Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race

May 18, 2012

Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race
USATF New England Mountain Series Race #1 of 6
Huntington, Vermont
Sunday, May 13, 2012

10K (~6.1 miles)
Ascent: 1600 feet over three loops
28th overall of ~150
9th AG M40-49

Race website: here
Course map: here
Results: here

Scott Mason – Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race – Gallery: here
Scott Mason – Sleepy Hollow – Lap 1: here
Scott Mason – Sleepy Hollow – Lap 2: here

Opening Day

Just as children of all ages excitedly look forward to their home town baseball team’s season opener in spring, so too do mountain runners in the New England area look forward to opening day of mountain race season.

Instead of opening at Fenway Park in the big city of Boston, mountain runners make a pilgrimage to Huntington, Vermont, a small town in a mountainous region south-east of Burlington, where Sleepy Hollow Ski and Bike Center, not to mention trails that ascend and descend at steep inclines, awaits.

In years past, the first race in the mountain circuit had been at Northfield Mountain. But because Northfield fell through this year, opening day went to newcomer Sleepy Hollow, and wow, what a great replacement. In fact, the course and set up at Sleepy Hollow was so good that it is among my favorite of the mountain races. And that’s saying a lot. Great job, Kasie, for pulling this off!

The course covered 1600 feet of ascent with an equal amount of descent, over three separate loops, each that started with a long, grueling climb on grassy fields and some single track, and bombed down the same terrain on the other side. Making it even more fun was the mud. You could not run this course and come away clean. Mud flew everywhere.

I had been looking forward to opening day at Sleepy Hollow for many months. The mountain running people are awesome. Although each of the six races gets between 150 and 350 participants, there are over a 100 that show up at each and every race. To say that we share a bond is an understatement. This is why it was like a family reunion.
To prove the familial feel of love, consider that the average person drove over 3 hours just to do the race. Those who did not stay in the area overnight, they drove over 6 hours total on the day, and maybe over 7, just to make opening day.

For me it was up at 4:30 AM and in the car by 5 for the 3 hour and 30 minute drive. I arrived at the Sleepy Hollow Ski and Bike Center with 45 minutes until race time. I gave hugs to friends I hadn’t seen in months, picked up my bib, and got dressed. Because of the reported sloppy course, I chose to wear a pair of terrain gripping Inov-8 Rocklite 295’s. These proved to be a GREAT choice for the slippery, muddy course.

As I warmed up on the opening mile of the course, a stretch that consisted of a hundred yard jog on a grassy section in front of the lodge followed by a .75 mile tough climb, I couldn’t help but smile. Here I was, reunited with good friends, people I’ve spend the last several summers with, and about to kick-start the season. Life was good. I jogged back down, not really warmed up for anything, and got into the starting gate for more hugs and hellos.

Go! The race was started.

Having logged 26 miles with much elevation the day before, I settled farther back in the pack than I normally do. I knew this was going to hurt. I knew it would take a while for my legs to get pumping. And I knew I would struggle on the early part of the climb. But I also knew that hills, especially of the long and grinding variety that go straight up at steep inclines, tend to normalize not only the field right away in how it selects placement in race by ability, but it also is so hard that the fight-or-flight reaction smoothes over many deformities, such as the residual tiredness from having run for 4 hours and 10 minutes with over 3000 feet of elevation change the day before.

By the time the first climb ended at about a mile in, sweat was pouring off of me and my legs were pumping strong.

Bombing back down a steep, slippery section, I was now catching back up to where I should have been in the race. Being a strong downhill runner, I was now slowly catching up to those ahead of me. That’s when I saw a familiar shirt up ahead of me. I knew it belonged to pal Paul Kirsch. The chase was on.

To the second of three climbs, I had settled in with the first place female and closed the gap to 20 feet on Paul. Just as we started the climb, this one roughly a mile, and the longest on the day, Paul and the first place female slowly pulled away. I passed two others and played leap frog with another.

Three quarters of the way to the top, that’s when it got very hard. I was feeling the effects of the long run the day before, and I was barely moving. Mud didn’t help. When the grassy slope tipped a bit more, I slipped and immediately got tricked into a walk. Hurting badly, I milked it. I shouldn’t have been walking, but my legs were beat, and the climb was long. A few walk paces more, I got back on it and slowly worked the hill. By the top, Paul had gotten back much more a lead. I could no longer see him. No worries, though, as I knew I’d catch up to him on the ensuing down. And that’s what I did.

Meanwhile, the second place female was using me as a rabbit. She mirrored my every move. She was just as good as me on the downs, so she followed suit. I first caught the first place female, where my trailing friend took the reigns of the woman’s race, and next caught up to Paul. We exchanged a few words about how awesomely hard this was. “First race is always a bitch.” We both agreed.

Through the Finish area we went for one more loop, this one with the steepest climb of the day followed by sweet rolling and snaking single track made smooth by mountain bikes, followed by wide grassy trails that bombed downhill for a blazing finish.

Entering the climb, myself, Paul, and the new lead woman were together. Since I knew he first place female was a stronger climber than I, I let her go. I considered letting Paul go but had a few paces on him at that point that I decided to just keep on the gas. I was afraid of walking too soon, because I knew that would slow me down, and I didn’t want to get fooled into walking as had happened on the second climb, because once you start you lose at least a few steps.

On the up Paul was very strong. We pushed each other nicely. The first female gapped us both, while we stayed mostly steady. Finally to the top of the climb, I slapped on my road legs and spun them up for some fun. As I was bombing away at record pace, I started catching up to the first woman and another guy, only I ran out of room.

Finish came in 52:41, good for 28th place overall, 9th AG M40-49.

Although the wait for opening day at Sleepy Hollow was long, it was so worth it seeing friends again and running mountains.

Mountain running really is the most fun you can have on the run.

Try it sometime.

Big Sur Marathon

May 18, 2012

Big Sur Marathon
Big Sur, California
Sunday, April 29, 2012

26.2 miles
Time: 3:16:22 (7:30 pace)
1st Half: 1:39:30
2nd Half: 1:36:52
78th place overall of 4,000
9th place M40-44
19th place Master of 1074
Marathon #73

Race site:
Boston 2 Big Sur Results:
Awesome photo gallery

Race Report

Coming soon…


1 – 7:05 (downhill)
2 – 7:45 (pee break amid dark redwood forest)
3 – 6:52 (downhill continues)
4 – 7:25 (still running in towering redwoods)
5 – 7:15 (meet the coast, wind picks up)
6 – 7:12 (kind of hard into the wind)
7 – 7:26 (headwind gets worse)
8 – 7:37 (headwind even worse, probably steady 30 mph)
9 – 8:21 (hills and wind, yuck – toughest mile of the day)
10 – 7:20
11 – 7:51 (beginning of 2 mile climb @ 5% grade to Hurricane Point)
12 – 8:29 (climb continues)
13 – 7:06 (back downhill to Bixby Bridge)
Half 1:39:30
14 – 7:12
15 – 7:31 (more hills)
16 – 7:26 (rolling)
17 – 6:59 (picked up effort from here to finish)
18 – 7:23 (more hills, really?)
19 – 7:49 (yes, more hills)
20 – 7:45
21 – 7:26 (road pitch unbelievable)
22 – 7:45 (got hills?)
23 – 7:45 (yup)
24 – 7:18
25 – 7:05
26 – 7:28 (one more hill)
26.2 – 1:29
2nd Half: 1:36:52
Finish: 3:16:22

Doyle’s Road Race

May 4, 2012

Doyle’s Road Race
Jamaica Plain, MA
Sunday, April 22, 2012

5 miles
29:27 (pace 5:53)
26th Place Overall of 1560
8th AG M40-49

Race website: here
Race results: here
Scott Mason pictures: here

Race Report

Doyle’s Emerald Necklace 5 Miler, a road race otherwise known as “Doyle’s”, is a must-do event in my family. With a roller coaster of a course through Jamaica Plain’s Franklin Park and a legendary after-party, neither my sister-in-law nor Heather nor I miss this race. It is so much fun that this year we extended an invite to include friends Jay and Gina. Add in the regular contingent of Turtles (Tuesday Night Turtles) from Rhode Island and I knew this year would go down as memorable. And it did!

Held in April every year, typically the week before the Boston Marathon, Doyle’s often serves as a tune-up for hoping to dance with unicorns (those running Boston). Not so this year. With Easter falling the week before Boston, Doyle’s was pushed back to the week after. Would six days recovery be sufficient to race 5 miles over rolling hills? I didn’t know. What I did know was that there was plenty of fun (and beer) ahead.

First one to the parking lot of Doyle’s Café, location of free-flowing Samuel Adams beer, wins. Tag, you’re it!

Out the starting gate I went along with 1600 others. I was in control, my breathing was where I wanted, and I was running strong and feeling stronger.

Where I normally start only a few rows from front, this year I slipped back a good 10 rows or more. I wasn’t sure if my legs would get rolling, what with having raced 26.2 miles only six days prior, so I made a conscious decision to take the first two miles easy.

Mile 1 (6:02) came. Even though this stretch through Franklin Park rolls with a net uphill, I was a little disappointed to see a split over 6 minutes. No matter, I was in control and still running comfortably. Plus, with Boston still in my body and mind, I had no expectations on the day other than to run to my ability with the goods I had, as tired and beat as they might be.

Running by the Franklin Park Zoo and then through Mile 2 (6:00), I was still in control and trying to stay on the easy side. My breathing was labored but steady. I was passing many runners and feeling stronger with each mile. Although I didn’t have an extra gear – I didn’t start that easy – I knew I could run faster by exerting greater effort to all out and by focusing on form. And that’s what I did.

Just beyond Mile 2 came the turnaround. From there until the end, I dialed effort to max and held, focusing the entire time on picking off the next guy ahead of me.

Mile 3 and 4, predominantly downhill, I smoked.

As the finish line came into sight, I tried to make out the time on the clock. I was hopeful that even though I had a slow start I would still be able to get under 30 minutes.

Hauling ass, trying to keep my legs under me and moving fast with the longest stride possible that still supported top leg speed, I was nearing the finish line quickly. Finally I was able to see the clock. It was then that I realized that I would not only slip in under 30 minutes, I would smoke the course so much that it would be the fastest I have run 5 miles in 20 years.

Mile 5 (5:43). Finish came in 29:27 (5:53 pace), good for 26th place overall of 1600 and 8th place AG M40-49.

After crossing the finish line, I grabbed a bottle of water and then quickly hooked up with Heather and my nephews, who were at the finish line cheering people on. Seconds later I had two pint-sized plastic cups filled with Sam Adams and was going back for more. I was banking pints for family and friends. To make the party even better, both Jay (Brewski) and Scotty (Mr. Mason to you) brought homebrew. Together with Gina, who also ran well (check out Gina’s race: here), and friends Bob and Jackie and a few other Turtles, and my family, we all enjoyed the day. Nobody noticed the drizzle falling from the sky. There was more beer to be had.

Doyle’s, the best year yet!

Boston Massacre (Marathon)

April 24, 2012

Boston Massacre (Marathon)
Boston, Massachusetts
Monday, April 16, 2012

26.2 miles
Time: 3:30:32 (8:01 pace)
3145th place overall of 25,000
533rd place M40-44 of 2015
Marathon #72

Race site: here
Results: here

Race Report

As soon as I saw the blue ice cooler sitting squarely in front of a man on the side of the road, I made a beeline in that direction. I had just started walking for the second time in as many miles and was in dire need of something cold.

“Might you have ice I could steal?” I asked while pointing at the cooler. I had been running with a Ziplock baggy filled with crushed ice for the last mile. I held the bag open as if to show its contents; it was devoid of ice.

The man, standing beside a woman and child, sprung into action. Quickly he bent down. As he did, his wife followed suit. Together they flipped the white plastic top off the cooler. Meanwhile, the boy, all of 5 or 6 years old, looked on with wide eyes, almost in awe that someone from the sea of runners would come directly to them. With great hurry, the man and woman extracted from the cooler a Ziplock baggy. “Take this,” the woman said pushing the bag of ice toward me.

As she said this I looked into the cooler to see that the cooler was now without ice. A deeper look revealed the same. This bag was their only ice. “Thank you,” I said, “but I can’t take your ice; you’ll have no more left. I’ll find someone else.”

With the day growing hotter and more unbearable and the race clock ticking uncontrollably forward, I turned to go with a parting word: “Thanks anyway, I really appreciate it.”

Just then the woman grabbed my sweaty arm, and in one swift action she grabbed from me the empty Ziplock bag I had been holding and stuffed in my hands her family’s ice. “Take it,” she insisted. “It’s okay. Go!”

Take it I did. Within seconds my core temperature dropped; seconds after that I was back running a strong pace, thanks to these people and many like them over the course of the 26.2 miles of the 2012 Boston Massacre.

An hour glass ticking away precious life, my source of energy was found in these cold cubes. I was overheating so badly that when the ice melted away, my body would shut itself down, forcing me into slog and then a slow walk. But with ice in hand cooling my wrists and neck and head and thighs, I was able to get back running again.

It was ugly, to be sure, and it came early in the race.

Even an hour and a half earlier, as I was standing in my Corral (4th Corral, 1st Wave, Bib #3328) at the starting line in Hopkinton, I knew this moment would come; only I did not think it would come so soon or be as ugly.

The problem was that the day was already hot, and this was before the race had started. My body was just hot enough that it was sweating in attempts to keep it cool.

I knew I had a decision to make: the heat would be a major factor in the race. For race strategy, I could either dial effort back and try to run like the Turtle, slow and steady, and hope in the end to be fast and in control; or I could take marathon pace EFFORT, regardless of what my real pace would be, for as long as I could handle, and then limp home from there. Good, bad or worse (worse?), I chose the latter.

I knew it would get ugly – it was just too hot – but I didn’t realize just how ugly it would really get.

Mile 1 (6:48) was high energy in typical Boston Marathon fashion, the party that is the world’s most prestigious marathon, complete with television cameras and spectators, recording and cheering on the event, getting underway. The smiles and parade feel would not last long. Even the helicopters overhead seemed to scatter quickly.

In fact, Mile 2 (6:59) was the beginning of when things would change. This is where the raging waters of runners flooding down the street out of Hopkinton and into Ashland halted. Pace dropped off noticeably, as if the collective was saying, “Holy shit… What the hell are we in for?” It was hot and getting hotter. Runners were already dialing it back.

Sticking to my plan, I carried on with marathon pace effort, trying to pick an open path between throngs of runners now slowing down. The next miles (6:53, 6:45, 6:54, and 6:49) stretched the field so that it was easier to run. I couldn’t help but notice that aid stations were more crowded than normal. Where typically some runners do not hit every aid station, this year everybody hit every single one. The day was already hot, the sun beating down from a cloudless sky – getting in as much fluid as possible was mandatory.

Banking miles, I kept running marathon pace effort. Splits followed nicely. Only, it was here when I noticed the heat radiating from the street. It was getting hot. I wondered how much longer I’d run at pace. Unfortunately, my answer came quickly.

Mile 7 (6:58) was a struggle. Although my split was only a few seconds slower, I was starting to labor so I had to dial energy output by a sliver. Sweat was pouring off me. My shorts were completely soaked. And I was already starting to chafe as if it were a down drenching of rain.

During this time I consciously dialed pace back again so that effort was steady. That netted Mile 8 (7:02), 9 (7:03), and 10 (7:12) on the slow side but with even effort. This was okay. I was closer to Half, which meant I was banking miles. The more I accumulated now, the less I had to suffer through later. Unfortunately, this was also where I was starting to get hot, uncontrollably so. There was only one course of action at this point: Marathon pace effort was too much; I had to back off even more.

Back off I did. Mile 11 (7:26), 12 (7:45), and 13 (7:45) were better, but damn, why was I laboring so much? What felt easy minutes ago was now hard and getting harder.

A benefit of such a warm day was that spectators came out enforce. Easily 25% more support than an average year, Wellesley College was no different. The scream tunnel was 5 or 6 deep, and the deafening noise lasted for heart-thumping half mile or more. Young co-eds held handmade signs: “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” “Free Kisses Here!” “Kiss me, I won’t tell your wife!”

Karma can suck. Shortly after the stretch that was the Scream Tunnel, the halfway mark of the marathon came in 1:33:03; this is when running became exponentially tougher. Mile 14 (7:56) was slow, my pace getting slower. I was overheating. Even the wind was out to bring us down. The slight tail wind made it seem as if the air was stale and stagnant, as our sweaty bodies moved along with it, not against it.

And then it struck, without warning. Just like that, I was walking – barely 14 miles into the race. Never before had I been forced to walk so early in a race. Of my 72 marathons, I walked in, maybe, three or four of them, and never as soon as mile 15 (8:26). I was sweating uncontrollably with my heart beating in my throat. And I was WALKING!

Instead of wallowing in self pity any longer, the Ironman triathlete in me leapt into action. I quickly assessed the situation, catalogued symptoms, and next guessed what might be wrong. From there I thought up corrective action in hopes to get me back running again.

There was very little guessing. Telling was that I was still sweating (a good sign), so I knew that I was hydrated well enough; I had popped a salt tab a few miles earlier, so I knew it wasn’t that I had sweat out all my electrolytes. I had wished my problem was one of those, because those are the most correctable in a sustained way. No such luck, I was overheating. There was little I could do. My core temperature was inching higher and higher to a dangerous level. At those upper temperatures, my body would not allow me to run.

Just then I heard a voice yell loudly: “ICE!” It was coming from the side of the road. A woman was handing out Ziplock sandwich bags filled with ice. As if on demand, there it was my savoir. I grabbed a bag of ice and held it to my wrists. Within seconds my core temperature came down enough for me to return to running. Meanwhile, the theme song to Rocky was blaring in the background. It was a good sign, I had noted, that I became aware of this.

Mile 16 (7:54) was better. I was cooling myself off and feeling good again. My mind turned to a quote I had heard on the radio on the drive to the starting line in Hopkinton. WBZ radio was interviewing the Boston Marathon Medical Director. He said that the day would be a slowly unfolding “mass casualty event.” He was right. There were casualties all over the course, people walking here and there, heads down, few people talking. One guy even ran right off the road. Realizing the impact of this statement, I decided from here on out to not play with fire. I would not let the ice in my bag melt. I would fill it up before it gets empty. This was my job.

By Mile 17 (9:06), ice in the bag had melted completely. I was forced into to another walk. I needed ice, and I needed it now. Although I was not able to always fill my bag with ice, I followed this survival strategy for the rest of the way in. My fuel was the cooling effect of those ice cubes. Once that went away, so too did I. I was still sweating, staying well hydrated, but I was overheating, and ice was the only way I could safely get from where I was to the finish line.

Mile 18 (9:50), 19 (9:09), and 20 (9:18), seemed neither fast nor slow. I was locked into focus, deep within survival mode. I had a job to do, and I was doing it. I heard little from the crowd, and I saw less. I was surviving, locked in. I wanted to get through this as quickly and safely as possible.

“Thor!” “Thor!” “Thor!”

By the time it registered that someone was calling my name, I was now 10 paces beyond. I turned back to see Kathy and Thor, my sister-in-law and nephew. All I could muster was a wave of the arm. Where I usually go over to give hugs and high-fives, this year I was surviving. There was no way I was going to retrace even 10 steps. I was hurting too badly.

The hills, including Heartbreak, were now over. Having been so focused at the job in hand, and in knowing the course so well, this point came quickly. Mile 21 (8:55), 22 (8:55) and 23 (9:05) felt better. I was buoyed, even if slightly, by a gentle breeze and downhill section. In fact, I was feeling better here than I had in the previous 8 miles. The Citgo sign was straight ahead, and the finish line was coming closer.

Mile 24 (8:36) was good, but I was getting in trouble again because the ice in my bag was nearly gone. Mile 25 (9:53) was still good, but it cost me time because in desperation, in my fear of running out of ice, I stopped several times in attempts to refill my bag with ice. It was a hard sell, until some college kid hooked me up. This was the same ice that was keeping his stash of Bud Lite’s cold. Good on you, mate. Not so good on me.

Not long after, I made my way past Fenway Park and into Kenmore Square. The Citgo sign was high above to my left. This is when I passed the “One Mile To Go” mark. The crowds were deep and loud. Just beyond that I saw Heather on the side of the road, exactly where I had been expecting her along with our dear friends Bob and Maureen. After dishing out hugs to Bob and Maureen, I gave Heather a kiss before setting off for the finish.

Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. I finally made it. As I ran the final half mile, perhaps the greatest stretch of any race in the entire world, I made sure to soak it in. I was too tired to play with the crowd like I usually do but I was sure to have the video camera in my brain imprint this one forever. For this one will leave a mark. It was too painful not to.

Mile 26 (9:06) and the finish (26.2 – 1:46) came.

Finish: 3:30:32

I was happy to be done, happy to have given it my all. I think I could have made better decisions, such as going out far more slowly, but… live and learn. What’s interesting is that the more time that passes and the more war stories I hear, the better and better I feel about my performance. It wasn’t until I wrote my splits down that I realized that in my death march I was still logging 8 to 9 minute miles. Not so bad after all.

Something that keeps resurfacing in my mind are the words from the Medical Director when he said that he thought of the day as a slowly unfolding mass casualty event. The more I thought about the mass casualties, the more I keep thinking that this was, for me, the Boston Massacre. Just brutal it was.

1 – 6:48
2 – 6:59
3 – 6:53 (noticeable slowdown in crowd)
4 – 6:45
5 – 6:54
6 – 6:49
7 – 6:58 (slowdown starts)
8 – 7:02
9 – 7:03
10 – 7:12
11 – 7:26
12 – 7:45
13 – 7:45
Half 1:33:03
14 – 7:56
15 – 8:26 (first forced walk – overheating)
16 – 7:54
17 – 9:06
18 – 9:50
19 – 9:09
20 – 9:18
21 – 8:55
22 – 8:55
23 – 9:05
24 – 8:36
25 – 10:00
26 – 9:06
26.2 – 1:46
Finish: 3:30:32

Ras na hEireann 5K

March 20, 2012

Ras na hEireann 5K
Somerville, Massachusetts
Sunday, March 18, 2012

5K (3.1 miles)
Time: 17:47 (5:44 pace)
21st place overall of 5000
3rd place Master (40+)

1 – 5:34
2 – 5:41
3 – 5:42 (mile 3 was either short or total race distance was long)
.1 – :50
Finish: 17:47

Race site: here
Results: here
Photos by Jim Rhoades: here
Race Report 2011: here
The Clock Tavern: here

Race Report

A month ago I got an e-mail from my friend Bernie asking if I was in for the Ras. I had so much fun running for Bernie’s team last year that it took no time at all to say yes!

The Ras, short for Ras na hEireann (pronounced “Ras-na-Air-ee-ann”), is the most popular St. Patrick’s Day road race on this side of the River Liffey – or at least in the Boston area. Backed by Harpoon, the 5K through streets of Somerville attracts 5000 runners and revelers decked in green. The finish line is steps from several Irish pubs, most notably The Burren, where the after-party flows with Harpoon’s finest. This race has quickly become my favorite.

Bernie, a fast talker with an Irish brogue, puts together a team each year for the Clock Tavern in South Boston in honor of Noel “The Baker” Robinson, who I am told had that same Irish charm.

I must admit, I never had the pleasure of meeting The Baker. But from hanging with his running buddies, this year and last, Bernie included, it is obvious that he touched many people’s lives. His legacy is strong. On another level, I feel connected to The Baker for our kindred love of the marathon. Taken together, the two of us have logged nearly 200 marathons. This is no joke. A big goal of mine is getting to 100. I currently sit at 69. The Baker ran 91; he will forever sit at 91, bless his soul.

So for the second year in a row the Clock Tavern pub team competed in honor of Noel “The Baker” Robinson. And for the second year in a row, we met race morning at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Davis Square. Unlike last year when Bernie showed up 5 minutes before the start, which cut short any warm-up, this year he was right on time. Thankfully that meant plenty of time for a warm up.

With the sun shining bright and temperatures climbing into the 60’s, I warmed up over the opening mile of the course with countless strides, several on a gradual uphill to get my legs ready to charge the ups without losing pace, and several back down to get leg speed up to cadence.

Having worked up a good sweat, I wiggled into the front of starting gates three rows back and bounced on my toes until the gun went off.

The way the streets are set up, with them being very flat by the start, it’s hard to tell that there are 5000 other runners backed up all the way down the street. It’s crowded – that much is for sure – but you cannot appreciate just how many runners are lined up away from the start.

Finally: “Go!” The race was started.

Off the starting line I shot. With such a deep field most runners ran with arms up and elbows out to avoid jostling. Marking my territory, I did the same. A few strides later, we were all locked in pace. I estimated that I was in Top 30.

The opening mile of the course is among my favorites. It starts flat for three-tenths of a mile before tipping up for three more tenths. What I like about it is that it evens out placement in the race rather quickly so that there are no kids in Hightop sneakers and baggy shorts clogging the way.

I ran next to Todd Callaghan, a friend from the mountain races, to where the road tips up. That’s when he, in his typical smooth-start fashion, began to pull away. Todd served as my rabbit until a hard turn in the road .8 miles in. To that point no other runners went by me. I had picked off two or three fast-starters. Probably not enough, I guessed, to warrant upgrading my assessment to better than Top 30. Todd is a Master runner who I knew would eventually go on to win the division, and he did.

Mile 1 (5:34) came and went. I was running all out but feeling strong. My breathing was labored but on edge of control. It was then when I saw ahead of me a female and guy in pink. They ran together stride for stride. That is, until I caught up. As soon as I did, the girl stuck to my shoulder while the guy gradually fell back. From the side of the road a spectator yelled: “Second woman!” First place female was 20 seconds up.

To motivate myself to keep running hard through to the end, I set a goal to “deliver” my new friend to the side of the first place female. We were running together anyway, and I was still accelerating as opposed to falling off pace. In other words, I was still in control.

To this point I had been running so hard that at each mile mark I had no energy to look at my watch to see the split. I merely hit the Split button; I would look at it later. I felt good and strong and even fast, and since I was tapped out, I had no need for numbers. On I ran.

Mile 2 (5:41) was just before a rise in the road. My friend, the second place female, was still on my shoulder entering the rise. Also on the rise was a water station. With the morning having grown warm, I took a long tangent to the last volunteer holding a cup of water. Trying to hold speed through the hill, I reached out for water. Bam! The cup hit my hand and flew to the ground. Water sprayed everywhere. No worries, though, there was only a mile remaining.

Just over the rise was a downhill followed by a hard right. As we descended and the road flattened, I gained a step and then another on my friend. When we banged the right, she tucked behind me for the half mile stretch ahead. During this time, I couldn’t help but notice that we had closed the gap on the first place female, our rabbit, to what I guessed was 10 seconds.

It was here when we started picking off runners who were no doubt starting their slowdown. Not us, we had a race to finish.

Up a final hill that almost drained my momentum and resolve, we made a right hand turn for a .6 mile gradual downhill. All the way at the end of this section you could see the finish line arch. I knew it was too early to kick but, well, I wanted to deliver my friend a chance at victory. As I kicked, so too did my friend. First place female came back another second, and then another.

Breathing hard, now too hard, I could barely maintain focus. This sucked. I knew it would be over soon. But it sucked. Looking at the finish still a half mile away was too agonizing. I wanted to slow down. I wanted to ease back effort. Instead, I set focus to a street light. “Focus on the light,” I coached myself, “forget the finish.” Shit was hitting the fan. Make it to the light.

Just then I got knocked out of my coma by a sight. There ahead of me was a guy with gray hair. That meant one and only one thing. I was one more spot out of being top Master. My buddy Todd was a Master, but he had the win locked, as I would never catch him. But this guy, I had him in sight and closing the gap quickly.

Staying focused, I passed graybeard just as my friend, the second place female, made a move from sitting on my shoulder to around and now in front of me, setting sights on the first female who was now only paces up.

Mile 3 (5:42 – was either short or total race distance was long) felt like it would never come. It, eventually, did.

It was about then when I first saw the clock. Large yellow numbers ticked 17:33, :34, :35…

I couldn’t believe it. Coming into this race, having done no 5K speed work over the winter like I usually do, I thought I was in 18:05 shape. My goal was to get under 18. But I knew better, or so I thought.

Finish came in 17:47 (5:44 pace), 21st overall of 5000, 3rd Master 40+.

It was a good race.

My friend, the second place female who I ran stride for stride with? Well, she ran out of real estate but, at the rate we had been closing the gap, would have had first place had the race been longer. Alas, it was not.

Mile 4 was back at The Burren. It was my fastest split of the day. The beer went down even faster.

It was a good day.

I’m guessing The Baker would have approved.

Thanks to Bernie, Tim, and Paulie for making this happen and for taking care of the Clock Tavern pub team.

Hyannis Marathon

March 1, 2012

Hyannis Marathon
Hyannis, Massachusetts
Sunday, February 26, 2012

26.2 miles
Time: 3:03:41 (7:01 pace)
12th place overall of 402
2nd place Master
Marathon #69

Race site: here
Results: here

Race Report

Several months ago I was debating whether to sign up for the Canadian Death Race, a 125K race traversing three large mountains in the Canadian Rockies, when my mountain running friend Ross Krause said something that resonated with me in way that guided me towards the final decision to give it a go.

Ross said, “You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot – so if you are fit and motivated there’s your answer.”

The comment hit home because it was an extension of how I think regarding these things, only this was put into words, concrete and real. When I second-guess myself on this or that – do I race, or do I not race, because you cannot race every marathon when you run several per season – I often fall back on this idea for my answer.

This saying got me to sign up for the Death Race. Why can I not do it? Decide to do it, and then do it. There’s nothing more to it. If you’re fit and motivated, and if the iron is hot, go get it. End of discussion.

I found myself coming back to Ross’s comments after racing Ocala Marathon in late January to a tune of 3:03:46. Hyannis was only four weeks later. I was originally going to do Hyannis for fun (not race). Convention says that you don’t race back to back marathons. It is hard. Especially on the mind (re: burnout).

But I was feeling strong and confident. The iron was hot. I wanted to race. I didn’t know if I was capable of going sub-3, something I would indeed shoot for, but I was motivated to give it a go even though I glossed over more formal training for it. No matter; the iron was hot. I had my answer.

As the weeks marched toward the Hyannis Marathon, the iron grew hotter and hotter. I was excited to give it a go. Where Hyannis originally hit my race schedule in early January as a C-race, something I would train through en route to the Boston Marathon in April, I quickly upgraded it to B.

The iron was hot. I was ready to race.

Unfortunately, race day wasn’t on the same page. The morning came blustery and cold with a stiff yet steady 20 mph wind. Although this spelled a tough, slow day ahead, no matter – the iron was hot! I was mentally plugged in and physically ready to go.

Wearing shorts, two long sleeve tight-fitting shirts, and the mighty G (Goon singlet) along with three gels attached to a race belt, I gave Heather a goodbye kiss before slipping into the starting gate a few rows from front. To keep the iron hot, I bounced up and down on my feet. It was cold and windy.

Bang. The race started. Five thousand runners took to the streets of Hyannis. 600 of those were in the full marathon.

Still within the first mile (6:47), I recognized a familiar stride of a runner ahead of me. First confirmation was that it was a female. Second was that she was wearing a shirt with the letters “TNT” on the back. I knew right away it was Issy from the Tuesday Night Turtles.

Issy and I ran together for the next four miles (6:50, 6:50, 6:56, 6:46) until we lost touch through an aid station. Issy was no random find. She is also doing the Canadian Death Race in August; she is part of the group that I’ll be training with. We chatted these miles by with talk of the Death Race.

The marathon at Hyannis is two loops of the half marathon course. I like the format because it means that when you’re doing the marathon, you have people to run with to help you through the first loop. But after that, you’re on your own.

It was during this stretch when the wind was steady and mostly in the face as a headwind. I did my best to tuck behind half marathoners to let them shield the wind. Mile 6 (6:51) was hard but still on track for the coveted 6:52 pace required for a sub-3 hour marathon finish time.

The next several miles (6:57, 7:10, 7:11) were disappointingly slow, and I had to work for them to keep them as fast as possible. This is where the course goes due west along the coast. With the steady 20 mph wind coming from NW, this meant a nasty headwind for a long stretch, even as the course pulls more inland in a north-west direction.

This was the first time when I thought about sub-3 in the context of it likely not happen today. Realizing this didn’t matter, though, since I always race by feel. I worked harder going into the wind, but I refused to let my breathing get too far out of control, because I know to do that quickly spells doom.

So I worked those miles into the wind, fought with a slightly higher effort, but let go of the idea of running a certain pace. It was one of those days. Mile 10 (6:53) was finally back on pace as the course pulled farther away from the coast. If I was going to go under three hours, I would have to make up lost time.

The remaining miles of the loop turned in the direction due east to south-east, a nice reprieve that better aligned with the wind. Now with the wind at my back or to the side, sometimes pushing me forward, I got pace back to where it needed to be. Mile 11 (6:50) and Mile 12 (6:51) were spot on.

Miles 13 and 14, with the wind mostly at the back, this is where I tried to make up time. I was able to get pace down to 6:46 during this two mile stretch, though I was also starting to feel heavy in the legs from having earlier exerted extra energy fighting into the wind. Even though I got pace for those miles back under 6:52, the work required told me that sub-3 would very difficult.

Just after Mile 13, the split in the course came for the half and full marathons. With the half marathon finish to the right and half marathoners peeling off that way toward the tape, I stayed left. Suddenly, I was all by myself. It didn’t escape me that this was a key and very telling point in the race.

I expected to be left by myself after the split, as I knew that if I was around 3 hour pace, or 1:30 for the half, the split would change the race in dramatic fashion. For me, and really for any runner, this is a pivotal point in the race. Whenever you have a course with two loops, especially when you are running a marathon and the other race is a half with the half finish at the split, you go from having people to run with to being by yourself; it is here when you find out where your mental game is.

To this point I was running aggressively but still within myself. My legs were heavier than normal, but I knew that was due to the wind during that 6+ mile stretch in the first half. But now, now that I was all by myself with only a single relay runner in sight ahead of me, it was a moment that would tell me how the rest of my race would unfold. This is precisely when you realize just where your mental game is.

And as I began that second lap, leaving behind the company of friendly half marathoners who were now done for the day, I realized that, damn it, the iron was still hot. I was in the game, mentally plugged in. I thought not about whether 3-hours was or was not likely to happen, not about how many miles I had left or the crazy wind section ahead; instead, I was focused on my body, in control of my breathing, and hungry for the battle immediately in front of me.

Half came in 1:30:14.

A few paces up the road, the course cuts through part of downtown Hyannis. That is also where the road tips up ever-so-slightly before it shoots away from town center. It was on that rise where I saw a familiar yellow winter jacket. It was Heather. I put up my hand until she waved back. I was all smiles.

Just as I was contemplating stopping for a good luck kiss, Heather yelled out to my attention. “Top 20,” she said. “You’re in top 20.” Without pausing, the best support person on earth went to my needs, “Do you need anything?” She held up a small bag of extra warm clothes and hat and gloves.

“I’m good,” I replied. I was good. Although there were cold sections, my internal furnace was keeping me plenty warm in my shorts. I had everything I needed. The iron was still hot.

Mile 14 (6:46) came quickly after that excitement. It was here where I gobbled my second gel and got back to focus.

The beginning of the loop was mostly with the wind at the back or side, and only sometimes into the head. So it was no surprise to be able to run near pace, though I did notice that none of the next two miles – Mile 15 (6:56), Mile 16 (6:58) – were under the 6:52 I coveted.

Through this part of the second loop, I started seeing another runner, and then another, up ahead. This was good news because although I was losing a few seconds per mile toward my goal, the truth was that other people were losing far more. My iron was hot. I was closing gap, moving up in the race.

Next came the second pivotal point in the race. These next five miles were directly into the 20 mph and growing headwind. There was no way around it. Nobody to draft behind. Just me and a nasty wind. No worries, though, the iron was hot.

Although this stretch, Mile 17 (7:09), Mile 18 (7:13), Mile 19 (7:10), and Mile 20 (7:39), was slow, and although I bogged down quite a bit, especially when the course tilted up, I fought through it by increasing effort to the maximum sustainable, my breathing on edge the entire time, and kept it there regardless of what the watch said my pace was. This was a slow, tough day. Worry about pace and the race is gone; this I knew. So I focused on effort, running on edge but within.

This part was also picked off several guys. One was walking, another wobbling, and another plodding. Ahead of me, way up the road, was the next. I gobbled my third and final gel and was back to focus.

In and out of the wind again, for Mile 21 (6:52 – out of wind) and Mile 22 (7:17 – back in the wind), I came through the wind tunnel still in control of my race. I was not hitting the wall, and although my legs were slowing, with lactate acid building, I was still powering. The iron was hot. I locked eyes on that guy ahead and then another and kept motoring.

Now through enough of the course to finally have the wind at the side, as opposed in the face as it was for the majority of the previous 6 miles, I knew I would finish with a strong marathon time. I wasn’t sure what the time would be, for I didn’t count the seconds lost each mile, but I knew that if I could just stay focused I would rip off a decent race, one I would be ultimately proud of.

Mile 23 (7:09) came quickly. I felt like I was running 6:30. No matter. The iron was hot. I was feeling good, just not running that fast. It was here when I made a mental note about how quickly the race had gone to this point. I mean, I was already on mile 23! Part of what helped – and helped tremendously, I should add – was that having done the race before back in 2007, I knew the course. Familiarity shortens the course.

Dreaming of the finish, I missed mile marker 24 – no wonder that mile seemed so long. The good news was that before I knew it I was passing Mile 25. During that stretch I closed the gap to those two runners and even picked off a relay team. I was feeling good but now wanting this to be over. Miles 24 and 25 came with an average pace of 7:11. Legs were heavy and breathing running amok, as I did my best to leave everything on the course, but I felt fluid and still in control.

Ahead was my next victim. As a way to motivate myself and stay focused through the finish line, I set chase determined to catch up. Alas, I ran out of room. Mile 26 (7:08) and the finish area came into sight quickly.

Just then I heard the loud speaker announcing the finish of my rabbit of the last few miles: the first female was finishing. Heather would later tell me that this girl was up on me by at least five minutes, maybe more, at the half way mark. I wasn’t surprised. It was a slow day; a lot of people slowed. I did too but not by a lot.

Next it was my turn. Into the finish chute I turned, I passed a half marathoner, who kindly took the middle of the road so that I could run tangent, around the corridors I went. All too quickly I saw and then heard Heather shout my name, then another person call my name, then finally the finish line came into view around the final bend.

And there, that moment, was a moment in marathon racing that I never forget; it is amongst my favorites: the first time I set eyes on the clock. Although I take splits on my watch, I never look at the running time on the clock. It’s something I just do not need to do, for I run at edge and to my ability, unable to give anything more. And so seeing the clock for the first time, you bet your ass I was psyched to see it ticking in the 3:03 range. Especially when you’re expecting it to be higher.

Finish came in 3:03:41, exactly 5 seconds faster than Ocala a few weeks earlier. A 1:33:27 second half split helped me finish 12th overall of 600 registered (400+ actually finishers) and 2nd Masters runner. For that I won a 2nd place medal.

The iron was hot. I was fit and motivated. And so I ran. Aggressively but in control. On a tough, slow day. And I laced up a race that I am ultimately proud of. Because the iron was hot.

1 – 6:47
2 – 6:50
3 – 6:50
4 – 6:56
5 – 6:46
6 – 6:51
7 – 6:57
8 – 7:10
9 – 7:11
10 – 6:53
11 – 6:50
12 – 6:51
13 – 6:46
1st Half: 1:30:14
14 – 6:46
15 – 6:56
16 – 6:58
17 – 7:09
18 – 7:13
19 – 7:10
20 – 7:39
21 – 6:52
22 – 7:17
23 – 7:09
24 – 7:11
25 – 7:11
26 – 7:08
26.2 – 1:29
2nd Half: 1:33:27
Finish: 3:03:41

Ocala Marathon

January 31, 2012

Ocala Marathon
Ocala, Florida
Sunday, January 22, 2012

26.2 miles
Time: 3:03:47 (7:01 pace)
4th place overall of 200
1st place Master
Marathon #68

Race site: here
Results: here

Race Report

Ocala Marathon was a last minute excuse for me to visit my mother in Florida. I had wanted to pay a visit for a while, and then just after the Christmas holidays, I decided that a January or February trip made sense. A quick look on, the de facto website for marathons, showed me all I needed to see in order to book a trip. I would visit my mother in Tampa, but I would first run the Ocala Marathon. It was a win-win.

Because of the late nature of committing to the trip, I didn’t have time to make this race anything more than a C-race. In other words, I didn’t have time to train specifically for it. So there was no way that I was going to run a PR or even have too much a chance to run under 3 hours. After a look on the race website, I discovered the winning time of the last few years was often soft, so I reserved right to upgrade the race from C to B if, come race day, I found myself in striking distance of top placement. The possibility was there. But would I crash and burn due to lack of specificity in my training?

One thing I didn’t want to do, regardless of how the race shook out in the early miles, was for me to roll over and die on the rolling hills course through horse country in Central Florida. So in the first two weeks in January, I inserted speed work to get the legs fired up to running hard and lungs conditioned to heavy breathing, and then a week before the race I took easy to taper into the event.

Arriving in Ocala, I had no idea on what to expect of terrain. Florida is flat, right? The course map showed gradual ups and downs, one after another, circling around and through horse farms. Northeast of Tampa by 75 miles and northwest of Orlando by the same, Ocala is located in north-central part of the state and is surprisingly not flat. Because of the gradual nature of the land, the area was loaded with false flats. No one hill would put you out – this wasn’t New England – but the hills, I knew, would become a factor in the latter stages of the race. This wasn’t your Grandfather’s Florida.

In the darkness of the morning on race day, now with me toeing the starting line along with 200 others, little did I know that the course, because of its terrain and horse farms, would quickly become among my all-time favorites.

“Go!” The race was started.

The race started and finished in the parking lot of a mall. As I settled into pace at the front of the pack, I got chatting with another guy. He said he was looking to go 2:50 or under on the day.

“If you see me,” I told him, “you’re having a bad day.” I’ll be somewhere under 3:10. I hope I don’t have to run too hard.”

As I watched him join up with two other guys to take the lead, I knew then and there that I would not be winning a race today; this year wouldn’t be as soft as others. One of those guys would go on to win. In fact, all three guys would finish 1-2-3. My buddy would take 3.

Over the first mile (7:11), I had fallen to 12th place. This was no big deal, as I purposely held back in order to see what the field would look like and perhaps find a new friend to chat away some miles with.

Mile 2 came with a split of 6:33. It was a little quick, but it was also predominantly downhill. I made a mental note of the hill; we would pass this again at mile 25 on the return trip home, only having to go up it. At this point I was still in 12th place. This would be my lowest placement of the day, for I was already running by myself, nobody to befriend.

On the next two long rises, each gradual and roughly a quarter mile in length, through Mile 3 (6:44) and Mile 4 (6:57), pretenders fell quickly. I moved into 8th place and then again into 6th.

Mile 5 (6:42) was the beginning of a 6 mile and out and back section. I would next return to this point coming from the opposite direction around mile 11. This was also part of the lollipop of the course where the pop would serve as a double loop. So I would be back here again, after doing the loop once, just beyond Mile 19. Mental notes were made.

Mile 6 (6:39) through Mile 7 (6:46) was a pivotal point in the race for me. This is when I knew that I was racing, when I knew that my pace was now under the 3 hour wire. I watched from my 6th place perch the top three guys, working together, slowly pull away. Number 4 (guy in white) looked to be trying to hold onto the top three but slowly coming back; he was, maybe, a minute up. Number 5 (shirtless guy) was within striking distance, but in a race this long I kept him there to serve as a rabbit to hold pace. I would rather run with him so that we could work together, but the energy it would take to catch up would do me in. That much I knew.

To the turnaround on the out-and-back and now heading back in the direction in which we came, Mile 8 (6:44) showed me just how much distance I had put on those behind me. As long as I didn’t fall off pace, I was secure in top 10. I was running hard yet in control and feeling pretty good. It was here where I lost sight of the leaders. Number 4 (guy in white) was still coming back to me, while I kept even distance behind Number 5 (shirtless). I was still in 6th.

On the other side of the road were runners heading out toward the turnaround. They cheered me on as did I them. “Nice work,” came a comment. “You’re in 5th place.” For sure they were wrong. I was in 6th. I was sure. Again it came, this time from someone else, “5th place, you look great!” 5th place?

Just then a guy on the side of the road jumped out from behind bushes, ran onto the road, and joined my side before quickly falling behind. It was the guy who was in 4th place (guy in white). I was now in 5th with 4th (shirtless) not far ahead.

Around Mile 9 (6:52) things got harder. I was working far more for the pace and started wondering if those early miles would do me in. I had no business seeing 6:40’s or under on my watch. Yet here I was, now working harder, but also feeling… different. Different than I normally feel. I was working hard, sure, and my breathing was on edge, but what was different was that I didn’t feel pounded like I normally do when I race a marathon. Normally mile 8 my body feels pounded. Now? I felt the fatigue but there was little pound on the body. My body actually felt… smooth. At least for the miles accumulated. This was either attributable to running in warm weather or, perhaps more convincing, Glucosimine pills that I’ve been taking for the last month. I laughed out loud when I made this realization. You’re getting old, I joked to myself, the Old Man. But hey, this old man is leading the old man category. All of those guys ahead of me look like youngsters. So there’s a first: Me. I’m leading something!

Not so fast, Old Man, I coached myself. You still have a lot of miles remaining.

Over the course of Mile 10 (7:00) and 11 (6:45), the guy behind me (guy in white) – the same guy who had been in 4th place and stopped to jump behind the bushes before I passed him – worked up from several paces behind me to right by my side. At Mile 12 (6:51), he made a move to claim 5th place and worked it through Mile 13 (6:46) to make it stick, up roughly 20 seconds on me. I was now back in 6th place.

Half came in 1:29:20. I was a bit surprised to be that far under 1:30. The time was now 8:30 AM. The sun was lifting high in the sky making the day hotter and hotter. I was a puddle of sweat. This was a good sign for the heat to come.

Over the rolling hills of the next 6 miles (6:47, 6:45, 6:46, 6:47, 7:00, 6:52), we completed the first loop of the course and started onto the second. During this stretch, I watched the guy in white slowly catch up to the shirtless guy, but there was no more distance gained on me. This meant that shirtless was coming back to me. I felt good enough to let them work together, or at least run together, for we still had a long way to go, and if I had to make a move right now, I felt I could over take them if I had a few miles. I was in a good position. I tucked in and kept effort steady.

By then we were back into the rolling hills of the course, the second time around. Hills were starting to wear on me. I was losing a few seconds here and there but otherwise felt that I was still on pace to break 3 hours. I laughed at my fortune having not trained specifically for it. I knew that it doesn’t come that easy. I knew that the hard work was yet to come if I was going under three hours or wanted to come close.

With guy-in-white and shirtless, places 4 and 5, still 20 to 25 seconds up on me, I followed along… straight off course. It occurred to me as we went by a familiar looking street corner that this is where I think we were supposed to turn. We did this section, going straight here, on the first lap for the long out and back. But the second time around, we were supposed to turn there. Or so I thought as I watched 4 and 5 run right by it. A tenth of a mile up the road was a lady walking in the full or half marathon. I stopped by her side and asked, “I’m on my second loop of the marathon… do you know if I was supposed to turn back there? I think I went off course.” The nice lady confirmed that I was off course. Crap. This sent me into action.

“YO!” I screamed ahead to guy-in-white and shirtless. “HEY!” No response. They kept running. “YO! HEY YO HEY YO!!!” Both kept running farther off course. Crap. With that I knew I had to take care of myself. I ran back to the turn and went straight up to a kid sitting in a chair beside the road. He was looking at his iPhone, just as he had a minute ago when the three of us ran off course. I got in his face: “Me and two other guys ran off course because you were dick’n around on your fuck’n phone. Those two guys are still out there. I want you to tell a race official or one of the cops patrolling the course to go get those guys.”

Now completely out of breath but surprisingly no longer pissed or flustered, I went through Mile 20 in 7:59. As I noted that the diversion cost me over a minute on the race clock, I realized that I had to not make up lost time but in fact keep effort even as it had been before, because these late miles of the race are where anything can happen, even a complete meltdown after a slight pickup.

In the growing heat of the morning, I continued on with hopes that I would be able to hold off all other runners and maybe, just maybe, see one of the guys ahead of me to perhaps pass them for 3rd place. Mile 21 (6:57) was still good, but by Mile 22 (7:06), with a mile over the 6:52 average needed for a sub-3, I knew for certain that I would not break three hours, though I suspected this a few miles back.

No worries, I was still in control and feeling pretty decent although getting bogged down quite a bit on the long gradual rises, as Mile 23 (7:32) could attest. I was not bonking; rather, I just had nothing more left to accelerate. My legs felt okay but didn’t move any more quickly.

Mile 24 (6:51) was back on pace, but Mile 25 (7:35) and 26 (7:55) was met with more long gradual hills that ate away tens of seconds at a time. During this stretch I looked back several times before I convinced myself that I was securely in 4th place.

Finish came in 3:03:47, which was good for 4th place overall and 1st Master. Goal accomplished. Fun time over what is among my favorite courses ever. Running through horse farms, with horses standing idle watching runners go by, was something I’ll never forget. Ocala Marathon, if you’re ever in town, consider it.

1 – 7:11
2 – 6:33
3 – 6:44
4 – 6:57
5 – 6:42
6 – 6:39
7 – 6:46
8 – 6:44
9 – 6:52
10 – 7:00
11 – 6:45
12 – 6:51
13 – 6:46
1st Half: 1:29:20
14 – 6:47
15 – 6:45
16 – 6:46
17 – 6:47
18 – 7:00
19 – 6:52
20 – 7:59
21 – 6:57
22 – 7:06
23 – 7:32
24 – 6:51
25 – 7:35
26 – 7:55
26.2 – 2:11
2nd Half: 1:34:27
Finish: 3:03:47

Fat Ass 50K @ Bradley Palmer

January 10, 2012

Fat Ass 50K
Bradley Palmer State Park
Topsfield, Massachusetts
Saturday, January 7, 2012

31 miles
Time: 4:41 (9:02 pace)
5 laps of a 10K rolling trail loop
Marathon #67 (~3:56)

GAC: here
Results: coming soon!

GAC Fat Ass 50K @ Bradley Palmer State Park - Completing Lap 4 of 5, Jay and Thor stay strong through 25 miles for the remaining 6.

Race Report

Continuing a fall-into-winter thirst for all things “social running”, my pal Billy, owner of the South Boston Running Emporium, got my eye trained on a Fat Ass trail race put on by Giles Athletic Club, a club north of Boston known as GAC.

A week later, now only a few days before the event, Larry, another friend, this one owner and CEO of Larryland in Madtown USA, said he was going and dared me to go.

Knowing that Billy and Larry would be there, and with a promise that other friends would too, I decided to give it a go. With temperatures expected to be unseasonably awesome, I was thrilled at another opportunity to run trails before the real brunt of winter storms in.

Fat Ass it was.

To the uninitiated, a Fat Ass might be a funny term that garners a chuckle. In the ultra-running community, mostly of the trail variety, a Fat Ass is a popular type of race that is typically 50K, or 31 miles, in distance and is a sort of throwback to races of yesteryear. With no entry fee, no fancy medals, usually no cheering section, and sometimes not even a clock, these races are a no frills way to gather a bunch of like-minded trail runners for a romp in the woods in the middle of winter. This particular romp was marked and timed and has been successful enough to be considered a 14th Annual! In exchange for that you are expected to bring something for the aid table.

Fat Ass, my kind of race!

Having decided to do the Fat Ass in Bradley Palmer only two days prior, I didn’t exactly treat this like a race. For me it would be just a continuation of my off-season mantra of running whenever and however the mood struck, with all things focused on fun. I wasn’t keen on running hard; my goal was to have fun, run with friends old and new, and maybe notch another marathon, if not 50K!

That in mind, my focus was to find someone to run with. If I could do that, I told myself, I would likely go all the way or at least to marathon distance; if I could not find happy conversation, I would likely just do a few laps and call it a day. I didn’t want to get sucked into running hard, not when I had run a marathon only 6 days prior with the New Year’s Boston Marathon run.

The course at Bradley Palmer State Park was set up with 5 loops of a 10K (6.2 miles) circuit. The circuit was filled with varied trail types. From fire roads, single track, jaunts across grassy fields, and a short stretch on a paved road, the course rolled pretty well but not enough to be considered hard. Single track was non-technical with only a few stretches where you really had to watch your footing. Although it was staffed with a few frozen (at first) stream crossings and frozen mud (at first!) sections, the course was relatively dry and in good shape.

For race start, I settled into the middle of the pack with the CEO of Larryland and Issy. Behind me was Henry and Billy and Mike and many other friends. Ahead were more serious types. The only thing I was serious about was finding someone to chat the miles away with.

The first lap went quickly. Just as I was settling in to an easy rhythm, chatting with Larry and Issy, Issy slipped a pair of ear buds in her ears and got to work quickly moving up in the field. As I watched her pull away, I was a little disappointed at first because I had thought Larry and Issy would run together, and I figured I’d join them! Issy would go on to win the women’s race. And Larry, well, Larry, as I learned, likes to run alone. He’s not the chatter that I am. We had different goals on the day, so no worries, but still no one for me to run with.

Two miles into the first loop, while I was still running with Larry, I hooked up with girl from Cambridge. We got into good conversation until, oops, I ran off course, with this girl and Larry following me. Sorry guys. We backtracked and rejoined the race. In doing so, our little group of three got broken up. I used this as an excuse to catch up to the runners ahead of me.

Motoring along single track trail on a long uphill section, I closed the gap on those ahead of me, made a pass here, another there, and finally came upon a familiar runner. “Henry”, I shouted ahead, “nice to see you.” Henry and I talked for a few minutes before, bam, up came a root and down I went, the ground meeting me quickly but not enough for a tuck of the shoulder and a roll to avoid injury. Talking while running is dangerous. Even so, I was determined to find someone to pass the miles with. Lap 1 came and went in 54:39.

Not long into Lap 2, I spotted not far up a guy in a light blue shirt that I recognized to be a race shirt from the Rhode Island 6 Hour, an event I did nearly two months prior. On a fire road connecting two single track sections, I caught up to him and asked about the RI 6 Hour. The conversation was so strong that I knew I found my companion for the rest of the day. My new friend Jay and I completed Lap 2 in 51:51.

Over the next two laps (Lap 3 – 56:52, Lap 4 – 1:03:50), Jay and chatted about running, his upcoming wedding, and his brave leap into the coaching ranks with his business called EFS. Although our legs were getting heavy, the conversation stayed strong. It was just what I was looking for and made the miles breeze by as the temperatures rose. And as the temperatures rose, the course grew filled with more and more mud to the point where some sections were downright sloppy.

Upon completing each lap, we took our time at the aid table by refilling our bottles and getting in calories. I stayed mostly to the three B’s: breads, bars, and bananas. A salt tablet on alternate laps and a few large gulps of Gatorade pushed me onward. Personal favorite was the banana bread. The homemade fig bars were solid, too. You can’t beat the spread at a Fat Ass aid table. If you were adventurous enough, you could have had grilled cheese sandwiches, any cookie you can think of, boiled potatoes including the sweet variety, and much more.

By the last lap, I knew we had this in the bank. We were both hydrating and fueling well enough. We both had an up and down period but, for the distance, felt pretty good. If nothing else, we were still heavily engrossed in conversation, which was a good sign for us both even though slowed us down some. No matter to me, I wasn’t there for pace. I was there for exactly what we were doing – running, chatting, and having fun. The miles passed quickly.

Lap 5 (54:12) and the finish came with the clock reading 4:41:25.

Issy won the women’s race in 4:31, while Larry labored in Larryland for 4:48. Our victory beers tasted good.

5 laps of a 10K rolling trail loop
1 – 54:39
2 – 51:51
3 – 56:52
4 – 1:03:50
5 – 54:12
Finish: 4:41:25

New Year’s Boston Marathon

January 4, 2012

2nd Annual New Year’s Boston Marathon Run
Boston, Massachusetts
Sunday, January 1, 2012

26.2 miles
Time: 4:49 (last year 3:45)
4 runners went all the way (last year had 2)
Marathon #66

Michael Robertson blog – Awesome Run Report w/pictures: here
Thor’s FB photos: here
Video #1 – Ashland – Mile 4: here
Video #2 – Citgo – Mile 25: here
Video #3 – Finish – Mile 26.2: here

Run Report

For the second year in a row, I decided that I wanted to ring in the New Year by running the course of the most famous marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon. I had so much fun the year before doing just this that I wanted to do it again. Only this year I was deciding between joining another group, one led by Gary Allen starting at an earlier time, or putting one together myself.

In the weeks leading up to when the calendar would flip from December to January, the decision was made for me when friends started asking me about the “New Year’s Boston Marathon” and if I was putting a group together this year.

At Mill Cities, almost a month away, fellow Goon, Dr. Methane, asked, “Are you running the Boston Marathon course again on New Year’s Day?” Before I could answer, he added, “I’m in if you are.” A few others voiced interested there and over the weeks, with several e-mails coming into my inbox. A 2nd Annual running was cemented during a Christmas Run with the Borderline Running Club, when Bob purposely sought me out to say, “If you put a group together, I’m in… I really want to do this.”

The New Year’s Boston Marathon run was on.

Travel logistics had most of us meeting early morning in Newton in front of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, conveniently mile 16.5 on the marathon course. Others would jump in along the way. We parked cars, hopped in others, and made the trek to Hopkinton for the start.

New Year's Boston Marathon - Happy group at the starting line in Hopkinton

There were ten of us for the start. One would be going 7 miles, two were in for the first 16 to Newton Lower Falls, and one for 16.5 back to our cars at the hospital in Newton; during the way we would gain a few, including Michael at mile 13 at, where he would say, “Marathon Sports Newton, this way I will run Marathon Sports to Marathon Sports.” Marathon Sports is a popular running shore in the Boston area.

New Year's Boston Marathon - Chuck and Don, two buddies from the mountain summer series, join in for the start.

In addition to the many, Chuck and Don, two of my pals from the USATF-NE Mountain Series, showed up to run the first 16 miles to Newton Lower Falls. Between the two of them, they have run the Mount Washington Road Race over 40 times. This is no joke.

New Year's Boston Marathon - BRC members Bill, Carol, Bob and Thor at the starting line.

Joining the numbers were Bill, Carol, Bob and Thor (that’s me) from the Borderline Running Club. I had extended invite to all of BRC, and I hoped to get more numbers, but I had a lot of interest voiced and had three bag out last minute. So I am hopeful that next year this becomes a BRC staple.

Bill was in for the first 17 miles to our cars at Newton-Wellesley just before the fire station, and Carol was in for the first 7. Carol was awesome, because after running her share, she provided aid through mile 13. Thank you, Carol!

And Bob, what about Bob? He was silly. He was in for the long haul.

Time to start!

New Year's Boston Marathon - Official Starting Line!

Town borders…


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Ashland, the happy group stayed intact.


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Framingham, the morning was warming up quickly and the smiles were still radiant.

Aid Station #1

New Year's Boston Marathon - Aid Station #1 was the back of Carol's car in front of Dunkin Donuts.


New Year's Boston Marathon - Natick came quickly, but we were still happy to see new borders.

Aid Station #2

Aid Station #2

New Year's Boston Marathon - Aid Station #2, thanks yet again to Carol, and yet again at a Dunkin Donuts. Hey, they have bathrooms available. You'd stop there too!

New Year's Boston Marathon - The group waves goodbye and gives great thanks to Carol!

New Year's Boston Marathon - Like America, Bob Runs on Dunkin!


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Wellesely... we made it halfway!

As our happy group made our way through Wellesley, minus the screaming girls giving free kisses without fear of a jail sentence, we had an unexpected surprise with a pair of roadside Methane Man supporters. Methane is a Goon name for Gary. His supporters breathed a shot of energy into those remaining… and even newcomer Michael, who we picked up at the same spot!

New Year's Boston Marathon - A welcome surprise and shot of adrenaline, Gary had supporters out on the course. Why does he get all the pretty chicks? No fair. But anyway, on we ran...

New Year's Boston Marathon - Gary aka "Methane Man" has supporters show up en route as an unexpected but a very welcome aid station and shot of energy.


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Newton, our numbers and smiles were still strong, but one of those would change shortly.

We had plenty of energy in the tank. Those of us going long were still feeling good, and those who were soon to go home were also feeling good, each for different reasons.

New Year's Boston Marathon - That's a little more like it!

Sadly, our little group, four of whom were going all the way, that being Bob, Brenda, Gary and Thor, had to say goodbye to Chuck and Don first and then Bill a little later on. A fun, happy group, conversation was still strong. We missed our friends but forged on nonetheless.

NEWTON – Fire house

New Year's Boston Marathon - Making a left at the Fire Station in Newton, before the hills began.


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Brighton, just after the Newton hills, including Heartbreak, it was all down hill from here... except for the remaining ups along the way. Pictured: Thor, Brenda (always smiling), Gary (never smiling), and Bob (always goofing off).


New Year's Boston Marathon - Entering Brookline, although we almost missed this sign if not for Bob, who grew up around the corner. The rest of us were too tired to notice, until Bob shouted, STOP! Brookline. We were all pretty pumped because we knew we had only 4 miles or less remaining!

Happy New Year!

New Year's Boston Marathon - 2012 Ice Sculpture was put out just for us in front of a stray Chinese restaurant. How nice. Happy New Year!


New Year's Boston Marathon - First (really second) glimpse of the Citgo sign. I made Michael stop and pose, for I knew that sign and seeing it meant a lot to him, as it does for so many for so many different reasons. Having him for the second half was awesome and a solid shot of fresh energy.


Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston!

New Year's Boston Marathon - Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, our happy group was following strick orders, and we were almost there. If you look real close you can see the finish line all the way down the street. Well, maybe not in this picture; but in our minds we saw it. Heck, we smelled it! Or maybe that was just Bob. What about Bob? I don't know.


New Year's Boston Marathon - Finish Line!

One more time…

New Year's Boston Marathon - At the Boston Marathon Finish Line, the group is happy and done. Congratulations go out to Brenda (smile!), Bob (please don't smile), Gary (smile? pretty please), and Michael on your FIRST feat. There are other ways to ring in the new year, but this, it was all agreed, is something none of us will ever forget.

There is always beer involved, right? Right.

New Year's Boston Marathon - Cheers to a FIRST FEAT!

Yulefest 5K

December 20, 2011

Yulefest 5K
Harvard Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

18:13 (5:52 pace)
13th overall of 850
1st Master 40+*
*Won a really cool Yulefest Cup.

Splits (not sure if accurate)
Mile 1 – 5:41
Mile 2 – 5:59
Mile 3.1 – 6:32 (5:55 pace)

Race website: here
Start video: here (me on starting line wearing red top, Santa hat, black tights, and blue shoes)
Results: here

Race Report

Coming soon.