Monday, February 27, 2012

Wind Song: Hyannis Half Marathon (2/26/12)

Joan Benoit Samuelson - 1984 Olympic Marathon

Race: Hyannis Half Marathon

Location: Hyannis, MA

Goal Time: 1:31:42

Actual Time: 1:29:25

The 2011 Hyannis Half Marathon was a crappy day. It was just cold enough to snow; the ground was just warm enough to make the snow into slush. Afterwards we all huddled into the Hyannis Convention Center Ballroom trying to dry off and warm up. The course had been rough and I was out of shape. Like Sarah, I swore I would never run this race again.

This weekend I ran it again. (Sarah did as well).


On Saturday, I had been worried about the wind. Hyannis and Orleans had seen gusts of 61 mph (100 km/h). Doing a light jog around Somerville, the winds had blown sand and trash about in wild swirls that made me rewrite Sandburg in my head:

“Long ago I learned to run,

On an open road where the wind swept …”

I only really remember the beginning and the end of “Wind Song”, so it made rewriting it on the fly difficult; “Crabapples” was the better poem from that collection, anyway. The line: “Give these crabapples your softening gold, October sun…” runs chills up my neck. But I digress.

Fortunately the wind had died down by Sunday morning. Slightly inland at Hyannis Center, the wind was only breezy enough to cool the skin as a reminder it still is not spring. After a brief warm up jog of around a mile, I got to the starting line and tried to make my way toward the front of the race. This was completely hampered at the 8/min mile area where nobody would really let me forward and there didn’t really appear to be any room. Alas


The first three miles I really was feeling out how much I could really run with last week’s Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler still in my legs. At mile 3 the race briefly kisses the beach and the wind whirls sand into the eyes of the runners. As we took the right onto the beach road a guy sprinted into the sand around me. I realized he might be a Clydesdale, so I decided to keep my eye on him. Once we fought the bit of gusty headwind along the beach road I slowly pulled the suspected Clydesdale back. Within a half mile or so, I caught the suspected Clydesdale and passed him. He passed me again. Then by mile four I caught him again, passed him again ~ and never saw him again.

The longest stretch of beach road is along Craigsville Beach at Mile 7. We ran into the beach and I was leading a big pack. As we hit the beach road it became a gusty headwind again. The pack I had been leading disappeared from my peripheral vision. I looked back to see a line of 5 guys using 6’3” 220lb Jesse to block the wind. Bastards! I never find a 6’5” 250-pounder running my speed that I can hide behind. Coming out of the beach some one of the refreshed runners blew past me, just slow enough for me to consider to chase – but too fast to actually do so.

I stayed with the same pack until mile 10. At 10 I looked at my watch – 1:09:09. This meant I had to break a 21 minute 5K to still beat 1:30:00. I picked it up a bit (or an iota as my old track coach would have said. Not that he ever told us how much an iota was.) At 11, the guy in the Timberman 70.3 shirt I’d been pacing off started his long sprint and I set my goal to “stay near him.” Basically, I accelerated half as much as him and kept him on a cyclist’s elastic where I could get back to him.

The last mile was a build-up of speed. At each quarter mile I picked it up a little more. There is a turn right at 13 into the Convention Center parking lot. I was in an all-sprint (with a tough right turn thrown in at the end). Pulling in under 1:30 – beating my previous PR (2011 Johnny Kelley) by 8 ½ minutes and my 2011 Hyannis by 11 minutes. As I went through my recovery, I heard the announcement of Joan Benoit Samuelson’s finish – a minute and a half behind me. (Sure, she might be 54 and she might have injured herself a few weeks ago skiing; but, I still beat an Olympic gold medalist and USATF Hall of Famer.)

“Who can ever forget

Listening to the wind go by

Counting its PRs

And tossing old times away?”

SRR Shoutouts:

Aharon Wright, Carrie-Anne DeDeo and Kate O’Malley all finished with Personal Records.

Aaron Beer ran his third best half marathon, ever.

Adrian Bellando beat his last years time by 11 minutes.

Tino Pai!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Need a Bigger Boat: Martha's Vineyard 20 (2/18/12)

The gang on the ferry back to Cape Cod

Race: Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler
Location: Vineyard Haven, MA
Goal Time: 2:24:00
Actual Time: 2:20:35 (1st place, Clydesdales)

"This race, swallow you whole"

20 Miles is a long race. While shorter than a marathon, it's still a beast of a race. I targeted Martha's Vineyard as a trial race for my marathon. I wanted to know if I could maintain my goal marathon pace and properly fuel myself. The course is pretty flat except for gentle hills between 13-19.

Of course what makes the race is the Vineyard itself - a gorgeous island of 15,000 year round residents. The island is filled with beautiful beaches, lovely little villages with Victorian era cottages painted like gingerbread houses, and in the middle is a large state forest.

Like Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard had been a whaling hub in the 19th Century. It has been able to remake itself as a vacation destination on the East Coast. It was even the site of Amity Island in Jaws.
"Gonna need a bigger boat."

The race is brilliantly planned to start at the ferry port in Vineyard Haven. With the race due to start at 11, the ferry from Wood's Hole that pulled in right at 10:15 was packed with wicking shirts and talk of Boston Marathon goals.

At the start of the race I ran out a little fast. After a brief unplanned stop, I caught up with Elizabeth, Mariah and Megan around mile four in the old port area of Oak Bluffs and had settle into a nice stride.

Out of Oak Bluffs the course followed a duney stretch of the Nantucket Sound for 5 or so miles before heading inland at the 10 mile mark.

At 12 miles, the course turned into the state forest (and around the airport) and directly into the wind. Mariah and Megan who were near me were in the top 10 among women and we saw two more women who could probably be caught. While I was going to "line up to be a hot lunch," I knew I was in the lead of the Clydesdales. I suggested the two of them slip in behind me while I put 7 minute miles into the wind as long as I could and maybe we could catch the women up ahead. This worked for a few miles.

Around mile 16 there was a small hill. Mariah was ready to pick it up a bit and I was ready to take a little off the pace. She passed me and slowly over the next 4 miles disappeared from my view. I knew all I had to do was fight to the mile 18 marker and then I'd be fine - the last two will complete themselves.

By 18 and a half I was feeling good. I was coming in way under my goal time. I hadn't slowed too much - ran 7:20s for the last 3 miles. AND, it looked like I might actually beat Megan Hyland. At 19 and a half, those hopes were dashed as she dashed by me.

I pulled in at 2:20:35 seconds: 3.5 minutes ahead of my goal time, 2 minutes ahead of 2nd in the Clydesdales and 15 seconds behind Megan. (While she beat me by a good 2 and a half minutes at Derry, in the other three races this year Megan has beat me by a combined less than 30 seconds.)

Shoutouts go to Mariah and Elizabeth for Age Groups Second Places; and Deb and Megan for Age Group wins.

Also a shoutout to Barry for pulling off a 1 second PR in a 20 Mile race.

And an additional shoutout to Korynn for her 20 Mile PR (not that it's apparently "anything to be proud of" ~ Coach Tim)

"I used to hate the water."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Race, Super PR: Super 5K (2/5/12)

Tim Harden (263) and me (223) before he destroyed me.
Frank Georges (360) and St. Anthony of Jersey (82) also in the frame.

Race: Super 5K
Location: Lowell, MA
Goal Time: 19:17
Actual Time: 18:43
Place: 41st Overall, 2nd in the "Linebacker" division.

This morning there was much lamenting the Patriots defeat in my office. What had seemed so destined to be ring number 4 was taken by excellent front line play on both sides of the ball by the Giants (especially Jason Pierre Paul on the Defensive End and David Baas at the Center). I told one of the attorney's that I thought it was a great game despite poor play by the skill players. He commented that he wished he could have the same emotional detachment that I had.

Easy, I said, have your own athletics to get emotionally involved in.

Super Bowl Sunday this year offered just that.


Jim Rhoades' annual Super 5K is held on Super Bowl Sunday every year. This year there were two "races-within-a-race" that interested me; and, for which I had far more emotional involvement.

1. The "Linebacker" Division. Cleverly named Clydesdales; while 225lb+ was the "lineman" division.

2. The SRR Grand Prix "Race for 15th Place"

At the starting I noticed Amy had not listened Dan & I's request to get Tim Harden really drunk on Saturday night. Ergo, Dan and I would have to actually try to beat him for the linebacker division the old fashioned way - with our feet.

My game plan was simple. Run with Tim Harden, hope he dies toward Mile 3 and I have enough to beat the others in the race for 15th.

We put in a 5:45 Mile 1. Now, I have learned that regardless of pace if you don't feel like you are running fast then you are on a good sustainable pace. That 5:45 felt fast.

Mile 2 we slowed all the way to 5:55. That 5:55 ALSO felt fast. But I had been keeping up with him and felt maybe in Mile 3 he would die and I could get by him.

Unfortunately, that's when Kate Hails passed us. Not only did Tim not fade as I moved to snatch the Linebacker title. He picked up the pace to keep up with Kate. I followed suit for three, maybe four, steps and realized the insanity of such a move.

I spent the last mile cheering on the SRRs who were now passing me as I slowed to a 6:25. (Part of my cheering apparently screwed up Tommy B who was trying to sneak up on Bradley. Bradley was alerted to the danger: "That little Brit is coming," he said to himself).

The last turn and the last quarter mile were rough, rough rough for me. With Victor's encouragement, I just desperately hung on while trying not to vomit.

I came across the line at what I thought was a Personal Record by a few seconds, only to realize I misread the clock and had a one minute PR!. BEAST MODE again.


As race three of Katie O's SRR Grand Prix, Somerville was out in force. 84 out of the 446 runners were from SRR.

Tim Harden, Korynn, Tommy B, Aharon, SoRad, Seth Maleri and Bradley all had massive PRs. (Tim also won the Linebacker category).

Kath Hardcastle took 2nd for women

SRR's fastest couple, Alex White and Kate Hails, had matching 3rd Places

Megan Hyland, Joe O'Leary, Mariah Tinger, Jennifer Rappaport, and Paul Hammond all went home with age group wins.