Ras na hEireann 5K

March 15, 2011

Ras na hEireann 5K
Somerville, Massachusetts
Sunday, March 13, 2011

5K (3.1 miles)
Finish: 17:43 (5:43 pace)
27th Overall of ~6000
3rd Place M40+ (3rd Master’s)

2nd Place Pub Team Open of 50
1st Place Pub Masters of 50
1st Place Mixed Masters
(and more…)

Race Report

Do you love to run?

Have you ever been in a bad Irish pub?

If you answered yes to both of those then I have the race for you. It is the combination of those two — running and multiple Irish pubs — swirled together (but not shaken) with free Harpoon beer. That, my runner friends, is the Ras na hEireann 5K in Somerville’s Davis Square. Taking place the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, it is a must-do race.

The “must-do” for me came calling the Friday night before the race. Tim, a good running friend of mine, rang my phone. “Hey Thor,” he said, “do you want to run the Ras in Davis Square?” I listended for more from Tim. “Free entry… run with my pub team… we’re looking for some fast guys.”

Having heard about this race before and the wild after-party(ies), and already getting my Irish on for the green day ahead, there was only one proper answer: “I’m in!” Only problem was that both Tim and I were running long (16 miles planned) the next day — the day BEFORE the 5K. But because Tim was joining me AND doing the race, too, I figured no big deal. I might not be able to give the pub team my best on tired legs, but if he was in, so was I. Free beer made it so.

Saturday morning, as planned, we ran long with friends and then met up Sunday in Davis Square, where we met a bunch of Irish dudes with long brogues. Having Irish roots and being proud of them, I was in heaven. My grandfather would have loved this Craic. His Irish eyes were smiling down.

After rushed introductions from other members on the Clockwork Tavern team, we all got our bib numbers. I had already warmed up a little bit but wanted to get back out for more. A slight mix up with numbers prevented that from happening. I chalked the last minute events up to the Irish. By that point my legs weren’t yet feeling spunky for race pace, but I knew that I was good enough warmed up and that the long run of the day before was now a distant memory and very well negligible on my performance. Race start adrenaline smooths over a lot of bumps, I knew, and so that’s what I relied on, as I always do.

Amid a sea of 6000 other runners dressed in varying shade of Shamrock green, I wiggled into the front three rows back of the start. A few minutes later the gun fired. Off the pack went.

The opening 100 yards was hectic. Jostling for position, I got elbowed, kicked and bumped. A few strides later, the guy in hightops dropped, his buddy in a large green hat flopped, and I finally got clearance on either side. By then I was probably in the top 40.

Leading to Mile 1 (5:38) was a long gradual incline. The rise was an Irish blessing in how it helped pump my legs full of charge like a single bore engine racing itself. I was pleased to see such a fast split on the watch. My pace was strong, I was running all out, and my breathing was controled although labored. I even noticed that my sciatic wasn’t pulling and there was not a trace of hamstring tension. It felt good to blow the engine out, open the throttle, and pass several more runners.

Mile 2 (5:55) felt smooth and fast, although when I looked at my watch I was a bit put off by the slow 5:55 I saw. I was hoping for 5:50 or something south of it. But at that point I was tapped out and now already thinking about the remaining mile. At this point all runners ahead of me were slowly stringing out single file. There was no passing. We were all locked into pace. I continued to focus on form, not over-striding, and keeping leg turnover brisk. That’s when smoothness returned to my stride.

Coming into the race my goal was to go under or get very near 18 minutes for the 5K. Splintered in my mind was the fact that I hadn’t gone under 18 minutes all of last year. Now, at this point in the race, I wondered if I were under the wire. The possibility was good, I knew, or so it felt, but I couldn’t handle a slow down from here to the finish.

As the course turned on 2.5 miles onto a bike path, a stretch of pavement I knew to be fast and flat even if it were into the wind, I knew I had a finish time of under 18 minutes. I knew it because I was running too damn fast and doing it so fluidly. My lungs were burning, but my body was responding with acceleration.

Just before Mile Marker 3 (5:43), I caught a partial glimpse of the clock. The minutes were blocked, while the seconds flipped to :33, :34, :35… I knew I was under. There was no way the minutes were at 18. I was going under. Finish came in 17:43. I was well under!

In fact, I was not only under but I also just ran a PR. This blows my mind because, honestly, I don’t come by PR’s too often now-a-days. Been running for far too long to be PRing anymore. But after scanning old results, I can’t find a 5K any faster.

Subconsciously I must’ve known about the PR, because back at the pub for the after party, we were all downing beers as if St. Patrick ran a PR himself.

1 — 5:38
2 — 5:55
3 — 5:43
3.1 — :26


Training Week 3/6

March 14, 2011

Training for the week of 3/6 to 3/12:

Things are finally starting to come together.

After several solid weeks of training including ramped-up speedwork, my legs are finally feeling snappy. At times I even feel light on my feet. My body is responding well. My legs are feeling stronger and coming around to feeling fast. And all is falling into line.

Which is good timing. Because National Marathon, my target race for the spring, is now less than two weeks away.

The week started with me being “talked” into joining good buddies Brian and Frankie for Stu’s 30K. This in itself wouldn’t normally be such a talking point except for the fact that the day before Stu’s I ran 15 miles with some other friends. But my body and legs felt pretty darn good afterwards that I was easily persuaded to join the fun.

Stu’s proved to be a great confidence booster. The three of us ran together the entire way. We did not race but instead used the race format to get in a workout: 5 miles easy (at whatever pace), 5 miles @ MP, 1 mile easy, 4 miles at MP, jog home. We nailed the first 5 at 6:45 pace and the next 4 at 6:35. And my legs felt GREAT! It was fun to run with those boys again. It’s amazing how well matched we are in ability.

Two back to back “long runs” frame a very good week in which I accomplished all goals:

Sun: 19 miles (Stu’s 30K – including 5 @ 6:45 and 4 @ 6:35)
Mon: 3.5 miles easy – rest day
Tues: 9.3 miles social + hills
Wed: 6 miles semi-tempo
Thurs: 12.5 miles speed – SOLID workout
Fri: 4 miles easy start
Sat: 16 miles, mostly social w/5 @ 6:50

Tuesday Hill Work (roads):
WU – 45 min social run
6 x Hill (charge hill UP + jog 10 secs + charge hill DOWN)
*Hill was a ~2 minute hill (takes 2 minutes to climb)

Thursday Speed (TM):
o WU – 10 min
o 7 min @ 5:56 w/3′ jog
o 3 min @ 5:10 …
o 3 min @ 5:07
o 3 min @ 5:05
o 3 x 12 min @ 5:56
(12.5 mile in 1:20)

Goals for next (this) week will be to recover from weekend long run and 5K race (already into this week), get back to hills on Tuesday, and a scaled down speed session on Thursday. Keep the snap in the legs.

“You can physcially motor on long after your mind tells you it is done.”
“Just because you feel like death and want to stop, this does not mean you will die or have to stop.”
“Be stronger than the urge.”

OMW: Annoying

February 9, 2010

One-Minute Writer: Annoying

I had just made another pass in a string of many when I sensed something was wrong. The Dutch cyclist I had gone by was now sucking my wheel, cheating by slipping into my draft zone. I could hear him behind me, over the rush of wind, and even feel him on my back, eyes planted firmly on my ass as he continued to take advantage of an illegal position.

Fighting into ferocious winds on the polders of the Dutch countryside, I put my head down in attempts to stay as aero as possible and pushed as I tried to forget about the cheater behind me. But it was hard. Here I was, racing in a triathlon World Championship of top age groupers, playing by the rules, and this guy was out to use me to his advantage. The wind was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Over the rushing sounds of a wall of wind, I was still able hear the guy behind me, annoying, ticking in my ear to the point where I finally had enough.

At first chance, I peered back with a scowl to show my displeasure. The pain registered on his face told me he was holding on. The over-distanced 5K swim before it in swirling, choppy waters plus the 60 miles already covered on the bike had taken its toll. This guy was hurting. But he was cheating. And he was annoying, totally disrupting my race.

Just then another rider, this one a German, hopped on his wheel, with me leading the charge, doing all the work into this dire wind. Both were cheating, as the International Triathlon Union mandates a draft-free ride for all participants.

Five miles later the road finally turned away from the wind. I used the opportunity to make a push, to shake the two cheaters, but having expended so much energy fighting into the wind in the earlier miles, I had no extra push remaining. When I looked back, I saw both riders sitting up out of their aero positions looking at each other and exchanging words.

That was it. Here I am, in a race of a lifetime, worrying about these guys behind me, letting them ruin my race… I had to do something. At that moment, annoyance exploded into action.

With me leading the way, with a Dutch cheater on my wheel and a German cheater on his, I reached down for my sport drink and took a swig. But instead of swallowing, I turned around and sprayed the sweet fluid up in the air, completing covering my competitors.

Even through this, these guys stayed glued to my wheel. So I sprayed them with sticky sport drink again. And again my plea was ignored.

A mile later a race official came by on a motorbike. As the official riding on the back looked at me to check that all was well, I told him about the two guys, how they were drafting. The motorbike slowed to the Dutch. As I looked back, I saw the official say something and wag a finger at him. Then he dropped back further and did the same to the German.

Not long after the motorbike pulled away, the Dutchman was back on my wheel. Thankfully the German took the message and was done cheating.

So annoyed I was at this point that I turned around and gave him a universal symbol with my middle finger. The Dutchman was unshaken. He didn’t even look at me as I had turned.

Just then a cyclist with a red Canadian maple leaf on his uniform pulled around the Dutchman to by my side. “This asshole has been drafting you for the last half hour.” I shook my head, I knew. At that moment, the Canadian slowed down to the Dutchman, now beside him, and thrust a middle finger at him, as if he would punch him.

It was the last time the Dutchman drafted my wheel.

My annoyance turned to elation nearly two hours later when I was done with the bike and now on the run course. As I was completing the first loop of the 30K run course, I spotted a familiar face on the other side of the pathway, runners going in either direction. It was the Dutchman. He wore the same expression of pain on his face. Dejected with dreams over, he was walking.

This “Annoying” moment was caught in an official race photo. This picture was taken right after the Canadian had pulled in front of me but before he told me of the cheaters drafting my wheel. It wasn’t long after this picture when I was finally able to shake the Dutchman and the German, with great thanks to my friend from Canada.

Bike Fit

January 30, 2010

At the end of last year (2009) — in fact, on the very last day of the year — I went to Fitwerx(2) for a bike fit. I had been having issues with my current setup at the time and, after tinkering for months without ever getting it right, I finally decided to go to the professionals. Fitwerx, the area’s premier bike fitter, is where I went.

Below is a quick visual of the differences…

Bike Fit Pre-Dec. 31, 2009: video (done by me)

Bike Fit Jan. 4, 2010: video (done by Fitwerx)

And here’s a bike I’m toying with right now and will purchase from a trusted friend if I can dial in the fit (still having issues). If I can do that, and if I like the ride once I log a few miles on it on the Trainer, it will be a keeper.

Kuota K-Factor: video (fit based on new bike fit… close as of now, but still not there)


o New saddle – I went with a new saddle since the old one never worked for me even though I kept riding it. Too much pressure on the undercarriage.

o Seat Up – We raised the seat a smidge, which I was happy about since I tend to favor a taller seat height. I seem to be able to generate more power that way.

o Saddle Forward – We jammed my saddle forward since, mainly, I used to ride the rivet, like, all the time. I have a tendency of scootching forward farther and farther to the point where I’m riding with my ass at the very tip of the saddle, a position that is commonly referred to as riding the rivet.

o Drop Aerobar Assembly – The areobar assembly was dropped to give me an extremely aggressive aero style with a drop of 14 cm from top of saddle to aero pads.

o Shift Arm Pads – Arm pads had to shift forward some to allow me a ninety degree angle in the upper arm coming straight down to the pads so that I can use my skeletal system to support my body over using muscles.

o Aerobar Extensions Shortened – The aerobar extentions had to be shortened drastically so that the gear shifters would fall at my hands.

So far so good with the fit. It seems like a keeper. I’ll have more on this as the days tick by.

OMW: Encourage

January 13, 2010

One-Minute Writer: Encourage

When I think about how I got my start in endurance sports, there was no one single person who was responsible for inspiring me. Instead it was a gradual progression of interests that over time lead me to drive for personal challenges along these lines.

I was always the type of kid who played outside all day long, long after his father called him in for dinner. Growing up across the street from a park enabled me into athletics, as I always had a soccer ball at my foot. Even when I was bored, I would pass time by dribbling the ball around trees, as if defenders, or shooting the ball farther and harder into a backstop.

In my college days, as organized sports became harder to play due to life getting in the way, I started running, mainly to stay in shape for soccer leagues that by then were occupying my time fewer and fewer times per week.

As studies ramped up, so too did my running, and before I knew it I was morphing into a real runner. It didn’t take long until I got inspired to run a marathon. It was a natural progression from my youth.

Growing up, when the day would turn wet and the TV on, the only thing I would watch – aside from cartoons – was sports. I didn’t discriminate with sports either. I liked them all. Football, baseball, soccer: You name it… I watched it. But the sporting events that made the most impact on me were few.

Back then the New York City Marathon was aired on TV as an annual event. Even though this was years before I would consider running, I was drawn into the self competition each runner exhibited. This sport was far different than the rest. There was no money in it. Runners, even at the high level, did it because they wanted it. They were self-driven and motivated, encouraged by no one other than themselves. For whatever reason, this stuck with me.

RAAM, The Race Across America, was another event that I’d watch in my youth. I was enthralled by the notion that cyclists would ride their bikes straight across the country.

Ironman was another event that caught my eye. This, above the others, lured me in. It was intriguing, inspiring, and everything to me what sport should be. It even made me shed tears of happiness. Only I discounted this event – I even wrote it off – because, well, I didn’t swim, nor did I ever want to, for my fear of the water was far too deep.

As I matured into a young adult, now with fewer outlets to play soccer, endurance sports filled the void. Running was a staple, and cycling wasn’t far behind.

The progression into competition was natural. Road races turned longer and longer, and rides on my bike were longer and more fun. The marathon, inspired by the airing of the New York City Marathon, came shortly thereafter, and epic bike rides, although longer to take hold, became reality.

These were sports I could do on my own. Little organization was required. Fueled with encouragement from my youth, I set personal goals and drove myself hard to accomplish them. Encouragement was always there.

50th Celebration: Montreal Marathon

September 23, 2009

Montreal Marathon
Montreal, Quebec CANADA
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Marathon Celebration #50

Finish: 3:07:23
39th place overall of 1825
6th Age Group M35-39
1st American!
1st Half: 1:29:04
2nd Half: 1:38:19

Race Report

Sunday, October 27, 1991.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.

Early that morning I had nervously toed the line of my first marathon, the Cape Cod Marathon, wondering if I was strong enough to finish. I had trained for and ran the every step of the race with my sister in law. Through the miles that day I had kept waiting to hit the “wall,” something many runners feared most about the distance and something that had controlled my nerves. The “wall” never came – although I would go on to hit the “wall” many a time in years to come. That day we crossed the finish line in 3:19. And as soon as we did I had known something special was happening, where this was just the beginning. I had later joked as if I had been bitten by a bug, the Marathon Bug. But even so, never in my wildest dreams had I imagined the passion to flow into, 18 years later, me toeing the line of my 50th marathon.

But on Sunday, September 13, 2009 that is exactly what happened.

I ran my 50th marathon.

18 years. 50 marathons. I remember each as if the first. I do. I really do.

This is what 50 marathons look like:

Laughable about marathon #50 is that I had a brief moment at the starting line where I actually questioned my ability, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. More bizarre was that I questioned my ability not about beating a certain time but about even finishing! I have run 50 marathons. I have never ever, well, not finished. But what if #50 was my first DNF?!

It was a good laugh while it lasted. I knew not to be so foolish. I knew to turn it around: Why would I not finish?

And so it was early that Sunday morning, with me standing on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge as it swayed up and down with other runners nervously awaiting the start, I toed the line of the Montreal Marathon, my 50th go at the distance.

That I would finish was a slam dunk. But finish time was not.

My goals were simple: I wanted to test my marathon fitness, something that was not as good as it had been even a year earlier, but something that was definitely strong. I would attempt to race this event. I had dreams of going under 3 hours for my 50th, but I also knew my training for racing this distance was not there, with only a 17 mile long run and a handful of 15’s. Not PR material. Not by a long shot.

And so my plan was to go out well under 3-hour pace as long as it felt comfortable enough, whatever the pace would be, and hold on for as long as I could. If I held on, I would have a great finish time, maybe even a PR. But at the first sign of a crash and burn, I would try best to salvage a decent time, even if it meant crawling home through hurt.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Through the first 5K (20:51 – 6:42 min/mile pace), I was running very brisk, breathing hard, and enjoying the course as it meandered around Ile Ste-Helene (an island). I learned from another runner that the course would start flat for the first half and then tilt up for the second. “It’s a tough second half,” he warned me. It made sense. Because in spying results from year’s past I noticed that nearly every runner had a big positive split – not just a mere slowdown, a substantial slowdown. Now it made sense.

After cutting through an amusement park, the course hopped over to Ile Notre Dame, another island and site of the Montreal Formula 1 race course. I had been looking forward to this, as I knew the marathon course took in several Kilometers on the race course itself. And that meant fast and flat and a very cool experience not to mention flat and FAST… Vroom-vroom! My engine was revving.

Problem was that by 10K (41:59 – 6:45), I knew my engine was revving too hot. I was working hard although my breathing was still okay. I knew I should be running 6:52 pace – not 6:45 – for a Sub-3 marathon! But I didn’t want to slow down even though I knew I should for a good finish time. It would get ugly; that I knew. I just didn’t know when. And I was okay with it all, because this, in my mind, was a test and a celebration. In the meantime, I knew I had at least another hour before the crash.

The course next moved off the island by way of two bridges over the St. Lawrence River and made its way over to the main island and the city of Montreal (Montreal is on a big island). On the bridge a spectator cheered: “Go 550!” I returned a smile knowing just what the number hanging on my race belt meant.

A week prior to the event I came up with an idea. I would write a note to the race director asking if it was at all possible that I run with bib number 50. My note went unanswered. But my message came across. The day before Heather and I left Boston for Montreal, I received a confirmation e-mail from the race with registration information, including an assigned bib number: 550. It was the best they could do, since numbers 1-100 are reserved for elites.

Back on the main island, now cutting through the city streets of Montreal, the wind was kicking hard due west, and since the course, over the next 10K would have us work our way east, I knew I had work to do.

Still running hard and even through 15K, it was the next 5K, up through 20K (1:24:14 – 6:46), that would make me realize that there really was no way I would hold on at this pace. The wind took too much out of me. I had run too hard to that point, and the wind was cutting me down even though my pace was still good. I knew it was a matter of time, a ticking time bomb lurking somewhere on the course. And now that the hills of the city started up, I knew the bomb’s fuse would shorten with each rise.

Another rise came, then another… I held strong, maintained pace, but was putting out too much effort. By then I was running by myself, far enough up in the overall placement where only three runners were in sight as far as I could see ahead. I dared not look behind. It would take too much energy.

Half came in 1:29:04 (6:47 pace). This is also when the course changed too. The hills, long and graduals, were plentiful, but the scenery and landmarks and city streets, most in very good repair, helped the kilometers tick by even though I was starting to hurt.

As the course made its way north past Mont-Royal, a huge mountain lurking every so closely, splaying upon our course even tougher terrain, the city streets started coming alive with spectators and fans and even patrons at outdoor cafes getting into the supportive spirit.

Wearing my sturdy Team USA triathlon uniform, I to that point heard many cheers of “Go USA!” or “Go Team USA!” But here, deeper in the fabric of Montreal’s weave, was a cheer that brought me to far wider smiles.

Approaching an intersection, I saw a guy in the middle of it banging two inflatable cheer sticks. He looked me straight in the eye as I neared. His smile, ever so infectious, caused me a smile of my own. “Go USA” the man cheered as he banged his sticks together with more force. “USA. USA. USA!” The man then changed course. “USA?!” he exclaimed as if a question. “Go Obama. Go Obama. Go Obama.”

I would hear that cheer at least 20 times more over the rest of the course. Canadians, as I’ve learned, love American politics, and by and large they like Obama and are always quick to ask how I feel about him and American politics. The “Go Obama” cheers were a precursor of a long week vacation deeper into the country, where many conversations with the locals followed suit.

Somewhere shy of the 30K marker, the slowdown started, with holding a yet slowing pace getting incrementally tougher.

Although the wind, hills, and now heat were slowly taking me down, I did whatever I could to salvage a decent finish time. I stopped fighting the pace and instead fought by effort, whatever the pace would be. Long gone now was my goal at getting under 3 hours, but by then I knew that my little fitness test otherwise known as the Montreal Marathon had already dispensed its results, and that was that I was in no shape on a tough course to go substantially under 3 hours, a pace I had started out at.

But none of it matter. I was enjoying the course even through its difficulty and now very much looking forward to the grand finish at the Olympic Stadium.

To this point I was passed by a few others and nipped a few dying soldiers myself. But slowly, steadily, I was losing overall places.

But none of it mattered. The course, the people, stole my attention. This being my 50th marathon, I knew there would be more. Instead, I stayed in the moment, enjoyed the course and people (as best as I could through my pain) and watched the remaining Kilometers tick by.

Finally a spectacular finish, with a descent into the covered Olympic Stadium, with a final lap around the track before crossing the finish line. For this wide-eyed little boy on his 50th celebration jaunt, it was a sure highlight.

And that was just it. I learned that this run was a celebration. The time on the clock, the way I ran it… none of it mattered. 50 did. And honestly, serious kudos go out to the Montreal Marathon race director for a magnificent course – not an easy one, but it was a good one with varied scenery and a course that covered much of the city for which it is named. I could not have picked a better course to celebrate my 50th.

After crossing the finish line, I thought back to my first marathon on Cape Cod so many years ago. Then I thought about the marathon I just completed and how awesome a course it was. And then I wondered what the next 50 would bring.

Finish: 3:07:23

Splits (Kilometers)

1 – 4:10 – FAST start.
2 – 4:10
3 – 4:12 – Legs feeling strong, body good.
4 – 4:09
5 – 4:08 – Why not try to hold pace as long as I can?!
6 – 4:09 – A nice experiment.
7 – 4:10 – Either I crash and burn.
8 – 4:14 – Or I hold on for a glory.
9 – 4:19 – Because I was suppose to do 4:16 Kilometer splits for just Sub-3.
10 – 4:14 – But I’m running much faster than that!
11 – 4:17 – So let’s do it!
12 – 4:23
13 – 4:17
14 – 4:08
15 – 4:07 – Still running fast…
16 – 4:07 – But by now know that I will not be able to hold through the finish.
17 – 4:12
18 – 4:13
19 – 4:14 –
20 – 4:14 – Start guessing when meltdown will occur.
21 – 4:22 – Minor slowdown but still well under 3 hour pace.
22 – 4:18 – Toughest part of course starts
23 – 4:17 – Pace still good.
24 – 4:21 – Pace good on hills, but effort is far too high.
25 – 4:19 – It’s coming soon.
26 – 4:43 – There it is… Meltdown Begins
27 – 4:21 – Started fighting the pace.
28 – 4:35 – Decided to conserve rather than face a complete meltdown by fighting on.
29 – 4:37 – Would rather a preserve a respectable finish than crash to walk.
30 – 4:37 – Hills.
31 – 4:37 – Wind.
32 – 4:41 – Hills.
33 – 4:41 – Wind.
34 – 4:34 – Finally a flat section.
35 – 4:45 – Head down into the wind.
36 – 4:46
37 – 4:45
38 – 4:46 – Beginning of meanest, cruelest hill ever.
39 – 5:10 – Damn hill kept going.
40 – 5:12 – And going.
41 – 4:46
42.2: 5:29 (1.2K split) – Olympic Stadium finish!

Team USA – In the Press…

August 22, 2008

Toward the end of Tuesday morning’s run, a run for which us regulars (Andy, Lori, and John and the M-Dawg) were treated to a nice surprise with many others showing up, I got into talking with another Lori about a training run on Saturday morning. We got into talking about it because I said I wanted to get in a final run before departing for Amsterdam, the Netherlands, later in the day in preparations for the ITU Long Course World Championships.

And that’s when John jumped on the community idea and said he would arrange a send-off run. And so when he did, he also forwarded the send-off run details to the North Reading Transcript, the local paper about town.

The Transcript published this…

North Reading Transcript Article - Thursday, August 21, 2008

North Reading Transcript Article - Thursday, August 21, 2008