Archive for February, 2011

Best race photo from the Half at the Hamptons? Here’s the full gallery of my appearances. My top three (in no particular order) are below. Two of them are from the last couple miles along the ocean and the other is from the finish line. I tend to go all out at the end, so the last one is a treat.

http://va2nh.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/hh2.jpg

http://va2nh.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/hh3.jpg

See my favorite photo from last year’s version here.

I have to admit, I love running races that have official photographers, even if I never purchase them. So for all of you that do, please continue to do so so that I can continue to reap the free rider effect.

PS- They don’t want me to copy them, but each photo has an button that will share the proof on Facebook for me? That doesn’t make sense.

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In January, I went Nordic skiing for the first time at Jackson, followed by an excursion to Waterville Valley two days later. After spending the first couple weekends on campus, I’ve been out skiing the past two weekends.

1) Windblown XC (Feb 12, 2011)

I led an outing club trip to Windblown XC in New Ipswich, NH last Saturday. The center had some great views, but was a little hillier than both Jackson and Waterville had been (or at least had less easy trails). I thought I was a little timid during the course of the day, so don’t necessarily know that I improved a ton. But it was a fun day. It’s nice taking trips to other parts of New Hampshire besides the Whites.

2) Wolfeboro XC (Feb 19, 2011)

As fun as Windblown was, I have to admit that this past Saturday’s excursion to Wolfeboro XC had it beat. We had a pretty beginner-oriented group, but somehow myself and Kraus (the other official leader) ended up being the worst skiers. Here’s Kraus posing by the “Kraussy’s Crossing” trail sign (as for the pose, he said “Make it look like I know what I’m doing”).

We started out on the center’s easier trails before trying out a couple intermediate ones. Since I still haven’t mastered the whole slow down or stop bit, I had some decent wipeouts. Everybody fell at least a couple times, but Kraus and I took the overall title.

The turning point of the day came when we at the intersection of an intermediate and advanced trail. We hadn’t done anything advanced yet (quite frankly, we didn’t have any right to), and everyone voted to take the intermediate trail, but somehow we ended up going down the advanced one instead.

It was actually pretty awesome. I basically just bombed down the downhill, stayed alive on the straightaway, then had a spectacular wipeout where the trail curved. Everybody had so much fun that we did the loop again. I wiped out again. It was awesome.

If you don’t believe the whole “spectacular wipeouts” part, here’s a post-wipeout shot from the other advanced trail we took that day. You know it’s a good trip if you draw blood.

Despite what the above may suggest, I actually think my skills progressed at Wolfeboro. I definitely got better on slowing down, and I focused on skiing on the groomed portion (rather than just in the tracks), which made me a lot more comfortable with that.

It looks like there’s another Nordic excursion or two in my future before winter is over, so hopefully I’ll be able to test whether these advancements stick around. I’d like to make Nordic a focus next winter, possibly acquiring some gear and getting into skate skiing, so that I can end my collegiate career with solid skills in one winter sport.

Above are the top ten finishers from yesterday’s half (click for a better look); full race results are posted on Coolrunning.

Here’s the local paper’s write-up on the event- both the male and female course records fell, I don’t think I mentioned that in my original report. I got mentioned as the “top local finisher,” which is kind of cool.

Additionally, having never run a road 10k in my life, my 35:48 through the 6.2 mile mark (according to my Garmin) is actually a PR for that distance. I’ve run a couple trail 10ks, but never finished faster than 36:31. So the race was actually a double PR…very cool.

Given the amount of thought that I put into this race going into it, it only makes sense to put a similar effort into the interpretation of its results.

I am obviously very pleased with the PR. Given that the race was Boston prep, I figured it made sense to do a little research into half marathon to marathon conversion times. According to the brilliant minds behind the Letsrun forums, the standard is to double your half marathon time and add ten minutes. That gives me a 2:43:30 approximation. Which sounds scary fast.

The McMillan Running Calculator goes much, much further in-depth. Below are the equivalent efforts for a 1:16:44 half, or “what would be an equivalent race time at one race distance based on your recent race time at another distance.”

http://va2nh.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/picture-4.png

That lists a 2:41:50 marathon. Again, that sounds horribly fast compared to my 3:06 marathon debut. I ran that post-last year’s 1:17:56 half, for which I’m sure my marathon equivalent time would have been mid-2:40s, so I suppose that goes to show that naivety and the lack of a race strategy can trump even the most scientific race calculator.

To further investigate the above claims, I looked up the four people who beat me at the Half at the Hamptons in 2010 in the 2010 Boston Marathon results. Three of them ran it. Here’s how they fared (half time in parentheses):

Guy #1: (1:14:33) 3:08:15

Guy #3: (1:15:33) 2:36:44

Guy #4: (1:16:44) 2:58:16

Those are some incredibly widely-different results. I think that goes to show that the conversion process can be very individual. My plan is still to aim for sub-2:50, and hope that I learned something the first time around.

I have to admit that it seems almost wrong to be running this fast these days. I sort of danced around exact numbers in my pre-race post, but here are some facts: I ran a total of three times in the 13 days prior to this half marathon, for a total of about 27 miles. All three of those efforts took place in the six days prior to the race (I ran on Monday, Thursday and Friday). To be honest, I also went Nordic skiing twice in those 13 days, although my lack of skills in that sport prevents me from referring to those efforts as a cardio workout.

Sadly, those 27 miles weren’t a planned part of the greatest taper ever, either; it just reflects my far too sporadic training methods these days. I haven’t topped 40 miles a week since the 100k. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those numbers, because running is only one of the focuses in my life right now. But I can’t help but wonder: What if I was doing 70-80 miles a week like I’d like to? What half marathon times would I be running then?

It’s something to think about, certainly. Which is why I’m going to post daily workouts on here, for that greater sense of accountability. But that starts tomorrow; today’s a rest day.

(Scroll down for video)

As I perused other people’s reports on yesterday’s Half at the Hamptons, I came across a video on Jim Johnson’s blog. Johnson is an all-around wicked good runner out of Salem (14:54 5k, 2:27 marathoner). It looks like he concentrates on snowshoe racing during the winter, but he came out to yesterday’s half marathon to watch some teammates throw down.

He filmed snippets from mile 3, mile 6, and the finish, mostly the front-runners. Amazingly, that included me – I’m the guy in black shorts/shirt with the white UNH hat (not my greatest look ever, but it got the job done). You also get to see Johnson not know who the hell I am (which is entirely cool, considering I had no idea who the guy on the side of the road telling me “good job” was).

Here’s the video, with the Cliff Notes version of my appearances below.

3:59: (On me, guy in red, guy in orange) “We got a pack here, a pack of three guys. I’m sorry I don’t know off-hand who any of these guys are.”

7:18: (On me and guy in orange) “I don’t know who those guys are, unfortunately. They’re running pretty good though.”

I apologize for the fact that the couple picks I snapped post-race suck. But I’m not a huge fan of posts without pics and it gives you a sense of the place.

My favorite part of today’s Half at the Hamptons came in the form of a comment from a spectator to me around mile 12.5:

“I’m loving the shorts attitude”

As of last night, the weather forecast for the 10 am start of today’s half marathon was 24 degrees, 16 mph winds and a windchill of 10. I can’t say what it actually was at the start, but it certainly was close to that.

But yes, I ran in shorts.

I ran in shorts because, well, I pretty much always run in shorts. But I view that comment as emblematic of the broader attitude behind the Half at the Hamptons itself. It’s February (so it’s cold), it’s New Hampshire (so it’s cold), it’s a beach town (so the wind makes it colder), and there’s snow and ice everywhere. Screw it, let’s run 13.1 miles!

When life gives you snowbanks, just put your speakers on top of them and host a party race.

The Half at the Hamptons is my first repeat race in New England. Last year, I ran 1:17:56 and placed fifth. I loved the course and the atmosphere. This year, I was looking to beat those marks, as I wrote about on Friday.

I am very happy to say that I did just that, running 1:16:44, which put me in fourth out of about 1200.

I did a fairly minimal warm-up due to the cold, but all systems seemed to be go while I did so. I lined up in the front row and we were off.

Within a half-mile, I was in fifth, last in a group of three: me, “guy in red,” and “guy in orange” (The best part of race reports is making up names for the people you ran with). At one point before mile 1, guy in red asked what times we were looking for. I said sub-1:17:56, and the guy in red responded that he was looking for 1:15. That made me concerned that I might be going out too fast, but we went through the mile mark in 5:52, which was fine.

The three of us were together until mile four or so. We were winding through residential areas during this time, and mostly staying in a line to dull the effects of the wind. I felt like I was the winkest link of the three of us, so it was surprising when the guy in red fell back as we moved on to a nice straightaway in the fifth mile.

And so it was just guy in orange and me. We would run mostly side-by-side for the next few miles.

At mile six, guy in orange mentioned that he was jealous of my decision to wear shorts. Indeed, it had warmed up a bit, and the wind was less of an issue since we weren’t on the coast. I took off my (heavy) gloves and carried them the rest of the way. I didn’t have a target mile pace, per se, but it looked like we were both beating the 5:56/mile pace that I clocked last year in, so I was pleased with that.

I started to gain a few feet on guy in orange around mile seven, but it was short-lived. He passed me by mile eight and began to put some registerable distance between us. My mile eight split was right around 46 minutes, approximately 5:45 pace.

We turned onto Route 1A, which runs right along the beaches and would comprise the final five miles of the race. I knew I had a PR unless things imploded, but it was still definitely a sufferfest for those final miles. The guy in orange was in sight the whole time, but just far enough out of reach.

I hammered the final tenth, crossing the line at 1:16:44, or 5:51/mile.  That gave me a 72 second PR, which I was quite pleased with. I’d also held the fourth place finish. I thanked the guy in orange (it’s nice having someone to gun for, even if they beat you), and set about rehydrating (I typically avoid aid stations at half marathons). Of course, the water bottle I picked up was half frozen.

I won my age group, which meant I got a cool Half at the Hamptons fleece and a pint glass. I joked with the guy in orange that the real reason that I hadn’t caught him was that I knew that I couldn’t have the Smuttynose beer that the top three finishers received, so there was no motivation. It would have been nice to nab that spot just to make things awkward for the race director.

It was great to return to the half after getting into ultras; 13.1 miles is no longer worthy of the word “long.” A lot of people use this race as a tune-up for Boston, and I find myself in that category this year. I’m interested to see how this effort translates. But we have 58 days until I find out the answer.

There’s something special about this race. I referred to last year’s version as my most effectively-executed, tactically-pure race ever, and now this year’s version gets to steal that title.

I’m loving the half marathon attitude.

On Sunday, I’m slated to run the Half at the Hamptons in Hampton, New Hampshire. It will be my third time racing the half marathon.

I ran this race last year, so I know it’s a fun, fast course with new oceans views in the final miles. I also feel that I have something to live up to.

Here’s the thing: I consider last year’s race the most effectively-executed, most tactically-pure race I’ve ever run. I took over eight minutes over my half marathon PR, lowering it from 1:26:36 to 1:17:56. I ran nearly the entire race solo – I held fifth place from mile two to mile 13.1. Splits were even; effort was appreciable and deliberative without ever feeling forced and unsustainable. The race report I linked to above reads very matter-of-fact, showcasing cool satisfaction and knowledge of a job well-done (if that sounds annoyingly arrogant, I have multiple race reports reflecting my innate tendency to go out too fast and spent the majority of the latter half of a race in intense suffering).

I ran a good race last year, which means to improve I need to run a better one. I have previously espoused on my desire to PR at this race, which means beating last year’s 5:56/mile pace. Now, 48 hours before the starting gun goes off, my mind is assessing the current state of things.

I’ll be the first to admit that mileage has been lacking these last couple weeks. Last year, I went into the race 50 days into a commitment to run every day from Jan. 1 to my first marathon on March 20. This year, I didn’t necessarily want to make that commitment, so made other ones instead. To some degree, those commitments have been successful, but I miss the confidence boost of the streak. That’s why next week this blog will take on more of a daily training log feel, as apparently I need some sort of digital accountability.

That said, I’m not going into Sunday’s race with failure in mind. In the 363 days since I last ran this race, my “mental toolbox” (to use a phrase that my high school cross country coach used) has been supplemented with the running of my first marathon, 50 miler, and 100k. I am not inclined to underestimate the benefits – both physical and mental – that could be reaped from having these under my belt.

I did effectively two runs so far this week, on Monday and Thursday. Both were on unseasonably warm days and, as such, developed in a variation of a tempo run as the legs reaped the psychological advantage of the sun and the ice-free open road. Thus, I have some recent indications stemming from running at near half-marathon PR pace, although not for nearly the half-marathon distance (the tempo portions of the two runs were about six and eight miles, respectively). Following those efforts, particularly the second one, I will say my attitude toward this race brightened significantly. But that may be foolishness on my part.

As previously mentioned, last year I ran the race pretty much on my own, far enough back from the front-runners but ahead of anything that could be considered a group; we will see what the competition creates this year. Of the four people that beat me last year, two are returning. This year we’re being joined by the winner of last fall’s Philadephia Marathon (in a crazy 2:21), who is looking to break the course record of 1:07.

I’ll be gunning for sub-1:17:56. We’ll see how it goes. You could make an argument either way. In fact, I believe I already have.

Photo: Actual tube of IcyHot that this post deals with

Back in September 2009, I was returning to school at UNH after spending a summer working for the Appalachian Mountain Club in northern New Hampshire. I’d been a backcountry campsite caretaker, which basically meant that I lived in a canvas tent by a pond located along the Appalachian Trail, a stone’s throw from federally designated wilderness,  for 10 or 11 day stints at a time (followed by three or four days off). I hiked in a tremendously heavy pack at the start of each stint with all my food for the 11 days (goodbye, fresh fruits and vegetables) and spent the days interacting with some of the coolest people on earth (AT thru-hikers), doing various kinds of trail work, and going for hikes.

What I didn’t do was run. At all.

There were various reasons for that, but the point is that after returning to school in the fall after a solid 90 days off, I kind of felt like I’d lost my identity a bit, having always been “the runner.” I really wanted to get the legs turning again.

And so run I did. I ran in the morning; I ran in the afternoon. I ran for 90 minutes; I ran for two hours (my longest run ever time-wise at that point). All in all, I ran about 8.5 hours that week, which was definitely the most running I’d ever done in a week up until that point. By quite a bit.

Needless to say, I got really, really sore.

By the start of the second week, I’d pretty much lost all zip from my legs, so I ended up taking that week pretty much off. I thought I might have done some decent damage, but eventually things restored themselves and I was fine, racing a decent 5k in early October and my first half marathon in early November.

But flash back to that first week. Even now that I’ve run a marathon and a couple ultras, the soreness stands out in mind as quite incredible. And so I was inspired…

To buy some IcyHot.

I guess that might seem sort of natural, since IcyHot is supposed to help relieve soreness and all that. The thing is, I don’t think that IcyHot works. I mean, you slather it on and it gets hot and then cold, but it doesn’t seem to relieve soreness or contribute to society in any way.

That being said, I did go out and buy IcyHot that September. I’ll always associate the stuff with my brother’s (not my) high school cross country days, when he didn’t seem to get through a race without Icy Hot and ibuprofen. Then I came along and decided after a trial or two that IcyHot never made anything feel different and that I’d rather avoid the ibuprofen (I think it makes more sense to learn to tolerate and read pain than mask it…pain is an important communicator).

Why am I writing this now? Because I still have that tube of IcyHot that I bought back in September 2009. I used it once back then (not surprisingly, it didn’t do anything) and a handful of times since, but there’s still a decent amount left. So I threw some on today. Sure, I’m only a tiny bit sore from yesterday’s long run, but it was sitting on my counter and I figured I’d give the legs the old treatment.

When it comes down to it, I think IcyHot is the only product that I’d be willing to endorse that I don’t think actually works. And that’s saying something.

I’m just not sure what.