Monday, June 30, 2014

Field Trip!: USATF-NE Track Meet (6/29/14)

Shot Put
Meet: USATF-NE Outdoor Championships
Events: Shot Put and High Jump

I stood there at the shot put pit Coach Rod asked me what was going on.  I tried to explain that I was trying to get a throw in with the 50+ group since I had to get back to the high jump area.

"Are you doing two events at the same time?" he asked.


Fortunately it didn't mean I had two bad events.  Instead, I had one great one and one terrible one.

High Jump
High Jump
Previous (adult) PR: 1.42 meters (4'8")

Steve was going to start at 1.02 meter.  So, I said I would do that and then run back over to the shot put and see what I could do.  I cleared 3'4" with ease.  Thanked the official and told him I'd be right back once I got a throw in at the Shot Put.

Shot Put
Previous PR: 8.85 meters (29' even)

So after I had cleared a basic height in the High Jump, I convinced them to let me make a throw with the 50+ flight, so at least I had one throw in.  My work on the glide turned out okay.  The measurement was 8.91 meters - 16lb PR! (I threw 37' in high school but that was a 12 pounder.)

High Jump
Well, by the time I got back to the High Jump - it was up to 1.45 meters.  So, I didn't get to try from around 4 feet before moving up.  Three straight jumps and three straight failures.  On the plus side it got me back to the shot put pit.  (I did win my age group and was 3rd master since I was the only one in my age group and there were only 3 masters).

Shot Put
Shot Put
As I jogged back across the track (avoiding disrupting the 200).  I got back into the under 50 shot put flight at throw 2 and still had 5 throws.  With a PR under my belt, I went for it.  My next toss broke 9 meters and my third one was 9.49 meters!

The last two I was kinda playing around trying to find my glide into max distances.  If you see the picture, you'll notice my foot is a good foot or so from the end of the circle.  That's just an extra foot I threw that didn't count.  So, I kept trying to get it so I was actually throwing closer to where they measure from.  Each felt weird as I was worried about fouling.  While I didn't think any were good throws, they all broke 9 meters. Every throw (put) was above my previous PR.  AND, this year I didn't come last in my flight.  Took 2nd in my age group.

Emer in 5000m

Joe in the 5000m

5000 meter winner, Men's

Mike Quinn finishing the 5000m

Womens' 5000 winner

Endurance Underground
Rod helping out with the blocks

Emma on way to 2nd

Emma and Urvi cheering me in the Shot Put

PPSS14: Paddle Prattle & Saddle Skedaddle 2014 (6/28/14)

Saddle Skedaddle
Trip: C-I-C (Cambridge-Ipswich-Cambridge)
Distance: 75 miles
Sights:  Beautiful downtown Malden, Independence Greenway in Peabody, Danvers Rail-Trail and Topsfield Linear Common (Plus the sketchy half mile section from Peabody to Danvers)

Ridouts met us in Cambridge at 7:30 and we rolled out and then met with TM in the Inman Square area before riding all the way (35 miles) to Ipswich and Foote Brothers Canoe.
Urvi, Eva and Matt, Cambridge

Matt and Eva, Danvers

Topsfield bike path

Paddle Prattle
Trip: Ipwich River
Distance: 7.9 miles
Sights: Ipswich River wildlife sanctuary, Bradley Palmer State Park

I thought about it and I've been doing this trip since 2003.  Still one of my favorite trips ever.  I just love it. It's currently ranked #9 on my TOP TRIP list.  Foote Brothers drives you up river and you unpack the Canoes and kayaks and it's about 7-8 miles down river.  This year 15 of us made the trip: Me, Urvi, Chris, Alison, Scott, Julie, Ryan, Amie, Matt, Eva, Steve, Deb, Tinamarie, Andy and C-A. We had a perfect day for it - 80 and sunny!

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

In the swampy lands

Watching out for trees

TM and Andy


Eva and Matt (with his awesome Canoeing Hat)

Scott, Julie, CA, Eva and Matt

The fleet coming up on the Horse Bridge
Afterwards we had Pizza and Beer at Choate Bridge Pub and Urvi and I rode back to Cambridge... It was Urvi's Miles in a Day PR!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

6.2 Lessons in 6.2 Miles: BAA 10K (6/22/14)

Right about 9km with Neil
photo by Tom Cole

Race: BAA 10K
Location: Boston
Goal Time: 40:00
Actual Time: 40:40

Lesson 1: Come early, travel light…
The race start was 8:00.  I decided running down like I did for the BAA 5k would be a great warm-up and I wouldn’t put myself at the mercy of the MBTA or parking issues. (Apparently, one can avoid all parking issues by getting into Back Bay at 6:30 like Kimi did.)  So I left the house at 7:10 or so and was at the start line ready to go at 7:40. I met the usual suspects at the start line: John Hadcock, Bradley Harris and Paul Clark.  Bradley and I pushed our way to close to the start.

At the gun, I felt great.  I found a comfortable pace as we ran down Commonwealth.  I didn’t make the mistake of following Bradley again like Ribfest.  My first mile was in the ±5 second range of my goal.  Anytime, I can Avoid my ownpersonal Noid of dashing out too fast in the first mile, I will have a good day.

Lesson 2: …but bring a bag to check
The second mile pointed to the errors of following Lesson 1 too much.  I wore my “marathon racing shorts” as I term them.  They have reasonably big pockets.  (Most racing shorts don’t or just have a back pocket large enough for a car/bike key, a $10 bill and an ATM Card – Not that anyone who thinks they should steal my racing shorts would find those items in mine.)  The pockets in the marathon shorts are great for putting in a package gummy bears and Gu and what Bex once termed “energy cubes.”  What they are not designed to carry is a cellphone, wallet and keys when you are running at 10K speeds. 

I spent the second mile switching the 3 items around the two pockets.  It was like some obscure Nash game theory puzzle.  Eventually, I settled with wallet in right pocket, phone in left pocket and keys in my hand.  If one is concerned with running form and efficiency should never do this.   I probably wasted so much energy – both physical and mental attempting to solve this Gordian knot of a problem.  Next time, I bring a small bag to check my keys, wallet and phone.

Aside: Efficiency breaks the “I before E except after C rule” – just in case you try to spend 3 minutes making the squiggly line go away.  Is it one F and two Cs? Is it two Fs and two Cs?

Lesson 3: Don’t get too amped up around family and friends
In reality I probably should have learned this at the Providence Marathon in 2012.  At Providence, all my miles from 1 – 23 were within 10 seconds of 7:12 – EXCEPT mile 9 where I passed the boys: Anthony, Tim, etc who were cheering us on.  That one was a 6:50 because I got amped up and ran with some over-hyped adrenaline for that portion.  Between the actually running too fast and the extra jump of heart rate, I’m sure those 25 seconds cost me 2 minutes on the back end.

The turnaround of the BAA 10k was about 4 blocks from my parents’ apartment in Allston.  They made their way down to the 3 mile mark to cheer and take pictures.  Knowing they’d be there got my heart racing and got me once again running too fast.  Despite mile three having the two hard hills on the course – up to the BU Bridge and up to Allston – it was my fastest mile.  Oops.

Lesson 4: If you expect good things, train for them.
This might seem obvious.   But my early season had gone so well when I trained for the BAA 5k/James Joyce Double.  I had a hard time getting back into training for the Ribfest/26 x 1/BAA 10K Triple.  And by mile 4 that started to show.  The legs that had carried me to a near PR at BAA 5k and a PR at James Joyce now failed me as I went back up the hill to the BU Bridge.

It was my slowest mile; and, while I thought I was running well, it was obvious I just didn’t have the ability in my legs to race for a PR or near it. 

Lesson 5: Remember to have fun!
I run for fun.  I like to do it.  I like to race.  I like to converse with the crowd – if I can breathe. 

Somerville Road Runners were manning the water stop at Mile 5.  (Once again Lesson 3 applies here as well.)  I came running in and “Iceland” Tommy, who is not in SRR but a friend, was the first in a long line of friends cheering as they handed out water to the runners.  I grabbed a cup from either Tom Bok or from Megan Hyland who were the first two in line.* I took a sip as I ran past many others cheering – who I can’t even name them all.  I dumped a bit over my head.  And then there was still a little left…

To have fun with the last half a cup, I threw it on Tim Harden as he stood with another cup to hand off to runners.  It got him pretty well just off center-mass on his left side. It would have counted as a hit in BRM.

SRR Volunteers at the Mile 5 Water Stop

Lesson 6: Dig Deeper, there’s something there.
Right before the 9km mark, I heard someone yell out: “Go Neil.”  I looked ahead and twenty feet up in a yellow Arsenal jersey, I saw my friend Neil Cronin.  I thought to myself, I’m gonna catch him.  And while announcing my intentions to him, I caught up with him and briefly posted myself behind him while I regained my breath.  (Classic cycle racing move.) I caught my breath right at the 9km mark.  I pushed a little ahead of him.  Then I could feel he caught up with me.  I died a bit and felt like I was all done for and said something to the tune of: “Go for it, I got nothing left.”

But, I did have something left.  And, for the next 600 meters to the two of us pushed past each other and then back four or five times.  Each time I thought I couldn't run anymore I realized I could race a little bit more.  Maybe there are those races I can find more when I thought I had nothing? Maybe I can dig into the well a little sooner and maybe more often?  Maybe I’m starting to understand the difference between merely running a race and racing a race?  I don’t know, maybe there is an arc to come.

Lesson 6.2: End on a High Note.
To borrow from The Oatmeal: “When you see the finish line, start sprinting like a coked-out orangutan.” The six mile mark is on Boylston right before you turn onto Charles for the longish straight stretch into the finish line.  Right as we hit 6, I picked up the pace.  Neil told me to “get it!” 

I had learned to not start all out sprinting with 0.2 miles left from the Lone Gull10K last year.  But, in a steady progression I built up speed until about 2/3 of the way down Charles street I started sprinting like a coked-out orangutan.  I came in at 40:40.  The pace was better than Ribfest had been last week.  It placed me 188th overall/ 14th in my age group.

I dropped a place in my age group in the Distance Medley rankings to 4th.  So, I’ll have to have a great half marathon to finish in the top 3 (rather 2nd or 3rd because 1st currently has a 4 minute lead).  However, I’d would have had to have a great half marathon, even if I did run close to my James Joyce time.

Jenn Fonda had a PR
Mark Duggan had a PR
Liz Cooney finished 3rd in her age group
John Hadcock finished 3rd in his age group and stands in 1st in the age group in the Medley.

*- Bonus LessonGrab Early, grab often

When going into the line at a water stop, try to grab as early as you can – as long as there is no huge back up at the first few people.  Point to the water you intend to grab – hopefully getting eye contact with the person holding it.  If you grab early then you can try again if you drop it.  Last year at the Derry 16 miler, I hadn’t grabbed water yet and near the end of the line I was going get one and some guy jumped in and out of line taking the last water right in front of me.  No warm Gatorade for me for another 3 miles – jaggoff!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Zen and the Art of Passing the Baton: 26x1 Relay (6/21/14)

Team Photo after race
Photo by Tom Cole
Event: 26x1 Relay
Distance: 1600m
Location: Tufts University
Goal Time: 5:30
Actual Time: 5:35 (PR!)

At the high school, college and Olympic levels, passing the baton is a big deal in relays.  A quick scan of the interweb finds hundreds of articles and looking at Youtube baton pass technique gives you 4,800 videos. Coaches suggest doing blind handoff drills during warmups and cooldowns. The marginal return of those miliseconds can make the difference between first and fifth.

I remember at practice after the BC Relays in high school Coach B and Dwayne Sykes discussing the travails of bad handoffs:
COACH: Dwayne, isn’t dropping the baton the loneliest feeling in the world?
DWAYNE: No. The loneliest feeling is walking back across the track to go pick it up.

Adult amateur distance runners who run a mile 1600m on the track once a year – don’t do any of these things.  It becomes a comedy of errors at the point of baton…

Last year, Jason refused to hand me the baton until I started running.  So I kept trying to grab at it and he kept moving it away from me so I couldn’t get it.  Finally, when I was running a pace he found acceptable, he gave it to me. (Fortunately, I was the anchor so I didn’t have to pass to anyone else).

Scot Dedeo and Rachel Shanley had an awkward hand off this year.  Scot came barreling in at near 200m pace to finish his 1600.  Rachel was convinced NOT to start running at 200m pace to begin her 1600.  So at these asynchronous speeds, Scot was forced to handoff to Rachel nearly behind him.

Some good can come of such handoffs.  In 2010, I handed off to Urvi even though we didn’t know each other yet…

2010 handoff, Urvi and I
photo by Robert Cipriano

This year, I was the 10th runner for Somerville’s Trains team.  (This year the teams were Planes, Trains and Automobiles).    I got the handoff from Eva in more or less the best possible handoff for the situation.  While I of course went out a little too fast, it wasn’t unmanageable.  An 81 second first lap hadn’t destroyed me.  My next two laps, I followed Caffrey’s advice to maintain and be comfortable.  The last lap, I still had some juice left and didn’t feel like I was going to die.  I kicked it up a notch at 400 to go.  Then I tried again at 200 to go and had nothing.  Out of the turn with a 100 left, I had a bit of a sprint left.  I came in full bore and tried to hand it off to Benai in kind of a tomahawk motion.  But, she of course didn’t know what I was doing so she tried to grab it when it was high in the air. 

This led to a humorous picture that Karen really enjoyed showing everyone and SoRad said it looked like I was trying to play keep away with the baton.

The masterful Jesse to Benai handoff (Neil of November Project, looks on incredulously)
photo by Tom Cole

The SRR A Team, “Planes”, was victorious and broke the meet record with a 2:16:04.  Chris Antunes beat the meet record for a 1600, but that was broken only minutes later by Andrew Rotz from November Project.

November Project and Greater Lowell – A took 2nd and third.  SRR – Trains: 5th.

 1. Finish 2:16:04 SRR Planes(14)
 2. Finish 2:22:51 NovProject(10)
 3. Finish 2:24:11 GLRR 1(4)
 4. Finish 2:34:56 NETT(9)
 5. Finish 2:38:12 SRR Trains(15)
 6. Finish 2:39:47 TMIRCE(11)
 7. Finish 2:46:00 MRC(7)
 8. Finish 2:46:22 GLRR 2(5)
 9. Finish 2:46:45 TVFR(12)
10. Finish 2:51:58 ComRun(2)
11. Finish 2:57:17 GFRC(3)
12. Finish 3:11:01 SpiderOneRacing(13)
13. Finish 3:11:20 Wicked(17)
14. Finish 3:16:28 Mystics(8)
15. Finish 3:16:40 GLRR 3(6)
16. Finish 3:20:06 SRR Automobiles(16)
17. Finish 3:24:41 BOMF(1)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Clydesdales Clydesdales and not Category to Run: Ribfest 5 Miler (6/15/14)

Race: Ribfest 5 Miler
Location: Merrimack, NH
Goal Time: 32:30
Actual Time: 33:26

The famous Budweiser Clydesdales are generally housed in two locations: St. Louis and Merrimack, NH. This year's New England 5 Mile Championship - Ribfest 5 Miler - was held on the grounds of the Merrimack Anheuser-Busch Brewery and home of the Clydesdales.  So in the shadow of the giant horses teams from all over New England came to run for, money, bragging rights, beer and ribs.

The start was right next to the Clydesdale stables.  I started near Tim and Bradley (who both were celebrating their first Father's Days).  There was a large crowd for the race - 2500.  Included in the crowd was a 9 or 10 year old who had wormed his way up toward the front and was standing right in front of us. On the gun we started down the road and toward the big hill out of the brewery.  About 20 yards into the race, the 9 year old fell down!  Tim was luckily agile enough to stop without trampling him.   Here's a rule to parents - don't let your 9 year old line up at the front of a fast race...

For the first mile I stayed in check, following my mantra of stay behind Tim and Bradley.  There were a couple of moments where the wind on Daniel Webster Highway were pretty bad and the devil would get into me.  I jumped out in front of Bradley and Tim to break the wind as best I could.  At the mile and a half mark we were done with the climb out.  I looked at my watch so that I would know where on the way back it would be a gentle downhill with the wind at my back.

And... They're off
Photo by Tom Cole

Clydesdales were first bred as draught horses in Scotland (near the River Clyde).  Local Bay mares and black Flemish Stallions were originally bred.  Eventually by 1837, there was a known and named breed of horse coming from that region.  In 1879 an American Clydesdale Association had been founded.  It promoted the breed in the US and Canada.  The ACA produced it's first stud book in 1882.  (Steve, Marc, Seth, Aaron and I will be in the forth coming stud book).

Well away from the brewery and said Clydesdales, Tim, Bradley and I were lurching through the crowds and the wind.  The course takes you down Daniel Webster and then off the course into a nice residential neighborhood at the two mile mark.  Hanging with Bradley for mile two had basically worn me down.  It was like I was a Whig Presidential campaign against Jacksonian democrats - just a steamless locomotive slowing down.  Mile 3 in the shade allowed me to re-catch my breath and halt the decline and maybe move forward back into a good race.

By 1933 the movement for Prohibition had halted and declined.  One of FDR's first actions was to repeal the Volstead Act.  In celebration, August Anheuser Busch, Jr. presented his father with a team of 8 Clydesdales. Since then they are a symbol of Budweiser and the most famous Clydesdales in the world.

Pickle coming into the finish - after a Soccer tourney in North Texas and a red eye outta DFW and a drive from Logan
Photo by Tom Cole

50 years later, Dave McGillivray was the Race Director of a triathlon.  Working with a couple of Bud Light reps, he sponsored a new weight based category.  200 pound guys just can't run with 145 pound runners.  The Bud Light reps gave him a couple stuffed clydesdales as awards, and the rest is history.  The generally 200 lb + weight division in endurance races became known as Clydesdale.  I often compete in this division and if the race is longer than 12K or so do well in it.

Unfortunately for me, a 5 miler is shorter than 12K.  We came back onto Daniel Webster Highway at the 3 mile mark  The decline had ended but the speed hadn't picked back up.  I passed Tim who was now walking up the hill.  I figured if I just got myself up the hill and over the hump at 3.5, I'd be able to coast downhill and down wind and carry my Clydesdale frame into a reasonable if not "good" time.

Joe and Simon (Joe attempting his Fernando Rodney impression)
Photo by Tom Cole
The Ribfest 5 miler didn't have a Clydesdale division.  This is one of my only two complaints about the whole race.  The first being that they ran out of cups at the water stop by the time Urvi came through - nowhere near the back of the race.  It was a hot day.  But, it seems that a race AT the AB Brewery where upon completion you go drink beer and eat BBQ, could stand to have a clydesdale division.  (Maybe they can find some of McGillivray's stuffed Clydesdales laying around as trophies.)

I doubt I would have won the Clydedales... As we crested that hill I had no extra gear to throw myself into. Any hope of a fast last mile were dashed.  I was now just hanging on hoping not to embarrass myself.  (This is a strong drive of mine now on bad days, especially ones where I've passed people early; I usually want to minimize the number of people who say: "You were running too fast, too early.")  Mike Quinn came by me - to my relief, that meant there was a master who still had speed for SRR to complete the bottom of the table. Then Tim passed me for a third time on the day.  (In mile 3 I had slowed and twice I passed him while he walked).  I managed a 33:26, which was definitely not by best.  However, it did beat last year's USATF 5 miler - Carver Cranberry; so I got that going for me.

But, winners, losers; whiners and diners; all got to finish the race by going into the actual Ribfest.  Beer and BBQ is a great way to finish a race.

Carrie Anne leads in Kate and Emerson
Photo by Tom Coles
SRR Shoutouts
Cipriano won his age group
Karen E., Pickle and J Rap all took 2nd in their age groups
Wolfgang took 3rd in his

Men's Open -11th
Women's Open - 4th
Men's Masters -3rd
Women's Masters -2nd!
Men's Seniors - 3rd
Women's Seniors 4th

Monday, June 2, 2014

All the Way: 300K Brevet (5/31/14)

Town Line
Event: Boston 300K
Route: Bedford North through Ayer, Athol and Orange out to Northfield and then back around the Quabbin and through Sterling, Lancaster and Concord
Distance: 196 miles (225,) day
Goal Time: 17:00:00 (but anything under 20:00: would be fine)
Actual Time: 17:40:00

At mile 130 of the ride, after taking the left onto Rte 122, the next cue said: "6.9 Left onto West at blinking yellow light."  That meant just 7 miles on Rte 122.  Originally that seemed fine but I really was not ready for it.  7 miles of unrelenting gentle climb.  There had been steep hills earlier (I'm looking at you Cushing Street, Ashburnham). But this one didn't lend itself to my style of climbing: out of the saddle rocking back and forth.  No, this was sit down and go 8 mph for the next 52 minutes.

By the time I got up to the blinking yellow light, I felt like Gatsby glaring at Daisy Buchanan's single dock light.  (As an aside, typing this I just realized that the GREEN light was symbolic.  Did Gatsby think Green means Go with her?  A red light would have been totally different).  Anyways, the YELLOW light was as if Daisy Buchanan was declaring Caveat Emptor for the rest of the ride.  You might think this will be great but just you wait...

Some 145 miles and 14 hours earlier, I was sitting up in bed freaked out about the ride to come.  My last attempt at a 300k came in 2011 and could be best described at abject failure.  I failed in nearly every facet of randonneuring: Fitness, Training, Pacing, Nutrition, Mental Ability and Equipment. As my palms sweated and I just tried to wrap my head around attempting it again.  Fortunately it wasn't 3 weeks after I ran a marathon again....

I got myself out of bed and made it into the kitchen for coffee, cereal and pop-tarts.  My bag was packed; I said good bye to Urvi and bounded out the door for my bike.  I headed up Mass ave and toward Lexington/Bedford.  At 5 AM on a Saturday there was nobody on the roads.  I was able to test out my legs and fitness by throwing in some sprints.   After the dreaded "Did Not Finish" in 2011, I promised myself I would not attempt a 300k again until I thought I was more than ready.  I know it's a strain on others to put on this ride already and dropping out just causes more problems. So even at this late stage I was prepared to drop to 200k or DNS if I had to.  But, with the sprints I felt good; felt confident about the day to come.

After a security check and safety talk, I got my brevet card.  The ride started, but I made one last trip to the bathroom for a late start.  To solve my normal pacing problems (riding too damn fast, such as the CRW Century two weeks ago), I developed a strategy which I called the "Take It Easy" Strategy.  I kept telling myself: "Take it Easy, Take it Easy; don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy."  Too bad I hate the Eagles, Man:

"Take it easy" meant to not sprint nor try to race with people who were going faster than my plan (13-14 mph moving pace).  Also, if I was going downhill and either gaining speed or going over 20 mph, don't pedal. Instead I used them as fantastic portions to gain ground without trying. I figured the longer I could maintain easy riding the better I would be.  Randonnuering is not a race and my goal was to finish.

On this first section where I was using my Take It Easy strategy, I met up with another rider who was doing his first brevet and was doing the 200k option today.  While I had done more brevets than he, he was the far more experienced rider.  We generally agreed that the 300k would be totally different than the 200k.  "I figure it's like a Century you get lost on," he said.  The 300k is definitely a different animal than the Century or 200k: much like a marathon isn't just a half marathon twice.

I don't know if they were intolerant or naive before 1810

The first contrôle was the Dunkin Donuts in Harvard, MA.  My bathroom break and my pace had put me near the very end of the ride.  While I was still within the defined time, I was only 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  But I was committed to keeping an easy pace that would pay off in the end.  (There is a story about a Testudine and a Lepus that comes to mind.)  

After about 1/2 of a medium Dunkin French Vanilla Black, I headed out onwards.  After a brief sojourn incorrectly into Ayer, I made my way back en route through Devens and into towns I only know in theory (Fitchburg, Ashby, Ashburnham).  It was during this section that I engaged the second part of my strategy: Eat salty and sweet foods.  Nutrition is often overlooked by non endurance athletes.  In fact, a friend of mine went to a clinic for running coaches.  There, in discussions led by college track and x-country coaches, all they could talk about during the ultramarathon portions of the classes was training paces.  My friend was far more concerned with teaching nutrition, for training and race day.  But, even college level coaches didn't realize how important that is once you get to such distances.  Between Slim Jims* and Cliff Bars I was able to maintain a balance between sweet and salty.

The absolute steepest and most physically challenging climb of the day was on this stretch.  Cushing Street starts at the gate of Cushing Academy (not to be confused with the now closed Cardinal Cushing Academy). And like Leg 3 of the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay is just silly.  I passed three people on the hill, two of whom were probably doing the smarter action and walking up it.  I rolled into the second contrôle, Tweedo's Market, about 30 minutes behind my schedule but gaining ground on the contrôle time from the first one.

I grabbed one of the turkey on pita sandwiches out of my bag; texted Urvi with an update and ran through the cue sheet to remember my notes.  52 miles in for the ride (66 for the day) and neither fatigue nor hunger were a factor yet.  Nutrition, pacing and fitness were up to snuff.

Doane's Falls
The next section could probably be counted as the best part of the entire ride.  We took a right into the Tully Lake Reservation.  I heard the specific rush of waterfalls and you know me and waterfalls: I had to stop. After a little walk of 50 yards or so, I got a great view of Doane's Falls.  Nice bit of respite on a day of long riding.  The beauty - and steep hills - continued in the Tully Lake Reservation.  On one of the steep downhills, I reached my new Personal Best for top speed on a bike - 42.7 mph!

As we left Tully Lake and Athol (moving into Orange, MA), the route takes you onto Tully Road.  It is a long lonely stretch of beauty.  The long slow climbs were time to think and reconsider.  I realized how much better shape I was in than 2011.  Closing in on 100 miles for the day and my training and fitness were not suffering.  In 2011, I was the victim of trying to do too many things at once.  On successive weekends I tried: National Marathon, Boston Brevet 200K, Fox Trot 10 mile trail race and the Brevet 300K.  Being the same period as a marathon, I wasn't properly trained for the long rides.  (and, at 250 lbs, I probably wasn't properly trained for the marathon either.)  After my failure to get better at the marathon and terrible performance in the Fox Trot, I probably wasn't mentally ready for a 300K either (but more on that later).

The fact is my fitness level was so low before because I hadn't had time to recover from a marathon, which you need time.  Also, I didn't have the cycling miles under my legs.  Like a half marathon or century ride, you can fake it on a 200K; you cannot once it gets longer.  As I climbed into Northfield for the third contrôle, I was confident in my fitness and in my training so that even with 125 miles left on the day, I knew I would finish.

Highland BBQ, pulled pork!
Fit and trained or not, I was quite happy to see Highland BBQ.  I was looking forward to some sliced brisket but had to "settle" for a big pulled pork sandwich!

I ran into Matt with whom I had ridden the 200K in 2010, before my bike had major issues:  The chain got caught between the first and second chain ring and I was forced to spend 45 minutes at a bike shop in Milford, NH.  Today I was all smiles.  I had caught up now with several people and we left from the BBQ place in a group of four riding the next 20 miles largely together (I did lose them on an uphill).  My pacing strategy was working.  I wasn't exhausted and was still churning along comfortably.  We pulled into the fourth contrôle with over 107 miles done.

Sanjay riding into a Western Mass town whose name I forgot

In his great work, Ethics, Baruch Spinoza argues: "The human mind has no knowledge of the body, and does not know it to exist, save through the ideas of the modifications whereby the body is affected." According to this mental toughness shouldn't be connected to the body what-so-ever.  But it is.  Later Spinoza says: "The human mind perceives not only the modifications of the body, but also the ideas of such modifications."  

When that modification is exhaustion due to not being properly trained or not properly tapering leading up to a large event, it is harder to have "mental toughness."  Now, I'm not discussing the "mental toughness" that sports writers yammer about (which always involves some otherworldly athlete having a slightly bad day and the writer blaming his "mental toughness" not the obvious statistical certainty that in 100 basketball games, one of them even the best player in the world will only score 7 points.)  No, I'm discussing a mental toughness to want to go on despite the fact that you physically don't want to.  In every endurance event there will be a moment where quitting seems like the best option.  Most of the time - especially when physically prepared - this is fleeting.  

As I rode slowly up the 6.9 miles on Rte 122, this feeling of quitting come over me again.  I was still a little wet from the rain; my back was muddy and disgusting from a general day in the saddle and from a specific dirt road; and, this long steady uphill was making me question the decision made 13 hours earlier to ride the 300k instead of the 200k.  But, I remember what an ultra runner told me before the Pineland Farms 50k: "Don't make any decisions while going uphill."  Eventually I saw the flashing light.  I knew I would make it to the top of the hill, to the next contrôle, only 0.6 miles after the light and to the finish line only 55 miles after that.

Dirt Road right after the rain
I was a full hour and a half behind my plan when I left the fifth contrôle (which was an adorable gazebo in the Petersham Town Square that I stupidly didn't take a picture of).  But, I wasn't worried. What I did think about was that it would be dark in 2 hours.  I figured if I could get as close to the suburbs as possible in the next two hours, I could make it through without worrying about darkness.  

Emily described the next 15 miles as "three kickers" worth of hills.  These hills definitely slowed down my progress; however, my "take it Easy" strategy came to full fruition here.  I gunned it!  Up and down hills, over dales and what not...

And that's when the C.H.U.D.s came at me: 

It did get fully dark before I expected. It was 8:45 when I got into Sterling Town Center (contrôle for the Little Lamb 100K) and this wasn't the suburbs.  I think of it as a streetlight doppler effect.  The number of street lights per mile diminishes (like the number of Ethiopian restaurants per mile) as you get further from a subway station.   So, Sterling MA had virtually zero.  I went through the town center and a rider who had been at the side wondering what to do latched onto me.  I forget his name, but we were a team for a while. It was the first 300k for both of us.  And both of us had not done well as far as equipment.  He had a very bright front lamp, so he was leaps and bounds better than me.  But we had problems reading the cue sheets as white lights off our flashes would create a glare in the plastic.  Neither of us were ready to ride through the dark exurb streets at night.

Then, I got flat!  man.  With about 18 miles left, in some residential section of Harvard or Maynard somewhere, I was trying to change the tire by the light of a flood light in front of a house.  Then like a story from Genesis, lights appear on the road, approaching us.  6 guys with bright headlights, CO2 canisters and general experience/knowhow.  Two of them were Steve and Chuck with whom I had ridden the 2011 200K.  They helped me fix the flat and let the two newbies join their crew.  After briefly getting separated (I took a wrong turn, or rather didn't turn), I got back with them with my MDI Marathon jacket and just rode in the middle of their pack.  They had the course on the GPS and bright lights so they didn't have to stop at every turn and look at the cue sheet.

Crossing the Connecticut River: Sunderland, MA
Riding into the end we got to Concord Center - 5 miles from the finish.  I realized it was really going to happen. I was going to get to Hanscom; I was going to finish.  I would get a big picture of the eight of us. We would sit down and get sodas before heading home, joke about how much of an idiot I was and grade my night equipment to an F!  But in Concord Center we were pulled over by one of the ride volunteers...

There had been a plane crash at Hanscom.  The airport was closed.  Jake, the race director(?) (I don't know the term, but if it was a 5k that'd be his title), was on the last road with his zip car as the finish.  They were only allowing riders into the airport two at a time to go get their cars and even then, the troopers were telling the riders to just load up the bikes and get out, don't even change shoes.

Philadelphia Inquirer owner, Lewis Katz, and friends had come to Concord to celebrate the launch of an educational non-profit run by Doris Kearns Goodwin's son.  After the party they had boarded a private plane and to head back to NJ/Philly.  The plane had crashed immediately after takeoff.  None of this did I know at the time. Yet, we knew a crash was a crash and survivors were unlikely.

So, in an odd silence we all merely separated.  Physical triumphs became unimportant almost immediately. The enormity of the ride and the crash wouldn't hit me until the next day.  I rode home through the streets of Lexington, Arlington and Cambridge quickly as they have streetlights (and Ethiopian restaurants).  I was anxious to see Urvi and celebrate a bit.

* - little aside on Slim Jims (and any product you want to ride with), test the opening ability BEFORE the ride.  These Slim Jims  I purchased were so tightly packed in shrink wrap that getting them out of their stupid package a) probably spent as many calories as eating them and b) It gets dangerous trying rip it open at 20 mph

** - Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.