Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hyner Trail Challenge 2013

According to Proverbs, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." This was my third year of running Hyner and it is one of my favorites, but today I would learn the lesson mentioned above. In spite of that, it was a good day. I like the 25K distance and the course features one of the best views around. The climbs are tough and the descents are technical: what could be better?
The 50K runners at the start

The day was cool, just over 40 degrees, and overcast. It was actually pretty good running weather, although fairly windy when exposed on the climbs and we got a little bit of sleet/snow during the day. The 50K runners started at 8am and then the 25K runners got going at 9am. There are about 1000 runners in the 25K, which is a large amount for a trail run. The race is on road for a little more than a mile at the start so there is time to get spread out. I lined up at the front before the start and chatted with the young bucks around me. Jacob Loverich, last year's winner, was back and I knew no one would touch him if he ran half-decently. I didn't see the guys who were second and third last year and that made me the next fastest returning runner. The three guys that beat me at Mile Run (Brock Waughen, Eric Marshall, and Adam Russell) were all there, however, and I knew they were all running really well and I would have a hard time keeping up with them, especially on the first climb.

Jacob Loverich, eventual winner, is the first 25K runner
to get to the top of Humble Hill.
In reverse order of finish, Eric Marshall, Brock Waughen
and Adam Russell are the next ones to the top.
We ripped off a 6:15 first mile and Jacob was already 50 meters ahead of everyone else. Then we hit the singletrack (Cliffhanger Trail) and we spread out some more. Brock, Eric and Adam were together in a chase group and I and a few other guys were back a little further. Finally the climbing began and the mud and 100 50K runners who had already chewed up the ground made it tough to find good footing in spots. I wasn't sure how my legs would react to running Boston on Monday but I was going to go for it until they wouldn't go anymore.

That first climb is one of the toughest around but the views on the way, and especially at the top, almost make it worthwhile. I took a Gu at the top and some water and then hit the downhill. That is the last that I would see of any other 25K runners that day until finishing. There was a runner who was right behind me at the top of the climb but as soon as we started the downhill I lost him. The first downhill isn't really technical but it is steep in a few spots so it is helpful to have run it multiple times before. My quads were taking a pounding but I was just hoping they would last 16.5 miles.

I got to the bottom and started up the second climb. I was passing a few 50K hikers at this point. One lady said, as I ran past, "Go get those young'uns!" I guess I really do look/am old. Oh well. I felt pretty good today on the climb, in fact better than last year. I got to the top and started the long rocky descent of Post Draft.

I really like this descent. It is mostly a side-hill trail and there are lots of rocks and roots but it isn't too steep. I can really fly down it. I started to think about this as I was descending and congratulating myself for being as fast as anyone on this descent. Call it hubris, arrogance, or a haughty spirit (see first paragraph), but that quickly bit me in the butt. My trailing toe caught a rock or root or something and the next thing I knew I was flying horizontally and trying to break my fall. My left hand hit first and then both knees and then I rolled. It is a weird feeling and it happens so quickly that your reactions are just pure instinct. I ended up face-down on the trail, hanging off the edge, and quickly taking stock of my body. I got up and my hand was skinned and bloody and both knees were bleeding pretty well, but not gushing. Everything else seemed to be okay so I started running again, cursing my arrogance/laziness. I felt okay so I sped back up and made sure I was picking up that back foot.
Fifth to the top, I had to hold onto my hat
to keep it from blowing off.

Meira Minard, winner of the women's 25K.
By the time I reached the bottom, I had gotten over the post-fall adrenaline and gathered myself for the final climb. I actually felt pretty good and I think I got up this faster than last year. I reached the top and started my least favorite part of the course, a relatively flat mile or so at the top of the mountain. Usually my legs are so hammered that this is a struggle, but this year I actually made pretty good time and felt fairly strong yet. Who knows why? I got to the last descent and ran it hard. I was very careful to pick up that trailing foot again and finally I reached the road successfully and ran hard for the last mile to the finish. I finished in 2:30:31, two minutes faster than last year, which surprised me.

I stayed for awhile to watch friends come in and enjoyed some of the best post-race food anywhere. I wasn't sure what to do with my "hamburger" knees but I tried to wash them off as best I could and just let them be until I got back home. It was another fun day on the trails. Jacob Loverich did win the men's race again in 2:19 and Meira Minard won the women's race again in 2:44.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

Laura with stroller on the way to the expo.
The Boston Marathon has always been about celebration for me. It is a 26.2 mile long party with 25,000 of your friends and another 750,000 friends-for-a-day lining the course. It is an achievement to get to Boston so it is a celebration of hard work and a day to enjoy the crowds. Other than last year, I always ran the whole thing with someone else and at a slower pace than my qualifying time. That is not to say that it isn't painful at the end. One thing I have learned over the years is that a marathon always comes down to pushing through the pain and tired legs at the end, no matter what pace I have run it at.

This year I was excited to be running it with my niece, Laura. I had run the 2011 Harrisburg Marathon with her and she had qualified there with a 3:28. This was her first Boston Marathon. She had just had her first child at the end of December so she had less than four months to get back in marathon shape, which is pretty incredible. We were staying in my Uncle's apartment in Jamaica Plain (JP) so we met there on Saturday evening around 8pm. She, of course, had husband Randy, daughter Eliana, and a ton of baby stuff with her.

Future Boston runner.
She'll grow into the shirt.
Sunday morning I went downtown to watch the mile races that the Boston Athletic Association always holds. After the races, Laura, Randy and Eliana met me and we went to the expo to get our race bags. We didn't stay long because it is crowded and the stroller didn't fit in so well amongst all the people. We caught the "T" back to JP and ate lunch at the City Feed & Supply, a nice grocery deli that sells natural foods. I really enjoy the area around my Uncle's apartment. There are a bunch of nice cafes, little grocery stores and good places to walk. We ate supper at Bertucci's and a big plate of spaghetti and bread made me happy.

Laura and I discussed having Randy drive us out to Hopkinton so we could avoid getting up so early to catch the marathon buses to the start. I kind of thought Laura should get the whole Boston Marathon experience, which includes waiting in bus lines and the long ride to Hopkinton, and I felt bad about having Randy and the baby drive us all the way out there and wait in traffic to get back. We decided to leave the apartment at 6:30am, take the T into Boston Common and get the buses. This was later than what I normally leave, which concerned me a little. I knew Laura has a different concept of time than what I do so I decided to just go with Laura time.

Great Uncle Jeff (I don't feel that old)
tickling some piggies.
We got off the subway at Chinatown and came across huge lines for the buses. The half an hour earlier that I normally arrive apparently makes a huge difference. We were walking through the common trying to decide what line to get in when we heard our name called out. There were good friends of ours, who I was hoping to run into at some point, Sonya Weber-Peters and Dwight Yoder and families. We chatted with them and this helped to pass the time as the line slowly got shorter.

We eventually got to the buses and got to Hopkinton. The Athlete's Village was jam-packed and the port-a-potty lines were huge but we had to take care of business. After finally getting through those lines, we didn't have to wait long at all before we had to leave and start the walk down to the starting line. As we were heading out, we ran in to my friend and co-worker Sarah Farrant and her virtual friend in their matching running skirts. We quickly said "hi" but we were running late and I knew it would be close to the start of the second wave when we got there. We got into our corral and within two minutes we were underway. I usually eat a bagel and banana at the Athlete's Village before the start but I hadn't had time to do it this time so I was a little worried about not having enough to eat. The Boston start time of 10:00/10:20/10:40am is always a difficult one to handle, nutritionally.

6:15am race morning.
It was a great morning to run and we settled into an 8:20ish pace. At mile 5 I saw guys holding out pizza so I ran over and got a piece. It was kind of gross but I felt better to have something in my stomach since 6am. The crowds all along the route were the normal great crowds of Boston. There is nothing else like it that I have experienced. The walls of sound at Wellesley and Boston College are incredible. I get so much energy from the people, especially the little kids holding out their hands to slap the runners "five."

I started to feel Laura's pace slow before we got to Newton (mile 15ish). I asked her if she was feeling okay and she said "what difference does it make?" Her legs were feeling sore but otherwise was okay (did I mention she just had baby at the end of December). I was feeling good; there wouldn't be any bonking today. After cresting Hearbreak Hill we just had the last 5 miles of what is my least favorite part of the route. Here our pace slowed more. This part of the course contains some downhill and flat sections, with a little uphill mixed in, but it just seems so long and difficult, probably because of where it is in the race. We eventually turned onto Boylston where more loud cheering greeted us and hit the finish in 3:47, an excellent effort for being less than 4 months post-pregnancy (Laura, not me).

After getting our food and bags, we headed for the subway for the trip back to JP. It was then that the day turned tragic. We heard a loud BOOM, followed shortly by another one. My first thought was "that  doesn't sound good" but there wasn't anything that we could see and Laura was struggling a bit to walk to we continued to the subway and got on it. A lady on the subway was talking on her cell phone and said something bad had happened downtown. When we got back we turned on the news and watched the bombing story unfold.

Originally we were going to stay over Monday night but we eventually decided to pack up and leave that night. Officials were encouraging people to leave town and they basically shut off downtown, including the T. It is unimaginable to me that someone would plant bombs amongst random people and set them off. I'm not going to go into a political rant because we don't know yet who did it and why. For now, suffice it to say that there are some cowardly people in the world that really don't deserve to be part of the human race. I am sure the marathon will live on and will continue to fill up. It is impossible to stop the kind of nonsense that occurred Monday but that won't stop the celebration of life and health that is the marathon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2013 Mile Run Trail Challenge

The start of the race with Marshall and the two
Waughen brothers in front.

The first local trail race of the season took place March 30 near Lewisburg. The Mile Run Trail Challenge is a half marathon with some good vertical and plenty of rocks. I like the course and the half marathon distance. For some reason I was really nervous before this one. I had been fourth last year and I knew I had a shot to win it so I guess that had me excited. The temperature was good this year, about 40 degrees, but there was snow on the north side of the mountains, up to 3" in spots, which made footing slippery in spots.

The race starts at 10am, which I appreciate, because it takes me about an hour to get there and I don't have to wake up so early. The gun went off and the Waughen brothers and Eric Marshall went right to the front. I was behind them, followed closely by David Lister, John Johnson and Adam Russell. Eric and the brothers began to pull away and I let them go. I felt like I was expending too much effort and worried it would come back to haunt me. I figured I'd let them go and maybe I would get lucky and be able to catch them at the end. 

Running into the first aid station.
At the first aid station, I stopped and David and John passed me. I settled into an effort and eventually Adam passed me as well. It was a good day for running, although the snow made it a little more difficult. I was able to pass one Waughen brother, Derek, about halfway in. The next three in front of me missed a turn at one point and I was able to tag onto the back of them. During the biggest climb around mile 9, David let me past as he was having traction issues. I didn't really want to pass, because then I knew I was going to have to run scared the rest of the race, but I went for it anyway. Shortly after the top of the climb, I was able to get past John as he was having major leg cramps.

With four miles to go I just started cranking as hard as I could, knowing I was being chased by really good runners. The descent after the last aid station goes over the same ground as the original ascent and it is rocky and about three miles long. There was no snow here so I could really press, in spite of the rocks. I finally got down to the tunnel and couldn't see anyone behind me or in front of me.

I thought my foot was going to hit bottom right here.
This year the race went under both lanes of Route 80, which was new. In prior years it just went under the westbound lane. The tunnels have creek water in them about 4-6 inches deep but are concrete so you can take them fast. I hit the end of the second tunnel and expected to put my foot in 6 inches of water and exit to my left but my foot kept going. There was a four foot hole that I just stepped in! I went into my neck and scraped up my knees good on the rocks. I floundered for a bit in the icy water and finally found my footing and got out onto dry (well, muddy) ground.

Nope, it didn't.
The last half mile was tough, as always, because it it uphill on road and I just trashed my legs with three miles of furious downhill. I made it to the finish in a time of 1:52:12, good for fourth place, and looked down and both legs were bleeding and I was soaked with cold water. What more could you want after a trail race?

Brock Waughen had ran a gutsy race and was able to hold on for the win in 1:48:48 over a hard-finishing Eric Marshall. Adam Russell finished just three seconds behind Eric. In the women's race, Ashley Moyer was able to take this first race from Meira Minard. That is going to be a fun competition to watch as Ashley is running really well and Meira is super-competitive.