Monday, April 28, 2014

Jesses Wake: James Joyce Ramble (4/27/14)

Rory with the 3rd Place Team plaque
photo by Eva
Race: James Joyce Ramble (USATF Master's National Championship)
Distance: 10K
Location: Dedham, MA
goal time: 40:00
Actual Time: 39:46 (PR)

road to Deedham town open by the Sunbrunchday crowds. Upon this stretch 3 minutes prior those Masterunners started out to 10hilometer race. Our hero headed out and hid among the speedster 40 'ears or more.  Disembarhed and gaining rapport with Rappaport, impatience struch a cord and wave and upon milephirst sprinted on ahead. The road strewn in Bloomsdayclad speahers reeding upon Ulysses and Dubliners was phlat and phast the phirst phew hilometers.  Speed sped and spun the steps at paces weel ahead of previous times.  Jesse seehing greater speed phlew along.  Milephirst was less than 6 hour-bits in the jentile downcline of losing elevashun. Bouncing bout thother Masterunners - Men-o-60; women-o-40 and e'ery where tween. Milesecand still passed by phast but not ere some cheers from local cheers and more Bloomsdayclad reeders red.  A quattrain into the milethird, Cry Havoc quoth he. steps did stumble loud upon thesears of closing speed.  Twas arrived the leaderunners two from the 3 minute startger behind.  Better than he planned, phurther along.  Maybe too phast the phirst two were, but now ahead continued running on. Milesecand was 6 hour-bit and 18; milethird 6 and 16.  Milephourth did strihe bach the ease, upcline twoth. Phirst was surprise and steep - speedbumped drive atop the the phront door of a beauty private school. Upclinesecand was steep shorter - seriously. Milephourth did see speed decreese down 6 hour-bit and fortythree.  Phall you but will, rise you must: not but 2 miles left and call upon and letslipthesealsofwar. Phighting the good phight as two more miles of phlight carried through Deedham town downcline and light upcline bruised the foots and ego-id.  D'Souza named uneligible for but birth of born in borders and shores far from 50 here ahead was lost to hero here.  And Rappaport returned again on foots speedy still. Masterjesses speed lost on upclines in milephourth was as human a little story as blog could tell.  Milephiphth and milesixth were but phights of phlight to return to speed he had ere the upcline of school. Yet while not able to maintain or regain the speed was there enouph.  Carrying in at a personalrecord and carrying on in Placethird for the team behind Chris and Joe (and uneligible D'Souza).  Congradulashuns to and phrom the runners 'round.  Then phollowed by seeing Neil the Wheel and catching up. Post-ere awards, some conversashun and a pint Jesse left along the

Phinishing stretch with Eva cheering
Photo by Tom Cole

Shoutouts -
50+ Team: Rory, Gordon and Mike took 3rd
Jen Rappaport was third in her age group
Liz Cooney took second in hers
Eamonn beat last years time by 14 seconds
Sanjay PRed the 10K
Gordon McFarland defeated Matt once again

Friday, April 25, 2014

Run as One: BAA 5k (4/19/14)

Me and Brendan at the finish
Event: BAA 5K
Location: Boston, MA
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual: 18:59 (Masters PR, 2nd Faster 5k ever, 9th age-group)

Every year the Boston Corporate Challenge is a clusterf**k.  The start is on Charles Street between the beautiful Public Garden and the world famous Boston Common.  The first 200 meters runs to Beacon Street and takes a left.  The start is 3 lanes wide; the left is one.  Everything comes to a complete stop.  It's famous in the running community for being a disaster.

As part of the Boston Marathon race weekend, the 5K was the launch of retaking the streets after last year's bombing.  I had been so focused on running this race and helping Urvi to the marathon that I didn't even think of it as being an emotional time.  Even jamming to the line - as they opened the 6:00/mile and under corral at the last possible moment - I didn't think about it.  But as I stood there and BAA officials and the Mayor spoke about last year, I started to well up a little.

Fortunately, the mayhem of the moment kept it from getting too bad.  This year, the BAA 5K increased to 10,000 entrants.  This mass of humanity led me to the issue of getting out and to that turn in the first 200. Bradley had suggested that I "toe the line with the Elites."  To be honest this seemed a little excessive.  I mean, if there are multiple people breaking 14 minutes, I don't want to be the schmo in the way.  So I lined up about 6 rows from the start line.  That was far enough up, I felt.

As one speaker was finishing up some statements, midsentence the Mayor blew the horn.  That took everyone off guard.  It was like he was going at 8am no matter what.  I managed to nudge through the crowd once everyone realized we were going.  I avoided two people who were not even close to 6 minute miles and two people who fell (and, assisted a third to keep him from tripping...) Once I had made the left onto Beacon, I knew the issue was now running - no longer a race to avoid gridlock.

I settled into a good hard pace.  The course is great on both a racing and an aesthetic level.  It turns off Beacon onto Commonwealth Ave.  The lovely divided avenue is a beautiful stretch.  This is where many fans set up.  I saw Tommy M. along the stretch.  There is a turnaround at Charlesgate - which means you go down through the tunnel under Mass Ave and turn around right before Kenmore - back to the tunnel under Mass Ave.  Urvi said this was her favorite stretch, because through the tunnel everyone was high fiving and yelling.  It was the first time we could celebrate the running again.  Boston was coming back.

I kept rambling at a comfortably uncomfortable pace - right above 6 minute/mile. We took the right on Hereford and Left onto Boylston.  Four blocks ahead, you could see the finish line to the marathon.  People who were going to and coming from the Marathon Expo were lining Boylston and cheering for the 5ker's (I saw John Gorvin at Exeter). This was when I realized what I was doing was important to me.  I wasn't just running a 5k.  I was rekindling those running/athletic spirits.  I was small part of the retelling.

Once I got through the Marathon finish line, there was about a mile left to the 5k finish line.  I had wanted to put it into another gear, but that wasn't happening.  However, I was able to maintain my pace.  As we made the turn back onto Charles Street, I saw I could break 19 minutes.  With a sprint and a flourish, I did: by a second.  It was my second fastest 5k ever and put me in 9th in my age-group in a 10,000 person field!

Next up - James Joyce Ramble

Shoutout to Mark Duggan - PR!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On the Lam to the Lamb: Little Lamb 100K (4/12/14)

Mary's Little Lamb and Ajaz Telemon - Sterling Town Green

Ride: Little Lamb 100K*
Location: Bedford – Sterling – Bedford, MA
Distance: 68 miles (102 on the day)
Goal Time:  4:32:00
Actual Time: 4:05:13 (16.66 mph)

As I turned left onto Eldridge Road at mile 50, two thoughts came to mind.  1) That’s the closest thing I’ll see to Eldrick this Master’s weekend; 2) I have an outside chance to break four hours here. It was an outside chance – very outside; but, I was still going to go for it.

In the early 19th Century – in Sterling, MA – a girl named Mary Sawyer had a lamb as a pet.  Now this lamb had snow like wool.  Well, as the story goes, one day this lamb followed Mary to school.  Apparently this broke the teacher’s rule.  The story of Mary Sawyer was heard by a local seminary student who decided to write a poem about it.  This poem was extended by others and eventually set to music.  Mary the girl who had a little lamb was famous.  The town of Sterling commemorates this with a statue of her little lamb in the town common.

Before I could get to the Common and the Lamb, I had to get to Hanscom Air Force Base and the start of the ride. I headed out early – too early.  I was already in Arlington by 7am – umph.  It was colder than I thought it was.  In the shade and low early morning sun, my hands were frozen stiff.  I rode most of the way up the Minuteman with my hands in my pocket.

It was Palm Saturday (if there is such a thing).  Seems fitting that I’d be doing a ride to a lamb this time of year.  Back in aught-9 when I was teaching English in Greece I had a lesson where I got the students to discuss holidays.  These 12 and 13 year olds had a high level of English, but sometimes specific words weren’t known.

  •         After discussing turkey and Thanksgiving, I asked, “do you have any specific foods you eat on your holidays?” 
  •     "Yes, on Easter” one of the kids responded, “It’s like a sheep…just baby.”  So now everytime someone mentions lamb I think: “It’s like a sheep…”

Start in Hanscom

Like last week’s South Harvard 100k, this was a New England Randonneurs populaire.  So it is a timed ride and you are given a “brevet card” that you get signed at various checkpoints – called “controles.”  This event only had one intermediate controle (the start and end count as a controle as well).  That controle was at the Lamb!

There was a quick safety and informational check before the start and a little after 8am, we were on our way.  Early on I attached myself to the back of a group with two tandems and some other riders.  But, I felt good so I kept leapfrogging as groups split off.  The weather became perfect.  Riding through the beauty of the Boston exurb felt like a ride through Robert Frost’s head.  (miles to go before I sleep, but no snowy woods.)

Eventually we were down to just three of us.  Each taking a turn as the lead, either up the first categorized climb or through the superfast descents and flats.

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph.  The first recorded verse was what Edison called “practical verse”: “Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow/ And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.”  I often wondered if it was the first thing that came into his head or if he planned it.  It seemed like one of those times I might wanted to have a better rehearsed poem – like Canterbury Tales or something.

Sterling Center

As my own tale told to pass the time on pilgrimage continues. At about mile 25, the other two guys had dropped back and I rode the last few miles into Sterling (and the Lamb) by myself.  I pulled into the controle at Sterling Center.  I got my card signed, stuffed down an apple and two of my new Alex White red rice egg rolls.  I probably spent 10 minutes or so at the controle for a rest and to check out the most famous lamb. 

On the Road

Between the ages of 9 and 11, I lived in an early-20th Century apartment building in Midtown Atlanta. During that time I was first learning to play the trumpet.  The first real song I learned (it has an easy melody of three notes that are easy to play) was “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  I remember practicing it over and over again for hours (“hours” to a 10 year old was probably like 12 minutes in real time.)  But as I finally mastered it, I took trumpet from my mouth and gave my crushed lips a rest.  The new wave band who lived upstairs from us, the Now Explosion, now began to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” fast and punk.  And its lyrics were performed by the Now Explosion’s lead singer, RuPaul.  “Mary had a Little Lamb will always have this special connection to me… and I’m sure RuPaul.

(And I bet you didn’t think I could come up with four vignettes about lambs, did you?)

 The ride back had some of the most beautiful scenery this side of Worcester. The Harvard Town Library is perched on a little hill overlooking a beautiful pond.  Further up I caught a glimpse of a wonderful waterfall.  I thought about stopping but I was in my "break four hour" mode.  Maybe a stop would have been worth it.

The last tough hill is climbed right before mile 50.  After that it would be smooth sailing, if you weren't into the outer suburbs.  I ride my bike to work everyday but never notice how annoying traffic is. Once you are riding at 20mph and then have to crawl through town centers and what not, then traffic annoys you.  After spurts of traffic I was able to get back going into the flow.  After doing these rides a few times, the right on Old Bedford, left on Virginia at the end feels almost like "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" - except for there aren't thousands of people lining the street cheering.  Finishing a long ride is still such an accomplishment for me, I have this euphoria heading into the finish.

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I took a breather and had a coke before heading Homeward Bound – finishing ride. 

With two big races coming up in the next two weeks where I might not get too much riding in – BAA 5k and James Joyce Ramble – I wanted to get in a full 100.  So I took the long way home through Fresh Pond and an outer loop of River before heading back into Cambridge.

Jesse had a little lamb whose meat was spiced and roasted
post ride meal: Lamb Shwarma Plate from Moody’s Falafel Palace – Central Square and Rouge Chocolate Stout.


* The ride is officially called the “Boston 100K”; however, I have chosen to give it a different name for creativity (and it makes my writing work better).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Triple H Ride: South Harvard 100k Populaire (4/6/14)

No I didn't ride with any WWF WWE wrestlers.  It was Harvard to Harvard to Harvard.

Part I: Harvard Square - Lexington
Weeks Bridge and Harvard University

The ride met at Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  So I figured 11 miles would be a great warm up.  So a quick ride up the river and Minuteman carried me up to Lexington.

I signed in to the ride and got a nice cup of Rwandan coffee from the cafe.

Part II:  South Harvard 100k

Unitarian Church, Harvard, MA
Ride: South Harvard 100k
Towns: Lexington, Sudbury, Wayland, Bolton, Stow, Harvard, Boxborough, Acton, Maynard, Concord
Distance: Scheduled - 67.1 miles (Actual 69.5)
Goal Time: 5:10:00
Actual Time: 5:21:31 (12.96 mph)

This was a randonneuring ride - run by New England Randonneurs.  This means it is officially timed.  As a runner, I like to get official times.  I did the 200k in both 2010 and 2011.

I left with the first riders but soon my already warmed up legs were getting ansy.  So, I rode on ahead.  Within 2 miles, I missed a turn on the cue sheet.  2 Miles!  Then, after about 2 miles of riding in circles and backtracking (and rereading the cue sheet), I found the turn that I missed.  At this rate, I'll be making it into a 200k!

But, I got my act together.  By the first "controle" I was at least seeing other people.

Campion Center
Since it's a timed unsupported ride, the controles are the way you prove that you did the ride.  You are given a "brevet card" - a 5 x 8 card with the list of controles.  The first controle was the Campion Center in Weston.  This was an informational controle.  This means there was a question on the brevet card based on signs at the center.  You had to write the answer on brevet card.

I stretched a little. And repacked my bag and filled up my water bottles.  I actually left two people there, meaning I was no longer in last - YES! (Randonneuring is NOT a race; the goal is to finish and ride well. However, I never want to be in last.)

The route then made its way into the King Philip Woods Nature Preserve - which was absolutely gorgeous.  However, upon making the turn deeper into the preserve there was a big sign: "ROAD FLOODED." uh oh.  And following me was a car as I got to the spot where it was flooded.  Well, it was only 1/2 inch deep and I gave a what the f- - -  look at the car about the sign.  The driver had been less worried than I, apparently...

Road Flooded
After a bit of deja vu which really turned out to be that I was on the bike course for the Sudbury Super Sprint Triathlon, I came upon a large group of riders from my trip.  I hopped onto the back of the pack and followed  a bit (I am a poor in-pack rider).  Then we hit what mapmyride listed as the first Cat-5 climb of the ride.  I felt good and charged the hill.

Long Hill Farm

The whole pack and I stopped at the second informational controle - Long Hill Farm.  I got a little ansy and once again headed out on my own.  This time, however, I didn't miss a turn.  The second and last Cat-5 climb came up toward Fruitlands - the next controle.  Right before the controle there is a beautiful overlook.  I stopped to take a picture and then rode past four bikers near their Harleys who were trying to hide the fact that they had stopped to smoke a joint and the controle at Fruitlands.
Fruitlands overlook
Fruitlands was a trancendentalist agrarian commuity.  Founded by Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Little Women author Louisa May) it was designed to be a utopian trancentalist farm.  While the farm turned out to be a failure it was another step in the trancendentalist movement and philosphy that defined 19th Century New England.  It is now a museum.

As an aside Amos Bronson Alcott is a dead ringer for actor George Coe
There was a mere three mile ride into the town of Harvard Center past a beautiful lake for the next controle.  This controle was not "informational" - as in I didn't have to answer a question.  Instead it was the more traditional one.  At the Harvard General Store, I had my card signed and dated by the girl behind the counter.  Also, I stopped to take a picture of the Unitarian Church on the Common.

Bikes lined up at the Harvard General Store
I left on a 18 mile stretch into Acton and next controle - Dunkin Donuts.  I got a cup of coffee and a Turkey, Bacon sandwich.  By, now the temperature was a balmy 50F.  So, I sat on the outdoor seats.  It wasn't overly nice since it was a mini-mall but still the sun felt great.  I let several people come in and leave on the rest of the ride while I enjoyed the first real bit of spring.

I had only 17 miles to come back to Lexington.  I decided to hammer it back.  Pretty soon I lot interest in that and was just finishing.  Through Concord I passed Orchard House - yet another home of the Alcotts.  After an S-shaped tour of Lexington's residential neighborhoods, I pulled into Lexington Center at Ride Studio Cafe.  As I locked up my bike, I ran into Rory locking up his from a different ride.  We discussed the coming races - 21 days until James Joyce Ramble!

I got my card signed and sat down for a cup of coffee.

Brevet Cards...

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Part III: Lexington to Harvard Square

HBS - I forgot to take a picture on the way back
so this is the Business School from a Kayak trip a few years ago
Riding 11 miles home was a little excruciating.  It was the first nice day after a long winter and EVERY FAMILY in Lexington and Arlington was out on the bike path walking, biking, rollerblading or whatever. Ran into Ruthanne and Dan on the bike path. While it was tough and slow to ride back to Cambridge, it was so wonderful to see New England coming alive again!

Total miles on the day - 91 miles... Next week: Boston 100k