Sunday, February 24, 2013

Buddha is Dry Shoes: Jones 10 Miler (2/24/13)

Atop the Last Hill at Mile 9.5.
Photo by Thomas Cole

Race: Jones Group Realtors 10 Mile Road Race
Location: Amherst, MA
Goal Time: 1:07:30
Actual Time: 1:09:37

I remember a story from chronicles of Zen masters. 

There was a monk whose Korean name translated to “Block Head.”  He was not intellectual enough to study the sutras and what-not so he was given the job of “working Zen” in the fields and kitchen.  (Yes, this sounds a little iffy to me too).

The master of the monastery told him: “Buddha is mind:”  a typical Zen koan meant to make you think past rational thought and into the metaphysical. Well, apparently, in Korean “Buddha is mind” sounds a lot like “Buddha is grass shoes.”

Well, Block Head was more confused by this then even the Buddha is mind.  But in his “working Zen” he was to “meditate” upon this thought while working in the fields.  (Yep, I bet Southerners told slaves the same thing.)  Anyways, while “meditating” in the fields one day, Block Head slips and falls, breaking his straw sandals – “grass shoes.”  It was this point that he achieved enlightenment.

He returned to the master and pronounced: “I get it.”  And then flung his broken shoes at the master.

“Buddha is grass shoes and my shoes are broken.”

The master laughed in delight at this enlightenment.

I had a mini-enlightenment after today’s race in the snow and I finally got to change: Indeed, “Zen is now”; and “Buddha is Dry Shoes."


For those keeping score at home that is 4 consecutive weekends of the big run of the week being in a snowstorm:

1.  Super 5k
2.  Twin Towers in a Blizzard
3.  Martha’s Vineyard 20 miler
4.  DH Jones 10 Miler

Yep, it’s typical February in New England.

We thought we might miss the snow this time.  But it was pelting a bit of sleet by the start of the race.  By mile 3 and then the dirt road (or shall I say mud road) it was creating havoc in puddles and slipperiness.  My paces were everywhere.

The first 5 miles wandered about in the abyss of easy running, tough hills and snow squalls.  I had given up staying on anything like a “pace” or even the idea of “pace.”  At the 5-mile marker I did look at my watch and it was 36 minutes and some unknown seconds.  I thought that I might be in real trouble.

Fortunately, this race is that anti-Applefest.  It’s a tough first half.  Then Mile 6 was almost normal – I caught up with Sean McDonough, Sr. and had a brief conversation.  Miles 7, 8, and 9 were FAST.  I was feeling good and kept the hammer down through some 6:15 miles. 

Mile 10 was not easy by any means.  There were two short steep hills.  But thankfully, I was able to keep it into perspective and at the top of the second Tom was there: “This is the last hill, I promise.  I looked down into the parking lot where there is an odd extra 200 yard mini-loop (?) and gutted the last quarter mile.  Round the parking lot and in under 1:10:00.

While I am not unhappy with my race, I am not happy with it either. Meh.


Liz Cooney had ANOTHER PR and finished second in her age group.
Urvi had a 1 minute PR (Joe said that’ like a 10 minute PR on another course.)

SRR Men’s Open – 10th; Masters’ – 9th
SRR Women’s Open -15th, Masters’ – 8th; Seniors – 4th

"Buddha is Dry Shoes"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Non Infantis Flendi: Martha's Vineyard & The Isle of Winter (2/16/13)

Race: Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler
Location: Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown
Goal Time: 2:19:59
Actual Time: 2:20:37 (2nd, Clydesdales!)

In the 1st Century AD Tacitus described Ireland as Hibernia, "the isle of Winter":
"si quidem Hibernia medio inter Britanniam atque Hispaniam sita et Gallico quoque mari."

My recollection of High School Latin states that Tacitus felt Ireland was "between Britain and Spain and in the seas by Gaul."  Or maybe that it was the "point where mediations were held about the various characteristics that differed" between several brown breeds of dogs.  (Out of context either one could be correct.)

Indeed the isle of winter was so formidable even the most powerful and expansionist empire the world had ever seen would dare conquer it.  Although apparently Tacitus' son-in-law, the rogue Governor of Britannia Julius Agricola, did attempt to build an invasion force.  (There is something else in Tacitus' text, if my High School Latin holds up, where Agricola can see Hibernia from his house and Agricola claimed Finn MacCool was "palling around with terrorists.")

... but, I digress.  Situated a 45 minute ferry ride from Wood's Hole, si quidem Vinea Marthae medio inter Nantucketum atque Paenisula Moruae sita et Massachusettsium quoque mari.  And throughout the week there had been much fear among those running a 20 mile race on the Vinea Marthae that it would be an insula Hibernia.  As we crossed the ferry, the chance of various degrees of rain, sleet and snow ("slushballs from the sky", as my father calls them) dwindled from 50% to 20%.  Things were looking hopeful.  It seemed that I may have actually overdressed with my arm-warmers and high socks.  But - as I often tell my poker buddies - 20% is still one-in-five; it's not impossible. 

The weather was cool - 35F - at the start and I went out with a bunch of the boys who were warming up with 7:00/miles.  The first three were great and then they sneakily dropped the minute per mile on me without me noticing.  At 3.5 miles, I looked at my watch and we were doing 6:25.  Before I walked into a Teutoburg Forest problem and Augustus started demanding his legions back from me, I said, "Whoa, guys.  I'm now going to slow down."  Each one of them were a little shocked to see me still running with them and agreed with my plan to go back to 7:00/miles.

Tyler, who I think was just trying to go easy, dropped back with me to keep me company through the run.  Over the next couple of miles my hands warmed up and it looked like Hibernia was a mere scare and fear of those runners who like to fear things.

Around mile six, I saw some sweat fly off my hair in a weird angle.  It took me a second to realize, that wasn't sweat and it didn't fly off me.  In fact my hopes that the weather would pass was like trying to go - as Steinbeck argued - ad astra per alas porci ("to the stars on the wings of pigs").  Over the next 10 miles, I attempted to maintain my 7 min/mile pace as gradually Vinea Marthae seemed more and more Hibernia.

Tyler continued coaxing me onto 7 minutes and cajoling me away from stupid actions.  The sleet and snow and rain continued to fall and soak through my arm warmers and my shoes.  Fortunately at some point everything is numb so it can no longer feel the Hibernian weather falling upon it.  The trails iced into skating rinks that required running on the road. (Drivers were mostly great).  Police and volunteers directed traffic and crossings.  (Can I give three - no four - cheers to the volunteers here?  Running in that weather was awful.  But sacrificing your day to stand at windy corners and point crazy runners left and right?  Superheroes!)

At 17, I told him I couldn't continue on anymore at the pace.  He moved ahead at a more comfortable pace for him.

At this point the 11 miles of Hibernian "slushballs from the sky" had left me shaken.  It took all my strength to, in the words of Virgil, "durate, et, vosmet rebus servate secundis."  Which my high school Latin says: "Toil on and things will be better the second time."  (Robert Fagels more eloquently - and probably more correctly - says: "Bear up. Save your strength for better times to come.")

Miles 18 and 19 dropped well off the 7 minute pace.  With one mile to go, I had to run a 6:40 to break my PR from last year.  I put all my effort into it.  But, my 6:42 mile was not enough and I missed last year's time

In a letter to the governor of Libya, Pliny the Younger said that the Martha's Vineyard race would require something: "Non infantis flendi"  (No Weenies!).

SRR Shoutouts -

Kieran placed 5th overall and 1st in his age group
Deb Downs took 2nd in her age group
Tim Morin and John Wichers each took 3rd in their age groups
John Wichers and I made a one-two punch taking the top slots in the Clydesdales.

The ever democratic Somerville Road Runners were represented by 18 people - from Kieran at 2:5 to Urvi at 4:08 - taking home the inaugural "Running Club Cup."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Twin Towers Run in a Blizzard: 20 in the snow - photo blog (2/9/13)

Davis Square

Deb and Bradley in Davis Square

Riding on the Roads are Tough

Bradley leaving us behind on Eastern Ave in his Yak Trax

Bradley and I at Tower 1 - Arlington Water Tower

The River

Bradley at Tower 2 - First Flag Tower

Boston from the First Flag Tower

Bradley and I at the First Flag Tower

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Super Race: Super 5k (2/3/13)

Super 5k about 1/4 mile in - notice Korynn is running too fast.
Photo by Thomas Cole

Race: Super 5k
Location: Lowell, MA
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual Time: 19:04 (Third Linebacker)

Jim Rhoades' Annual Super Bowl Sunday 5k has become a bit of a club tradition.  For the past two years it has been part of the Club's Grand Prix.

The race is the definition of a fast flat 5k.  There is a gentle hill from 1/2 mile up to a mile.  Then you come back down to 1 1/2 and then its 1.6 miles of flat running next to the river.  As long as there is no wind off the Merrimack, it's a full blast race.

It is so fast, that last year's race I broke my 5k PR by a full minute and haven't come within 30 seconds since.  This year was not much different.  Deb, Tim, Emma and I did a hard workout Saturday (14 miles with 5 miles @ Threshold pace) which Bradley said was silly since he wanted to race the Super 5k.

I went out a little easy this year.  (Last year, Tim Harden and I killed the first mile and I never really recovered).  About half way up the hill I realized I could charge this hill, have enough time to recover down hill and then blast the second half of the race.  Passing Dan and Eva up the hill I did just that.

Recovering down the hill I took the right onto the riverside parkway and in front of me by about 50 yards was Rachel and Tommy B.  I just kept them in sight and kept at their same pace.  There was very little wind, just enough to throw the snowflakes around.

At mile 2.5, I saw Rachel have a burst.  She started to sprint away from Tommy who now looked a little broken.  Then I made the tactical decision, slowly bring in Brit.  I had half a mile to chase him down.

So slowly but surely, I was pulling back a step at a time from Tommy.  The course turns off the parkway at probably 2.9 miles.  I was almost in range to make the BIG move.  Apparently I was too loud. 

When Tommy passed the 3 mile mark I was only 10 yards behind him, but he heard somebody coming up and decided they weren't going to beat him.  With all of his strength he sprinted away.  I sprinted after but never closed those last 10 yards.  I ended up losing by 4 seconds and about 20 yards.

Stupid Limey!

My 19:04 was good enough for third in the linebacker (190-225lb) division.

SRR Shoutouts:

Jake Barnett and Megan Hyland won the men's and women's categories respectively
Rachel Shanley (who had sprinted away from me and the Limey - and beat us by over 20 seconds) took second in the women's

There was a double sweep in the 20 -29 category
Men's - Brian Keefe, Matt Fuhrmeister and Todd Prokop
Women's - Andy Marinelli, Korynn and Emma (Andy and Korynn can taste breaking 20)

Chris Klucznik won the 30 year olds
Deb Downs (first time under 20 minutes - BAM!) and Sara Saba took 2nd and 3rd in the 30s

SRR Swept the Men's 40s - Tomas Bok (with a big PR), Chris Smith and John Wichers
Jen R finished second in the Women's 40s

Rory took second in the 50s; Liz Cooney continued her impressive year winning the 50s for women

Pam won the 60s

Linebackers were me in third and John Wichers winning

Fillys were another SRR sweep - Sara Saba, Julie Dragon and Eva

Bradley's not going with us Saturday did pay dividends as he ran a MONSTER 17:22.

Divergence: Derry 16 (1/27/13)

Race: Boston Prep 16
Location: Derry, NH
Goal Time: 1:51:59
Actual Time: 1:53:13

Nearly 3000 years ago the great Greek philosopher Hesiod commented on the challenges of man.  In his "Works and Days" he states: "Failure you can get easily, in quantity: the road is smooth, and it lies close by.  But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it..."

I don't know if the original designers of the Derry Boston Prep 16 had ever read Hesiod, but it certainly seems that way.

Derry is the first monumental race of the New England Calendar.  A monument the Olympians would sure to have smiled upon.  It's "moderately challenging" course is long and steep and one must put sweat that will freeze in the New Hampshire winter temps upon the brow.

This was my second time running the race.  Last year was an eye opener.  It was my first step toward my great 2012 season.  In what would be a year of accomplishments and winning the SRR Most Improved Runner, I was still learning myself and my abilities.   Fortunately, through much of it I was helped by running with, fellow SRR Most Improved Runner, Megan Hyland.

This year, I was left to my own devices and wiles.  My goal was simply to beat 7:00/mi on the course.  At the same time, I was not too worried if I didn't. Last year, I was happy to take every race and to taper for the fastest time possible. 

At the start I was able to temper my speed (after I had put significant distance between myself and hacking Colombian guy).  The first five miles saw me run one second faster than last year.  Yep, one second. 

It was the second five miles where I lost time.  This is probably because I wasn't able to push myself up the smaller hills the same way I was able to follow Megan last year.  My own will power is lacking still on small hills.  (I'm STILL learning the balance.)

But the BIG hill (from 10.5 mile to 12.25 mile) is the long and steep way to excellence.  Last year, I wasn't prepared.  I was passed by at least half a dozen people.  This year I was passed by ONE and passed one, so it was a net zero.

But, it was in the final three miles that I really noticed a difference in quality this year.  I was able to charge the entire last three miles.  I passed one person this year (passed by 12 or so last year). 

I came in 18 seconds slower than last year, but I felt I had a better race.  Between the colder weather and the fact that I didn't taper for it, I think it was a net win if not a PR or absolute improvement.

On one side there is the easy road: smooth and close.  On the other is the long and steep way that fewer people travel upon.

In the words of Derry, NH resident Robert Frost:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Congrats to Liz Cooney who is on her monster tear - 2nd place in her age group.