Running around in circles: the McMullen Mile and more.

Running around in circles: the McMullen Mile and more.

Long-time readers of this site know the mile is my favorite race distance, and since moving to Rochester the McMullen Mile has been my favorite race. For the past 6 years I have been racing in the open elite heat with diminishing success. After chasing 20-year-olds around the track for 4 laps I finally got to race against some men my own age (and older) this year.

Start Masters Elite
Start Masters Elite

The McMullen Mile has always been held on the 2nd Thursday of June. For some reason it was moved to the first Friday of June. This caused 2 problems. First the weather was so bad they had to cancel the meet halfway through and finish it Saturday morning. If they waited until the 2nd Thursday of June it would have been 68 degrees, low humidity and just a slight breeze. Instead it was hot, windy, and eventually a sustained thunderstorm flooded the track. The second problem was it gave me 8 fewer days to recover from the Buffalo Marathon. I suspect this is the reason the race was moved up, just to mess with me, because everything is all about me.

Rain out.
Rain out.

When the elite masters race finally got going on Saturday morning, I warmed up having no idea how I wanted to race. The two best options seemed to be either sit and kick or take it out hard and try to open a gap early. Each had their risks and potential rewards. I was confident that under normal circumstances I could outkick the field, but I was worried that my legs wouldn’t have the gear I needed so soon after the marathon. I didn’t want to get caught in a battle down the homestretch with shot legs. On the other hand if I took it out hard and opened a lead I ran the risk of totally crashing before the last lap. I had done no real speed work in a few months, and while I was in good aerobic shape, I didn’t think I could run more than 2 laps under 70 seconds.


My parents happened to be town so I ran my various plans by my dad. He seemed to think a sit and kick starting at 600 meters was the best option, especially since it was a bit windy on the homestretch. I decided that was my best bet. That plan lasted approximately 18 seconds of the race.

350 meters.

At the gun I started out pretty slow hoping someone would be aggressive and take the lead. That didn’t happen; everyone just got in a line behind me. When I got around the first turn I thought to hell with this and took off hard down the back stretch. That push lasted until halfway around the far turn when the wind hit me. I put on the breaks and by the time we finish the first lap the gap I had opened was gone, and I was back leading a pack. I figured at least no one had the benefit of drafting off me during the windiest stretch.

500 meters.
500 meters.

After a 73 first lap and no sign of me speeding up, a few of the GVH guys made a move to the front. I settled in behind them at what felt like a decent pace. I must have run over 20 seconds for the first 100 meters of lap 2 because even with the GVH guys making a move and pushing the pace we still only hit the 800 meter mark in 2:29.

Taking back the lead after 2 laps.
Taking back the lead after 2 laps.

Once again the sit and kick plan went out the window. I figure I had the wind at my back so I might as well make a move to the front at 800 meters instead of 1000 meters. For the only time I can remember I ran the 3rd lap of a mile faster than either of the first 2 laps. After splitting 73.1, 76.3, I dropped down to 69.1 and then managed to hold on for a 69.8 final lap. It wasn’t the prettiest mile I’d ever run. In fact it was the slowest mile I’ve raced in 12 years. But on that day it was enough. McMullen Mile results.

Finishing in 4:48.3

And that is the thing about racing. It is all about who else shows up, or what shape the people who show up are in. After running hundreds of races, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to run on any given day. I would guess that is the same for most of the guys I’m competing with. I knew I had about a 4:48 in me, maybe a 4:45 if everything went right and I really needed it. Anything faster than that wasn’t going to happen for me so soon after the marathon. Any number of guys could have shown up and knocked me off the podium (at least one of them was standing on the grass cheering me on) but they didn’t.

I’ve run PR’s and been an afterthought in the results. I’ve done races as training runs and ran away from the field. It is one of the unique things about our sport, especially when it comes to road racing. I’ve toed the line with Olympians and NCAA champions. Could you imagine showing up to your beer league softball game and the Rochester Redwings were standing in the field waiting to play you? That is what it is like when you drive out to Bergen for a little 5k in August.

Celebrating with Roo.

With both McMullen and the marathon behind me I’ve decided to have a bit of fun. I’m going to try and age-grade 80% or higher in every distance 100 meter through half marathon by the end of the year. I hope to get all the sprints out of the way in the next few weeks so I can focus on a fall half marathon. I got off to a good start on Tuesday night at the Rochester Summer Track Series . I ran 400 meters in 57.05 which is a PR for FAT 400 meter race and a 81% age graded time according to the latest tables. Next up is the 200 and 800 next Tuesday. I’ll need to run 26 flat 200m, which is going to be very difficult and a 2:12 800m, which is going to be very easy. Luckily if I don’t run a 26 flat next week, I can try again after my birthday on July 6th and I’ll get an extra .25 seconds to hit 80%. Meet #1 results.

50 meter dash.
50 meter dash. (

If you have kids or are looking to try something new with your running I suggest coming out to Penfield HS on Tuesday evenings this summer. The Rochester Summer Track Series has races for all ages and abilities. It even has field events like long jump, high jump, discus and shot put.

Long Jump (
Long Jump (

See you on the track.

Know Your Racer: Carl Palmer

Know Your Racer: Carl Palmer

Mens Veterans

Carl Palmer

So when did I become so old to be called a ‘veteran?’

As with many runners, I claim I was a good soccer player ….  until it came time to start kicking with your left foot (say, 6th grade).  All I was really good at was hustling, I suppose.   I ran some track in junior high school (mile), but never scored a point.

Come high school, I never made varsity, although to be fair, we would run our JV versus varsities  in one of the two leagues were were in. That “Delaware Independent School Conference” league was so bad that I actually finished 7th at the league meet.  On the bright side, I’m pretty sure I beat the current senator from Delaware.

I so badly wanted a letter in high school.  I ended up barely making varsity baseball, ending up with a stellar .111 average.  At least had no errors in my handful of games.  So I got my high school letter that way.

When I got to Swarthmore college (Division III), a guy on my freshman dorm convinced me to go out for cross country.   It was a fun diversion that became my passion over the years.  I probably would average 7 minute miles in races that first year – about 20th fastest (or 10th slowest) on the team.  Sophomore year, I did a little better, and I also did track in the spring, making it the first time I ran year-round.  After Sophomore year, I would average 40-50 miles/week through the year.  I cracked the top 7 on the XC team in Junior year, but it was my enthusiasm (or whatever) got me elected co-captain.  By senior year, I was typically ~5th or so on the team, meaning that my performance would affect the score (slightly).  I did have one out of my mind race at a big invitational where I finished right behind our number one runner, and that finish propelled us to win the meet.   30 years later, I’m probably the only one that remembers that meet.

During college, I only ran a handful of road races in the summer.  But come to think of it, I won trophies at a couple of the smaller 10K’s.  But this was the 80’s, and running wasn’t like it is now.


Carl Competing in College.  Curly Hair.  Favorite Shoes.  Striped Tube socks!
Carl Competing in College.  Curly Hair.  Favorite Shoes.  Striped Tube socks!

Side commentary – my experience of improving over time is why no cross country coach should cut people for performance.  When I hear of coaches cutting kids at the high school or college level, I take it personally.  The sports are there for student benefit.  …. But I digress.

PR’s from the 80’s  (….a long long time ago in a galaxy far away)


1 mile 4:36 (cinder track)

2 miles 9:53

5K 15:43 (rubber track – my usual races were ~16:20)

10K 33:38 (rubber track)

In my first grad school, I ran with my roommate who ran for Purdue.  It was humbling – I learned the difference between division 1 and division 3 athletes.  That is, division 1 are athletes, and division 3 are …. not quite as good.  He had this extra gear where he could just go zoom any time he wanted to.

In my PhD years, I continued to run with professors and other assorted students at lunchtime.  It was a great way to get to know people outside of your own field.

In 1991, life happened.  My wife was pregnant with our son. She gained weight, I gained  weight.  She gave birth. She lost all the weight.  I didn’t do either of those.

I tried running with a running stroller once. My son screamed.  Stroller was returned to store.  Not much running after that.

Fast forward to 2009.  My doctor tells me to lose some weight, or she will put me on cholesterol pills.  So I start writing down everything I eat and literally counting the calories.  [I’m an engineer.  That’s what we do]  Yes I can tell you that ~3500 calories does equal one pound.  So if you cut out the 5 100 calorie hard pretzels you eat for snacks every day, you lose a pound in a week.  It happens.  Over 3 months, I lost 25 pounds. [And as an engineer, of course I graphed the whole thing]  Oh yes,  I also started running ~2-3 miles a day with my dog.

So my doctor said to me “Your cholesterol numbers look great.”  I said “You told me to lose weight.”  She said “But nobody ever listens to me.”

So I’ve been running since then, with some of the typical up & downs (injuries, life, bad winters).

I spice up my activities by also participating in Orienteering, which is running off-trail in the woods, looking for ‘controls’, using only a map and a compass.  The best raw runners rarely are the best orienteers, because the harder you run, the more likely you are to make bad route choices.  See (shameless plug).

I came across Roadkill Racing in early 2015 via a strange set of circumstances that involved LinkedIn and me mistaking someone else’s identity, and then stumbling across the roadkill site via google.  I saw that my friend Jim Werven was on the team, so I figured, why not.

My best times of the last quarter century have occurred with me wearing a Roadkill Racing Singlet:

2015 Sunset House 5K: 6th overall of 276, 18:28 and a fun kick at the end to get 1st Master’s.  “Better than sex” (tongue in cheek) – If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.


Carl Palmer at2015 McMullen Mile.
Carl Palmer at2015 McMullen Mile.


Happy Carl - Sunset House Award
Happy Carl – Sunset House Award


I ran and ran and ran and ran

I ran and ran and ran and ran

People often ask me if I run marathons. My answer had always been, “I ran one a long time ago, but I prefer shorter races.” Inevitably, people, especially non-runners, want to know why. After all, isn’t the marathon the be all end all of running?  My answer had always been “I think the marathon race is too long.” Now that I have done my second marathon, I believe that more than ever.

The Start
The Start

My goal for the Buffalo Marathon was to break 2:40 and win a Moose Mug. (Google it.) According to all the online calculators I should be able to run a 2:36-2:38 marathon, but we all know those things are crap for predicting marathon times. Even if you use a half marathon time, you are trying to predict what you will do in a race that takes over an hour longer to run. Still, I thought 2:39 was very reasonable, and it was until mile 22.

I’m not going to give a long recount of the Buffalo Marathon, but I do want to share a few high and low points. It was a nice course, with a few more hills than I expected. I liked that we started with the half marathon runners because I had a good group of people to run with on the first loop, including the woman who finished 2nd in the half. She kept worrying about her pace because she had never raced farther than 10k before. She hoped to break 80 minutes and did so by a wide margin. Helping her stay on track for the first 12 miles of the race took my mind off what I was going to have to do later on and made the first half seem very easy.

Time for a wave
Time for a wave

The second half was a lonely affair. Aside from passing a few people and being passed by one person I was running alone. As late as mile 18 or 19 I was thinking I should really start pushing the pace a little harder. But pushing the pace harder at that point just meant slowing down less. Then at around mile 23 we began a mile and half of steady uphill and things just fell apart.

The one person who passed me in the second half said,

“Mile 24 is a good one!”

“Is it downhill?”

“No it’s uphill, but there is good crowd support!”

At that point I would have traded all the crowd support in the world for a stretch of flat road. Not that I don’t appreciate the people who came out to cheer us up that last bit of hill, but unless one of them was going to carry me up it I wasn’t going to stay on pace to break 2:40.

8 miles to go.
8 miles to go.

The one thing that kept me moving those last 2 miles was the thought, “I worked too damn hard for this shit.” It just kept going through my head over and over while my feet burned, my quads ached and every step was choice to take one more or stop.

Still some work left.
Still some work left.

At mile 26 I got to see Lisa and the girls. Seeing them and hearing them cheer for me was absolute bliss. It was the only thing that was going to get me to move slightly faster and hold off a hard charging masters runner.

The end.
The end.

2 hours 41 minutes and 11 seconds. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I don’t find myself disappointed. I put in the work, and I ran my race. I gave everything I had to give, and in the end I came up a bit short of my goal. It certainly isn’t the first time or the last time that will happen. Eleven years and tens of thousands of miles since my last marathon, and I finally feel like I have a performance I can be proud of. Many people have already asked when I’m doing my next one… Maybe in another 11 years.

Final Results

11th place overall

10th male

2nd masters (I got 1st masters prize money because the 1st masters finished 3rd overall)

5k 3.1 mi 0:18:50 (6:04 pace)
10k 3.1 mi 0:18:44 (6:02 pace)
15k 3.1 mi 0:18:38 (6:00 pace)
20k 3.1 mi 0:18:51 (6:04 pace)
25k 3.1 mi 0:18:46 (6:02 pace)
30k 3.1 mi 0:19:04 (6:08 pace)
35k 3.1 mi 0:19:16 (6:012 pace)
40k 3.1 mi 0:20:18 (6:32 pace)
Finish 1.4 mi 0:08:44 (6:23 pace)

Time: 2:41:11 (6:09 pace)