Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Lou: Lou Ristaino 4 x 1600 relay

It was a long wait for the relay to start
Photo by Thomas Cole
Race: Lou's 4 x 1600 Relay - BU Mini-Meet #2
Place: BU Indoor Track
Goal Time: me - 5:30; team: 21:15
Actual Time: 5:30.79 (PR!!); 21:27

After the Mass Ave Mile back in 2012, Bradley and I talked about the anomaly of the mile.

There's a big problem with the mile for distance runners.  If your shortest race is 5 kilometers, the mile feels like a sprint.  It's not...

Yet there's a problem for sprinters.  If your longest race is 400 meters, the mile feels like a marathon. It's not...

This year was the 14th annual Lou's 4x1600.  I started to get a team together earlier in the year.  And then they scheduled it for 2 days after Christmas.  With Maple Leaf Joe in Toronto and Brendan in the Bronx watching BC blow a 14 point lead and then miss an extra point in OT, I needed to grab new guys.  Bradley and Joe were only too happy to run it.

After sitting around the whole BU meet (including Joe actually running in the Mile), we were ready around 2:30 to run.  I was running first.

Now as Bradley described, it's not a sprint.  So, I decided that I would drop into last place of the 6 teams at the start and just follow for the first lap.  That way I wouldn't run too fast in the first lap - as one is prone to do in the mile.  BUT, I did...

Despite staying in last and just hanging out in the back of the group, my goal of 41-42 second laps, I ran the first 200 in 34 seconds. blerg.

Klucznik starting the mile
photo by Thomas Cole
Well, I found a groove for a while before the inevitable slowing down around lap 6.  Joe told me as I ran by: "These next two laps are when you have to work."  In retrospect, I understand that better now than I did three and a half minutes into a mile.  I probably could have put myself into another layer of pain, but I didn't...

With one lap to go, I was far off the back and had already been lapped by two different teams.  I managed to run right under 39 seconds for that last lap.  I handed off to Mark for a 5 second PR from this year's Club Cup 26x1 Relay back in June.

Mark ran a 5:44 - 4 seconds faster than the 26x1
Bradley ran a 5:10 - 21 seconds faster than the 26x1
Joe ran a 5:00.7 - while slower than the 26x1, it was his second mile of the day and in the first one he destroyed his 26x1 time with a 4:47!

Liz - en route to her incredible mile time.
Photo by Thomas Cole

Jen Rapaport ran the 3000 and Mile - 11:33 / 5:47
Chriz Klucznik ran the mile - 4:44
Liz Cooney ran the third fastest mile in her age group in the NATION this year! - 6:13

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pumpkin & Cranberry & Gingerbread: Holiday Race Season (11/27 – 12/14/14)

Race 1: Je glousse! (11/27/14)

Scot, me, Rory, Chris and Pickle 

Race: Somerville Road Runners’ Gobble Gobble Gobble
Location: Somerville, MA
Goal Time: 25:00
Actual Time: 25:04 (PR!!)

Holiday Season kicked off with the Somerville Road Runners’ Gobble Gobble Gobble 4 miler.  A pre-turkey run & beer tradition, it starts in Davis Square and makes a loop of the Tufts/Ball Square area before heading back into Davis.

The trick of the race is to survive mile 3.  After two reasonably fast miles, mile three has three noticeable hills.  The last two are right after each other; the last one has a dreaded turn in the middle so after you’re half way up, you turn and see nothing but another quarter mile of hill.  But, after that, it’s a straight shot downhill into Davis. In 2010 and in 2013, my Gobbles were killed by underestimating the effect of these two hills. 

In 2014, as Bev passed me, she asked me for reconnaissance.  I told her about the two hills and the turn.  This also prepared me.  I knew that I could take the hills and that even if I put in a ton of effort, it wouldn’t be the end of the road. 

I found a gear that wasn’t too hard but that I could keep up some speed.  I passed one or two up the hill. When I got to the top, I was winded.  However, unlike the past where I might believe my race was now over, I knew I could recover for a bit and then throw on the juice for the last ¾ of a mile.

I did just that and finished with a 4 mile PR and just off my goal of 25 minutes.   

Klucznik took 2nd in his age group
Joe O’Leary won his

Race 2: To Morrow Never Dies (12/7/14)

To Morrow Never Dies: me, Jim Rhoades, Joe, Jim Pawlicki

Race: Mill Cities Relay
Location: Nashua, NH -> Lawrence, MA
Distance: my leg – 2.5 miles; relay – 27 miles
Goal Time: 15:00
Actual Time: my leg - 15:13; relay – 2:33:02 (1st Masters Men)

The week after Thanksgiving is the clubs tradition Mill Cities Alliance showdown – Mill Cities Relay.  This was the first year, I would run it as a master.   I was put on the SRR A-Team for Masters – named “To Morrow Never Dies.”  I was also put on the 2.5 mile leg so I could do the least possible harm to the team.

I did a little warm up circling Greater Lowell High a couple of times.  Then I ran into Jim Pawlicki, who ran Leg 1 for the team.  He was all business, making sure I knew who the runner handing off to me was and what colors he was wearing etc.  

Jim asked: “Do you know who Jim Rhoades is?” 
I replied: “yeah; does he know who I am?”
“I told him you were the tall, huge guy.”

Jim Rhoades came bombing around the back of the school into the exchange area.  I took the slap bracelet / baton and started sprinting out of the school.  When I got to the first turn toward the main road I realized I was running a 5:14 mile pace… oops.

The 3 leg may be the easiest piece of racing one ever does.  It’s only 2.5 miles.  It’s completely flat.  I found a groove at 6:00/miles and just kept running.  I was a bit worried when I ran under the bridge that I might hit my head.  I came sprinting into the finish; handed to Picklesheimer; and then made my way 1.5 miles to the volunteer point that was only 0.5 mile away.

When I got to the pub, found out we had won the masters!

Hand off between me and Pickle

SRR Shoutouts:

Male Sub-Masters – 2nd
Female Open – 1st
Professor Emeritus (Female Senior) – 2nd
Coed Open – 2nd
Coed Masters – 2nd
Mark Duggan found the short cut to the 3M Parking Lot.

Race 3: Oh little town of Bethlehem (12/13/14)

Masters' National Team - Rory, Pickle, Robert, me & Joe

Race: National Club Cross Country Championships
Location: Lehigh College, Bethlehem, PA
Distance: 10km
Goal Time: 41:15
Actual Time: 41:09 (XC PR!)
Team: 17th out of 40 teams

What would be a good place to have a XC race during the Xmas season? 

Bethlehem of course!* 

We drove out Friday Night; and much to Alex’s chagrin Bradley and I got a good night’s sleep. This would be my third National Championship of the year after the Pentathlon in March and Road 10K in April.

After freaking Joe out a bit and then pulling a Shark Tank by being uncomfortably on time (I would blame Alex, but I was a willing participant in in search for beer.), we headed out for a warm up run on the winding undulating course around Lehigh’s athletic campus. 

At 11:30 – sharp.  The mass start of 600 runners went off on the two lap course.  I felt pretty good, despite running the first mile too fast.   The 4/8km mark is about half way up the only really challenging hill of the course.  (The course is challenging over all but other than that one hill – not in one specific spot.)  After the first trip, I determined my next time up I would make my move there.

So the second trip by the cornfields, I started to kick it right at the 8km mark and after the last bit of really steep.  Slowly but surely I picked people off one by one.  I reached the top where it levels off a bit before the roller coaster downhill back toward the stadium.  I took a big breath here.  Found my beat and tore down the hill.  As we passed the 9 km point, I prepared for the last sprint it to win it bit.

Later I was talking to Jim Pawlicki about it.  We had the same experience.  As I started my last pick up with about 600 meters left.  Both of us figured we’d catch the two or three people in front.  Neither of us did.  In both cases the guys in front were as prepared as us.  The only challenge I had was a guy from Greater Philly tried to pass me with about 60 meters left.  The two of us got into a flat out sprint…

Finished with a XC PR for the 10K.

 Beast Mode sprint to the finish - (c) Michael Scott

Kate and the Pharaoh Hounds



* - For the sake of this story I’m going to ignore that John actually says Jesus was NOT born in Bethlehem; and, I will ignore the utter foolishness of the idea that the emperor required everyone to go back to their birth town for a census.

Race 4: On Dasher! (12/14/14)

SRR Team, Yulefest Champs!

Race: Yulefest (Race One of the SRR Grand Prix)
Location: Cambridge, MA
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual Time: 20:04

For a brief shining moment I sprinted up to the lead.  Holding my fist high, I started yelling: “I’m in the lead! I’m in the lead!”

This was only because the 50 people in front of me in the race all zigged when they should have zagged.  About ½ mile in the police directed the car and the biker to go left.  Everyone followed.  After about 3 steps I was among the first people to actually turn around and go the right way.

After my brief foray at the front, it only went downhill for me from there.

Tommy (festively dressed) & Anthony

SRR won the team competition
We had:
5 men in the top 10 – Klucznik, Jake, Chris Antunes, John Longo and Andrew Clifford
4 women in the top 10 – Bev, Nichole, Jen Rappaport, Deb Downs
5 men in the top Masters – Joe and Rory went 1-2 the day after Nationals, Tom Bok, John Wichers and Nat were 4,5 & 9

4 Masters Women iincluding a Gold-Silver-Bronze sweep by Jen Rappaport, Florentien and Teresa with Justine Cohen in 8th.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trails and Trials: Scottoberfest and USATF-NE XC (11/8 - 11/9/14)


Saturday - Trail Run and beer & wurst

Race: USATF New England Cross Country Championships
Location: Franklin Park
Goal Time: 32:59
Actual Time: 33:25

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sometimes you eat the B'ar: Manchester City Marathon (11/2/14)

Matt Story and I at mile 11
Race: Manchester City Marathon
Location: Manchester, NH
Goal Time: 3:10:00
Actual Time: 3:35:49

"Sometimes you eat the b'ar...

After the race, we met up at PJ Ryan's for a celebration/lamentation of the marathon.  The guys next to me asked several questions about the marathon etc.  One guy asked how my race went.

I said: "All you really have to know is that, at mile 21, I stopped for a beer."


It was the first marathon I've run that I didn't feel good about going into.  About 6 weeks ago doing the Harvard Stairs, I strained my left piriformis.  So since then, I've been taking it much easier than I normally would.  My weekly mileage dropped from 60 to 30 and my cross training dropped to nihil.

This, and the hard crash into tapering, succeeded in repairing the piriformis strain.  Come Sunday, I didn't feel that at all.  I also was probably completely unprepared to run a marathon.  And, I certainly showed it.


The secret to running a good marathon is finding the grooves.  Basically I think of the marathon as four parts:

1) Miles 1 - 4.  This is basically the warm up to the rest of the race.  I run slower than my goal pace by about 30-45 seconds.  Other people run more like 15 seconds slower and I know Joe tries about a minute slower but only for 2 miles.  However, you do it, the goal is to find an easy groove where you feel comfortable but aren't running too fast.

2) Miles 5-15.  This is what I think of as the Big Groove.  This is where you easily run that pace that you've been training for.  Your 3-5 months of training trains you well enough so that you can just run without thinking and talk easily with people, etc.

3) Miles 16-23.  This is where I still run the Big Groove pace, but it's more work.  (The better trained you are the longer it takes to get to where it takes more work.  I've run where I don't have to start working until 19 and I've run where I have to start working at 14.)  This is where the miles you've spent on the roads come into play.  Between the weekly miles and the long run miles, your body is prepared to run longer and put in the effort required to run longer at that speed.

4) Last 5k.  This section is one of three things.  It can be a continuation of section 3 and you keep running at the speed and the effort you have been  - or a little more effort - because you haven't tired too much; it can be a point where you feel really good and can run harder; or, it's the worst 3 miles of your life.


I executed the first four miles quite well.  While I never found my early pace rhythm, by mile five I was ready to kick into race pace.

Alas, this is where the real problem set in.  I never fell into the Big Groove.  Never did I feel I was running comfortably.  I successfully hit my times (except for the down hill mile 6 - where I was 25 seconds too fast), but I never felt good about.

Somewhere around mile 7, I caught up with Matt Story.  Matt and I are often within seconds of each other in races.  I knew he was going for 3:10 today like I was.  So, I figured maybe I could run with him for a while and find the Big Groove.

Between the winds and the hills, that never happened.  We ran down the awesome Rockingham Rec Trail.  As we came off the trail around mile 11, I knew I was in real trouble.  Holding marathon pace never felt smooth...


We hit the half marathon point at 1:36:30.  I told Matt, "feels like I'm going to slow down a bit."  And I did.  But at the 15 mile mark, I thought I would still have a chance to break 3:15.

And that's when the CHUDs came at me.  In the form of one long mile into the wind on an exposed, empty industrial park.  The winds were at 30 mph at this time with gusts close to 40.  sweet.

Somewhere on the road, I quit.  I just bagged it and decided to save myself for better times to come.


The last "big hill" is at mile 20.  This slowed me down even more than I had been.  When I got to the top there were two guys - Adam and Joel - at the end of their driveway handing out water.  I asked: "Where's the beer?"

"We got some right here"

And that's how it came to pass that in the middle of a marathon, I stopped and had a Natural Ice...

Photo by Joe O'Leary

The next few miles did not get any easier.  And once you've quit, you've quit.  I walked about 200 yards with a guy from GMAA and jogged in the last mile.  Had a beagle get in my way at 25 and a half (had a I cared about time I would have been mad, instead I pet it.)

I ran in, 25 minutes slower than my goal time and 22 slower than my PR.

Alas, only 166 Days until the Boston Marathon.

"...Sometimes the B'ar eats you."


Shoutouts -

Joe Lauer and Alison Lackey had massive PRs
Pickle locked up his division win in the Grand Prix
My high school friend Ania's husband Jeremy BQed in terrible weather in New York
Carl finally got to run New York after Sandy
SRR Open Women - Erin, Mariah and Deb took 2nd!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Boo Run: Photo Blog (10/31/14)

"Watch out for the Cricket Pitch": Mayor's Cup (10/26/14)

Around Mile 2
photo by Joe O'Leary

Event: Mayor's Cup
Race: Franklin Park 5k
Goal Time: 19:30
Actual Time: 19:54 (Cross Country PR)

On the last loop, we came out of the Wilderness with about 800 yards left.  Bradley was just ahead of me.  My plan was to race up the last incline, catch my breath on the steep drop into the ball fields and then slowly build speed as we went around the backstop and then the spot where the other backstop used to be.  At that point it's just a sprint to the finish line by the third backstop.

It didn't happen

Tim, Bradley, me and Brendan - four runners / four jerseys
photo by Joe O'Leary

The first quarter mile is across the ball fields where I used to practice football in high school.  And then it narrows a lot on right hand turn toward the stadium.  So what usually happens is the long start line of cross country speeds out to try to get to that narrow bit first.  And regardless of how ready you are, you end up sprinting across the ball fields.

20 minutes earlier Bradley, Tim, Brendan and I had stood as a Motley Crew of SRR cross country runners.  I went through my plan to not run too fast following everyone so quickly over the ball fields.  I figured a 6:25 - 6:30 first mile would set me up pretty well.

It didn't happen


Sure enough when the air horn went off, I was sprinting across the damn ball fields.  We came up near the middle and I called out: "Watch out for the Cricket pitch."

Brendan responded: "Of course; why wouldn't there be a cricket pitch here?"

I described how we used to run routes in JV games where the second move of the chair-route would be right as you hit that so the opposing d-back was surprised by the change in footing.

I looked at my watch and saw we were still running sub 6 minute mile pace.  I should probably slow down, I told myself.

It didn't happen


We finished the first loop and hit the mile marker at 6:09; 15-20 seconds too fast.  The second loop includes the Bear Cage Hill.  It's the only real challenging hill on the course.  And fortunately in the 5k, you only have to make that hill once. (The 8k - which I'll in the NE Championships - and the 10k  have you run the hill twice.)

My plan for this loop was to stay calm and then hit the hill without losing speed, regain my breathe on the down hill and then along the outside of the ball fields drop the speed to my full racing speed.

It didn't happen

Sprinting home
Photo by Joe O'Leary
While I had done the hill properly and regained my breathe, I never regained speed.  As we came across at the start of the 3rd loop, we ran passed the 2 mile mark.  my time had slowed - a lot.  But I still had a chance to do well.  If I could just not lose it in the Wilderness and keep up speed, I could really bring home a monster personal record for Cross Country.

We took the left into the Wilderness.  The trail is neither difficult nor technical.  However, it is winding.  I kept trying to get my body up to some speed.

It didn't happen


The sprint to the finish saw me with no chance to catch Bradley.  My shot at a huge PR didn't fruit. However, it was a 30 second PR. As a team we took 9th.

The team at the finish: Urvi, Tim, me, Bradley, Brendan and Eva
photo by Erin Morin

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 Days of Columbus: BAA Half Marathon (10/11 - 10/13/14)

2014 BAA Distance Medley medals - 5k, 10k, Half and Medley

Race: BAA Half Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Goal Time: 1:27:20
Actual Time: 1:28:59

The last time I ran a "distance medley" was in same place White Stadium.  Of course that was 22 years ago, a relay and the distance were track distances.  Mark ran the 1200m; I think Donavin ran the 400 and Benjamin ran the 800. (I could be wrong; it's entirely possible I forgot the salient details of a minor race at the Boston City Championships back when George Bush Sr was still President.)  I finished the race with a 1600m.  It was one of the best runs of my life.  I managed to get us into second place.  I remember trying futilely to close that last 100m on South Boston High School. (In retrospect, with some knowledge of game theory, it would have been better to run easy for that last few and accept 2nd place to save myself since I had to run the 2 mile the next day and the mile the day after that.  Maybe I would not have been so tired at the end of the mile and dropped to third?)

Well, the BAA distance medley was not a relay and the distances were longer.  They were also over a longer period of time.  April was the BAA 5k and June held the BAA 10k.  Columbus Day weekend finished with the Half Marathon. The half marathon starts right next to where I practiced high school football.  It runs along the golf course and out of the park and onto the 203 bridge that goes over Forest Hills.  At the base of the bridge is the mile one marker.  I hit it at 6:30.  While this is a little quick, I figured it was okay since it was downhill, but then I heard Mark Duggan - and his Irish accent - behind me: "Well, that was too f---ing fast." indeed. For me, the next five miles continued at that too fast pace.  But - once again- they were downhill.  So while my plan had been to speed up each mile, I just kind of kept the even too fast pace.  So that by mile 5, I plan had caught up with my speed...

The Medley was a big target for me this year.  It was the first year with age group prizes and I really felt that I could get into the top 3.  After the 5k in April, this was confirmed.  My 18:59 had put me into second place in my age group.

Around mile 3
Photo by Thomas Cole
Age group or not, the turn around at mile 5 of the half marathon offered me an opportunity.  At the start Matt had told me to line up with Megan.  I had not wanted to push my way to the front.  So I figured I'd catch up with her on the road.  The turn around was the first time I saw her.  And then as I pushed harder (now going back uphill from Fenway back to JP and Roxbury) I was slowly pulling Megan back.  I wasn't speeding up but somewhere in my head I thought that was okay because I had banked time in those first five miles.  So every downhill I would close the gap with Megan to about 20 yards.  And every uphill, she'd open it back up again.  But each time I closed it by a little more and she opened it by a little less.  By the time I had made it to the 10 mile turn around: a) I had put myself in perfect position to catch Megan, and b) at 1:07 flat, I was at the perfect spot, if I could run the last 5k at 6:30/mile, I would achieve my goal.

I had been less prepared for the 10k than I had the 5k.  It showed.  My 40:40 dropped me from 2nd in my age group to fourth.  That meant I had to beat one of two names on a page Jamie Hull or Zach Mills in the half, if I planned to crawl back into the top three.

Mile 11.5, the last time I saw Megan (212)
Photo by Tom Cole
There would be no clawing my way back this time in the distance medley.  22 years ago I had made an exciting charge trying to catch Chucky from Southie High.  Today, my piriformis just made the rolling hills back to the Shadduck and the uphill back toward the zoo just painful.  Then when we entered the zoo - I got a side stitch.  As we weaved through the walking paths of the zoo (but unlike Miamiman - didn't see a single animal) I felt knew 1:27 and then 1:28 were slipping away from me - as fast as Megan was.  The only thing that kept me running was the desire to beat two people I didn't know - Zach Mills and Jamie Hull.  Finally we left the zoo and through Playstead to turn toward White Stadium - home of virtually every track meet and football game in my high school career.  On the path from the zoo to the stadium, my mom and Aunt Judy and Uncle Larry were cheering for me and other Somerville runners.  This brief second in the park really pumped me up a bit and I was able to gather myself for the last quarter mile.  I came in right under 1:29: 1:28:59.  It is my 3rd fastest half marathon ever and might have put me in good with the medley.

Looking at the results later, I had beat both Hull and Mills.  AND I beat Mills by enough that should have put me into third in my age-group for the medley.  Alas.  Two elite masters runners who didn't sign up for the medley per se did run all three events.  So those two took first and second - I took 5th. bummer.


Liz and John Hadcock both won their age groups.
John won his age group in the Medley!

SRR Teams -
Mens' Open (of which I was the lead scorer) - 3rd
Mens' Masters (of which I was also the lead scorer) - 3rd
Womens' Open - 3rd

Also on the Weekend

Saturday - New Bedford Whaling Museum

For my mom's birthday we headed South to New Bedford -
There be Whales, Captain

I think the North Star is that away

Urvi aboard the Lagoda

Even Urvi has to watch her head aboard

Sunday - Canucksgiving!

Thanks to the awesome spread from Amy and Maple Leaf Joe Lauer

Beauty, eh?

Joe carving the Turkey

Monday - Tufts 10K and MiT Museum

Liz K.



Polaroids, Polaroids everywhere and not a drop to drink

Urvi in the Kinetic Sculpture

Cheers to a great weekend...