Crossing the Finish Line

Sunday was the second race in our cross-country series.  We went to the race with our full and bestest team (although 1 person didn’t end up running the race… you know who you are), and did slightly better than last race.  In fairness to us, we all ran pretty well and speaking for myself I know I have plenty of room for improvement by the end of the season.  The goal for me is always to be running my best come race 5, and vagaries of peaking aside I think I have done that successfully the last several years.

Jeff, Matt, Kenny, Evan, Josh, Brett (Ryan is hiding)

Matt who is marathon training head off before the start of the race to do 3 miles warm up and 3 miles at marathon pace.  The rest of us went to have a nice jog around the course to get a feel for the lay of the land.  The land lay very up and down.

A sea of red.

As usual GVH fielded a large team of open, masters, vets, supervets of both genders, but Syracuse brought along a nearly equal contingent of runners.  After some words for Coach Reif regarding cardiac hill, and the cross-country series founder Pete Glavin who loved to run this course and the hill in particular we were underway.  Coach must have forgotten we were running a distance event because he gave us a “Runners on your Mark, Get Set, GO!” which is obviously one extra command and caused mass confusion at the start… OK not really I just thought it was funny in my head and it stuck with me.

Kenny leading the way.

Kenny and Brett lead the RKR pack out through the first section of the course.  Both had raced half marathons just 2 weeks ago, Kenny with a PR of 1:13 at the Rochester Half and Brett with an impressive 1:16 in the Adirondack Mountains.  To see them take off so strong was heartening and I did my best to keep them insight and we headed up cardiac hill.

Jeff fighting the sleepies.

I think before the championship race I will kidnap Jeff and make him sleep in our guest room for 2 nights.  I’m convinced that 2 nights of 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep would propel him to work class race times.  Even without a good night sleep Jeff still ran an impressive race and would have had an even more impressive time if he had run all the way across the finish line (more on that later).

Trying to pick up a point or 2.

The Mendon West Course is my new favorite cross-country course.  I have no idea what my previous favorite one was, but I know this one is my favorite now.  The race actually takes place on trails, dirt trails with some room to pass.  It goes up hills and down hills and has some twists and turns, and despite being a fairly challenging (and slow) course it is a lot of fun to race on.  The only times you run on fields are at the start for about 600 meters and the finish for about 600 meters, and there really is no way around that.

Evan opening up one of the few flat stretches.

The only complaint I have about this course, and it wasn’t really the course it was just the finish, is no one knew where to stop.  Well almost no one did, I knew.  The course finished up the same little hill we started on and the finish shoot began just over the crest of the hill.  Many runners, including Jeff, thought the race finished at the start of the shoot and didn’t realize they were actually stopping 10 meters or so short of the line.  In some cases this resulted in slightly slower times, not a big deal in cross-country, but in other cases this lead to attempted last second passes and a bit of pushing at the line.

For the second race in a row I toward the finish line trying desperately to grab one more place.  Both times I came up less than a second short (.7 the first time .3 this time) and both times it was to the same GVH runner.  During the first race he noticed me charging just before I drew even with him and he held me off for the last 20 meters.  This time I was still a stride behind him when we entered the shoot, and he immediately slowed down and I ran into the back of him and sort of pushed him across the line just in front of me.  He grumbled something to me that I didn’t catch but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t nice race.  Had he known where the actual finish line was there was no way I would have caught him, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to slowly down before the line just because he was confused when I knew we hadn’t crossed it yet.  The lesson here for me is clearly to run faster earlier and it won’t matter.

Matt in his 5th sub 6 minute mile of the day.

Despite our best efforts we came up a little short again this meet.  No beer, no glory.  Actually we had beer after the race and it was very tasty but it wasn’t victory beer so it was missing that little extra something.  It was Ubu ale from Lake Placid Brewery.  Do you remember Ubu?


Syracuse walked away with the victory this week with GVH second Roadkill Racing third and High Noon fourth.  Whether as an act of punishment or team solidarity I’m not sure but we all did 3 miles at 5:55 pace after the race with Matt.  After battling the hills and twists and turns 6 minute pace on the road actually felt pretty good.

After 2 meets the series scoring stands thus:

  1. GVO1 – 10
  2. ST – 10
  3. RK – 5
  4. HN – 5
  5. GVO2 – 1

Next up is Watkins Glen on Sunday October 28th.

My New Marathon PR

My wife would be happy to tell you that I have no lack of confidence, nor to I mind letting people know how awesome I am.  She would tell you I have an opinion of myself that lives somewhere between arrogance and hubris.  I however, don’t think of myself that way at all.  I prefer to think that I am simply self-aware and have the uncommon knack of being able to objectively and accurately assess my abilities.  So when I say something like “I could go out tomorrow and do 10×800 in 2:35 with 2:35 jogging rest and it wouldn’t even feel that difficult” I am not bragging, or guessing, or hoping, I am simply stating a fact.

One of the wonderful things about running is that when it comes to results there isn’t much gray area.  Your times are your times.  There are no refs to make bad calls, there are no teammates to drop the ball or to not come through with a single when you lead off the inning with a double.  It is you, the distance and time.  This makes predicting performance pretty simple, as long as you have enough data to draw from.  After many years of both running and keeping a detailed log of my running, I know down to a few seconds how fast I can run any given workout.  Races can be slightly harder to predict, because you are after all racing against others and not just racing the clock like in a workout, but even still there aren’t that many surprises when it comes to race results either.

It is for that reason I was annoyed when Mark Remy , editor-at-large for Runner’s World, posted this in response to my quote above…  “I’ll call your bluff. Go try to run 10×800 in 2:35 with 2:35 jogging rest, then come back here and let us know how it went.”  He as good as called me a liar, and that can not stand.  I will now admit that I possess two seemingly contradictory character traits, confidence and a fragile ego.  I don’t know which has gotten me into more trouble over the years but they often conspire to get me to do stupid things.  In this instance the stupid thing they got me to do was not 10×800 but to care what some random person said on the internet.  While Mark Remy may be an editor-at-larger for Runner’s World, once he makes a post on a message board he is just another random person saying stupid crap online like the rest of us.

Mark Remy and his friend.

Now on to the important stuff.  The workout.

I did not “go out tomorrow” to do the workout, but only because “tomorrow” was Yom Kippur and I was home with Hazel all day and could not leave her alone to go do a track workout.  So I did the workout the day after “tomorrow” as it were.  After work I drove out to the Nazareth College track.  I like doing workouts at Naz because it is close to Hazel’s daycare, I’m friends with the xc/track coach and my wife is a Professor there, also, rarely is there anything going on that prevents me from using the track between 3-5 pm.  Just to make extra sure the track would be free I check the schedule and nothing appeared to be going on.  I arrived for my workout at 2:50 pm to find the women’s soccer team beginning to set up for a game that would start at 4 pm, so much for the best laid plans.  I decided to try to squeeze in the workout anyway and headed off for a 2 mile warmup.

When I returned from my warm up I went to find the soccer coach to ask about using the track during the game, as I expected to finish my workout about 10 minutes after the game started.  He informed me I would have to talk to refs who wouldn’t show up until about 3:45.  This turned out pretty well as I spent the first half of the workout worrying about whether or not I was going to get booted off the track, which kept my mind off the monotony of running 7 miles on the track.

I got my video camera positioned at an angle I hoped would catch most of the track, but it was very sunny and I had trouble seeing the tiny Flip Camera screen in the glare.  I’ve never been much of a videographer, I much prefer still shots, but I wasn’t going for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography so I hit the record button and got to work.

Winner for Best Cinematography 2012 “Hugo”

I have been mucking about on the internet for a long time.  I will not claim to have used one of those old modems where you stuck your phone in a box, but I do remember when 56K dial-up was all the rage.  Having spent so many years online, I am very familiar with the phrase “picture or it didn’t happen.”  That is one of the reasons I hate posting race reports without photographic evidence.  Unfortunately despite my best efforts, I captured very little in the way of photographic  evidence of my workout.  I used a Flip Video camera from work, which is supposed to record an hour of HD video, and even though I charged it all morning it died after 5 minutes of filming.  I did not know this until the workout finished or I would have grabbed my iPad and propped it against the fence and recorded the video with that instead.  So for those of you married to “picture or it didn’t happen” feel free to call me a liar and stop reading here.  For the rest of you here is the few minutes of video I got followed by a rep by rep break down of the workout.


  1. 2:35 / 2:05 jogging recovery went out in 72 and backed way off the second lap
  2. 2:34 / 2:05 jogging recovery little better pacing still went out too fast
  3. 2:33 / 2:15 jogging recovery slow first lap then over compensated on the second
  4. 2:34 / 1:50 jogging recovery was really starting to worry about fitting in the workout ran the recovery too fast
  5. 2:34 / 2:20 water break jogging back and forth around the start line
  6. 2:32 / 2:30 jogging recovery feeling pretty peppy after the water, still worried about the running out of time
  7. 2:35 / 2:25  jogging recovery got off track on the first lap as I noticed the refs come out to the field had to bust it on the second lap
  8. 2:34 / 2:10 jogging recovery but was feeling much better having spoken to the refs during my last recovery lap
  9. 2:33 / 2:25 jogging recovery excited to almost be done, this workout is really tedious
  10. 2:32 thought about really going all out on the last one but the workout had gone so well so far I didn’t want to do anything stupid like run a 67 second final lap and tweak my knee.

So there you have it.  10×800 meters in 2:33.6 (5:09 per mile pace) with 400 meters jogging rest (about 2:15 rest).  Was it an easy workout?  No I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was certainly easier than many workouts I’ve done.  Much easier than say the 7 miles of [ hard 1000 meters easy 600 meters] where hard was 5:40 pace and easy was 6:10  workout a bunch of us did this spring before I ran a 1:16:24 half marathon.  Really the hardest part of this type of workout for me is remembering to stay within myself and not get carried away in the middle.  If I had done 2 more reps it would have become hard, but maybe I could then rename the workout Perks’ 800’s.

I will stand by my original post that Yasso’s 800’s are neither a good predictor of marathon performance nor are they a progression of workouts that are particularly beneficial to one wanting to race a marathon.  Maybe very early in a marathon training cycle a workout like this might have some use, but late in a training cycle, which is where Bart positions this 10×800 workout, I think more marathon pace specific workout would take precedence.  I will also stand by my statement that people in general and journalist in particular have a very poor understanding of the difference between causation and correlation.  If anyone is confused by the difference I’m sure Mike Insler Roadkill Racer and Econ Professor at the Naval Academy will be happy to enlighten you.

If anyone still wants to insist this is a good marathon predictor workout then I will gladly accept my new 2:33:40 marathon PR.



I would be happy to do the workout again if someone from a certain magazine wants to send out a camera crew.

Irondequoit 4th of July 10K

Last week was the Irondequoit 4th of July 10K.  This was a Rochester Runner of the Year Race, but not one of the more competitive ones.  While in past years the top time had been fairly good, the race wasn’t very deep, and I figured I could pick up some easy points.  It was a hot and muggy morning (like every morning in the last month) but at least I had plenty of time to adjust to running in those conditions after my recent visit to NC.  The course figured to be rather unpleasant.  It wound down to the lake over the first 5k then wound back up those same hills.  It is hard to enjoy a nice fast downhill when you are thinking the whole way about how you are going to have to come back up those hills in a few minutes.


Bill Juda, who had won the race several times in the past few years, took off and by mile 1 had about a 30 second lead on me and the rest of the runners.  You can see in the video below how much of a gap he had opened up early on and you can see the size of the pack right behind me.  I had planned on running easy the first 5k then picking off people on the way back up the hills.  This didn’t happen, as no one except Bill went out with any kind of speed and despite running a modest 17:10 downhill 5k I was in second with a good 10 seconds on the guys behind me.


I remained in second place for most of the race.  Bill was long gone and most of the chase pack had fallen back, but 2 high school kids were hanging around behind me the entire climb back to the finish.  The last 800 meters of the race featured a very steep downhill a very steep uphill then a 200 meter flat stretch to the finish line.  About halfway through the steep downhill one of the high school kids blew past me.  I just couldn’t muster the leg turnover to keep up with him, and he managed to hold the small lead he opened up during the uphill and the flat finish.  As frustrating as it was to get run down by a 15-year-old kid, I was still happy with my 3rd place finish and with my time of 35:12. Full Race Results.

Yeah it was pretty hot and humid.

You will see in the posted results that I was given a finishing time of 34:48.  That would be great if it was true, but for the second time this year a timing company has screwed up the race results and credited runners with faster times than they actually ran.  The first time was at the flower city half when Yellow Jacket Racing messed up the times.  You can see from this thread on the Rochester Running message board the owner of Yellow Jacket Racing (and also Fleetfeet) seemed to put some of the blame for this on me.  Apparently it was my fault for not telling them at the race that the times were messed up.  In the end they corrected the mistake and added about 25 seconds to everyone’s time.  This time I went right to the timing people and told them my watch had me about 20 seconds slower than the posted time.  They told me that they knew the finish clock was a little off but that the posted times were correct.  I told them I wasn’t talking about the finish clock, but about MY watch time verse their posted results.  I was then informed by one of the timers that I should be happy that my time was faster, at which point I just walked away in disgust.  To my knowledge only one other person complained about the timing being wrong and they were basically given the same answer as me, you can see the email reply here

You can damn well be sure if the timing company had added 20 seconds to everyone’s time a lot more people would be complaining.  I guess most people are just happy to take a faster time even though they didnt’ earn it.  I wonder how many people really believe they ran 20 second PR’s on a hot day on a hilly course?


Summer Time

Hazel put in some great performances last Friday at the Twilight Track Series in Poughkeepsie, NY put on the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club.  Despite the near 100 degree heat she ran a 50 meter 400 meter double.  There may have been kids under 5 faster than her but there was no one cuter, and certainly no one younger ran the 400 meter dash.

Lisa was there to offer support in her first race of the evening the 50 yard dash. Hazel lined up with the other kids and was ready to “go run tracker!” as she is want to say.


Papa Steve helped pace her to an impressive 400 meter finish.
Hazel with her game face on getting ready to race.

 People are going to think we push Hazel to run, but the fact is she just loves it.  She asks me to take her to the “tracker” almost every day.  She also will not tolorate people walking beside her when she is running, I have been scolded many times to “RUN DAD RUN!”  I don’t know if she will ever be a fast runner and I really don’t care, but I hope she hold on to the enjoyment of being outside and active.