Friday, December 18, 2015

Go for the Great: Holiday Race Season (11/26-12/12/15)

Club XC Nationals - Golden Gate Park
photo by Erin Morin
"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."
- John D. Rockerfeller

Two months ago on a run the day after Seth and Shark Tank's wedding, Ben and I were talking about my plans for the season.  I had wanted to break 40 minutes at the 2015 Club Nationals.  We both figured I'd have to be able to run a 39 minute road 10K to do it.  I had spent three months prepping for a 39 minute road race.  I knew as I approached this year's race in Golden Gate Park, I'd be ready to go for it.

I spent September and October getting my Cross Country legs under me. And each race I improved - getting closer to my goal.  And by the middle of November I was ready for my three week/three race "Holiday Season:

Somerville Road Runners' Gobble, Gobble, Gobble
Date: Thanksgiving, November 26, 2015
Location: Davis Square, Somerville
Distance: 4 miles
Goal Time: 24:00
Actual Time: 24:07 (PR)

5 years of Somerville Road Runners' Gobble Gobble Gobble shirts
From Bottom to Top - 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2015 RD shirt (there were extra XL)

Any plans quickly went off the rails when I ran the first mile with Tim and Rory at a blazing pace. Mile one crosses at Packard so there is a brief recovery as you run into Powderhouse Cir.  But once that was done I had spent mile 2 fighting to keep up with Rory - losing him on the uphills; catching him on the downs. (Tim had blown away from us.)

So by the hills on the third mile, I was pretty wrecked and my stabilizer stiffness had me feeling like Frankenstein.

At the crest of the hill at St. Catherine's, I was prepared to bomb it down. I put in all the effort I could, bounding down hill. By the time I got to the flat part of Summer at the VFW, I was going full out and couldn't pick it up for the last bit, regardless of Victor's entreaties to catch up with Rory.

Took a full minute off last year and a new PR!

Mill Cities Relay
Date: December 6, 2015
Location: Nashua, NH to Lawrence, MA
Leg: Leg 5 - anchor
Distance: 4.75 miles
Goal Time: 29:45
Actual Time: 29:04

Tom Morrow Never Dies was the Coed Masters "Scoring Team" for SRR: Tom Bok, Nicole Tateosian, Florentien de Ruiter, Chris Smith and me.  I was team Captain, which largely involves getting the driving directions down.

I ran the last leg.  When Chris came in I took off like a bat outta hell; I almost got hit by a car... in the parking lot.  But once I got to the road, I both slowed down a bit and was safe from cars since there were cones and whatnot.

I was rattling off a good pace, up until Mt. Abrams.  That third mile I slipped 45 seconds.  And at the top of the hill, a Greater Lowell Runner tried to pass me.  I spent the next mile and a half trying to hold him off.

I rattled off a good mile and a half.  But in the home stretch it wasn't enough.  He and another guy passed me when I didn't have that last gear.

But, still Tom Morrow Never Dies, didn't die and took home the brick for first place Coed Masters!

USATF XC Club Nationals
Date: December 12, 2015
Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Distance: 10K
Goal Time: 40:00
Actual Time: 39:26 (XC PR, 2 seconds off my road PR)

At the Start
photo by Erin Morin
Going to Frisco made this trip worth it regardless of the race.  Also got to catch up with Jon and Kerry May as the enjoy the Left Coast.

In 2014, 5 of us had gone to Pennsylvania for the Club Nationals.  As the 5th person on a 5 man team, I had wanted to do the best I could without endangering a blow-up that would have dropped me (and the team); I had to run "good."  Yet, in California, I was the only one.  So when I got to the line I decided to follow what I thought had been the dictum of Pre (but turned out to be Rockefeller): "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

Originally my plan was to run 6:15/ miles. But as I was the only person in this race, I decided to go for it: 6 minute miles.  The worst thing that could happen is I blow up and finish with a bad time.

The first mile was a swing on the horse track around the polo grounds. There were big puddles along it. Everyone was going sideways to avoid the puddles. I just went through them. However, that meant I passed EJ. Crap, I thought.

But I just kept up the pace as we finished up the Polo Grounds and headed back into the meadow. The second mile was around 6 also. Then you run into the squishy backside meadow and up the one bit of cut back narrow trail hill.

I was not able to continue 6 minute miles. The first half was 19:11. I slowed and battled the second half. It was a blow up but just slower.  But even that would have been my fastest Cross Country 5k last year. Finished strong-ish, not as great as I imagined at the start, but still a minute and a half faster than at Lehigh last year!

SRR Womens Team
Sara Saba, Erin Morin, Urvi Mujumdar

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sun Tzu and the Art of Cross-Country: NE Cross Country (8/22/15 - 11/8/15)

USATF-NE Championships
coming up over the knoll I twisted my ankle on in 2010
Photo by Emerson
“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?”

Five years ago this past August, I ran the Bridge of Flowers 10K out in Sherbourne Falls.  It's not the best race in the world: it's in the middle of nowhere; you don't actually get to run over the Bridge of Flowers; and, there is the dumbest hill ever in a race at mile 3.  Anyways, it is important in my own personal history.  It was a year after I had returned from my cycling across the Balkans.  But also, while I was a good 10 minutes behind the rest of the Somerville Runners: Jon May, Chris Smith, Robert Cipriano and Joe O'Leary, it convinced me I could run with these guys if I tried.  That night I went out and I bought two packs of cigarettes.  They were the last two packs I ever bought.  Other than the 2 and a half I had a month later at Nellie and Carl's wedding, those cigarettes were the last I ever smoked.

I only remark on this as to view Sunday at Franklin Park. From the bottom of the Bear Cage Hill to the Mile 2 mark, I knew Joe was right behind me.  Emerson had yelled for me and then him as I made the turn off the hill: "Joe's still right behind me." And, throughout the stretch along the team areas, people who knew Joe were cheering for him.  Soon after the turn by the stone lean-to where the BAA puts their tent, I ran past the Mile 2 mark and then Joe ran past me.  I immediately pushed to get onto his shoulder and stayed with him until the hill up to the picnic area in the Wilderness.  Maybe I could have kept with him; maybe my own judgement of perceived effort isn't correct yet*; or, maybe, I wasn't quite ready to run a race with Joe, physiologically or psychologically.

Regardless of my own understanding of my abilities, this cross-country season has been a major catalyst for improvement.  I entered the season with 3 goals: 1) run 18:30 at the Mayor's Cup; 2) Break 32 minutes at USATF-NE Championship; and 3) score at least 16 points in the Cross Country Grand Prix.  While I achieved, and even surpassed, two of these: "There ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box"

New Hampshire Cross Country Festival

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

There are two basic strategies to getting faster are to increase volume or to increase intensity.  My strategy for this cross country season was a hybrid.  I was going to increase the volume of miles while increasing the intensity of my quality workouts.  However, I made a conscious effort to take everyday runs without worrying about any pace.  While my quality workouts shot up in intensity and speed, my everyday runs were slower, longer and easier.  

Due to the XC schedule, I had to take each step in increments.  The first race - New Hampshire Cross Country Festival - I thought would be too early to see any improvement and had yet to install any tactical (specific race) workouts.  And while at the time that was true, looking back it was the first step. My 20:26 there was probably equal to a 20:00 5k at Franklin Park.  

"Speed is the essence of war"

The goal of intensity workouts should be two-fold - physiological and psychological.  Most of my workouts early in the cross-country season were geared toward 10K pace.  I attempted to put in interval blocks of several miles on bike paths.  Later I switched over to largely shorter, faster track workouts: 10 x 400; 15 x 200, etc.  In the beginning, psychologically I could run "that fast" over some sustained period.  But then the shorter stuff taught my brain I could running even faster - even if for 30 seconds....

Wayland XC Festival
"With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up."

While this two pronged strategy got my race paces - in general - down (At Wellesley, I ran 22 seconds faster than New Hampshire), I new that to really gain I would need some tactics.  Three of the seven XC races I planned this year would be a Franklin Park.  So the week between the Greater Boston meet and the Codfish bowl, I substituted one quality workout with doing hill repeats (up and down) on Bear Cage Hill.  In the 5k it comes at mile 1.5.  But, for the 8k it comes at mile 1.5 AND mile 4.25.  This stretch is crucial.

Women's Leaders - Mayor's Cup
This training paid off immediately in the Codfish Bowl.  At mile 1.5, I passed many of the college kids who were beginning to straggle.  And coming down the back side of the hill, I knew I could catch a breathe before heading back out.  By the second time up, I was the only one around me who was comfortable going up the hill.  I passed a couple people up the hill and then one more in the stretch to the finish.

"The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim."

At New Hampshire, I may have made a crucial mistake.  At mile 2, we ran up to this tall tower that looks like a lighthouse. (It's obviously not, since Manchester is 45 miles from the ocean.)  But, I caught up with Bradley at that point.  But, I chose neither to overtake him nor even to attempt to run with him.  This is because, somewhere, I feared either my own speed or my own capabilities.  

I learned a little more by the Codfish Bowl.  And as we were on the first loop through the Wilderness - about mile 2.5.  I was closing in on Bradley.  My immediate thought was, don't pass him until you are ready and then make sure you don't slow down afterwards.  So I sat behind him for about 50 yards and then I swung around him making a joke.  I was running at a perceived effort that I thought I could continue.  I was also pushing myself beyond a psychological envelope.

Two weeks later, at the Wayland Cross Country meet, I was able to channel this envelope pushing confidence again.  First, I was now really ready to smash that 20 minute barrier.  Second, there was the Emma vs. Jesse rivalry and this was the last time we would race one against one in the season. And, third, I came across the passing Bradley moment again - at about 1.5 miles. This time maybe I had more confidence and I passed him.
Emma finishing at Mayor's Cup

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

For me the "gold standard" of Cross Country is the Mayor's Cup.  It's held every year on the weekend of my birthday.  It's run over the course that was the 1992 World Championship. And, it's a challenging but neither technical nor "hard" course.  For Mayor's Cup, I thought I had lined everything up.  My training had largely been centered on this as the stepping stone to the Holiday racing schedule.  And after running the Codfish Bowl once, the USATFNE meet twice and this race thrice, I was ready.

Indeed, at the gun, I did a good job of not getting caught up in the blazing across the field. Once we made the first turn around the Stadium, I had eased into a very quick pace. I didn't know what exactly to do. I felt like I was working but not about to blow up. So when Maria Severen came by me, I just ran with her. 

I hit mile one at less than 6 minutes. But instead of my usual ease up because we might screw everything, I put my head down and as we took the left to the Bear Cage I just took a big gasp. I went up the Bear Cage hill between a full charge and hard run. at the top I let myself breathe and while I hadn't caught my breath by the top we got to the downhill, I took off down it anyway and spent most of the ballfields finding my breathe again. 

In the end, I had put up a 6 flat on the second mile. I was now a little tired but enough trips around the park made me comfortable enough to know what I had to do. On the uphill through the wilderness I decided not to put a hard run in since I knew from the picnic area to the ballfields would be gentle downhill. 

Sure enough, At the steep downhill of the ballfields, I had regulated my breathing and was ready to just put in a hard 600. It didn't feel that fast with one or two people passing me - including the woman's winner who passed me like I was standing still. However I was still running hard. After the last turn where the backstop no longer is, Longo was there to yell at me: "YOU CAN BREAK 19!" 

I just put my head down and made for the line, breaking 19 and beating last year's time by a full minute!

Mayor's Cup Finish
photo by Emma
"If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles."

As we came off the Bear Cage Hill the second time at the USATF-NE meet, I could see Joe ahead of me.  There was no way I could catch him now.  Maybe if I had stayed with him going up to the picnic area?  Maybe I can keep with him; maybe my own judgement of perceived effort isn't correct yet; maybe, I am quite ready to run a race with Joe, physiologically; or maybe I am not quite ready to run a race with Joe, psychologically? 

Or maybe it's as easy as - I shouldn't have run the first mile faster than six minutes?

Cigarette adverts might be borrowed: "I've come a long way," I might still be trying to learn myself.  

Race # 1: New Hampshire Cross Country Festival
Location: Derryfield Park, Manchester, NH
Date: 8/22/15
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 20:00
Actual Time: 20:26

Race #2: Greater Boston Track Club Cross Country Festival
Location: Wellesley, MA
Date: 9/13/15
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 20:00
Actual Time: 20:04

Race #3: Codfish Bowl
Location: Franklin Park, Roxbury, MA
Date: 9/26/15
Distance: 8K
Goal Time: 32:30
Actual Time: 31:45 (Cross Country PR)

Race #4: Wayland Cross Country Festival
Location: Wayland High School, MA
Date: 10/11/15
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 19:45
Actual Time: 19:27 (Cross Country PR)

Race #5: Mayor's Cup - Franklin Park 5K
Location: Franklin Park, Roxbury, MA
Date: 10/25/15
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 19:15
Actual Time: 18:55 (Cross Country PR)

Race #6: USATF-NE Cross Country Championships
Location: Franklin Park, Roxbury, MA
Date: 11/8/15
Distance: 8K
Goal Time: 31:30
Actual Time: 30:57 (Cross Country PR) 

*- Perhaps the most amazing part of the Fitzgerald article - the Matrix is 15 YEARS-OLD?!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

3+1=hurts: Cross Country and Road Mile (8/22-8/23/15)

Very early in the race
The weekend was spent with not one race but two.  First the New Hampshire Cross Country Championships in Manchester.  Then on Sunday, the Inaugural Fast Mile at Race to the Row.

Cross Country 5K (8/22/15)
Race #1: New Hampshire Cross Country Championships
Distance: 5K
Goal: 20:00
Actual: 20:26

The New Hampshire meet both kicked off the USATF-NE Cross Country Grand Prix and was race #6 of the ATR series, so there was a lot of interest in the Fast Heat.

You'll notice my official goal time was 20 minutes.  That was calculated based on last year's Mayor's Cup.  I had heard Derryfield Park was harder than Franklin; but with what I thought would be better fitness, I could make up that time and run about the same.  After Scot, Bradley and I did our warm-up on the course, I knew I wouldn't run 20 minutes.

So "cross country" is a strange discipline.  The only uniting force of cross country races is that they are not all on roads.  Some, like Franklin Park or Lehigh run around mostly open areas of parks or athletic fields and may have one or two challenging spots.  Others, like the 4K on the Fourth are laps of athletic facilities on a lot of roads and slight jaunts into trees.

Derryfield Park's 5K is one half the classic cross country course.  It starts with a lap of the baseball diamond and tennis courts and finishes with a zig zag across a big open field.  But the middle half.... The middle half is a double track trail race.  There are two steep hills (the first is steeper; the second is longer), a couple of steep downhills, several large granite blocks and a fallen fence you have to duck under ("Low Bridge!" Amanda Wright yelled back to me as she went under.)

The first mile was a lap around the ball fields of the park. I managed to stay pretty even keeled.

The second mile entered the woods. I have not figured out trail/cross country yet. I always take the hills too fast. After the Antenna hill I was able to catch my breath. This was great as I then was able to run hard up the Ski Lift Hill. I caught up with Bradley and got ready to go down hill and catch my breath again. Bradley went just pulled away from me.  I never caught that breath.

As the third mile zig zagged across the fields near the start, I never regained. Once again, I fell apart at the end.

One day, I'll get Cross Country Races.

Start of the Fast Mile
photo by Tom Cole
Road Mile (8/23/15)
Race #2: Fast Mile at Race to the Row
Distance: 1 Mile
Goal Time: 5:30
Official Time: 5:20
Actual Time: 5:26 (2nd Place, Adult PR)

This was the third running of the Race to the Row 5K but it was the first year of the Fast Mile.  I figured I wouldn't be too tired from the NH XC 5K to run a mile the next day.

There were about 15 of us in the mile.  As Kate sent us off on the start, it was an easy beginning. Nobody initially took off.  But by about 50 yards, one person ran out ahead of us.  Mark said: "There goes our winner."  I was actually less sure because of his running.  He looked more like the end of the race than the beginning.

I spent the first quarter mile closing down his lead with a third guy following me close behind.  I had closed enough ground that I figured I could ease into the next half mile.  We caught up with the leader right around a half mile.  We were still running, what for me was, an untenable pace.

The next quarter was a little slower.  I was in the lead with second now right behind me.  But I felt I could lose him.  Once I put a little move and he felt like a soft pace.  So right before the rotary, I decided when we got to 2/10ths of a mile I would start a sprint and try to win the race.

Unfortunately, with 1/4 mile left the guy on me just took off.  I immediately saw his speed and thought: "That guy is going to win."

While I tried to bring him back, I never could.  He had taken a 30 yard lead and I really only brought about 10 of that back in the last stretch.

My official time was 5:20, but the course was a bit short.  At a mile it would have been 5:26, still an adult PR.

Afterwards I was the bike marshal for the 5K and led as Joe Lamer and Kath respectively won the men and women.

Lead marshalling the race at about half way.  Joe with the second place and Kath.
Photo by Tom Cole  

Mainiacs: Two weekends in Maine (8/7-8/9 and 8/15-8/16/15)

At Frost Mtn Yurts
Weekend #1 - Fryeburg and Brownfield

Friday: Yurting For Certain II

At the Burnt Mtn/StoneMtn junction
Hike: Burnt Meadow and Stone Mountains
Distance: 4.8 miles

We check into our yurt.  While not the same yurt from 2009, it was at the same location in Brownfield, ME.

We had time to make it out to a hike down the road.  It promised two peaks and great views. It also promised strenuous start.  And it was.  We were going steeply up almost immediately. We gained 1000 feet in a little over a mile.

Matt, Eva and Urvi on the hike

South Peak

Urvi Scrambles up the last bit of North Peak

Stone Mtn Summit

Urvi at the Yurt

Saturday: Yaking, Cabining, and Ebenezering

Paddling Trip: Sacooooo Rivahhh!!!
Distance: 7.8 miles

So we were ready for a nice paddle down the lovely Saco River.  We got Daytona Beach at Spring Break.  OMG!!!

Saccoooooo Rivahhh!!!
Drunk teens and twenty-somethings

Matt on the Saco

Urvi on the Saco


Mt Tom Cabin

Matt pumps water from the well

Ebenezer's: Lovell, ME
For dinner we went to what is known as one of if not the best beer bar in the country/world.  Located on the fairway of a small golf course in Lovell, ME, it has some of the best draft selections in the world.

Matt, me, Eva and Urvi

Sunday: Moating and Gaming

Urvi and Eva as we're about half way into Thurn and Taxis

Moat Mountain

One From the Vault
That time we went Yurting in the Winter

Weekend #2 - Otter Forest
The next weekend Urvi and I went up to my parents' cabin in Harmony - Otter Forest.

Hike: Pleasant Pond Mountain
Distance: 2.5 miles

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

DU IT!:Whaling City Duathlon (8/2/15)

Top of the Podium
Race: Whaling City Duathlon
Distances: 1.1 mile run / 12 mile bike / 3.1 mile run
Goal Time: 1:10:00
Actual Time: 1:01:47 (1st Overall)

I was running along the beach on the second run.  And up ahead I could make out a guy in blue and orange. "That can't be the leader of the duathlon," I thought.  But it must be.  Only two people have passed me on the run and they both clearly the leaders of the triathlon.  I also knew Billy was probably closing on me to be the third to pass - but once again he was in the tri.  "Hmmm... Maybe I can catch him before mile 2 and then hang with him and then blow past him with a half mile left." But for now he was just blue and orange in the distance.

Run 1 - 1.1 mile (6:34)

The first run was my biggest concern.  Like the Miami Half Iron in 2011, that first run is weird.  Sure, I could run a 5:35 mile and have a big lead, but then there's still the bike and the 5k left.  So, I decided not to be too warmed up and use it as another mile warm up.

When the race started, This turned out to not be a good plan. Quickly four guys jumped out to the front. I had wanted to take it easy, but I didn't want to lose too much time.

Additionally, I'm not an experienced enough multi-sport athlete to properly know pacing.  I figured, It's only an hour-long race; I'll stay in sight of leaders and hope I can pass everyone on the 5k at the end.

I passed one guy on the run to stay in sight of the top 2 and finished the first run in 4th overall.

Bike - 12 miles (33:30 - 21.5mph)

I was fourth out of transition.  I was ready to hop on my bike at the mount point but the second and third place guys were slowly mounting and blocking the way...  There was still an hour of racing ahead of us, so I just waited a second for them to clear the way.

Since we started at the same time as the tri, we were the first people on the road.  With the clear road in front I was able to keep on eye on 2nd and 3rd place.  (1st place was well ahead and had quickly disappeared.)  I knew most of the bike course since it's on the same stretch as miles 8-11 of the New Bedford Half Marathon.

It was two laps of a sort of figure 8.  The first lap I was just trying to catch a rhythm.  I kept looking down at the computer and trying to make sure I was in the 19-20 mph range.  Around mile one you turn off the coast road and go up a small hill to two sharp lefts and then down the hill to a sweeping right back onto the coastal road.  The first half was rougher pavement than the second half with lots of tar repairs on the asphalt.  I had been able to hold position in the first half, since I passed on guy in the duathlon and then was passed by another (the man in orange and blue above).

When we started the second loop, I noticed that I had closed a bit on third place.  Also we hit traffic for the first time.  There were lots of cyclists from the tri pouring out onto Rodney French Boulevard and I spent the next mile just on the left passing them all.

As we made the first left to the hill, I realized my cyclocross bike had better handling skills than his tri bike.  If I could get him on one of the turns and then sprint away until we took the left to go on the other side of the peninsula, I could move myself comfortably into third before the run started.  So I tried to pass at the first left and that wasn't happening.  But, at the second left, he slowed for the turn and I took it as Gabe always reminds me from NASCAR: "low-in; high-out."

With the slight lead, I started to accelerate out of the saddle on the bumpy boulevard.  It wasn't until the end of the 9th mile that I sat back into my seat.  (Mile 9 was 23.4 mph). By the last turnaround at mile 10.5, I figured I'd just keep the steady pace back into transition.  As I saw where fourth place was, I was calmed to know I could reach transition in third.

Run 2 - 3.1 Miles (20:38)

As soon as I left transition, second place was 50 yards in front of me.  I wanted to sprint out and catch him; but...

I played it smart and I closed the gap slowly over the first third of a mile.  After making some small talk, I went on ahead.  At this point there were only two people ahead of me, the triathlete who passed me on the bike and the leader of the duathlon.  (Pretty soon the guy would go onto win the tri came blowing by me like I was standing still.) 

I think it was Joe who said a sprint tri is like a 15k run.  Sure enough, now I felt like I was just finishing up a 10 mile race (and running about that speed, too.) With noone in my sight ahead of me, I had nothing to do but race in my head.  I just fought through that first bit of post bike stiffness. Now I was just in end of race pain.

At the turn-around, I saw that the leader had a bit of distance on me.  I din't think I could make it up. But, by mile 2, I was right behind him.  The plan to stay with him and then try to beat him at the end seemed risky once I got to him.  After all I was running 6:40 miles and he was running 7:15s.  I determined to just try to keep running that speed.

I spent the next mile keeping up the pace and looking back at every slight bend in the path.  Surely, someone is catching up, right?  It wasn't until there was about a quarter mile left and you run up and down a pier that I relaxed.  The first person on my way back down I saw was Billy in the tri.  I was actually going to win.

I ran in.  I hit the finish straight, stopping the clock just a minute over an hour!  Winner, winner!

Urvi had a Sprint Triathlon PR
Bill Hafferty took 3rd overall in the triathlon
Susannah Ford was 2nd in her age group

Friday, July 3, 2015

26 x 1: A Race in Four Acts (6/27/15)

Annika/Erik handoff
all photos by Tom Cole
Race: 26x1 Marathon Relay
Distance: 1600m
Goal Time: 5:30 (officially I put 5:40, but that was just in case I felt awful)
Actual Time: 5:31 (tied my adult PR)

I think it was George Bernard Shaw who described the three acts of a play once as:

Act 1 - get your hero up a tree
Act 2 - throw rocks at him
Act 3 - get him down the tree

It turns out the track mile (or 1600m) is very similar but it comes in four acts:

Lap 1 - get yourself up a tree (or, the "Way Too Fast Lap")
Lap 2 - find your comfort level (or, the "Goldilocks Lap")
Lap 3 - throw rocks at yourself (or, the "Graveyard Lap")
Lap 4 - Get yourself down (or, the "Home Stretch Lap")

Matt handing off to me
Lap 1 - The "Way Too Fast Lap"
If you don't do the mile consistently, you are never ready for it.  This year Mark Duggan thought he was ready for the mile.  He tried to tell himself: "Just don't do the first 200 in 37 seconds or anything dumb."  As he crossed the 200 mark he looked at his watch - 0:37.  Dammit!

After my race, Cipriano asked me if I "slowed down eventually."

When Furhrmeister gave me the baton I took off like it was the 4x100. Except, I had to run 16 times as long as that. So by 25 yards I realized I was running way to fast and did almost slow to the correct speed. Instead of 41 seconds at the 200 I was at 39. While this is too fast it's less too fast than I would normally run too fast. I then ran the second 200 too slow hitting the lap at 1:24+

Lap 2 - The "Goldilocks Lap"
This lap would usually be left out if you wrote a play about your mile run.   The second lap of the mile is like the middle hour and a half of Once Upon A Time in America: a bit long and kinda dull but you have to get through it to get to the interesting parts and you spend most of it asking questions while meaningless dialog goes on around you.  (So wait, this woman is grown up Jennifer Connelly? Oh, am I supposed to believe that Treat Williams is 35 years older now?)  But on the good side, you find your correct pace. And, since you didn't tire yourself out too much in the first lap, your goal speed isn't too hard. So, runningwise, it's just right.

By now the equilibrium was there. I banged out a 1:22+ for 2:47 at the half despite my mind wondering to questions like: Who sells a cemetery and makes everyone move the bodies?  Is that really the premise of this part of the movie?

On my 1600
Lap 3 - The "Graveyard Lap"
Joe describes this as the graveyard lap.  Especially for non-milers, you've put yourself on the line and it isn't really that close to being done.  It feels like you are not going to be able to finish.  Definitely in previous years this has been the bane of my mile.

This year, it wasn't.  I felt really good.  I even briefly - very briefly - thought about actually speeding up.  I rejected that thought worried about going out too early.  I ran another 1:22 to hit 4:10 at the 1200.
Handing of to Jim
Lap 4 - The "Home Stretch Lap"
The last lap is a toss up.  Either you have put yourself in a position to run a good last lap, or you haven't.

I still felt okay.  However, I didn't have any speed in me.  My training for Tour de Cure and for Mt Washington had just left me without any pep at the end.  I still had my fastest lap - 1:21.  But it wasn't there for a great finish to a good race.  I matched my time from Lou's Relay in December

The Murder of Gonzago
But my mile was only a play-within-a-play, a dweam-within-a-dweam.

November Project coming in for the win
For two hours and 15 minutes, 23 teams had done 1600s around the track.  When Cambridge and November Project handed off to their last runners, it was nearly a dead head.  By 250 meters into leg 26, it was a dead heat.  November Project sat on the Cambridge runner.  And with about 350 meters to go took off.  Openning a gap of 15 seconds over Cambridge, November Project was the winning team.  SRR Team 1 took third.  My team, SRR Team 2 was 7th.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"Because It's There": Mount Washington Road Race (6/20/15)

Jon, Kieran, me, Susannah, Bill, Scot and Dana on the top
photo by Christine Sweeney
Why are you climbing Mt. Everest?
Because it's there. ~George Mallory

BIG 20
Race: Mt Washington Road Race
Distance: 7.6 miles (12.2 km)
Elevation Gain: 4700 feet (1432 m)
Goal Time: 1:30:00
Actual Time: 1:33:45

Mile: 6.12 (6.85 km)
Elevation: 5423 ft  (1653 m)
"Wow, what the $%&@ is this?" I asked rhetorically.  From mile 6.12 to mile about 6.15 there was a downhill.  I hadn't seen one of those in well over an hour.

Mt. Washington is unrelenting.  For 7.6 miles the Auto Road climbs 4500 ft (1372m), averaging about 12% grade through most of it. Some long sections even average 18%.

Mt Washington elevation profile
Notice, just one hill

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
An hour and 15 minutes earlier, I'd been standing at the bottom of the mountain and start line.  Scot, Kieran, Bill and I talked with the runners around us.  After some spurious and questionable (which we only found out later) advice, the four of us were about as ready as we could be.

People ask why I would want to do this race.  I would point to the famous George Mallory quote: "Why would you want to climb Mt. Everest?" Mallory answered: "Because it's there."  Of course no one ever mentions that after he said that, in 1924 Mallory died trying to climb Mt. Everest and his body wasn't found until 1999.

The first person ascended Mt. Washington in 1642.  Since then, apparently hundreds have died on Mt. Washington.  Fortunately none of them have done so running the Road Race.

The race started with a bang - a cannon bang.  The 1200 or so of us were off and running.  Bill, Scot and Kieran were quickly out ahead of me.  I decided to take it as easy as I could.

Mile: 0.89 (1.43 km)
Elevation: 2000 ft (610 m)
At the 2000 foot mark, I looked down at my watch.  I had taken it easy, but not easy enough.  I was still on pace to break 11 minutes for the first mile.  WOW, gotta slow down, I thought.  I found it difficult to find that pace for the start of the race.  Maybe it's something that comes with experience from mountain races; but since I have NO experience with such, I wouldn't know.

Mile: 3.8 (6.11 km)
Elevation: 3911 ft (1192 m)
I hit the halfway clock at 45:01 - exactly on pace to do 1:30.  I also knew that I had been slowing down.  Most distance races you don't go through series of personal crises throughout the race.  I've always noticed one goal of the marathon is to deal with the mental challenge. As tired as my legs were at mile 3.8, I knew I would have to do the same with this race.  It wasn't going to get any easier. In fact, it was going to get harder.

The race was so far out of the comfort zone of most people I was running with.  So much so, that in the next mile I actually passed Jim Norcott and Scot, who I would never pass in a non-mountain race. 

Mile: 4.5 (7.24 km)
Elevation: 4355 ft (1327 m)
By mile 4 and a half, the trees are getting stumpier and the road turns from asphalt to dirt.  And all I could think was, "Oh, now it's dirt; that will make it easier."  Within seconds I realized I had no data or even logical theory with which to defend such an outlandish hypothesis.  Within the next mile, where the dirt portion ends, I had walked twice.

The first time I walked, I had convinced myself that it was good "strategy."  But the second time, I was reasonably distraught.  Could I run again?  Would I be walking for the next three miles?  Like mini-crises in marathons, I had learned not to give into them. I didn't give in and eventually started running again, but that was definitely the slowest part of the race.

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
Meanwhile at the base of the mountain....
Urvi and TM were directing the kids race.  The kids ran only about 200 yards but they still ran up and down a reasonable steep part of the Auto Road

The last 1/2 mile or so stretching stretching along the ridge
photo by Christine Sweeney
Mile: 5.5 (8.8 km)
Elevation: 5026 ft (1532 m)
The dirt ended at mile 5.5.  This time I was not silly enough to think that somehow this would make it "easier."  We were now full above the treeline and exposed to the wind.  It was more a breeze than wind.  Kieran and I had agreed that if we were only going to do this race once, this was the year.  The weather had been perfect.  It was 59°F (15°C) at the bottom and 52°F (11°C) at the top with no clouds and full visibility.  It was the perfect day to run up a mountain.  Especially one that claims to have the worst weather in the world (including winds of 231 mph - 372 km/h once).

Mile: 6.0 (9.7 km)
Elevation: 5352 ft (1631 m)
At mile 6, I don't know how clearly I was really thinking.  I had walked one more time after the road went back to asphalt.  But, for some reason at the mile 6 mark, I decided: "I'm not going to walk again."  And I didn't but there were definitely places where people were walking faster than I was "running."

At about mile 7.4; Jim Norcott (in gold/orange) closed that whole gap
photo by Christine Sweeney

Mile: 7.35 (11.8 km)
Elevation: 6133 ft (1869 m)
After running for an hour and a half nearly alone, suddenly near the top there are spectators and you can see the buildings on top and hear the Cog Railway as it steams to the top.  Only a quarter mile left, I decided to drop the proverbial hammer.  For the next 1/8 of a mile, I was running a blazing speed of 8:00/min mile as the road still wound it's way up to the top.

Mile: 7.47 (12 km)
Elevation: 6179 ft (1883 m)
You make a right at the parking lots and then you see the brutal last little bit.  It's a 22% grade!

I'd seen all the pictures from this last horrid section.  The grade forced even great runners to walk and hold their quads as they climbed.  I think this is where 6 weeks of the Harvard Stadium Stairs came in useful.  So I charged up what was about 50 feet of elevation over about .1 miles and then oddly didn't have much left in me to sprint at the end.

Jim Norcott caught me and yelled at me to go. So I found some last bit somewhere.

Mile: 7.6 (12.2 km)
Elevation: 6276 ft (1912 m)
Jim and I sprinted and finished within a second.  There was an awesome fleece blanket and medal waiting for me.  We gathered the finishers from the club as they came in.  Eventually we got about half of us at the summit itself for the obligatory stand-by-the-sign picture.

In the parking lot we celebrated with champagne and a Newburyport Pale Ale.

Shoes and medal

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
After getting a ride down the mountain with Dana's family (including a stop en route when the brakes started smoking), there was an awesome turkey dinner from Hart's Turkey Farm and the awards.

While I was the third fastest Clydesdale, they give the awards in age-graded percentage.  So, I took 5th in the Clydesdales instead.  I probably would have made third if I had run the 1:30 that my goal was - but I didn't.
SRR Men finished at the 8th Place Team.
My friend Denise Sandahl won the Crossan Cup - as the first New Hampshire woman up the mountain.

Why are you running up Mt. Washington?
Because it's there. ~Me