Tuesday, July 24, 2012

5280 feet: the mass ave m1le (7/22/12)

Tim, me and Urvi after the Mile.

Race: Mass Ave Mile
Location: Cambridge, MA
Goal Time: 5:30
Actual Time: 5:33 (Adult PR!)

I passed the quarter mile clock at 72 seconds!  My internal Keith Jackson voice hit: “Whoa Nelly.” If I continued running at this pace I would break my all-time record for the mile.  The one I did when I was 17 and used to run the mile every week.  Well, looks like I’m in trouble. Not much I can do about now – GO For it.

The Mass Ave Mile is a new event in Cambridge.  Starting in Porter Square and finishing in front of Harvard, it just runs straight down Massachusetts Avenue.  They set up clocks every ¼ mile for updates.  Tim said he forgot to run the tangents; I noticed few tangents to run except for into Harvard Square.

I passed the half mile clock at 2:30!  After such a fast quarter mile I figured my race was over anyways.  Might as well try to keep up the INSANE pace I had started.  What did Joe say? You might think your banking time, “but, the bank charges interest.”  It was now time for me to pay up.

I had feared that the start of the race would be a big cluster fuck. It was the first year (always a bad thing) AND not being headed up by a runner or normal race director.  I was wrong.  They had managed to place an obvious divide between under 5:20 and over 5:20.  Tim, John and I stood right on the divide.  This was good for both John and Tim as they were able to run with the groups of runners who were their respective speeds.  It was bad for me because I got sucked up into the people running John and Tim’s respective speeds.  (See: The aforementioned Keith Jackson impression.)

At three quarters of a mile I was at four flat.  This was odd since for the most part I was passing people.  However, I had “lost” 12 seconds on that quarter alone.  But that was okay, with another 90 second quarter I would still run a 5:30!

After the finish line we were escorted down Kennedy to Winthrop Square where there was a good light breakfast spread with bagels and coffee and what not ; and a little mini-runners expo.  The awards were then held on the grass outside Grendel’s. 

The finish line was in sight as we made the gentle right into the Square (a tangent Tim apparently did not run).  5:22!  “C’mon!” I yelled to the guy next to me: “5:30!”  Alas, it was not to be.  I came across at 5:33 – still an adult PR but at least 5 if not 10 seconds slower than I could have run without a CRAZY first quarter.

Tim finished at a blazing 4:55!  Urvi came in 6 seconds faster than her mile from earlier this year.

A Thursday Lament on the Death of Odd Distanced Races: Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K (7/19/12)

The Gang after the race (Notice Karen's finisher AND first place medals)

Race: Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K
Location: South Boston, MA
Goal Time: 19:30
Actual Time: 19:40

 Last winter Joe commented how many races he’s seen go from 10K to 5 Miles to 5K in his career.  Indeed all races seem to be coalescing into 5ks and half-marathons.  To me, it’s sad.  The odd distanced races are going the way of the dodo.  The Wall Street Journal looked into this in 2010 without trying to answer why.

I have my own hypothesis. If you think about it, the running boom is to blame.  The fact is with the running boom, there are a greater number of runners.  Many of these runners have zero chance of winning the race or even their age group.  All they have to race is against themselves.   In today’s world of instant gratification, nobody wants to wait around until next year’s 7 mile race to find out if they are getting better. So month to month they want to run a distance to compare themselves 

If you look at the largest road races in the US, there are many non-5k, non- half marathons:  The Peachtree Road Race (10K), Bay to Breakers and Lilac Bloomsday (12Ks), Boilermaker (15k), Falmouth (7miles) Shamrock Shuffle (8K).  However, these are large races that are often season defining races in their city.  I know in Atlanta the Peachtree t-shirt is a goal; and, I’m sure for residents of Utica and Spokane – that Boilermaker or Lilac Bloomsday t-shirt or finisher medal like the Peachtree holds a personal cache greater than running a 5k faster than last month. Bay to Breakers is even a world famous party for the back of the packers.

Unfortunately the smaller races cannot be the Peachtree or Falmouth.  So to get the racing dollar it has to attract through distance.  One day all small races will be a 5k or a half-marathon (or Derry).

The Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5 miler made the move this year to the 5k. 

I was unable to defend my heavyweight title (won in last years 5 miler) – finishing in 3rd.  Karen however did win her age group.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Ride to Wachusett: Climb to the Clouds Century (7/15/12)

atop Mt. Wachusett

"The needles of the pine 
All to the west incline"
~Thoreau "A Walk to Wachusett"

Ride: Climb to the Clouds Century
Route: Lincoln-Sudbury High School -> Mt. Wachusett -> Lincoln-Sudbury High School
Distance: 100 Miles (104.98 with various side stuff) / 144 miles on the day
Goal Time: 7:30:00
Actual Time: 8:33:21

Mountains sit upon the horizon and and rest upon the sky like indistinct signs of the gods embrace.  Throughout the pages of history and myth mountains have been allusions to grandeur and sacredness.  With Homer we have sat upon Mt. Olympus and with Virgil we roamed the Apennine Mountains between Rome and Ravenna.  Myths carried us to Qamata's giants at Table Mountain and reminded us of Zhang Sanfeng and ODB in the Wudang Shang. While in more modern days, Mallory attempted to climb Everest "because it's there."

170 years ago this week, Thoreau wrote of his journey to Central Massachusetts' great mount:

But special I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.

So on a sunny warm July morn I mounted my trustee steed bearing the name of one of Homer's Olympian era heroes.  Ajax Telemon carried me from Cambridgeport up the not so mighty Charles.  Riding up to Waltham along the beautiful but sleep trails of the still river and Blue Heron trail.  And then over hills and past the farms - with many a huggable sheep - of Concord and Lincoln into the high school.

After signing in I was ready to make my pilgrimage.  I set out on my hajj to the Massachusetts cyclist's Mt. Hira.  I passed rapidly through Sudbury, Hudson and Bolton.  And at twenty miles on from the start of the official ride while climbing George Hill Road overlooking the valley of Lancaster, a POP and a hisssssss forced me to stop.  My tire had popped again.  Fortunately for me there was a mobile bike mechanic parked not 200 yards ahead.  For 30 bills and 45 minutes lost, he replaced my tube and tire and repaired my gears so I could make the ride.

Losing the group which whom I'd been during my mechanical stop created both a physical and mental block.  Hindered without the drafting wind physically slower I went.  Now at the end of the pack, mentally I was lost on the alone on the road.  At the general store in Sterling Center I watched those on the shorter 80 mile ride turn away from the mountain hajj as I purchased Gatorade and Oreos.

At the foot of Mile Hill Road with Wachusett Lake upon my left, I caught two others stopped who were on the ride.  "Look," one said, "Mountain."  And there stood the imposing 2000 foot monadnock.  In its apex of summer verdancy, the ski slopes looked as gashes torn out of the old growth for now quiet chair lifts leading to the summit.

I could get no farther into Kabir than
"the impossible Pass of Ram"
Away from the lake bearing the mountain's name, Mile Hill Road was a relentless climb.  Past the ski area's sleepy lodge, still I climbed.  Past another rider red with sun and sweat, still I climbed.  And upon the right the entrance to the State Park and summit road I took to the visitors center.  

After a quick refueling of water and chessy crackers, I prepared for the summit ride.  In due time I began my ascent of the mountain.  Passing through the sugar maple woo, and still I climbed.  With brief respites of flat or dips until another spike toward the chair lifts or denser wood, and still I climbed.  I passed a woman 2/3 up walking her bike now, and still I climbed.  The last bit - picinic area straight but summit left - I turned once more toward the sky, and still I climbed.  The fire tower came in view and the parking lot atop flattened out, but a trail lead further up, and still I climbed.  Where the tower meets the Mid State Trail I finally stopped, finally atop.

At two thousand feet above the level of the sea but removed and remote as being in another world from the valley below.  I might as well have been in the black forest of Mt. Ainos as but 40 miles from the suburbs of Boston.  I enjoyed a respite, but knew this would be the point to make up time.  So quickly I hopped on the bike and headed back down the mountain toward Princeton town.

Coming down the mountain I broke my top speed record - taking Ajax Telemon to 42 mph!  Taking another water stop at the Visitor Center, I rode off in my return - a winding path passed Wachusett Reservoir (which is NOT Wachusett Lake) and stopping to take a picture at Burpee Road, Sterling.  Then into Berlin I rode and the rest/water stop.  I spoke with Adena who was volunteering here a bit before continuing on.

Through Stow and Boxboro and Acton the road became less wild more suburban and more dull.  The last 10 miles were a bear.  After 90 miles running this week and already 110 on the bike today, I really needed the ride to stop.

As I pulled into the High School, Urvi was the first to greet me with a picture and a smile.  We rode home and she made awesome Saag and chicken rice - a perfect end to a great day.

So while that monadnock still looms in my mind I wonder why our desire is to climb.  Is it because we have a spiritual desire to be in the sky like our gods?  Do we like the challenge? Or, is it just "because it's there"?

Tino Pai,


Monday, July 16, 2012

Boiling in Utica: Boilermaker 15K (7/8/12)

BIG 20

Race: Boilermaker 15K
Location: Utica, NY
Goal Time: 1:02:45
Actual Time: 1:06:07  (PR!!)

This was not my best race.

However, the race is fun!  It's like joining a Pub Series race with the party at the end with a big city race.

14,000 runners with 6,000 volunteers and the people of Utica packed onto the streets to cheer everybody from the world class runners to the next door neighbor.

I'd definitely put this on the bucket list...