Sunday, November 28, 2010

32nd Talking Turkey 6 Mile Cross-Country Race

Saturday, November, 27

Another Thanksgiving has come and past. And another Talking Turkey race is in the books. I've run this race each year since 2006. I had to sit out in 2005 due to a hamstring that I strung at the Monson Half Marathon a couple weeks before. I got a whole new perspective on races helping out with the finish chute. Ripping the tags off hundreds and hundreds runners was almost as exhausting as running the race itself. It left me with a lasting appreciation of what it takes to put on race. It's something all runners should do, at least once, help plan, prepare and time a race. If they do, they might find themselves not so quick lay out criticism. Anyways, standing in that chute that year I was able to catch with my own eye Nate Jenkins take down Paul Low's course record by a full minute. That record since taken down by South Hadley's Zac Hine last year on a brutally windy day. The wind today was again unpleasant but nothing like last year. Even with a steady and strong winds, temperatures were rather acceptable at race time.

It was an up and down week for me. There have been a mix of warm days and cold days this week and my body could not adjust. I was fighting to keep a cold at bay all week while trying to get in one more solid mileage week before taking it down for Nationals. I was using doubles to get in the miles which with dictates a lot of late night treadmill runs with my work and family schedule. That puts a strain on my sleep schedule and oft I feel tired and on the verge of catching something. That Is why I tend to get my mileage in using singles as much as possible. At times doubles seem to inefficient a use of precious time and energy. But every now and then you got to ratchet it up a notch if you want to get better. And I do want to get better.

There's been an unfavorable trend for me at this race that I would like to reverse. 2006 was something of a breakthrough year and the fall race season which was topped off with a solid 33:40 5:37 paced effort. Each year since has gotten slower and slower: 33:52, 33:58, 34:33. Hard to explain. I have continued to work hard, stayed healthy and overall feel stronger and more fit than ever. Yet in some of these races that I've done each year, my times haven't come done much at all. Hard to explain. Harder still to not go crazy. To not do something stupid like have a knee jerk reaction, start over-training and get hurt or lose motivation and give up.

But I don't. For better or worse I seem to keep pretty level headed about these things. After all it's not the end of the world. I never had delusions of becoming a great runner - just better than average. I think I've done that. I had my fair share of success. None of it has come without it's due amount of dedication and hard work. As of much importance, if not more, I enjoyed the work as much as any given result. For sure the day after day day training can be tiring, laborious, and at times seem all too self consuming, all too self absorbing an endeavor for a 40 something year old husband and father.

It's getting late. I'll have to wrap it up for now and finish this topic later.

For now the short and skinny on the race is a somewhat disappointing result. Of course there's a couple good and valid reason for a weak performance this week. First time I hit 80 miles a week since January and not feeling 100% to name a few. Still I'm in good shape right now and should have been able to extract something better than 5:47 pace over just six miles.

I went through the first mile relaxed and in a position I thought wasn't to far back. While I knew I wasn't nailing a sub 5'30" first mile I was taken aback when I heard 5:50, 5:51 being shouted out. I guess the good thing was that while it was a very slow opening mile I wasn't hurting in the least. I felt very comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable. The one positive here was that I didn't give up on the race after such a slow start. The next couple miles i ran fairly well and mad up some ground. But the intensity wasn't there today and I didn't close down enough and the up front guys to turn it into a race today. Instead it felt more like a hard tempo run. Not more to say really about today's race.

Up next is the Hot Chocolate 5k on Sunday in Northampton, Mass. Hopefully I can work on getting my race intensity back.

Splits 5:54, 11:37 (5:42), 17:15 (5:39), 23:09 (5:54), 28:59 (5:50), 34:45 (5:46)

Holyoke, MA
Saturday, November 27, 2010 1:00PM

Place Name Bib# S Div/Tot Ag City St Time Pace
===== ======================= ===== = ======== == ================== == ============
1 DAVID JOHNSON 33 M 1/87 22 LUDLOW MA 29:49 4:59
3 JASON AYER 4 M 2/87 23 SOMMERVILLE MA 30:21 5:04
4 ERIK NEDEAU 19 M 1/133 39 BELCHERTOWN MA 30:46 5:08
5 ANDREW MULVANEY 6 M 3/87 22 SOUTH HADLEY MA 31:27 5:15
6 KENT LEMME 8 M 1/191 44 WILLIAMSTOWN MA 31:31 5:16
7 JOSEPH CZUPRYNA 13 M 4/87 24 CHICOPEE MA 31:57 5:20
8 MICHAEL BROUILLETTE 10 M 2/133 32 HOLYOKE MA 32:29 5:25
9 THOMAS O'GRADY 1167 M 5/87 25 LATHAM NY 32:43 5:28
10 ZAC FLORENCE 1274 M 1/32 18 EAST LONGMEADOW MA 33:06 5:31
11 ETHAN NEDEAU 37 M 3/133 37 AMHERST MA 33:09 5:32
12 BRIAN MCCORMICK 906 M 6/87 20 WILBRAHAM MA 33:25 5:35
13 TIM MAHONEY 11 M 4/133 31 HOLYOKE MA 33:27 5:35
14 BRENDAN KANE 106 M 7/87 20 EAST LONGMEADOW MA 33:41 5:37
15 MYLES MCCARTHY 904 M 8/87 20 SOUTHAMPTON MA 33:42 5:37
16 EDWARD PARROT 690 M 2/191 40 AMHERST MA 33:59 5:40
17 AARON STONE 1131 M 9/87 27 GREENFIELD MA 34:04 5:41
18 PETER FRATINI 226 M 3/191 45 WESTFIELD MA 34:30 5:45
19 JEFFREY HAYES 1057 M 10/87 25 ARLINGTON MA 34:37 5:47
20 ROBERT LANDRY 1074 M 4/191 42 LUDLOW MA 34:46 5:48

Friday, November 19, 2010

“To all Masters Runners desperately hanging on to the dream... Good luck at your Turkey Trots!!!”

That tongue-in-cheek jab kicked off an entertaining and often humorous thread on the popular message board a year ago. Of the many post was this gem:
“Hard to resist the Turkey Trot bait here. I'll be running my 47th in a row Thursday. I won't attempt to describe how these streaks get under one's skin, but they certainly do. I can relate to most of the original poster's observations. I'll add that I run the second, uphill mile 75 seconds slower than the first mile (pitiful, in other words) and that I regularly get passed by h.s. boys wearing grass skirts.

Still, I wouldn't trade this day for any other in the year. I've been running long enough that I've stopped apologizing about it. It's not the only thing that I am, but it's a big part of who I am, and I'm okay with that. I'd rather be slow, graying me than a lot of other people and a lot of other things.

The Why Race? question is interesting. It's not required after all. I can be a runner without being a racer. My wife is always advising me to be "more moderate in all things." And she's smart, this is good advice.

But you know what? A person can get too much of this moderate stuff. Who wants to live a life that's always safe, controlled, aiming for the middle path?

Every once in a while I still want to feel the burn. To push to the limit. To be near collapse when I cross the finish line. Sure, I already know the result: It will be shown that I'm older and slower than I was yesterday and the day before that. I don't need a race to tell me these things.

But a race says I'm not ready to surrender. It says I'm going to keep struggling to squeeze all I can out of this life. It says I'm not checking out of here until I've given it my all. Yes, I know I'm gonna die some day.

But I have a good feeling about tomorrow's race”

- Amby Burfoot
Chief Editor, Runners World
’68 Boston Marathon Champion
and nine time Manchester Road Race Champion, held each Thanksgiving Day

Posted on 11/25/2009

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monson Memorial Classic, Half Marathon

The hills of Monson, Mass came a'callin once again for all runners of the mindset that a great race course is not a pancake flat time trial but rather something of substance. Any adequately trained runner that has raced here will tell you this course is challenging but equally as fair. Anyone from the locale could attest that, while the 13.1 miles laid out is far from easy, it wouldn't have taken much effort or imagination to carve out something particularly more nasty. Wales Road, Monson Rd, Hovey Hill Rd and Stagecoach Lake Dr (just off-route) all readily come to mind with the kind of grades that can easily turn the quads to lead. And the fleetest of feet, well... glue them right to the pavement.

Today was my re-education on how to record the shortest time between two distances on such a course. It's not about laying out self-punishing, near-intolerable amounts of effort up every hill, but rather taking a Newton'esque conservation of energy and preservation of momentum approach.

This was my sixth running of this race and the only race I have done in every year since I started running back in 2005. In previous years I have relied on my ever building database of race splits and training logs to formulate a goal time and mile splits. This year a different approach. After a coming up short of expectations here at the Monson Half the past couple years and at last week's Franklin Park Cross Country race, I decide to abandon a rigid set of scheduled mile splits. Instead I will rely more on experience to dictate how just how hard and how much I'll be able to push myself.

There's some serious cash prizes - as road races go - for the top 5 male/female spots - $575 down to $75 plus repeat winners and course record bonuses. Plus $75 class for age group winners. That always brings a least a half dozen top guns from Boston and the some second-tier Kenyans from New York region each year. For that same reason, along with a bit steep $50 race day registration price tag, some local top dogs often will not be here - aware that to be 'in the money', as they say, will take a ridiculously fast time for a race this size. So despite weather that was a close to picture perfect for a mid November day turn out was a bit lower than normal. The sun was shinning a with a light and variable cool breeze keeping temps in the low 50's at most.

A couple of familiar faces are missing at the start line. I'm trying to anticipate what there will be for 2nd and 3rd tier groups after the elites jet off. The race starts and my fears of a 13 mile solo effort are quickly put to bed. I have a least a couple of runners close to my pace. Two Kenyans pass me before I reach the 1st mile marker in a comfortable 6:19 first mile. One of them for sure is in my 40 plus age group. My suspicion that it's Titus Mutinda is confirmed afterwards. Titus is a top caliber runner. A 6 min pace, easy by his standards, I suspect has little to do with that fact that he has run a couple marathons already this fall. More likely, he too, knows the score. Present today are two more Kenyans we are unfortunate enough to have in our Masters' age group and perhaps today he isn't feeling up to battle with. It appears Titus is going to run with this friend perhaps, pick-up a $75 check and get a good tempo workout in at the same time. Unless he's hurting I won't challenge him today. The top Master's age group money is claimed.

I settle in and focus on the other guy. He isn't running as well. It's cool but still warm and the serious runners are in a race singlet only. No gloves. No hat. This guy's wearing a heavier long sleeve tech short and not paying close mind to running the tangents sharply. He either isn't of the same caliber as Titus or simply isn't interested in running hard today, for whatever the reason. He's working harder than one should for the early miles and trying to keep pace with Titus. By the time we reach mile 3, the two are no longer running together.

Titus caught up to another runner about 30 seconds further ahead while this guy has stayed the same 15 seconds in advance that he had for the last mile. I feel good about my chances of closing down on him by day's end. I'm running relaxed and in my comfort zone. The miles are not clicking away as fast as in year's past but I'm sticking to my plan - no getting bent out of shape after each mile if I don't like the report my watch is giving me.

By mile 4 where the downhill and uphills become a little more severe I find a decent gear. I focus on not wasting energy going uphill hard only to be forced into letting off the throttle on the downside. Despite, or maybe because of, an even-keeled moderated effort on the climbs I'm making progress on the next guy. By the end of mile 4 I have him. My watch reports a 5:53 mile, but I suspect a misplaced mile marker. The 6:3ish next mile further suggest that's the case. There's a lot of disparity in the terrain, but my effort in relation to the grade changes is even.

I turn my focus on Titus and the other runner he joined up with. They are keeping the pace up. I close down a little here and there when I get the better side the the downhill / uphill equation, but lose it when it turns out of my favor. After a mile six downhill then slight incline, I hear the footsteps and breathing of someone closing in. I don't bother to turn around to inspect whether it's the return of the guy I past last, or a new runner. I never do. I figure he'll either pass me right away or sit on me for a while. If he passes, I'll to deal with him then. If he decides to sit on a while then I'll either fall back and force him to pace set awhile to size him up, or I'll put in an effort to drop him. Either way I'm not looking back. Why give him any indication that I'm worried about him?

I move thru mile 7 with purpose, but ease. A combination of knowing some one's on my tail combined with the fact that the last section of hard uphill has past has put a pep in my stride. I'm finding a groove that I have not had all day. I feeling that felling... a fluid, easy stride, a sensation of being propelled forward, a welcome lift in your feet when you feel to be floating over an even and sure footed slightest of upgrade after miles of hard up and downs. That little pace pickup was all the was needed to chase off whoever that was right on my tail.

Before the sharp left before mile 8, I'm able to see the two runners up ahead and they still are forward about 30 seconds. I'll have my work cut out for me if I'm going to catch them. That quick and fluid turnover I had just a mile ago has left me, if just a bit. I'm pressing to run through the last of the false flats and dips of mile 8 trying not to lose contact with the one runner up ahead - now that Titus has broke free. I clock in at just under 6 min pace which is a good indication that I'm holding up well and not going as slow as it seems. I ready myself for the next mile of harsh downhill. I move through it as best as I could. I'm not floating along as quick as I would like but manage to keep contact with the guy up ahead. Course knowledge helps as I efficiently navigate around the steep descent and sharp right hand turn that completes this five mile loop before it heads back towards the main Rt 32.

The quick decent and turn leaves gets me within maybe 20 seconds of that guy. Titus is out of sight. I was taken by surprise to pass someone I didn't see before. I zoom by him at a water stop as he pulls off for a drink. A casualty of the hills and a quick early pace.  

A quick descent and railroad bridge crossing, and we reach Rt 32 for the final 5k. It's a fast, mostly gradual downhill or flat stretch to the finish. Titus is visible only on the longer of straight aways. Not that it's of much concern. I'm sure if I was to get close enough to threaten his paycheck, he would take off with ease.
So I put my effort into putting time into the next guy. However I just can't get the gap down. I would make some progress briefly than he would pick it up. Over the last mile I advance by maybe 10 seconds. In the final mile I'm getting the feeling it may happen. But that was as close as it would get. I clock a 6:07 for the the final 1.1 miles - a respectable 5:30 pace but not enough to make it an interesting contest for the 9th spot. But it was a pleasant surprise to see the finish clock ticking 1:19 as I wrapped up the day. I was expecting to finish in the 1:20x range with all those 6:20-6:30 uphills miles. Goes to show that with a little patience and perseverance it's possible to run a decent time.

Monson Memorial Classic Half-Marathon
Sunday, November 14, 2010, Monson, MA USATF Certified #MA98031RN
Timing and Scoring by: ACCU-SPEC (413) 467-7354
Place Name No. Age Div/Tot Div City St Time Pace
===== ===================== ===== === ======== ===== =============== == ======= =====
1 MATHEW KIPLAGAT 262 28 1/25 M2029 NEW ROCHELLE NY 1:07:38 5:10
2 CHASE PIZZONIA 172 24 2/25 M2029 BRONX NY 1:11:19 5:27
3 ERIC BLAKE 263 31 1/50 M3039 NEW BRITAIN CT 1:11:25 5:28
4 JOSEPH KOECH 311 41 1/54 M4049 SOUTH CHELMSFOR MA 1:12:00 5:30
5 JOSEPH EKUOM 310 40 2/54 M4049 HIGH FALLS NY 1:13:41 5:38
6 BENJAMIN NOAYA 307 34 2/50 M3039 SOUTH CHELMSFOR MA 1:13:54 5:39
7 THOMAS O'GRADY 161 25 3/25 M2029 LATHAM NY 1:15:47 5:48
8 TITUS MUTINDA 318 45 3/54 M4049 LOWELL MA 1:18:32 6:00
9 MATTHEW BACH 143 23 4/25 M2029 JERSEY CITY NJ 1:19:00 6:02
10 ROBERT LANDRY 168 42 4/54 M4049 LUDLOW MA 1:19:11 6:03
11 DAVID NDUNGU 319 31 3/50 M3039 WORCESTER MA 1:20:46 6:10
12 TOM DAVIS 315 23 5/25 M2029 NEWTON MA 1:21:29 6:14
13 RAYMOND HOULE 124 44 5/54 M4049 SOUTHINGTON CT 1:23:50 6:24
14 EILEEN COMBS 246 32 1/43 F3039 SCHENECTADY NY 1:24:19 6:27
15 DOUG THEROUX 67 49 6/54 M4049 HOLYOKE MA 1:24:27 6:27
16 MICHAEL MERTENS 72 46 7/54 M4049 FARMINGTON NY 1:24:57 6:30
17 BRIAN DEBRACCIO 105 44 8/54 M4049 SCOTIA NY 1:25:59 6:34
18 CLAUDIA CARMARGO 257 32 2/43 F3039 HOPEWELL JNC. NY 1:26:49 6:38
19 MARK STAPLES 92 41 9/54 M4049 HOLYOKE MA 1:27:31 6:41
20 DONALD BURKE 27 54 1/31 M5059 MANSFIELD MA 1:28:05 6:44
21 KARI GATHEN 266 42 1/33 F4049 ALBANY NY 1:29:04 6:48
22 MICHAEL LESCARBEAU 191 39 4/50 M3039 AGAWAM MA 1:29:17 6:49
23 STEVE FORREST 154 46 10/54 M4049 BELCHERTOWN MA 1:29:35 6:51
24 MACKENZIE GRAY 241 20 6/25 M2029 HOLYOKE MA 1:30:49 6:56
25 DENNIS BARONE 249 55 2/31 M5059 WEST HARTFORD CT 1:31:07 6:58
26 WILLIAM WHEELER 188 30 5/50 M3039 BELCHERTOWN MA 1:31:38 7:00
27 MATTHEW HOOD 127 22 7/25 M2029 SPRINGFIELD MA 1:31:41 7:00
28 BRIAN JOHNSON 277 43 11/54 M4049 FLORENCE MA 1:32:31 7:04
29 JEREMY SEYMOUR 176 29 8/25 M2029 EAST LONGMEADOW MA 1:32:44 7:05
30 JASON DOMINICK 150 39 6/50 M3039 WILBRAHAM MA 1:32:57 7:06

My Splits:
6:19, 12:29 (6:10), 18:44 (6:15), 24:38 (5:53), 31:14 (6:36),
37:35 (6:21), 44:05 (6:30), 50:03 (5:58), 55:30 (5:27), 1:01:18 (5:48),
1:07:17 (5:59), 1:13:03 (5:47), 1:18:34 (5:31), 1:19:10 (36)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New England Cross Country Regional

2010 New England Cross Regional Championship
Start Masters 8k Race
Franklin Park, Boston, MA
  Sunday Nov 7 - New England Regional Cross Championship - My 2nd foray into the Cross Country racing, at least at a competitive team event. My first visit to Franklin Park. I wasn't sure how today would go. My training post marathon has been going good and I'm feeling a bit positive not just in my overall fitness but my stride feels a bit more fluid lately.  

29:05 32nd Overall - not a good result at all. Perhaps a bit of marathon still in my legs but more likely just the lack of high end aerobic strength workouts doing the marathon specific training, taper and recovery. Overall fitness is right. I feel I can run at the 80% level for hours but that is of little use in an 8k Cross race.

It was a cool and blustery start to the day but once we got going things were good. I felt I didn't get a long enough warm up to get my legs loose and warmed up, but honestly, I don't think I could have fared much better today. I felt good through the couple of the early flat straight stretches when I could get my stride down and establish a running rhytmn. I was slowly moving up a couple positions here and there. But with every misplaced footstep, sharp turn or change in pace that so often occurs in cross country, I fell back and my confidence took a hit. I couldn't make the necessary gear changes to keep moving forward with the group that included fellow Harriers, Ed Parrot and Peter Fratini. There was simply no drive in my legs and that first mile seemed to take forever. When I saw the clock tick over at 5:28,
Before 1 Mile - Me leading a small group
Right behind is newest Harrier, Ed Parrot,
Brian Ruhm checking out the peeps
"doomed to run together once again" he quipped 
and fellow Greater Spfld Harrier,  Peter Frantini
knowing how I was feeling at that moment, it was going to be a long, long, long 4 miles to the finish.

Just one of those days that I've gone through before. One weekend I'm in a groove spiting-out 6 minute miles. The next week a single 5:30 opening mile can tax me beyond comprehension and I'll spend the remainder of the race barely able to pick up my lethargic, helpless legs.

Im' not sure what makes me feel worse. The fact that I just ran what might be short of 8k at 5:52 pace feeling like crap most of the way, when at the Baystate Marathon, I ran the first 10 miles breezing along at 5:58 pace. Or the fact that over a month ago I ran the Ashley 8k as a tempo workout in a somewhat comfortable sub 29. I'm a much better road distance runner and Baystate is a fast course, so sure, not exactly comparing apples to apples. The Ashley 8k isn't technical in the least or has the multiple climb up the trap rock at Bear Cage, but the loose feel of cinder and gravel around Ashley Reservoir can be a slow grind - deceivingly taxing on the quads and hamstrings. Again a different race and coming in with different expectations and training. But in hindsight, had I'd a better picture of what I was capable, or incapable, of doing today, I would have fared much better starting off slowly and picking up runners in the last couple of miles. Instead I suffered, grinding through the better part of the race wondering what the hell am I doing.

We did good as a team but failed to three-peat as Master Champs despite a repeat 1-2 finish by Francis Burdett and Kent Lemme. Today the dynamic duo swapped their 1-2 showing from last year. Mike Nahom absence and his 4th place finish from last year was the differential. A solid showing by Ron Lombari, new addition Ed Parrot (actually a returnee to the area) and Peter Fratini rounded off the top 5 Harrier scorers. I, for the first time since joining the Harriers, failed to score on the Master's squad. Even had I run a sub 28 8k today as I thought I could, it would not have been enough to wrestle 1st place from a talented and deep Dirigo club.

I could go on and on complaining about how bad today went and how at times I wonder if I'm ever gonna make progress towards being an upper tier runner, but that's enough. Anymore is a waste of time and energy. I'm happy with my training and believe I'm doing the right things to get where I want to be. A knee-jerk reaction to a bad race or two is not a productive use of my energies. Nationals are five weeks away and that's plenty of time to prepare. There's some good races between now and then to whip myself into race shape. Be Positive. Stay the course. Keep the faith.

USA Track & Field New England (USATF-NE) The photos in the Picasa album are courtesy of Henry Finch of CSU.
Another great set of pics from @Scott Mason.

2010 USATF New England Open and Masters - 11/7/2010

Franklin Park, Boston

Men 40-99 8k Run CC masters men
Name Age Team Finals Points
1 #233 Francis Burdett 45 Greater Springfi 26:27 1
2 #238 Kent Lemme 44 Greater Springfi 26:30 2
3 #434 Joseph Navas 40 Whirlaway Ra 26:42
4 #180 Michael Payson 47 Dirigo RC 26:48 3
5 #172 Byrne Decker 43 Dirigo RC 26:49 4
6 #246 Josh Brown 41 Green Mountain AA 26:57 5
7 #124 Wayne Levy 45 Boston Athletic 26:58
8 #165 Greg Putnam 41 Central Mass Str 27:00
9 #272 Jason Cakouros 45 Hfc Striders 27:08 6
10 #169 Pete Bottomley 49 Dirigo RC 27:10 7
15 #239 Ron Lombardi 46 Greater Springfi 27:41 12
28 #241 Edward Parrot 40 Greater Springfi 28:38 21
31 #236 Peter Fratini 45 Greater Springfi 29:00 24
32 #237 Robert Landry 42 Greater Springfi 29:06 25

Team Scores
Rank Team Total 1 2 3 4 5 *6 *7
1 Dirigo RC 43 3 4 7 13 16 19 37
Total Time: 2:16:32.00
Average: 27:18.40

2 Greater Springfield Harri 60 1 2 12 21 24 25
Total Time: 2:18:16.00
Average: 27:39.20

3 Green Mountain AA 67 5 8 14 17 23 28 29
Total Time: 2:19:00.00
Average: 27:48.00