Monday, March 26, 2012

Equilibrium & Disequilibrium: An Ras Mor (3/25/12)

Daniel (12) starts to sprint away from Bradley (99) at the last turn

Race: An Ras Mor, 5K
Location: Central Square, Cambridge
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual Time: 19:15

For me 5Ks are often relay events. The first mile is run by Amped-Up Jesse who is ready to run through a wall (in a 5:30 mile). The second mile is run by Quitter Jesse. This Jesse (who is probably owes most of his quitter mentality to the rough shape he was forced into by Amped-Up Jesse running through walls at 5:30/miles) is ready to drop out of the race at a moment's notice largely because he hurts and is a little tired thanks to the mile his teammate ran (stupid Amped-Up Jesse). The third mile is run by less emotional, Rational Jesse. Rational Jesse responds quite well to the mess that both Amped-Up Jesse and Quitter Jesse have placed him in. Rational Jesse realizes the energy reserves he has and the course ahead and puts in a good mile. At some point I will run a great 5K when I can find an equilibrium for each of the three Jesses.

This search for equilibrium might be found in the work of former Central Square resident and Nobel Prize winner John Nash. Nash "discovered" that cartelizing a market or game is often better for the producers or players. Players or producers will be willing to sacrifice a chance at the most optimal outcome for a guarantee of the second or third most optimal. Obviously it's not that simple. People don't win the Nobel Prize for stating common sense. They win the Nobel Prize for taking common sense, rejecting it and then restating it in a long involved math equation (such as the Nash Equilibrium Equation):

\forall i,x_i\in S_i, x_i \neq x^*_{i} :  f_i(x^*_{i}, x^*_{-i}) \geq f_i(x_{i},x^*_{-i}).

One almost thought that as the An Ras Mor was in Central Square - once home of Nash and near MIT where he once taught, the power of Nash's equation would seep into the three Jesses and their relay.

If you thought that - you were wrong.

The first third to half mile, I was putting in around 5:15. Amped Up Jesse finished the first mile at 5:50. Quitter Jesse then spent the long not steep climb up to Harvard Square trading off reasons in his mind reasons not to quit with swears directed at Amped-Up Jesse and crossed the 2 mile line at 12:16. Rational Jesse got his shit together and brought in a last mile around 6:20 and a good sprint after the turn.

The battle for first was great according to those who saw it. First and second each had the lead at one point during the last one tenth of a mile. Lee Danforth pulled off the win with a 15:59.

Bradley Harris and Daniel O'Donoghue finished a duel with 12 year old Daniel nipping Bradley at the line.

- The O'Donoghue boys swept the three podium spots for the under 15 age group
- Jon May won the Masters
- Robert Cipriano took second in his age group
- Big PRs by Kimi and Kate Daniels
- Breakfast Chris who was Shanghaied into running the race put in a monstah 17:30

- Seth had a PR at the Eastern States 20 Miler
- Carl Wagoner finished his first Half Marathon (on the most confusing course map ever) with a 1:44 (after sleeping through a Half last weekend).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tied up in Knots: New Bedford Half Marathon (3/18/12)

This is somewhere around Mile 6, the woman in the green hat is the one who kept trying to shove me out of the way from joining the group she was too slow for.

“The sailor, from the very nature of his craft, has a dependence upon rope and a consequent familiarity with knots that is demanded by no other workman. It follows that most important knots we owe both their origin and their names to the requirements of a ship at sea.”
Clifford Warren Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots

Race: New Bedford Half Marathon
Location: New Bedford, MA
Goal Time: 1:27:19
Actual Time: 1:29:47
It is not surprising that if anyone was going to write the book of knots, it would be a native of the old fishing and whaling port of New Bedford. In 1944, Clifford Warren Ashley did just that. His work, The Ashley Book of Knots, is the Gray’s Anatomy of the knot world. Before Sunday’s half marathon - while waiting for the restroom in the National Park’s visitor center – I carefully studied the massive sailing ship model in the main room. (complete with tiny knots throughout its rigging.)
Shroud Knot:

Shroud Knot – Ashley’s Book of Knots (ABoK) # 1575 - Start
The Shroud knot can be used to bind a cluster of ropes together. While the Shroud knot appears to be the double all knot, it is not. Additionally it is “less apt to distort.”
Mayhem and Clusterfuck are two words that aptly describe the starting line. Jammed into a block were nearly 3000 people – 850 of whom were about were to run under 8 minutes. While a third of them would run under 8 minute miles there was only room for about 300 of us between the 8 minute mile sign and the start line. I stood OUTSIDE the starting corral with half a dozen other SRR runners as we awaited the start.
It was only once the race started that I was able to get into the corral and then into the actual race.

Water Knot
Water Knot – ABoK #296: Miles 1-7
Ashley calls the water knot a “compact and reliable” knot used to combine two or more ropes together.
After fighting through the crowds, I caught up with Megan, Mariah and Bradley about a mile in. I figured this was a good group to work with and who were running near my goal pace. I would attempt to bind myself to the other three and we could balance back and forth. I knew I would come in handy through the head winds when we reached the sea.
Until the hills at 2 and 3 I was a hanging well and bound with them through my water knot. But as I fought my way up the hill at Mile 3, they slowly started to get away from me. I kept both Bradley and Megan (and I assume Mariah, but she is shorter than the other two and can hide well) in sight for mile after mile (although they were getting smaller and smaller).
Mile 7 is not where I lost them from my sight, but where I gave up with ever catching them. It is also where the wind hit.

Bowline – AboK #1013: Miles 7-11
The Bowline is considered the “King of Knots.” It is mentioned by John Smith in 1627: “so firmly made and fastened by the bridles into the cringles of the sails, they will break, or the sail split before it will slip.”
Three things hit me in rapid succession to kill any momentum I might have had. First, the famous New Bedford Half Marathon headwind. Victor wasn’t lying that will kill your momentum. The headwind was just a battle for me. As each time I had tried to join a group leading up to it, either a) I had not been able to keep up, or b) kept being shoved out of the group by a BAA woman. The bowline keeps the sail tied that it can stay steady in the toughest winds.
Second, Alex White passed me. This was less disconcerting and more surprising considering he should have been 7-9 minutes AHEAD of me. “Hey, Jesse.” “What the fuck are you doing here? Prompt as always?” “Well… you know, good thing for chip timing.”
The third hit was Tim Harden passing me. I felt like crap and like my best miles were behind me. Tim meanwhile definitely had his best miles ahead of him. As he passed me he said something like: “Wow, this late in the race and we can still see Alex White.” (not for long)
Anchor Bend

Anchor Bend – AboK# 1723: Finish
The Anchor bend is for tying the end of the rope to another piece – such as the anchor. I definitely was using this on the last two miles.
I had the image of Mile 12 being a long hill. And it was. The four miles around Rodney French Blvd had finished off any image of having a great race and now the hill pretty much destroyed any sense I would have a good race. Up the hill felt like I was dragging a two-ton anchor behind me. I was damn near just pulling off and walking in when I came across Sean nearly at the top. Perhaps the best positive advice I’ve ever gotten from someone mid-race. (Normally you hear crap like “You can make it!” or “Almost there!”) Sean however said: “Almost at the top; now is the time to work.” Rational, clear and positive. And I did. I fought my way to the “top of the hill” and then through the false flat at the top. Finally I poured down the last 400 that was straight downhill and a right into the finish line. As I approached the announcer said: “They come in all shapes and sizes to run the New Bedford Half; here comes Jesse Morrow from Somerville.” (I don’t know if he was being funny or a jerk – I didn’t care.)
1:29:47; not a Personal Record, but my SECOND fastest Half Marathon ever.
Taut-line Hitch – AboK #62: Bringing it all together
Somerville Road Runners teams took 4th in the open male and open female and third in the master’s male and senior male categories.
Robert Cipriano won the Male 50 category
Kate Hails won her age group.
The PRs I know of included: Bradley Harris, Sara Radkiewicz, Seth Maleri, Mariah Tinger, Korynn Stoyanoff, Keiran Condon, Daphne Cardamone and Aharon Wright.
Also, Scott Abrams broke 1:30 for the first time at the Quincy Half.
Congrats to Brendan who won the Quincy 5K.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

20 Miles, 4 Killah Bees and Seven Gables: Black Cat 20 Relay (3/4/12)

“But oh, I am so dry! O take me to a brewery, And leave me there to die”
~ Anonymous, parody of the equally obscure “Little Jim”
Race: Black Cat 10, 20 and Relay
Location: Salem, MA
Goals: 1) win relay, 2) 2:10:00, 3) beat Kieran
Time: 2:08:26, 1st in the Relay

Let’s assume it is a scale of 1 to 10: the light-headedness of standing up too quickly after two beers is a 1; and, wandering around at 5 am looking for the subway after 10 hours on the Reeperbahn where Bjoern had taken Andrew, Gabe and you through the various whorehouses and dive bars Hamburg has to offer on the eve of Reunification Day is more like a 12.[1] When I showed up at Bradley’s Sunday morning – after Saturday evening with the Wrights and Greco – I was probably a 5.5.
Fortunately for the start of the race, I was already down to a 4 on the meter.

For the Black Cat 20 Mile Relay, I put together a team of SRR’s B-Class runners – myself, British Tom, Bradley and Anthony. While we aren’t going to light the world on fire – or win the Penn Relays – we expected our average 6:30 mile pace would have a real good chance of winning.

Unfortunately, I was a little less sure once I got to the Start line for leg one. I was a bit confused from my carbing up the night before with boilermakers. But also the race started odd. Kieran mentioned that there was no National Anthem; I noticed that nobody came up and spent a few minutes on a bull horn thanking everyone. Instead, some guy ran to the start line and said: “GO!”

Off all of us went, charging toward Marblehead. I had no idea how many people were running the relay, how many were running the 10 mile race, nor how many were running the 20 mile race. All I knew was I wanted to stay near the front in case there were relay runners in the lead. By about ¾ of a mile, I realized the total stupidity of such a plan. I looked at my watch and I was en route to a 5:45 mile. Whoa, I better slow down.

Fortunately for me – and for those who might be in radius of my vomit – I had sobered up by a little more than a mile into the race. I slowly started to gain on others who had started out too fast as well. By the time I got to Marblehead, I was probably in 12th overall. However, Marblehead greets you with the only hill on the course. Those who were running my speed but doing 10 or 20 miles had no problem with the hill. Those running 4.5 miles around me (well, I guess just me) had to slow considerably.

Despite this slowing for the hill, I was well under the 6:30s we’d planned for this race, well ahead of any other relay team and ahead of Kieran. At 5k, in fact, I had easily run my second fastest 5k – in the neighborhood of 19:15. While the last mile was slower, I still pulled into the exchange point at 27:25 (~6:12s) and did the reverse hand off with British Tom. (This is where instead of giving him a baton, Tommy handed me my sweatshirt and his jacket.)
As Tom ran off back toward Salem and Anthony at the Leg 2/3 exchange point, I wandered into the Deveroux Beach Parking Lot – in case I need to vomit in peace.

I now had nothing to do for about an hour. I could a) jog back to the Starting Line or b) wait around and then jog back with Anthony. I chose b).

Bradley jogged from the start line after parking the car. He showed up about 10 – 15 minutes before the leaders of the 20 Miler, and about 25 before Anthony arrived. Throughout the wait, other relay teams were impressed that he had jogged from the Start Line (because that made 10 miles while everyone else in the race was running at least that?)
By the time Anthony arrived at the exchange point, Kieran had already come through. And he was enough ahead that I knew Bradley would never catch him. Bradley knew it too and didn’t.

Bradley brought it in to finish 2:08:26 – (6:25/ mile pace). 15 minutes ahead of second place Salem Fire Department and 1 minute behind Kieran – bastard.
Now a weekend off of racing before I have to try to hold off Alex White in the Grand Prix standings.

Tino Pai!

[1] Photo Hamburg 2007 FatJesse, Andrew, Gabe, Bjoern taking vodka with packets of kool-aid like stuff in cement mixer type shots. Thank God there was Astra to wash it down with. (Photo taken by Ananeshka)