Sunday, December 28, 2014

Old Mountain Field Trail 5K 2014 December Version

No doubt you've already read many other write ups about this race.  Sorry mine's so late.  Here's my take: 

Pre-race Thoughts:

I was super excited to find out a couple of months ago that Mike Galoob was still planning on putting on his 4th Season trail race series.  The OMF 5K would again be the first race.  I really like this course.  Despite the short distance, it is diverse and challenging.  And feels long.  I ran it a few times the week of the race and it would take me 25 - 30 minutes to complete depending on my effort (and the 25 was a good push).  In December 2012 I had a good race here and finished in 19:33.  I knew I should be faster two years later and had the goal of possibly finishing just under 19 minutes.  That was my only real goal besides a team WTAC win over TNT (and any others).  As the pre-registries came in on the site, it was obvious the field was going to be large and stacked.  My plan in previous years was to go out super fast and get to the single track first or with the lead pack.  Well, the results of that plan have humbled me, and I didn't want to do that again.  Maybe a more conservative start and then passing people later would be better.  I even searched out Chris Garvin's opinion about it at the WTAC Christmas party. 

Fast forward to race day and I was feeling good.  Because of a very busy work and family schedule, I hadn't been logging that many miles leading into the race.  I felt fresh.  That was good.  Mentally, I've been lacking confidence in my speed since I've had a bit of a training lull since the Li'l Rhody Runaround.  That was bad.  I already knew who would be at the race, but arriving there just confirmed the amount of competition.  I really just was hoping for a race I felt good about at the end. 

I ran the course a bit early with my brother Greg and Tom Gruczka.  We brought orange tape with us to help block off possible wrong turns.  Tom is a super friendly guy and we had fun on our 30 minutes of mostly running the course, occasionally stopping to tie up tape.  We had about 15 minutes left before the race start.  I stripped down to just a singlet, shorts, hat, and gloves on this 35 degree gray day.  I then did some more running to stay warm, mixing in a few field strides.  Mike got us all lined up and it was time to race! 

The Race:

The start was a mad sprint like always except this year there were so many more people involved.  I tried to be conservative, but quickly found myself in what I verbalized as 40th place.  I made the turn around the ball field and onto the partly paved section where the clicking and clacking of spikes could be heard.  Must be high school or college kids.  After the next turn at the bottom of the pond I made the quick decision to sprint even harder as I didn't like how many people were ahead of me so near the single track trail entrance.  According to GPS, my pace for this first quarter mile fluctuated between high 4's and low 5's. 

Finally I entered the woods maybe in 12th or so place.  The pace eased off immediately and I maneuvered around someone at the first bridge.  I needed to recover from the sprint - my breathing was out of whack and I was tired, but I was in the middle of a furious train of runners.  I did my best to keep pushing despite how I felt.  I passed Dave Principe along this stretch who sounded like he was feeling worse than I was.  I made it to the bridge at the top of the pond and I finally was feeling recovered.  I quickly passed a young runner on a wider stretch and then caught up to more runners on the rock jump stream crossing.  I patiently had to wait my turn (the runner ahead of me had spikes on and I wouldn't have been surprised to see a bad fall).  I made my move to go by at the power line, cutting up my legs in the process.  Now we were in the soggy far end of the course.  I caught another younger guy and now found myself with a sizable gap behind the next person up ahead (Tom) and then I could sometimes see glimpses of the leaders (Garvin, Greg, Bronson V, Jackman, Brightman).  Muddy was still behind me, as well as many other fast guys.  I kept pushing through the slop.  As the trail got more technical and twisty, I wasn't racing to catch anybody, rather I was trying to stay ahead of Muddy who was now clearly on my heels. 

Non-rant Sidebar: 

It's pretty amusing how many times this scenario has presented itself this year in trail races - me being closely trailed by Muddy for the majority of the race.  I feel that we are so closely even in ability and train so much together that it sort of makes sense that we race together.  And I prefer to lead.  Being "pushed" from behind helps me maintain my focus and effort.  As soon as I get passed, I have a tendency for a let down.  I lose focus and determination.  I believe we have pushed each other to great races this year.  Besides, I think the results are about 50/50 this year on who finishes ahead of whom. 

Back to the Race:

The course begins to rise gradually and then with a rather significant hill.  I was pushing to stay in front of Muddy, but now Tom was coming into view.  We definitely were gaining a lot of ground on the hill climb.  After summiting and then clumsily dropping down the steep stairs, I knew I was going to pass Tom on the next short hill.  He heard me coming and graciously pulled off to the side and offered words of encouragement.  I appreciated the gesture and saving my legs from more cuts.  I was hoping to get a gap on Muddy here, but sure enough he was back on my heels.  We crested the "Old Mountain" again, and then began negotiating tight switchbacks down the hill.  I was afraid that I would get passed here and really tried to descent quickly.  Besides Muddy, this was prime Gazelle territory and also Dave Principe.  Surely they weren't far back.  Near the bottom of the hill we began seeing and gaining on local road speedster Bronson Venable.  He was racing as a Turtle, so besides the excitement of catching up to a fifteen minute 5Ker, there could be team racing consequences.  I knew that he was inexperienced on trails, and hopefully the tough course was doing him in.  I wanted to pass him on the uphill switchbacks.  Then suddenly on a tight turn Muddy cut sharply inside and almost went by me.  But it was just like NASCAR and he lost all his momentum.  I pushed on up the hill and finally resigned to the fact that I wasn't catching Bronson here, and soon we would be out of the woods. 

The finish is on grass around the skate park for 200 meters, then on pavement for 200 meters, and then back on grass for another 200 meters or so.  I remained a couple of seconds back of Bronson with Muddy a second or two behind me.  I picked up my pace, more to hold off Muddy at this point.  Once we reached the pavement however, Bronson seemed to slow a bit.  I quickly took off and made my move.  I just passed a super fast dude!  I tried to keep on the jets.  Surely this wasn't the end.  I rounded the turn onto the field and continued to press, but here comes company.  Muddy and Bronson overtook me.  Ugh!!  I tried to find another gear - I've no doubt done this in previous races - but couldn't find the turnover to catch back up.  Bronson surged ahead of Muddy and then a couple of seconds later, we crossed the line.  Race over. 


I had to take a few moments to make sure I didn't throw up.  What a finish.  Despite "losing" at the line, I was very pleased with my race.  I felt good about how it all went.  My time was 19:27, good for 7th place in a stacked field.  A modest PR, but I'll take it.  Team WTAC got the win! 

Thanks to the Galoob family for putting on such a great race.  It was a record turnout too.  Rhody trail racing is strong and I can't wait for more races in 2015.  Happy New Year!! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Week: 11-24-14 to 11-30-14

My desire to get out and chase miles everyday has been waning as the days get colder and darker.  Maybe it is still a Li'l Rhody hangover.  I eclipsed the 3000 mile mark for the third consective year during this week.  Honestly, I don't see how I've run that many as I feel like I've been running a little less this year (I know that sounds crazy). 

Monday: 10+ miles - "Boring Loop in Dullsville" solo.  That was my Strava title.  I just wasn't into running today and had a bad attitude.  I did manage to rally and come up with a new loop that began from the Cuttyhunk Preserve parking lot.  I ran a mile plus of trails and then ran east on the messy Stony Lane.  I stayed on Stony Lane once it became paved and then looped back to my car on roads: Narrow Lane, South Road, Shippee Road, Frenchtown Rd, Bates Trail, and then back on Hopkins Hill Road.  I was annoyed with my watch as it seemed rather slow on the roads for my effort.  Total time: 1:15:18 with 446' of climbing. 

Tuesday: 10++ miles - EG/WG roads alone.  Another new loop, this time from the basketball courts on Frenchtown Road.  My motivation was Strava segments, which helped me start out at a spicy pace.  I ran east to Tillinghast Road and then ventured north.  This was more hilly than I anticipated, but I was more concerned with not getting run over by a Mercedes or a lawn service truck.  I then turned west onto Middle Road and was getting antsy for the first Segment to begin.  I knew it started somewhere after the stream crossing.  I turned up the pace knowing that Jackman had averaged 6:30 pace on this 3/4 mile hill climb.  It was hard, but at the end of the road I figured I had nailed it.  I so wanted to rest, but the next segment began immediately.  It was on Carr Pond Rd from Middle Rd to Division St.  I thought it was an easy downhill mile, but the road gradually climbed for the first half.  I was hurting as I struggled to maintain a peppy pace.  Finally I reached the screaming descent and knew I had taken the segment.  I turned west onto Division St briefly before diving into the woods in Big River on the New London Turnpike.  My goal was to keep up the peppy effort for the duration of my run.  I ran the dirt turnpike to Hopkins Hill Rd and turned south.  There is a sneaky steep little hill before a very steep and curvy descent to Tarbox Pond.  I then had to make the big climb back up Hopkins Hill.  There is a Strava segment that Garvin made untouchable, but I still pushed myself nonetheless.  I eventually crested the hill and could relax on the 2+ miles left back to my car (via Bates Trail and Frenchtown Rd).  Total time for the 10.2 miles was 1:06:08 (6:29) with 571' of climbing. 

Wednesday: 7+ miles - XC workout with Galoob.  We met up at Tuckertown Park in the pitch black.  The weather today was going to be nasty, but we only dealt with sprinkles.  Mike had mapped out a roughly 1/2 mile loop (more like two really long straightaways with short turns between them) on level soccer fields.  Without headlamps, it was hard to see where we were running, but managed to figure out the landmarks to use for our lap (it was measuring .53 miles on GPS).  After two miles of warming up with strides we changed into our spikes and got to work.  6 x 800+ with 400 rest.  Results: 2:54/2:58/3:00/2:59/2:58/2:57 (GPS average pace was 5:33 - 5:44).  I was happy with this.  Total time: 52 minutes.  Somewhere during the last two intervals I surpassed the 3000 mile mark for the year! 

Thursday: 12 miles - Run to Thanksgiving Dinner.  I ran from my house on roads to my in-laws.  I've done this a couple of other times.  The route is not fun, but the reward is good food and drink.  I used the Strava app on my phone and had no idea what my pace was.  I didn't feel great, but the pace seemed okay.  I was surprised to see my time of 1:20:17 (6:45) when I was done. 

Friday: 10 miles - Beach and road run with Muddy, Gazelle, and Seth.  We met up at the bakery and then ran down to the Charlestown Breachway.  We then ran east on the beach out to Moonstone Beach Rd (Seth left us at Green Hill).  It was low tide which was good, but there were tough rock sections in Green Hill and Moonstone.  Fun conversation throughout the run and at the bakery afterward.  Total time: 1:16:01. 

Saturday: 0 - We ended up driving to Stoddard NH in the early morning rather than on Friday afternoon.  It was ridiculously snowy and cold up there (at least 12" of snow, icy roads, high temp of 27).  I couldn't talk Glenn into a short run and I wasn't motivated to go out on my own.  At least I strapped my snowshoes on and played in the snow with my kids for an hour. 

Sunday: 10 miles - Stoddard NH icy dirt roads with my wife and then solo.  I was happy to have company to get me out in the winter wonderland (I'm totally not ready for snow running conditions).  My wife and I ran together for an hour and then she talked me into going back out for a few faster miles.  It was an easy sell.  I ran a hillier route, and wished I had better traction.  So much warmer later in the day back in RI with no snow.  Total time: 1:29 with 850' of elevation gain. 

Overall:  Decent week that would have been good if I didn't zero on Saturday.  I want to continue to train hard for the winter trail race series, but I'm worried about my usual December slack off. 

Weekly Total: 59 miles
Last Week: 70 miles
Year to Date: 3033 miles
November Total: 253 miles