Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nahant Half Marathon

Course Map (inaccurate as we ran Little Nahant early and not at mile 12):

I was tentative about racing the Nahant Half Marathon. I signed up with a low pressure expectation of showing up and feeling my way through the beautiful course without beating myself up. I have been racing a lot recently and the Seasons 20K race I did a few weeks ago suggested that I was in 1:17 half marathon shape. The effort there also told me to take it easy. I want to have a good cross country season and wanted to not punish the legs in Nahant, if possible.

If you don’t know, Nahant has tough terrain. Basically, you are going to see a hill every four minutes. The Half Marathon is run and organized by the North Shore Striders. They trimmed the 30K course down to the Half Marathon distance this year. I warmed up and got on the starting line next to who I thought looked the fastest. He looked like a veteran marathoner. Lean, racing flats, New Balance racing singlet, et cetera. At the siren, we went off from the causeway near the bath house and headed to Little Nahant, following the police officer on the motorcycle who lead us through every inch of the course. I settled in behind the three men including the “veteran” until I saw Krissy about a half mile into the course. I moved over to the left as she pointed the camera. We began the climb into Little Nahant reaching the mile in 6:28.

Just after the start along Nahant Beach
Roberto Gonzalez in the middle with me on the right
Photo by KrissyK
I was fine with that pace - figuring that it would quicken which it did. I stretched out my legs on the down hills to feel out the guys. It was down to the veteran and I, leading the race through three miles. I was keeping the pace in check and still taking an inventory on who this veteran was. His watch was going off every kilometer and he was looking at the splits. Was he toying with me? Was he going to sit on me until 12 miles and sprint? I noted his breathing was a little bit more heavier than mine but he seemed calm with the effort of low sixes that we were putting down. I broke the silence when he was next to me running up toward the Angiulo’s mansion (4 miles). “How do you feel and what are you trying to run today?” He responded with a European accent that he was just here for a run. I was perplexed, not getting the answer I wanted. I opened up my stride down a hill, he matched. Fine. Time for another question to find out who this gent is so I can gauge how the next 8 miles are going to go for us. “Are you training for a marathon, if so, which one?”

I could not understand the answer, but did make comprehend: November and a reference of Spain. OK, I have a marathoner here. That is good but I need more. Time for credentials. “What are you looking to run there, you know, for a time?” He responded, and this echoed in my head for ten seconds - “hoping to run under 2:35.” I almost choked on a GU that I did not even have in my mouth. I wanted to give him my Chris Tucker and Ice Cube response of DAMN!

I said no more. We let the legs do the talking from there. He put a surge on through mile five as I thought for sure he was going to give me a 2:35 marathon knuckle sandwich all the way to the finish. I recall taking a cup of gatorade any way so he took off. I erased the gap and we hit some hills up Castle Road, Bass Point, and my favorite - Trimountain Road. He put another surge on Flash Road as I took my two Salt Tabs and Gatorade around mile 7. He put on four seconds and I started to have some doubt that I was going to close it if he kept the gas on. Fortunately, I closed it and start to throw in my game of surges through the next three miles. I was taking command and trying to not so much shake him loose but to tire him out, if possible. Splits were now under six minutes per mile. I was all business, racing, negotiating, and trying to now win this race. 5K to go, how is this going to shake out? Well, I know this course. I know the terrain and I know that we do not have to run Little Nahant on the way back to the finish. I felt an advantage there, just was not convinced he was not just sitting on me and waiting to collect a check at the end. I hammered the last decent downhill and he matched it like no big deal. It was on and I was loving it. This was going to go down to the end and I had no doubt. We passed Dunkin’s and Tides and were now on the bike path passing mile 12. I increased the tempo, ran in between pedestrians trying to shake this dude as we approached the bath house (half mile to the finish I guessed). I thought I heard him stumble, trip up, or something and then it go quiet while I pressed on to the finish. I looked back with 400m to go and was in the clear for the win. He finished 15 seconds back. I grabbed a water and came back to greet him, now on friendly, boxing gloves down terms. I shook his hand and thanked him for the battle. We never separated more than four seconds but certainly for 99% of the course, he was my shadow or I was his depending on how you look at it.

Mid flight at the finish of the Nahant Half Marathon
1:19:45, 1st place
Photo by KrissyK
My winning time of 1:19:45 is what it is. It was well earned. Did I have a chance to run faster and run quicker at the start? Yes, but would I change the approach today? No way. This was a fun chess match today. I think we both got what we wanted out of it. The veteran mentioned above is Roberto Gonzalez, from Eloibar Spain. He is going to rock the San Sebastain Marathon in November while I hope to rock a decent effort at the USATF New England Cross Country Championships. Thank you for a great race today sir. I am grateful for the company. Thanks to the officer who led the way and the North Shore Striders for the opportunity to allow me to win my first race of 2015. Full Results and a few Photos by KrissyK

Myself and Roberto who is from Elgoibar Spain
Update December 1, 2015
Roberto Gonzalez Fernandez placed 12th in the 40-45 age division, racing to a 2:40:11 at the San Sebastian Marathon a few days ago.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lone Gull 10K

The Lone Gull 10K was the last of the USATF New England Grand Prix road race series (7th) for which I have run all so far in 2015. I ran a warm up with Dan Vassallo, Joe Shairs, and Martin Tighe beyond the first and last miles of the course. It was cloudy, humid, with temps in the low 70's. I started on the far right a step in front of Dan Verrington and Dave Dunham. I was next to Nick Taormina and Arthur for the mile. Tim Van Orden was a stride ahead looking cool, calm, and collective. The next few miles rolled through Eastern Point next to Arthur. I started to feel the pace and lost touch on the next mile and back out to the water. My struggle continued along the water with a bit of head wind. Kevin Alliette was helping Michael Cooney along (teammates on Whirlaway) with words of encouragement to finish strong with 800m to go. That got me fired up and I encouraged them to give it one last push up the hill before a nice downhill into a flat finish. Michael smoked me but in pursuit, I managed to catch Katie Misuraca (BAA, Gloucester), women's winner just before the finish. My guntime of 35:50 (5:46) gave me a placing of 77th place. Our CMS masters team who was trailing BAA by one point in the series, lost to them for the 2nd time in three weeks for a respectable 2nd place for the day and 2015 series.

Garmin history and random thoughts
5:28 feeling good, racing with teammates
5:42 a little hill, saw and yelled for Bob Gillis (Team Gloucester but spectating)
5:41 into Eastern Point, sun pops out when this is the only shade for the course
5:57 Wicked Good Guy, Mike Paulin blows by and I lose touch with Arthur
5:50 OK, suck it up Jimmy
6:01 unraveling but team Whirlaway lifted my misery with 400m to go

I sucked down no less than three freeze pops after the finish line. I caught up with the mates and the competition. It was awesome to have Martin and Tivo back racing. After an asessment with John Gillis that I was blowing off a cool down, I ran a 3.5 mile cool down along the Long Beach boardwalk with him. I got back to the race awards and confirmed the team scoring. The CMS open team was 4th, masters and seniors 2nd. I now set my racing attention to some cross country racing with no marathon distractions.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

GBTC XC Festival

Nakri, Joe and I arrived at Elm Bank Reservation for a quick canopy set up for the team and to register for the GBTC XC Festival 5K. This was the second of the five USATF New England Cross Country Grand Prix races. Our open team was second in the 1st race in Manchester, while our men's masters team had the only masters team with five men. We met up with Nate Jenkins, Dan Verrington, and Joshua Perks who were already there. We headed out for a warm up to preview the course. The course was dry (no puddles or mud) even though some light rain and drizzle was about earlier in the morning. If anything, the grass was damp. I ran this course the last few years (last year 17:19 in the 5K open race) so I knew the course well. I was happy about two things today: having five guys for the masters team, and the rain holding off.  After a 10 minute delay, we got our masters 5K race started.  Joe, Josh, and I got right to the front to lead the race. I led them through the first 800 meters but took a back seat to them into the mile, 5:33. We went past the start/finish at 2K as the top three in the race which I was pretty excited about. We went past the soccer fields and I felt Josh picking it up, dropping Joe and I through mile 2 (5:39). We hit the rooted trail along the Charles River with good command of the top three overall but l lost a few more strides to them. Josh (17:07), Joe (17:21) and I (17:29) finished in that exact order. Dan and Nakri were 9th and 21st. Our combined cross country scoring (finish place vs all other teams with the five scorers) beat all other teams. We got a team pie for which Joe picked out Blueberry. However, he nor Nakri wanted to cut it up so it came back to my house. Here is to the rest of the cross country season. 

GBTC XC Festival results

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Seasons 20K

This morning was race #6 of the USATF New England Grand Prix Road Race series. The Nagog Seasons 20K in Acton was a new race to the Grand Prix this year and was the 3rd annual. Joe Shairs and I arrived rather early by accident, under estimating how close Acton was to Peabody. We decided to drive the course leveraging two cell phones: one with the left right text directions (not easy without distance marked down) of the course, and the other: GPS. We read Dave Dunham’s course preview over a week ago but seeing the course first hand proved valuable. It was a roller coaster of a course. We got back to the race parking lot and still had almost 80 minutes to the 9:00 start time which would work to our advantage. We picked up our numbers, greeted some CMS men and got back to Joe’s car only to find it locked with the keys and our racing gear inside. What to do? No problem. Just call the wife, Cyndi, and she’ll bring the extra set of keys. Would she get to us in time before the race. Yep. She arrived fifteen minutes before the race. We got our racing flats, singlets, and ran the half mile over to the starting line without feeling rushed. 

I broke this race down into four 5K increments. I planned on going out conservatively, with the idea of picking ducks off in the 2nd half of the race. In theory anyway…..a 5:39 mile next to Dan Verrington and Nick Taormina. “It is what it is” I said to Nick and he agreed. The next mile was a touch over six minutes so you know what this course is all about. Now after three miles, the course drops generously into a valley as I recall while previewing the course. Lot’s of shade too. Thankfully. I worked the next few miles, reeling in ducks. No doubt, I had the guys wondering WTF I was doing zipping along so early. I figured to use that stretch to help me catch up to some BAA guys and close the gap between Joe Shairs and I. It worked as I was now in the center of sleepy Acton and just about at 10K with sights on Al Bernier and his group of DJ Raboin (almost a CMS runner two years ago), Kevin ONeil, and Christopher Lawrence. 

It took a few miles of rolling hills but I caught and passed all in that group except Kevin. Al was taking some water carefully when I passed, hoping he would tag along and rip the last few miles as I was running out of gas heading into 10 miles. It seemed everyone was hurting. Except Kevin Gravina, Christopher Lawrence and Ethan Nedeau who hustled past me. I managed to fight Chris off soon after but Kevin and Ethan buried me from there to the finish. The last mile was welcomed but it was a long, hot, and sunny straight away on Rt 2A. I finished in 34th place and a paced time of 1:13:23 (5:55/mile). Al and Joe were right behind me, but there was a sea of the blue and yellow BAA singlets. The CMS masters team finished 2nd to BAA. Tough one considering Todd Callaghan and Gregory Putnam were on the DL. The open team finished 3rd, less than 20 ticks away from 2nd place Whirlaway once the race timing updates JJ's team affiliation. The Seniors team also place 3rd overall.

Seasons 20K race results