Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot is fast!!

This title reminds me of an old joke that I learned when I was in grammer school. It goes something like this, Question: What is faster hot or cold? Answer: Hot is faster because you can catch a cold!!!

Thursday night I ran race # 7 in the Westford Academy Summer Series. It was HOT! When I left my house the temp was hitting 90 with no wind or clouds. The race would be a game of attrition. The theme of the race was "Ladies Night". Which means that the ladies got a 7 minute head start over the men.

As I scanned the ladies there was at least one who could beat me outright. This lady was my training partner for Boston this year, Jill Trotter. This was her race to win outright. In addition to the ladies there seemed to be a lot of young kids in attendance. From what I found out, there were 10+ kids from Fitchburg High School. In addition there were a bunch of the WA runners in the race.
The women's race started right on time at 6:30 and 7 minutes later the guys took to the course. A guy with a ipod on took the lead. I just let him go because he looked like a 400 yard wonder. And I was right. The pack went by him and shat him out the back side before we hit the quarter mile mark. At this point a 20 something year old kid took the lead and looked strong. I was in the middle of 5 high school kids. One of which was at my house on Wednesday night for a party my daughter was having. I got next to this kid and said, "I play dirty" then faked an elbow in his face. He looked over at me and if the look he threw me had words, it would have said "I'm going to kick your arse, old man". And then he quickly put 10 yards on me.

I hit the mile at 5:53. Which is the fastest I've run this first mile all year. The group of high schooler's were now pulling away. I decided to try and settle into a pace that I knew I could hold and just relax and run on my toes with a straight back and my head held high. It was working and my breathing became more relaxed and I was reeling in my daughters friend. By 1.5 miles I passed him and listened to him gurgle as I passed and knew I had him beat. A few yards later Ken Cain came blazing past me. I mean he was looking to break me and he just about accomplished it. He didn't even seem to be breathing hard. I let him go because I knew I usually had a little more strength on the up hill at mile 2. Sure enough I reeled Ken back in going up the hill. I hit the 3 mile mark at 19:23, my fastest time this year and was feeling good. As I turned into the school I peeked over my shoulder and there was nobody in sight. In front of me was one kid about 30 yards a head. I wasn't going to catch him but I had a chance of running my fastest time of the year. I finished in 22:46 and PR'd by 6 seconds on the hottest night of the year.

I ended up in 5th place over all and I think if you add up the ages of the 3 kids in places 2nd, 3rd and 4th I'd still be older. It's good to see more younger kids getting involved in this sport.

Jill won the race and also PR'd with at 23:07. She really wants to break 23 minutes and I'm sure she can do it given a cooler night.

Next race is on Saturday in Laconia, NH. It's a 100% cross country race to benefit the HS XC team. It should be a lot of fun

Monday, July 27, 2009

Focus on the positve!!!

When I was starting to write this entry this morning I titled it "The Mistake". Then I went out for a run Monday morning and slowly realized that as a runner I obsess about the things I do wrong and what I need to do to correct them. Instead of how lucky I am to be able to get the feeling of freedom while I self propel myself all over NE.

So here we go. On Saturday Morning I got up and headed out to Canterbury, NH for the Canterbury Woodchuck Classic 5K. I had a chance to look at the course profile on Friday and I realized that I was in for some PHAT. The course starts down a steep hill then continues down hill for a mile. It levels out for mile 2 then climbs for mile 3. When I arrived in Canterbury there was the makings of a festival going on in the center of town. I'm guessing that the road race was a way to bring more out of towners to the festival.

I did a quick warm up down the hill we were to start on and it hurt to go down it with any speed. As I was doing my final stretching I noticed Morgan Seybert warming up. Morgan is my next door neighbor in Gilford. I've watched him from the time he was a freshman in high school struggling to run past my place a couple of times a day so he could be getting in 80 - 100 miles a week. He wasn't that fast back then but with all that training he put in, he turned himself into quite a force on the roads. He's now 1 year out of college and is tearing up the roads in NY. Anyway I asked Morgan if he was going to take it today, and he responded that he wasn't in to good of shape and that there was another guy there that ran for BC and was flying these days. His name is David Chorney and he was the defending champion of this race. OK so a W for me today was out of the question.

The race director was very focused on starting the race on time and had us lined up 5 minutes before the start. He warned us that a cannon was to be fired at 9 AM sharpe but we were not to start. The cannon fired and most of us jumped but nobody started down the road. I looked around that the average age of the people around me was damn young. This was going to be a fast start. The race director gave us the commands a few seconds later and we were off. ZZZZIIIIPPPPP people were flying. I couldn't believe how fast we were going. I decided right away to hold it back. The pounding on my legs had to be 10x's my body weight. The steepness of the grade could only compare to Mt Washington.

When we hit the center of town 300 yards down the road I looked up and saw that Morgan had the lead by about 30 yards. At about 500 yards into the race the 2nd place guy closed the gap with a surge and was running along side Morgan. The two of them already had over 100 yard lead on me. I surveyed the people in front of me and there was one guy who looked about my age, and he was about 20 yards a head of me, his name was Jon Marvin. I decided to just let him stay there and try and catch my breath.

We hit the mile in 5:35...WHOA-Nelly!!! slow down big fella I thought to my self. This was the fastest mile I've run all year. Thankfully, everyone else was now starting to back it down. By the 1.5 mile mark I started closing the gap on Jon. Now I had a choice, I could lie low and surprise him at the finish or I could drive past him and try and break his spirit. It was spirit crushing time. I went by Jon quickly and put 20 yards in between us. Jon was now running in a pack of 5 others and I was running alone. We hit the 2 mile mark and the course turned UP. I struggled to keep my form but was loosing the battle. At about 2.8 miles Jon went past me and I just couldn't respond. I keep him with in a stones throw of me but was not able to close in the last 200 yards. I should have just stayed behind Jon. OH well, live an learn.

Jon took 1st in the 50 - 59 category with me taking 2nd. When the results were posted I noticed something about all the people in front of Jon and I and it made me smile. Jon finished in 17th and I in 18th place. But what made me smile was the ages of most of the "kids" in front of us. Ten of them were under the age of 20, four were between 20 and 29 and two were in their 30's. Running is making a comeback with the younger generation!! The average age of the people in front of Jon and I was 20.5. Morgan had also hung on to 2nd place. I made sure that I pointed out to him that he was "First Loser". He didn't seem to happy and left right away.

There was a nice raffle and all the age category winners (3 deep) all received a hand made bowl. I collected Morgan's for him.

On Sunday, I got up early and decided I was going to do a trail run. I usually do an 1.5 hour run mostly on trails up to Gunstock ski area. I headed out and it was slightly raining but warm enough to feel nice to the touch. My legs were feeling good and I kept telling myself to run easy and run light. I was feeling super. When I reached Gunstock there were large white tents everywhere. I couldn't figure out why. So I just headed on my usual loop around Cobble Mtn. As I was looping Cobble I noticed a sign for Round pond. I felt great so I decided to head that way. Before I knew it I was running up to the top of Belknap Mtn. The top was socked in and there was no ranger in the look out. I was now 1 hour and 45 minutes into this run and was starting to tire. I had no water and and was worried about bonking. I headed out on a trail that I hoped would take me to the top of Gunstock where I knew the ski area like the back of my hand so I could take the quickest way down. My internal GPS worked perfectly and soon I was standing on the top of Gunstock. Mother nature called so as I emptied my blatter I noticed that what came out was not normal. I was dehydrating. I needed to get down quick and get some water.

I took one of the intermediate trails down and when I reached the half way point I realized what all the tents were for. SoulFest was starting on the 29th. One of the big venues was the main stage and everyone was going to be sitting up on the mountain to watch the shows. The problem was, with all the rain and the construction of new snow making pipes the ski slope was all mud. We're talking 300 yards of mud mixed with grass and fuel from the big crane they had up on the mountain. I was sinking shin deep in the muck as I looped down the mountain. I managed to loose only one shoe during this phase of the run. I was hurting. I backed down the pace and completed the slow trudge back to my place in 2 hours and 58 minutes. I didn't even try walking into my place because I was covered in mud, head to toe (especialy my feet). I ran right down to the lake and jumped in shoes and all. It was the best swim I've done all year.

Note to self...Bring water on long trail runs...idiot!!

As I ran this morning I realized how lucky I am to be able to run a hard 5K on Saturday, then run a 3 hour trail run on Sunday and come back on Monday and do a track workout in the humid thick air of July in New England.

How positive is that?

Friday, July 24, 2009


Last night was race #6 in the Westford Academy Summer Racing Series. All the usual cast of characters were there, Allen Hall (whom is having a great year racing and is leading the 40 - 49 age category), Ken Cain (who has missed a few races but is still in first for the 30 - 39 age category), Jill Trotter (who knocked me down on a Boston Training run and smashed my head on the curb 3 miles into the 21 mile run, that's my story and I sticking to it), Marc Boutin (Very fast, young gun who just finished his 1st year in college and was running 3rd for the XC team), and my favorite high school kid John Edwin (whom I forced off course into the grass in week one, and he tends to go out fast then us old timers eat him up later on in the race). Lastly 2 of my biking ROAG buddies were there, Rick Porter and George Davis with his son.

The weather seemed to be holding with overcast and flecks of mist every now and then. Tonight's race was a unknown distance and you had to be ready for anything. After finishing the race you had to guess what the distance was and the person closest would get a t-shirt. So the secret to this race was to go out at about 90% and hang on for dear life. Normally the course is 3.6 miles long so we weren't sure if it was going to be 3 miles or 5 miles.

As always Paul (the race director) did his normal thank you's and sounded the bull horn. We were off, but not as fast as usual. In fact Marc was running very conservatively. When we reached the road I realized why, he didn't know which way to turn. I knew we had to take a right but I wasn't going to give it away until I was ready to take it and neither was anyone else behind Marc. This was our only competitive advantage against a 20 year old kid. When I finally hit the turn Marc followed along with another 20'something year old kid. Us old masters then started joking with Marc about where the next turn was. One guy yelled out "Westford Center" another said "onto the dirt rode named Hartford" another told him "Chelmsford" and lastly "Lowell" was yelled out. Marc wasn't buying any of our babbling. And the fact of the matter was there were signs from this point on. So Marc just stated taking control and pulling away.

At about 1 mile into the race Marc and the other kid had about 20 yard lead on me and Ken was on my heels. I also thought that I could hear the pitter patter of Jill's shoes. As we approached the 2 mile mark the kids were 100 yards out and pulling even further away. At this point we were passing some of the walkers (who leave 15 minutes ahead of the runner) and I commented out loud "Damn young KIDS"!! One of the walkers yelled back "hey that's what I just said". At this point Ken and Allen weren't to far behind me. We took a left hand turn on Robinson road so there was to be a good climb and this is where I was going to have to try and shake my stockers. As we hit the hill I pushed it as hard as I could and the boys started dropping off my tail. At the top of the hill we took a left on Hartford and I hoped that I could string out my lead even more. My legs were dead. I had nothing left after the hill. My only hope was that my stockers were dead too. We came down Hartford and turned into WA's parking lot for the final 300 yards. I peaked over my shoulder and Allen and Ken were only 30 yards back. I dug deep and tried to sprint but I had nothing left. I was hanging on for my life. I hit the hill up to the track and peaked over my shoulder again. My stockers had not made up any ground. I finished up 3rd over all and first in my age category.

My time was 20:49. Based on this and that my usual time was right around 23 minutes I figured the course was 3.33 miles. After my cool down with Jill I circled back and asked Paul the distance and he told me it was 3.23 miles. I was close but no cigar. I went home with out another t-shirt. My wife will be SOOOO UPSET.

After 6 of the 10 races I have a strong hold of first place in my age category. I now have finished: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th overall in the 6 races. I'm having lots of fun trying to find my speed again and having some good battles with friends. In fact I tallied up my times and Allen's times and found out that there is only 15 seconds separating us after all 6 races. And best of all we are both getting faster almost every week.

Monday, July 20, 2009

42nd Bill Luti 5-Miler

Saturday morning was a nice time for a race. It rained all night in NH and was overcast and in the low 70's race morning in Concord.

This race was the last race in the CARS (Capital Area Racing Series) so there was sure to be a lot of fast runners. There was money on the line!!

On the way over to the race I was driving down Rt 395 when I spotted a Bright yellow Xtera in my rear view mirror. The car had Kayak racks on top. Could it be Double J? I must beat him to the race I thought to myself. But when I turned off the highway the Xtera when another directions.

I arrived at my normal, very early time frame. I checked the Pre-entry board and Double-J was not pre-entered. I was first to get my number in the post entry tent and after receiving my number I remembered reading some where that this was a chip timed race and asked "Do I need a timing chip"? The volunteer had a blank look on her face so I asked another person at the Post-entry table. Their response is what I expected "OH SH$#, that's right". Soon there was activity all over the place getting the chips in order with the numbers. I secured mine and headed back to my car to get ready for the race.

After getting all my stuff together, who drives into the parking lot? Double-J. I head over to talk to him and notice that parked along side of him is Dan Verrington. The three of use were joined by Scott Clark on a nice easy warm up run. This gave me a chance to ask questions about the course. They were telling me that the first mile was flat to down hill but mile 2 was a long hill. Then after that it's just hang on to the finish. These 3 guys were all planing to run sub 27 minutes. I was planing to run sub 33 minutes. I guess I would only see them at the starting line.

As we lined up at the start I looked around. Holy cow was there a lot of fast people at this race. I was out of my league, but I was here at the race so I might as well give it a go. Bill Luti made a short speech and fired the starting gun. It was a very quick start with ZERO hesitation between the word "SET" and BANG!!! It surprised most of us.

The first mile was flat, but you could see from a good distance the hill we were going to be climbing in mile 2. It wasn't steep but long and daunting. I kept telling myself to keep my form (as poor as it is) and power my way up the hill. It was working. I was passing a lot of weekend warriors but I was still a ways back in the pack. The hill lasted about 4 minutes and once we crested we took a right into what I think was a park. The road was riddled with pot holes so I had to start focused with every step. We were now running on mostly flat terrain and I was trading places with a couple of people around me.

As I passed mile 4 I knew that I was toast and breaking 33 minutes was out of the question. I just tried to hold my position and head into the finish. I ended up finishing in 33:42 good for 64th place and 7th in my age category. This was my poorest showing of the year based on the % of runners who beat me and the % of runners in my age category who beat me.

After the race I hooked up with the same group I did the warm up with and we headed out for another 20+ minute run. JJ got third place and was trying to decide if he should run a 2nd race later in the evening. He did, and won it outright and was able to run a faster pace in the 2nd race. Way to go JJ!!

Now some good news. On Friday I bought a book called "Born to run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen". I'm only halfway through the book and I'm rethinking my running technique. One of the assertions of the book is that bare foot running is much more natural and that all these over engineered shoes we've been programmed to buy are the cause of many running injuries. They state that because we have all this cushioning on our heel our foot lands heel first instead of it's natural method of toe first. This causes us to throw our stride out further in front of us and not place our feet under our hips and drive from a power position.

So armed with this information and combining it with a speed workout I wanted to do I headed out of work early this morning to get to the track 2 miles away. Once at the track I ditched my shoes, socks and shirt. I steeped onto the infield of the track and began a workout that only lasted 4 minutes but was hell and child like delight at the same time. The workout was to run all out for 20 seconds then run easy for 10 seconds, then repeat this 8 times. I felt like a little kid running on the wet grass. My Achilles felt great, my hamstrings felt great. As I got further into the repeats, I felt tired but I didn't have any pain.

I'm now thinking of going out and finding the thinnest running shoes on the market and using them for training. But first, I want to see what my legs feel like tomorrow.

To further solidify the books assertion they talk about the coach of the Stanford cross country team whom has had his runner, running bare foot a couple times a week and has almost eliminated injury's. This team is sponsored by Nike so the folks at Nike when down to visit the coach to find out why they weren't using their shoes. The coach showed the Nike rep's the data and they took it back to corporate did their own testing, comfirmed the findings and started a 2 year development project on a new line of shoes. I believe the shoes has been released but I'm not certain what they are called.

I don't think I'll be running a race bare foot anytime soon but you never know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jeapordy Answer....First Loooooooser!!

Question: What is 2nd place?

Last night I ran the 5th races in the Westford Academy Summer Series. This was the first time where this race really felt like summer. It was 77 degrees and almost 100% humidity.

Every week features a new twist to the race to keep it interesting. This race had a "guess your time" sub race challenge. So I was feeling pretty good when I arrived and I set my predicted time at 23:00. My PR this year on the course is 22:53 so I thought that this was doable.

I did my warm up run and was feeling a little sluggish so I went back to the estimation list and changed my time to 23:30, which was right around where I've run a couple times this year.

I scanned the crowd and there were all the usual people, Allen Hall (who won last weeks race), Rick Porter who is in the 30 - 39 age category and has run really well but due to the lack of other people in this age category has only managed to score 1 point at each race. Allen and I started talking and noticed that there was one kid who was warming up and looked like the guy to beat. We'll see.

I'm currently leading the 50 - 59 group in scoring and this race was an important one to show up to. That is because it was the North Medford club (NMC) night at the race. NMC has tons of people in their 50's so there were going to be a lot of points on the line. Missing this race could possible drop me out of 1st place in the series.

Paul, the race director said a few words and welcomed the members of NMC. There was a big cheer. This was the largest number of runners this season. The funny thing is that way back in the 70's I was a NMC member. Fred Brown had recruited me into the club while I was still in high school. Fred was quite a character and really the founding father of road running in NE. My dad used to direct the Chelmsford Elks 7.(who really knows the distance) road race back then and Fred used to come over our house for meetings with my dad. He could surely put down a cold one or two in his day.

Anyway soon the horn was sounded and off we went. The kid that Allen and I picked out took the lead right away. The kid I forced into a puddle during week 1's race (John Edward) took 2nd and I fell into third. The kid in the lead just took off. John has been getting stronger every week so for the first mile I just let him go. I couldn't hear any foot steps behind me after a mile so I just focused on John's back as we started climbing the hills. Slowly but surely I hunted John down and going up the hills just past mile 2 I passed him. I surged when I passed him to try and break his sprite because John is only a teenager and with young legs if I let him hang on to my shoulder he was sure to out kick me. My surge did the trick and soon John was about 40 yard behind me.

At the mile 3 marker I was starting to loose my form and was shifting to survival mode. At this point in the course you're running on a dirt road that is covered with 3/4 inch stone. So the footing isn't that good and if your tired it really makes for a rough 1/2 a mile. As I turned off the road and into the school parking lot I took a peak over my shoulder and saw Allen and John ruining shoulder to shoulder about 40 yards back. With about 300 yards to go I figured I could push it in and be able to hold both of them off. Not like 2 weeks ago when Cathy Parker ran me down like a wounded animal and shat me out the back side and managed to put 7 seconds between us in the exact same circumstances. Cathy is turely a gifted runner and I will stand no chance of even running in the same zip code as her when she gets into good shape.

As I rounded the corner and up the little hill onto he track I could see the clock turn 22:50. Now I'm thinking, "maybe I have a chance to break 23 minutes". I started to push with everything I had but alas I crossed the line in 23:04. Good enough for 2nd place, AKA FIRST LOOSER!!

I was happy with my effort but I should have gone with my first instinct and kept the time of 23 minutes as my estimated time. Oh well I guess I don't get another t-shirt for my efforts. I can live with that!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back from vacation...I need the rest

Vacations are a time to sit back and relax....NOT!! In my last report I was writing about 3 races in 5 days and racing myself into shape. Well I did do the 3 races and almost ran a 4th on day 6 but I did the smart thing (after my wife pointed out to me that I was limping).

On Thursday, July, 9th I ran the Westford Academy Summer Series #3 race. It was team night so I gave David Katz a call to see if he could come down. I also ambushed Allen Hall as he signed in and our team was set. As we lined up I took a look around and there were some high school runners along with Cathy and Dan Parker who both beat me the prior week. But I figured that the guy to beat today was David Katz.

The GO command was issued and two high school kids took the lead right away. David and I were running side by side for the first mile. As we passed the mile marker I noticed that we had started to reel in the two high school kids. I told David that the kids were slowing and he should go after them. He said "no way" and off he went. David made up the 50 or so yards in no time and took the lead. Soon, one of the kids drooped off and I was chasing him down. I could see David battling the other kid for most of the race and with 6/10's of a mile to go he dropped him for good. At the same point I dropped the other kid. I was now in third and with 3/1o's of a mile left to go I peaked over my shoulder to see Cathy Parker motoring towards me. Sure enough, within 100 yards she caught me and I had nothing left to respond. I did however post my fastest time of the year and broke 23 minutes and finished 4th over all.

David won the race and was ecstatic. It was his first W since high school. He has really worked hard over the past 6 months and deserved the win.

July 4th, Center Harbor NH was my next race. This is a very tough 5 miler where you run the first 4 miles UP and the last mile down. The temperature was hovering around 70 and it was spitting rain every now and then. Perfect racing weather I thought.

In a flash we were off and running up hill. The lead pack seemed to be pulling away right from the start. I wasn't going to bite because I knew the course and didn't want to blow out in the first 2 miles. I held steady for the first 3 miles and was in 10th place. At mile 4 two people passed me. I knew that I might have an advantage because of the pending vertical drop in the last mile so I didn't panic. I started to let my legs fly. Sure enough I passed both people and ran a 4:50 last mile. It's a good thing I passed one of those guys because he was also 50 and they only gave out prizes for the top 2 people in each age category. The top 50 year old had over a minute on me and ran a super race.

July 5th, I thought about running the Loon Mt race but I glad I didn't. Instead I went on a 10 mile trail run from lake Winni UP to Gunstock Ski Area and back. I enjoyed every step.

July 9th Westford Academy Summer Series #4. I shot home from vacation to cut the lawn and while I was kicking around I figured I'd keep my series lead growing by running this race. Posted at this race was the team results from the prior week. My team won handily. We won t-shirts!!

As I checked out the starting line I joked with Allen Hall that today was his race. Sure enough, Allen ran his fastest time of the season and won. I took 5th but still manged to win my age category. With 4 races down I leading the 50 - 59 age category with a score of 36 points and there are 2 guys tied for second with 23 points. I guess I have to keep showing up to win the series.