Monday, May 31, 2010

22nd Keybank Vermont City Marathon

     Photo Credit: RYAN MERCER, Burlington Free Press

Marathon Trifecta Completed: 3 marathons in 6 weeks

It’s been 5+ years since the return after a near decade long hiatus from the weekend warrior/athlete I once was. I was never much involved in the weekly running or cycling racing scene but still managed to keep myself in good shape. A frequent at local bike rides I could hold my own against the B+/A- level guys. Those were the good old days - few responsibilities and ample free time.

My first marathon was back in Sept 2005. It was a successful marathon debut by all accounts: a 10th place 2:53:45 at the Clarence DeMar in Keene, NH. The primary goal was to qualify for Boston which I did with time to spare. Boston was just as rewarding experience as I hoped it would be – a 2:43:45. It wasn’t totally unexpected after a couple good early season results but it was still a breakthrough race for me.

Little did I know then, how good a time that 2:43 was for a marathon rookie, for it took 5 more attempts over 3 years with nearly another 10,000 training miles before I would best that mark. Much has changed since then. Now that I’m in my forties I find no longer can I drop three or four hard runs a week to get into top shape. I have to more careful on the how often’s and how much’s in my marathon preparation. In the past my recovery from hard days seemed almost instant. I ran easy days not because I needed to, but because I knew it was the smart thing to do. Now those hard workouts sometimes stay in my legs a day or two after. The easy days between workouts are less an option and more of a mandate.

Conversely the consistent training and accumulation of mileage each week, month and year has meant my overall strength and what I can take has steadily increased, as has my ability to quickly resume training after a hard training cycle, big race or marathon. I’ve done this Boston-Holyoke double a couple times with success, but this is the first time trying to run three marathons in the span of six weeks. The necessary taper and recovery  over the past two months means I’ve haven’t done any taxing speed work for quite a while. While I was my endurance was right on, I wasn’t feeling as confident about my speed and aerobic capacity.

Still I felt as ready to run a good marathon the weeks after Holyoke and leading into Vermont as I have since that great 2:36 at Boston in 2009. I was feeling pretty darn optimistic about going sub 2:40. Maybe, just maybe, a sub 2:38. Perhaps even better.

I emailed the race director soon after the Boston Marathon to see if I could get in the Vermont City Marathon (VCM) at the last moment if it was sold out. While I didn't have that sweet 2:36 time from last year's Boston to put atop this year's resume. Zeke Zucker, a trail and ultra-man himself, appreciated my Boston - Holyoke marathon double and thought my times were solid enough to warrant a master invite number. I’m a top local distance runner at best, so the thought of being considered - in any context - a runner worthy of invite status gave me goose bumps and it got harder and harder to keep my emotions in check as the race grew closer.

I told myself if I was going to make the travel all the way up to Lake Champlain on Memorial Day weekend, I wasn't going to play it safe - not necessarily a reckless pace in the first half, but a pace fast enough to give myself a chance to be in the hunt for a top three spot in the masters age group.

It's early in the morning on race day. I head over to the host hotel to meet up with Zeke and the other runners for a shuttle over to a sport facility situatued nearby the start area. We will hang for the better part of an hour; plenty of time to stretch and chill. But I was having trouble staying calm and relaxed. Perhaps it was the heightened anxiety and high expectations I placed on myself as an invited runner. All the pre race rituals were of no help. I couldn't find that frame of mind I wanted to be in. Eventually we head over to the start area. Some more stretches, easy jogging and strides; nervously awaiting the moment of truth. Finally, we're just minutes away. As we roll out to the start line U2's 'When the Streets Have No Name' is cranking out the 'PA' speakers. It was really cool and my adrenaline starts to kick in. It's go time soon.

The gun goes off. I tell myself 'be smart', 'Don't let your emotions get the best of you and go out too fast like a rookie'. I listen. A select few runners I feel within my ability all seem to be flying compared to my somewhat deliberate, pedestrian pace. What's wrong with me? How can all these guys being going that much faster than me? I'm not sure of my exact pace only a few minutes into the race. One thing I know for sure is I won't be holding this pace for 26 more miles. Three plus minutes into the race and already I have to let them go. Have I grossly miscalculated my fitness? Have I done something terribly wrong? Try to be confident and trust my fitness. Be patient.

I finally reach the 1 mile mark in 6:15. Yikes. Even with a more conservative start, a low 6 number would have felt much much better than to hear that calling out of 6-1-5. The runners in packs ahead are already a good 15 to 30 seconds ahead. As much I have gone a bit too conservatively, I suspect they have gone at that much more aggressively.
Using the downhill as a springboard to quicken my pace, I work on closing down on some runners sooner rather than later. By the time we hit the first turn around that returns the runners to the downtown Burlington area, I'm within a pack of runners on pace at or below 2:36 for the day. 10 miles is reached in 59:51. Considering my first slow mile this is a early indication that I could have a good day.

Things continue clicking nicely thru miles 11 and 12, but at 13 an indication that perhaps I'm pressing too much; too soon. I hit the halfway point on target in 1:18:15 but I'm losing ground on two runners that I've been running with for a couple miles. The one hill of mention in this course is coming soon so I hold steady, opting not to press for contact with them.

I run the hill with ease passing a couple of different runners. One stays with me for a couple of miles. My pace has dropped off since the hill but I'm running a pace I can hold till the end. Hopefully I will have the reserves to pick up the pace once I get beyond mile 20.
While I'm not able to pick up the pace during the last 10k, I manage to pick off about three or four runners that went out way too fast. They were way ahead of me by mile ten. I try to pick it up again on the remaining 5k over the flat and easy paved bike path. The extra perceived effort only seems to result in maintaining pace, not increasing it.
But it seems my overall position and placing in the Master's age group is secure. I don't see any more runners to pick off in the last couple miles - especially any possible master runners so best I play it smart and run steady. I reach the final part of the bike path looking onto to the gorgeous Lake Champlain in downtown Burlington. The crowd noise is picking up and the finish is minutes away. Dreams of another sub 2:36 clocking washed away at the halfway point. The sub 2:40 goal, that disappeared too - somewhere around mile twenty-one. Not the 2nd half I was hoping for. But not bad considering the milage, or lack thereof, I put in this season after the IT Band issue in January.
All in all, I have little to complain about and plenty to be thankful for.

I won $400 dollars for 2nd Master.

A couple months later, in the mail arrives a ceranmic plaque for 2nd Place Master and Vermont Grade-A Dark Amber Maple Syrup from the people at Dragonfly Sugar Works in Huntington, Vermont in a really cool custom 1 litre glass bottle. I'm talking top shelf, like $25 bottle of sugar-sweetness, literally.

But the proverbial icing on the cake was a hand written 'Thank You for running VCM' and with a 'come back anytime' type closing. I'm a decent local runner; far from the elite class but Zeke Zucker, Jen Savas, Joe Connely and the people of VCM made me feel that way when they didn't have to. Class acts. I love it when it's runners that put on running events. You can tell they take pride in their event - every aspect of it. They really want to make sure the runners have the best possible experience and come back year after year. You can count on me being back next year.

My Splits:
6:19, 5:51 , 5:57, 5:57, 11:38, 6:04, 6:06, 11:49 : 59:41 @ 10 miles,
6:04, 6:09, 6:03, 34 : 1:18:31 @ Half
6:23 up battery hill , 6:29 , 12:27, 6:06, 6:19 : 2:01:44 @ 20 miles,
12:46, 6:26, 6:19, 6:25, 6:20, 1:21 2:41:21 : 1:22:50 2nd half

22nd KeyBank Vermont City Marathon
May 30, 2010 Marathon (USATF Certified VT02001WN) Burlington, VTPlace Div/Tot Div 10mile Halfmar 20mile * Nettime Pace Guntime Name Age G Bib# City/state
===== ======== ===== ======= ======= ======= === =======

1 1/185 M2529 51:44 1:07:39 1:44:04 2:17:51 5:16 2:17:51# John Crews 25 M 1 Raleigh NC
2 1/133 M1624 51:53 1:08:14 1:45:53 2:22:05 5:26 2:22:05 Gavin Coombs 24 M 19 Clayton NC
3 1/202 M3034 53:57 1:10:46 1:48:04 2:22:16 5:26 2:22:16 Justin Fyffe 30 M 10 E. Dummrston VT
4 2/133 M1624 1:10:45 1:48:18 2:23:46 5:29 2:23:46 Curtis Wheeler 24 M 4 Buxton ME
5 2/185 M2529 54:00 1:10:50 1:49:19 2:25:43 5:34 2:25:44 Mark Miller 29 M 8 Keene NH
6 3/185 M2529 53:25 1:10:09 1:48:39 2:26:42 5:36 2:26:43 Jon Fasulo 29 M 3 Ardmore PA
7 2/202 M3034 52:09 1:10:01 1:50:38 2:26:52 5:37 2:26:52 Juan Carlos Hernandez 30 M 5 Chia
8 4/185 M2529 55:22 1:12:41 1:51:47 2:27:35 5:38 2:27:36 Patrick MacAdie 26 M 9 Acton MA
9 5/185 M2529 54:15 1:11:40 1:52:02 2:31:14 5:47 2:31:14 Mike Fisher 26 M 12 Brookline MA
10 3/133 M1624 57:28 1:14:43 1:53:34 2:31:25 5:47 2:31:25 Jacob Edwards 23 M 16 N Stonington CT
11 3/202 M3034 51:53 1:08:44 1:50:38 2:32:33 5:50 2:32:33 Trent Briney 31 M 2 New York NY
12 6/185 M2529 54:29 1:12:08 1:53:41 2:33:07 5:51 2:33:07 Thomas Rhodes 26 M 14 Arlington VA
13 4/133 M1624 58:02 1:16:17 1:56:53 2:34:16 5:54 2:34:16 Thomas O'Grady 24 M 17 Latham NY
14 5/133 M1624 59:43 1:18:27 1:58:45 2:34:56 5:55 2:34:58 Hari Iyer 22 M 2304 Cambridge MA
15 7/185 M2529 58:04 1:57:50 2:35:48 5:57 2:35:50 Christopher Hamel 26 M 2664 Methuen MA
16 1/254 M4044 58:06 1:58:50 2:36:47 5:59 2:36:48* Jason Porter 40 M 27 Bedford NH
17 6/133 M1624 1:54:54 2:37:49 6:02 2:37:49 Josh Henry 23 M 11 Truxton NY
18 8/185 M2529 59:39 1:17:56 1:59:08 2:39:37 6:06 2:39:37 James Sweeney 28 M 21 Albany NY
19 1/235 F2529 58:07 2:40:03 6:07 2:40:04# Heidi Westover 29 F 31 Acworth NH
20 7/133 M1624 1:59:13 2:40:42 6:08 2:41:06 Shawn Duffy 24 M 819 Bryn Mawr PA
21 2/254 M4044 59:40 2:01:42 2:41:21 6:10 2:41:22 Robert Landry 41 M 26 Ludlow MA
22 4/202 M3034 1:18:28 2:41:49 6:11 2:41:50 Trent Kirk 34 M 20 Charlotte NC
23 8/133 M1624 57:24 1:16:19 2:00:04 2:42:07 6:11 2:42:07 Logan Franks 22 M 1553 Plattsburgh NY
24 9/133 M1624 57:51 1:16:56 2:01:20 2:43:34 6:15 2:43:34 Jason Dedonato 24 M 3164 Nashua NH
25 10/133 M1624 1:02:44 2:05:31 2:44:15 6:16 2:44:18 George Heeschen 23 M 2492 Newport News VA

Sunday, May 2, 2010

48th Walter Childs Race of Champions Marathon

    Photo Credit: Barbara Landry
Holyoke Massacre - Part Duex
Jun of '68 was 3 months before I was born so I lack the first-hand knowledge to compare today's race to that '68 battle of wills. Nor could I begin to comprehend what exactly race directors were thinking holding a marathon in June at noontime. But that's what they did back in the day when greats like Jim McDonagh and legendary Ted Corrbit fought it out over the city streets in 100 degree heat. Jim would win in a time considerably slow for that era: 2:46:51 in what became indearly called The Holyoke Massacre of '68 aka The Holyoke Inferno. Jim followed up his '68 win with 2 more in '69 and '70 with times 2:33, 2:35, respectively.

Well today's temperatures, by comparison, were a bit more modest 70' by race finish thanks to a more sensible early-May 8am start. Never-the-less, by the time the last finishers came thtu the chute some 6 hours later, the roads were ablaze, with only the slightest of breeze, and temperatures topping in the low 90's. Yikes!

All good stories get better in the re-telling. Even in this day of the Internet and the ever reaching power of Google searches for the factual; in years to come, during stories told over beers at post race parties, this could very well go down as the second edition of that historic day.

Pete Stasz starts the race with the traditional pre-race introductions of past year winners: 5 timer Mike Carroll ('02-'06 and '08), Harry Lepp ('98 and 19 Holyoke's and 27 Bostons), Curtis Lintvedt ('79 - hope I got the right name here), Gina Ciampand ('08) and course record holder, Cherly Abert aka Cheryl Dube.

Cheryl was pacing Pat Bonnnett thru her 1st marathon at age 51. Props to Patty for finishing today in 4:15. A tough course and a brutal day. Baptism by fire. Welcome to all that is marathoning, Patty.

As they say - everybody races in the same conditions. The guns goes off. No one hastily rushing off at a irresponsible pace today. With a modest 6:30 mostly downhill mile, I find myself alone by a few steps. It didn't take long before four runners align themselves up front. Including myself, 5-timer Carroll, returnee Mike Tammaro of Narragansett Runners and an unknown who I believe to be Brian Allen (red in top photo). Brian takes the lead by mile 3 and brings the pace down from 6:30 to 6:20/6:15. I let Brian go but keep him close just in case: not wanting to let him get too far ahead knowing a chase down in the 2nd half with quickly rising temps would be difficult. Brian holds pace thru the final 2 loops under the welcome tree cover, clouds and a very nice light drizzle. The two Mikes I know are close behind but I'm not sure by how much.

Before Brian hits mile 9 he falls off pace within a span of less than a quarter of a mile. Approaching the water table before the right hand uphill exit out of the Reservoir onto route 141, he grabs water but goes left for a couple steps. I yell "Right!" in full voice. Later the guys at the water stop tell me they kept telling him right but he seemed to be totaly zoned-out. We take the uphill together. I ease back to let him regather himself but it's clear he cooked himself early in the get-go. He drops back by a good measure within the next mile and I'm on my own from mile 10 on. It's going to be a long, hot day!

The next couple miles vary around 6:30 to 6:20 varying with the terrain. Over the big downhills I clock some low 6's compared to some 5:40s last year. I hit the half in about 1:24 and small change. Not a blazing fast pace but was blazing was the Sun which has broken thru the clouds and light drizzle. It's getting hotter by the minute.

To use some golf terminology - today is about course management - deal with the heat; keep a comfortable and steady effort; stay under the red line. Use my lead to my advantage and force others to make mistakes in order to beat me - pushing too hard and too soon if they want to close down on me. I start recording my splits only around every 3rd mile; not too concerned by my finishing time. I just make sure I don't fall off pace too much. i tell myself "Just keep moving forward."

So a rather uneventful series of miles from 14 thru 22 with a lot of 6:20's and some 6:10's. By mile 22, however, the heat was getting to me.

My wife Barbara was there giving me extra waters and that helped. I had my full of water and Gatorade. Dehydration was an not issue. Body heat was. A climbing heart rate was. Maybe the single smartest idea I had in my 6 years of racing ...while getting together my race gear, I remember watching the long grueling climbs up the Alps and Pyreneess in the Tour-de-France. Spectators would pass water-soaked sponges to the riders to dowse their heads and keep cool. So I gave Barbara some sponges and a water jug of ice water. She handed me a sponge every mile and then every half-mile near the end when it was clear I was starting to wilter. I asked her to also hand our water and sponges to the other guys; in the same spirit that do it in the Tour-de-France. She says they took a couple here and there. I think that's what make sports like running and cycling so cool. Everybody is in it together for the love of the sport - joined in competetion in it's truest form.The lead extends over 3 minutes when I hit mile 23 on route 5. The sun is brutal and beating me up every step of the way. Mile 23 takes a long time. Mile 24 even longer. I'm dowsing my head constantly trying desperatly not to crack this late in the race. Thoughts of quiting creep in now and then. But I tell myself over and over again "Everyone else has to be hurting just a much as me." "To catch me they would have to put themselves in a whole new world of hurt."

With about 2 more uphill miles to go I figure even if I slow to 7 minute or 7:30 pace, catching me is gonna take something crazy insane fast. Not likely in this heat. So don't be stupid and blow up. Relax. No heroics needed. Do the best I can to maintain pace. Just don't walk.
With that single mantra to carry me forth, I reach that oh-so welcome familar sight - the traffic light at the entrance to Mountain Park: the final turn at 25.5 miles. All that is left is .7 miles of uphill that I've done many times in training runs.

It's in the bag now. I cross over the finish line, walking the final two steps, not because I couldn't produce two more strides. It was an affirmation that I survived the day. I crouch over. My body shakes and wobbles as the adrenaline vacates me and the mental and physical fatigue grab hold. 2:50:58. Mission accomplished.

My 1st marathon over the 2:50 mark since my 1st (Clarence DeMar in '05). Your 1st is always special but I think it's safe to say I'll never be more happier to run a 2:50. There were times today were I was close to cracking. I doubt I would have pulled it out today without Barb's help.

Big congrats to Karin George for her impressive 3:26 win in this heat. Like myself, Bill Romito, Mike Carroll and Harry Lepp, we ran just 13 days after running the Boston Marathon. I was told Karin won a tough battle today, re taking a lead she lost late in the day. Well done.

Tammaro and Carrol come in 2nd and 3rd. Of the top 10, 7 were masters (age 40 or greater) five in their 40's and two in their 50's. Impressive stuff.

Afterwards some well deserved beers with the two Mikes, Mark Bailargeon, Patty and Cheryl, Joe Fois and Bill Wheeler.

Barb got some great photos when she wasn't saving my a** out there today. I'll post them soon but now I'm real tired. So apologies in advance for the usual misspellings, poor grammar and race/name inaccuracies.

Photo Credits: Barbara Landry

Finally and so importantly - many, many thanks to the Harriers, the Walter Childs family, and all the race volunteers who gave up their Sunday so we could be afforded the pleasure and privilege of running this fine race.

A huge thank you to Attorney Jeffery M. Guiel who donated $500 clams in prize money. In his words, Jeff is an average runner. But he has the same passion for the sport as the 'elites' - as he so kindly reffered to us today. He donated the money in the hopes that it will inspire, as he has been inspired, and bring runners year after year to this small in size, but large in heart, great local historic race.

That's all for now. Take care. Happy running.
    Left to Right: me, 5 time champion Mike Carroll, and Exter Marathon creator Michael Tammaro
     Photo by: Mark Bailargeon

Place Name Team Age Age Group Time Pace
1 Bob Landry GSH 41 1 M 40-49 2:50:58 6:32/M
2 Michael Tammaro NRA 41 2 M 40-49 2:57:04 6:45/M
3 Mike Carroll TVFR 44 3 M 40-49 2:59:27 6:51/M
4 Adam Bulewich GSH 34 1 M 30-39 3:00:20 6:53/M
5 Sadik Tokgoz 41 4 M 40-49 3:03:52 7:01/M
6 Paul Letoile NRA 45 5 M 40-49 3:11:41 7:19/M
7 Brian Allen 38 2 M 30-39 3:15:21 7:27/M
8 Mike O'Hara 53 1 M 50-59 3:17:45 7:33/M
9 Jeffrey Zawadzki 27 1 M 0-29 3:23:47 7:47/M
10 Jay Seney SCS 50 2 M 50-59 3:25:20 7:50/M
11 Karin George SMAC 45 1 F 40-49 3:26:51 7:54/M

12 Dan Hrobak 25 2 M 0-29 3:27:09 7:54/M
13 James Howe 54 3 M 50-59 3:28:31 7:58/M
14 Shannon Coz 31 1 F 30-39 3:28:40 7:58/M
15 Michael Stocki 33 3 M 30-39 3:32:32 8:07/M
16 Paul Firisoli 30 4 M 30-39 3:35:15 8:13/M
17 Sri Bodkhe GSH 43 6 M 40-49 3:35:47 8:14/M
18 Seth Roberts GSH 58 4 M 50-59 3:38:15 8:20/M
19 Gina Ciampa 33 2 F 30-39 3:41:02 8:26/M
20 Michael Flaherty 53 5 M 50-59 3:41:14 8:27/M
21 Harry Lepp 53 6 M 50-59 3:43:16 8:31/M
22 Alexander Ocampo 23 3 M 0-29 3:43:17 8:31/M
23 William Romito EORC 56 7 M 50-59 3:43:53 8:33/M
24 Mike Maier 48 7 M 40-49 3:44:04 8:33/M
25 Todd Thomas 48 8 M 40-49 3:45:57 8:37/M

The mile splits I did capture:
13:01 2 miles
6:31 19:32
6:23 25:55
6:24 32:18 5 Miles
6:19 38:38
6:16 44:54
6:21 51:15
6:18 57:33
19:33 1:17:05
6:18 1:23:23 13 miles    half estimate 1:24:36
24:34 1:47:59
18:57 2:06:57 20 miles
6:26 2:13:22
13:35 2:26:58
6:57 2:33:55
7:01 2:40:56 25 miles
7:49 2:48:45 just happy not to be walking !
2:12 2:50:58 1:26:22 2nd half !