March 10 but was postponed due to weather and safety concerns from the town of Quincy. I reached out to Brett Rickenbach (WCRC) last week and he was game for the effort as he too is running VCM. Thus, we headed down to Quincy early Sunday morning. My mind was heavy as I was sore from some piriformis issues and some previous day yard work.

I changed my racing plan from requesting for 6:00 pace per mile to whatever the legs would provide without embarrassment. After a 1.6 mile warm up and stretching I was on the starting line, front row, with Brett. I followed Brett for 200m and settled next to him by our first of many turns together on the course. My legs felt OK, not great. The temperature warranted a singlet up top, Native glasses to ease the potential poke of sun which was never seen. My red and white Invo8 233’s felt smooth. Thin ragged, throw away gloves were worn for just three miles before coming off in time for a drink of water from the friendly water stop on Wollaston Beach. I found it comforting to run next to Brett. He was keeping track of Garmin mile splits vs actual course mile markers. We were averaging a low six minute pace early on while there were about 12 runners ahead of us. The miles went by fast mentally as I think we took the pressure off and just did our thing letting those in front pull away as they please. We dropped those on our heels just by our consistent pacing as we toured through downtown Quincy thanking each police officer we ran by. They were in full force to hold up several intersections of traffic to make way for the runners.  We rolled through 5 miles around 30:38. We took turns on Newport Ave leading into the wind, allowing the other to tuck in. Newport Ave turned out to be longer than it seemed on paper.

Next to Brett (1034) after the start at 8:00
Photo credit Gregg Derr, The Patriot Ledger
I recall taking my only Gatorade Gel around mile six before a water stop. I took water at each stop along the way. The Dixie cups had the perfect water to cup ratio. Brett and I would have a few words here and there.  Brett was holding a strong pace, quicker than what I thought he wanted. He told me that he was good with the pace, meaning, not looking to dip but hold it – encouraged me to drop pace when I wanted to. I was content though wanted to get some wind at my back later in the race and tee up a few targets ahead. I had two runners in my target when I pulled away just before 10 miles. My 10 mile split was 1:01:33 (about a minute slower for the 2nd 5 miles). It was just after that point where I had a two stage hill that took some time to climb. I caught the two guys over the next mile and set sight on the last guy visible to my eye. I worked hard to catch up over the next mile and finally pulled beside at 12.5 miles. We were running side by side along the road that took us to the new Quincy High School outdoor track for which the finish line awaited after a full lap. The best trash talk line I ever heard was dropped on me while I pointed over to the track and said that we still have to run a lap around that track. He said “I am a 400 meter All American.”  That got my attention but was not sure if he was serious. I felt good but was in no mood for a battle on the track at the end of a half marathon. I passed him two turns away and stepped onto the track not knowing how close he was. I went around that track as hard as I could, coming into the finish line, 6th overall with a time of 1:19:29 (6:04 mile pace). He came through a few seconds behind me. Brett followed with a solid 1:20:33 (6:09 mile pace). The guy who finished in between us is currently not in the results so I don’t know what happened there. However, I had to ask him if he was an “All American 400m runner?” He confirmed that he was at Wheaton, a relay (49.X) and is now training for an Ironman. Cool. I barely made it through a cool down with Brett and Kieran Condon (SRR) who ran a solid 1:17:59 just three weeks after running the Boston Marathon. It was nice to chill out inside to plenty of soup and sandwich wraps. I was tired but glad I got to the race and put down a solid effort. 

Quincy Half Marathon results May 5, 2013
Patriot Ledger race article

Pipestave Hill Trail Race

L-R, Pawlicki, Dunham, Jones, Scott
Photo taken by Mike Fitzgerald

I jumped into the first of the 2013 North Shore Trail series of races with the Pipestave Hill Trail Race in West Newbury Thursday night.This race was a first for me so I was foreign to the area and course. Thus, I made a plan to scout the course with Dave Dunham. It was a mix of grass fields, single track trail, and fire roads. Throw in some roots, rocks, mud, one bridge and a few hills – like Pipestave Hill – and you’ve got a nice 5K trail race. The course was a large loop followed by a small loop within the first.  It was a chilly night with some wind. I could not warm up enough jogging slowly before having a moment of silence for the recent Boston Marathon bombings and walking the 150+ runners over to the start below a soccer field. Getting off the starting line was tough as my legs lost any warm blood flow. Andy Scott jumped right out with Dave Dunham and I in tow. Justin Jones (D5K) had to bail 800m in as his shoe came untied. Andy led Dave and I through the single track. I did all I could to stay close to Dave who is better at the technical stuff than he says he is. I passed Dave before we approached the end of the 1st loop as I felt Andy was gapping us too much. We had a good climb over the field again and found that I was not gaining on Andy who had at least a 10 second lead. He doubled that as we exited out of the woods and back to the field for which we were running against the race (they were heading into their 2nd loop). Andy finished 1st in 17:59, I in 18:22, and Dave hung onto 3rd with a 18:41. Full results. Dave had some calf issues that cropped up causing him to run slower than last year while he is more fit this year. I closed out the night with a cool down over the course, got in a D5K group picture, and caught up with a few folks on racing plans.