Old Goat, Old Man

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I ran the Charlie’s Old Goat Trail Run on Saturday. It was my second year doing the race, and the my second time finishing second. This time I was at least close enough to see the other person cross the finish line. Last year I was almost 4 minutes behind the leader, this year I managed to finish just under a minute back.

After the race I was talking with a few of the #TrailsRoc folks and I mentioned how this would be last race as an open runner and I couldn’t wait to not be competing against 24 year old kids anymore. That’s when Eric Egan said “well you used to be one of those kids.” That got me thinking… no, I never was.

Selfie circa 1998
Selfie circa 1998

Certainly I was 24 years old once, but as regular readers of this blog will know I wasn’t doing any running when I was 24. When I was 24 I was living in Portland, smoking a pack of camel lights a day and subsisting off cold pizza and BridgePort IPA. I hadn’t run a step in 6+ years and it would be another 4 before I would quit smoking and start running again. I try not to dwell on what might have been (no: shoulda, coulda, woulda’s for me). I’m of the mindset that everything I’ve done has lead me to where I am now. I very much like where I am now, so why would I want to change anything I had done to get here.

Still, that one off the cuff comment from Eric combined with my rapidly approaching 40th birthday got me thinking. What if? What if I never picked up all those “bad habits.” What if I kept running in high school, in college and beyond. What if my 20 year old self took running as seriously as my 39 year old self? What did I miss out on during those 10 years that should have been my running prime?

The best I can figure using a combination of age-grading and completely made up numbers stemming from long term smoking effects on performance is this.

What Josh would have run as a healthy training 24 year old

  • 1 mile 4:18
  • 5k: 14:53
  • half marathon 1:09
  • marathon still would have gotten hurt and only run 1

So would I trade my life now to be able to have run those times in my prime? Hell no. Running fast is fun and all, but it is no replacement for a wonderful family that brings you joy everyday.

Charlie’s Old Goat Results

Numbers

Racing and baseball are my two favorite sports, and they are as different as any two sports can be.  Racing is nonstop, no TV time outs, no injury time outs, no rest after each inning.  Baseball is pastoral, the shortstop can wander in to the pitchers mound and strike up a conversation in the middle of an inning if he wants.  Racing is a celebration of the individual, one winner everyone else is an also ran.  Baseball is about team, 25 guys striving for the same goal, if you are lucky enough to play for the Yankees you don’t even get your name on the jersey.

Yankees

But both sports have one thing in common, an obsession with numbers.  And while 714, 755, 61, 56, 2,632 may resonate nationally more than 3:59, 2:03:23, 3:43, 26.2 the latter numbers are important to people who race or follow the sport.

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Last night Albert Puloj became the 26th MLB player to hit 500 career home runs.  This used to mean something, it used to guarantee entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, now it is a nice milestone that gets a 1 minute spot on Sports Center.  The reason behind the degradation of the number is obvious.  In 1929 Babe Ruth became the first player to hit 500 career home runs and over the next 70 years he was joined by 14 more players.  Then in a span of 15 years (1999-2014) 11 more players were added to the list.  You probably know some of the names.

Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Jim Thome
Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Manny Ramirez
Frank Thomas
Gary Sheffield
Albert Pujols

7 of them have either tested positive for steroids or admitted using them.  What has MLB done about this?  Aside from suspending 2 of them for 1 season or less, nothing.  For a sport that clings so tightly to its history and records it has done nothing to preserve the meaning of those numbers.  And this may be the most glaring difference between the two sports I love.  In racing if you cheat, you are essentially erased from the history books.

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Look at the 100m All Time List, no Justin Gatlin no Ben Johnson no Tim Montgomery.  And while I’m not naive enough to believe none of the current distance marks are tainted, at least when the IAAF busts someone they take action with up to a 2 year ban for a first offense and loss of any records or medals.  No one is taking Manny or Arod’s World Series rings from them even though they are both serving/served suspensions for multiple violations and Bonds is still listed as the all time single season and career home run leader.

628x471But I didn’t write this post because of Puloj’s milestone last night.  I actually began thinking about this after Meb’s win in Boston.  I started thinking about it terms of something baseball and distance racing have in common, something that baseball, distance racing and many other sports have in common actually.  The winners aren’t always the ones with the glaring stats, with the blazing fast times, with the highest paid stars.  Yogi Berra has 10 WS rings, Bill Russell has 11 NBA titles and neither are ever mentioned as the best player in their sport.  The NFL player with the most championships?  Charles Haley with 5.

And then you have Meb Keflezighi.  He’s won 4 NCAA titles, 3 National XC titles an Olympic silver medal, the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon.

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Meb has never been considered one of the best in the world despite these accomplishments.  He’s never had the jaw dropping times of many world class marathoners.  In fact his fastest time, 2:08:37 run this week at the Boston Marathon, ranks as the 843rd fastest marathon time ever run.

And that is why I love distance racing.  When you toe the line it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past or what the other guys have done.  It only matters what happens that day, in those fleeting moments from when the gun goes off until you cross the finish line.

Muddy Sneaker 20k (I’m gonna walk up the side of the mountain)

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Ever have one of those dreams where you just can’t manage to walk up a hill?  No matter how much you try you just don’t go anywhere.  That is the last 2 miles of the Muddy Sneaker 20k trail race in the High Tor Wilderness Area, and the picture above tells you all you need to know about what it feels like.

I’ve done my share of trail running and much prefer it to running on the roads or even on the canal path, but I have not done much in the way of trail racing.  Also when I run on trails I tend to choose pretty mild trails, like the ones around Mendon Pond Park.   I’ve raced plenty of cross country which often incorporates trails, but they are rarely single track and they are never what trail racers would call technical and what I would call rocky and rooty. The Muddy Sneaker was my first real experience racing on trails, and it was some introduction.

Now in its 15th year the Muddy Sneaker 20k course winds around a mountain making several trips up and down with a high of 1900′ and a low of 750′.  It is a mix of grassy logging roads, rocky single track, muddy single track, several stream crossings and lots of logs to jump over and duck under.

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The picture above gives you a good idea of what large portions of the course looked like, although that crossing was the easiest.  One of the crossings was about 20 feet wide with an ice shelf extending out over the water about 8 feet on each side.  The ice shelf promptly collapsed when another runner and I stepped on it at the same time.

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Going into the race I figured I could run 7 minute pace.  I have no idea why I thought that, I guess I assumed the ups and downs would even out and the mud would just slow me down a little.  At the very least sub 1:30 seemed very doable, and I was actually on pace to run well below that until I got to mile 10.  From mile 10 to 11 the course goes from 1060′ down to 750′ across the largest stream/river crossing then back up to 1120′.  From mile 11 to the finish doesn’t get any better, the course climbs another 500′.  For the first time ever I was forced to walk during a race.  I simple could not lift my knees high enough to do anything that would qualify as running for long stretches during those final 2 miles.  If you watch starting at around 9 minutes into the video below you’ll get some idea of the steepness of the accent.

When I hit the mile 12 marker I stopped and looked behind me.  Coming up the hill was a runner who had dogged me the whole race.  I had lead for most of the race, except for a few minutes early on and a few minutes around mile 6 when Alan Evans zoomed by me on a steep downhill.  I had really hoped I had put enough distance between me and Alan over the last 6 miles, but alas I had not.  I was forced to push hard the last .4 miles.

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It was without a doubt the hardest few minutes of running I had ever done.

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In the end I managed to hold off Earl for a 1st place finish with a time of 1:31:30.  Aside from the great long sleeve tech shirt, socks and glow in the dark Nalgene bottle that everyone got, I also won a great hat and a pair of Saucony Peregrine 4 from Medved. I need to thank Eric Eagan for encouraging me to try out some trail races, and I can’t wait for Medved Trail Madness in a few weeks.

A special thanks to Alex Tong for the pictures!

Sweeps Week

Every competitive runner eventually learns that winning a race isn’t as much about them, as it is about who shows up.  Unless you are the world record holder someone faster than you can always toe the line.  Some might see this as fatalistic, or dis-empowering but I see it as freeing.  Instead of worrying about things you can’t control you get to focus on the things you can, namely running your own race.

But it is still nice to win a race and it is better still when your team sweeps the top 3 spots.  Even better than that?  What if your men’s and women’s team sweep the top 3 spots of their respective races on the same weekend?  That is pretty damn sweet no matter who else toed the line.

Friday was the debut of the Roadkill Racing women’s team.  Ashlie Roberts, Erin Mahoney and Lisa Perks were the first women to line up wearing their new Roadkill singlets at the Emergency Nurses 5k at Monroe Community College (Drew Caffrey was there too but I’ll get to that later.)

I have no idea what was going on to the right but it must have been pretty funny.
I have no idea what was going on to the right but it must have been pretty funny.

It was a small first year event, but it was well organized and the weather could not have been better.  I have a feeling the other runners were a bit intimated by the Roadkill ladies in their blood red singlets.  Ashlie, Erin and Lisa wasted no time separating themselves from the rest of the women in the field.

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Drew Caffrey was at the race representing the Roadkill men, and while he stated before the race his only goal was no to get hurt (he’s running Boston in a week) I had a feeling he wasn’t going to be able to resist going for the win.

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Sure enough when the leaders came into view he was right behind the leader, and as they rounded the corner with 100 meters to go he sprinted past Kevin Scheehan to take first place in 18:01.

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It wasn’t long before the ladies arrived, all of them finishing in the top 10 overall.

Ashlie finishing 1st in 22:33
Ashlie finishing 1st in 22:33
Lisa finishing 2nd in 22:46
Lisa finishing 2nd in 22:46
Erin finishing 3rd in 23:27
Erin finishing 3rd in 23:27

Taking a break from her own running to cheer on the team

Taking a break from her own running to cheer on the team

 Nurse’s 5k Results Here

Saturday it was the time for some of the Roadkill men to take to the track.  Dave, Kenny and I raced the 10000 meters at the Naz Roc City Classic.  For reasons I do not fully understand in road races we say 5k or 10k but on the track it’s 5000 meters or 10000 meters.  Whether you call it a 10k or 10000 meters when you do it on the track you have to run 25 laps.  This is not nearly as fun as it might sound.

aYes those are 4 women next to me at the start.  The meet has 76 men doing the 1500 and 26 in the 5000, but only 8 in the 10000 so they put the 4 Naz women in with us.

cRunning 25 laps can get a bit confusing.  At some point in the race I lost track of who I was passing and who I was lapping.  This caused me to move into 3rd place without even realizing it sometime during the last mile.

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I’m really glad I decided to run this race, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping into any track races longer than 5000 meters again.  It is a mental grind as much as it is a physical one.  One that Kenny fully embraced.  He broke from the small lead pack early and challenged the track record of 32:25 missing it by a mere 3 seconds!  Dave, who was suffering from some lower leg issues in the middle part of the race took second place, closing with an impressive last mile.

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I finished in 3rd place completing the Roadkill sweep with a 43 second PR 33:49. All in all it was a hell of weekend for Roadkill Racing.

Naz Results Here

I’m so proud of all my teammates and I’m thankful for Ashlie taking charge and putting our women’s team together.  There is something oddly sexy about seeing my wife in Roadkill singlet, even if she hates the fact is says Beer & Glory on the front.

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Bonus footage of Hazel warming up. Look at that focus!