Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2014 Winter Wild and New Bedford Half Marathon

This weekend was the first race double in which I've participated in for several years. It used to be normal for me to run 2-3 races in a weekend. In fact, my two best marathons came on the heels of race-day doubles the day before. These last couple years, however, I've really cut back on racing which both my car and my wallet appreciate. Anyway, back to this weekend. It was a race double but one of the races I was directing.
An amazing day to race

Saturday, I co-directed the Winter Wild Championships up at Bretton Woods. We stayed up the night before because we had an early morning in store as we had to mark the course after the groomers had been out. At 2:45am we awoke, donned our running gear, armed with green eco-friendly spray paint and snowshoes, and headed up the mountain. This course involves a fairly steep climb up the center of the mountain which quickly woke us up. By the time we had summited, there was enough light to see it was going to be a gorgeous day as we could see the full Presidential Range. We stopped just long enough to take it in and then headed down to get to registration in time to open up. Working with Bretton Woods was a breeze and they were so accommodating, allowing all racers to ski the rest of the day for only $25 and giving us a overnight stay at the Mount Washington Hotel as a raffle prize. In fact, everything turned out perfectly. We had a record number of participants, a great raffle from our sponsors, and perfect conditions both for the race and everyone who skied afterwards.
Yes. That is a mother towing her child UP the mountain!

 See all Winter Wild photos here.

The only downside of the day was that I had to make my way from Bretton Woods down to New Bedford, MA where I was running for the Gate City Striders the next morning. I made it to Concord somehow before stopping for a quick nap and continuing on. I arrived in time to meet my parents, my dad's cousin and my uncle out for dinner. I'd like to say I was able to rally and hang out for the evening but pretty much right after dinner I called it a night.

I awoke to my alarm 10 hours later feeling I could have slept another ten. I groggily made my way to the hotel lobby where I piled on the eggs and sausage, drowned down with copious amounts of coffee. After discouraging my parents from trying to catch me along the course(partially due to the size of the filed, and partially due to how far back I suspected I'd be in the pack), I said my goodbyes and planned to meet them after the race.

If you've never done New Bedford before, the key is parking and bathrooms. Or the seeming lack of either. It's not that they don't have a lot of both, they just don't seem like they have enough for the amount of participants that they have racing. After about 20 minutes of driving around, I did finally find a spot, in what is best described as a "not so nice" part of town. Suffice it to say, I didn't do the usual leave the key on the tire, instead opting to carry it with me. I also decided to keep my long-sleeve cotton t-shirt and fleece hat on because that wind was brisk. The delay in parking was such that by the time I registered, I didn't have enough time to stand in a 30 man deep line for one stall at the YMCA so headed to the race start hoping for a shorter line at the porta-potty. SIDE BAR: My mom called this. She said something about how I ALWAYS have GI issues in the run and why not eat a smarter breakfast. Unfortunately, eating at 8am seemed like it gave me plenty of time to digest before the 11am start. Hmmm. Maybe she was right. Please don't tell her. Anyway I didn't end up going because the lines near the start weren't any shorter and they were already playing the national anthem.

As you can see, I have sufficiently embedded excuses in the story. Recapping the race to Amber, she also blamed it on my lack of warm up which she vehemently encourages(and which I tell my athletes, but sometimes don't do myself). There is some merit to her argument as studies have shown that there is a period where your body goes from primarily an anaerobic fuel consumption to one that is aerobic in nature and as this shift occurs, there is an oxygen-deficit. This can be combated by adequately warming up, which has the additional benefit of prepping your muscles to fire on all cylinders. So yes, warming up is important. But I did not do so. And those first few miles I paid for it. Mile 1 was spent expending far too much energy trying to get into a group of athletes running my pace(standing in line resulted in me being seeded too far back at the start). Mile 2 was then spent sucking wind. Mile 3 was even worse running a 6:30 for a fairly fast mile. Mile 4 brings you to the only hill in the entire course(not really true but the only one with any substance). I gladly let my time be slow for that one too so I crossed the four mile mark in 25 minutes which was over two minutes slower than I was hoping.

A thing about racing: There is a huge difference between hoping and planning. With a good coach and steady training, you know that you've done the necessary workouts that will produce a relatively expected outcome. Hoping, on the other hand, is something I feel I've been doing more of lately: forgoing long runs for a few fast ones on the treadmill or lifting and playing basketball instead of running at all. One is better for producing good race results than the other. You can decide.

So anyway, mile 5 I FINALLY started feeling better and by 6, I was working up quite a sweat and was lucky enough to spot my parents on the course and I was able to toss my shirt to them.

Right after that I got to talking with another runner who hadn't ever done New Bedford and I warned him about the upcoming wind once we got to the seawall. I encouraged him to join me as I tried to bridge the gap with the next group ahead of us. He didn't join but I did, leapfrogging to this next group. That is certainly one of the benefits of running New Bedford: there are almost(for me at least) plenty of people ahead of you that you can motivate you to move faster. I did a few more leapfrogging and by eight found myself beside Dave Dunham. Now for me to be running beside DD means that either I'm dreaming or he's hurt and sure enough after the race I found out he was battling a stomach bug. I continued trudging along running the race pace that I had hoped I was going to maintain for the entire race.

At mile ten, I had brought my time down to 59:15 which was definitely a negative splint for the second five miles but still meant that I would not be running a PR today. It was around this time that I was privy to witness an interesting phenomena. I had just passed a runner who seemed to be pacing one of his female teammates and just ahead of me was another female tucked snugly behind some male runners. And slightly further up the course from these two groups, was a lonely Somerville Strider struggling heroically on her own.

Another side-bar: I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a naturally empathetic person, but if I can imagine someone I love in that person's place, I sometimes find myself getting very defensive of that person. Such was the case here. I envisioned Amber in this situation working hard and on her own while other runners were getting assistance.
   A side-bar on the side-bar: I am pretty sure it is not illegal or against the rules to draft in running, so this whole scenario was totally contrived by me. In fact, it is probably the smart way to race, as you can certainly conserve energy. Regardless, I felt that the lone runner wasn't given a fair shot and I got riled up.

Back to the story. So it was with my vivid imagination of contrived wrongs done unto others, that I decided to help the lone runner out. I tucked right in front of her trying my best to block the wind for her as best I could. It was actually a really fun experience, because every time she wanted to go faster, I could see her shadow get closer to me and I'd spend up a little. The way she was running she probably didn't need me but I'm sure that it didn't hurt to have me pacing her. It definitely made things go by quicker for me...
The Lone Runner and Danny

We finished the race in side by side and I congratulated her on her perseverance, speed and podium finish. I didn't catch her name until I looked up the results and discovered that she was the 2011 Mountain Running Series champion. i.e. a stud. It then occurred to me that maybe she was pacing me.

The positive takeaways: It was encouraging to see that I could put together some solid miles in the middle of the course which hopefully indicates I can maintain a good pace at my upcoming marathons.

The negatives: I was really struggling with the minor hills on the course and my first scheduled marathon in two weeks, Knoxville, is supposedly relentless with hills. Nothing terribly long just overall consistently hilly. We will just have to see.

Up Next:
  1. Knoxville Marathon March 30th(Danny),
  2. Raleigh Marathon April 13th(Danny),
  3. Florida 70.3 April 13th(Amber),
  4. Boston Marathon April 21st(Danny),
  5. Pittsburgh Marathon May 4th(Danny).
As you can see it is going to get busy pretty quickly. Hope my legs can hold out. I'd like to think I can plan on it.

Photo credits belong to Gianina Lindsey, Scott Mason and Krissy Kozlosky, respectively. Thanks!


  1. Sure would be nice to "struggle" to a sub 1:18. Yup.
    Good luck at Knoxville. Make sure to get there early, eh? :)

    1. Michael- you know it's all relative. By the way congrats on your 3rd place ultra finish! Going to spend some time with my brother and hopefully in the Great Smokey's before, so I'm hoping this is no Galveston fiasco

    2. Thanks. I've long since given up on "outrunning" the competition. Now, I'm just focusing on "outlasting" them. Seems to be working so far. :)

    3. Outlasting=outrunning in my opinion. Keep it up you're doing something right!