Vacationing, Track Style

After punching the two world record tickets on my first two tries, a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  With the US Indoor Nationals this weekend, then the WMA Indoor World Championships in late March, there is still a lot of indoor racing to be had but the goals will shift from performance-based results to medal-based, which makes a big difference.  All I want to do from this point forward is win, or at least give it my all in the quest to do so.  Times become secondary as the races can and probably will become tactical at some point – there will surely be races chock full of “strategery”, where sometimes the smartest runner will win instead of the most fit.  I am ready for the challenge, but also ready to kick back and enjoy the ride a little bit, something that I don’t think I was really able to do much the past month…

I leave for Boston and the Reggie Lewis Center on Thursday, for what I anticipate will be my first meet “triple” since the PIAA State Championships in 1987.  Like I talked about last post, I have become fascinated by my new event, the 400m.  I originally considered running the 400 because it was on the first day of the meet (Friday), allowing me to come back fairly fresh on Sunday in the 800m.  The more I thought about it the more excited I became to run it.  Even after I decided to add the mile on Saturday I did not cancel my plans to run on Friday as well.  I ended up entering all three – I will play things by ear and see how I feel but as long as I hold up I hope to run them all.  While all three will present different sorts of challenges, I anticipate the 400m will be my toughest event.  The competition in that event is particularly stiff, with a herd of talented sprinters creating a very solid field – as, if not more than, the M40 age group.  When I ran my race at Bucknell and entered my time I thought I would be among the race favorites – when the gun goes off I will feel fortunate to even be in the fast heat!  There are worse things than being the underdog though, so I plan on letting it rip and see how an 800/miler can stack up against the guys in blocks (I will be easy to spot – I’ll be the one standing at the start….).

The mile is on Saturday and if I am still kicking on Sunday I’ll jump in the 800 that morning.  Should be a fun time, sure I will meet some new folks in both my new event as well as my new age group.  M45-49 will be my first age-group move since starting masters – I’ve seen and heard a lot about it but it’s not something that happens very often (actually, every 5 years, give or take a leap day or two).  The whoooole gang is coming up for this one, just like Boston in 2010 – parents and kids along with the wife and I – so it should be a good getaway around hopefully a good meet.

5 days after returning from Boston I am jumping in the back of a FedEx flight bound for London to start the quest for some world championship hardware.  The WMA Indoor World Championships are being contested in Budapest, Hungary March 25th-30th.  I have been looking forward to this experience for the better part of a year – the location was very alluring, and the timing of my 45th didn’t hurt my chances at reaching the podium.  Just my family is going on this one – the school principals were surprisingly cooperative regarding yanking the kids out of school for 8 days (they probably didn’t anticipate the 79 snow days it seems like we’ve had this winter), both administrators recognizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the girls have to get some “real life social studies” experience.  I’ve entered both the 800m and the 1500m in this one, contested over 6 days.  We’re tacking on a little 5 day excursion to Italy after the games, figured once you’re over there you might as well live it up a little.  That, and once I’m done I think I’ll deserve a couple pizza/pasta benders in the cradle of carbohydrates…

So, an easy week is on tap to recover from Saturday night while at the same time preparing for Fri/Sat/Sun in Boston.  I ran 60 minutes easy in the HydroWorx pool on Sunday to get the blood flowing in my sore legs, then just a touch of quality yesterday to avoid a full week of shuffling.  10 x one-minute intervals in the pool instead of my usual 20, will start easing it back down today to hopefully be fresh for Friday afternoon’s flat-out 400.  What a difference 13-months make – after Hartshorne 2013 I was headed to the land of 12-25 lap races at mind numbingly slow paces.  Now I own spikes purchased from the sprinting page of Eastbay, and am planning on cutting loose like I never though I would ever do again.  Age is just a number, and strength/mobility cannot be understated. No wonder Mark Gomes didn’t release his book until after he retired – he was sitting on the secret codes!  Win, lose, or draw the next three weeks should be a blast, it’s been a while since I was this excited to just get out there like a schoolboy and just run.  “Race you to the swings….!”

Posted in Aquatic Fitness, Competitive Races, HydroWorx Exercise Pool, Interval Training, Masters Running, Masters Track, Outdoor World Championships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Look What I Found… (times 2)

Re-reading this title one could be led to believe I was referring to this blog.  I actually wasn’t, but I guess it could serve as a double entendre.  (I’m not going to admit how many tries it took for spell check to accept my massacre of that word – trying to somehow think of a way to blame this on my dad, the english major….).  Keep reading and eventually it will all make sense…

I’m going to pretend that this little gap in blog entries was 5 days and not 5 months, and therefore I am just going to forego all the excuses and apologies.  Following Fifth Avenue Mile last fall I took a long break, then started up slowly but steadily.  I never really stopped workout out at Elite Athletic Performance though, continuing to lift and stretch, but taking a step back from running for a handful of weeks helped my knee, achilles, and hips to finally start feeling a little better.  Eventually it was back in the HydroWorx pool, with an occasional track session as the Polar Vortexes allowed…

Once we started back up again, I knew that my 45th birthday would fall towards the end of the indoor season.  Ever since my open 800m last June in Des Moines (and the comment on the FloTrack site that led me to check what the M45 world record was), I had set breaking the indoor 800m world record as my primary goal.  I looked for meets to get some races under my legs, then meets at good tracks after my birthday (2/26) to take the shot at the record.  From that point on it just became a matter of executing the “grand plan”…

January took me up to Penn State for another one of the Nittany Valley Running Club’s open mile races.  They put on another great show, and I was able to run 4:27, placing second behind a Penn State club runner.  It wasn’t particularly easy, but not extremely taxing either.  It was a good prep for the 2014 Hartshorne Mile which I had committed to 2 weeks later, and a good way to kick off the season.

The Hartshorne Mile was another event that lived up to its great reputation.  Tom Hartshorne and Charlie Fay put together the strongest field I have ever seen up there in my 4 years of participating in the event – besides me, he had Scott Weeks (2013 Champ), Peter Brady, Mark Williams, and Chris Blondin, among others.  All five of us were legitimate sub-4:30 milers, so I had no idea who to key off of or how this would go down. After last season’s breakthrough and my decent tune-up at PSU I felt confident that I could run in the mid-4:20’s, but was not sure I could challenge Weeks if he delivered a low 4:20’s performance like the previous year.  The first 7 laps of the race were essentially Groundhog Day, with Scott following the rabbit about 20 meters ahead of the pack, and me, Mark, and Peter following the lead of Chris Blondin (must have drawn the short straw).  With about 250m to go I was able to sneak by Chris on the rail into second, and through the bell I was surprised to see the gap between Weeks and myself had shrunk to less than 10 meters.  I pulled up behind him with 150 meters to go and was settling in to plot my finishing strategy when Mark Williams blew past us both on the outside.  Completely surprised I fortunately was able to pull off another inside pass, this time slipping by Scott, and matched Mark stride for stride down the backstretch.  I eventually was able to out kick him to the line, winning in 4:25 (and closing in 30 secs).  It was a great race, and like 2013 Fifth Ave Mile an unexpected repeat win after several years of coming up short.  Like I said then, you appreciate victories like this more and more when you expect them less and less…

2014 Hartshorne Mile – full race video

Following Hartshorne, I jumped in a meet at Bucknell University to run an open 400m.  Since the strength and conditioning program at Elite had rebuilt my fragile hamstrings, I no longer feared this distance and was curious to see what I could do.  Getting a time in this event served two purposes for me – 1) it would serve as a qualifying time for indoor nationals if I decided to run that event on the Friday before the Sunday 800, and 2) if I could run a time that put me in the top 4 in my Greater Philadelphia club team I would become eligible to run on our 4×400 relay at the Millrose Games.  Not really knowing what was going on (it had been years since my last open 400), I think I ran pretty hard on their flat track and bagged a 53.17 – exceeding my expectations.  My success got my competitive sprinting juices flowing, and I went ahead and entered the 400 at nationals, along with the mile and 800m – possible visions of the triple crown.  I also qualified for our Millrose relay, where I ran another 53.xx split on our second place team several weeks later in what is always a fun event.

This took me to mid-February, where I started buckling down for some big races.  At the Hartshorne Mile a bunch of us started hatching a plan to take a shot at the 4×800 world record that had been set last year by among others Scott Weeks and Mark Gomes.   I had previously held this record with my GPTC teammates, so “getting it back” held a slightly more personal meaning for me than the others.  Scott elected to sit out instead of trying to displace his record holding teammates, and Peter Brady was recruited to run with his club in an effort to break the M35 WR.  That left me, Mark Williams, and Chris Blondin looking for a fourth.  I gave a shout out to 400m ace Ed Winslow, who had started dabbling in the half mile last year.  He was excited to join us, and we all met in Boston at the Boston University Last Chance Meet on 3/2.  The world record was 7:58, meaning we would have to average a little under 2:00 per man – right about where we all were.  On a great track everyone showed up big time – Ed led off with a 1:59.91 and more than held up his end of the deal, and Chris followed that with a 1:59 leg of his own.  Mark got shot out of a cannon, running a crazy 1:55.75 leaving me with very little pressure or obligation.  I must operate best under those sort of conditions, because I too made the most of BU’s lightning fast track and ran a 1:54.93 split.  Everyone nailed it, and we shattered the record to say the least, running 7:49.90.  Beers and burgers followed!

Winslow, Blondin, Williams, Berra M45 4x800 WR

Winslow, Blondin, Williams, Berra
M45 4×800 WR

With that mark out of the way, I had 6 days before my next world record attempt.  This one was the one I have had circled on the calendar for the past 6 months – the M45 800m indoor world record, held by masters legend Anselm LeBourne.  The mark was 1:56.29, almost exactly the same time I ran in Des Moines in my breakout race last summer.  This would be indoors though, and I would be 9 months older.  With the way things had been going at EAP, however, I felt like despite being almost a year older I was getting stronger at a faster rate.  The relay leg at BU was a huge confidence builder – I ran totally alone the whole way, and just banged out 4 smooth laps with very little stress.  As the event (Columbia Final Qualifier at the NYC Armory) drew near, I almost felt like it would be a “choke job” if I didn’t break the mark – I really felt like there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to run that time.  I wasn’t born yesterday though, and knew 1:56 times do not grow on trees and nobody was going to hand it to me – I had to go out there and do it and it was not going to be easy….

Pete Brady stepped up for me in a huge way by volunteering to help set the pace for me.  He was nursing a bum achilles and has a baby due any day so he was prepared to shut things down after his M35 4×800 WR, but living in the NYC area and knowing what I was going to be trying to accomplish he made like Cosmo Kramer and “did me a solid”.  Mark Williams also entered along with Jonevan Hornsby from CPTC.  Having four known quantities (and good buds) alongside me at the starting line knowing they all had my best interest in mind was a huge plus for me.  We were seeded with two slower college runners, so the track was ours from the gun (well, almost – it wouldn’t be a college race without the obligatory collegiate runner biting off way more than he could chew early on – luckily for me the “victim” was Mark Williams – kids never learn…).  Pete hit the pace I had asked for to the tenth of a second, taking me through the quarter-mile in about 57 flat then giving me the track at about the 500m mark.  The announcer knew what was at stake and had the crowd behind my effort the whole way.  I felt strong after taking over from Pete and did my best to control myself as I passed through 600 in 1:26.3.  I made it to the home stretch before starting to tie up but knew I had it when I crossed the line.  The scoreboard flashed almost immediately – 1:56.10 – mission accomplished.  Sharing it with my dad and wife who came up to watch, as well as my masters buds who played a big part in the race made it all the more special….

On the line for the record attempt.  L-R Williams, Hornsby, ?, ?, Brady, Berra

On the line for the record attempt. L-R Williams, Hornsby, ?, ?, Brady, Berra

Pete Brady doing the dirty work

Pete Brady doing the dirty work

Peeking at the clock and sensing I had it....

Peeking at the clock and sensing I had it….


I’ve always felt that national and world titles are largely dependent on who is healthy, able to travel, and in your age group at the time.  Some wins are more satisfying than others depending on the challenges that you face achieving the title.  My biggest regret in the five years that I have been running masters track was in the last race I had circled on the calendar for months ahead of time –  Sacramento, 2011 WMA outdoor championships.  The 800m field was loaded, but for whatever reason (I’ve since come to figure out what probably happened, a lot of good it does me now) I laid an egg.  I felt at the time that you are remembered by how you compare against the best, and on that day I did not show up.  The beauty of this mark is I feel like I have essentially held my own against every M45 800m runner who has ever laced them up on the indoor track – my generation of runners as well as the guys older than me who have all passed through this age group.  Holding my own against them and now being able to associate myself with guys who I hold in high esteem is a very good feeling.  I won’t name all the names, but the previous record holder, Anselm LeBourne, is a perfect example of the type guy I only used to dream of being compared to.  I feel like I’ve just been inducted into some world record hall…

The other bonus to getting this goal accomplished is now I can go out for the rest of the indoor season and have some fun in my new age group.  This post is way too long already, but there’s a lot of racing still to come on the miniature oval.  For now I hope I don’t lock the blog back up and throw away the key again, because I have missed venting over the keys every now and then.  I didn’t want to jinx my WR plans leading up the races, but being a part of two world records in a week was as good a reason as any to revive the blog.  Some say its better to be lucky than good, but I’ll take both any day of the week….

Posted in 5th Avenue Mile, Aquatic Fitness, Competitive Races, Hartshorne Mile, Hydrotherapy, Masters Running, Masters Track, Millrose Games, Running, Uncategorized, Underwater Treadmill | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Order Restored

Somewhere near 70th and 5th Avenue, with John Henwood, Me, Peter Brady, and Gerry O'Hara

Somewhere near 70th St and 5th Avenue, with John Henwood, Me, Mark WIlliams, Peter Brady, and Gerry O’Hara

Well, all’s well that ends well.  I am happy to report that after receiving requests to review the matter from both me and Peter Brady, New York Road Runners shot us an email this evening that said that they would adjust the results to reflect what took place at the finish line.  Reasonable-man theory prevailed in the end, and now I not only won the race but I am also the first place finisher.  Our times were also adjusted to what we thought we ran, putting both at 4:29 from 4:31.  I’m not even going to touch all the questions about chip times and scoring procedures because, like I said before, “all’s well that ends well”.  Thanks again to Peter for all his sportsmanship and assistance, and to the folks at NYRR for promptly addressing the matter…

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 11.30.25 PM

Men 40-45 results

Nothing like a little confusion/controversy to drive up ratings.  The unusual procedures implemented by NYRR yesterday and ensuing interest in the results led to the most hits on this blog ever, shattering the previous high set following another “memorable” running event back in 2011 (Eugene 1500m Berra/Gomes tangle).  I would love to say that this huge total was some sort of viral number like 2.57 million hits, but that just isn’t the case – if you moved the decimal point a couple handful of places to the right maybe.  Even had a hit from India – “FinishGate” had gone world-wide.   Note to self – add more drama to my racing if I ever want to land that guest blogger role at Running Times….

Plan going forward is to press on through the aches and pains and try to crash-course train for the USATF 5k Nationals in Syracuse, NY in two weeks.  This will be the third time I have run this race with the Greater Philly team – every year I think this will be the year I break 16:00 and every time I fail.  Year one was in a freezing monsoon though, and last year I was so beat up I was sore before we even started (and even more sore by the end, to say the least).  This year could be better going in, but it could be worse, so maybe I can finally crack the code (and the 16:00 barrier).  At least I can rest easy knowing there will be no finish line controversy involving me in Syracuse…

60:00 on the HydroWorx treadmill this afternoon – good to get the residual junk out of my legs and get the recovery/preparation effort off to a good start.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.50.30 PM

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Fifth Avenue Mile

Fast forward five short weeks since the Pentathlon.  Nobody missed anything.  I took a week off because everyone says you should do that every now and then, I felt worse after the break than I did beforehand.  Then took it easy for a week, just got bored. Hit the track for a workout, felt like I had never made left hand turns before.  Ugh….

Slowly but surely re-learned how to generate a little turnover, but its safe to say my five-week plan to get ready for the Fifth Ave Mile was flushed down the crapper early on.  I did the best I could, even with a late head/chest cold.  I had a couple decent workouts, got some good quality efforts in the pool, and just kept telling myself “how much could you possibly lose in a month?”.  I hoped I wasn’t peeing down my own leg and telling myself it was raining….

We left yesterday afternoon and holed up in Summit NJ, a town I have stayed in several times on FedEx layovers.  The hotel is nice and is an easy walk to the small town.  Lots of little shops, a movie theater, and a bunch of great mom-and-pop restaurants.  We went for Italian and were not disappointed.  Left a little early this morning since I hadn’t picked up my race number yet, got parked and set up with plenty of time to spare.  A big storm had rolled through the night before, leaving clear skies and perfect temps for the race – couldn’t have ordered a better day….

365 days ago after a stinging loss late in the race to John Henwood I told myself that if there was one race I wanted to win one more time it was this one.  As this summer started to gather momentum I figured it to be a sure thing that I would be able to compete for the win in New York.  Now, going in, I was doubting myself more than I had in a long time.  I had been running these things for a long time now though, so when the fast-shoes got laced up it turned out to be business as usual.  I knew that this year’s field would have its usual handful of contenders, many of whom were new, talented, younger guys.  If it were going to happen I knew it wasn’t going to be easy….

Got to the line 15+ minutes early and stood nuts to butts with about 30 other guys in order to get on the starting line.  For how cool this race is, this “tradition” is ridiculous – it’s a complete self-seeding free-for-all.  I had one foot on the line but was getting stonewalled by an Italian runner (who, to his credit, did run 4:46).  Peter Brady (much more on him later), new M40 runner from Central Park Track Club hooked me up by “suggesting” that he let me get on the line because I would be out fast, said Italian guy thankfully abdicated his position.  Peter was on my left, John Henwood was on my right, “Last Minute” Mark Williams squeezed his way in behind me.  The gang was all here…

Wind didn’t seem like it was going to be much of a factor – I thought it would be a tailwind but as we got out with the gun it turned out to be more of a left to right crosswind.  Since you run south down Fifth Avenue, the tall buildings are on your left and the park on your right – every time we came to a cross street the wind would come pouring out between the buildings and blast you, only to then suddenly die as you regained the cover of the structures.  The start was clean, but almost immediately you could tell the pace was slow.  Peter Brady “got stuck” with the lead along with Gerald O’Hara, I sat on Peter’s right shoulder.  John was right beside me.  Through the quarter mile in 68 or so, very slow.  Up the slope to the half wasn’t much different.  Got the sense that Peter was wondering “what’s going on?” as he kept glancing over to see if I was still there.  I felt bad (I’m human), but was content to see how this was going to play out, especially considering the condition I was in.  I think the half was almost 2:20, which is borderline ridiculous.  At that point it was just a matter of time before someone “broke” and decided to go for it – in this case it was O’Hara.  The pace began to pick up as we started down the hill, then with about 600 or so to go Gerald took off like he was shot out of a cannon.  The rest of us loosely followed, I was thinking that if this guy can hold that the whole way in God bless him, he deserves to win.  Like the Tour de France, the guy who leaves the peloton almost never makes it alone – as we got inside 400 to go he ended up coming back to us and Peter Brady surged into the lead.  John Henwood passed me as well at this point, but I kept telling myself to wait until the very end – every time you watch the 1500m in the Olympics or World Championships its the guy in 7th place who goes 5-wide in the final 100m who ends up winning.  I hoped that if I made one big move at the end and held it through the line I could catch whoever was in front of me.

Of course I just couldn’t wait until 100m to go – I don’t know why I even come up with these plans.  As soon as Henwood passed me I decided that the time was now.  With about 200 to go I held on to both of those guys and then pulled past them.  With about 50 to go I could feel that I was a little clear of the pack, but with about 30 meters to go (if I had only waited until 100!!!) the shoes started getting very, very heavy.  It became “Throwback” Sunday at that point – finishing a race with cement legs, just like the old days, just waiting for the dreaded late pass.  Only this is 2013, where it seems like somebody is watching out for me – nobody comes up on me and I have just enough gas in the tank to make it about 1 step past the finish line.  What do you know – mission accomplished…

Sealing the deal

Sealing the deal

Sort of.  To make a long story short, I swung (swinged? went.) by the awards tent after sending a couple of texts and taking a couple of pics.  The results said I had the same time as Peter Brady, but he was listed as first and I was listed as second.  I went over to the timing truck to see if I missed something, they pulled up the finish line photo and it had me about a stride ahead of Peter (no surprise, since I was there to see it, even if my eyes were half-rolled back in my head).  We went and talked to the timer, he brought up the times and explains that Peter’s chip time was .65 seconds faster than mine.  He went on to say that usually in races the first across the line is the winner, but he has entered the places based on the Fifth Ave Mile being one big race, essentially making each “race” actually a “heat”.  I didn’t know how the chip times could possibly be what he said since we started next to each other and finished almost next to each other, but I didn’t feel like arguing.  I felt good about the race no matter what the guy wearing the pocket protector buried in the bowels of a truck had to say.  My kid saw me break the tape and thought I won, so I was happy.  I left it at that, cooled down in the park with my daughter, then went on to enjoy a couple of hours in the city before heading home.

On the way home I got an email from Peter essentially asking if I had seen the results.  He described them as “obviously/sadly incorrect” and offered to call and get them fixed.  Don’t know if this will happen or not, but either way his “reach out” was very considerate and a very classy move.  Do I think I won?  Yes, but if the race organizers implement their rules and decide that he did then that is their prerogative.  As my dad always used to tell me – “life is a journey, not a destination”.  I went up to NYC to run, and to see if I could compete with a strong masters field in probably the most prestigious mile race on the planet.  I ran, and in a crazy race managed to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge my way to the finish line to break the tape (which, by the way, never gets old, and which, by the way, they never even held up!!).  I left completely satisfied with my effort and the results, whatever they may end up being.  I just have to wonder though – what is this world coming to when there is fine print in road racing?!?

By the way, turns out my dad was just stealing an old Emerson line all these years – is nothing in this world what it really seems to be?!?

With Peter Brady at finish line - never been so happy to get done...

With Peter Brady at finish line – never been so happy to get done…

Posted in Competitive Races, Hydrotherapy, HydroWorx Exercise Pool, Marathon Training, Masters Running, Masters Track, Running, Running Injuries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

GTPC Runners Pentathlon Recap

Well, not only did I survived the race onslaught yesterday at Germantown Academy, but I stumbled upon a late comeback and managed to sneak away the individual champion.  The sprints turned out to be manageable interruptions of my distance event recoveries, and I was able to make up for their predictably lower scores by running pretty well in the longer races.  I anticipated the field would be strong and I was not disappointed – the top 6 age-graded finishers all managed to score higher than anyone had ever scored since the event adopted this format in 2011.  After all the dust had settled though the best thing about the pentathlon was that it was not only a competitive event, but also a fun one.  It brought together almost 100 runners and many more ‘runner volunteers’, and was the perfect event to cap a summer track season.

Napoleon Dynamite and the smilin' rival Mark Williams.  Good to see all a bunch of the fellows one last time this summer...

Napoleon Dynamite and the smilin’ rival Mark Williams. Good to see a bunch of the fellows one last time this summer…

The biggest beef I have about this event is somebody on the race organizing committee is either an insomniac or an extreme early bird.  The 0800 start time is a killer for this out-of-towner.  Up at 0450, in the car at 0530, to the facility at 0715.  An abbreviated warmup was worth the extra 30 minutes sleep.  The first event was the 3000m, I planned to avoid holding back too much this year after last year’s relative success.  I thought 9:10-9:12 would be a good goal, roughly 4:54 mile pace.  I led the first 4 laps, came through the first mile in 4:50.  Eventually got passed as dread started to set in and the race became not fun.  Trudged to the finish in third in 9:17.04, what amounted to roughly a 5:03 second mile.  Resisted surging at the end as the leaders pulled away a little, knew there was more work to be done down the road.  After the age-grading kicked in I was fourth overall…

Only thing rarer than spotting a Chupacabra is catching me sprinting.  Here Mark Williams is showing me how its done in the 200m dash...

Only thing rarer than spotting a Chupacabra is catching me sprinting. Here Mark Williams is showing me how its done in the 200m dash…

The 200m was next.  “Just don’t get hurt, just don’t get hurt” was all that was going through my mind.  The plan was to start slow, ease into it, see how it feels, if all’s well maybe speed it up a little.  Turned out that 200m isn’t really long enough to allow all of that to happen – right about the time I got done seeing how it felt and deciding I could probably speed it up a little bit I hit the tape.  An uninspiring race, but hey, I didn’t get hurt.  My final time was 26.53, still in fourth place overall…

I had thought going in to the event that you got a 1 hour break between events – I must have been thinking of last year when I sat out the sprints.  Turns out that you actually only get 30 minutes break if you are running in the individual competition.  It was almost like a 1 hour break after running such a lazy 200m though, so when the 1500 rolled around a half an hour later I was ready to go.  I set an aggressive goal again (4:12), and once again got to the lead early.  Got through the 800m split right on pace (2:15), then could feel myself pulling away a little bit from the pack.  Almost held on to the pace for the last 700m, won the heat in a fairly strong 4:14.12.  Unfortunately, all the people ahead of me in the competition were distance/middle-distance guys (and gals, in the case of the defending champion and leader Lorraine Jasper), so despite running pretty well and making up a little ground, after three events I was still in fourth place.

1500m - things starting to go my way finally....

1500m – things starting to finally go my way….

100m.  Once again I was in damage control mode, only this time I at least had one sprint under my belt and the legs had gotten a little taste of fourth gear.  30 minutes later (on the dot) I once again removed the blocks from my lane, placed them on the infield, and assumed the same stance used from the marathon all the way down to the 100m.  I felt like if I got down into blocks (which would be a ridiculous proposition since I hadn’t used a set since 12th grade) I wasn’t sure I would ever get back up, let alone come out guns a blazin’.  I actually got rolling in this one, ended up trying to hang on to Mark Williams in the lane next to me.  As it turned out we duked it out all the way to the line.  He had smoked me in the 200m, so I was happy I was able to get after it a little more in this race.  As it turned out this was the turning point of the event for me – my score was way less “average” than the folks ahead of me, so I jumped from fourth to second, and made up a chunk of what I thought was the insurmountable lead that Lorraine Jasper had on the rest of the field.  High drama was unfolding in Fort Washington….

You know you are at a big event when All-Star announcer Peter Taylor is in the house.  Me, Peter, and the the lovely yet steely-eyed Lorraine Jasper.

You know you are at a big event when All-Star announcer Peter Taylor is in the house. Me, Peter, and the lovely yet steely-eyed Lorraine Jasper.

Lorraine was still ahead by almost 3 points, so I hoped to just go out there and try not to give anything back.  I thought it was possible that we could run in the low 2:00 range for the final event (800m), so I hoped to go through the quarter in 60-61 and see if I could hang on.  With the end in sight and in need of a miracle, I went into my dufflebag phone booth and busted out my secret weapon – the lucky headband.  Locked up since Des Moines, I donned the iconic old school ‘fro harness and took the line brimming with confidence.  I took the lead from the start, 29 through 200 and 59 at the bell.  Managed to get to 600 in 1:29, began to think how cool would it be to break 2:00 after running all these crazy events.  Tied up a little in the homestretch, the developing headwind did not help my cause much.  2:01.03, pretty good all things considered.  That time turned out to be a home run though, because after the computers did their thing and the dust settled the master score sheet had me ahead of Lorraine 430.76 – 428.12.  What do you know….

Daughter Kate appreciating the magnitude of the event once she saw the headband emerge...

Daughter Kate appreciating the magnitude of the event once she saw the headband emerge…

Event director Kyle Mecklenborg and the MOAT (Mother of All Trophies)

Event director Kyle Mecklenborg and the MOAT (Mother of All Trophies)

Got a little prize money, a trophy that makes the Stanley Cup look like a sippy cup, and a whole bunch of high fives from the hoards of Greater Philly team members there.  A great finish to a great day (I feel like I have said that a bunch of times already).  Thanks to the club and Kyle Mecklenborg for putting on the event, and congrats to all the great runners who put in a hard days work.  I don’t know if I feel like I dodged a bullet by surviving my first sprints in many years, or whether this will lure me into maybe re-investigating the 400m.  After suffering through that 3k this morning I know if I have to choose going up or down in distance the decision will be an easy one…

Posted in Competitive Races, Greater Philadelphia's Distance Medley at Milrose Games, Masters Running, Masters Track, Running, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Five Times The Fun in Philadelphia


Nothing marks the end of summer like the annual rite of passage held in Fort Washington PA – the Greater Philadelphia Runner’s Pentathlon.  I believe this is the fourth annual running of this event, third time I have been involved.  The inaugural event ended my season in 2010 – was having a pretty good year until I tried a 200m race that didn’t end well (or at the finish line – hamstring, as usual).  I sat out 2011 after vowing never to sprint again, have kept that promise unless you count a 400m experiment a couple of years ago.  2012 saw the introduction of the team competition, so I didn’t have to break my no-sprint vow, just find some sprinters to team up with.  I ran the lovely 3000-1500-800 triple that might have been some of my best racing of the year.   This brings us to 2013…

With all the work I have done this spring and summer I have been given the green light to “air it out” a little bit by Rich – the sprint boycott ends tomorrow.  I use the term ‘sprint’ liberally though, because I have no intention on seeing how fast I can go, just seeing how fast I can go safely.  While writing this it is dawning on me that maybe I should have done some fast striders or something in the past couple days or weeks to introduce that extra gear to the body, but I guess that doesn’t do me much good now.  The 3000m is run first, so that will be a good warmup….

3000m – 200m – 1500m – 100m – 800m (400m for the sprinters).  About an hour break between races, everything age graded to level the playing field.  It’s like being a one-man high school track team, top age graded total score wins.  Simple to figure out, not so simple to run.  Kyle Mecklenborg puts on a great event with the support of Greater Philly, so hopefully the weather cooperates and the event is as good as it has been in the past.  The word is definitely out though, and the field is deeper than ever…

With the field entered, this should be a tough competition.  As always, I would not be getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go run this thing if I didn’t have my eye on the prize.  Anything south of first would be a disappointment, but since this event definitely has an interactive ‘fun’ to it as the scores are constantly updated I think that win or lose it will be an entertaining day of track.  Some of the loaded field are sprinters, so hopefully I can make some hay in the distance events and get enough points to offset the drubbing I am bound to take during the short stuff.  I think having run those three long events fairly hard last year gives me a good idea of how I can do this year – after busting the chops of sprinters all the time I hope throwing in a couple of “dashes” doesn’t wear me out at all.  How hard can 100 measly meters be?

I took it pretty easy this week – lifted hard early in the week, then got in the pool for some easy miles almost every day.  After the pentathlon I hope to shut it down and take a little break before getting in a couple good hard weeks leading up to the Fifth Ave Mile.  Saying I am going to shut it down and actually doing it are two different things though, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, because there are no guarantees.  The other unfortunate end of summer rite of passage is me getting hurt then scrambling to get ready for 5th Ave – if that happens again I don’t know what will be worse, dealing with the injury or dealing with my dad, who is advocating I stick to the boycott.  75% effort, I promise….

Posted in Competitive Races, Marathon Training, Masters Running, Masters Track, Running, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Still Drinking From The Fountain Of Youth

064one mileWell, the hits just keep on coming.  In a year I had all but written off six months ago, I continue to ride the victory wave.  In yesterday’s GNC Live Well Liberty Mile I had what it took to top the masters field and claim the inaugural USATF 1-Mile Road Championship in 4:28.00, capping a great couple a days on and off the streets of Pittsburgh.  I feel like I have been playing with “house money” all summer – I never expected any of this coming in to the year, but I’m certainly not complaining.  With only an event or two remaining hopefully I can keep this thing going….

After some dark skies and occasional heavy rain showers throughout the day, the skies cleared and the wind died down by race time.  Not too hot, not too breezy.  The previous point to point course had to be changed to satisfy USATF championship criteria, so the new course went up one major avenue in downtown Pittsburg (Penn) and back on a parallel one (Liberty).  A couple of right hand turns (gasp!) got you turned around – not the fastest way to run a road mile but they did a good job of making the turns as mild as possible.  The outbound leg was a little uphill, but that of course made second half of the race a little downhill – if you had to have it one way or the other this was definitely the best formula.

Clearing the fray at the start

Clearing the fray at the start

I knew a handful of my competitors going into the race, but I am much more familiar with the track crowd than the road crowd so there were a lot of unfamiliar faces as well.  I figured I had as good a shot as anyone to win the thing, so I approached the race like it was mine to lose.  If the only thing on the line was the crown and purse for winning the race breaking the tape would have been my primary concern – but of course things can’t just be that easy.  Enter the “x-factor” – age-grading!  There was decent prize money for the age-graded winner as well, so not only was I trying to win the race, but I was also trying to do it as fast as possible in order to increase my chances at a possible “clean sweep”.  I thought going in that on a perfect day maybe I could run as low as 4:20, which would give me a very tough-to-beat age graded percentage.  You never know what some ‘wild-card’ 63-year old guy is going to run, so you have to set the bar really high to compete.  Since the first half was uphill I figured maybe 66.5/66.5 going out (2:13), 2:08-2:10 coming back in would be a good plan.  At the gun several guys went out with me, even though I had conceded that I quite likely would be leading through the first 1200 meters.  I let Birger Ohlsson take us through the quarter-mile, think I caught 67 on the race clock.  Not bad.  At that point I took the lead and tried to keep applying pressure.  I felt really good approaching the turn around point – very smooth, very strong.  I was surprised then to catch 2:15, 2:16 as I went past the half-mile clock.  So much for 4:20!  I still felt good, I could tell I had a 5 meter lead or so, and I was about to roll down the hill so things could have been worse.  I don’t remember my 3/4 mile time, but I felt really fast and like I still had gas in the tank.  The last quarter-mile had 200 and 100 meter to go signs, so although part of me wanted to hammer the end, the wiser half was telling me to be patient and to be prepared for a late challenge.  The challenge never came – if I had eyes in the back of my head (or a NASCAR-like spotter) I probably should have went for it and tried for a quicker time.  As it turned out I broke the tape in strong fashion, 4:28 the final time.

Birger Ohlsson and I approaching the quarter mile marker

Birger Ohlsson and I approaching the quarter mile marker

The "tape-breaking" shot.  Never a bad thing...

The “tape-breaking” shot. Never a bad thing…

I obviously won the race and won my age group.  Ended up sixth in the age graded competition, behind a handful of guys in the 50 and 60 year age groups who ran great races.  The 2-3 seconds that I think I should have come up with probably would have put me near the top, but I would probably have played it the same way if I had to do it over again.  The last thing I wanted to do was have my race dictated by age-graded money at the expense of losing the race – I came to try to win the national title and I got that done.  What made it even more special was that instead cramming a race into a hurried day or two by myself, this time I had the whole (extended) gang with me, along with some other family friends who happened to be in town.  We had a blast in Pittsburgh leading up to the race and later that evening celebrating, so the win was icing on the cake.

Thanks to all the folks at the Liberty Mile and Bring Back The Mile for hosting us, taking care of the little things, and for putting on a great race (and post-race party).  Hanging out with the staff and elite pro milers afterwards was a fun way to blow off some steam and get to know some of the other younger (and faster) guys.  Special thanks to Ryan Hogan for the invitation to the race – won’t forget this one anytime soon!

Cumberland Valley Alums getting it done in Pittsburgh.  Ryan Hogan and yours truly

Cumberland Valley Alums getting it done in Pittsburgh. Ryan Hogan and yours truly

Posted in 5k running, Competitive Races, Cross Country Running, Harrisburg Mile, Masters Running, Running, Uncategorized, USATF Outdoor Nationals | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments