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.)
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.|
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.