Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Div I hit list and the Hunt for the Great Unicorn

I'll be hitting the big 3-2 on Aug 28th. 32yrs...old? Naaah! 32yrs strong is more like it! It's prime time baby! The best yrs of running are ahead, and I've been doing it a long time, and I'm ready for another push.  There is often a pile of focus on young talent or the older folks who seemingly defy logic and stay fast way longer than most.  But here I am, 10yrs past collegiate running and faster than ever.
     I recently ran the Westfield Pizza Run(which has changed its name a few times). I think it used to be called the Downtown Westfield Pizza Extravaganza, and now it's just the Downtown Westfield Pizza Run, or maybe just Dowtown Westfield 5k.  Marketing...snore!  I had decided to skip this race after they cancelled it 10mins before the start in 2007 due to passing lightning. I had run it 2005 and 2006, finishing 17:37 for 33rd and 17:02 for 20th. The regularity of me finishing in the top 20, 10, 5, or 3 of fairly competitive road races has increased over time, but the thrill of each finish has increased only a marginal amount at times.
Anyway, things change, working in town and getting a free entry(peanuts for the Elephants) makes it easy. So, I ran the race.  An element of excitement about a race like this is that, there are talented HS and college runners nearby; and with 2800 runners, you can expect it to be a bit more competitive up front.  Still, these years later, I didn't expect to feel left in the dust and alone finishing 6th. In 2006 I dreamt of what it would be like to finish 6th in race like this, and thought, how much of a badass I would feel like if I could do that. There are compliments here and there, and being modest about this with people I don't know well is an odd thing to handle.  I mean, I'm not getting paid to do this anyway right? These aren't diamond League races.  But I just want to kick ass and take names!
From my perspective, many local fall and spring road races tend to lack depth at the front of the field. Mid-July is a time when the collegiate studs are home and in a base phase of training, the time when I strike like a Cobra!
Tuesday night 7/23-RVRR summer series XC race #4*-Christian Gonzalez NJ/NY TC-Rider U/Franklin HS-1st, Stephen Mennitt GSTC/formerly Rowan Univ/Edison HS,Mike Anis(me)-3rd, Darrel Gooding-FDU/Franklin HS-4th
Finishing 3rd, gettimng the AG record, yes I knew I had it, and so I reached for my watch. Steve is fast, and beats me all the darn time!
Wednesday night 7/24 Downtown Westfield 5k-Won by the speedy Chris Heibell-Loyola/Immaculata HS-1st, followed closely by the work horse Chris Croff-formerly of Southern Conn St, DJ Thornton-Nortre Dame/Union Catholic HS, Ryan Scrudato-Marist College/Westfield HS, Andrew Kirna-Bucknell/Westfield HS, Mike Anis 6th, John Kirna of Bucknell-/Westfield HS 7th, Robert Marczydlo XX univ?/Westfield HS 8th, Ryan McGann-William and Mary/Cranford HS-9th, Alan Eke-Oklahoma Univ/Union Catholic-10th

That's four Div I kills this summer alone, I also beat a couple of Div III guys(guys I know and like), but of course, I'm not going to brag too hard there, the Div I guys are the ones that you would expect to walk all over me.  Tell me I 'm racing and no one else is, eh, perhaps to some degree.  If I look back this yr, I might be over 5 already. If I can get 5 in a single race, I think that is the same as a fighter pilot's "Ace" status. I think the shot comes once this yr, the Paul Short XC Run on Oct 5th in the Open Race. I don't care if those guys are "JV" or "walk-on" if they wearing the singlet of a Div I school, and I beat them...they just got hit! Don't get me wrong here, I know all these guys a bit, I've done casual running most of them here and there, they are quality runners.  Part of the fun this time around was going on a warmup and cooldown with these guys, it's nice to make nice with everyone, ya know? All of them are fun guys and I appreciate running and working with them at the store, they are just as passionate about our sport as I am. But I'm still psyched about outrunning them(in season or out). It feels good to place well against quality opponents.  So the hit list will grow, because...
"That's what I like about college dudes. I keep getting older, they stay the same age! Yes they do, yes they do!"
Also: Long runs have been 19, 20, 21, 18, all with dashes of 5:50-6:10pace mixed in them, this Aug 18 marathon could be good, I'm gunning for the W. If I do, it will be my first win in a marathon.
I will chase this guy, and if I catch him, I will slay him and eat him. Unicorn blood+beards=invincibility!
*Gonzalez sets course record in 16:15, I finish in 16:25.52, setting the much sought after 30-34 AG record! Women and children rejoice across Middlesex county! Men nod in approval and offer hearty hand shakes amidst a triumphant slow clap, beer flows like wine and peace is achieved between fans of opposing afterwork sports teams.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catching up, moving on through pain, getting faster and having some fun

Club National XC Championship 2012, the last time I toed a starting line with Andrew Capizzi.
It has been a little while since I've posted up here. Yes, my lower back still sucks and hinders me to whatever point, but lot's has happened and I'm running well enough. I lost a teammate, friend, co-worker in June, that took the wind out of my sails...it did for a lot of us within the running community throughout New Jersey, surely I'm understating. Most of you who might be reading this, already know the story, so I'm not going into that again.  When I stop and think for a moment, I realize, we raced the Track East Region Club Championship six days after Andrew's passing and then the club National Championship two weeks after, it amazes me. Especially in the case of Kyle Price and Ken Walsh, my incredible teammates and fellow Ramapo Alums. Kyle, Ken and Andrew are best friends, and it pains me to know they are now separated by life and death. The bond they had as teammates and friends is one that I understand better than any other.  Kyle pressing on and training and racing through the pain was if nothing else, inspirational. Ken, like me, is a smoldering volcano, and this will boil inside his heart for all time, and it will push him to greater accomplishments as a marathoner.  I mean, it's all we can do.  You know, it's said that a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, well Andrew was a strong link.  Do we see the chain as broken? Mending this is difficult, but we band closer together, and we remain strong.  And I know we all feel the same, in that we hate the thought of stepping onto a starting line together without Andrew there.  His spirit will run alongside us in Oregon this December, I'm not done with this whole running thing yet. The feeling we got from being Ramapo Roadrunners doesn't have to stop since we've graduated or left, and the same goes for any other runner. That is one big reason that I race with Garden State Track Club, because it's something many of us understand. The pursuit of a dream, the pursuit of excellence and victory!

And the show went on:
Regionals: 3k sc-10:07. And we win the Regional title!
Nationals 3k sc-10:08-8th overall(1pt scored!) and we win the National Title!
July 2nd-19.1mile run, last last in 6:15 in some serious heat, thanks for the company Steve Mennitt!
July 4th Firecracker 4mile in Cranford-21:41-4th overall....got outkicked by a 17yr old kid(that'll happen), but finish well ahead of Mark Del Monaco, love you Mark!
July 9th RVRR Summer Series XC 5k race #3-16:38, 2nd to Mike Dixon(16:32). Will expand on backstory here, this is a good one.
July 10th-Beer Mile-8:33, not a fast time, but a win. And winning in Beer Mile is more rewarding than most bullshit road races! I've got a belt and a jacket and neverending glory!
Knock Knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? Orange ya' glad that the liner of my shorts isn't worn out? Club Nats 3k sc, not a fast race for me, but 8th counts, and 8th I was!
Me, Dixon, and Tony Lopez, three guys who ran for the same team and drank a lotta' beers together a long time ago. Still running!

It was like this for 2miles, but Dixon got the best of me...again!
I fought for it the whole way, it felt like a good day to rip it up
Once again National RVRR Beer Mile Champion! Invite me to your birthday party, and you will be a National Birthday Champion by association!

The Summer Series XC story: These races have been under the radar for 25yrs I believe(maybe 30?) We have returned to the original location of Donaldson Park, and although the course has changed; and in my opinion it could stand to have some tweaks to make it better. It is damn good to be home. For 6yrs we raced in Beuchluch Park in New Brunswick, a faster course, albeit a quasi-xc course(run on a cinder path where about 15-20% of the race is on paved asphalt). Skipping some boring details, we're back to Donaldson, where I began my XC racing career! With the new course due to park "improvements", comes new course records.  The first two races in the series were won by un-inspiring performances in the high 17min range(17:46 I recall).  I decided, I'll have none of that. While I couldn't reasonably compete in the those races with track club nationals approaching, I planned on showing up for race#3 to smash this soft record to pieces...but so did Mike Dixon.  So, we had a good battle out there. He ran 16:32.5, I was 16:38.  He can't go the next race. You gotta' be in it to win it I always say! So, in two weeks I'm getting after it, running a smarter pace early on, and I'm going to get a hold of that record, which by default will be mine until next June! So, there's some heat in the kitchen now. Anyone want that record? Wanna' race? Come n' get it!

Up next: buncha' long runs, Summer Series race #4 "The quest for the record", another beer mile, and "Chasing the Unicorn" Marathon on August 18th to qualify for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon in 2014, my birthday(Aug 28th), there might be some wild shenanigans in the works...grillin' chillin' and Beer 5k?