Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #7, Celtic Classic 5K

(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.

Before the crowds thinned...
Before the crowds thinned…

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.

Feelin' it...
Feelin’ it…

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.

Notes:

– 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.

– Next race – Ragnar Tennessee

Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line
Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #6, Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

(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 my first half marathon, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  This report was written in September, 2013.)

Short Version: I was warned (here http://boards.fool.com/so-rnr-half-is-an-ok-race-if-you-foll…) … but I did it.

And the longer version isn’t all that different from the short version – it was a miserably hot and humid day. They’re reporting that one person died (though that wasn’t necessarily the heat … it happened at the first mile marker and there was a lot of blood, apparently) and thirteen people had to be taken to the hospital with things like dehydration, heat stroke, etc. A week ago they were forecasting a high of 80, and it wound up being more like 90 and brutal humidity. Yeah.

True Story
True Story

My training, I think, was spot on. My really long run was a negative split 11-miler two weeks before the race. My taper went as planned, and I felt strong. I had the traditional pasta carbo-load the night before, and my traditional race morning breakfast of steel-cut oats. I couldn’t have done anything differently … I believe that.

The race started “right,” too. Miles 1, 2, & 3 were all the exact same pace and were exactly my goal pace. Mile 4 was only 10 seconds slower, but that was the mile where we had the hill. And mile 5 was about 45 seconds slower, but that was the first water stop that I actually used (I was carrying a water bottle so skipped the first handful of stops). So, through mile 5, my times reflect that my race strategy was going perfectly.

And then I completely melted down in Mile 6, and ran that mile and each subsequent mile nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than my goal pace. Holy crap. It was at the 10k split that I knew my “outside chance” goal was off the table, and by Mile 9 I knew my stated race goal was a goner. I and the people around me were like the walking dead at that point, shuffling through as best we could. By the time we got to the boardwalk for the last mile to the finish we were mostly only running when we saw photographers or because it just seemed like we should have.

Holy balls it was hot
Holy balls it was hot

I’d expected a total zoo in the chute after the finish line, but it wasn’t so bad – tons of people and tons of help. I almost passed out at one point before I got some food in me. But, well, I did it. I found out my chip time when I had it engraved on the back of my medal – which is something I felt I should do for my first half-marathon – and I wound up being just under 10 minutes slower than my stated goal time. But some friends I was running the race with confirmed what Kevin said in the link above – EVERYBODY runs this thing 15 – 30 minutes slower than they normally would. Which means I’m ecstatic about my finish.

Now for a bit of the personal before my usual notes – in April of 2012 I saw one of those pictures that you read about where I didn’t recognize myself, I’d gotten so fat. I stepped on a scale and the number scared me to death, and I signed up for Weight Watchers that week. I lost 35 pounds pretty quickly, but after a difficult summer gained 20 of it back just as quickly. I was in a funk and didn’t know what to do about it. And then a friend emailed me and told me about this Ragnar Relay he had just run and how much fun it was … and suggested that I might want to do it. And when I asked him if he thought I could, he said 100% and then said one of the more important things anybody has ever said to me. He said “and when you do, you’ll be one of the select few people who are able to say they actually followed through.” The running got me out of my funk, and since April of 2012 I have lost 55 pounds and completed a half-marathon that sent people to the hospital. And in October I’m going to run that Ragnar and follow through.

And it feels good.

Notes:

– I either overestimated how much entertainment there was going to be on the course or underestimated how important my iPod is to my training – because I missed it badly. I listen to audiobooks, not music, so it is merely a distraction and not an adrenaline boost – but there were times I could have used the distraction. I now have to determine whether I want to stop using it during my training or go ahead and use it during all future races.

– Even though I’ve spent years down there and I know it, it is always jarring to be reminded how much of a military town Virginia Beach is. The absolute best were the Navy guys at the Mile 5 water stop singing Anchors Aweigh – absolutely incredible. And there was also the man (and his daughters) running in honor of his son and carrying an American Flag through the race. To Kevin and all of the others on this board that have served or are serving – thank you for your sacrifice and your service.

– That was the last time I’ll ever run in that pair of shoes – which is the only one I’ve had since I started back up. 415 miles on those shoes, which means 415 miles since last November. In the grand scheme of things that is a relatively small number. But two years ago it might as well have been 4 million.

– I took nearly twice the GU that I normally do and it didn’t even move the needle. Did I mention it was hot and humid?

– Of course, because this was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, holy crap there was a lot of support. The race swag was cool, and this was my first race expo. Which I enjoyed a rather lot. I am irrationally excited to be in legitimate possession of a 13.1 sticker.

– Having Frank Shorter at the start line was more motivational to me than I thought it would be. Seriously – there was an Olympic Gold Medalist right there. Smiling at us.

– Seven months in a row running a race, with races scheduled for October, November, and December. I’ll get to 10, at which point, all bets are off.

– I am officially announcing that I have signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in March. It’s not that I’m partial to the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks, but more that the timing and the location worked with my calendar. My long runs are going to have to hurt less than that half did for me to stay excited about that distance.

– Next race: Celtic Classic 5k … and I intend to improve my 5k PR by several minutes. Seriously – I’m going to try and bomb this one.

I barely even remember this...
I barely even remember this…

Ragnar Pictures!

OK – so I got the finish line pictures back from the Ragnar folks – and also got some pictures in from my teammates (hi, Sarah!) … so we gots pictures.

I’ve put a few back in the race report, but there are a few others that turned out pretty good, as well.  So I’m putting all of these in one gallery here, to have them in one spot.

Ragnar!

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #4, Children’s Home of Kingston 4K

(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 random 4K, in Kingston, NY.  This report was written in July, 2013.)

No numbers!
No numbers!

So, I’m ramping up mileage in preparation for the R&R Half on Labor Day, and the calendar I’m using says that this was a good week to target a race, probably a 5K. No close race was appealing, so I decided to go with the 4K that I found that was a little over an hour drive away. Since pretty much every one of my training runs anymore is longer than this distance, my stated goal was to go out entirely too fast and see if I could hold it.

 

Bit of a disorganized registration table, but they got us signed up (all 60 or so of us) and eventually herded out to the start. The first 3/4 mile was straight uphill, and then we went straight back down … and then another loop of that, and then a flat out and back along the Hudson River for the rest. My goal had two parts, and the first was easy – I went out entirely too fast. A couple of times on that first hill I thought “oh, boy – this is going to suck at the end.” And the second part wasn’t so bad – overall, I held out. My pace in the last half mile degraded more than I would have liked, but my overall pace for this one was significantly faster than pretty much anything I’ve done yet – so … yay!

Notes:

1. First race I’ve run that wasn’t chip timed. In fact, we didn’t even get bibs. And when they handed me a number at the end of the finisher’s chute, I didn’t know what to do with it. I HATE feeling like an idiot, but the people helped and my time got logged.

2. The swag bag was just a t-shirt, coupon, and three raffle tickets. Pretty bare bones. I usually don’t stick around after races for raffles, but the table was full of stuff and since the field was pretty small I thought the odds warranted enjoying my post-race doughnut a little more slowly. They fired it up, and wouldn’t you know the first number called was one of mine. So my swag bag was a t-shirt, coupon, two losing raffle tickets, and a brand new Yahtzee! board game. Plus, you know, self-esteem and a PR and stuff. Which reminds me:

3. Weird distance = automatic PR! Yay!

4. I didn’t write up a race report for the trail 10K I did in June. One word report: Brutal.

5. This is 5 months in a row running a race, with races scheduled for the next 3. Exactly zero people are looking over their shoulder.

6. Next up: Florida (New York) Family Fun Fest 10K

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #3, St. Vincent’s Spring Sprint 5K

(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 my third 5K, in Harrison, NY.  This report was written in May, 2013.)

As of my last RR, my next scheduled race was the 10K in June. However, I got to reading old posts on the board and came across the discussion of prime13’s streak of running in an event every month for 10 years. Now, I’ve got no crazy illusions that I’ll ever have a streak like that – but if I didn’t run something in May then I’d have removed the option, which was bad. So I looked, and this 5k was about 15 minutes from the house. Done and done.

Pardon the negativity here. It rained this morning, so that sucked. The course was more difficult than I expected – an out-and-back with a loop at the end, and it sure seemed like we spent more time going uphill than downhill for an out-and-back. So that sucked. My training runs had been going very well – almost smooth – but, alas, ‘twas not to be today. My legs felt dead all morning. So that sucked. And the visual clock wasn’t working at the finish line, so I had no idea how I did until I got home and was able to look online. So that sucked. In general, this one sucked more than the others.

BUT … I PR’d by right at 40 seconds, so THAT’S good. I’m happy with progress, that’s for sure. I’m scheduled for my long run tomorrow on the ramp up to the 10K, and I imagine I’ll be doing it pretty slow based on the way I feel right now. And it was cool to get my mileage in on a rainy Saturday in a race, not just slogging through a soggy solo run. So, I’m happy with it, and I’ll be putting all of that negativity behind me.

I've gotten better at looking up...
I’ve gotten better at looking up…

Notes:

1. Really good SWAG for a local $20 5k. Technical shirt, nice water bottle, actually useful coupons – was happy with that. And nice food spread, too – oranges, bananas, yogurt, pastries, bagels, muffins, danishes … good stuff.

2. A lot of the runners were employees at the hospital that was putting on the race, and they had made the race packet pickup available starting Wednesday of this week – so there were a lot of people wearing the race shirt. Which wouldn’t have stood out so much except that these shirts are probably the brightest fluorescent orange I’ve seen in a long time. Just stunningly orange. There was no missing people ahead of us making turns.

3. Designated people at the finish line to yell and “whoo” and say “great job” are awesome. They help.

4. I’m already signed up for races for June, August, September, and October – and I’ve got my eye on a 4K (automatic PR!) in July – so my streak should get to at least 8 straight months. So it begins.

Next up, for real this time: Phillips 10K Trail Run / Walk.

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #2, JFK Runway Run

(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 my second 5K, in Queens, New York.  This report was written in April, 2013.)

 

JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2

Summary: I’ll take it.
The JFK Runway Run is one of (if not the) oldest runway runs around – they’ve been doing it continuously since 1972. They shut down the main runway at JFK Airport in Queens and the race happens right there. From the starting line, you run about 200 yards, then take a hard right and it is a perfectly straight, perfectly flat shot down to a turnaround into a (duh) perfectly straight, perfectly flat 2nd half.

After packet pickup at an administration building, they loaded us onto a bus for a 15 minute shuttle out to the runway, including a pretty serious looking security stop. We sat out there waiting in the wind (and, holy crap the wind) for all of the runners to be delivered for a 9am start – which they are supposedly pretty strict about, because any delay could screw up the airport for the rest of the day. The biggest problem was wind – about 5 minutes before the scheduled start time, a gust of wind blew the entire start / finish line setup down … the clocks, the pace signs, everything. We wound up starting 15 minutes late.

I was concerned about this race because I’ve done very little real training since my last race three weeks ago. It turns out that the injury to my ankle that I sustained at the finish line of that one was more severe than expected – even my toes turned purple. So between that and travel for work (and I got lazy – there, I said it – I got lazy) I wound up doing less than half of my planned miles over that time period, and many of those were not quality miles. Knowing how my mind works, the worst possible thing for me would have been to beat my previous time … that kind of positive reinforcement encourages my laziness. I finished about 45 seconds slower than my previous race, which is still significantly farther along than I expected to be at this point when I started running. Also, I’m pissed off that I let myself get lazy and go backwards on a perfectly flat course. All in all, though, given how poorly I’ve trained over the last three weeks – I’ll take it.

Quick notes:

1. Several people in this one didn’t follow the board’s collective wisdom. There was a pink tutu, a guy running with boxing gloves on, race t-shirts everywhere, etc. Plus, this is Queens – you can imagine the humanity. Lots to see.

2. Which is a good thing, because … perfectly flat and perfectly straight is not all it is cracked up to be. I’m used to running on hills and mixing up muscles. And scenery that changes. It was tougher than expected.

3. Because it was an out and back, I got to see the leaders coming the other way – holy crap, I cannot imagine ever running that fast. Holy crap.

4. The FAQ on the website said something like “it tends to be windy – don’t wear loose fitting caps”. Biggest understatement ever. I have no idea how they land airplanes in that kind of wind. Also – in an out-and-back, tailwinds will eventually be headwinds. Yeah.

5. Wings and beer on race day are AWESOME.

Next race: Phillips 10k Trail Race, June 9th

A Tale of Two Finish Lines

Back in January, I did what everybody (correctly) says to do when you decide to start running and signed up for a race.  That first race that I signed up for wound up not being the first race I ran – it was April 14th, and I realized pretty quickly that was too long to wait – but it was the first race I signed up for.

The race was the JFK Runway Run, which is exactly what it sounds like.  They run the race on one of the runways at JFK airport in Queens, New York.  I picked it because it seemed unique and is perfectly flat, which seemed important at the time.  And probably was.

I have no idea what the problem was, but they stopped uploading pictures after the first 600, and it turns out that my finishing place wound up putting me in the 700s.  That was in April – I had given up.  And then, out of nowhere, they update their Facebook page yesterday that the rest of the pictures had been uploaded.

Yay!  Time to wade through a bunch of random pictures!

Now – I’ve gotten accustomed to my new self.  Some of my running pictures are actually … flattering.  Which is not something I have said about pictures of myself in a long time.  So imagine my double take when I come upon my finish line pictures and see these:

JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #1
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #1
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2

Holy crap.

For reference, three weeks ago, I ran my 5K PR (which was like 7 or 8 minutes faster than the one I ran back in April), and this is my finish line picture:

Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line
Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line

(Yes, I know, I should look at the camera and not my damn watch.)

Those finish lines were less than six months apart.

When we have a long way to go, we sometimes forget to pause and look at how far we’ve come.  I still have what feels like an impossibly long way to go.  But I was hit over the head this weekend with how far I’ve come.  I’m proud of these pictures.

They make me want to go run.