Playing Ketchup

What did the fast tomato say to the slow tomato? Catch up!

As I am want to do, I have neglected the blog for far too long and know I have to get caught up.

I’ll start on a positive note.  I won the Daniel’s 5k for the 3rd time in 3 tries (though not in consecutive years).  The people who organize the Daniel’s 5k (Daniel’s parents and friends) do a wonderful job of putting on the race every year.

The Daniel’s course is mostly an out and back with a lap around the track at the finish.  Most years miles .5-1.5 are into a very strong headwind, and this year was no exception.  I started out slowly and ran the first half mile behind a 12-year-old sprinter, then I ran the next mile behind the guy in the Yellowjacket Racing singlet.  He was doing some fancy zigging and zagging so I couldn’t draft off him, but I just held my line and plowed along behind him until the turn around.  I hit the halfway point in about 9 minutes and then took off with the wind and closed the race in about 8 minutes.  I finished in 17:02 which isn’t a very good time for me but was 40 second better than the next guy so I’ll take it.  Results here.

I did another “5k” this past weekend but it was such a poorly run race, both by me and the organizers that I don’t even want to name it.  I’ll just give the low lights.

  • advertised as a 5 mile and a 5k race
  • Arrived at race to find the maps said 4.8 miles and 3.5 miles
  • Races were actually 4.75 miles and 3.3 miles
  • No traffic control on the 5 mile despite part of the race running through downtown Poughkeepsie
  • Race started 10 minutes late
  • Made to stand on the line for 15 minutes (called to line 5 of 9 didn’t start running until 10 after 9)
  • 5 mile race started 50 meters behind 5k race so the fast 5 mile runners slammed into the back of the slow 5k runners/walkers after about 10 seconds

This was easily the worst organized race I’ve ever run and it was supposed to be my final race of the Spring season.  I’m now hoping to squeeze in one more 5k before the baby comes but we will see.  My allergies are so bad right now that there probably isn’t any point in trying to race anyway.

First race in Annapolis: Anniversary 15K Run

Since moving to Maryland in late July, I haven’t done much racing. I had only entered two competitions and both of them were XC races in the Rochester area.


My training has gone fairly well over the past few months, but without the company of training partners, I’ve had a tough time on the track with quality interval (or faster) workouts. I have managed to consistently run some very strong long runs (capped off by a 14 miler at 5:56 per mile on Dec 3rd) and some solid continuous tempo runs. These longer efforts permitted a fair amount of confidence heading into the 15K on Dec 11th.


The race was held at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. The course was nicely laid out. It was essentially a two-loop course on a paved bike trail with many winding turns and quick rolling hills, which were favorably distracting and challenging. Given the $10 entry fee, I was surprised to find top-notch race organization, timing, course marking, and post-race amenities. Both the 10am start and the weather were perfect: low 40s, sunny, and calm.


The Start


The race went off right on time. I immediately settled into a comfortable pace, and I felt great–light and bouncy. I’ve been running my tempos and long runs with negative splits, so that was my tentative plan for today (tentative because I’d also key off how the competition played out). I estimated a 5:40 pace, and there was one set of footsteps right behind me. I split the first mile in a surprisingly fast 5:22, but I decided not to lay off the gas too much because of the other runner just a few steps back.


The next four miles flew by at a pace I’ve only been able to maintain for a 10K distance or shorter: 5:38, 5:30, 5:33, 5:32. The steps behind me seemed to fade agonizingly slowly, as the quick pace gradually became more grueling. As I came through the 5 mile in 27:35, I encountered a “lolli-pop” part of the course that allowed a peek at the nearest competition. The next runner was about 10 seconds back, at most.




Miles 6 and 7 were awful. Apparently the 30 minute mark is where the 5:30 pace becomes enormously difficult for me. Every uphill section destroyed me and every downhill was troubling because I knew I had to push it in order to not fall off the pace too atrociously. The lactic acid that was building  in my calves and quads had caught up to me, although my breathing was not terribly labored. I didn’t note the splits for those two miles, but they couldn’t have been much better than six-minute miles. Even worse, the footsteps that had slowly faded over the first five miles were back, closer than ever!


I started to feel somewhat of a second-wind coming into the eighth mile (partially due to some recovery during the previous two slow miles and some timely downhill sections that permitted easy cruising). I split mile eight in 5:40, which was not as big a relief as the fact that the footsteps seemed to have faded once again. There was just one more hard mile (plus .3) between me and victory. I started “hammering” as much as is possible with such heavy legs. The ninth mile had lots of twists and turns and concluded with the steepest uphill climb on the course (welcome to the last .3 miles!), but I managed a 5:35 split. I couldn’t hear the footsteps anymore, so the last .3 were relatively stress-free. I almost missed the turn into the finish and had to back-track a few steps (it was not marked and the course volunteers weren’t in position yet), so I’m going adjust my official 52:40 finish time into an unofficial 52:38. I was definitely ready to stop running, as seen below:


The Finish - Not my best look


It was nice to score a race victory (results here), and especially sweet that it was my first race here in town. 52:38 is a 40-second PR for the 15K distance, which bumped off my time from the March 2010 Spring Forward 15K in Mendon Ponds Park. Now I just need to translate some of this fitness into speed to make a run at a 5K PR in 2012.

Flower City Half Marathon Race Report

A strange phenomena often occurs in my racing.  When I run a personal record, it has seemed almost too easy.  Sunday at the Flower City Half Marathon was no exception.  Let me back up to 2 months ago, when I wasn’t even sure if I was going to run this race.  At the beginning of March we were still dragging our way through the long Rochester winter, and while I had been feeling good about my workouts I didn’t feel like I had the mileage base to race a half marathon.  I spent the whole month going back and forth until finally sending in my application for the half at the end of March.  It turns out it was a good choice.  Despite the fact I averaged just 40-50 mpw over the last few weeks (my log) I believe the quality of my workouts made up for the lack of quantity.


Race day started early at the Perks’ house, with Hazel waking up with me at 5:00 a.m.  Apparently she want to see both the start and finish of the race not just the finish as was the original plan.  I left the house at 6 a.m. after eating half a cream cheese bagel, 4 bites of yogurtand drinking half a cup of tea.  I arrived with more than hour to kill before the start of the race and had a chance to talk with a few of the other runners I knew would be up front in the race, namely Dave Rappleyea who was hoping to finish in the money after his solid performance at the Spring Forward 15k.  I ran into Matt Roberts, the newest RKR member in the parking lot, and gave him Mike Insler’s racing singlet because we haven’t had a chance to get him his own.  We did a light warmup about 30 minutes before the start of the race and then headed up to the bridge to start the race.


The race started with a quick down hill off the Broad Street Bridge and before we even got 400 meters into the race a lead pack of 6 runners had already opened up a sizeable gap.  The lead pack included Rochester regulars: Mark Andrews, Jeff Beck, Dave Rappleyea, Dave Bradshaw, and 2 out of towners I didn’t know Todd Meyer and Steven Ryan.  You can see the start in this video.  The lead runners appear again about 2 miles into the race 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the video.



Early in the race I was trying my best to stay relaxed and to keep the pace even and under control.  Keeping the pace even wasn’t working well as I ran 5:52, 5:28, 6:11, 5:34 but the effort was very steady, it was just the rolling nature of the course that was throwing the pace all over.  Although we didn’t discuss it before hand, a little before 3 miles into the race Matt came up along side me and I told him he could tuck in behind for a bit me as the next 4 miles were going to be into a slight but steady head wind.  We took turns drafting off eachother as we cruised down East Avenue and Park.  We passed Mike who was waiting at the 5 mile mark in 28:51 5:46 pace.  Things were going great so far, but we were about to hit the Highland Park section of the race.  As the name implies it was about to get hilly.  A little past 10k the hills started in earnest and for the first time it began to feel like work.


My hope was to stay under 6 minute pace miles 7 and 8, so as soon as I got to the first long hill I turned up the effort and I could feel Matt sliding back.  Mile 7 marked the top of the first big hill in the park and I was greeted by a large group of drummers and a 6:01 split… close enough I thought.  After a brief down hill rest the race turned into Mount Hope Cemetery.  Coach Rief of GVH was at the entrance and told me I had a decent lead on the next runner.  I knew it was Matt behind me so I tried to explain I wasn’t worried about him because he was on my team.  I’m honestly not really sure what I said though, hopefully nothing rude.  The race wound around through the cemeteryfor about 2.5 miles and as we snaked our way along I noticed I was begining to close on one of the runners who went out with the lead pack.  That, combined, with splitting mile 8 in 5:59 gave me a huge mental boost.  I was now clear of all the signifigant hills and my only thought was I felt great and it was now a 5 mile down hill race.  Each time the 6th place runner glance over his shoulder I pushed harder.  I passed him just as we exited the cemetery at mile 10.  It was great to see Ryan Pauling at the 10 mile marker offering encouragement.


I came through mile 10 in a time of 58:09 and I thought for the first time I could break 1:16:00.  Up to that point I my thoughts had just been on running a smart race and getting to the top of the hills with something left in my legs.  I was spured on to a 5:43 next mile, and this ridiculous grin as I ran past Chanse at the 11 mile mark.

I don’t think anyone is suppose to look that happy 11 miles into a half marathon.  All I could think about now as breaking 1:16:00, a time that I didn’t tell anyone before the race I was hoping to hit.  Mike Insler had made his way over to the 12 mile mark, or just shy of the 12 mile mark, and seemed a bit shocked by my time and by the fact I start chatting with him as I ran by.  Did I mention I was feeling really good?  Mile 12 1:09:40.  Now all I needed to do was run 5:47 the pace I had been averging all race and I would break 1:16:00.  I ran the last mile in 5:37 to finish in 6th place with a time of 1:15:51Results here.

Matt Roberts also had a great race.  He ran a huge PR and finished in 8th place with a time of 1:16:43.  Now we just need to get him his own singlet.

I shattered my old pr of 1:18:52 by over 3 minutes.  I didn’t stagger to the finish line like I had done in all my past half marathons.  I think I need to send my Dr. a big thank you gift for helping me with my asthma.

I also need to thank all the people who were out on the course cheering on me and the other runners.  The course brought us through many of the great neighborhoods and parks in Rochester and fan support was incredible all 13.1 miles of the race.

Johnny’s Running of the Green (5 mile race, Rochester, NY)

Since Josh will soon make a post about his own 5 miler and steal my thunder, I need to attempt to take the limelight for now. Yesterday was Johnny’s 5 mile race in downtown Rochester, which serves as the unofficial beginning of the road racing season in town. Last year I ran a huge PR in 27:14, which at the time was a breakthrough race for me. I have been feeling pretty fit lately (although my mileage is only now getting back up to where I’d like it to be), so I was hoping for some moderate improvement.

The field was noticeably less strong than in previous years. Aside from a handful of elite-looking out-of-towners, the only people who I might hope to compete with were Dave Bradshaw, Derrick Jones, and Master’s extraordinaire, Jim Derick (note that I’ve never been very close to beating any of these guys in any race longer than 1 mile). I hoped to keep pace with whichever of them did not start uncomfortably fast (faster than 5:15 for the first mile) for as long as I could.



Gun goes off. The few elite out-of-towners bound off to the front, and I quickly tuck in behind Dave Bradshaw and Derrick Jones because there’s a slight headwind as we run South towards the University of Rochester . The race is an out-and-back with its turn-around point nicely placed at the traffic circle on campus. The three of us and Jim Derick trade positions a bit through the first half mile.



The pace feels fast but controlled. At some point Derrick Jones disappears (I later found out that he dropped out) and Bradshaw opens up a small gap between me and Jim, off of whom I am drafting shamelessly. I’m feeling great and the pace still feels under control, so I make a quick move to close on Bradshaw. It’s fun to be running with the big guns. It almost feels like I belong up here. I run behind Bradshaw for a few hundred meters but quickly realize that I’m in over my head because he’s accelerating. I let him go. Jim Derick comes up and I let him pass me on the Ford Street bridge so that I can restart my shameful drafting (in my defense, he’s a far more accomplished runner than me!).

We come through the first mile in 5:18 and I’m feeling OK. Jim noticeably accelerates after seeing the split. This became the most crucial point of the race for me. Maybe it was a moment of weakness caused by the extra effort required to climb up and over the bridge, maybe it was the constant headwind that still had some measurable impact despite my drafting, or maybe it was just me being too scared to say “screw it” and compete, but I made a conscious choice to just let him go. What was I thinking? I know I can run that pace. I have run a 4:36 mile on zero speed-work and a 16:07 5K with very little mileage base. Lately, I’ve been nailing some fast workouts while slowly upping the distance. My fitness is there. Perhaps I can’t quite sustain it for five consecutive miles, but I need to at least find the capacity to take a risk and put myself in that position.



As Jim slowly drifts away from me, I realize that there’s no one else nearby, and as I start to battle the wind solo, a sinking feeling sets in: A mediocre-at-best race is unfolding. I don’t even bother checking my second mile split (but I do press the lap button to satisfy my post-race curiosity). I make half-hearted surges, trying to convince myself that Jim—now well over 20 seconds ahead—is no longer increasing his lead. Sadly, this just doesn’t hold true.

A small hill leads up to the turn-around. I see the elites striding down as I’m just barely starting the ascent. Ryan Pauling is in the lead car with Eric Boyce and the other USATF folks, and he shouts at me to “FOCUS MIKE!” I know he’s right, but UGH, I already regret putting myself in this position. The turn-around provides an opportunity to see the competition behind me. Matt Roberts is about 15 to 20 seconds back, and a few very strong looking women are 15 to 20 behind him. For most of the third mile, I run opposite to the masses who are still approaching the turn-around. They shout words of encouragement like “You’re almost there!” and “You’re still in it!” At the time, this exacerbates my feelings of defeat, but I know they mean well. I happen to check my split for the third mile: 5:43. Ugh, UGH.

At this point, my effort level really begins to disintegrate. I’m coasting, drifting, and floating through the last 2 miles. I start to hear bystanders cheering someone behind me, which is rather irksome. Am I going to have to fight off someone down the stretch? (At the time, this is not a welcome realization, because I am “running weak,” very opposed to Josh’s catchy slogan “Run Tuff”) I come through mile four in 5:38. It must have been the tailwind, because my effort level surely had decreased, if anything. By now, I’m actually feeling somewhat relaxed because I’ve been running tempo pace for three miles after actually racing the first one.

Coming back over the Ford Street bridge, I start to hear footsteps. I don’t look back, but I know it’s Matt Roberts. I traverse the bridge and enter a mild downhill section of the course. Something clicks, and I start to pour on some speed. But I’m still hearing footsteps and cheers behind me. As I run by Corn Hill landing, I estimate that there’s about a half mile to go. Now, due to the substantially increased pace, I am genuinely starting to feel some pain. I can still feel Matt back there, only 15 or 20 meters behind. I really drop the hammer. It hurts but it feels good. Why didn’t I do this earlier? This is why I’m out here. To race. To compete.



Matt never closes the gap, and I finish in 27:36 with a 5:17 last mile for 8th place. I thank him for pushing it at the end, and he tells me he was “running his face off but couldn’t make up any ground.” It feels good to hear that, and at least I’m not left with a completely sour taste in my mouth. It was satisfying to race hard down the stretch, and it was a much-needed wake up call regarding what I need to do to road-race at a level at which I believe I am capable.

Results are here, a video from the lead car of the start (where you can see me slowly falling behind the elites) is here, a complete set of race photos are here. Next up is the Spring Forward 15K in three weeks at Mendon. Josh will be there, too, and since we are accustomed to working together quite well, I am really looking forward to it.