Groton Town Forest Trail Race and 1 year of Racing

So, today I celebrated my one year running anniversary by running the Groton Town Forest Trail Race. First, let me say that I love running in the Town of Groton. Every time I run there I run a PR! I ran my 10k PR of 49:19 at the Groton Road Races 6 days post-Boston, and this race is a 9.5 mile trail race, a distance I've never run before, guaranteed to be a PR! Love it! That's the best part of being a new runner, it seems that just about every race is a PR!

Before I get started with the race report I just want to reflect a little on this past year. What an amazing year! I've been truly blessed! I can't believe how far I've come. I ran my first race on October 24, 2009. It was the Oak Scare 5k in Brighton (I'll be running it again this Saturday) and I ran it in 29:00. To be fair, I had only been released from Physical Therapy for my knee surgery and back to work for 1 week. I ran a few more races in the fall, and the last 5k of 2009, I set a 5k PR of 25:38 at Walter's Run less than 2 months later. All in all I've run 14 races in 12 months... a bunch of 5k's, a couple of 5-miler's, 2 10k's, a 9.5 miler, 3 Half-Marathon's, and the Marathon (Boston).

I've made leaps and bounds as a runner, and I've logged a lot of miles (1207.3 to be exact). I've lost almost 80 pounds and dropped my blood pressure by nearly 20 points. But I think the fact that I'm most proud of is that between Lex's Run for the MDA (the charity race that my wife and I organize and direct), and the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracle's" Boston Marathon Team I've raised almost $15k for charity! No small feat in this economy... And I'm doing it all again this year!

Enough of that, now on with the race report:

I arrived early with every intention of getting a good warm-up in. However, I picked-up my number and t-shirt, went back to the car to get ready (I had a spot right in front) and ended getting into a conversation with my friend Chris Russell (@cyktrussell) of RunRunLive podcasting fame. We had talked (or tweeted, actually) about running this race together, along with a bunch of our twitter friends who are part of our New England Running Twits (#NERTs) group on twitter: Adam (@adamm9), Sandy (@Trifatlete), Melody (@MrsKnitpho), Heather (@wickedphysics), and Jonathan (@thinmedic).Chris said he was "banned" from racing this one hard, so we would make this a social run/race. Little did I know that his "not racing" would be my "racing as hard as I can."

Anyway, we chatted, and I tweeted and IM'd everyone to figure out where they were and get some ETA's. Adam and Jonathan were running a bit late and someone "got a little lost" without actually being lost. Sandy, Melody and Heather showed-up, Thin was the next to show and as we were making our way toward the start Adam finally showed-up. We milled about the start chatting it up about the course with Chris since he was the most familiar with these trails (his running club, the Squannacook River Runners, put on the race). Adam showed-up right before the start and we were finally all together. Thin moved-up to take his place near the front for the start (he ran a ridiculous time around 1:09:xx).

At the start we all took off at a nice comfortable pace, which soon picked-up to comfortably hard as the field spread out. By the time we hit the first single track Chris was in front, I was behind him and Adam and Sandy filed in behind us. Chris took-up the role of tour guide letting us know all about the features and topography of the trail coming-up (which was great actually), and even a bit of the area like the Dead River and the Groton School. I could tell he really wanted to push the pace at times and I was doing my best to keep-up and hold conversation. The four of us passed a bunch of people here and there and hung together pretty well. There was one girl in particular that didn't want to yield the trail to us, and got frustrated when we'd pass her on the uphills and then she'd come flying by us on the downhills. This only lasted a short time though as she finally gave up and we left her behind.

Around about the 2-2.5'ish mile mark (our Garmin's weren't exactly accurate) I noticed Adam starting to fade (he ran the Bay State Marathon only 1 week ago), I just assumed Sandy was hanging back with him as I didn't hear him on my heels anymore. I was pretty proud of myself for hanging with Chris this long. We were running together pretty smoothly and the conversation helped the time and miles go by. We hit the first set of glacial kettles and I was impressed. They were much larger and steeper than I'd even imagined and seemed to cover much more distance. I knew it was going to be a bitch coming back through the second set near the end of the race. It was somewhere past the first set of kettles that I noticed Sandy was right on my heels, like a silent assassin. The three of us hung together for the majority of the race.

Chris really was a gracious host. He'd get a bit ahead of us and either stop or slow down and wait for us to catch-up, but he never really got more than 50 yards or so ahead of us. It was great. However, after the last time he stopped for us at a fork in the trail, he let us go ahead and Sandy took the lead. Sandy really started pushing the pace and Chris was more than willing to keep up. This is about where the pain really started creeping in during one of the steep uphill sections for me, and I just had to let them go. Somewhere between 6.5 and 7 miles I just watched them steadily pull away from me. I did pretty well through the first part of the second set of kettle's. I was getting pretty good at just flying down the hills, keeping-up my cadence and running light on my toes just barely touching the ground as I went.

In between the last set of kettle's we came to an nice flat, wide section of trail. I relaxed and picked-up my pace a bit, until I turned my left ankle. So I walked for a minute until the ankle felt ok and I figured I could get going again. Problem is, I also saw the annoying girl from earlier closing in on me and thought to myself "Oh, no! That is just not going to happen!" So about 100 meters or so into running again... I turned my right ankle! This time it felt like it might have been bad, so I stopped. As I stopped, "annoying girl" flew by me. I swear I heard her chuckle too! So, I started walking, figuring I'd at least get my butt across that finish line no matter how I had to do it. Even if I had to crawl. By the time I hit the last kettle I was running again, not nearly as fast, but running none-the-less.

After that final kettle I thought we had to be done with the hills, but I was wrong. There were quite a few long steep climbs followed by sharp descents. Somewhere around mile 8 I resorted to power-walking the uphills and letting myself fly on the downhills. I figure it was good practice for my future Ultramarthon career, right? As I was rounding a corner after a downhill I heard Adam yelling my name, so I stopped and waited for him. We stayed together for the rest of the race. Adam turned his ankle once, but we ended-up finishing together, in a dead sprint! As soon as we saw the finish, Adam said to me "so, you wanna run it in?" To which I replied "Sure, but I don't know what I have left!" As we got closer, we got faster. I felt him surge so I surged, and on it went. I think I almost ran over someone's dog. We finished in 1:32:50 according to my Garmin, a 9.5 mile PR for both of us!

I've decided I love trail races. They might just be my niche. I'm going to do as many as I can. I felt like a kid running through the woods. I'm going to buy some trail shoes though, with a low profile and some sort of reinforcement under the forefoot. The Brooks Launch were probably the wring choice for this race. My feet are destroyed. All of my toes are hurting and the balls of my feet are ridiculously bruised. But it's all the kind of pain you feel after a job well done. After the race we hung out by my car, took some pics of the NERTs, had a beer then went in to re-fuel with some carbs provided to us by the race organizer's. I'll definitely be running this race again. Good times! Thanks to all of the NERTs who showed up and made this such a great day. I wouldn't have celebrated my anniversary any other way!

On The Running Boom...

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?"
- Eminem

From where I sit, I see that we are in the middle of what is quite likely the biggest running "boom" in history. All over the country, the World even, races of all types, distances and purposes are selling like never before. Races that have never sold-out before are suddenly closing registration months ahead of time. Races that always sell-out are getting even harder to get into. Muddy Buddy's, Warrior Dash's, Charity 5k's, odd-distance races, beer, burrito, and even juggling challenges are having their infrastructure's pushed to the limits by a ground swell of running enthusiasts looking for new and interesting races, even just your everyday "run like your hair is on fire" tests of endurance and stamina are in high demand.

So, it should be of no surprise to anyone that the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, April 18, 2011 sold-out in less than 8 hours. After all, Boston isn't just any marathon, it's the marathon! Months ago I read a blog somewhere that was having a "contest" to guess how long it would take for Boston to sell-out this year. My guess was 24 hours. Boy was I wrong! It really was a stroke of marketing genius by the B.A.A. if you think about it. A triumph! One that may eventually backfire unless they respond to the current state of running in the proper manner. I saw this coming (and personally, I have no thoughts of BQ'ing before I turn 50), so why didn't the thousands of disappointed BQ'ers that just let it pass them by?

This is how they did it: The B.A.A. sent out an email and press release in October of last year (after registration had been open for a month, and only about 10k had registered) which said something to the effect of "The Boston Marathon is close to selling out! Get your registration in NOW!" And lo-and-behold, the 114th Boston Marathon was sold-out by November 13, 2009. A whole two months earlier than the 113th running. This year the BAA made several high profile public statements and announcements that should have been a clue to the clueless, starting with the fact that they would not open registration until October 18th (a full month later that the traditional mid-September opening) in order to "give everyone a chance to qualify during the fall marathon season."

This year, every running magazine I picked-up, seemingly every article I read has talked about the current running "boom," and the surge of runner's attempting to BQ. You only have to have half an ear to the ground in the blogosphere, twitterverse, podcastia and around the office water cooler to hear someone, anyone, everyone broadcasting their private quest to BQ publicly. I hate to say it, but running a BQ has become "trendy." Just like the hula hoop, cabbage patch kids and zu-zu pets. So, if you've worked your butt off for two, three or even 5 years to get there and actually run a BQ, only to have your hopes, dreams and hard work dashed because 2500 runner's per hour registered and you didn't even log on for whatever reason, sorry for your loss.

I truly feel sorry for so many runner's who were shut-out of the process, especially the European runners who were probably asleep while registration was open (first the volcano, now this?), but really? Not surprised. Not one iota. So why are you? What I am surprised about is the backlash that subsequently ensued against charity runners. Shocked is more like it. Dismayed, distraught over, flabbergasted, disturbed, insulted, offended, stupefied and outright disgusted is more like it. I don't even know if all of those synonyms adequately describe how statements on facebook, twitter, bulletin boards, and several blogs affected me. It shook me to the core. I wasn't going to get into this in this post because so much has already been said by people far more eloquent and diplomatic than I on the subject (my friend's MattTy and Sam on their blogs), but I can't help myself.

Some of the things that I saw I'm simply not going to re-print, but some of the more tame things that were said by my own friends, in which I entered into debate with, were things like: "They need to decide if this is going to be a race or a charity event!" This, from a friend who said (after just missing a BQ by 23 seconds last year) he would run for charity but he didn't think he could raise the $3500 (he subsequently qualified by running a 3:17). Another friend who's been trying to BQ unsuccessfully for 3 years said "I would never run Boston for charity, it would cheapen the experience for me!" Someone else was discussing the merits of charity runners and relating the fact that many of the charity runner's are running run to conquer their own disabilities (much like my wife Lex and my friends Mary and Donna, for whom every race completed is a victory). And one of my fast friend's (a sub-3 hour marathoner) said "when did the 'everybody wins' mentality creep into our sport?" To which we went into a lengthy debate on what running is, what racing is, and the definition of "winner." And we just ended-up agreeing to disagree.

I'd just like to say that all of these conversations I saw and had were in direct conflict with my experiences to this point in the running community. Which is part of the reason I felt it cut so deep. So far I've found the running community to be incredibly inclusive, supportive and receptive to new runners and encouraging to all those just getting started or conquering disabilities, losing weight, and overcoming addiction to achieve their goals. The running community I know would never say that some are worthy while others just don't cut it. I guess human nature is just that and you see the true soul of a man in how he deals with or reacts to adversity. I have to say my heart broke just a little bit every time I felt I had to defend myself and "charity" runner's as a whole that day.

I think a lot of the backlash was started unwittingly or unknowingly by statements from the race organizer's in a couple of forums and different media. They made statements that there were an average of 2500 runner's per hour registering for the race, so do the math... 2500/hr x 8 hrs = 24,000 runner's. Everyone knows the field is limited to 30,000. So when they were put on the spot and asked about the discrepancy, somebody in the organization said something to the affect of "20% of the entries are reserved for non-qualifying runners." What wasn't said was that somewhere around 5000 of those entries are given out as "invitational" bibs to towns and municipalities, corporations, sponsors, local running clubs and volunteers. Yet, almost immediately, BQ'ers with sour grapes and an axe to grind literally started hammering the charity runners.

Let's just talk about number's for a minute. From my understanding, there are a fixed number of charity slots - 1350. The number hasn't changed for 2011. The BAA accepted more charities this year (24), but cut back on the number of bibs they gave to many "underperforming" charities. Each charity accepted into the program gets a minimum of 15 bibs. Luckily, Children's Hospital, raised $1.1M last year and received the same number of bibs (165) as last year. Each charity runner has to raise a minimum of $3250 + $250 entry fee. Since 1989 when the B.A.A. pioneered the charity program, they've raised over $100 Million for charities. Since then, nearly every marathon in the World had added a charity program to their marathon, but from what I've seen, Boston does it best.

Charity runners have a place in EVERY race, not just the Boston Marathon. Some people have the mistaken impression that charity runner's don't work as hard, or sacrifice as much as the BQ runners. Here's a little perspective- As a charity runner, I put-in over 800 training miles on the road. I ran in snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures, and even ran my 18-miler in a strong Nor'Easter in which I had to perform several stream crossings over the road as all of the rivers, streams and tributaries were overflowing their banks. My family sacrificed time, love and energy to get me to my goal. They were my road support, my pregnant wife and 3 year-old daughter always met me in the middle of my long runs to help me re-fuel. They were my emotional support always encouraging me along the way and cheering me on in my build-up races (I set a lot of PR's too)!

I know that my story isn't unique, in fact the overwhelming majority of charity runners also put-in the miles. How do I know this? The B.A.A. sponsors 2 long-runs and there were somewhere around 800 charity runners at the 17-miler and nearly 1000 charity runners at the 21-miler. I also raised almost $5000 for Children's Hospital in the process. My wife hated this part the most. Not only because of the stress of knowing if I didn't accomplish my goal the balance would be put on my credit card, but because she said the fundraising was "all-consuming." I had my own reason's and inspiration for choosing to run for Children's, and every runner has a story of how their charity has touched their lives. There were many, many runners who raised over $10k and if memory serves me, our top fundraiser raised something like $36k. Insane.

Much to my wife's chagrin I've chosen to do it all over again. Partly because my 4:14:09 finish fell short of my goal, but mostly because doing this for Children's Hospital to honor the memory of my friend's daughter Brenya Elizabeth Sullivan is something I feel called to do. It feels great to be involved in something so much bigger than myself. It has grown into an emotional and passionate mission for me, one that I plan to continue for many years to come. I am absolutely sure that even if I am graced with the ability to run a BQ some day, I will still run for the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracles" program. Even if I am given an invitational bib from my running club one year, I'll still raise money for Children's. This year I plan on raising $10k. You can help me by going to my fundraising website and donating- https://howtohelp.childrenshospital.org/bostonmarathon/pfp/?ProfileID=WD0030

Again, I really do feel sorry for those who ran a BQ and didn't get in. It sucks. But, such is life. It's not the end of the World, and there are other options available to you. If you ran a BQ and were unable to get in this year, why not run for charity? There are 24 charities you can run for. Many of them still have spots open on their team. And it won't "cheapen" the experience for you since you've already run a BQ! What's holding you back? Let's see what type of commitment you are capable of, huh?

I also hope that the B.A.A. makes note of all that has transpired this year (in fact the past couple of years) and makes the proper adjustments accordingly. I don't think that the answer is to make the BQ time standards stricter. Like I said earlier, we are in the middle of a running boom, and these things are always cyclical. With a few minor adjustments I'm sure the B.A.A. can weather the storm. I know that since they broke-up the start into two waves, they've been working with the towns and municipalities along the course trying to increase the field size limit. I know that would be helpful. but why not also extend the length of time that running a BQ is valid for to say 2, 3 or even 5 years (but, of course, as soon as you use it, you lose it). I think these two adjustments might just solve the problem altogether.

There are a lot of races out there that have stricter qualification standards, but I argue they just aren't the spectacle and prestige of Boston. But, if you're really interested in qualifying for and running a truly "elite" and "World class" event, as many have expressed, then why not shoot for the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan? Think you have it in you? Be my guest! My point is that it's NOT the qualifying times that make Boston what it is. It is in fact Boston itself. Nowhere will you have anywhere near the experience of the Boston Marathon. The course, the fans, the people, the volunteers, the organization, you name it. Everything that encompasses the Boston Marathon is in fact the draw, not the qualifying times. Besides, if you run a BQ does that mean you expect to win the race? Do you even expect to win your age group? Probably not. So, who in fact are you racing against when you run Boston? Yourself? That's what I thought. You're no different than me or any other charity runner in the race. We are all runners. Yet I argue that the charity runner may have a little more invested.

Who does the Boston Marathon belong to after all? It belongs to Boston. It belongs to history. It belongs to tradition. It belongs to stories told for years to come. It does not belong to you just because you happen to be athletically talented, genetically gifted, or well-trained enough to have run a BQ.


Worcester Half Marathon - "If you can't say anything nice..."

I've been sitting on this one for a long time because I've been a bad blogger and had such an incredibly hectic Summer. I'm turning over a new leaf by getting this post together (finally) I promise!

I entered this half-marathon on a whim. After the Boston Marathon I couldn't stop running. In fact, I ran a recovery run of two miles the next day and a 10k PR at the Groton Road Races 6 days later. My coach literally had to force me to take a week off of running activities completely. Actually he banned me from running. So, when I started running again 8 days later, I felt completely unfocused. I suddenly didn't know why I was running and became very inconsistent in my training. Which is highly unlike me. While I was training for Boston, coach used to say I was a machine. I did exactly the workouts he gave me. I mean to the "T." Religiously. After my "break" I found myself deciding whether-or-not I "wanted" to do the workouts he gave me, and I felt horrible about it. So, I felt I needed a goal race to shape-up my training, and I signed up for Worcester. It was close to home. It was a half marathon and wouldn't require me to be gone all day. Perfect. I still felt woefully unprepared when race weekend arrived.

On Saturday, after navigating the 3 or 4 different websites put together for the race (all with different information) I figured out where the "Race Expo" was and headed-out to pick-up my packet and bib#. Upon arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn I didn't see any signage directing me where to go, but was directed to the second floor ballroom by the kindly front desk clerk. When I got to the "Expo" it was literally a bib#/packet pick-up, period. Oh, there were a couple of tables with some information on the race's "charities," etc. but no vendors, no guest speakers, no pre-race excitement, nothing. I was given my bib# and an office bin liner ("goodie bags" were promised on the website) with a  few flyers in it to put my race shirt in (I won't even get into the quality or color of the "High Quality Tech Shirts" advertised).

I milled about for a minute and met a big happy guy named Andy Sharry. He said he was the coach of the YMCA Marathon Team. He had put together a large group to run this half marathon, most of which were first-timers. He really seemed like a great guy, and was surrounded by a group of enthusiastic runners, one of which made mention of how they were up late putting together the packets and putting demographic stickers onto the bib #'s the night before. I thought to myself "Really?" This is a professional "sports group" (Reinke) producing the race (the 15th out of 16 in the series, btw) and they had to rely on the free labor of a group of eager participants to get the work done?

As I was leaving the "Expo" I noticed something posted on the wall in the hallway, it was a course change notification. Now, I had been following the progression of the course since at least February when I first heard of the race and this was at least the 4th change that I had noticed to the course and I still wasn't clear what the actual course would be. However, there was a nice note attached to the latest changes that said something to the effect of "the USATF finally made it out to certify our course yesterday and we've had to move the Start again." This struck me as odd. As a race director myself, I know that if you simply perform your due diligence, the USATF course measurers (there are 9 of them in MA) are more than willing to take your money and certify your course in a timely manner.

Anyway, I went home, ate dinner and got into bed early. I can't remember what time the race started, but I do remember that the time posted at the expo was the correct time. However, I saw at least two other "start times" in different places, and was glad I checked the notice at the expo. I also checked one of the websites and noticed a link for the "parking plan." When I clicked on it, I just had to chuckle... it simply stated something like "there are several municipal lots and metered spaces in downtown Worcester, and all public parking is free on Sundays." Great plan.

On race day, I woke-up early as per my usual. I ate my bagel with peanut butter around 5 am with 16oz of HEED. I sipped on my 20oz. bottle of water the rest of the time I was getting my things together and trying to get out the door. I arrived at what I thought was the start area (there was zero indication that there was a race about to take place) about an hour before gun time. I ate a banana and downed the rest of my water and headed toward the square to figure things out, stretch, and get in a little warm-up.

I jogged around and found the guys from All Sport Central setting-up the finish line area and asked them if they knew EXACTLY where the start was going to be. Funny, but they pointed-out that it was going to be right in front of where I parked my car (convenient) and someone would be "setting it up soon." Soon? It was already less than an hour before gun time! So, I set-out on my warm-up and by the time I got back to the port-a-potties they were all backed-up. It didn't help that they only had like 10 of them for over 1000 runners. Really? I mean, port-a-potties are always busy before races, but 10/1000 was kinda' ridiculous IMHO. If I continued waiting in line, there was absolutely no way I was going to make the start. So I headed over to the Start and made a pit stop at my car and a Gatotade bottle. At times like this I'm really glad we bought the Honda Element!

After finding some relief, I ran some striders and milled about the starting area. I found Andy Sharry and his incredibly pumped-up group! I was so happy for them all and their excitement rubbed-off on me! They had these great shirts made up that said something like "A half marathon is a 5k race with a 10-mile warm-up." It's funny, but that's exactly what I came-up with when my coach asked me my game plan for Hyannis (my first half). I kept this in mind while I was out there, and really helped get me through some tough spots! The shirt of the day award has to go to the group from Crossfit Center Mass that read "Ruck Funning!"

They didn't have any "corrals" so-to-speak, so I just settled in somewhere in the middle of the pack. Just so happens I ended-up right next to Andy and his group when the gun went off. We slowly made our way to the starting line and of course, as we crossed the mats you could hear everyone's watches beeping in sync. My typical large-crowd anxiety kicked-in and I took off. The first couple of miles I spent just weaving in and out, up on the sidewalks and around just trying to find some breathing room. The first mile clicked-of in 8:13, then the second came in 8:09. I knew I was running way too fast and felt like I needed to put the brakes on (I remembered that my PR in Hyannis was an average of an 8:44 mile). However, at this point we were running down Chandler and I just wanted to get out of there in one piece (Really? Did they have to route the course through that section of town?)

I knew somewhere after the third mile we would be turning up Haviland to Beechmont up one of the more serious hills on the course, Mile 3 came in at 8:19. As I made the turn onto Haviland and and started the ascent (more like climb) I was overcome with a sense of dread. I got through it by reminding myself that Haviland has nothing on Birch Brush (the hill that I finish nearly all of my training runs with)! This seemed to propel me effortlessly to the turn up Beechmont. And when I say up, I mean up. Almost straight up, for well over a quarter mile. Which brought back memories of the hill at the left turn of 9 miles in the Boston Prep 16-miler. No sweat. I got to the top of Beechmont and my lungs were burning, my legs were on fire and I literally thought I was going to blow-up or spontaneously combust on the spot. Thank goodness what goes up, must come down and I was appropriately wearing my Newton Motion Trainers... I just focused on keeping my cadence high and "flying" down to the bottom of the hill at Salisbury St. Mile 4 clicked-off at 8:55! Strong work!

We made the left onto Salisbury and I realized that we were put into a very dangerous situation. I saw no police officers controlling or directing traffic. Salisbury St. is a winding narrow wooded road with little to no shoulder that driver's absolutely fly down. My wife is a paramedic for Worcester EMS and she's told me horror stories about that street. Everything seemed to be going well for about the first quarter-mile or so until the first series of asshole driver's came barreling down the road seemingly shocked to see a whole heard of runner's plodding along in the oncoming shoulder. After lots of honking, swerving and middle fingers, they passed without anyone getting killed. At this point, most of us moved onto the sidewalk. I hate running on the sidewalks. Then the sidewalk ended and we all lined-up single file on the white line. After a few more harrowing run-ins with speeding cars we finally made the left turn onto Flagg St.

There were a couple of volunteers at the intersection of Flagg and Salisbury, but the roads weren't closed
(yet again), and we were relegated to riding the white lines or the left shoulder, which became a bit hectic, wobbly and uneven. It was somewhere around here that I first experienced a sharp, shooting pain in my right ankle after navigating some uneven pavement. My ankle didn't turn or anything and I'm a forefoot/midfoot striker so how it happened kinda' puzzled me. I was hoping it would get better or just go away but unfortunately it only got worse. Every time I found myself running on uneven pavement or a left-cambered section of road, the pain became almost unbearable. I held my pace up the hill on Flagg and mile 5 was 8:25.

From Flagg all the way to just before Worcester State College was mostly downhill and we finally came to the 2nd water stop. I took a GU, downed a water and dumped one over my head. Mile 6 clicked-off at 8:27 just after we turned back onto Chandler. I knew the next few miles was mostly downhill, rolling hills, but mostly downhill. I also knew that the LONG hill on Franklin St. after the fire station was coming-up shortly after 9 so I picked-up the pace a little bit and mile 7 came in at 8:07, then we hit the third water stop and it was so chaotic that I missed/dropped the water hand-off's from two of the small children volunteering and had to turn back and wait for someone to fill more so I could get some water. Mile 8 still clicked-off at 8:13. No problems.

At this point, the ankle was really bothering me. At least every other stride or so, a searing pain shot up from under my ankle. Somewhere around 8.5 miles I was contemplating pulling-out of the race due to injury. I was in a fairly large group of runner's when an elderly woman in a Lexus had her left turn signal on and seemed to be waiting patiently as the hundred's of runner's made our way up Chandler St. Of course that is, until I got up to her. As soon as the group I was running in got up to her bumper, the look on her face said "fuck it" and she turned left directly into us, sending about a dozen of us scampering and jumping out of the way. She missed my left knee by maybe an inch. If I hadn't jumped at just the right moment she would have totally taken me out. Crazy bitch. It was just then that I realized the police presence was really minimal this whole race. I mean, all up and down Chandler, there were police at every major intersection stopping the cross-traffic, but that's about it.

Again, as a race director myself, I know that the police detail can cost a major chunk of your budget. The  detail Lt. from the asks you how far the race is, how many streets you're going to need closed, how many runners and how many hours. As this was the second time in the race that I actually felt like I was in danger, it occurred to me that the race organizer's did everything they could to protect their bottom line. Everything suddenly made sense... The lack of road closures, the lack of water stops, and the bare minimum's in everything else, along with the several course changes were, I'm sure, all a part of their (Reinke Sports Group) efforts to make sure they had a race that would cost them the least amount of money to produce. I'm glad I came into this with little to no expectations.

Anyway, I digress... As I approached mile 9 I started to pass a family that had been maintaining their pace in front of me the whole race. Mother, Father, Son and Daughter. The boy couldn't have been more than 9 or 10. They were awesome! I later found-out that they were fellow Central Mass Striders members the Mastromatteo's who all run 22-23 minute 5k's. Simply amazing! I can only hope that my family will be so into running together. So as I made my "move" on them, I passed mile 9 at 1:15:13 (8:23) and turned the corner onto Franklin passing the new firehouse that stands on the site of the Worcester Cold Storage fire. I said a prayer for my fallen brothers and headed up that monster hill.

A short way up the hill I found a woman in her late 40's/early 50's and locked in step with her. We were matching each other stride for stride. Whenever one of us noticed we were slowing down we would pick-up the pace a little for the other, and this was how it went all the way up. She'd start moving slower, I'd step it up. I'd start moving slower she'd step it up. We basically took turns pacing each other all the way up Franklin St. About halfway up my watch beeped at me for mile 10 (8:57). When we got to the top we looked at each other and fist-bumped. I said "Thanks! I couldn't have made it up with out you!" She said "I was just trying to keep up with you!" She then proceeded to take-off down Plantation toward Shrewsbury St.

Halfway down Plantation was the fourth (and I believe final) water stop. I noticed people were lining-up again waiting for water so I stopped, grabbed one water and dumped it over my head, grabbed another off the end of the table, downed as few swallows and took off again. It was here where I decided to go into race mode. I knew that Shrewsbury St. was all downhill and that most of the course after that was basically flat. I gave it all that I had and turned in 8:23, 8:13 and 8:22 miles for the final 3. I was passing runner's by the handful, and even passed my friend from the hill. Then I turned off of Foster onto Franklin and the crowd was outrageous! There were so many of them and they were LOUD. Cow bells and all. It was cool. I turned onto Salem and saw that the gun clock read 1:49:49 so I sprinted through the finish. I ran the last 0.12 miles in 51 seconds (7:08/mi pace) and when I crossed the mats the clock read 1:50:11. I was dejected. So close. For the first time ever after a race, I just kissed Lex and Iz and collapsed onto the chairs at the end of the chute and fell apart. I literally had nothing left and my ankle was killing me.

Once I was able to, I gathered myself together and got some bananas, pretzels, water, etc. I even had a couple of the little plastic shot glasses full of Michelob Ultra they were handing-out. I waited to see the results posted and the listed my "unofficial" time as 1:50:02. Dejected again. Now, I realize that I had earned a PR by over 4 minutes, but something about getting in under 1:50:00. I dunno. Call me crazy. So, I gathered Lex and Isabelle and headed over to the Hilton Garden Inn where I could swear I'd seen listed as the location of the award ceremony/after party. Nope. Nada. Nothing. The sign about the course change was still up on the wall though. They had a band playing in the square, and they had your basic post-race chips, pretzels, bananas, and other staples. Could that have been the after party? Apparently. According to some friends who'd tweeted and texted me wondering where I was. Oh well.

I just wanted a burger and a beer. We hunkered-down at Pizzeria Uno and I had my ritual post-race burger and a beer, and we went home. I woke-up in the morning to an email saying the "official" results had been posted... 1:49:42!!! I was ecstatic! Bouncing off of the walls, I was on cloud 9 for a week. Funny how 20 seconds can make such a difference.