Thursday, March 26, 2015

Celtic Solstice 5 miler & Patterson Park Beer Mile 12/13/14

I've been lazy with my race reports so here's a bit of a late recap of our second effort at back to back races we did in 2013.  We really liked the Celtic Solstice 5 miler, especially the awesome race swag so we signed up again.  This year's swag was an awesome Brooks running jacket with the race logo, worth the $80 signup fee for a 5-miler.  Behold:

Back design of the  jacket
We had Adam pick up our race packets early since we wouldn't get to Baltimore late Friday night.  All we had to do was show up and run this year which was nice.  The weather was nearly identical to 2013's event- somewhere well below freezing.  We arrived with plenty of time to park and get to the starting line and stand around in the cold among the thongs of 3000+ runners. 

I wished Kristen good luck and Adam, our friend Jeff Damiano and I worked our way to the front of the herd.  We started about 10 rows back, and it worked out extremely well.  We did have to pick our way around a few clusters of people in the first tenth of a mile but we had a nice smooth start. 

My target for the race was to maintain a stead pace as close to 7 min/mi as possible.  I felt pretty good about that target and felt pretty strong.  Aside from the cold air, it was a good day for an aggressive run.  I hit mile #1 right on the money at 6:59.  Just like the prior year, at about mile 2, I saw the leader coming back and going into mile 3, just killing the race.  After the 4th mile I really started to drag and was starting to see a lot of runners pass me.  I finished as strongly as I could and did far better than the 2013 race.

I crossed the line 187th / 3060 runners at 36:47 officially, dropping a few minutes of my time from last year.  Jeff was 58th with a 32:48.  The post-race spread is pretty awesome.  Lots of normal stuff but the hot soup and hot mulled wine is pretty fantastic.  We lingered for a little while but we packed into the car to sit for half an hour in traffic to leave and prepare for the 2nd Annual Patterson Park Beer Mile.

With the first ever Beer Mile World Championships only 10 days prior, I had visions of grandeur where I ran an 8 minute beer mile.  It was going to be awesome!  We even made trophies for the race.  Our field grew by 66.7% this year.  We had 3 men and 2 women this time!  Big field of athletes!  Trophies all the way down to 2nd place, too!!
Second place trophy ("I POOPED TODAY" plastic cup) not pictured
I turned in an almost exact repeat performance and retained the title.  It's really amazing how hard it is to drink any of the beers after the first one.  

HAT RUN 50K 3/21/2015

I was told my ultra-runner membership had expired soon after my DNF at Ironmasters last year so I felt like rather than letting it go, it was time to punch that card again.  I chose the HAT 50K, in Havre de Grace, MD for my race back in November.  I'd volunteered at the 2014 HAT run and had an awesome time watching Adam and all the other runners and helping them refuel at an aid station.  Scoping out the course, it looked like a great race to tackle myself.

This winter had been a little rougher for training outdoors with the amount of ice on the trails and roads.  Even with my Ice Trekker crampons, I had a few un-enjoyable, difficult trail runs on the Wissahickon that I still believe would've fared much better if I'd had ice skates.

I'd had a few decent runs, although mostly much shorter than I'd prefer leading into this distance.  My longest run was 10 miles 2 weeks before the race and I felt pretty strong during and after.
My goal was sub-6 hours.  I was on pace to beat that at Ironmasters last year, a much tougher course, I think, so this should've been a breeze.  The biggest obstacle to that goal was probably my lack of significant, long training runs, despite a 25K race on Jan 3.  I got a little lazy with the training but ran outside when I could and tried to compensate with some bike rides on the trainer.

The weather was looking pretty good for the race: mid-40's, sunny.  A late season snow-storm came through Friday dropping 3-4 inches in the area, making for a soft first lap, as expected.  Not enough snow to make the course too difficult.

The start was unique to any races I've done so far: all the racers lined up across a field to await the start signal and with it, charged like a scene from Braveheart.  There's a good amount of running before we get into single-track but it was a great way to spread the course out and not cause too many pile-ups.  One 5K loop back to the start/finish area and aid station where I shed my vest and hat and then into a 13 mile loop for the second and repeat for the 3rd loop.
After one of 4 water crossings and killing it... sorta.  not really.
The first half of the race felt pretty good.  It started out pretty easy and my pace felt solid but gradually wore down after the first third.  I distinctly recall mile 15 being miserable and being the first of several lousy miles.  After that it was a lot of running when I could and hiking the hills.  By the second loop, the snow had mostly melted and the trail was a mud pit; not too bad, really, even a little fun, but not ideal for speed.

 As the miles ticked off, the pace crept up, the race dwindled and I crossed the finish at 6:44:31, a lot later than I'd hoped.  Despite the slow race, I felt pretty great during and afterwards.  I had a coffee, a protein shake and a little gel before the race.  I carried my handheld and my Nathan belt with 2 flasks during the race.  In one flask was Hammer Gel, the other Hammer Perpetuem, and in my handheld, I kept a fizz tablet or just plain water, refueling only my fizz bottle at the aid stations.  I was typically in and out of aid stations in a moment, just topping off my handheld, grabbing a handful of candy or fruit at the major aid station and heading back out quickly.  The aid stations were well stocked and staffed by great volunteers.  And the SWAG!  Look at this bounty:
Hat (duh), shirt, soft cooler and yes, that's an umbrella.
I had a great time.  I would certainly sign up for this one again and aim again for that sub 6-hour 50K.

Fall Fest and Across the Bay Bridge 10K Run 11/8-9/14

Running multiple races in a weekend is a lot of fun.  I imagine it's a good test of resilience to be able to race and bounce back.  Of course it's all dependent on the level of exertion and I admit I didn't go 100% on the first few but I did have a nice recovery and great race on Sunday.

Saturday was Fallfest 2014.  The culmination of the Special Olympics' Long Distance Running and Walking (LDR/W) season.  Kristen was active with the Young Athletes Program and I was present as a Unified Partner, racing with our team's athlete Nathan.  Nathan was pretty psyched to have me run with him again as we did pretty well at the Bucks County meet a few months back, netting him a few golds.  Nathan's a quick runner on his own and I knew from the Bucks event, we were up against some strong competition again in their coach/athlete duo.

I was also excited to race.  Bucks' coach Tim is a great runner and would  be a good competitor to race against.  I only chased Tim once in the 1500m and was about 20s slower.  I had yet to race in the 5k and 3k.

The day's events went in the order of longest to shortest.  We practiced at the course a few weeks prior to be familiar with the course set up at Villanova.  It's not very flat so I knew I wouldn't be around 20 minutes.  I also expected to beat Tim and just be content with that so I could conserve for my 10K on Sunday.  I led the 5K for almost the first full mile.  Tim took me down and I couldn't keep him within reach so I settled down and finished with a 22:10.  Not too bad.  Nathan made up for my 2nd place finish and our combined times were good enough for gold.  (Unified teams are placed by total combined time)

The 3K was next, with about an hour of rest, we were at it again.  Almost a carbon copy of the first race but now with a new competitor.  An athlete, Kyle, raced out to the front and stayed there almost the full race.  Tim made his move at about the same spot and passed us both on a downhill.  Kyle stayed out ahead of me and I took 3rd but again, Nathan picked up my slack and we took another unified division gold.

Almost an hour of rest and we hit the course for one final lap around 'Nova for the 1500m.  It's so great to see the competitiveness of all the athletes we coach line up and put forth a great effort  Again we lined up, I chased Kyle, Tim passed us late and we finished 1-2-3 again to conclude the days' events.

The Montco team did well and it was a perfect day to race.  I look forward to track and field in the spring back to just being a coach.

With a quick stop home to shower change and pack, we shot down to Annapolis at the Navy Marine Corps stadium for packet pickup for the Across the Bay 10K (and apparently an unadvertised fun run).  We picked up our packets, a (total BS) parking pass for $10 and wandered the mini expo before doubling back to Baltimore where we fueled up on lasagna and beer at Adam's.  We were up early for a quick breakfast but in no rush to get out to the race.  We'd decided we'd drop back to the final wave.  I was seeded in wave 1 based on my expected finish time of 47 minutes.  Kristen was in wave 3, Adam... wave 10.  The race officials were insistent that no one would be permitted to advance their start time but it was cool for anyone to drop to a later wave.  Even special requests were denied.  It turned out, there would have been no way at all to police that rule.  The joke was on us but it was a fair way to seed runners.  We knew we'd be finding ourselves winding through a herd of runners the entire course.

I was expecting a fairly easy course.  Adam had driving it a few weeks ago on his way to the beach and told me the climb was rough.  I thought it couldn't be as bad as the Ben Franklin Bridge run.  When we approached the bay, we could see that the bridge was far less arching than the BF Bridge.  It would be much easier, aside from the "fun runners" that were milling about all over the bridge.

With races like this, it's hard to take a wave of 2000+ runners and order them in any fashion based on speed.  We just moved along with the pile of people and worked our way to the starting line at that weird half walk - half jog because you have nowhere to go.  The column of people took up the entire width of the road so it was very challenging to get to the bridge itself at a running pace.

Once on the bridge, Adam, Joe and I were finding more room to run.  The next 5+ miles was nonstop dodging walkers and people that inexplicably stop to take in the view or take a picture.  It was mostly like running a 5 mile bridge while navigating 10,000 zombies milling about.  Kudos to them for signing up for the a 10K.  I'm sure their fees went to a great cause.

I happened to finish at the same exact time as the previous week's bridge run and it was kinda fun, almost like an obstacle course. I'll focus on the trail runs and smaller races... except for the Nashville Rock n Roll Half in April.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

3/1/2015 Garsoe-Schermerhorn Memorial Masters Swim Meet Pentathlon

After nearly 15 years, I have finally competed in a swim meet.  I signed up for a really cool meet in Bensalem, PA, about an hour from home about 2 weeks prior to the event.  It seems like there's not very many meets nearby based on what I can find on or the local area's site:

The Pentathlon meet  is as simple as it sounds, entrants can sign up for whatever they want but are encouraged to complete a full 5-event series comprised of one race of each stroke (at 50, 100, or 200 SCY) and an IM (100, 200 or 400).  I opted for the sprint distances of 50yds of each stroke and the 100yd IM to not bite off more than I could swallow with very little training or preparation.

To enter, I had no recent race results to submit as seed times.  I had to guess on all of them.  I thought a while on most of the times and settled on a few times that I thought were reasonable.  I seeded myself at :27 in the free, :27 in the back, :29 in the fly and :31 in breast, and 1:15 in the IM.  Lo and behold I pick up my heat sheet upon arrival and I'm seeded fastest in 2 events.  I realized a :31 in 50 breast was something I've never been capable of even in my peak years.
Lay off the crackpipe, Aaron, you've never been fast at breaststroke.
The event was held at Pennsbury High School.  The venue felt nostalgic since 99% of all my swim meets had been at high schools.  I realized I'd really been missing this.
Watching the rest of the competitors warm up after I felt like my 250 yd warm up was sufficient.
 My events started with back.  I wasn't feeling pretty unsure of my speed getting ready but felt confident once I hopped in and for not having practiced a back start in many years. The first race felt invigorating.  The rest of the events were equally awesome, some slower than I'd hoped but some were also quicker that I'd expected.

Yep, I took 2nd in my age group... out of 2.  It was a small meet.  It was also the first of many.  I'm beyond excited to get back into more competitive masters swimming events.  Bring it on!