Monday, October 24, 2016

My apologies - Mayors Cup - Franklin Park Open 5K

This was my second year tour of the 5K within the Mayor's Cup races at Franklin Park. This is, after all, the New England Masters Grand Prix race (my 1st GP XC race this year after 3 passed already). I used to joke that the 5K was the Junior Varsity race at Mayor’s Cup while I was still capable of bringing up the rear in the 8K. Times have changed. I apologize. This is where my slowing stride belongs. My last race in the big boy race, Men’s Championship 8K, was when I turned 40 in 2014. I managed a respectable 27:58 to help the team score with just five guys.

Joe and I arrived just before the ladies 6K. We got our numbers and parked our gear 50 yards away from our traditional spot so as to take advantage of the sun and warmth. The temps were warmer than expected although the wind was slicing into our grill at the start and anytime we had raced toward the wilderness loop. A two mile warm up with the team found the course to be surprisingly dry after Saturday’s rain. This was to my benefit as I left my racing shoes at home (realized this about 15 minutes into the drive to Franklin Park). The training shoes had to do and I worried no more.

I stood next to Dan Verrington at the start with Tim Van Orden, Gregory Putnam, Todd Callaghan, Joe Shairs, and Arthur Besse in our non-existent cross country starting box. Our seven bolted across the field among the three hundred strong seeking a cross country battle under sunny skies and foliage falling with the wind. I held the far right line, a step behind Arthur Besse. I ran up next to former GBTC teammate John Blouin after a half mile – still crowded. I signaled to cut in front to get on the heels of BAA’s Christopher Lawrence which John allowed. I heard a mile split of 5:32. I moved on dodging the only mud bath charged up (more like crawled up) Bear Cage Hill. Arthur, 5th man for our team, started to gap me on the exit of the hill. His workout on this course weeks prior proved to pay off.

Now facing the wind, heading toward mile two, I considered ordering a hot dog and coke from a vendor. However, I could not find enough money. Onward. Arthur Besse was wheeling and dealing a can of whoop ass on me and his company through shade and shelter within the Wilderness loop. I had a battle with a young pup exiting the loop out to the field. I was drained but managed to hold him off.

I expected a group to blow past me on the final stretch but it never came. I reached the line in 18:14 and 26th place, 6th CMS runner. Arthur buried me in the last mile, passed two BAA runners with his 17:51. As slow as I felt and ran in the last mile, no one passed me and beat me to the finish line. Despite the awesome effort from the five CMS gents ahead of me, the team fell 3 points shy (30 to 33) to the BAA. I waited until today to lookup what I ran last year, 17:36. If only I could have run that time yesterday…..

Crossing the finish line in the 5K at Franklin Park
Photo credit to Granite State Race Services

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ravenswood Trail Race

A couple of new faces at the Ravenswood Trail Race in Gloucester were abound, however, the usual old guys including teammate Todd Callaghan, David Long wearing Team Gloucester, and Chris Smith (SRR) were on the start line. This mid-October 4.1 mile trail race did not disappoint with peak foliage. I settled into 5th after 800m before the descent into the swamp. I felt very unbalanced on the boardwalks. It was scary how much fear and caution I had despite them being dry and clear.

The four out front were gone. Fortunately, I had Chris Smith right behind me pushing and keeping my attention on the up and down trails. Half way through, I surged a few times but Chris was hanging on like glue. It took a longer climb and push through some discomfort to shake him loose and have a quiet presence for the last 1.5 miles. I managed to see David Long once in that last mile that had a long enough stretch. There was no chance to close in. I finished 5th overall, and fourth master with a  time of 29:01. My last race here was in 2014 with a time of 27:53. I ran a cool down with a group before hanging out for the raffles and awards.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

BAA Half Marathon

This was my first race since July (excluding any fun runs and relays) that was not designated as Championship via USATF or USATF New England. I put the BAA Half Marathon on my radar over the summer for a few reasons. First, Krissy was running it. Secondly, I wanted a tune-up race in case I lost my mind to enter a Fall Marathon. Lastly and selfishly, I planned on going to a car show at the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline which was just a few miles away from the race. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for the car show. Rain and wind consumed the day but I refused to let it dampen the race.

I was not thrilled about the logistics of getting to and from this race. There is no parking at Franklin Park. Almost 7K runners are required to park at one of three designated parking garages and shuttle in and out. Krissy and I parked in one of two South Boston garages offered. The bus rides was about 20 minutes to the race at 6:20. I arrived to the soggy Franklin Park more than an hour before the race start at 8AM. I grabbed my race shirt and hung out with Krissy, Maryanne, Katie, and Liz under a tree to shelter from the rain as much as possible.

I got into my racing flats and warmed up one mile before getting right into the front of the race with at least twenty five elite runners who were seeking the top 10 cash prizes for men and women. My bib number 156 hardly gave me any credibility to line up with men who can run 1:02 for a Half Marathon so I backed off several rows back where surprisingly, it was not shoulder to shoulder crowded. The start of over 6K runners got going out of Franklin Park and headed toward Brookline with a generous downhill through slight ponding and puddles. 

I looked around for some familiar faces and or running clubs. Both were rare. I did see John Sullivan and Justin Renz from the HFC Striders. I hung in the back pocket of them down the hill to a blistering 5:48 mile. Too hot for a sustainable pace so I backed off in mile two to a low six minute mile. Titus Mitunda came by and I struck a conversation because I was scoping out the Monson Half Marathon race and noticed he finished in the money last year as a Senior age grouper. I asked him if he was headed to Monson? He was like, “what?” Yeah, “are you doing the Monson Half?” He finally caught on, smiled with a yes.

Soaked at the BAA Half Marathon among the umbrellas
With the HFC dudes up ahead and pulling away, I decided that Titus was good company. We went back and forth over the next several rolling miles without a word. The course rolled but nothing crazy during the “closed to vehicle traffic” course. I remember a 180 degree turn so that we were then running with the runners behind us on the other side of the street about 4 miles in. The Central Mass Striders were set up at the mile 6 water stop which was cool as I got some love with my team singlet. I grabbed a Clif Shot just before the stop. That was my only fuel other than Gatorade or Water replenishment throughout the race. 

Titus fell back at mile 9 on the approach to the golf course (up a hill) near Franklin Park. We did a one mile out and back on an access road. This road was tricky with a few spots almost flooded across. It rolled just like a golf course would too. Mile 10 was pretty much at the 180 degree turn around. I tried to pick up the pace and was looking forward to pushing the last three miles. However, I neglected to factor in the longest climb of the day past mile 11 as we rose back up to the main entrance of the Franklin Park zoo. I got a calf twinge at 11.75 trying to hold of a BAA runner (he went on to beat me by 10 seconds).

It was like another world in the Franklin Park Zoo. It was quiet and peaceful with animal exhibits on both sides.  The course exited into Franklin Park (recall having to jump off a curb which is dangerous). We were then running along the bike path past mile 1 of the Franklin Park Cross Country races. Less than a half mile remained before entering White Stadium for a 150m run on the track to a straightaway finish. My chip time was 1:22:52 (1:22:54 gun time), good for 70th place. 

I hate to compare recent results at the distance but I was almost four minutes slower than the New Bedford Half Marathon in March. Racing under 6:00 pace for anything shorter than 10 miles now might be a thing of the past. I got a BAA medal and walked with the other finishers through the grass and out of the stadium where photographers tackled us, giving us a Hollywood moment posing like a rock star. I got under a tent for a B.Good burger. 

I got cold and was soaked to the bone. I went after my checked in bag and was greeted with about 25 other runners digging through the pile of “1-500” checked bags. My bag got moved and I could not find it. I turned back and found it several feet from where I dropped it off. I had enough will to change my top layer and put my wet jacket back on and shuffle off to the shuttle about a half mile away. The heat from the bus felt so good. Everyone was in pretty good spirits. I was back at the car in the parking garage about 30 minutes later – now changed into my warm clothes.

In reflection, this is a good race. Nice hlly scenic course. Only one runner passed me in the last half hour of the race and I was not exactly running negative splits. It is as professionally run as the Boston Marathon so kudos to Dave McGilvary and the BAA. Logistics and all, not a bad event to try for next year with hopefully better weather.

2016 BAA Half Marathon Results

Place: 70/6205
Net Time: 1:22:52
In Division: 5/354 (M40-44)
5 mile checkpoint: 31:11
10 mile checkpoint: 1:03:03

Monday, October 3, 2016

Syracuse Festival of Races 5K - US National Masters 5K Championship

Gregory Putnam put a call out back in August to see if there was any CMS runners interested in the 2016 US National Masters 5K Championship in Syracuse, NY (Festival of Races).  I raised my hand. Joe Shairs and Tim Van Orden did as well. This was going to be a solid team competing in the 40+ age group where 3 men score. The Atlanta Track Club has placed 1st for as long as I went back in the results (at least six years back). Dave Dunham and Tim Van Orden have run what is known as a fast course in the past so they gave me all I needed to know – it’s a fast out and back with a small rise at the start and back up and over at 2.8 miles.

The room was booked and the car was packed on Saturday morning with Gregory, Joe and I heading west on Rt 90 for about 5 hours to the Maplewood Inn – race site HQ. Joe and I did an easy 5 miles in the afternoon and then we grabbed our bib numbers. You know it is a serious event when you have the age group bib required for the back of your singlet. The three of us had dinner at the Blue Spruce, hotel restaurant. My Caprese salad with steak was awesome. Francis Burdett and Bill Newsham swung by before they got seated. FB recently ran a 33:XX 10K in South Africa! They both reassured me that the 5K course was quick.

I woke up on race day at 5:20 for a walk across the street with Joe for a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts. New Yorkers do not know what a “regular” means for coffee at Dunks on the North Shore J Back to the room, I whipped up some Oatmeal with Craisins. We left the hotel for the race just after 7:10. The race started at 8:50 and the course was about 20 minutes away. I wanted to get there early to scope out the course with Tivo and the team.  We arrived to an extravaganza of activity – tents, balloons, vendors, raffles – all within steps of the athletic facilities at Syracuse University. Team jackets from various areas of the country were milling around. We ran the first 1.25 miles of the course turned and ran back. It was going to be a fast one as the weather was perfect – cloudy, no wind, and maybe high 50’s.

I lined up and started with Joe, three rows back. The race bolted out and got up and over the hill. It was no problem. I looked ahead after 500m and Joe was about 7 seconds up on me. I pushed through the 1st mile in 5:17 and was in a sea of masters that I did not recognize. The course was set up with kilometers as well as mile markers which was cool. I came upon the turn-around which was wide in order to run around an island. I saw the leaders heading back. Greg and Tim were next to each other, about 20 runners deep. Joe was about 20 seconds up on me. I started to slow up and I could tell. Mile two was around 11 minutes. I tried to hang in and get through the hill at 2.75 in one piece. 

I lost a few places but held on to stride out the last 400 meters without giving up too much. My time was 17:29 (gun time) or 17:27 (chip). That placed me 55th among masters and 79th with the open runners combined. My 2.5K splits were 8:27 and 9:00. Yes, 33 seconds slower in the 2nd half of the race. I felt that too. It was great to air it out early and see what the legs and lungs could handle.

Greg (15:53 gun), Tim (15:58 gun), & Joe (16:50 gun) placed the Central Mass Striders to a 2nd place finish behind the Atlanta Track Club and ahead of the Syracuse Track Club in the 40+ age group. Greg and Tim placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in their 5 year age groups. We had to hit the road early so we missed the awards that were held several hours later at the hotel. Tivo hung out and picked up the plaque for the team.  

Greg, myself, and Joe an hour before the start of the race
Records broken news story and video from Central NY