I thought that Ragnar DC was going to be my last run for a while. My plan had been to run that event, enjoy myself, and then take some time off from running to focus on some CrossFit goals. I like how running makes me feel, but sometimes the actual doing of the thing is not my favorite. And then, I ran Ragnar DC, and the curious thing that happens when you get around other runners having a good time … happened. We started talking about the next events we want to run, the next races. We started making plans. And the next thing I know, I’m signing up for races.
I ran the Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k last year. That was my first real attempt at getting back into running shape and running a race. That 2016 Pancake Run represented my first “serious” race in over two years. And I had a good run – I missed a PR by a minute or so, which was still a good outcome for me. The race was pretty well run, though small, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was raining and not a generally nice day.
My sign-up for the Pancake Run this year was prompted by two things. First, I thought I was capable of finally breaking through the 30 minute barrier in a 5k. The fat guy holy grail of a sub-30 minute 5k had eluded me now for several races, and this looked like an opportunity to get it done. For whatever reason, 5k races don’t make my calendar much anymore. Since that Pancake Run last year, I have runthree10ks, two halfmarathons, and a Ragnar … but no more 5ks. This was a chance to see what I had. Read more →
I registered for this race last year and wound up getting lazy and not running it. This year, I didn’t register for it initially on the theory that I didn’t need races and would like to save the money. But I eventually relented and signed up. This is a charity race that Celebration Rotary does each year in conjunction with the fire department. They have a big pancake breakfast at the fire house that is free for runners but that you can buy tickets for if you don’t run. And they have a 10K and a 5K.
And the start line is about a mile and a half from my house. Read more →
Selecting my first “race” (event is really more correct, but they’re called races so we’ll go with that) back from my little hiatus was an interesting thought experiment. I’m new to the area, so I want to explore – but my son is older, too, and it would be fun to not have to drive so far and maybe the family could come. Based on timing and theme, I chose The Great American Bacon Race in Tampa.
The Great American Bacon Race advertises itself as a bacon-themed 5K series, with everything that you’d think comes with that. They started doing this in 2014, and they’ve only got three – Orlando in August, Miami in September, and Tampa in October. The website is short on information (course maps, etc.) but long on really good advertising and playing up the theme. I figured it couldn’t hurt – what the heck? That’s about an hour drive, but since it didn’t start until 9 I thought maybe the family could come – and we might get some bacon, besides. So I signed up.
The race goes down at the Florida State Fairgrounds – so pay $6 to park, park on the grass, and a decent hike in to the check-in. About halfway on that hike from the parking lot, the smell starts happening.
Bacon smells amazing.
No check-in bag – just your bib, your safety pins, and a strip attached to your bib that you use to go get your shirt. So I lined up for my shirt, and then took it all back to my car to pin the bib and put the shirt away and kill a few minutes.
About an hour before the race started, people started circulating with huge pans of bacon that were being cooked on big griddles over by the finish line. Just huge piles of bacon. They said at one point that about 1,000 registered, and they had around 20,000 slices of bacon.
One of the thing about themed races like this is that they appeal to non-runners, and that was evident immediately. There were a lot of kids and a lot of people with non-traditional running body shapes. This is not a critique, just a fact – one look at me and you know I have no place for critiques. There were a lot of costumes – many bacon themed ones, of course, but also tutus and pig ears and something that looked like a sandwich that I never really understood. And, a solid hour before the scheduled race start, several of the kids and costumes started lining up at the start line, which, well, tells anybody that is taking this seriously what is going to happen in the first half mile. No judgies, just statement of fact.
They got everybody lined up, countdown from 10, fire the horn, and we’re off.
First thing, I was right about the chaos in the first several hundred yards. I lined up in the front third or so of the pack because I knew what was about to happen, and I was still dodging walkers immediately. There was one apparent incident where a woman was tripped and fell, too. If I were going to give a single piece of feedback to the organizers it would be on this point – add signs for expected finish times, including one for walkers at the back, and make it clear over and over that walkers need to start back there.
Now, take a look at the screenshot of the course map that I got off of my Garmin. It turns out that putting together a 3.1 mile run inside the Florida State Fairgrounds requires a lot of out and back weaving, most of it in parking lots. The first mile or so was all in the parking area, with each “back” leg right into the sun. Then we peeled off, passed the first Bacon Station on the course (I expected two, but never did see the second one) and ran over near the barns and the rodeo & livestock arenas, which was much more interesting. Then another half mile or so weaving through a parking lot, and then a bit of looping through where the midway would be, and then around to the finish.
First, and I normally give massive benefit of the doubt on this one, but that course was not 3.1 miles long. My Garmin stopped at 2.83, and my phone, which was tracking because I had an episode of Zombies! Run going, stopped at just over 2.9. So it appears to have been about a quarter of a mile short. Some of that is likely due to all of the weaving around – how you take corners and run the lines makes a difference, so there is that. Benefit of the doubt has been given.
Another interesting phenomenon – there was one couple in particular that stood out as non-traditional runner. He was dressed up as a slice of bacon, and both of them were significantly larger than I am. They were at the start line at 8am for a 9am start, and were among the first half-dozen people off the line when the gun went off. As expected, I blew by them in the first minute, and wound around to start my out and around weaving. Because of all of the weaving, you can see everybody that isn’t going all speed racer, and at about half a mile in … they were ahead of me again. What the hell? Took me a couple of minutes to catch them, and then maybe a mile later … they were ahead of me again. It took me forever to figure out that they were cutting through and not completing all of the loops.
The bastards were power-leveling the 5K course.
Once I figured that out, I noticed it from several people, including one older (but fit-looking) lady that had come over to me at the beginning of the race for the express purpose of telling me she’d already had two Bloody Marys and that she planned on having fun. This activity distracted me. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does. Skipping whole sections of this thing is not how this works. I don’t care how much you love bacon, if you want to take credit for finishing a 5K, you’ve got to earn that by finishing a 5K. Dammit.
My official finishing time was 35:34.4, and my watch had the exact same time but only 2.83 miles. If I extrapolate up from the pace I covered my last half-mile at, this would have been a roughly 39 minute 5K, in my estimation. My stated goal was to just go and do it, and I did that, and it was awesome. My non-stated, but like-to-have goal was to make sure this stayed under 40 minutes. Check. And my dream goal was to get under my first ever 5K time, which was 38:15 … that didn’t happen, but I’m happy nonetheless. It felt really good to get back out there.
No, really – it felt GREAT to get back out there. There is just an energy around these events. Being around generally fit people is inspiring. Being around generally not-fit people who are working their asses off is inspiring. Just being a part of something going on is exciting. I love seeing new things and being out in the morning. Really – getting back out there was a good thing.
My hat, it turns out, does a poor job of stopping sweat. And one of the things about running in the daytime versus in the morning before sunrise is that I sweat more. And it all ran into my eyes. And stung. So I purchased a headband at the race, and I’ve got another, and I’m going to see how I like headbands.
The running-through-the-parking-lot bits of this were tedious, but the other parts of the race – the barns and the arenas and the midway – that was pretty cool. It would be nice for that course to try and incorporate more of that.
I never walked. I spent a lot of time around people that were doing a run-walk strategy – they’d blow by me when they were running, and then I’d pass them 30 – 60 seconds later when they were walking. But I kept ’em churning. Nobody impressed me more than the speed-walking lady that passed me at about mile 2, though. I had passed her early in the race, but apparently I slowed down and she hit her stride, because, wow.
No real swag in terms of a bag of crap. But the quality of what we got was quite high. We got a medal, which is something I’m not accustomed to in a 5K. I almost feel bad about hanging it next to my half-marathon medals – but not bad enough to not hang it. The bib was specific for this event, which I love, and the shirt was a very high quality cotton shirt with a nice logo – a shirt I’ll actually wear. One thing about for-profit races, they don’t need to fill their shirts with sponsor logos, so that helps. In the picture below, I purchased the headband only…
Next Race: Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast 5K on October 31st. Hopefully this one winds up being somewhat faster. We’ll see.
I suppose we could call this one a Throwback Thursday, couldn’t we? Because this happened almost exactly one year ago, though I never did a race report. I’m a bit out of practice, but here goes nothing.
The morning dawned bright and muggy.
Nope – too much.
Each year for over 10 years now, my wife’s parents rent a beach house at some very nice location for their vacation. What has always happened is that they would rent a house big enough for all of their kids and their families, and then they would invite everyone. Come, don’t come, that doesn’t matter – you are all invited. July of 2015 will be the 8th year I’ve been in the family for this, and it was a long-established tradition before I got there.
They started in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Virginia. That’s where my first year was. But my first year in Sandbridge was the family’s last year in Sandbridge – the drive from northern New Jersey was proving too much. So we gradually began migrating up the coast. The following year was in Cape May, New Jersey. The year after that began a two-year run in Mantaloking, New Jersey. And then there were three years in Southampton, New York, on Long Island.
By this point in the summer of 2014, I was basically not running anymore but had not yet given up on the idea of me running. And one of my sisters-in-law is very athletic and saw this 5k and sent out a blast to the family – I want to run it, lets have a bunch of us do that. So I signed up.
There was some confusion at the bib pickup, and I knew there would be – when I signed up online, there was never an option to pay. So when I showed up at the race, they said “You’re the guy that didn’t pay!” But, because I was expecting that I was prepared with cash and we didn’t have a problem. It turned out that the only family members that actually were running the race were the aforementioned sister-in-law, my niece who is in high school and runs cross country, and me. I made it clear very early on that my feelings would not be hurt when they left me in the dust.
We got there pretty early, so we spent 30 minutes warming up by jogging around the little park where the start line was. And then we lined up and were off. We ran down about 200 yards, turned left and climbed the only real hill of the race, and then ran a big square in a neighborhood area full of $1million+ homes in the Hamptons. We then came back down the hill and headed back to the finish line.
So, yeah, I was unprepared for this race. Things went OK until I got maybe a quarter mile past the top of the hill, and then my right shin seized up and that was it. I run / walked the rest of the way in pain, wondering what in the hell my shins had against me.
My wife’s family is the cheering type, and since there were three of us running, they came out and sat near the finish line. As I come through, this is what I’m greeted with:
Seriously – that’s worth your time. That’s my son on the left – I love it when he gets to come out and see me doing this.
My time was horrible – 38 minutes and 23 seconds. That is slower than my first ever 5K. I was so discouraged that this performance basically ended my running for the next six months – my last run was on August 3rd, with a little attempt in February 2015 and then a couple of fits and starts in May / June.
– Hard to say it more strongly – that really really sucked.
– Having a cheering section like that, though, is amazing. Seriously, amazing.
– Running in the Hamptons is a bit surreal, if you want to know the truth. The houses we were running past were protected by huge hedges, so mostly we were running through a big green tunnel. And then when you did see a house, it was a freaking mansion. Weird.
– My sister-in-law and my niece both did run away from me – they had a decent race. I was happy for them, even if I was disappointed in myself.
– I don’t remember much about the SWAG. The t-shirt was a cotton job that my wife wears all of the time around the house. And the bib was a unique one that said Southampton Rotary Club, which I love. The spread at the end was bagels and bananas, and there were plenty left when a back-of-the-packer like me made it to the table.
– That race was the 17th and last race of my streak. In January of 2013, I weighed about 315 pounds. In March of 2014, I ran my first 5K, and then ran at least one event in 16 straight months, losing 50 pounds in the process and feeling amazing. During the streak I ran a Ragnar, two half marathons, a 15k, two 10ks, a 5-miler, ten 5ks, and a 4k. I ran events in 6 states and the District of Columbia. I ran through three pairs of shoes, and just basically felt like a million damn dollars.
– I want that back. I want it back badly.
– Next Race: The Great American Bacon Race, 5K, Tampa, Florida, October 3rd, 2015
This was my exactly my fourth run in the month of May. Count ‘em – four. When I took myself out of the Superhero Half Marathon because of an injury, my thoughts immediately turned to the problem of my streak. The half was on May 18th, and because of the injury that weekend was out. But that only left two other weekends to get a race in – one of those was Memorial Day weekend, and the other had to have a race on Saturday because Sunday is the 1st of June.
I began to believe that the streak was going to come to an end. I sat on that thought for a few days. And then my stubbornness rose up, screaming, and basically asked me what the hell I was doing. After 14 months of streaking … and with the next 5 months already booked up and registered for … and with the foot / ankle feeling much, much better … what the hell are you doing?
So I found this race and registered. I had very few expectations – I only knew it was about 30 minutes from the house and this would be the 39th year, so there would be some organization.
The Ridgewood Run (I have no idea who Fred D’elia is) has been run by the New Jersey Masters running club on Memorial Day weekend for longer than I’ve been alive. The day consists of multiple separate races – a 10K wheelchair event, a regular 10K, the 5K, an elite mile, a masters mile, and a one mile “fun run”. There is prize money, and the mile requires a qualifying time for entry. Interestingly, they run the races non-concurrently – the 10K goes first, and then the 5K doesn’t start until that one is completely done, then the mile, then the fun run. That meant that my race wasn’t scheduled to start until 10:15am – which means the wife and child could come.
We got a perfect day, if a little hot. We got there around 9:15, and by that time people were already crossing the finish line from the 10K. Because of the number of people running (nearly 1,000 for the 10K, over 1,700 for the 5K), there actually was a little expo of sorts, with different local businesses set up at tables. They had a DJ / MC presiding over things at the finish line, which is always nice. And overall this felt like a real event.
I had no intention to go try and PR – I knew better. But I didn’t just want to go walk it, either. So I took a couple of warmup laps around a nearby baseball field and then went and lined up. There were no pacing signs or corrals, so the start line was a total free-for-all, and it felt that way for the first half mile. But eventually things lined out and got comfortable. The course itself was through a very nice residential neighborhood, and there was quite a lot of support. There were probably four water stops (in a 5K!) and lots of people sitting out in their yards. Many people had a water hose spraying the street, and in at least one place somebody had attached a sprinkler to a ladder so they didn’t have to stand there with the hose.
Predictably, I started way too fast. My first mile came in at 9.46, which was a PR pace and totally unsustainable. I felt OK, but as an academic exercise I knew that I was going to pay for that. Not far into the second mile there was a little hill that forced me to slow down, and I maintained a more reasonable (for this race, anyway) 11.02 pace for the second mile. The third mile brought a walk break over a decent sized hill, which slowed me down to 11.18 for that one – and then a downhill finish at 10:21 for the last .1 mile. The clock said 33.27 when I crossed the finish line, and my chip time came in at 32.59, for a 10.39 pace, or about 2 ½ minutes off of my PR.
Given my general lack of preparation, I’m pretty happy with that. The day was a big success – I extended the streak, felt good about the performance, and my family had a good time. Win, win, win. Now back to getting after it and preparing for the next race. This time won’t be close to acceptable at my next 5K
– Prize money brings fast runners – the guy that won the 5K did it at 4.40 pace, and the winner of the mile did it at 4.02 pace. Seriously blazing.
– Lots of confusion in the first mile, at water stops, and past the finish line. People were weaving and darting unexpectedly, and twice I nearly ran over someone who just dead stopped in front of me. Much of this was kids – there were several kids in the 8-12 age range. I don’t get at frustrated with all of this as I used to, but it would be good if folks were a touch more considerate.
– Speaking of kids – I’ve noticed a pattern whenever I run races with kids. They do not appear to be able to hold a pace. They run really fast, and then stop and walk, rinse, repeat. It can be disconcerting near the end of a race like this to get blown by, but then in less than half a mile you wind up going back by the walker.
– These things are fun when they feel like big events like this. In particular, having a DJ / MC is great – the announcements are clear and timely and there is just no question what is going on. Another cool thing is that they had a “History” tent, with pictures and t-shirts from many of the past runnings of this race. That definitely lends credibility to the proceedings.
– The wife and boy were set up about a quarter mile from the end of the race. Having a cheering section is great … and some random dude standing next to them was yelling my name, too. Awesome.
– No real swag – I think the intent was that you get stuff at the tents. The shirt was a nice blue technical shirt, and the bib was unique to this race – which you know I think makes a big difference.
– May is in the books, and the streak is intact! That was 15 straight months with races. I’m registered for races in each month through October (2 in October), so barring problems we get to 20 at least. I’ve also targeted a couple of races for November and December. We’re streaking…
– Next race: Branford Road Race 5M, Branford, Connecticut, June 15th.
You are not having déjà vu, and there is nothing wrong with your television set. This morning, for the first time in my running “career”, I ran in a race that I had competed in previously. Last year’s JFK Runway Run was my second ever race, and I was coming off of an ankle injury that I’d sustained three weeks earlier at my first race. All of which means that it was slow. This year I was, barring injury or something weird, a lock to better last year’s time by several minutes, be competitive as hell with my PR, and hopefully even take a shot at a 30 minute race.
This is a rather unique race because of the setting – they actually shut down one of the runways at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens for the runners. Both times I’ve run it we ran from the same place: you run out about 200 yards and then hang a right, run for a bit less than a mile and a half in a straight line, and then turn around and run back. There is no scenery at all (it is a huge airfield), though airplanes are landing over your head throughout the race, which is pretty neat. The course is also perfectly flat and generally pretty windy – though this year the wind was not as bad as last year.
Because of the perfect flatness I decided to push hard and see what I could do, and that strategy worked out. Other than the congestion in the first couple hundred yards my pace was remarkably consistent throughout the race – +/- 10 seconds at any given time. This is a course where you can hit a groove and just go with it, and that’s what I was able to do. My finishing time was 30:39, which is a 9:53/mile pace and a new 5K PR for me by 36 seconds! For awhile I had hopes that I could seriously threaten an under-30 finish, but that was not meant to be … which does not do one thing to take away from my excitement at a new PR.
I consider this to be the first race of the season (as opposed to the last race of winter, which is what the USA Half was), and I’m ecstatic with how things have started. I currently don’t have another 5K on my calendar for the year, so this PR will stand for several months – and I’m good with that. The next time I take a crack at the distance it will be under-30 minutes or bust.
– As cool as the setting is for this race, the logistics are a bit inconvenient. They obviously can’t let people just randomly show up out on the airport runway, so all of the race infrastructure (check-in, prize stage, etc.) happens at an office building and they bus the runners out to the runway. In order to make sure you get out there with plenty of time, though, you wind up killing quite a lot of time out on the runway with no shade or windbreak. And this also discourages spectators, so the wife and child didn’t make the trip. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run it if you’re in the area … just know that there are challenges.
– The other thing about this one is that the organizers are kind of at the mercy of the TSA and Port Authority police. The runners actually wait behind a barricade a few yards from the starting line, and then when we’re released we go line up under our pacing signs. We wound up starting nearly a half-an-hour late, but I’m convinced by the way they acted that this had nothing to do with the organizers. That stunk – it was chilly and windy –but comes with the territory for the cool setting.
– This race is an absolutely fascinating slice of humanity. There were all ages from little kids up to elderly runners. There was an ethnic mix that would actually be hard to put together outside of Queens. Several teams run this race – a local martial arts dojo, corporate teams for airlines at the airport, that kind of thing – and that brings with it a bunch of people that clearly don’t run many races. Many people there, in fact, weren’t there to run at all but to walk the course and get a look at the airport. Several people were wearing jeans, and one walker was wearing a shirt that said “Airplane Spotting is NOT a Crime”, which gives away his motivation, doesn’t it? There were half a dozen guys that ran the race at a sub-6:00 pace and many people that took well over an hour. There was a guy in a wheelchair and two girls in full-on ballet tights with tutus. Just a fascinating group of people.
– All of that, of course, means that many people had NO idea how to line up even though there were pace signs. When I line up at the back of 9:00 group and spend the first half mile passing people that are walking it takes all I can do to not scream “why did you line up so far up in line?!?!”
– One of my favorite things in these out-and-back (or loop) courses is watching to see when I see the leaders. In this case the leader came by me at just past the mile mark for me and just past the 2 mile mark for him – just over 11 minutes into the race. This same guy won the race last year, too, and he absolutely crushed it. I couldn’t even see second place when he came through and he wound up winning by nearly a minute and a half. Just impressive to watch.
– Basic swag – a cotton t-shirt, a bib that is unique to this race (which I love) and that’s about it. There was water right past the finish lines, and bananas when we got off the buses back at race central. They also had a raffle, which I didn’t stay for. Photographers were at the start/finish line, and I’ll add pictures when they get them posted.
– That was April’s race, which means my streak of running at least one race or event per month has now been extended to 14 months. I am registered for races in May & June, have targeted races in July, August, & September, and am registered for two events in October. That would get me to 20.
– Next race: Superhero Half Marathon, Morris Township, New Jersey, May 18th. I’m debating buying Batman stuff – we’ll see.
Turns out, February is similar to January in terms of trying to find races … they’re relatively few and far between. And since my planned race was cancelled, there was a bit of a scramble hoping to find something that worked. Fortunately, the Taconic Road Runners have two (count ‘em!) options – a 5K and a 5-miler that they use to kick off their season and call the Freezer Fives. The races are held two weeks apart in FDR State Park in New York … I chose the 5K on 2/2.
So … this hasn’t exactly been the strongest lead-up to a race I’ve ever had. This winter running thing, frankly, is kicking my ass and I’m starting to get frustrated about it. But, given that January was such a slow month, I decided that my race strategy this time was to not really have a strategy – just go have a good time with it.
A couple of things about this race were different than recent races and also the last month in general. First, because I guess they are worried about the weather, the race didn’t start until 10am. And second, the high on Sunday was in the upper 40s and sunshiney. Seriously perfect weather for a 5K. And these two things led directly to something else unique about this one – my wife and son got to come with me, for the first time since my very first race last March. Having a cheering section is … awesome.
The start line was down the road a bit from the finish line, and that wasn’t all that clearly communicated – after I got my number and shirt I just kind of followed the herd and got there. There were no formalities at all – no national anthem, no “5-4-3-2-1”, nothing. One minute we were standing there, and the next thing I knew all the people in front of me were running. And so off we went.
I decided to go ahead and run it hard – no expectations for a PR, but given the conditions it felt good. The course was another loop with an out-and-back spur, and because it was within the state park we had the whole road with no traffic anywhere … making for a quite pleasant run. The little out-and-back spur started within the first mile, and featured a big hill. Up and over, get to the bottom, turn around, and then up and over again. Yay. I met the leaders on their way back just about the time I topped out and started back down, which was a harbinger of things to come.
So, after that up-down-up-down, there was a short straight stretch into another decent hill that looped around to yet another decent hill … and then past the start line with half a mile or so to go. My winter training struggles bit me on the ass on that last hill, and (spoiler alert!) kept me from a PR … but I’m not broken up about it. Overall, this course certainly lived up to its billing as “challenging”.
My official finish time was 31:31, which is only 16 seconds off of my PR. I’m thrilled with that time given all of the apparent weaknesses coming into this race. One of these days I want to progress to being in the top half of finishers, but this one was only good enough for 218 / 284. I’ll absolutely take it.
– After all of that polar vortex crap last week, we seriously got a perfect day – warm and clear and perfect. And then got a foot of snow overnight that night, and two days later another 6 inches plus sleet and freezing rain. Winter training is killing me, and I’m officially fielding job offers for warmer climates.
– Having the family there makes it better, officially. Because this was just a big park, my son was way distracted … and apparently wasn’t too happy about his Mommy making him stop long enough to cheer as I ran by. But it was great, all the same. Hopefully they’ll get to come to a few more of these this year than they did last year.
– This is my first Taconic Road Runners race, which is something I’ve been looking forward to. To the extent that there is a running club around here that would be my local club, the TRRC is it. And I was overall impressed – everybody was friendly, bib pickup seemed efficient, and it really was a very good small race. No chip timing, which is fine, but in general a very well run race.
– Speaking of timing, an interesting thing happened in terms of my official time. When I crossed the finish line, the clock said 31:28, and my watch said 31:12 … so I thought I actually had a shot at the PR depending on how much time they gave me to get across the start line. I’m not sure how it works that they added 3 seconds to the time I saw … but whatever. I’m certainly not bitching, just find this curious.
– Another thing about the TRR – they keep costs way down. $18 for me, a non-member, and I think the member cost was $12. Of course, for that you don’t really get swag – just the t-shirt. It is, however, a nice long-sleeved cotton shirt with a neat graphic and no sponsor logos, so pretty cool. Also, the bibs are TRR bibs – they say Taconic Road Runners and have the orange and green color scheme. Bibs like that are just so dramatically better than the generic RoadID ones.
– So, that was February’s race, which brings the streak to 12 months. Last March I ran my first ever 5K. Since then, I’ve run an official event each month for a full year. I find that almost hard to believe. And I’m registered for March, April, May, and June races … plus the Ragnar in October.
– Next race: Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon, Washington, DC, March 15th
One thing that became abundantly clear as I started looking at January races is that, in the Northeast, New Year’s Day runs were going to be by far the best bet. If I had been unable to go today, it would have been 50/50 and pick ‘em whether I could have found a race to run this month.
Guilford, Connecticut, sits on the I-95 corridor just east of New Haven and right on the Long Island Sound. I knew nothing about it when I registered – I picked this race because it is relatively large for one of these (probably close to 1,000 runners, including the kids fun run) and they’ve been doing it for years. So at least they’d have their ducks in a row. As it turns out, Guilford is an absolutely beautiful town. We started and finished at the large town green, which is surrounded by old colonial style buildings filled with shops, restaurants, etc. Everything about this town was charming as hell – Guilford, Connecticut, acquitted itself quite well to anybody that drove in for the race.
This was my first 5K since the PR at the Celtic Classic in September … and though I don’t feel as strong now as I did then, I hoped that I might have a reasonable shot at a PR here, and, with some luck, at the 30 minute barrier. The temperatures were predictably cold – 25 degrees or so at the start – but they did start it at 11am, so it could have been much worse. The course itself was a big loop with a little out-and-back spur down to the water. Things were mostly flat – the one “hill” was a bridge over train tracks, and there was a 40 – 50 foot climb in the last mile. Nothing major.
Mass confusion at the start – the megaphone wasn’t working, so nobody could hear anything. Somebody sang the national anthem, but unless you were in the first third or so of runners you couldn’t hear it – most didn’t even know it was going on. Then the guy raised his hand, counted down, dropped his hand, and we were off.
My intention was to set off comfortably too fast (if that makes any sense) and work to hold it. And initially that plan worked great. My first mile came in at 9.39, which is the fastest official mile I’ve run since high school. Which was great. The second mile came in at 10.07 – which was less great – and it was at about half-way when the wheels came off.
For the bulk of my running “career,” my shins have been a problem. Most of this is weight and pronation control related, but I haven’t always known that. Years ago, in my first little attempt at running, shin splints forced me to stop. And when I started this time the most difficult part was managing through the initial pain in my shins. However, after that first 6 to 8 weeks, things eased up and the only time I’ve had a problem is if I’ve taken more than 2 or 3 days off between runs.
Well, at around mile 1.5 of this 5K my left shin tightened up and hurt like hell. And I couldn’t make it relax. The rest of the run was one of the more acutely painful I’ve done in a long time.
At first I was mystified – what in the world might be causing this? Slowly it dawned on me what the problem was … I hadn’t warmed up adequately. See, when I do my training runs I deliberately use the first mile as a warm-up mile and hold back. Even on my short runs. Almost always, mile 3 or mile 4 is the best mile for any run that goes that long, because I’ve had a chance to warm up. Well, this time, I took off fast right out of the gate and didn’t give those muscles a chance to ease into it.
So … live and learn. From a high-level perspective, I’m happy with my overall time – 31.42, a 10:18/mile pace. Splits were 9.39, 10.07, 10.54, and then 1.03 for that last tenth of a mile. Plus I got a mid-week run in in a fun way, and got to see a cool new town in coastal Connecticut. Happy New Year!
– I’m struggling to dress in the cold. Especially in these situations where I’ve got to kill some time out there, I want to make sure I’m adequately layered. But I’m finding that I’m getting too warm by the end of these runs / races. Though today was cold enough that by the time I got back to the car my sweat had chilled and it took a hot shower to get me warmed back up. I’ll keep tinkering with the layers, though, and eventually get it right.
– Always Read the Plaque – that’s what Roman Mars would tell us – and so when I saw a big monument in the middle of the town green I had to go over and take a look. Turns out, it was a big Civil War monument, listing the names of all of the soldiers that died in the war from Guilford. I have always been fascinated by the Civil War, and as a Southerner have obviously seen my fair share of monuments. However, outside of New York City (which is loaded with them), I’ve seen very little of that up in the Northeast. This was a quite interesting find – and somebody had placed a holiday wreath on the statue soldier’s arm.
– The little out-and-back was deceptively short – I’m now accustomed to much longer runs than this – so it was a little jarring when we met the leaders when I was only at about mile 0.9. BUT – they were only at about mile 1.5 or so.
– There was actually packet pickup for this race at a local running store for the last couple of days, so I think many people did that. Because I only did it on race day, I got no SWAG except the t-shirt, which was a nice blue long-sleeved cotton job with a tastefully understated logo on the front. I like getting shirts I might actually wear out.
– That was January – the streak is now at 11 months. I’m registered for races through May, so no end in sight.
– Next race – Super Saturday Run for the End Zone 6K, Montclair, New Jersey
(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it. I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date. This was a good 5K, in Bethlehem, PA. This report was written in September, 2013. This is also the last “make-up” race report – anything posted after this one will be new stuff…)
So, I hadn’t run a 5K since early May, which was still relatively early in my running “career” … or at least in the sense that my mileage has dramatically increased since then. I was looking forward to this one, then, because it was pretty much a certain PR, in what was expected to be ideal conditions for a 5K.
There were probably in the neighborhood of 800 runners total at the race, which includes the folks that ran the 10K. It was, as expected, a beautiful morning, with a start/finish area near a stream underneath a huge, arching bridge … just a nice way to start a fall morning. Temps were a bit warmer than I would have thought – probably upper 50s / lower 60s, but once the sun came up the day warmed up well into the 70s.
Thanks for coming, national anthem, 3-2-1, gun. Lots of walkers, and there hadn’t been any discussion for them about lining up at the back and staying to the right, so the start was a bit of chaos. About the time that lined out we headed uphill for our only real climb, and then looped back around near the start line. At about a mile and a quarter, we went off onto a crushed gravel trail, and I was quite happy at the 5K / 10K split to be making the turn back to the start. Not that I didn’t feel good, just that I was running at a pace that was quite unsustainable for much more than the 5K. I wound up on a bit of an island for the last mile or so – nobody really in contact behind me, and the people in front of me quite aways up there. I almost reeled one of them in, but just ran out of course.
So the goal had been to try and really push throughout the race, and that’s what happened. I deliberately haven’t been listing my actual times on these reports, but this time it is relevant to the story – I finished in almost exactly 31 minutes (official results not yet posted – this is my Forerunner), which knocked 6 full minutes (six!)(count ‘em!) off of my previous PR. My stated goal was what I felt to be an almost inevitable 35 minutes, with my “outside chance” goal of 33 minutes being my real hope. At around mile 2 I knew I was going to be able to get to that, and the question was whether I’d have enough of a kick to push 30 minutes – the holy grail of fat guy 5K goals. Didn’t quite get there, but I am very happy with this race.
– I registered for this one back in January, as part of my “register for the whole season at once” strategy for making sure I’d be prepared for the Ragnar. As a result, I was bib #2. More than one person noticed.
– Also, I didn’t realize that this race was part of a bigger event – the Celtic Classic is one of the largest Celtic heritage festivals in the country. The national championship Highland Games were there (and watching those guys throw the hammers was amazing), and we got to watch the parade with all of the pipe bands. My two-year old was completely enthralled. By the end of the day my legs were screaming at me, but it was an awfully good day.
– Met an interesting guy while we were waiting for the start – he lives fairly close to me, and is on his third time running through the country. He’d already done a marathon and a half-marathon in all 50 states, and was working his way through again running 10Ks – this was Pennsylvania. Fascinating guy to talk with – he’d started running in the 80s as a coping mechanism when he quit smoking, and it just never stopped.
– As happy as I was with my time, it didn’t take long to get humbled. I went and got my water and cookie, and just about the time I got back to cheer for more finishers … the 10K winners came through. Like 5 or 6 minutes behind me. They did 100% more distance in less than 20% more time. Yikes – I gotta keep working. 30 minute 5K or bust.
– Interesting swag – cotton shirt with the same logo this race has had for several years, the standard local coupons, pens, candy, used deck of playing cards from the local casino, and a light bulb (?).
– I’d already had September covered for the monthly streak, so I’m still at 7. I am officially registered for races in each month between now and March, and I’ve already got April and May picked out – so unless something happens, it’ll get to 15. As always, nobody is threatened by this at all.
At some point in the last 8 months, the monthly streak got hold of me and now it is my mission to keep it going. Finding races had not been an issue – until November. I’m traveling for work and we’re traveling for the holidays … and the races just weren’t lining up. So I decided to start looking for potential events at the places we were traveling to.
This weekend we’re in Southern California for a wedding – and when I started looking at the itinerary I realized that I had an almost completely free Saturday morning while everybody was getting ready for an evening wedding. A quick search for a 25 mile radius around the wedding venue and the next thing I know I’m registered for the G.I. Joe Bootcamp Pier-to-Pier Run/Walk.
The idea here is that we started at the Hermosa Beach pier and did an out-and-back up to the Manhattan Beach pier. The length was roughly a 5K, but it was rough enough that they didn’t call it that. And this all seemed great – Southern California weather, flat course, exciting because it feels exotic to me, etc.
I missed the part where we were running it in the sand. When I realized this, my enthusiasm waned.
Anyway – registration was a disorganized mess. G.I. Joe Bootcamp is a local fitness program run by Joe Charles, an ex-MMA fighter turned personal fitness guru in Manhattan Beach. It is a personality driven outfit – and that works, as long as it works. In this case, it only kinda worked. They said get there early – I got there at 6am for a 7am start and had to wait a full 20 minutes for the check-in tables to be ready. Mass confusion about how the shirts were handed out, and the timing was “whenever my National Anthem girl gets here.” However – we got it registered, so that’s what counts.
So the way the course worked is that we started out on the pavement, immediately hit what I will call the heavy sand, and headed toward the water. Maybe 200 yards later we made a right-hand turn and headed down the beach. Now, the heavy sand was awful – nearly impossible to run in. The stuff down by the water, though, was nice. It was solid yet soft, and the biggest problem was the fact that the beach is banked headed down toward the water. So we ran down to the other pier, touched it, and turned around and headed back. No course marshals or anything like that – we were told to touch the Manhattan Beach pier and come back. And it worked. The final 200 yards back across the heavy sand was horrible, but we got it done.
The run felt really good for me. Once I was able to hit a groove down near the water, I started ticking off a really good pace – nothing near 5K PR pace, but that was out the instant I realized the sand was in play. I almost exclusively passed people on this one, and for the last mile or so I was trying to reel in the guy in front of me and just couldn’t do it. But that pushed me to a happy pace.
(EDIT: The official results were posted, and if we’re calling this a “race” then I am way happy with my finish – I finished 32nd out of 106 overall, but finished 3rd out of 9 in my division (M:30-39). I left before the finish ceremony, though it looks like they only called people up for 1st and 2nd place. But I’ll take it!)
– Just a beautiful run – surfers and stand-up paddleboarders and fishermen and seagulls and … and … and. I made the last minute decision to leave my iPod in the car, and I’m glad I did. The crashing waves made a great soundtrack, and there was certainly plenty to see.
– One of the things I’m learning about this coastal thing is that distances are very deceiving. Islands that look close are many, many miles away. And piers that appear to be just right down the beach turn out to be nearly two miles away. It was strange to be able to see my mark so clearly from that far away
– I grew up fishing … but fishing in the surf like that seems crazy. I wonder how much they actually catch.
– SWAG – nice cotton shirt (olive drab color, understated logos – nice relative to a lot you get) and a big bag full of stuff. I guess it is because a bootcamp outfit was doing this, but most of the stuff was either medicine samples (anti-fungal, Tiger Balm, that sort of thing) or food (protein shake, Vitamin C mix, etc.) And lots of opportunity to sign up for an upcoming bootcamp.
– Did I mention that running in heavy sand is nearly impossible?
– That’s November’s race, which puts me at 9 months.
– Next race: Ted Corbitt Classic 15K in Central Park, December 14th