RR #16: Branford Road Race

The Branford 5m Road Race was recommended to me by a poster over on the Motley Fool.  The recommendation was basically that this is a relatively large race that they’ve been doing for a long time and has great support.  The race is also part of a festival that is done on the green in Branford every Father’s Day.  When I looked it up, and saw that the race itself didn’t start until 10:15 – which means late enough that my family could come – I signed up.

So … it turns out that this Branford Festival is a thing.  A legit thing.  At 9am when we got there we were very surprised at how difficult parking in the area was … and then when we got to the green there were people and tents and just activity all over the place.  We didn’t explore a whole lot at first because I was prepping for the race, but it turned out that on the next block over there were rides and carnival games and food vendors and car shows and just all kinds of stuff.  And after the race was over we hung around and had a blast.  Overall, in spite of what I’m going to say in a minute, this was basically the best Father’s Day ever.

I like starting line pictures like this...
I like starting line pictures like this…

Not that I was as prepared as I thought I was for the race.

I went in optimistic – my mileage has been slowly increasing, and I’ve been feeling pretty good.  My intention was to try and keep it under control in the first mile and then see what was left in the tank at around mile 4 and try and finish strong.  My stated goal was 55 minutes, so 11 minute miles, which I expected to be very achievable.  My backup goal was an hour flat, which I almost didn’t even think bore mentioning.  And if I’d gotten to mile 4 at 44 minutes or less I was going to try and uncork it and see what I could do in the last mile.  I understood the course to be basically downhill or flat through the 3rd mile, mostly uphill in the 4th mile, and then flat to slightly uphill into the finish.

Confusion at the start – there was a 2-mile walking course that was, against all logic, set to start 5 minutes before the regular 5 mile race.  The idea was that after about a quarter of a mile they took a turn we didn’t, so they cleared the course.  However, we all were lined up in the same starting chute, so nobody was sure if they were in the right place.  When they let the walkers go there was a collective “oh shit!” from the walkers lined up at the back, and it took them awhile to push through.  Once they cleared the course, though, we had a national anthem and were off – just under 2,000 runners.

Mile 1 came in at 10:39, which was fast-ish for what I wanted to do but not too awful bad.  Mile 2 was 11:19, which means my first 2 miles were right on.  At about mile 2.5 we came to the bottom of the first hill and I just blew up.

Just blew right the hell up.

Seriously, I have no idea what happened other than I’m just completely out of shape.  Mile 3 was 12:46, Mile 4 was 13:15 (!), and Mile 5 was 12:42.  My shins tightened up, my right foot felt numb on the outside … which was weird.  And I just couldn’t summon the energy.  The hills went on longer than I expected – from mile 2.5 until basically mile 4.5 – but that’s no excuses … I just sucked.  My finish time was 1:00.46.  I missed my really easy goal by 46 seconds and my go-get goal by over 5 minutes.

I don’t usually do this – I like to stay positive – but I also got a jolt when I got the pictures after.  The pictures are standard, and the photographers were all in the last couple of miles of the course.  But one in particular stood out:

So, this is pretty horrifying.  I’ve only gained back between 5 and 10 pounds of the weight I’ve lost, but my self body image is no longer this.  I don’t think I’m svelte, by any means … but I thought I’d moved past mortifying pictures, or at least farther past them than this.

What I have to face is that I’m still a fat guy.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not that down on myself.  Only a little.  I think I probably needed this.  I’ve been going around lately acting like I’m not a fat guy.  I’ve been eating whatever I wanted, blowing off runs fairly regularly, just pretty much behaving as though I’m a regular high-metabolism skinny athletic guy.  And I’m not.  I’m just not.

For proof, see that picture up there.

Anyway – I didn’t have a great race, and I don’t feel great about where I’m at after it.  But I’m not done, by any stretch.  And I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I think I’ll run.  See you out there.

This one is better.  They caught me on the up...
This one is better. They caught me on the up…


–          Seriously, though, with all of that – what a great day.  We had so much fun at the festival, and my wife and I each independently came to the conclusion that we could live in Branford, Connecticut.  That’s a successful race by any standard.

–          Speaking of successful races – they were quick to claim the title of best 5 mile race in the nation.  I heard that several times.  Have to give it to them, though – they go out and try to earn that.  There were bands on the course, many water stops, and there was plenty of support at the end.  Overall a very well run race.

–          For the last quarter of a mile or so they had the crowd behind barriers, and you had to round a corner just before the finish line.  It felt like coming into a legitimate chute and running for a big crowd.  Even the finish was cool.

–          Many many strollers.  One guy cut me off and nearly ran over the person running next to me.  And several others were being pretty rough as they ran through the crowds.  Just about the time I got frustrated with it, I was tapped on the shoulder and warned about one coming – but they were pushing an adult, just like the Hoyts.  I happily got out of their way – those guys are amazing.

–          They had an official 2.5m split, which is a weird distance.  I guess I get 2 PRs out of this, though…

–          One big acknowledgement of the William & Mary shirt I was wearing – lady practically knocked her husband down getting his attention to show him the shirt.

–          Not really any SWAG – an ink pen, several coupons and flyers for local businesses, and the shirt.  The shirt is the exact same brand and color as the shirt that I got at the Ridgewood 5K last month, just a different logo.  This is a good thing – it is a nice shirt.  I did, however, get a pint glass at the festival for $5 … and the festival made up for everything.

–          That was June, which is 16 straight months running a race.  This wasn’t my best, but it counts, and I’m proud I did it.

–          Next race:  NYCRUNS Shore Road Summer Mini-Series #2, 5K, Brooklyn, New York


RR #11 – New Year’s Day Frosty 5K

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.

Guilford Town Green - obviously not today, also not my picture
Guilford Town Green – obviously not today, also not my picture

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.

Frosty 5K Course
Frosty 5K Course

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.

Guilford Soldier's Memorial - also not my picture
Guilford Soldier’s Memorial – also not my picture

–  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

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