Friday, November 16, 2018

Pfalz Point Trail Challenge

For nine years, I've been penciling the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge into my race calendar, and for nine years, I've been crossing it off. The reasons varied (injuries, travel, distance, conflicts), but they showed up consistently every September. So, when I once again blocked the last Sunday in September this year, I did so fully expecting to delete the calendar entry at some point in the months leading up to the race.  And I was nearly right! My quad started bothering me 10 days before the race, and a hilly, long trail race didn't seem like a wise idea. I held off signing up until 2 days before, when I decided I'd give it a go. The day before, I loaded the car with my things and 2/3 of my children, and headed off to my parents' house in New Paltz. 


Let's fast-forward to race day and a slightly different blog format. I'll use the photos (my own and those of the race photographers -- who posted 1500 photos for free online!) from throughout the race to take you through the event.

It was a beautiful and crisp morning, with temps in the 40s, rising into the 50s by race time. I found after pulling into the grass parking area that the week's rain hadn't managed to get very far below the surface. The turf was saturated, and so was my left shoe after stepping out of the car. I was quite early, so I took a jaunt over to the so-called "Million Dollar View," an expansive vista toward the Catskills, which, on this day, were hovering above a valley of fog. 


The view was somewhat spoiled by an awful odor, which upon inspection was revealed to originate in my right armpit. This is highly unusual for me, but it seemed fitting, and here's why: As a young runner, I would get dragged along on summer evening excursions in these very mountains with a combination of high school teammates and grizzled local veteran runners (who, I now realize, were probably my current age). They were, without exception, fragrant in a way that only runners can be. 
I had never experienced anything quite like that first whiff, and it never got any better. Yet, there I was, 20+ years later, emanating my own brand of the mountain runner's perfume. It made me smile a little...and then scrub with whatever dew I could swipe from the morning grass.

 There weren't many familiar faces in the starting area. I'd bumped into a high school teammate during my warm-up and spotted the Vassar coach, whom I know by name but hadn't formally met. Otherwise, the field was a mystery. My A goal for the day would be a sub-65 performance, while my B goal was to beat my 2009 time of 66:50(?). 
The race starts in probably the soggiest three miles anywhere in the 100+ miles of Mohonk Preserve trails. This was unfortunate, as it meant we'd be running in wet, heavy shoes for the entirety of the race. I'd already decided to wear my heavy Hokas and ankle braces, and this would just add to the burden. These three miles alternate between open grass fields and very technical single track. 





The pace was moderate, and I bounced between first and third place before settling into second as we approached the hill that had killed me nine years ago. This 400' climb over a 1/2 mile beat me up the last time I'd raced it. I'd told myself ever since then that the race doesn't start until that hill is summitted. I followed my advice and didn't make a move until hitting the carriage road at the top.




Over the next mile, after a flat section, the course gradually climbs another few hundred feet. I edged onto the shoulder of the Vassar coach, who'd been leading to that point, but he sensed my move and accelerated as well. We ran astride until a few hundred yards up the hill, when I edged ahead. The third part of our triumvirate, an unknown runner in a NYAC uniform, came right with me and eventually passed me midway up the hill.  




I stuck close behind him and passed him back when I sensed a lag in the pace. As we reached the golf course, I was in the lead but hadn't shaken him. I still felt good at this point (less than halfway through the race) but I worried that he hadn't yet shown any signs of weakness. Would he make another move? Would he break?







We wound our way through the course, and I got progressively less confident in my ability to drop him. We faced another big climb up to the 5-mile mark, and then we'd descend for nearly the entirety of the race. Downhills have never been my forte, and trying to win a race down a 5-mile hill would require a genuine miracle. As if sensing my uneasiness, he flew past me just as we started the ascent. I stayed on him all the way to the top, when, as expected, he shot out of a cannon and left me in his wake. Seriously. He was 10 seconds ahead within a minute. If the remainder of his downhill running was as good as he'd just demonstrated, I'd be lucky to finish within 5 minutes of him.
There was a water stop at the intersection near the bottom of the first downhill, and, as I could no longer see him, it gave me a chance to gauge how far ahead he was by the gap in the cheers for each of us. It seemed to me he was 15-20 seconds up at this point, but we still had four miles to go, and I was feeling fine. We turned onto a long, flat trail, where I could still see him on certain very straight stretches. I sensed I was holding steady here, but I'd need to start chipping away soon if I wanted to have a chance. Not taking anything for granted, I also peeked back a few times to make sure I was safely in second (I was). 

Turning off the flat path, we descended sharply into a meadow path with views toward Bonticou Crag. This is where my very first XC practices were held as a high school freshman. I fondly remembered my coach (also a rookie) teaching me to run downhill with wildly helicoptering arms. I thought I might try that on the next descent, as my technique couldn't get any worse at it than I had been to that point. After another sharp drop, the course climbs up a steep, long single-track that feels a million times worse than it should, since I'd gotten so accustomed to running downhill over the previous two miles. I really struggled on this hill and started to accept that first place was out of grasp.

After cresting this hill, it's all downhill to the finish, over the final two miles. About 400 meters into this final descent, I started sensing a slight pulling sensation in one hamstring and then the other. I was on the verge of major leg cramps and didn't know what to do about it. I hit the brakes and quite literally began jogging to try to let the muscles calm down a bit. I was in self-preservation mode at this point. A full-on hamstring cramp could end my race and would, at the very least, cost me a spot or two. I couldn't let that happen, so on I jogged. I eventually began to accelerate, but only gradually, as anything more sudden would have surely caused the legs to cramp again. 

I got into a comfortable rhythm that was more tempo pace than race pace, but it would have to do. I frequently looked back to make sure I was safe, and fortunately I was. I'm not sure what I would've done had I been forced to defend my position. This was a sad way to end the race, and I was becoming increasingly aware that I might not even beat my time from '09.



I saw the finish clock tick over 1:06 as I crossed. I was far behind my 1:05 goal and not far enough ahead of my '09 goal to be totally satisfied. I like to think I had another minute in me without the cramping, but the cramps were part of the race, and if I want to be successful in an event like this, I need to figure out a way to avoid them. Higher mileage would help, but I'm afraid that just isn't possible. Maybe I need to stick with shorter races.



Afterward, I enjoyed seeing just how muddy I'd gotten over those first few miles, and was impressed that most of it had stuck with me through the race. The Hokas weren't the most race-friendly shoe, but I wore them to help cope with pounding of the downhills, and from that perspective, they acquitted themselves quite nicely. And, as always, the ankle braces saved me once or twice from disaster. I have an intense love-hate relationship with those things.


The highlight of the day, of course, is the pie-covered awards table, from which I took a delicious apple pie donated by the local Bruderhof community. I also helped myself to two servings of the amazing chili supplied by The Bistro, one of my favorite local restaurants.


Through internet research (Note: NOT stalking), I later learned that the winner was a 9:03 steepler from Tufts. I suddenly felt less bad about losing to him by 1:45.

In the end, I'm glad I finally returned to this race, happy with the course PR, but now hungrier than ever to finally conquer it. I just hope it doesn't take another nine years to get back out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Williams XC Alumni Race

I was going to start this post with some comment on heading back to the Purple Valley of western Massachusetts to relive my collegiate running glory days. But, looking back 15+ years, there really wasn't much glory, or at least not as much as I dreamed of when starting my freshman year in the fall of '99. Back then, the possibilities were seemingly limitless. I was joining a successful Division III program with countless stories of mediocre high school runners becoming stars under our coach's tutelage, and naturally I thought I'd be next in line. In reality, I was perhaps a bit too mediocre and a bit too injury prone to become more than a back-end varsity cross country runner. In other sports, I'd have been called a role player or a journeyman; in XC, I was a 4-5-6 guy (i.e., 4th, 5th, or 6th scoring position on the team).

But while my dreams came crashing down to earth, I nonetheless developed a strong bond to the Williams XC program (at least in part because it's how I met my wife!), and I've since made the trek back to Williamstown for the alumni race ("Aluminum Bowl") as often as possible. This year would be my first time running the race since 2014, and I was pumped to get back out on the course. The course itself has gone through several reinventions since my time there, changing out of necessity as the local high school (where it's hosted) has modified first its playing fields and now its footprint. Despite some changes to the flow and layout, the wooded, hilly trails have remained the same, making it a classic and challenging XC course.

This year, the alumni race would be the only event of the day, making for a nice, low-key atmosphere with a focus on team and camaraderie across graduating classes. There were 50+ alums in attendance, though only a few from my era. We prepped with the requisite pre-race bear toss (Note: you can read about this odd tradition here) and then slotted into our starting spot on the line. The area we'd been assigned was quite narrow, so I got into the third row next to my other "old man" teammates and waited for the start. All of the current team's runners were also on the line, with most planning to do a workout on the course while the rest of us raced. The team is quite large (nearly 70 runners between the men and women), so there was the possibility of some chaos over the opening meters.

Pre-race photo of Williams XC alums in attendance.
Off the line, I got into the slipstream of my former teammate and captain, Dusty Lopez, now the assistant coach with the team (and host to my family during our weekend in town). Dusty was an outstanding runner at Williams and is always in good shape, so I figured I could do worse than stick with him during the race. We picked our way through the mass of runners that converged on the path around the playing fields to start the first mile. A few minutes in, he turned to me and said something to effect that I am the only person he wouldn't mind losing to. I took this as permission to pass and got ahead of him, hoping he'd hang with me and pick off a few more people together, something I was never fast enough to do with him while we were in school.
Opening sprint off the line. If you look really close, you can see a tiny bit of red from my hat above Dusty's head on the far left of the image.
The course heads up a hill and into the woods at ~0.75 miles, and this is where I needed to focus. I had decided to forgo my ankle braces because the trails are mostly well groomed, but a few rogue roots were waiting ahead to wreck my day should a misplaced footfall hit one. I had to slow some on the downhills out of necessity but otherwise was able to run fairly normally in this section.
At the mile mark (~5:30), I was in around 8th place. There were no studs in the race as there had been in years past, when the winners would run in the low-15s on this challenging course, so I could still see the big pack of leaders maybe 10 seconds ahead. The second mile contains the toughest terrain, though it starts modestly, continuing on the rolling trail that spits us out next to the high school's grass (!) track. It then re-enters the woods where the real fun begins. There is first a relatively short but steep hill, followed by a steeper downhill, then a gradual build to the crux of the course, a long (0.3 mile) hill that is revealed only after a nearly hairpin turn, and even then the top doesn't come into view until you've falsely summitted two other times. Finally, there's one last (very) steep downhill that gives back all of the elevation just gained and marks the end of the trail portion of the race. Through all of these undulations, I passed just two people but managed to hold my position and put some distance on those behind me.

The third mile is entirely on grass, crossing fields, the track, and some small rises, culminating in a variety of loops around and between the soccer and baseball fields where the race started. I was closing in on fifth place, a tall, younger runner, during the first part of this section. As I passed my coach, he yelled "Way to be in shape, Garvin!" which was surprisingly motivating. I used the surge of positivity to pass the young guy but couldn't shake him. A few hundred meters later, he passed me back and looked poised to hang on. I had no idea where the finish would be in this version of the course, and when I saw that we still had another turn and then a long straightaway, I decided it wasn't too late to reclaim 5th. I pretended to be running an all-out 200 on the track, and that little mental trick worked like a charm. I passed the guy back 50 meters before the line and held on for 5th overall, 3rd alumnus, in 17:05 (final mile 5:06). I later learned that the guy I passed was the 5K school record holder (14:17!) from the class of 2015 who clearly has not been training as seriously. Still, that was a bit of a confidence boost.
A younger version of me running on our home course in 2002. 
Afterward, my coach asked me to help him organize a kids' race, which consisted of my kids, Dusty's kids, and my classmate Tim's kids, as the other alumni in attendance were too young to have reached this phase of life. The kids mostly had a great time, though Maisie broke into tears midway when she realized that she wouldn't win. That's the competitive spirit I like to see in a four-year-old.

A few days after the race, I came across an article on my college coach, who's celebrating his 40th year at the helm of the program. There were two passages in particular I liked that really capture the spirit of love for running that he instills in the team:
"Pete has a true love for the sport, and that spirit is the foundation of our team's approach to running. In the midst of NCAA championships, technical workouts and complex training philosophy, GPS watches and heart rate monitors, Pete helps us remember that we run because we love to run. We love trails, we love working hard and we love our team." 
Farwell's end goal isn't to see his athletes compete well now, but rather to see them running and enjoying running years later. "The goal is for you to be running when you're 30, 40 or 60 rather than to run two seconds faster in the 5k when you are 21," 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bottone Mile / Wahaneeta 5K

I'm at risk of falling four races behind in these recaps, so let's be efficient about it and combine the two most delinquent posts in a single entry.

The first of these was the Bottone Mile, which, after 20+ years on the track, was recast as a road mile this year. The reason for the change was about numbers (the new venue seemed to do the trick), but I was personally glad for the change because a road mile has less anxiety attached to it. When you step on the track, you become a slave to the watch. Splits are calculated in advance, and you measure yourself against them every 200 meters, allowing you to know the exact moment you fail to meet your expectations. There's also some inherent pressure that I associate with the track, probably due to the nerves I felt across hundreds of track races between 7th grade and the end of college. The novelty of a road mile meant minimal expectations and, importantly, no old version of myself to be compared to.

Still, a mile is a mile, and I had some butterflies as I drove down from work. (The mile was really my second race of the day, as I got out of a meeting late at work and had to drive a little faster than the police would prefer to get to Westerly.) I arrived in time for a short warm-up with some faster accelerations thrown in, met up with Tommy, and got over to the line.

One nice feature of this race was the seeding process, which allowed runners to line up according to our estimated finishing time. I'd somewhat arbitrarily picked 4:50, which placed me 2nd next to Matthew. Jeff smartly inserted another runner (whom Matthew pointed out is a current collegiate athlete and 1:52 high school 800 runner) between, despite his not registering early enough to receive an appropriately low-numbered bib.

Matthew informed me beforehand that he'd be doing this as a workout, targeting 4:40. That was still faster than I expected to go but knew I'd at least be able to get pulled along at that pace. With the sound of the gun (or was it siren? I can't recall), I attempted to find what felt like mile pace, soon realizing that I didn't remember exactly how that should feel. One drawback of not running on the track is that I didn't have a reliable way to check my pace and would have to trust my completely untrustworthy watch. The pace felt fairly easy on the first stretch of road, as I tucked in behind Nick (college guy) and Matthew, but I knew I was still floating on adrenaline.

After making the two quick left-hand turns, I allowed myself a peek at the watch, which revealed the cumulative pace to be 4:37 roughly a quarter-mile into the race. That seemed fast but I was ok, so I decided to do nothing about it and keep on the leaders' tails. At some point along the lengthy Crandall stretch, Nick got some easy separation. I wasn't going to risk a move and instead stuck with Matthew. I glanced at my watch several more times along Crandall and again after we'd turned on Shirley, and each time the pace was 4:37. I started wondering if my watch was broken, as it didn't expect to keep that pace for as long as we had.

It started dawning on me that we were within a quarter-mile of the finish, and I should probably think about some kind of a kick. (Again, not having the simple layout of a track, where completing the penultimate lap of a mile meant an automatic start of a kick, led to some confusion in my tactics.) I passed Matthew, knowing he'd never let that happen in an actual race, and tried in vain to close the gap on Nick. I took the last left turn and came upon what essentially was a wide dirt trail, littered with pot holes and rocks. It isn't a long stretch but took some serious concentration to run through at that pace. I knew I'd lost a little speed and tried to make up for it when I got back to the paved portion of the course. There wasn't much wood left in the furnace, but I fanned the flames and mustered a tiny kick, finishing in...you guessed it: 4:37.

I was thrilled with that time and glad to know I still have some mile-speed left, despite not doing anything remotely close to training for that pace. The race has motivated me to start incorporating some speed work into my regular routine and maybe even jump into a couple track races this winter.

Wahaneeta 5K

I ended the week with a 5K in the woods of Wahaneeta Preserve. It was another sticky summer day, and the course was wet and muddy from rain. I'd only been on these trails once before and really didn't know my way around, so I used the warm-up to explore a couple parts that might have been the beginning, middle, or end (or all three!). Whatever they were, they gave me a sense of the terrain (rolling), footing (rocky and rooty in parts), and obstacles (slippery bridges, stream crossings, and mud). The ol' ankle braces would be a must-wear on this course.

With Matthew in attendance, I knew I'd be racing for second. (It surprised me to see from his blog that he still considers me a threat. I wish that were the case.) I didn't see anyone else who might be near the front, so it looked like this would turn into a solo time trial.

I lined up at the right side of the field, only to discover that the starting line was sharply angled away from the trail we'd be heading toward, making my route quite a bit farther than that of those on the other side. Matthew seemed to notice the same thing and re-positioned himself on the other side. I didn't bother, which gave me an excuse to let Matthew go immediately after the gun sounded. He appeared to go out very fast. So fast, indeed, that my slower pace still felt way too hard after a quarter mile. I made my way up into second place right around then (passing a barefoot dude!), and, as predicted, stayed there for the rest of the race.

As you might imagine, the race was fairly uneventful. I lost sight of Matthew very early (he was 15 seconds ahead after just half a mile, according to the Strava fly-by) but continued to press just in case an opportunity to get back in the race presented itself. I knew one wouldn't, but these are the tricks you play on yourself to keep the feet moving forward. After the first lap, I caught sight of him, already ascending the hill in front of the cabin while I was trodding in the opposite direction, still fifty yards from the 180-degree turn he'd long ago taken. (I had given up only another five seconds in the 1.25 miles since that initial surge Matthew had put in, but it was enough to create an insurmountable gap.)

The second lap was more of the same, with the gap gradually growing to more than 30 seconds. I made my final trip through the main field (nearly heading directly to the finish instead of taking the right turn required to stay on the course), and then set out on the lollipop loop. One part of the lollipop (the stick?) was particularly mucky, and I thought about what I would do if my shoe got sucked off in it. (The answer: stop and put my shoe back on!) I eventually came face to face with Matthew on his way back from the turnaround. Given that I hadn't even reached the pop part of the sucker when we passed each other, I realized I was farther behind than I'd thought. As I trudged back up toward the finish, I reached the muck again and discovered...a shoe! It was Matthew's XC spike, and it had been snatched from his foot just as I'd envisioned might happen to mine. I couldn't just leave it there, so I bent down as I ran by and picked it up like a ball boy to a tennis ball at the US Open, running the rest of the way to the finish with an extra shoe in hand. This got a few laughs from those who saw Matthew already finish minus one shoe and restored balance to the finish area shoe count.

I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed with my race. I didn't have much fight in me and struggled to stay motivated out there. And like Matthew, I also would have liked to see more of the top local runners come to this race. Maybe next year...

Pre-race picture 1 from Westerly Sun
Pre-race picture 2. They thought I was a different guy.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Run4Kerri


Run4Kerri is a relatively high-profile local race that attracts some fast runners from RI and surrounding states. I’d previously done it in 2013 and 2014, opted for the Block Island Tri instead in 2015, was in California for ’16 and ’17 and injured in ’18. In other words, I hadn’t done this one in four years and was excited to give it another shot. Given how well my other four-mile road race had gone this summer, I was assuming this relatively easy course would be a sure-fire way to get a PR at the distance and maybe even a chance to dip under 21 minutes. Based on my previous two attempts, this seemed like a near-certainty – check out the table:

Year
Bridgton 4 on the 4th
Run4Kerri
Difference
2013
23:13
21:56
-77s
2014
21:53
21:40
-13s
2018
21:18
??
??

As the race drew nearer, two things threatened get in the way of a strong performance: health and weather. A week before the race, after finishing a dreadful track workout, my right knee seized up to the point that I had to stop my cool down and walk for a bit. I took three days off, then ran with a patellar tendon strap at Wednesday’s Fun Run, which seemed to help. However, I didn’t want to race in that strap, so on Friday I ran easy without it and had almost no pain. While the knee was improving, my digestive tract was worsening. I won’t go into detail, but it was a tough few days and the issues had just started to abate before race day.

As for the second threat, the weather has been unrelentingly humid in recent weeks, and while the moisture level had dropped the tiniest bit on Sunday, the heat would be rising back toward 90 degrees. Of course, with the race at 9 AM, we wouldn’t face the worst of it, but we would have to contend with less than ideal conditions in full sun.

I was joined at the race by Katie for the second time this summer. It’s painful to have to get a babysitter just so we could both race, but that’s life these days. We did an easy warm-up out on the first part of the course, sticking to the shade where possible. My stomach was off but the legs were feeling quite good, so I was optimistic about the race.
Start line WTAC photo by Jana.
I bumped into Matthew on the line, and he commented on how many fast people were in the race and that his top-5 goal was likely not going to happen. I said something about how the heat can do funny things to people, so you know never know. Before too long, we were off, up the short hill at the start and stringing out quickly. As is my habit, I counted the runners in front of me as soon as I had a clear shot (maybe a ¼ mile in); I was in 11th at this point, behind eight guys and two women. I gradually passed a few people and settled into 8th place at the mile, with Matthew directly in front of me by 10 or so seconds, and someone shadowing me a few steps behind. (First mile was 5:12.)

That someone, in a red jersey, passed me shortly after we turned onto Moonstone Beach Road (just after Beth's encouraging cheers -- thanks, Beth!), and I did my best to stay within a few strides. My legs had felt great up to this point but were now really starting to feel the effort. I wasn’t expecting this to happen so early and I worried about the rest of the race. For now, I just tried to keep the pace even and the effort smooth, though that was getting progressively harder to do.

Ahead, I saw Matthew overtake one runner who quickly came back to us. I eased ahead of my red-jerseyed friend at the same time but figured he’d hang with me for a while, as he wasn’t showing any signs of struggle. We also appeared to be closing in on the Colonel himself, who’d gone for the Mile 1 bonus and was no longer feeling his oats. Turning into the neighborhood, my friend and I passed Col. Sanders, and I attempted to surge up the small incline before the steep one that marks the end of the third mile.

I had closed a bit on Matthew by this point but wasn’t feeling that a spirited chase was in the cards today. He looked back around one corner and must have been relieved to see it was me and not one of the speedy guys behind us who were either having off days or not racing seriously. On several occasions, I forced myself to get into a more aggressive posture, as I’d kept falling into the backward-leaning death march pose that lets even the casual observer pick out the faltering runner from the fresh one.
I look like I'm in disguise in those ridiculous sunglasses.
I pounded the downhill past the fire house (as in slapped my feet on the pavement in a most inefficient manner), confident now that I would neither catch nor be caught before the finish, and didn’t bother attempting to kick, as it wouldn’t have done anything other than scare the children watching the finish. I sadly watched the clock tick up toward that PR time, crossing in 21:15 (21:13 net time, since I started in the third row), tying exactly my PR from two years ago. There was little solace in that, however, since the PR was set on a much harder course in probably worse weather conditions. I simply didn’t have it this day.

On the bright side, I’d finished sixth, one place behind Matthew. It was cool to have two WTAC jerseys up near the front of this big race. In order to preserve Matthew’s amateur status, the race organizers donated his 5th-place prize money to me. (Isn’t it funny that he can’t accept a measly $50, yet big-time college athletes in big-time college sports can be wined and dined (and more, often) by the schools and their boosters? Something just isn’t right about that. Let the kid buy a text book.) Katie nabbed 2nd in her age group, despite feeling pretty awful and not having started training in earnest yet. She’ll be back to her old self soon enough.

The most positive part of the race was that my knee was totally fine, as if there had never been any pain in the first place. I love these kinds of injuries, though they continue to baffle me. On the downside, sub-21 will have to wait for another year. Now it’s time for some fun local races and maybe a shot at a fast 5K in Providence next month.

A brief look at the data:

Looking at the mile-by-mile breakdown, this year was consistently faster than the past two for the first ¾ of the race. In 2014, however, I had a big finishing burst, which, as described above, wasn’t available to me this time, and that’s pretty obvious from the chart below.

Looking at the raw paces, it seems that I consistently slow over miles 2 and 3 before speeding up again for the final mile. But this is at least partly due to the terrain. Fortunately, Strava has provided us with GAP. I still don’t know if I trust GAP, but it’s better at normalizing pace across elevation changes than anything I’ve come up with, so let’s go with it. When viewed this way, a different story emerges. Specifically, I ran remarkably even splits this year when adjusted for gradient. It came at a cost (it would have been interesting to see a heart rate overlay on top of this), but that makes me feel a little better about how the race played out. 



Saturday, August 4, 2018

Vacation Trifecta


Race #1: Four on the Fourth - 7/4/18

Before embarking on our two-week family vacation, I was careful to remember to pack my racing flats, as the trip would include two races where they’d be required. Upon arriving at the first of those – the Bridgton 4 on the Fourth (or Four on the 4th… I never get it right) – I made the startling discovery that the flats were sans insoles. I grabbed the only other pair of shoes I had with me, the giant trail running Hokas, slammed their insoles into the flats, and hoped for the best. Not an ideal start to the morning, but it wouldn’t be a race day without some minor crisis to overcome.

Katie and I had made the trek to the race together and would both be racing for the first time in several years. The forecast called for a HOT day (this would be one of a string of 90+ degree days in New England that week), and despite the early hour, it was already feeling steamy. I like the heat, and I feel it offers a competitive advantage, given many other runners’ either mental or physical aversion to it, so I wasn’t too worried, though I was unsure how it would affect my pace.

Speaking of pace, in trying to decide my race goals, I needed to come up with a reasonable pace to shoot for. I'd improved my time in this race each of the previous 5 times I'd run it (2012-2016), and everyone loves a streak, so I decided to try to keep it alive. However, I'd run fairly quickly the last time around (21:12), and it would be a tall order to take that down another few seconds. My other goal was to keep the shorter streak alive of finishing top-5 (3 straights years -- 5th, 5th, 4th), which would mean a prize of some sort. 

I got to the starting line and appreciated the organizers’ efforts this year to create corrals based on previous finishing times, which helped avoid the usual set of interlopers making themselves an obstacle in the 2000+ person field.
The big field assembles at the start.
The first mile is mostly flat and downhill, and I’d planned to go through in under 5:15. A bunch of guys went out with the leaders, and I was around 10th after the first half mile. I was surprised not to see the leaders create much of a gap in the first mile; I’d usually find myself already behind by 20-30 seconds by that point in past years. I passed the mile in 5:16 and braced myself for the series of hills over the next 1.5 miles.

I moved into 5th place during the first set of hills, ahead of past race winner and perennial top finisher Silas Eastman. Up ahead, I saw the three leaders continue to do battle. The hills were taking their toll on everyone, myself included, but I kept reminding myself that I should feel stronger in the heat than the rest. I went through mile 2 in 5:31 and moved into fourth place somewhere around there.

Ahead, one guy had pulled away. Unsurprisingly, it was multi-time winner Moninda Marube. In his wake, the other two had strung out. I managed to catch the third place runner fairly quickly but held no illusions of gaining on second, a fit-looking guy -- Osman Doroow -- who still looked smooth. The race hits its elevation peak in Mile 3 and then descends steeply back toward the finish. It’s so hard to stay smooth on these declines, and I tried to focus on soft landings, quick turnover, and leaning into the downs. I got through Mile 3 in 5:23 and suddenly realized I’d been gaining on 2nd place which focusing on my downhill form.

I was exhausted coming into the final stretch along Main St. but wanted to get that one extra spot in the standings. I surged by Doroow only to have him surge right back. It was almost enough of a counter move to do me in, but I decided to test him and surge again, now with 600m or so to go. He didn’t respond the second time, and I sensed a gap growing. I was able to maintain it through the line (final mile 5:05; overall time 21:18) for my best-ever placing in my six tries at this race. The time, however, missed my PR from two years ago by six seconds, so that streak was finally broken.

A few feet from the finish. 
Side Note 1: There was a funny scenario that played out in front of me as I ran toward the finish. The ladies holding the finish tape (which had already been broken by the winner), mustn’t have had much experience with their duties, as they set the tape back up for me. There were more than a few moments of uncertainty before someone got them to scoot to the side, just as I crossed. Not sure what I would’ve done had they stayed. You can watch the whole thing near the start of this video.

Side Note 2: I like to think I'm a good sportsman, but I might have taken it too far, as you can see in the video below (between 12:30 and 13:30). I just can't seem to stop showing up to congratulate the other finishers. 



I was very happy with the race, despite just missing my PR from two years ago, and hopeful this sets me up for a PR at R4K in a month.

Top 4 men and 4 1/2 women with the race director.

Chatting with the winner post-race.
Full results here.

Race #2: Patterson’s Pellet - 7/9/18

My hometown running club – the Shawangunk Runners – puts on a great set of low-key trail races every summer. Having not lived in New Paltz since 2003, and having not visited on a summer Monday in the interim, it had been a long time since I’d last done one of these races. Our vacation this year fortunately overlapped with the first of the summer series races – Patterson’s Pellet – held at Minnewaska State Park, and I was really excited to go.

I know the trails here well, but not this particular one, as it leads to a remote part of the preserve, past a glacial erratic perched on the edge of a cliff. (The rock is known as, you guessed it, Patterson’s Pellet). The only time I could recall running that trail was the one other time I’d done this race, back in 2000 (before sophomore year of college), which I was startled to realize was 18 years ago. My goodness.

In my heart of hearts, I know that I’m nowhere near as fast as I once was, but a little part of me wanted to think I could come close. There’d be no better measuring stick than this race – how far off my time of 16 years ago would I be? (After consulting an old training log, I discovered my time back then had been 16:21 for the 3-mile course.)

A page from my 2000 training log (this race was on Wednesday). Here's proof that I was once able to run 66 miles in a week. Also note that I said "could have gone faster" in reference to this race. Come on, you young arrogant jerk! Incidentally, I vividly remember that Monday run, in which I got lost on a narrow trail that ran along the edge of a cliff, eventually getting stuck behind a slow-going porcupine, just as it was turning dark. 

The race started on a narrow carriage road, where runners could fit no more than four across. I got into the third row behind a bunch of really fit looking high schoolers from Warwick, Goshen, and Lourdes, three somewhat local schools. The race starts out on a short flat, down a steep hill, and then immediately up a long slog of a climb. I was impressed that the high school kids didn’t totally sprint out as they are usually programmed to do, but I was still just in ninth place after ¾ of a mile. One slightly older guy (not older than me, mind you, but older than the rest) opened a gap with a big loping stride that looked easier than it should have on the hills. I sensed some slack in the pace of the others and made a small move to surge by them and into second.

I gave chase through the first mile (5:59) and went by on a small, welcome downhill. I mistakenly assumed this would be where I’d pull away for an easy win, but that’s not exactly how it played out. He hung right with me through the turnaround at the pellet (no cone, so I gave an honest effort to follow the white (or whole wheat?) flour semi-circle arrow past the half-way water stop. The next guy slipped a little on the gravel but remained close.

Now heading back in the opposite direction, it was nice to get so many shouts of encouragement from the rest of the runners. I couldn’t muster much in return but did my best to wave. These situations also give an opportunity to figure out the nearness of the competition without turning around to check. Through mile 2, the other racers were still shouting, “Good job, guys!” Guys? We were still a single cheering unit, meaning that he was right there. I knew we had one last gradual hill before descending the long hill we’d climbed earlier. I choose this a good spot to push the pace and see what happens. The move paid off, as I finally had some separation. I did my best to work the downhill, once peeking back to spot him maybe 7 or 8 seconds behind. I tried to kick up the steep uphill back to the finish, thinking of all the memories on that hill from high school XC ski practice (they were mostly bad memories of nearly falling off the side and not being able to make it up to the top without stopping, but let’s not concern ourselves with details).

I got to the line in…17:00. Ugh. 40 seconds slower than the last time I’d run that race? That was depressing. But wait, didn’t the course used to start and end right at the top of the hill instead of across the field? Yes, I think so! So, that must have added….well….not very much. 20 seconds tops? I guess it’s true what they say: The older I get, the faster I was.
View of the Catskills from Minnewaska parking lot.

Looking across Lake Minnewaska during my cool down.
Full results are here.
Race #3: Sailfest 5K - 7/15/18

After trashing my legs for two weeks, I returned to Rhode Island (still technically on vacation) and put some feelers out for company on a casual Sunday ride. In response, I learned about the Sailfest 5K. The possibility of running a race I hadn’t done before was appealing, but did I really want to shell out $$ to race on tired legs? The answer was an emphatic YES. After all, who knows when the next injury will take me away from competition; might as well race while I can. (NOTE: Almost immediately after writing that sentence, my knee started to hurt. See??)

Having not been to the mean streets of New London before, I got a ride in the Bousquet-mobile to make sure there weren’t any navigational mishaps on the way there. We met up with Paul for a short warm-up on part of the race course and got back to the car with plenty of time to spare. The temperature was mild but the air full of moisture. It wouldn’t be a great day for a long race, but you can run a 5K in any weather.

I shadowed Jeff V for a short second warm-up near the start and then got on the line next to Matthew. Much like last year’s Schonning 5K, I hadn’t put any thought into a goal time until Tommy asked me shortly before the race. “Umm, 16:20?” Sure, why not? The course, I was told, had some hills, so that time seemed reasonable, given my recent races. I held no illusions of winning, given Matthew’s fitness and general superiority. I hadn’t actually lost yet to him, since I’d moved away just as he was getting fast, and then after returning had not run in the same race (other than some low key events in which at least one of us wasn't racing seriously). Today would be the day he'd cross me off his list.

At the start, Matthew took off at surprising speed, and another guy (wearing red) went right with him. Several other fast starters got out ahead of me, and I tried to guess which ones would last and which wouldn’t. It’s always difficult to tell when everyone’s legs are feeling good, but it becomes abundantly clear as soon as they don’t. After a half-mile I was in third, but already well behind Matthew and the guy in red, who seemed to be in another race.

I got to the mile in 5:14 (not the 5:03 a volunteer wishfully shouted to me), and soon thereafter went around the rotary and up the first big hill. Now, this wasn’t a hill like those in the July 4th race, but it was  tough, going on longer than I’d expected. By the time I’d made the right turn off the hill, my pace was nearly 6-min/mile. I tried to use the downhill to get some free speed, but my body insisted on an obtuse angle, no matter how much I wanted 90 degrees.  Way up ahead, Matthew had fallen behind the red guy but was maintaining his gap on me. The second mile split was 5:24.

The third mile featured another challenging hill, more for its location in the race than for its severity. Just as you’re trying to mount a big finish, this thing jumps on your back and drags you back down. I fought through as best I could and again attempted to use the downhills to my advantage. I made the final turn and enjoyed the finish through the fair tent-lined street, crossing the line in 16:17 (final mile 5:11).

Tommy came through a short time later, wrapping up a 2-3-4 WTAC placing. We waited for Shara to finish as second female before hopping under the fire hose for a refreshing shower. Jeff joined us after completing his PT run and then insisted on skin-on-skin contact during the requisite photograph.
I hit my arbitrary goal, so that’s good I guess. I’d really like to get under 16:00 this year, but I’ll clearly need a flatter course, fresher legs, and better fitness to do it. Something to shoot for later this summer.

Full results here. Local article here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Back Road Ramble


The first Sunday in June beckoned me back to the Back Road Ramble for the first time since 2015. [I’ll keep writing this in every post until it is no longer true.] The course would be entirely different this time, save the finish line, as you can read about in Jeff’s blog here and here. Going in, I had a feeling Jonny would be the main competition, as he excels on trails and knows these ones by heart. Now, I too enjoy a technical trail and, now that I’ve embraced (see what I did there?) wearing ankle supports in races, can throw caution to the wind. But I don’t know these trails, and in unfamiliarity lies the possibility for a major blowup, or, at the very least, of a wrong turn.

The pre-race festivities include a school bus ride to the start, during which grown-ups are made to flash back to the indignities they faced as a child. Or was that just me? Upon disembarking, I sought out Jonny and Jonathan for a brief warm-up in the woods.

The start is fairly narrow, and I lined up in the second row, in great position to hear Jeff’s unintentionally lewd race instructions. Some of the less mature competitors couldn’t help but giggle. I was one of them. After giving Jeff some space to join the field, we took off. Again, I’ll leave it to Jeff’s blog to describe the interesting start of one particular sprint enthusiast. I settled next to Jonny, and we ran roughly side-by-side (but not hand-in-hand, I assure you) for the first ¾ mile or so.

Just off the starting line. I went with the rare non-WTAC jersey option this time.
I moved ahead as we approached the pond (why this isn’t called a lake, I do not know), and Jonny kindly shouted out where to turn off the main trail. I thought for a moment of staying close to him to heed directional advice for the rest of the race but instead kept pushing and hoped for the best.

Somewhere before the third mile, things get interesting. Roots and ruts and rocks start to be more prevalent than normal flat ground. They should have named this trail Sammy R’s (sorry). I tried to keep my momentum but found it challenging to do so. I envied Jonny’s little stride and fast turnover, which I guessed are more adept at dealing with such unevenness. [See below for some math that might totally disprove this hypothesis.]

I peeked back on occasion, but the trail began getting twisty and hummocky enough, that Jonny could have been 10 seconds back and I wouldn’t have been able to see him. Somewhere around four miles, the fatigue in my legs became noticeable. I wasn’t worried yet, but I wanted to get to the road with as much distance on Jonny as possible, since I had a feeling with all of his up/down hill workouts, he’d be able to fly to the finish better than I would.

I got to the road without much drama and kept the pace just fast enough to make a comeback unlikely. I didn’t see Jonny when I looked back with a ½ mile to go, but I apparently chose the wrong place to look, since he later told me he was able to see me up ahead. Our splits also confirmed that he was closing in over than final mile-plus.

I came down the final hill, waved to the family, and crossed the line while trying not to trip over the speed bump, which would have been ironic, considering its tameness relatively to the rest of the course. Jonny was not far behind, and then Jeff and Jonathan followed. We grabbed a short road cool down with other WTACers (while Jeff apparently headed to the water trampoline – I wish I’d known!).

A short kids race followed, where Seb hung close to the big kids, and Maisie didn’t (but still loved it.) She later told me, “I tried and I tried to catch up to the other kids but I just couldn’t!” The day ended watching the kids splash around in the water while I hung out on the beach, by then way too cooled-down to find the water refreshing.




This is a great event that doesn’t garner enough notoriety. I hope the changes Jeff mentioned in his post (now referenced a record-setting third time!) help drum up some additional registrants. It’s too much fun not to.


Math Rebuttal to the Jonny Stride Superiority Theory

Fact #1: Let’s say I take 170 steps a minute during the race, and Jonny, with his tiny stride, takes 200. That means that each of my strides takes 0.353 seconds, while Jonny’s takes 0.3 seconds.

Fact #2: Sammy C’s, the most technical trail in the race, takes ~18 minutes to complete.

Scenario A: Let’s say, for every minute we’re on Sammy C’s, Jonny and I each take one poorly placed step that costs us momentum and distance. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume we "lose" that step, but everything else remains the same. That means, within each minute, I lose 0.353 seconds, and Jonny loses 0.3 seconds. Over the 18 minutes we’re on Sammy C’s, that’s 6.35 seconds lost by me, and 5.4 seconds lost by Jonny, or a difference of just under ONE SECOND. Hardly something to get worked up about.

Sensitivity: I made some big assumptions there, so what happens if we change those?
Let’s instead assume because of my lopey (not a real word) stride, I can’t recover from a bad step as quickly as originally assumed. Maybe it takes me twice as long, meaning I lose the equivalent of two steps for every poorly placed one, or 0.706 seconds per minute. Multiplying out as above, this equals 12.7 seconds lost over the entirety of the trail to Jonny’s 5.4, still a different of only SEVEN seconds. This is more significant and could cost me a neck-and-neck race, but those are rare on such long courses.

What if we also test the sensitivity on how often we stumble? Maybe Jonny is more sure-footed, thanks to his familiarity with these trails, and loses a step once every two minutes. This means he loses 0.15 seconds per minute, or 2.7 seconds over the full trail. In the original scenario, in which I lose 6+ seconds, he has an insubstantial 4 second advantage. If we move both sensitivity levers, I lose 12.7 seconds, Jonny loses 2.7, gaining a total of 10 seconds on me.

No matter how we slice this, I think it’s fair to say that my worry over Jonny’s stride’s superiority over mine as it relates to footing on a technical trail is mostly unfounded. Whether it’s more efficient is another story, but I’ll save that worry for the next race!

Friday, June 1, 2018

20 years ago: Part I

If you know me well, then you know that I often can't remember where I put my keys or why I walked into a room but can instantly recall splits from a random high school track race that happened 20 years ago. However, it wasn't until mentioning this to a friend recently that it occurred to me those memories were actually 20 whole years ago. I also realized that there are details from those days that I remember only with some effort, and even then I have doubts as to their accuracy. This is a long way of saying that I promised myself I'd write these things down before it was too late and they were gone forever.

So, welcome to the first of somewhere between one and many installments of my brain-running archive project. This and the three that follow will delve into my junior year outdoor track season of 1998, which seemed magical at the time and still contains some of my most vivid memories and countless experiences that shaped me as a runner and person. (I even wrote my college application essay about one race in particular.) If this all seems somewhat self-indulgent, it's because it is. There's nothing here that will seem special to anyone besides me; our times weren't particularly impressive and there wasn't any off-track drama or historically significant event that shaped the season. But it was the biggest thing that anyone on the team had been part of to that point in our lives, and I don't want to ever forget it. With that introduction, let's get started.

Part I: March-April 1998


Expectations
The New Paltz High School boys track team had reclaimed the league championship in 1997, my sophomore year, somewhat dramatically avenging a dual meet defeat against Onteora. That meet - the Mid-Hudson Athletic League championship (always referred to as MHALs ) - had historically been the big meet of the season, and success at meets beyond that (Sectionals, States) was rare. However, that previous season, we had qualified three athletes for states, with one winning the shot put and another placing 2nd in the pentathlon. (That same pentathlete was also our best 800 runner, the league XC champ, and a starter on the football team!) Both of those guys had graduated, so while we knew we had some depth, we weren't guaranteed the same level of success in '98. But our coach was unflinchingly optimistic, and we had the naivety of youth on our side, so we came into the season expecting greatness.

Personally, I'd made big jumps from 9th to 10th grade in both the 800 (2:11 to 2:03) and 1600 (5:15 to 4:40), placing third in MHALs in both (as well in as the 3200), so I headed into the season hoping to build upon those gains and a solid XC season.

 

Our team was always strong in the distance events, and this season would be no exception. We'd won our league XC meet with 23 points and returned three people (me plus seniors Ryan and Josh) who'd placed top-5 in the three distance events at last year's league meet. Outside of that, there were a few standouts mostly in the field events and a bunch of unknown entities. The team was big (66 kids, or roughly one of every four boys in the school), so like every high school team everywhere, we hoped to pull a couple of scorers from the unknowns. The pre-season talk was always about how so-and-so had won the gym class mile in 5th grade and was finally joining the team, or how some other guy was a state finalist shot putter in Indiana and had just moved to the district. Those stories almost always turned out to be false, but we had some signs that this year would be different.

There were three promising newcomers on the team. The first was a bear of a freshman who apparently dominated middle school throwing events. The second was a junior who excelled on the football field and wrestling mat and would be throwing the shot. And the third -- Billy Moore -- was a transfer from a neighboring district who scored points in the 200 and 400 at the league championships the previous season. We were historically weak in the sprints and would take anyone we could get to score a few points. In retrospect, it is clear this team would not have reached the heights it did without even one of these three additions.

March - Getting in Shape
The first month of the season was one of transition for everyone on the team. We didn't have an indoor track team, so everyone was either coming off another winter sport (I, and many other distance runners, had just finished the nordic ski season) or several months of doing nothing. We were a pretty pathetic group for the first couple of weeks, hobbling around with sore bodies every time our coach adding a new pace or plyometric to the regimen.

Based on my training log, I had a rough go of it in March, getting sick for a week and then injuring the bottom of my foot during practice and having to take a week off from running. Fortunately, I was young and back at full speed a week later. Our mileage was always very low (never more than 30 in a week), so no gradual ramp up was required.


April 2nd - 5th: Opening Meets
For the distance runners, our first test was a timed mile on April 2nd. I ran 4:54 and finished ahead of our distance star, Ryan, last year's league mile champ, by 2 seconds. One of his senior teammates, Josh, finished another second in arrears. The times weren't great, but I recall being very happy running sub-5 so early in the season.

Our first meet -- The Panther Relays -- was three days later. This was always run in terrible early Spring conditions -- cold, windy, often rainy. We'd all stay huddled in tents, and only a few minutes before our races would we emerge to brave the elements. Our school record books were filled with weak relay times, so we'd be making an attempt at the 4x1600 and DMR records at this meet, despite our early season fitness. We succeeded, running 19:32 and 11:20, both of which we'd lower substantially in a month. I ran 4:51 in the former and 3:26 (1200) in the latter. I wasn't thrilled with either but knew the speed would eventually come. As a team, we placed second to Pine Bush. After that loss, we would beat more than 100 teams before we lost again.

My calves were sore for a week from running in spikes, but, this being high school, there'd be no time to rest, as another meet awaited us the following Tuesday. We faced off against Rondout Valley on our home track -- an asphalt-like surface on which spikes were not allowed. We won 109-31, for the first time getting an idea of the team's potential. I won the 800 (2:07) and 1600 (4:49), but more impressively, our freshman threw over 140' in the discus, our transfer ran 53 in the 400 (already equaling his PR from the previous year), and our 400 hurdle state qualifier ran 58.9.

April 6th - 18th: Spring Break and a Surprise PR
We had 11 days off from racing for Easter break, which gave us a chance to ratchet up the training intensity a bit. We did track intervals - 12x200, 200/400/600 ladders, 8x400, etc. - nearly every other day, trying to get our speed where it needed to be before the important meets started.

On the other end of this block was the Tri-Valley invitational in the Catskills, which was always a good chance to run against competition outside of our league. My first event was the 800, where there was a stacked field led by an absolute stud of a runner from the host team. I latched on to him as long as I could and ran a surprise PR of 2:00.9. My season goal was to break 2:00, but I never imagined I'd come so close so soon. My coach gave a great quote in the newspaper following that race: "If Chris had known that he was this close to breaking two minutes he would have sprinted the final yards." Believe me, I would have sprinted regardless of my time; I was simply dead!

The stud who won was also victorious in the 400 and 400 hurdles at the meet, running an incredible triple of 50/56/1:58. I placed third in the 1600 in 4:47 later in the meet, finishing just behind my teammate Ryan. As a team, we took the meet title over Pine Bush, a powerhouse program from another league in our section. There were more other great performances from Billy in the 400 (51.5), Matt in the 400 hurdles (58.0), and our high jumper Dash (6'3").



April 21st - 25th: A Very Busy Week
We followed this meet with the classic only-in-high-school three-meet week. Knowing that we'd win the dual meets easily, our coach backed off the volume of racing we'd do. We won the first against Saugerties 108-32; I ran 4:40 in the 1600 and cruised the 3200. We also took the second against Marlboro 104-32; I ran 2:06 in the 800 in "cold, rainy, very windy!!" conditions, according to my running log.

We capped the week at the Monticello Games, another meet that always seemed to be run in terrible weather. If it wasn't raining, it was windy, and that was the case again this time around. In my log, I described it as "extremely windy and a little chilly." I ran 10:27 in the 3200 (a PR for me) for 6th place, 2:07 in the 4x800 for 2nd place, and 2:06 in the open 800, also for 2nd place, behind a guy from Goshen who would become my rival and nemesis a little more than a year from that day. We won the meet as a team, despite no real standout performances, and our coach noted that made us 68-1 on the season, having only lost in the opening invitational.

Write-up on Monticello Games with hand-written note from Coach P. C


April 28th: A Statement
We finished our month with our fourth meet in 11 days. This was our most important dual meet yet, as we'd go head-to-head with Wallkill, our neighbor just down the road, and our likeliest competitor for the league title. The meet had a championship feel to it, and was even run under the lights on our home track. We strategically arranged our lineup to challenge them in their best events while running our second-stringers in the events we were likely to dominate (including the 1600 and 3200).

The second event of the meet was the 4x800, where I would run the anchor against Wallkill's top guy (who happened to have been one of my best friends in pre-school, 13 years before that). He got the baton with a big lead, maybe 50 meters ahead, and I immediately went to work tracking him down. He had taken it out hard, and I did the same, running a first lap of 57. He was a stronger 400 runner, and I remember noticing his posture change after the hard opener, indicating a possible chink in his armor. My pace had slowed as well, but I motored on and made a bold enough pass that he couldn't muster much resistance. I finished my leg in 2:00.6, well ahead of my old friend, setting the tone for the rest of the meet.

Astonishingly, I have no record of the final score of the meet (I vaguely recall it was 80-something to 50-something) or notes of anyone else's performance. I do have one other vivid memory from that day, and that is of the meet's final event, the 4x400. Even with victory in the bag, pride was still on the line, and our rapidly improving squad of quarter-milers was looking forward to challenging Wallkill's top-ranked team. Our guys were pumped and ran exceedingly well. By the time Billy got the baton on the anchor leg and sped off the around the track, we'd gapped them by ten seconds - an eternity in the 4x400. As he reached the final straight, he unexpectedly slowed down to a jog, looking behind him as he waited for the other anchor. Was he hurt? Tired? Making some strange gesture of sportsmanship? Nope, he was toying with them. He waited until they caught up, and then, fully rested, put the dagger through their heart with an all-out sprint to the line. It was a highly unsportsman-like move and put a damper on the whole evening for our team. It also foreshadowed a moment a month later that would simultaneously be the most thrilling and disappointing moment of my entire running career.

A look ahead
The team had made enormous gains to this point in the season. We dominated our league meets and held our own against some competitive teams outside of the league. But the best was yet to come. A shocking move to put our star 400 meter runner, just a few days after his 4x400 debacle, into the 4x800 would raise the team's competitive level to something never before seen at our school. All this and more in the next installment...

Really interesting contemporary article. Amazing how much things have changed since then.