Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Bedford Half Marathon

While we all wait with bated breath for the second installment of the US Nationals Race report from Amber, I figured I could at least keep everyone updated as we run some races. This past Sunday we ran the New Bedford Half Marathon which is the first part of the New England Gran Prix Series which showcases most of the fast runners in New England. This also marked the first race of the year that we did not race for acidotic Racing which does not compete, yet, in road races, and instead ran for the Gate City Striders, our original running club before we got sucked down the rabbit's hole of snowshoeing and trail racing. We continue to race for them at all New Hampshire and New England race series and do so mainly because of the quality of the people on the team. It is comprised of a great diverse group of people who seem truly just love to get out and run.
 Each of the last three years we've run this race we've made a weekend of it, going down and visiting my grandfather then heading out with my parents to a great dinner and some relaxation before the Sunday race. This year was no exception. We were lucky to get a nice hotel with a pool and hot tub and only a few miles from the start of the race, and which served a full breakfast. We found, using my mother's IPad, an excellent Portuguese restaraunt, Antonio's, for dinner. The place was so packed there was over an hour wait for a table, but we opted the bar as it had the same menus and was closer to the beer. I stayed pretty conservative with a fish sandwich but my father tried this amazing stew with shrimp, Bacalhau(salted cod), and various types of meats. I don't think he went a bite without saying how amazing it was. The rest of the night was topped off with lounging at the top tub and watching some movies in the room.
 We arose early the next morning, leisurely checking out the breakfast buffet. Over a period of forty minutes or so, I managed to eat: 2 breakfast sandwiches, a belgian waffle, a plate of eggs with sausage, a yogurt, 2 cups of coffee and sampled Amber's oatmeal when she wasn't looking. Definitely not the typical pre-race meal, but I figured that I had several hours to digest(the race didn't start until 11) so I would be fine. It wouldn't be until we arrived and saw the huge lines for the bathroom that I started to re-consider my thought process.
    Around ten we met up with Amber's parents and give her father his new Brooks' Green Silence that I picked up for him.  These shoes are as light as my racing flats but are made up of primarily recycled products, which is pretty amazing. We got our bibs, determined a place to meet after the race and warmed-up. Another aR and GCS racer, Rich Lavers, joined up with me for a short warm-up before we got called to the start line.
   With everyone ready to go, we wished each other good luck and went to our respective parts of the start line. With these New England Grand Prix series' races, I usually don't finish in the top 100 and therefore seeded myself where I thought I wouldn't be trampled by the hordes of CMS and BAA runners. After a brief introduction the gun went off as did the runners. Within 30 seconds, I was probably behind 150 or so runners, all of whom were running faster than I do for a 5k no less a half marathon. Then it occurred to me, that so was I. I passed the first mile in 5:30 which is my typical 5k first mile. Interesting, I wondered how long I could keep that up. Well, apparently about four miles. I then slowed to nearly a 5:55 pace to come through the five mile mark at 28:21(1:39 faster than my fastest 5 miler). I got passed by a runner that I thought I shouldn't have so picked the pace back up. The wind seemed to always be at my face but I think that actually helped because it forced me to pick up the pace to bridge gaps between runners to get some shelter from the wind. It was definitely a wake up call to see that I could run this pace with only a little more effort than I had at Half at the Hampton but was going 20 seconds per mile faster. It helped that this also corresponded nicely with a slight downhill that helped bring me through the ten mile mark in 57 minutes(again an unofficial PR).
  The last three miles were slow due to a)fatigue, b) my apparent inability to tie a shoelace that will remain tied, and c) a hill that elsewhere wouldn't even be mentioned but at New Bedford it is a HILL. However, I still finished with a time of 1:15:16 which was over a 3 minute PR and yet only netted me a 78th place finish. Yikes! Fast race.
  I am definitely happy with that time, but would have liked to have gotten in a long bike ride the day before to have tried to run it on tired legs in preparation for Ironman. Like Amber did. Amber biked for four hours on Saturday only to throw down a 1:26 on Sunday. She is looking strong for the upcoming season, which starts on April 10th for us down in Galveston, TX. More to come.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

US Snowshoe National Championships- Post Race Part 1

We have just arrived back home from our long weekend in Wisconsin to participate in the US Snowshoe National Championships held at Lakewoods Resort in Cable, WI. This race would serve as the US National Snowshoe Team Qualifier taking the top five men and women to represent the United States. Amber, the reigning champion, was looking to hold on to her title. However, there were many other women who were hoping to take that title. All five of the 2010 US Snowshoe team were there as well as the 2009 US champion and two-time Pike's Peak Ascent winner, Brandy Erholtz. Additionally, there were a couple other women who had  been on the team in previous years there as well.
While last year, the women went off before the men, this year it was reversed with the men going off first. After having spent the previous evening with Jim Johnson, Kevin Tilton and Tim VanOrden talking with many of the prospective winners, I knew that I needed to make sure I didn't start too far in the front. Apparently, I started too far in the back. The first kilometer was sluggishly slow, as I was successfully prevented from passing anyone because a couple of runners decided it would be appropriate to run two abreast during a championship race... Anyhow, I finally gave up asking to pass and just took a long loop around the two and tried to catch the pack ahead.
  A word about the course: It was amazing! This race was supposedly on a golf course but not one that I have ever played on. It was relentless short steep hills with nice gradual descents with a good tortuous double track, that crossed under the main road via a tunnel. While it definitely favored the fast road racers, it was definitely a fair course and I certainly liked the variety it provided.
  After slogging through the first half of the course, I was probably in the low 30's for overall placing. I was able to gain successfully a group of slower moving runners and steadily started picking off runners. Having run the second half of the course the night before with Am, I knew how far I still had to go. At first this was to my advantage as I picked off runners who had hit the hills early too hard. However, about 9K into the race, I had a runner pass me who I should have been able to stick with but decided to just settle in behind him. We picked off a few runners together before he made a second surge which I decided(or my body did) not to match. In the last few hundred meters, he had made a gap on me to finish 13 seconds ahead of me. To take 20th place. Making me the first out of the Top 20. Bummer. However, I came in 21st place this year from 36th last year in Syracuse. This year I finished in a time of 47:28 with the winner's time 41:41 14% slower.  Last year I finished in a time of 58:32.00 to the winner's time of 42:51.06 or 37% back.
  So despite finishing out of the Top 20, I am pleased with my overall improvement from the previous year. CMS must also be pleased with Jim and Kevin taking 8th and 9th place respectively and TiVo running a solid race to finish as one of the fastest Master's runners in the US.
  After finishing the race, Am and I did a cooldown/warm-up as I wound down and she prepped for the women's race. There was a lot of nervous energy around. I quickly gave Am a hug and wished her luck then ran over to the tunnel where I would see her for the first of many times along the course. I had barely gotten there when I heard the course marshall yelling "a women in orange is in a huge lead!" Amber was wearing her Dion jacket and sure enough she was in the lead. Closing in behind her was Erin and Cheryl, the 3rd and 2nd place finishers from last year's race, followed closely by Brandy. I cheered her on as she made her way up the first of many climbs of the day and then booked it to the second place where I could watch her. In the 3 or four minutes it took me to get to the next stop, Brandy must have made a solid move because as the women crested the climb, Brandy was now in the lead with Amber and Cheryl about 25 seconds back. So in less than 1 kilometer Brandy had made about a 35-40 second change in the race. I gave Am a few quick words of encouragement before she scrambled off after Cheryl.
  I'm not sure what happened in those next few kilometers(hopefully part 2 written by Am will soon follow) but Brandy gained another 25 seconds on Amber who had also put a large gap on Cheryl. She ran strongly up a steep strong hill putting a little more time on her and the third place runner and giving us hope that she could close the gap on Brandy. I met up with JJ, Kevin and TiVo and ran to the spot to view the race. We saw Brandy maintain the gap on Amber but not put any more distance between them on two more occasions before I ran to the finish to see them come across. Unfortunately for Am, it was not the spectacular finish of last year, pulling off a last minute win, but rather finishing a very strong second place to Brandy who appeared to have a very good race herself. So, while no longer the US Snowshoe Champ, she is the silver medalist and a member of the 2011 US Snowshoe team. More importantly, it finally gave her an opportunity to really push herself and I expect we will see a very strong, and dedicated, 2012 performance out in Colorado.

The snowshoe season finished well for us both and we both look forward to the upcoming triathlon season which starts on April 9 in Galveston, TX with the US 70.3 Championships. Four weeks later, will be my first Ironman and Am's first as a Pro so things are exciting and (more than ) a little scary. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

US Snowshoe National Championships: Pre-race

Last year entering in the snowshoe national championships, there seemed to be a lot more hype. Most likely it was due to the fact that it was in the Northeast so all the snowshoe runners' blogs were able predictions etc. This year, not so much. I guess it will be a fun surprise to see where I(and Amber) fall in the mix of runners. Kevin Tilton and Jim Johnson are both coming out so at best we're looking at third place but I suspect a far lower finish for myself. There are several good women mountain runners like Brandy Erholtz as well women ranked higher than Am in the Federation Cup Scoring like Carolyn Stocker so it will be fun to see how Am rises to the challenge. After seeing her tear apart Mt. Sunapee last week at Winter Wild, I am expecting good things from her despite the pressure(and target) of being the returning National Champ. 
     This is a great way to end the season: making a nice long weekend out of our last race and seeing a part of Wisconsin that neither of us have been to before. Wisconsin is a pretty significant state for us though. It's where I started running when I was on clinical and it was also Amber's first Ironman. Great things happen in three's so I'm expecting nothing less this weekend.
  We are a little disappointed though that USSSA put this race the same weekend as the Granite State Snowshoe Championships up at the Great Glen at the base of Mt. Washington. That was such an awesome race last year- Chris Dunn and aR racing standard. I would definitely recommend that anyone not racing in Wisconsin to try to make it up there this Sunday. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Two Weekends- Six Races

Haven't done a race report in a while, but not for lack of races. Actually it may be due to the plentitude that I've stayed away from writing about them which is unfortunate. The weekend of the 19th and 20th, Amber and I did a triple race day with Winter Wild, Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race and Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe. All three were well run and fun. Amber finished the day with three 1st place female finishes. I placed 5th, 5th and 3rd*. Note the asterisk. That is because runners 3-6 all got lost. So instead of coming in 7th, I was sky-rocketed to third losing only to Jim Johnson and Kevin Tilton. Not bad but feeling a little like Mark McGuire. Or at least Roger Maris. This day was a nice long run for me because not only did I do the three races but I helped Geoff Cunningham and Chris Dunn of acidotic Racing set up the course of Kingman Farms. You would think that this would have been an advantage until you realize that Geoff was one of the racers to go off course...

Suffice it to say, after those three races my legs were a little sore. I definitely could feel them the next morning when I drove to Hampton Beach to race the Half at the Hamptons half marathon. Race is a bit of an exaggeration as my legs had it in their minds to meander. We found a happy medium with a pace slower than I would have liked but still allowing me to place 12th overall(12 minutes back from the winner though). My brother joined me at this race as he is racing the Will Run for Beer series with me. He views these races as his workouts and thus doesn't do any running in between the races. This is unfortunate for him because that means there was nearly two months of no running between the Hangover Classic on Jan 1st and the Half at the Hampton. His legs certainly felt it but he was a good sport and still managed to cross the finish line running. Hopefully we can get him back in running form because he is certainly the more athletic of the two of us...

The second weekend wasn't so busy- only two races. However both of them were a little more important in my opinion. The first was the Northeast Snowshoe Championships held in Northfield, MA. This race brought together the majority of the best snowshoers in the region with the likes of: Jim Johnson, Dave Dunham, Kevin Tilton, Ben Nephew, Tim Mahoney and Van Orden of CMS, Geoff Cunningham, Tim Cox, Ryan Kelly, Judson Cake and Charlie Therriault of Acidotic as well as the ever-present strong TNT duo of Dave Principe and Robert Jackman. Throw in a couple of strong New York runners and Amber always on my tail and I was hoping just for a top twenty finish.
  My plan was to stick with Dave Dunham as long as I could- which is always my plan and usually only lasts about 30 seconds or so. However, this race for some reason(I think he was taking it easy) I was able to stick with him up the first climb. We caught up with a train of runners that were surprisingly being held up by Ben Nephew. We passed him and Tim VanOrden, running behind Tim Mahoney and Geoff Cunningham. On the descent Dave let me pass and I trailed Mahoney and Geoff. We ran in this order for some time with TiVo, Nephew and Dunham right on my tail. On the second ascent, Geoff had caught Charlie and the pace slowed to where Geoff passed Charlie and Ben passed the Tim's and me. And just like that Ben and Geoff were gone leaving Charlie to lead Tim M, me and TiVo on the descent in that order. After about fifty tree branches to the face, TiVo finally got frustrated and I let him pass. Poor decision. The three of them all took off while I face planted in the snow. Hurriedly picking myself up I tried as I could to close the gap but never could. The race finished with Geoff followed closely by Ben, Tim M, Charlie, TiVo and then me(the first one not in the top ten). However, with the company I kept for most of the run, I was pretty pleased with myself. I don't care that half of them were sick... Amber had another good race, placing 15th overall and first female.

The second race of the weekend was the Hyannis Marathon. This was a day for redemption. I had done this race in 2007 only two months after starting to run. I finished in a time of 4:44:43. Yikes! It was not pretty. Also it was the first time that I was exposed to the inequities of running. The two other races I had done up to that point(a 15k and Martha's Vineyard 20 miler) I had finished quickly enough to get a good portion of the food and spirits. At this race however, when I finished there were barely any spectators and almost no food left. Probably the number one reason why I have since made myself a faster runner-to get to the food tables.
  My whole plan with training for Ironman St. George is to go into every long run with sore legs. I had definitely done that with the Half at the Hampton and was doing it again for this race. My goal was to break 3 hours.
  The half-marathon and marathon, as well as the 10k, all start together so we went out fast. I was trying to keep up with Cate Snow, Kona's second fastest marathon runner,  but after going through the first two miles at my 5k splits, I realized that wasn't a good strategy. I slowed down a bit making it through the half in 1:21 and change. I got to the half marathon thinking "well my legs feel about as sore as the beginning of the Half at Hamptons last week" so I knew I could put together a decent time. Then everyone disappeared. With the exception of one runner that I passed at mile 21, I did not see or run with a single runner for the whole second half of the race. This definitely was a disadvantage for me as I have very poor pacing skills and do much better when I can mindlessly run after someone. I ended up running seven minutes slower for the second half finishing with a time of 2:49:01. While not my fastest marathon(see Exeter 2010) it was my first podium finish-coming in second overall. I am pleased with the redemption from the 2007 race and now can look back at Hyannis with a little more fondness. Just need to do that for Vermont 88.6.

My splits for the marathon were:

Mile 1: 5:49
Mile 2: 5:48
Mile 3: 5:59
Mile 4: 6:10
Mile 5: 6:22
Mile 6: 6:14
Mile 7: 6:17
Mile 8: 6:33
Mile 9: 6:22
Mile 10: 6:29
Mile 11: 6:24
Mile 12: 6:29
Mile 13: 6:22
Mile 14: 6:31
Mile 15: 6:24
Mile 16: 6:28
Mile 17: 6:28
Mile 18: 6:31
Mile 19: 6:30
Mile 20: 6:52
Mile 21: 6:28
Mile 22: 6:44
Mile 23: 6:48
Mile 24: 6:44
Mile 25: 6:48
Mile 26: 6:53
Mile 26.2: 1:18

Not the most impressive, but I'm happy with the result. Now a much needed rest weekend, then off to Wisconsin for the Snowshoe National Championships!