Wednesday, November 16, 2016

13 Neighborhoods in 13 Miles: Cambridge Half (11/13/16)

SRR pic
Somerville Road Runners - third place team
Race: Cambridge Half
Goal Time: 1:25:00
Actual Time: 1:27:21

There are thirteen official Neighborhoods of Cambridge - my home town.  And, in the 13 miles of the Cambridge Half, we ran through ten of them.  It was great to have such a high profile event running through the streets I run, bike, walk everyday.

Starting in East Cambridge (factoid: East Cambridge was originally an island), we ran down First and then took a left onto Cambridge Street.  Victor was there to cheer and yell and get the beginning of the race pumping.

Before mile one, we entered Wellington-Harrington (factoid: the neighborhood is home of the iconic Roosevelt Towers) which and ran past Andy and Joe who were cheering on their intersection with Cambridge Street.

After Mile One (which was too fast), we continued on Cambridge Street and into my neighborhood Mid-Cambridge (factoid: Mid-Cambridge is home of Harvard Yard, where you can't pahk ya cah).

Around the Mile Two mark (closer to the right speed), we went under the tunnel at Harvard and took a right at the Cambridge Common onto Mass Ave to enter Agassiz (factoid: home of Lesley College and Harvard Law) as we passed the Harvard Law School and headed towards Porter Square.

As we ran by the Porter Square train station and crossed mile 3 (close to the right speed), I caught sight of TomBWarrior and tried to catch up.  There were a good number of spectators throughout North Cambridge (Factoid: Alewife Linear Path will connect the Minuteman with the eventual Green Line Extension Path for a Bedford to North Station bike path).  I spent that fourth mile catching Tommy and Mike Tuttle.  The effort for the 6:18 mile may have been a mistake.  After the water stop we went onto the bike path, I slowed a bit until I got a big cheer from Bev.  (I waved and tried to get Miles' attention.)  I lost Tommy and Tuttle as we passed Alewife and went onto the Fitchburg Cutoff path.

The path took us out of Cambridge and into the Town of Belmont where we spent about a mile as we turned back into Cambridge.

By the time we got to Cambridge Highlands (factoid: home of BBN Technologies which helped found the early internet), I was spent.  The first and fourth miles might have done me in and the next few were fights.

At mile 9, we had entered Peabody (factoid: home of the Harvard University observatory - founded when there was probably less light pollution in Cambridge) in Denahy Park.  I realized that I was two thirds done but to quote Mike Millbury between the 2nd and 3rd periods: "There's a whole lotta hockey left."  I did get another cheer from Bev and might have got Miles' attention.  Once we were out of Park, we climbed up toward the Observatory.  Trying to get myself to kick it in for the final period, I got big cheers from the Bok/De Ruiter clan.

After the Observatory, I knew I had this.  In West Cambridge (factoid: site of an Episcopal monestary)  we were back on my home turf.  We ran by the Sheraton Commander where Urvi and I got married right at mile 10.  Then back into Harvard Square and through the tunnel I dropped the hammer (as best I could - it was one of those little ball peen ones).

I kept my act together as we climbed up Broadway - back into Mid-Cambridge, since I knew there was one more little hill up to Dana Street.  But once we reached that I took off.  Near my house, around mile 11, I caught and passed Matt Ridout.

There was a brief moment when we got into The Port (factoid: home of the first reciprocal phone conversation in 1876), where I panicked.  My left shoe came completely undone.  For one or two steps I thought about doing the last 2 miles with an untied shoe.  Then I realized I would be doing the last two miles with an untied shoe.  I tied it and had to pass Matt again.

I recovered, and despite the 15 seconds or so I lost, still had a respectable (if not good) mile 12.  We kissed the edge of the MIT/Area Two (factoid: MIT has just celebrated 100 years in Cambridge) neighborhood for our 10th and last of the 13 neighborhoods.

But then almost immediately we went left on Binney and back into East Cambridge.  I got another big cheer from Andy and Joe who'd switched cheering spots.  I tried to keep it together as best I could.  At First Ave, we took the left and for that last quarter mile I maintained a pace right at 6 minutes.

Shoutouts -
Big PRs from Deb (3 minutes), Todd (4 minutes), Patrick (4 minutes) and Jon Bean (8 minutes)
Team award (3rd) - Todd, Kieran and Nichole.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Twice as Bright, Half as Long: October Races (10/22 - 10/30/16)

Hand-off between me and Erin: Cape Cod Relay
"The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long"*
~Lao Tzu

The two weeks after Bay State Marathon, I ran two races in two states.

Race #1:  Queen City Architecture Run
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Goal Time: 21:00
Actual Time: 22:14

We went to Buffalo for the wedding between Karen and TomBWarrior.  The morning of their wedding, Tim, Mark and I ran a race at the Big Ditch Brewing Company, around the corner from our hotel.

The first mile was reasonably fast and downhill to the lake. But, Tim and I took it too fast.  The first split was 5:40.  Both of us were in survival mode for pretty much the rest of the race.

But, when it was all said and done, I won my age group and Tim and Mark took 2nd and 3rd in theirs. **

Flight of beers from Big Ditch
The Hayburner IPA (and the Mac and Cheese) were well worth the trip.

Race #2: Cape Cod Marathon Relay
Location: Falmouth, MA
Distance: 26.2 Miles - team (6.13miles - me)
Goal Time: 39:00
Actual Time: 39:29

The next weekend a large group of us went down and ran the Cape Cod Marathon relay.  My SRR's Coed Open team.  My leg was the second one.  Still two weeks after my marathon, I was still burnt.  Then, as Melissa warned, my leg looked flat but was actually generally up hill for 6 miles.  I never found a groovy pace.  Fortunately, Kieran and Tim held off any challenges and we won our division! 

** - Also, we went to Niagara Falls!

Niagara Falls

From the Rainbow Bridge: Urvi, Roisin, Nat, Paola and me

Urvi and I waiting to get aboard the Hornblower

* - I think this might actually be affected by the inverse square law, so it'd be a fourth as long?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Basho's 26 miles: The Koan of the Marathon (10/16/16)

At Mile 12 with Chris and Jake

Event: Baystate Marathon
Location: Lowell, MA
Goal Time: 3:00:00
Actual Time: 3:05:30

Basho said to the assembled monks: "If you have a staff, I will give you one; If you have no staff, I will take it away from you.
~Koan 43, The Gateless Gate

At around mile 24 and a half, Jake - who was leading the second half of the 7/min mile pace group - passed me with the one guy left.  It was exactly as I suspected.  In fact at mile 13, I told Jake: "I'll see you after I blow up."


There had been little majesty in this training season or in the few days going into the race.  I guess the grandeur of the marathon has either worn off or I was merely less interested in this specific one. Even as I walked up to the start line I didn't have the same fear/excitement.

But, I hoped it would be like Basho's paradox.  I needed fear/excitement so it was given to me externally.  Instead the majesty of the marathon would have to be created by me - not by circumstances.

It helps you when you wade across a river, when the bridge is broken down; it accompanies you when you return to the village on a moonless night. But if you call it a staff, you will go to Hell swifter than an arrow.
~ Commentary of Koan 43, The Gateless Gate

But, I still had my plan.  I was going to try to run the first half at 7 min/mi and then the second half at 6:45/mi.  When I got there Eric Ahern and Chris Antunes were at the start as the 3:05 pace group leaders for the first half.  Chris was going to run 7 min/ miles.  So, like Hannibal Smith ...


The first half, I just sat on Chris and the 7 min/ mile group.  For a few few miles (5-7) where I slowed letting the group go at pace uphill and then I would rejoin them on the downhill; other than that I stayed right with the group.  I still felt great as we came up on the Rourke Bridge near the halfway point. Brendan Caffrey was there to cheer which gave me a pick up.  Then I caught sight of Jon Cusick, Brendan Kearney and Greg Soutiea.

As we got onto the bridge, Jake jumped in with us, since he was leading the second half of the pace group.  When we got to the half way point I looked back at Jake:

"I'll see you after I blow up."
"You dropping the pace"
"Good Luck!"

At Mile 18

"The deep and the shallow everywhere
Are all within my grasp.
It holds up the sky and the earth;
In every place it spreads the True Doctrine."
~ Verse of Koan 43, The Gateless Gate

Miles 14-19, I increased the effort and dropped the pace.  The months of running 6:45 pace once a week or so started to come into play.  I felt tired but stuck to the pace as best I could.  It was great that right after the second crossing of the Tyngsboro Bridge at mile 18, Deb, Jason and Peter were there to cheer and kept me in the zone for one more mile on pace.

But, by 20, this pace was gone.  It was time to race without being able to have a staff without having a staff.

From 20 miles on, I would look at my watch and figure out, “What would my finish time be if I ran 8 minute miles the rest of the way?” 

Miles 21 and 22 were still close to 7 minutes but I was definitely flagging. The third appearance of Brendan Caffrey cheering on the sideline was awesome.  I could barely comprehend the words, but the meaning was good enough to jump start me again (even though I'm pretty sure I told him: "There's too much hockey left"?).

Miles 23 and 24 were pretty much a blur.  I kept the “What would my finish time be if I ran 8 minute miles the rest of the way?” bit going.  I found that it took me a bit to multiple minutes left by 8 and then add 2.  Then I would add that number to the time at the mile.  By the time I had done that math, I had covered 400m.  It was like how Toby described Michael on the Office: "Michael's like a movie on a plane, you know it's not great but it's somethin' to watch. And when it's over, you're like, how much time is left on this flight, now what?"

As Jake came by me, I said; "Told you, you'd come by."  The guy who was the last of the pace group tried to get me to go with them.  But I didn't have it.

The deep and the shallow were everywhere.  I couldn't run any faster but I knew that if I just kept this effort, I would still have a monster personal record.  

As I ran over the construction-ridden and lonely VFW Highway, I just put my head down and tried to stay near this woman who was running slightly faster than me.  Somewhere in there I got cheers from Julie.

I got back into downtown Lowell and saw the Spinners stadium where my first marathon had finished; then I had an zoned out exchange with Frank Georges. (I was on the verge of vomiting.)  I had no sprint left in me and it felt like I had run the last mile at 9 minutes (It wasn't until hours later I figured out that I had still broke 8 in that last desperate "wade across the river when the bridge is broken down."

With one last turn, the finish line appears 100 yards ahead.  I saw the clock at 3:05 and cruised in for a 6 and a half minute PR.


Despite my need to vomit and lie down, I was so happy to see Urvi immediately upon finishing, who had had a course PR in Half. 

As I said on facebook right afterwards: "It takes a village to make a great race."  And throughout the day I had been able to share many of those who helped bring me here, including Nichole, Erin, Mark, Brendan, Robby, Urvi, Deb and everyone else who I can't remember right now.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Lou, the Wedding and the Gull: A week of Friends (9/20 - 9/25/2016)

The Lou

On Tuesday, Mark and I ran the track workout with Deb, as she prepared for the Warsaw Marathon on Sunday. In the middle of our workout, Deb asked me: "Why the Lou?"  I had a good answer but I couldn't articulate it at the time.

But before I can really answer it, I probably need to explain the "The Lou"

The Lou is the Lou Ristaino workout.  The members of Somerville Road Runners have come to make this the track workout the Tuesday before the marathon.  As Lou Ristaino himself described to me.  It is meant to be something that gets you going but doesn't tire you out.  Basically it's a workout that attempts to balance the old Rust vs. Rest argument.

It's basically a short - fast(er) progression run.  4800m coninuous, the first 800m @ marathon pace and each successive 800m 4 seconds faster than the previous.

As an example, this week workout
1st 800m @ 3:36 (7:12/mi or 3:10~ish marathon)
2nd 800m @ 3:32
3rd 800m @ 3:28
4th 800m @ 3:24
5th 800m @ 3:20
6th 800m @ 3:16 (6:32/mi or 1:25-ish half marathon)

Indeed, this is a fast workout but not a tiring one.  Keeps you loose and doesn't take away any of your marathon.

You can never step in the same river twice...

Back to Tuesday...  On Tuesday, I offered to run the Lou with Deb as her last workout before Warsaw and later in the day ran into Mark who also liked the idea.  Instead of the workout Joe had planned for us, we did Deb's with her.  The question is "why?"

I guess it goes back to understanding athletic training.  Most people will have you believe it is a pure science.  But, while I guess I can't totally disagree with that, I'll argue that it is more of an art.  If I could calculate every variable, I could make it a science.  But, not only can you not calculate all the variables, you probably can't grasp even all the variables to calculate.

The entire idea that doing the exact same thing you did last time is folly.  Sure, it was successful but you were a different person.  The Pali concept of annica comes into play.  Every thing in the body is impermanent.  We are constantly aging.  Our sleep levels differ day-to-day.  Each second how we think or what we do change us.  The Buddha said it as, "All Created Things are impermanent." Heraklitius said it as "You can never step in the same river twice."

Homo economicus and marathon training.

As Deb was approaching the marathon, I knew that running the last workout with someone was far more enjoyable and mentally less challenging than running the whole workout alone.  Mostly, I wanted to help my friend have a good marathon and this was one way to do it.

On the other hand, I don't think I was "sacrificing" myself in any way.  Many people view marathon training as harshly as the neoliberal myth of homo economicus.  The consumer who has: perfect self-interest, perfect price based rationality and perfect economic information.  Homo economicus is an excellent tool to use as a starting point to judge the behavior of consumers.  But it represents no consumers I know of.

The same is true with marathon training plans.  The homo marathonus, should have a plan - even a specific one with daily miles.  However, this homo marathonis shouldn't dogmatically stick to the every step of the plan.  Annica says that we will be different than the baseline runner.  Should we run a lot of miles every week?  Yes.  Should we run as many miles as Galen Rupp?  Probably not.  But, even more importantly, we shouldn't necessarily do everything exactly the same than before because we are different that before.

Additionally, the amount I would gain from this Tuesday's workout - especially since I was running Lone Gull on Sunday - was far less than the potential amount Deb could gain from Mark and I running with her.

But, also, I just wanted to help my friend.

The Wedding

On Saturday, I had the pleasure and honor of helping other friends and officiated the wedding of Joe and Andy!

Two amazing people who I have known individually and as a couple.  And now are making the big jump to the shared present, future and past.

The Gull
Race: Lone Gull 10k
Location: Gloucester, MA
Goal Time: 40:00
Actual Time: 40:51

So, yeah the wedding etc really slowed me down for this race.  But half of it was faster than I ran the Lou.


Deb ran a 3:11:56 to be 16th Woman, 4th in her age group and first American of either gender.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Around the Bends: Summer Track Season (6/26/16 - 7/29/16)

Jason and I - early on in Friday Night Lights 10K
photo from KrissyK
I pulled my track spikes out of the bag and put them away in the closet, so that come winter when I need them for indoor I'll forget where I put them.  (Hopefully I read this post: ON THE SECOND SHELF IN THE CLOSET, IDIOT!)

Squaring the Oval: 26x1 Relay 
Event: Club Challenge Cup Marathon Relay
Date: 6/26/16
Location: Tufts University, Medford
Distance: 1600m
Goal Time: 5:20
Actual Time: 5:21

This year the SRR teams were named for the main Squares in Somerville - Porter, Union and Davis.

26 x 10 handoffs, 2010 and 2016
I had a lot of practice this winter trying to hit the 5:20 pace and even broke it twice.  So I went out with the same plan. I had this winter, 7-40 second 200s and then a sprint 200 to the end.

Urvi handed off to me and I took off. The 26x1 is largely a timetrial.  There are other people on the track but they haven't started at the same time as you and you can't really fall in with anyone because anyone you catch is going slower than you and those that are your speed or faster - you can't catch.

But, for 3 and a half laps I stayed pretty well on target.  My watch at 1400m said 4:41, so a fast 200 could still give me a good time and maybe a PR.  I didn't have it in me.  And as I passed to Nat, I saw 5:21.

I Don't Want Your Life: Friday Night Lights
Event: Friday Night Lights 10k
Date: July 22, 2016
Location: Denahy Park, Cambridge
Distance: 10k
Goal Time: 39:00
Actual Time: 44:something

I had planned to fill this report with James Van Der Beek Quotes done in a crappy Texas accent. Then I remembered - That's Varsity Blues.  Friday Night Lights is a completely different

Earlier this month I ran the World's Largest 10k - The Peachtree Road Race.  Since it was in Atlanta it was hot and muggy - starting at 75F and finishing around 85F.  On, the plus side, I figured the race in Cambridge would be cooler.  It wasn't.

At 6:30 pm race time the temps were 95F.  The humidity was not as bad as ATL, but it was still humid and 95.  Jason and I decided not to let the heat bother us and went out with the plan of 6:16/1600m.  The first one was a little too fast.  I tried to keep up the pace while Jason dropped back.

Video from Mike Giberti
Also check out his video of the Men's Elite Race

The second 1600 was slower, the third was slower than that and then the fourth one was up over 7 minute miles.  I just pulled my hat down and coasted through the last 9 laps...

Worcester Bound!: 5000m Championships
Event: USATF-NE Track Championships
Date: July 29, 2016
Location: Holy Cross, Worcester
Distance: 5000m
Goal Time: 18:00
Actual Time: 18:46 (1st, Age Group)

I made my warm up a run from Union Station in Worcester, through Kelly Square and up the hill to Holy Cross. I got there with a few minutes to spare and was able to get my number,etc before the start.

Only about a dozen of us started, so they put us in a joint heat: men, women, masters etc.  I definitely took off too fast in the first 150 meters.  So when we passed the finish line at 200 meters, I pulled out into the third lane to let everyone faster than me just go by.  The plan of 43 second 200s fell apart pretty quickly.  However I managed to break 6 minutes in each of the first 1600s.

Then with about 4 and a half laps left, I started looking for Jason.  I found him diagonally from me and about 190 meters behind me.  I knew I couldn't catch the next person, but I relaxed knowing Jason wouldn't come back and pass me like the 10,000 the week before.

Despite the tough race, I managed first in my age group!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

PRR - Peachy Road of Remembrance: Peachtree Road Race (7/4/16)

Mile 5 or so

Race: Peachtree Road Race
Location: Atlanta, GA
Distance: 10K
Goal Time: 39:00
Actual Time: 41:29

Tuesday morning, Urvi and I sat on the MARTA train heading back to the Airport.  I watched the industrial areas south of Atlanta whisk by.  The occasional graffiti atop a car parts warehouse interspersed small patches of urban jungle overgrown by kudzu.  I was thinking about my life and where I’d come from and to where I was going…

As many of you know, my reintroduction to road running was October 2009’s Maine Half Marathon.  Since that time I have achieved many things.  I have run 10 marathons, from my first Bay State to my own holy grail – Boston Marathon – not once, but twice.  Through it I’ve made fantastic friends that share a sense of competition and adventure.  And, I’ve met my beautiful wife.

But my original introduction to running was a generation before and 1180 miles south.  I lived in Midtown Atlanta and at ten years old decided that I was going to run the Peachtree Road Race.  I don’t know what my training was like but I remember running with my mother.  I ran several of the little training races put on by the Atlanta Track Club in Piedmont Park.  (I also ran the InmanPark Festival’s 5k, where I won my first age-group award.)  The Peachtree has always been integral to my my life and my running.

1984 Peachtree Road Race
The Peachtree was not only important to me, it was integral to the Atlanta running and non-running communities.  The Peachtree was (and still is) the gold standard of road races in Atlanta.  Its history (starting in 1970) mirrors the history of running and road racing in the US.  From 110 fast runners in 1970 to 60,000 elite, sub elite, recreationally competitive, recreational and first timers in 2016. This year had 250,000 spectators also.  As an Atlanta native, all that I have done in running was incomplete until I returned to the Empire State of the South and ran the Peachtree.

I don’t know what I ran the Peachtree in 1984 or in 1986. I know they were both around an hour.  58 minutes?  But I had bigger, faster goals for 2016. 

But alas, goals are but broken skeletons laid waste by the 3-H club of the Peachtree Road Race – Heat, Humidity and Hills.

The day before, the race organizers announced that the heat and humidity placed the race under cautionary “Yellow” conditions.  They suggested running slower and modifying your goals for the heat (77 at the start) and humidity (75%). 

Our hotel was only three quarters of a mile from the start.  I figured it was would be a nice warm up.  But as soon as I left the hotel, I realized it would be rough.  I was “warm” pretty quickly.  By the time I got to the start line, my shirt was already soaked. 

I was in the seeded corral and we were going to start with the elite men right at 7:30.  I had a game plan and decided not to deviate from it despite the “yellow” conditions.  I ran the first mile right at 6:15 and then sprinted a bit to keep the next two miles between 6:10 and 6:15.  The 5k mark was close to the apartment I lived in when I was in kindergarten (the Benihana is still there 37 years later).  I hit the halfway point at 19:14.  I was right on target.

This is when the third H really comes into play. HILLS.

The next two miles are basically uphill with some respites here and there.  Cardiac Hill carries you up to 3.65 miles (and the Piedmont Hospital).  I started losing pace as soon as Cardiac started.  But once we got to the top, I was comfortable going downhill again.  I managed to do the mile and a half from 3 to 4.5 at 7:10; that was okay, but not what I wanted.  I knew I’d have to get faster if I would really get it.

Then it goes back uphill to the Peachtree/West Peachtree fork.  By the time we reached the High Museum and mile 5, I looked at my watch – 32:45.  I can still get a PR if I run the last 1.2 miles in less than 7:10.  Oh wait…that’s under six minute/mile – I’m not doing that. I still tried to put in everything I had and try to get down to 6 minute miles.

But that wasn’t happening.  It was a little more uphill to 10th Street. 

We took the left off Peachtree and onto 10th Street.  I knew how far it was and how much I had left in the tank; a lot of the former and very little of the latter. 

Throughout my run, the heat kept climbing.  By 8:30 the heat was so bad, the organizers changed the conditions from “Yellow” to “Red.”  (“Black” would be the next step and stop the race.)  Urvi and Sonia each ran half of their race under “Red.”

It never got to Red while I was running, but Yellow was bad enough.  The run down 10th Street was one different for me.  Usually, I’m passing people who are burnt out at the finish in the last quarter mile.  Today, I was the burnt one.

Sonia still managed a Personal Best!  Urvi had a personal worst.  And, I had a personal moment.

As an Atlanta native, I can call myself a runner again.  This second time around, I finished the Peachtree!

Sonia, me and Urvi in Piedmont Park after the Race
I hadn’t been back to Atlanta – other than my Grandmother’s death – since the early 90s. Everything was familiar, yet alien.  Memories from the sights of the houses in Inman Park to the distinct squeal/whine of the MARTA train ignited nerve cells for brief seconds.    And I was carried into hazy memories that were almost like a past life.  Also I was brought into a new Atlanta I never knew. 

Throughout the trip, I took Urvi around to experience my Atlanta and the new Atlanta.  I took her to the Varsity in all its glory and shame.  We visited my old apartment building (long since razed) in Midtown, and had a beer on the deck of Henry's Tavern that now inhabits the building Charles Walker used to run his theater lighting company from.  We walked around Inman Park and saw my two old apartments and visited the restaurant in Little Five Points, the Porter on the site that was Mellow Mushroom

Peachtree Center Station

What'll ya have? What'll ya have?
But we also rode the new Atlanta Streetcar and sampled the new Atlanta beer scene.  We stayed in the new New Buckhead (after the boom of the Nineties and the bust of Aughts).  Urvi and I went to Treehouse in Peachtree Hills, and Sonia took us to the hip Cypress Street in Midtown.  And, we saw Mauricio at a pub in Lenox.

New Atlanta Streetcar

Mauricio, Me and Urvi
As I sat on the MARTA heading back to the airport and watching the warehouses and train tracks and kudzu, I contemplated the race, the city, the past, the future.  Barring work travel or weddings, this would probably be my last trip to Atlanta.  My family is long moved on from the city and "My Atlanta" is now nothing but snippets of memories that are almost black and white 8mm scenes – obscured behind smoky clouds of time. 

This was probably my good bye to my native city.  It’s not sad but it is a deep sense of fleeting nostalgia.  I’m happy to have returned and to have done it with Urvi.  I’m happy to have experienced the Atlanta of the past 30 years that I never knew.  I’m so happy to have said good bye by running with Urvi and Sonia and 60,000 of my next closest friends. Good bye, Atlanta and thanks for one last trip down Peachtree.

King Center

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An Odyssey into Zephyros Megalyeri: Tour de Cure Kennebunks (6/12/16)

Emma, Victor and I dance to show tunes at the start while Dan from St Louis looks on
photo by Urvi
Event: Tour de Cure Kennebunks
Location: Wells, ME
Distance: 100 miles
Time: 6:59:05

We turned into the third rest stop at Hollis Elementary School and I bee-lined the bike for a patch of grass in the middle of the parking lot.  Zephyros Megalyteri (“Greatest Zephyros,” the mighty West Wind) had battered and beaten and blasted us for the past 19 miles or so.  I flopped to the ground and laid in the grass for a few minutes before refilling my water bottles, refueling with Cape Cod chips and resuming onward back toward Wells.


Three Hours earlier, and not long after Eosphoros rose, no winds had been problems.  I had had an emergency tire replacement at the start area and missed the start of the Century by 10 minutes.  This was probably fine, since I was told by Jason and Victor that everyone else started out too fast.   Soon, I was riding with one guy – Dan from St Louis – who had also gotten a late start.   

The first 40 miles of the ride winds its way along the coast from Wells up to Scarborough.  And while the sun was probably rising up over the coast, we saw little of rosy-fingered dawn. Instead, it was fog as thick as pea soup. 10 miles into the ride the fog had gotten so dense that I could not see more than five feet in front of me.  I was worried I would have to stop.  It was then I realized that while it was really foggy, my glasses were accentuating the fog.  So, I removed them and it was much better.

Dan, who was riding the Tour de Cure in his Seventh State, and I rode into the first water stop.  We met Victor and Jason.  Jason had already done the Biddeford Pool loop, but decided to do it with us again.  The fog had begun to burn off and we got glorious views of the sea and shore.

Biddeford Pool

Dan had dropped off while Jason, Victor and I continued our journey.  At mile 28, Gaia-ochos (“earth-shaking”) Poseidon struck us with our first mechanical issue.  I looked back and Victor was stopped about 400 meters behind us.  Jason and I looped back around and tried to assist.  Victor’s rear derailleur had stopped derailing.  He couldn’t shift at all.  Jason tried to help.  He did get it to move one gear.  I was absolutely no help in this situation.  Eventually the bike was “good enough”; and Victor was going to go back to the 100k route and follow it and if it was too bad he’d drop.

Jason pushed on to the second water stop at the Clam Bake in Scarborough as I would follow and tag along on his work.  After walking about ½ mile through the depths of the Clam Bake for the bathroom, Jason and I were ready to head off. 

Homer warns of Zephyros in the Illiad: "As two winds rise to shake the sea where the fish swarm, Boreas and Zephyros, north wind and west, that blow from Thraceward, suddenly descending, and the darkened water is gathered to crests, and far across the salt water scatters the seaweed."  Unlike the Illiad, however, we were heading away from the sea when we met the mighty blows of Zephyros.

What had been nothing at 7 and a breeze at 8, by 10 am was a steady 15 mph wind blowing right at us as we headed west.  Although, gusts were only 20 mph, at this time.  For the next 20 miles, I largely just got in front and Jason tucked in behind as I drove into Zephyros Megalyteri.  This furious headwind coupled with climbs found only in rugged Ithaki, was the toughest part of the ride.  From mile 40 until mile 55, we went from 30 feet of altitude to 375 feet.

Jason on the road
My exhaustion at the third water stop was understandable and my few minutes in the grass was excusable.  In fact, including the stops we had done miles 40-60 faster than the flat windless coast roads from 20-40. 

Wind graphs from

The nearly forgotten Oppian, attaches the epithet “rapid” to this West wind in his Cynegetica: "The swift tigers, the offspring of rapid Zephyros .”

After we left Hollis, there was a brief respite from the headwinds.  But it was brief.  And despite his cycling acumen, Jason is no into the wind cyclist.  So, each time we would hit another headwind from rapid Zephyros, our speed would go from 17 to 11 or 12 mph.  When this happened, I would jump to the front and try to drag us back to the 15-16 range. 

The problem of course is calculating your ideal speed with so much wind and so much distance to go.  Fortunately Dr. Brad Anton has determined how to calculate the proper speeds and power based on given conditions:

Dr. Anton's model from "Optimal Time-Trial Bicycle Racing with Headwinds and Tailwinds"


P+= Power output into a headwind
CD= Drag coefficient
A = frontal area
p = Air density
v = constant speed
w = speed of rapid Zephyros

Unfortunately, I both understand little of this math, don’t have a power meter for output AND I didn't have an anemometer handy to get anywhere close to an exact measurement of wind.  So instead, to paraphrase last week's race: JKP - Just Keep Pedallin'.  

York and Beachhouse we rented
photos and collage by Urvi

At mile 75, Gaia-ochon Poseidon struck again.  This time he hit Jason's tire.  Jason slipped through a turn to find he had lost pressure on his rear tire.  We were about 4 miles from the next water stop, so Jason decided to just pump up his tire and see how far he could ride.  We had to stop again at mile 77. But this time it was a quick stop.  I handed him the pump, he got the pressure back up to 60 or so and we made it the last two miles to the 80 mile stop.

Our plan had been to change the tube there, etc.  Fortunately, there was actually a volunteer bike mechanic at the stop who just replaced Jason's tube for us.  (Take that Earth-shaker!)

Jason at Mile 60
In Theogony, Hesiod says that when Dawn and Dusk mated, they had two children – the strong-hearted winds.  The first was Boreas, the North Wind and the second was Zephyros, the West Wind. Parts of the last laps saw the two teaming up on us.

The final section took us on an extra 18 mile loop.  At mile 82, the 50k ride turned for home while the 100k and 100 mile routes still continued.  From 82 until 87, I basically said nothing.  I just put my head down into Zephyros with Jason following.

Miles 88 and 89 however were what we'd been waiting for all day.  We headed ESE back toward the ocean and Wells.  This meant Boreas and Zephyros were pushing.  But, as we know from experience (and as Jobst Brandt shows in "A Practical Analysis of Ærodynamic Drag"), tailwind - not even "strong-hearted winds" - help as much as they hurt as headwinds.

Laura, Lisa, Emma, Ryan, Amy, Amie, Robbie, Jason, me, Victor and Urvi at the end
But it was short lived.  I was now heading generally North and Boreas was kicking my ass.  Jason began yo-yoing off the back.  He would pedal hard into the wind to catch me and then drop back again.  This is where we caught Urvi and Lisa who were on the 100k route.  When we got to mile 94, Jason called it.  "I'm toast; I'm on mile 99 for my day."  We gave our regards and I moved on.  The next two miles might have been the toughest of the whole day.

Boreas and Zephyros were blowing one last hurricanic blow.  In fact, Mile 96 was the slowest of the day outside of those Buxton hayfields at the halfway point (where we saw neither big oaks nor pieces of black volcanic glass).  I pushed and struggled through it to the "4 miles to go" sign.

Carrie-Anne at the Reservation after the finish
photo by Urvi
Soon it was a right turn with just over 3 miles and I was on my way into Wells.  the last three miles were a blur.  I was just riding as hard as I could for two reasons: 1) I could beat 7 hours and 2) more importantly, I just wanted to stop riding.

I came into Wells Reserve and passed a few people.  I crossed the start line for one last little Ronde type hill as Cyclotrons who had finished cheered me to the top and got my medal - 55 seconds under 7 hours.

Finished - medal and all!

As I drank my celebratory beer - fittingly it was none other than a Rising Tide Zephyr IPA - Victor told me how he gutted it out on only three gears with the hills and the wind to ride the whole 100k. Amie, Ryan and Carrie-Anne finished the 100k together.  Emma had ridden the 100 miler in just over 6 hours, while Robbie had done it in under 5.  Yes Robbie rode it in 4:52!

We cheered in Jason as he finished right behind me and then Lisa and Urvi as they finished despite Zephyros Megalyeri accentuating various injuries.

Alehouse mussels from Portsmouth Brewery - yeah, baby! I had their Diggler DIPA as the accompaniment 

Monday, June 6, 2016

JKP - Just Keep Paddlin': Glen Doherty Cup & Freedom Run (6/5/16)

Start of Kayak Race
All photos from Cambridge 5k and Alan Scherer
Part 1
Discipline: Kayak 
Distance: 0.75 miles
Goal Time: 8:00
Actual Time: 8:02

Last year, I got boxed in at the start.  This year I was determined for that not to happen.  So I made sure I was on the front line at the horn.   Basically, there are two strategies I can think of for a 0.75 kayak race.

1) Mark Cavendish Strategy - Attempt to keep with leaders and sprint to the finish.
2) Fabian Cancellara Strategy - Get out front, put your head down and treat it like a time trial: Just Keep Paddlin' - JKP.

Last year, within a few hundred yards I was in third and stuck behind a tactical battle between first and second.  This year, I didn't want that to happen.

At the horn I put in 15-20 sprint strokes and got myself into the lead.  I made the turn off the Broad Canal and onto the River with at least a couple yards of lead.  At this point, I made up my mind.  I was going with JKP.

Joe and Andy were acting as my spotters.  10 meters behind... Great, I can't let him close - JKP

By about 4 minutes in, my pecs and trapezii were on fire.  I glanced at my watch and thought two things.  First, it's like running the mile and I made it to lap 3.  Second, JKP!

At the turn off the river and into the Cambridgeside Canal, I got: "You're opening the lead." But I wasn't sure if Andy had said opening or closing.  So I went with JKP.

I went under the Cambridge Parkway Bridge and ready to gun the sprint. It's much further to the finish line on the river than it is on the bank...  Oh well, JKP.

I pulled my way through my burning trapezii, built into 5-10 intermediate paddles and into 10 or so sprints to win the kayak race by 14 seconds! 

Finish and roaring to victory!

Dana - third master in run

Part Two
Discipline: Run
Distance: 5 kilometers
Goal Time: 18:30
Actual Time: 19:22

Yeah, this didn't go as well as the kayak race...

But, in the end, the guy who finihed seconds behind me in the kayak race beat me by 3 minutes in the run to take the Glen Doherty Cup.  

SRR - Team Champs!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Five Songs of a Brevet: Tweeto's Revenge 200K (5/21/16)

With a cannon atop Cushing Street in Ashburnham
Also the site of the first Meeting House in Ashburnham, (probably moved when everyone complained about the GIANT hill)

Event: Tweedo's Revenge 200K
Location: Bedford -> Ashburnham -> Petersham -> Beford
Goal Time: 10:30
Actual Time: 11:02

Cano crura virimque, Cantabrigia qui primus ab oris
Bedvado, birota profugus, Novabritaniaque venit...

Last month, I had done New England Randonneurs' New Hampshire 200K with Emma, Andrew and Robbie.  Based on my zero training I had a great first 100 miles of that ride - and a really bad last 27. Well, I didn't want the sitting down twice in the three miles between Concord Centre and Hanscom again.

Thus now I sing the songs of my May brevet

Part 1 - Take it Easy: Bedford to Harvard (21 Miles)

Acton/Boxboro Town Line

Only 8 of us started the 200K at 9:00 am (the 300K started 3 hours earlier).  At mile five, when we crossed route 2, was the last time I would see another randonneur for 70 miles and 6 hours.

It was a perfect weather. And, I knew it was a long ride ahead.  So, I went back to my strategy from the 2014 300K, which is the same course except for the middle portion.  Take it easy... take easy... Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Easy up hills; coast down hills.  Don't get too excited, don't start racing myself.  I pulled into the first Control - the Dunks in Harvard just in time to stand behind a youth soccer team. blerg

Part 2 - What Goes Up: Harvard to Ashburnham (30 Miles)
Golf Cart Crossing - Lunenberg
Out of Harvard and then thru Devens, and then the hills start.  What goes up, must come down.... Spinning wheels round and round.* each uphill I got through knowing eventually I would be able to go down hill - eventually.

There were some beautiful parts on this portion.  The whole section through Fitchburg Reservoir was awesome.  With my legs burning, I pulled into Tweeto's Market and had two of my sandwiches and some Salt and Vinegar chips I bought.

Part 3 - Me and My Llamas: Ashburnham to Petersham (24 Miles)

Alpacas in Phillipston
Okay, so they were alpacas and not llamas and I didn't take them to the dentist (but I can't find any songs about alpacas).

This is where the 300K course and the 200K divide.  This was a beautiful section through Winchendon and Phillipston.  Included were said alpacas and the Smith Country Cheese (where I stopped and picked up some gouda.)  I made my way into the control at Petersham town Common well behind my plan, but I felt great and knew I still wouldn't have to ride that much in the dark.

Part 4 - Mary's Little Lamb: Petersham to Sterling (26 Miles)

The world's most famous lamb - Mary's - is memorialized in Sterling where the rhyme was written

The next 26 miles were going to be tough.  Over three steep hills and then the climb into Princeton.  By mile 26, I was going to need a break in Sterling, home of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." While not an official control, I still stopped at the town Common and ate a sandwich and then stopped again at Sterling Ice Cream and had a scoop of butter pecan before heading out for the last 2 hours and 30 miles.

Part 5 - Kick It In, Second Wind: Sterling to Bedford (29 Miles)

FINISHED!!! Signed revet card and new water bottle!

I left the Ice Cream stand and rode on toward Bolton and eventually Bedford.  Despite the stop and the ice cream I was still flagging.  That's when one of the guys on the 300K ride caught up with me. We chatted briefly and then he went on his way as he was riding faster than me.  But, at one point there was a long down hill and I caught up with him.  I rode behind him for a minute and then the next uphill, he started to pull away.  I was caught: Do I a) let him go again; b) try to stay with him?

C'mon and kick it in now second wind, just two more hours to go!

It was actually probably my fourth wind at this point, but I just tried to hang on every up hill and then with my extra weight on my bike (and on my bones) I would ride behind him on the downhills easily. This went on for a few more miles until two more guys from the 300K caught and passed us.  Both of us went with them.

Somewhere in the Acton/Maynard/Concord continuum, there was a split.  The two we had joined got further ahead.  And, I guess I got a fifth wind.  I spent the next mile and a half closing down the gap with them and caught them back at Route 2 and 62 - my day had come full circle.  I rode on with them and even took a pull at the front...

I lost them as they pulled away on the last two hills on Virginia, but I didn't stop and sit, so that was good.

I didn't break 10:30 or even 11 hours, but I felt good and had a great day.  It doesn't need to be faster to be funner.

* - Those actually aren't the lyrics!  Damn dog puppet from the Dot-Com Era lied to me.

One From the Vault
That time I sat on a tank in Croatia, 2009

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sitting by the Runway: New Hampshire 200K (4/30/16)

At Controle 2 - the Red Barn: Emma, Rob, Andrew and me

Event: Boston Brevet 200K
Distance: 127 miles
Ride: Bedford, MA; New Boston, NH; Temple, NH; Brookline, NH
Goal Time: 10:00
Actual Time: 10:44 (PR)

It was mile 126, I was on Virginia Road and within the confines of the Hanscom Airport.  I looked up at the hill I had to climb and thought, I can't make that, I'm going to take a rest here. So, I sat down in the sand and looked over the runway and gave myself 5 minutes before I made the last climb and rode into the finish.

I thought to myself: Self, What do you think it would be like to run a marathon without training? Miles 20-26 would probably feel like this.


I wonder if Harry S. Truman is on it
I'd like to say things started to go downhill around mile 100.  But, the truth is, even by mile 75 I knew it was going to be a long day.  But, it can probably be traced back even further: Maybe, it was the day before when my shifter cable on my already back-up bike broke? Or, maybe, Wednesday when I found out my main bike wouldn't be ready? Or, maybe, the Saturday before when the brake on my main bike broke? Or, maybe, the Monday before that when I ran the Boston Marathon? Or, maybe, the month of March when I rode fewer miles than any time since maybe 2007?


Early in the Ride
Top - Emma
Bottom - others

But, actually, things for this ride started to go down hill on December 26, 2015 while I was on an eight mile run on 8-Mile Road in Northville, MI.  During these 8 miles, I laid out my plans for the coming year; my main athletic goals were to be NYC Half Marathon, Boston Marathon, and the Boston-Portland Ride.  So it was there 790 miles away by bike (I google mapped it), that I set in motion the series of events that led me to sitting looking at the runway at Hanscom, unable to climb the last hill one mile from the end of the ride...

Andrew at a Stop with a view

So, January through March were dedicated to running.  I ran over 1000 miles from Jan 1 until the Boston Marathon.  But because of that, I only biked 100 miles during the first 3 months of the year. Without such miles, maybe a 200 km ride is too much to bite into.  Of course probably not.

Emma, Rob, Andrew and I set off in a pack.  The first leg to New Boston was relatively uneventful.

Controle 1: New Boston Town Common

The second leg took us to the halfway point and the information control.  After answering the question on the brevet card, we continued on.

This is where things started to go wrong.  By the time we got into Temple and the third controle, I was dying.  I needed some sugar or something.  I drank two Dr. Peppers.  But my stomach was starting to grumble and I was running low on energy already.


Controle #3 - Temple Store - top; Temple Town Common - bottom

As we left the Temple store, I was dragging.  I felt I needed to eat, but everytime I ate my stomach hurt more.  During the 300k two years ago, I had brought real food on the brevet with me.  This had been a good choice.  This year, in the hubbub of getting a working bike, I had neglected such a plan. So, instead all I had were Gus and Cliff Bars.

I struggled into the last controle at Brookline Elementary.  I thought the two pickle wedges I ate there were fantastic and maybe the magic juice.

Such an idea was soon struck down.  I felt like I had totally bonked at mile 100.  But, then we hit the very last bad hill into Westford Center.  I got to the top of that and I had to sit on a bench in front of the library for 5 minutes.  And at each turn through Westford and Carlisle and Concord, I would catch up with Emma and Rob and Andrew and they would coax me through the next turn.

Finally, we got into Concord Center.  Andrew was now just riding behind me and staying with me as I pulled 10 mph down 2A back toward Hanscom.  And with 3 and a half miles to go by the Orchard House, I had to pull over and sit for 5 minutes.  I sent Andrew on his way.  He asked he could come pick me up. (He's happy he didn't offer that in Westford because I might have taken him up on it there.) I'd made it this far, I was going to finish.

So I made it 2 and a half miles before I had to stop again.  And then there I was, looking over the runway and trying to get the gumption to climb the last little hill and coast down to the parking lot.

I ended up walking my bike up the hill and hopped on my bike pedaling just enough to roll forward. I coasted in to the parking lot to the cowbell that Steve (who I rode the 2011 200k with) ringing. Emma immediately handed me a slice of pizza: "You're gonna want this!" Indeed, after a coke and a slice of pizza, I was able to move around.  Andrew put my bike up on the car.

It was terrible, it was awful, but with the help of Emma, Andrew and Robbie,  I finished and even had a Person Record!  My three compatriots definitely had great training for Ironman Lake Placid and Whistler.

3 weeks until the next brevet, maybe by then I'll be trained and ready to take my revenge on the 200k with Tweeto's Revenge - but I'm not signing up before I put in some miles and do the North to New Hampshire Century.