Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Club XC Nationals 2014, Hernia Repair, and proving you can still run that darn marathon

A career change can change a lot more than who you work with and for, or where your work happens. It has taken much of my mental focus away from running.  Honestly, that is fine.  I can balance it all out eventually.
So, as you may wonder "Have you been running, Mike?" Some of you know, yes  I have a bit.  But here's the catch up:

December: I limp into Club Cross Country Nationals are Lehigh University and run a sub-par effort on a painful hip/groin or some mysterious still undiagnosed thing. I won't even give it the legitimacy it yearns for and call it the "I-word". Shh, they can hear you and it makes them grow larger, angrier, vengeful! Just don't talk about them and they will leave you alone!
So, really, from step one to the end of the race I felt like I was running with a tear somewhere in my hip socket/groin or perhaps an attachment point between my glutes and hamstring. Despite this, I shaved 3 seconds from my personal best at 10k xc on a course that was somewhat slick an loaded to the gils with fast guys!
To provide a temperature of things: Olympian, Matt Tegenkamp, didn't win the race.  There were some very high quality professionals and rising amateurs in this race.  Flatly, I was mid-pack, in the low 300's of almost 600 runners.  At this level, I guess I can't complain.  Had I finished 100 spots further ahead, it would have made little difference in my life overall. Of course, yes, I would like to finish inside the top 200 at Club Nat XC, maybe in the 2015 race.
Finishing the last 100m of The Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, I swear I beat at least one of the guys in front of me here! Photo credit to Michael Scott
One of the great things about this race for my team was that it was a fairly short trip for a national championship, we had more Atheltes in the races than any other club by far!  It was really a lot of fun to be surrounded by all of them for the weekend.  Many shenanigans and laughs.
The Men's Teams at 2014 Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, so many fast guys!

Winter: In the time since that race, I simply shut it down for a while, figuring somewhere in between Jan 1-8 I would get rolling again into training for the Boston Marathon.  Bad weather is always a challenge to training. Developing an inguinal hernia while shoveling snow was a show stopper.  While helping my housemates shovel about 8 inches of heavy snow in Mid-January, I felt something funny in my lower abdominal/groin area. Symptoms were obvious, and so running became very scary and awkward.  It is a weird sensation to have your intestine pushing through your abdominal wall, even if it is "minor".  That night and the next I had runs planned at a couple of running stores that I deal with for my job as a Technical Representative for TomTom GPS; I couldn't back out.  After these runs, it took me a few days to stew on what to do about this problem.  I tried taking a week off thinking maybe it was an inflamed muscle, and in that time my delusional theory was clearly proven false.  I was able to get an appointment in a couple weeks with Dr. Tomer Davidov at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.  The Dr. recommended surgery, no surprise. But he told me that I can run until the surgery date, just take it easy. This was a relief, but I had already not run a  step for 2-3 weeks at this point.  I ran 4-6 days per week until surgery on March 18th, no runs longer than 9-10miles. It still felt weird/bad to run for more than 70mins. Honestly, it felt weird from the 1st stride every time, but I had to maintain my sanity and fitness until this was dealt with.

Surgery/Rebounding: Surgery itself wasn't stressful, the tightness of the muscles afterward was awkward for the better part of 10-14 days. But My follow up visit with the Dr. went smoothly. I had already been trotting across streets to beat changing traffic lights. He gave me the go-ahead to start running. So, I went home and did a 6mile run.  Not so bad.  I felt plenty rested over the several weeks and not sore from that run, so the next few days I went 8, 8, 3, 0...and 15. Yes, I decided I had to see how a longer run would feel. Along the way, I could still feel the muscles around the surgery site being stiff, but it was more simply this, I hadn't gone 14 miles since early December. So now here in March, 15 was admittedly unwise. I trudged the last 3 miles in a fading state of mild hunger and general bonkiness. Mike Dixon ran the middle 9 with me, so it was a bit like going off a cliff. You know the feeling, suddenly, you are alone and slowing down against your will...bummer.  3miles in the hurt box did not deter me.

One more try: At this point the Boston marathon was now just 8 days away, I had done a few moderate runs since the 15 I suffered through. I figured, my body will adapt quickly from this recent return to moderate mileage. I was leary of attempting 18miles. So I gave myself the "range" option, "Try for 16, feel alright , go as far as 18, feel bad stop as early as 14."  I met with Adin Mickle and Joe Zeoli and I ran 13miles with them at a fairly casual pace on the Wissahickon trail. When they were done, I quickly grabbed another energy gel and some more water that I had in a crumpled 16oz Poland Springs bottle to reduce sloshing; and soldiered on. I ran downhill on the trail toward the Schuykill River. As I approached the intersection of Lincoln Dr and Ridge Ave, I saw my good pal, Michael Daigeaun running by headed toward East Falls. Now somewhere around 16miles into my run, I was feeling alright and he was too far away to shout at...I gave chase. Thankfully, he wasn't going too fast and in about 1/2 a mile I was able to run him down to his surprise. "Too slow kid, too slow!", I said as I rolled up on him touching a low-6min pace. He laughed, "Mike Anis, always good to see you!" He told me about his recent running/races, I explained how I was testing the waters to see if I could/should still run Boston. It was about time to turn back, I was already too far out and we parted ways. I realized then, that yes, this run was going to be 19 miles, not 18, the last of which was all uphill. Which is actually fine, it rounds out the effort, all flat is bad. Heading uphill to end a run changes the angle of impact, engages your muscles differently, all good. I pushed it a bit, wanted to feel like it was a real effort, running in the 6:00-6:19 range for the last 2 miles felt good.

The significance of a single run: I couldn't tell you how many runs I've done that have been close to or over 20miles, just because I care to not over-stress these facts. Many of them blur in the mind and have little significance due to their repetitive nature. Familiar faces and places are a happy thought always, but this run will last in my memory. Simply because I figured it would be much tougher and would be a lot shorter, and fate brought me to bump into a friend at the right moment, to pull me past where I thought I could go on the day.  The feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness for a run like this can't be matched. The fact that I ended it by myself and most immediately had just myself to celebrate it with more firmly entrenches it into its place in my memory of long runs.
Afterward, I got together with my girlfriend, Anna, showered, ate/rehydrated and then went to a Phillies game. I ran for 2:16:00 that day, that's long enough to prove you can run a marathon.  And I'll tell you about that one...when I have a little more time to sit and write some more.  You might have heard, the Boston Marathon is kind of a big deal. ;)

To be continued...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lord I was Born a Rambling Man

 The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA: where they filmed the sci-fi film "The Blob", nevermind the white-hatted Man, he was merely interloping in my photographic endeavors, and he paid dearly for his shenanigans I assure you.

 Lemme' tell ya, I really do enjoy driving and wandering, exploring and vagabonding. Maybe one day, when I grow up I'll be the next great Hobo...In no order really, here are some photos of places I have been lately. The Civic can't be stopped, 157k and counting. So, you should buy it from me as I am getting a NEW car soon. Also, my beard is good. Thanks for asking, it appreciates your concern, it is well prepared for the Club National XC Championship. Yesterday I ran on the Perkiomen trail, didn't take the phone with me, I will be back, it was peaceful.  As always, enjoy the photos and silly captions!
Check back for Beer Mile news!
Sunset at Shenandoah National Park...purty

Bill Rodgers approves of Beards, his Brother has one, there is a picture in his book, no joke, a much more impressive beard than my own!

Somewhere deep inside the city of "Brotherly Love", trapped forever in brick and mortar, three Demon Babies

We are twins, in spirit. And He might have in fact done cool stuff, but now people walk by and think,
"Pff, what? No Beard?".

Guess that Bridge! One hint, Susquehanna River

Very Big Fake Cow, good thing they bolt it down, lest thieves take it to the black market!

Falls at Shenandoah National Park

Guess that Church: Hint Baltimore

This house is so badass it has TWO Lions! note:each Lion has a beard.

In the Light, You will find the Road

American Graffitti

Breezewood Tunnel on the Ol' PA pike

Breezeway tunnel from far enough away that it was still kinda scary and made me feel very nervous (in Sol Rosenberg voice, now you suck if you don't know why that is funny)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ashenfelter 8k 2014 Race Report

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have to say, this year has had it's ups and downs like any other. So, let me say that I am surely Thankful for this healthy body that can run pretty darn fast! I have been "off the air" for a couple months here because I started a new job with TomTom GPS as a Technical Representative with responsibilities to promote the brand and ensure sell-through in a geographic are covering Central/South Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, Yes, the whole thing! Which by the way is truly enormous! It's huge! There are a lot of little places I have yet to see in that state!) Did you know that Erie, PA is a 2.5hr drive North of Pittsburgh, PA! Well, it is, and I have yet to go to Erie, soon enough I will have to see "The Mistake by the Lake", as my Best Friend's Father has called it. I will be excited to see it anyway I think, maybe for the first time only perhaps.  In either case, I am having fun discovering new parks, trails, bridges, and views on my runs around the Mid-Atlantic region!

A swarm of angry Bees in the center of the photo, also note Two heads left of the Neon shirt at center: My Beard

Anyway, so running has become less organized. I haven't journaled any of my training since early September, this is the first time I have not recorded training in probably 9-10yrs. I am putting in 40-60per week, but I am ballpark guessing. Given that, it is to me, astonishing that I managed to maintain my fitness to perform at the level that I did today. I mean quite honestly, I gained 7-8lbs in this time. As a competitive distance runner, straight up, that is going to make you slower. Sure, I'm a lean guy anyway, so it's not like I'm in danger of anything. It is just the reduction of serious workouts that will catch up with you and leave you getting torched by 4 of your teammates in the final 100m of an 8k road race.

I would like to remind you all, the Ashenfelter Road Race is a great race! The only thing that could be better is if they found a way to widen the start line so we could get a cleaner start. Otherwise, it is a great day when many of the club runners you know from around NJ come out and take a shot at a fast course before they stuff their guts with a massive meal. I wish we had four Thanksgivings every year, one isn't enough!

GSTC all kinds of "in-front" led by Yousef Rochdi, who ran away from us like he was robbing a bank!

So, thinking back to a year ago: I coined the phrase "finding seeds in the bird shit", as I wrote about the 2013 Ashenfelter 8k race. You always have to do that, find something positive out of what feels like a "shitty" situation. And today, I can't even say it is shitty. It was far from shitty.  The seeds are even sprouting a bit! Read on below these action shots, the story of the race is coming!

The chasepack in the first mile, Ken Goglas, Thomas Young, Stephen Ellwood, Mike Dixon, Kyle Price, Sean Swift, Chris Schneider, Mike Fonder, Matt Eder, Mike Anis, Josh Neyhart, Jarrett Kunze, and another random blurry dude in neon.

Honestly, I predicted a lackluster performance that would feel awful. You know, the kind of race that you just know you screwed up, this wasn't the day you should be racing.

Well, somehow the lack of expectation worked in my favor today. I was in tight with about 8 guys through the 1st mile, we split 5:07, I felt the pace slow at the first turn shortly thereafter and decided to break up the hand-holding-party. I pushed the pace for about a quarter mile and they gobbled me back up, we split 10:19 as I recall for 2miles. Things started to thin out a bit, and I was now back around 13th-14th position. Mile 3 I reeled in Neyhart and Schneider, and naturally glided by them (see below). Neyhart pulled even with me and then ahead just before mile 4, we split 20:40 and worked on reeling in young Matt Eder and the wiley verteran, Attila Sabahoglu.  Up until this point, I never felt like I was in severe oxygen debt, which was surprising, I managed my effort level very well today.

Rising the last incline, the four us were in a clump. Neyhart surged past us all with about 400m to go and bested the bunch of us. I faded pretty hard after using what I had left with 300m to go and Rob Nihen also came along and passed me. Watching four of my teammates put that gap on me in the last 1/4mile was rough on the ego, but I'll get over it. I crossed the line in 25:47, good for 12th. A thing I like to remind my readers of, in these scenario's, the majority of the guys that beat me are fellows who ran at DI college teams (except for Kyle Price, DIII Ramapo College of NJ, an XC Conference Champion in his time there!) Not too shabby.

Other fun and notable points about this race:
1-Our club took the Individual win for both Men and Women, Yosuef Rochi and Greta Sieve
2-Our Men's teams scored a pile of points
3-There were a pile of PBs(personal bests), some of which were just mind-blowing improvements!
4-Bob Skorupski of Do Run Runner's, got his Top 100 mug by finisher 97th, I like Bob, he also has a beard.
5-I once again had the honor of shaking Horace Ashenfelter's hand!

Around 3.4miles into the race: Anis holding steady in front of Neyhart and Schneider. Neyhart eventually schools Anis and finish 8th to Anis' 12th, Schneider finishes 13th

Young(2837) challenges Rochdi(1825)
Yousef Rochi, furiously breaking the tape! 24:26! New CR!

I encourage you all to check in on the Garden State Track Club blog and read in more depth about the great performances from many of my teammates. I have a lot of faith in their ability, and know if I stick with them and keep training with them, I will keep getting faster too!  Afterall, I'm one guy, and one guy a team does not make. If the worst thing that happens to me at age 33 is watching my young, talented and on-the-rise teammates light me up like a pinball machine in an 8k, well...at least I'm fast enough to see it happen as I race them!

Besides, I did run a PB by 3.33seconds anyway, 25:47. Took most of the day to wrap my head around this, and really feel good about it.

Mike wins!
We're Anis-Neyhart, we are going to the Club National XC Championships Dec 2014, your arms are useless against us, and we're taking no Prisoners.

Next up: Club National 10k XC championship! Vote Anis-Neyhart 2014 for the B team!*
*This msg paid for by the friends of Anis-Neyhart 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winning a Marathon

So, I won a marathon, again. You might be wondering, how does that feel? I can say, mentally and emotionally, it is great. As for Sunday while doing it, physically, it gradually felt quite bad. Yet, the discomfort and pain were well worth the internal reward of knowing you can be a Champion!
And we're off! Letting them know I mean business!

Through pain with determination, I arrive victorious!

Through the course of the past year I have had some nice successes in running, some PR's last fall in a couple of XC races, most notably having had a good day racing the Boston Marathon this spring and getting a long overdue PR.  I have similar goals for later this fall.  It is interesting to stop and think, In one year; I ran 3 marathons and won 2 of them. I will allow myself to be impressed.  Now, some of you who know me and my times relative to "what is a good time", or "elite" you might ask, "Who was in the race?"
True enough, yesterday at Chasing the Unicorn in Washington Crossing, PA, I took the lead right from the gun and lead the race wire to wire.  However, it is a difficult thing to force yourself to stay on a fast pace when you are following a cyclist who is clearing traffic in front of you.  At points, you start to wonder if you are falling in with the pace of the cyclist or if the cyclist is doing a really good job of listening for your footfalls.
Yesterday's race was one that I felt quite ready for. I have had quality long runs and many uptempo runs with my GSTC teammates throughout the past 6 weeks when they resumed training after their mid-yr break. I believe I went on long runs of 19, 20, 23, 19, 16, and 15 miles in the 6 weeks prior to the race. Most people will train in a bigger block for a marathon, and if I were keying on it as my premier race for the year, I might have bumped long runs a few miles about 10 weeks sooner. I ran this race for several reason.
1-I was asked to come and defend the title. The Champion, the "Unicorn Slayer"!
2-The park is beautiful, the Delaware River and the canal path are very nice to run alongside between Washington Crossing and New Hope.
3-I love the concept of a race where people are looking to qualify for Boston, it is new and I have a pioneering spirit, I love to make history in my sport! Small as this may be in memory years from now, it is a note on a page...somewhere.

Along the way from last yr's, less challenged victory (winning by 11mins), I got to know the President and race director of RunBucks, Pat McCloskey while last yr's race was in progress, he rode the lead cycle and I chatted with him at times during the race. We have communicated here and there about the CTU, and the running scene in general. Pat's genuine enthusiasm for running and putting on these events is magnetic. I have heard only good things about his events and plan to run others in the future.
For many of us, all over the country, that are marathoners, we felt the shock of the Boston Bombing April 15, 2013. It took about 18hrs before I decided I would run the race in 2014. Judit Ward (a runner friend of course!) posted a link in a fb group about this race, it had all the items on my checklist for a Boston Qualifier, not too far from home, relatively low cost compared to many other marathons, and it was placed on the calendar at a time of year when I didn't have other big goals that it conflicted with. So, I bulked up the mileage through the summer, started runs at 6:00 on the ultra hot days to get them done without suffering a heat stroke, and just got myself ready to run a bulletproof race in August. That is precisely what I did; a negative split race and nearly a PR! It was terrific to get the BQ, run a race where I felt strong and WIN!

At this yr's Boston Marathon, a number of people I know from NJ travelled up to Boston, to be there in support of all those who were racing, and I heard them, and saw them. Michael Loenser, an old training partner and teammate with Raritan Valley Road Runners was on the course somewhere around mile 15. His excitement for my performance was such a great boost to my spirits in that moment! He later told me how he was inspired to see me run by, looking strong and seeing all the other racers going by as well. It's true, the atmopshere of the Boston Marathon can breathe life back into running for you! For him, it rekindled that desire to train hard again and qualify for Boston in 2015. Loenser was an all-star for South Plainfield HS and ran for DII East Stroudsburg University, posting times that I will forever admire him for. His best marathon to date is a 2:37 and I tell him all the time he can get faster! We competed against one another in Middlesex County dual meets and Championships as High Schoolers. He is a knowledgeable runner who trains smart, an easy going guy that I am glad to call a friend.

At some point some months ago, in the middle of a run, Loenser was telling me about how he was trying to decide which race to run to enter in the hunt for a BQ. I reminded him about Chasing the Unicorn, as the race apporached sell out I urged him again, and he signed up. On a recent run, it occured to me that we should share a ride to the race, and so we left Sunday morning at 5am and made our way in my trusty old 5spd Honda Civic through darkness to Washington Crossing, PA. We listened to Black Sabbath Vol.4 and Coheed and Cambria-2nd stage Turbine Blade to get revved up to kick ass, Loenser reminisced about how he would always carry a walk-man around in high school and college to psych up for his races!  The mood was: On a mission. As Loenser put it, this was "a business trip", but I find a way to keep laughing going into these scenarios, you have to, or you get extra nervous and can get kinda' panicked.

On our 2nd to last run together before the race, Loenser tells me he has been battling Plantar Fasciitis, and admittedly hadn't done too much for it. Mostly taking 2 weeks off just a few days prior. This surprised me coming from a veteran like him. However, I was not going to let my buddy slip through the cracks, I know what to do for this. I told him all about KT tape, and how this can help get you through such problems. I convinced Loenser to come see me at the Westfield Running Company, where I taped his foot for him. We ran again the next day, Friday before the marathon, and he gave me some feedback. He felt the tape could have been tighter, so he re-did 2 of the 3 tape strips at home on his own. Apparently it worked, Loenser ran 3:01:08! Which, I believe should be a safe time to get in, and I hope it will be.  I am proud of Loenser for making it happen! I am very confident we will see him come in under the 2:50 mark next spring!

My own efforts at this year were more challenging than the previous year's. I think I might have over eaten the night before and at too late a time as well. There is a chance that the tomatoes I added into the Ragu might have gone bad.  Oops.  Yea, I had some GI troubles during the race.  I'll get into some of that in a bit. But on with race scene, prep, start, etc.

Loenser and I walked from the parking area in the last moments of the night toward the registration/start/finish area, the area was incredibly peaceful and the only sounds were some other runners arriving in their automobiles and the faint hum of a power generator for the finish line clock.  We were greeted by Pat, who gave me a big hug! I introduced him to Loenser, and we chatted briefly. Pat had race director business to handle. Loenser and I both got our race bibs, walked back over to the Civic and did the typical things. Pin the bib to the singlet, apply anti-chafing balm, put on the racing socks/shoes, put on a cammo head band in honor of Andrew Capizzi, put on a gps watch, pinned energy/electrolyte gels to our shorts, and then began a slow/easy warmup jog toward the porta-johns.  My nerves were now getting to be on edge. I have to admit, I feel better at "big marathons" where you have a large amount of down time being shuttled to the start site with a later start time. This allows more time for the Gastro-Intestinal Tract to do what it has to do before you start the race.
So, I ran about 1/4mile, hit the toilet, ran another 1/2mile easy, did some light dynamic stretches and hit the toilet one last time.  I saw the first wave of 50 or so runners was gathered up behind the starting line, and so I made my way through the crowd to the front. I found some other very fit looking fellows clustered up near the front, I was unphased; I had my plan, their presence would not intimidate me.

Pat McCloskey, spoke over the PA system, welcoming everyone, giving last minute instructions. Kindly, he introduced me to the crowd as "The Unicorn Slayer", and to "try to stay out of his way" because "he is going for a 2:30". I can't recall that I ever actually told Pat that I was going to aim for 2:29-2:30, but he knows the score. The national anthem is played over the PA, Pat says "Ready, set, go!" I took off quickly, I wanted to set the tone for my legs immediately, I was definitely out kind of hard for the first 1/2mile, but I settled down and clipped a 5:52. I figured I could run a 5:45vg over the first half, and if things were going well, run the back half around 5:37avg, for the magic 5:42(2:29:5x). But none of that was in the cards for me this day, and that's alright. Things were alright through 11miles, up to that point avg pace of 5:49, and then suddenly, I was suffering from GI distress, I knew I was going to have to stop, but I was 2miles away from the start/finish and toilets near them. Those were a rough 2miles.

Halfway split 1:16:32(ironically the same as my split from Boston this spring), after the pit-stop, I had lost about 2minutes already. I knew the sub 2:30 was gone, a PR was likely gone as well. Over the next few miles I realized, I was not totally alright, and I had to stop again, the next opportunity didn't come along until mile 17.7. I lost another 90seconds there no doubt. Now I was fairly sure that breaking my course record from the previous yr was also out of the question. I chatted a bit with the lead cyclist when there were no runners ahead and the view was clear for a while.  I told him that the goals were out the window, but I was fighting to stay on pace to be as close as I could and to hold the lead that I had from the first step.
He said, "I'll be your carrot", so he stayed ahead a little bit and I fought to bring the pace back to the 5:50's, I got a few miles in there back under 6. At the 20mile turn around I saw the 2nd place runner, who was now closer than he was when we had turned at 6.55 and 13.1 (no surprise, I stopped twice). Naturally, this prodded me and I pushed once again, clipping a 5:51and 5:58 for miles 21 and 22. That was the last of my best. My calves felt like crap from about 10miles and they just got progressively worse.

The last 4 miles were 6:09, 6:16, 6:28, 6:40, the last .2 was probably a touch slower.  I looked over my shoulder a few times in those last few miles, I knew I was fading hard and fought to hold it together. So, yea, I actually separated from the 2nd runner (Rafer Dannehauer, 23 of Shutesbury, MA) a bit after all, while he was actually 1:06 back at the 20mile turn-around, in the moment; it felt and looked like less. In the end I beat him by 2:37, but you don't let yourself think you have it in the bag when you are hurting.  There was surrprising crowd support for a small Sunday morning race, and  more than the previous year! Also, I have to say, most all the other runners I passed as we ran back and forth along the 6.55mile stretch; encouraged me as they themselves were working to get their own BQ or PR.

As I made the last turn back into Washington Crossing Historic Park, I thought, "Just another couple minutes and your done." My left foot was hurting, my calves were like dead wood (and 3 days later, they still are), and I was glad to have the win. I cruised through the finish line to applause, got my finisher's medal and a bottle of water. I took my socks and shoes off immediately, and shortly thereafter sat my tired ass down. Pat came over and asked how I was, with honesty I told him, "I had a rough time out there". But I was relieved. It was nice that the 2nd and 3rd finishers came in just a few minutes later, we posed for a few photos for the sponsors and family members of the other two guys Last year, I thought, "I never thought I would win a marathon", and a year later I am equally surprised to have done it again. I mean, seriously, who WINS a marathon?! Again, it wasn't my best day, but not far off. Given the struggles I experienced on a warm/humid morning, I'll say it was a strong run. I am proud of my 2:38:57!

After Loenser finished, we walked back over to the car, got on some dry clothes and regathered with Jeff and Ardena Blough for the post race meal that was provided. Chatted with other runners and saw some great moments of other proud finishers reuniting with one another and their supporters! Numerous people came by to congratulate me, and I congratulated them as well. There accomplishments' are equal to mine. I am just the lucky guy who got the W!
Left to right, Kevin Hoyt 3rd, Mike Anis 1st, Rafer Dannenhauer 2nd.

and some more photos:
The shoes that won the race, the singlet they gave everyone, and my Bib!

Sunrise at Washington's Crossign Park

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4 Miler 2014: My story

Across this great Country we celebrate our day of Independence in our own ways. Runners race. Why not? You have the day off, and you probably don't need to "start the party" at 9am.(although I'm sure I've done it at least once myself.) So, start a tradition for yourself, go run your local road race on the 4th of July!

I have run the Cranford Firecraker five times. 2006, 07', 09', 13', and this year's race.  I have placed no worse than 7th and no better than 2nd...until yesterday.

You may have seen on Nj.com an article that told you I won the race by .3 seconds, narrowly beating Elias Howard, a Cranford native. The truth is, it was a tie. If you saw the photos of us holding hands, you may wonder, "wait, it looks like they tied!" Yes, I won, but in my opinion he did too. So, I will tell you what happened. Since the author of that sad excuse-of-an-article did not bother to interview me "the winner" or "Eli", as he is known by the many people who cheered him on throughout the 4 mile course.
Elias Howard and I linked in Victory. Photo credit to nj.com
We are #1! photo credit to nj.com

First Mile-The temperature for racing in July was about as good as it gets, low-mid 70's, a bit humid, but hey, it's July, good enough, I can hope for a good time in this. The race literally started with a BOOM from a cannon! It always does, and with no count down, so it startles me every time.  In the first 600m, I followed a guy who stopped a the turn from Springtfield Ave onto Kenilworth Blvd. Leaving me with the lead into the wind. I do not always enjoy trying to win a race wire-to-wire. So i eased off a touch, and let a couple of guys ahead of me a bit for two reasons: 1) Let someone else eat the wind we were heading into 2)visually inspect my competitors and hear their breathing.
From 600m-1mile, there were perhaps four or five of us(including Eli) in a pack. As the 1 mile clock came into view I glanced at my watch and saw already 5:08, and by the time we passed it, 5:23 was the split. My personal time goal for this race was 20:59, looking for 5:15 here. I know I have to make a move, quickly.

Second Mile-I make a surge to begin the 2nd mile and have no intention of allowing anyone to stay close. I'm pushing solo into the wind, Eli is following or running alongside me. Everytime he pulls even I surge ahead. He gets ahead as we turn onto S 21st St/Orange Ave, but I refuse to let him hold the lead for long, we are running even again as we pass the 2mile mark, splitting a 5:08 and back on track for the 20:59 I was hoping for. Eli grabs a cup of water and splashes himself, I press on running evenly with him as volunteers and spectators cheer us on. "Go Eli!" I'm clearly not the favorite here.

Third Mile-Just a few steps before the turn onto Birch St, a narrow, wooded street that allows access to a school parking lot; I surge ahead again to take the best line into the turn. About 120m later we make another 90 degree turn onto a narrow bike/foot path that later ends onto Belmont Ave. We headed straight down this path dodging puddles, and a few overzealous volunteers further compressing the already narrow path.We split a 5:22, I figure the 21:00 is out the window. I'm still holding a narrow margin and not relenting.

Fourth Mile-Eli is still hot on my heels, I know he is right there. We approach a left turn onto Riverside Dr, which is followed by a climb onto a roadside path, onto a very narrow footbridge that crosses the Rahway River. We make a right off of the bridge down a short steep decline onto Balmiere Pkwy and another sharp incline onto a path that cuts back through some woods and dumps onto Park Dr. These four turns all come in a short distance and as soon as we hit the path through the woods I gave it another push, still no separation. We cover the 100m on Park Dr before the last 480m. Now after trailing me for a mile and a 1/4, Eli runs alongside and maybe gains 1/2 a meter on me now. I take the inside of the turn and pull even for the final time...
We have a bit more than 400m left now, what's at stake? The thrill of victory? Another cheap medal and low-cost tech tee? Yes on both counts.
Eli, calmly says to me "Want to hold hands and tie?"
I say, "Alright, sure."
"It will probably be the first time that's ever happened here", he says.
"They will probably give it to one of us, but I'm fine with whatever happens", I say.
So we motor along looking to even our stride, and with about 40m to go, I reach out and say, "Ok" Eli grabs my hand, we raise them up between us, We raise our other hands in triumph. We cross the finish line to light applause. I'm shot, glad this one is over. We hit 21:09, last mile in 5:15, shy of my goal, but that's alright. It was still my fastest time on this course in five tries.
Moments later, nearby volunteers congratulate us both, I congratulate Eli on a great race. And it was, neither of us were sand-bagging, I know I ran it hard to the end.

Frank Short and Bill Rodgers finish in a hand-holding tie at the Virginia 10 miler in 1975
Do I wonder who would have won it if I had said, "Nah, let's rumble!" and put on the after burners? Not really. There are times in life when you can show the strength of the human spirit in sport, and we were evenly matched throughout this race. It was Eli's idea, and I hadn't thought of it at all, but I liked the idea just fine. In my mind, we were both the victor of this race.  He's a very good runner, and a nice kid for the times I've interacted with him(having met him at a road race while he was still a HS runner). Now competing for Dickinson College in PA, he has proven his ability through dedication and hard work. That is something that I can respect in a younger runner. I took his gesture as a nod of repsect and recognition, and was glad to oblige him and reciprocate. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers did it! Why not Eli and Me?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Presidents Cup Nite Race 5k Race Report

Going into this race I was confident that it should have gone well. I have done a good amount of quality speed work since the Boston Marathon, and I did a 14mile run the morning of the College Ave Road Mile. All signs pointed to a road 5k pr. But sometimes, you just get unlucky with an illness.  A couple of days after the College Ave Road Mile I suddenly started feeling symptoms of a sinus infection.  Instead of going to see a Dr. a few days after when I was free to do so; I stayed home and tried to sleep through it. Well, that was dumb. It didn't work.  This turned into an Upper Respiratory Infection(which I only confirmed two days after the race upon finally seeing a Dr.)

What can you do? If you are too ill to compete, then don't. I was still undecided 36hrs before the race. The day before I did a 32min easy run. I felt relatively-okay, despite the lung butter. Yuck.

Established: I was far from 100% healthy to race a highly competitive 5k road race. But this is the President's Cup! The most competitive long distance race in the USATF-NJ Club Championship Grand Prix! If you have no fever and your legs are not broken, you run!

From the start, I felt decent enough, surprisingly not struggling to breathe while pushing to a 5:04 at 1mile. Hard to know how much to back off when your breathing is compromised by illness, and it proved to be too much. Through the 2nd mile I was fading a bit and clicked off a 5:11, I knew this meant I was in for a difficult last 1.1075. I found myself stuck running alone from the 2mile mark until I had crested the long incline for the second time with about 600m to go. There I was re-joined by John Welsh, Jarrett Kunze, and later on, Peter Bolgert. Kunze blazed away from us with a very strong last mile, and Bolgert passed me late with a blistering kick. Yes, I struggled, but avoided total implosion. 16:07 was my time, 17th position. Neither are my best at this race, but I am proud of my effort given the tough competition and my poor health.
Check out my progression at this race through the yrs:

2005-17:05-46th(2 spots and 5 seconds behind Olympian Julie Culley!)
2010-16:24-17th(day after a 24hr relay run where I ran more than 30miles)

I've had my ups and downs, but the excitement of the event draws me back! The best part is the Free Sam Adams beer after you finish! Events like this really bring the whole running/racing community together to enjoy a good battle and an even better post race buzz! Much fun was had by all!
Perhaps most impressively, the GSTC Men's teams finished 1-2-3-4-8.  The first four teams were separated by only 26 seconds.  The 2nd and 3rd team by less than 1 second! The calculation in creating those teams is uncanny!
Enjoy the photos!

The start, some real studs on the front line, aaand a few pretenders. Even at "Open Championships" things can be a bit too relaxed. I call for reform. Note, I am in the 2nd row, behind people that I know are faster than me.

1st time around on the two loop course, unknown runner in Sneaker Factory singlet challenges the eventual winner, Chris Johnson (center-white shorts). Closely following in a loose pack, Will Griffin, Mike Soroko, Ken Goglas, Adam Gruchacz, and a couple others.

A solid chase pack led by Chris Schneider, Myself, Zak Martins, Jarrett Kunze, Matt Eder, and Rob Nihen at the rear.

Running the No-Man's Land around 2.5miles

Evening the score with John Welsh, as he had beaten at this race the previous yr.

Chris Johnson pulling away from Thomas Young for the win!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The College Ave Road Mile Race Report

The start of the Emerging Elite heat at the College Ave Road Mile June 7, 2014.
As usual, Peter Bolgert runs a short distance faster than I do.

The College Ave Road Mile was an incredibly fun event.  I enjoyed the very fast racing of both 1mile and 1/2mile during the two person relay. My Partner, Karen Auteri, and I, ran roughly 4:56 combined.  We took third the in Mixed M/F division!  As an individual, in the Emerging Elite heat I ran a 4:40.25(3rd in the heat). I am reasonably pleased with this result. I had hoped for 4:39. Pretty darn close.  Eight 90 degree turns will do that to you. The weather was good, not too hot, no noticeable wind to speak of. Many of my GSTC teammates had very fast performances in the Elite heat pior to mine.  I was immediately inspired to produce my best.
Equally as important, numerous USATF-NJ clubs teams came to compete. Men and Women of all ages toed the line. In many cases, I wa impressed by the speed and determination of others!
 I'd say this was a good kick-start in a uptempo period of training, but I have since fallen ill with a sinus infection. The past three days I have mainly been jogging, and resting whenever possible. This past Tuesday, feeling lousy, I still ran a workout. 4x400 @5k pace, 2k at threshold pace, 4x400 @5k pace.  Some days you will feel lousy when it's time for a workout, and you will have to work though them. Sunday will be a nice loooong run. Time to amp the endurance back up for Chasing the Unicorn Marathon!

That's all for now.
Happy Running!