Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jones Group 10 mile

Krissy, Joe, Greg and I got to the Amherst early for the first championship race of the USATF New England Road Race Grand Prix. The Jones Group 10 mile was hosting again. I did a short warm up with Arthur Besse and Barbara McManus to make sure we saw the new start and new finish. All other parts of the course was the same staple we have seen before. The last mile would be quicker than the old course. Larissa Park wanted to run with me as I felt I would be just under six minute paced miles for the day. We were together for 2 miles (11:30) before I went after Martin Tighe who was about 20 seconds ahead. I was steady on the climbing and then hit the mud/ice in the middle of the course. The ice was manageable for 90%. The other 10% required traction control. Mile 5 passed by in 30:10 and I was sickened by that split but moved on anyhow behind Joseph Hegarty. He pulled me all the way into mile 8 and along side John Longo from SRR who I try to keep up with at the Tuesday track sessions. We trucked up the hills and I saw that I had a chance to catch Erica Jesseman who was the 2nd place woman as I asked a spectator at 8.5 miles. Meanwhile, Joe Lauer from SRR passed by and had carried some good momentum into mile 9 so I tried to rally and close in the last mile of the day. I managed to catch Erica on the driveway up to the finish. I ran 29:20 for the 2nd half of the race so I felt better about that. My chip time was 59:30.6 and finish place was 87th out of 642 runners. The 5:57 mile pace overall was what it was - really felt harder the whole day. I raced every step and did not take any mental or physical naps out there. Pleased with the effort even though I was gunning for a 58:30. Krissy took over 600 photos.
Final stretch into the finish
Photo by KrissyK

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Woodford Whiteout snowshoe

Todd Callaghan and I arrived at the Prospect Mountain NordicSki Center in Woodford Vermont for the Woodford Whiteout 10K snowshoe race. I was not sure what to expect as this was a new race for me and i raced the night before in Madbury, NH. Race Director Tim Van Orden devised a course that will challenge many. Up his sleeve was a blend of stadium loops, deep (beyond his control) single track, some fire roads, and a summit to Prospect Mountain. I witnessed the deepest snow that I have ever tried to run through about 3.25 miles into the race - deep as in above the knee depth that makes running very tough. I had already fallen three times. I hiked down some tricky parts (as in deep as $#@!*) and then proceeded to hike as the guy in front of me was doing. I came up with a term while I was hiking. Not offense to Sally but I came up with “Sallying.” Running or hiking like a Sally. My hiking effort (not even worth calling it that) caused a bottle neck and someone to catch up and step on my snowshoes multiple times before I told him it was not appreciated (PG13 version). There was no room to step aside and let anyone pass. If I or the passer stepped out  - one risked taking a digger in 2.5 feet of white powder. Eventually I leaned off to the side and let him by. Ashley Krause passed by too – offered a comment to let someone else lead. I was embarrassed. 

Danny Ferreira, who was supposed to be running a marathon in TX (flight got cancelled) was also in company so he saw me struggling. He saw me fall a few times and sound off a few expletives. I was fearful that I was holding him back but he was content that he was on pace for his National Snowshoe Qualifier anyhow. We vented a bit about the current conditions as it seemed to take forever to get out of that crap and onto a groomed trail. Danny flew past after offering me a GU. He knew where I was mentally and physically. I declined and encouraged him to pick up some time and spots. He put nearly 2 minutes on me over from 4.5 miles to the finish. I was in a miserable state of mind and also physically drained. I had fallen at least 8 times over the first 4.5 miles – more than I have in racing in 10 years. I put the stride in “limp mode” to the finish - 12th overall with a time of 1:13:40. I put my tired arms on Tim Van Orden’s shoulders and asked if it was too late to cancel my trip back out there for Nationals? I was joking and let the spectators know that he was evil for putting us through that previous hour. I am praying for some melt and a foot less of snow in March. Meanwhile, other CMS guys ran very well. Kevin Tilton got run down at the very end which sucked as he led most of the race. Todd, Dave, Tim, Paul and Ross ran very well – none complaining so I tried to hide mine. The good news is that the ride home went by fast.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe

It was Kingman Farm or bust. I was determined to travel through the falling snow and less than optimal road conditions. I was thankful for the 4 wheel drive that the Nissan pickup  allowed me to leverage – figuring out how to manually engage it for the first time. I thought was a 6:30 start (actual start was 6:00) for the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe race in Madbury, NH. The caravan of snow plows four lanes wide (twice) on Rt. 95 and falling snow made for a white knuckle ride. I arrived at the race in time to provide 25 minutes to get my race number and sort into my racing gear. No time for a warm up or to relieve my pancreas. I was on the starting line for pre-race instruction provided by Chris Dunn. The rule to remember was to keep the flags to your right for the 4.5 mile course. I failed to get the pre-race emails that changed the course from the usual 5K distance.

Nineteen year old Nacho Hernando (Sweetie Pies) who took a win at Horsehill 7K the previous week got out in front with Jim Johnson (CMS) right away. Steve Dowsett (Whirlaway) and I trailed in single file. Bob Jackman (TNT) was right behind me. The snow was falling and our headlamps shed light on our upcoming path. The footing was pretty good. Low hanging braches covered with snow were light to the touch. Visibility was good but picking up the yellow flags (a few were red and OK to see) were tough until you were on top of them. I did appreciate the reflective arrow on the yellow flags to advise of a turn. Your instinct is to follow the person in front of you. I let Bob pass as I felt I was holding him back about a mile into the race. Then we hit the field where I lost ground to him and Steve. You could occasionally look ahead and see the lights that Nacho and Jim had. We appeared to be doing a loop out there. I could see tail lights of cars out on a highway in the distance. The depth and conditions were fair out there but I preferred what we had in the covered trails of the woods. We headed back into the woods and I went past Bob to help out our pace. I wanted to close the gap that Steve had on us. I eventually did not hear Bob behind me. 

Steve had a red blinky on his head lamp so I used that as a beacon to close in. I got within three seconds but no closer over the next two miles which had a nice mix of rolling hills, switch backs, and tight turns. One had to be careful to stay on and in the single track in the thick woods. I could hear the yelling in the distance and potential lighting from the town hall (I really was not too sure. Indeed that noise and lighting we were coming upon was the finish. It must be fun to watch the race from the finish with head lamps zig zagging along and eventually minutes later finish the race. I would up six seconds behind Steve in fourth place. Jim (2nd) and Nacho (1st) were evaluating their races and Jim seemed to be giving some tips and advice to Nacho to not let him hold Nacho back. I got the snowshoes off and did an easy cool down with Bob, Steve, and eventually Jim out on the snow covered roads. My mind was heavy on how the ride home was going to be and for morning trip to Woodford, VT 10 hours later. I got some warm clothes on and hung out for the always popular awards and raffles given by Acidotic Racing. 

Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race Results - Madbury, NH - February 15, 2014 results
Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race photos by Scott Mason

Monday, February 10, 2014

Great Stew Chase 15K

This is an honest New England 15K race in Lynn that has seen fourty starts over the years. All you want to know about the third oldest 15K in the country. Over the past decade or so - the out to Peabody and back loop has been standard with a little change at the turn around point. If you sign up early, it will cost you a dollar per kilometer. How many races can you say that about? A bowl of beef stew (and veggie), a roll, and a cookie await at the Knights of Columbus. The KofC offers warm shelter from the low 20 degree temps. No complaints today other than the "barely" slower than six minute mile average 5 mile split - the only time all race that I cared to glance at the Garmin. However, good company out there with CMS mate Joe Shairs and Ryan Hayes via Shamrock Running Club out of Woburn. 

Ryan, I, and Joe around mile 6 in Peabody
Photo by KrissyK
Joe broke me going up the hill off of Farm Road. Ryan was smoking me too. Joe would later admit to working said hills with purpose. I picked up my gait after the turn around (waited for some down hill action) as I figured I better keep myself some company for the return trip back to Lynn. I was cutting all tangents, safely of course, when appropriate. Joe waived me back into the huddle around mile six and I felt good about that - working like teammates to shake the bearded Hayes who had many a fan calling to him as we ran toward oncoming runners by design. I did some work pulling us past 7 miles. I was gassed so Joe took charge with a few lefts - turns that is. We had a long straight stretch and managed to shake Ryan off a bit through mile 8. Joe looked back with a half mile to go and did not sound off any alarms yet we kept pressing past mile 9. We were two wide with oncoming traffic close to my right elbow. Joe gave me the go ahead on the narrow street up to the KofC parking lot where I crossed the line in 55:32 (5:58 pace per mile average). He was one second back. I was greeted by Krissy - doing her thing with over 600 photos for the day and my dad who came to watch us inflict pain on ourselves on a cold February day. Joe (top 40+) and I finished 6th and 7th. Ryan was just seven seconds back. Dan Vassallo, looking sharp in the new CMS singlet cruised to a win and not too far back from me was Nick Taormina and Scott Deslongchamps who was racing for the first time since November. He is targeting the Hyannis Marathon at the end of the month. I did a cool down with Scott, Joe, and Mike Dimauro (another Shamrock) before settling down to some stew with the gang. I picked up a 2014 Great Stew Chase pen for which I proudly brought into the office today. Blue ink to compliment the black ink already in stock. I crack up at the Stew Chase logo - a kettle of stew on the run - reminds me of the kool-aide pitcher on the run breaking through walls. 
To the line with Joe at the KofC
Photo by KrissyK
My refurbished Garmin 205 said that I ran 9.47 miles ~ a little longer than 9.3 miles that 15K breaks down to. That was a consensus based on the mini-survey of feedback that I heard post race. Race Director, Roger Perham and good all 'round guy wheeled this one so I don't know what to say. Perhaps I did not cut enough tangents. On a side note, I tore up a pretty healthy blister on my foot that was brewing all week 24 hrs earlier. I worried that the raw skin rubbing on each foot plant would be a problem on Sunday morning. However, Sunday morning - one hour to gun time - I tried on several pairs of racing flats to trainers before this little red riding hood settled on a borderline pair of trainers/racers from Asics that I had pretty much retired but too attached to recycle.