Sunday, May 30, 2010

10k By The Bay

(Results) I almost didn't do this race. I was scheduled to give a math talk at the same time as the race start -- 10 am. However, this race presented such a perfect confluence of circumstances that my friends finally convinced me that I should re-schedule the talk and do the race. In particular, $200 was on the line and the majority of Rhode Island's fast women were out of town for the weekend -- Katie, Jackie, Michaela, Vicky, and Karen were all away -- leaving only Steph and Trish as likely competitors. So I went. My parents were here for the weekend, so they drove me down to Warwick.

I got there an hour and 15 minutes early, but they were already out of size small race shirts (and I was only #82 to sign up). We sat in the shade and I showed off my ability to identify my competition: My parents pointed out a pair of fit-looking women jogging across the grass and asked if I thought they would be fast. "They'll probably run 43 or 44 minutes," I predicted. My mom grumbled about this -- "I wonder if you would have looked at me before my 44-minute 10k and predicted me to run 48 or 49 minutes!" -- but in the end, only one of the two raced, and she finished in about 43:40, just as I predicted.

When I got to the line after warming up, I once again exhibited my poor prediction quality when it comes to masters-age runners (as I did at the Bedford Rotary 5k last weekend). There was a very skinny woman wearing just a sports bra and shorts. I was definitely worried, because she looked like she would be really fast (and if you had asked, I would have guessed her age to be 28). I whispered to Clay to see if he knew who she was, and he just said "gimme a break!" He turned out to be right...

The air horn went off and I found myself in about tenth place behind a bunch of guys. Over the course of the first half mile down the long driveway of the organization, I passed some overzealous men and soon found myself tucking in behind a pair of men. I sensed that I was not going 6-minute pace as I had planned, but decided to go with it. We passed the mile in 6:18 and I darted out from behind the guys and surged ahead. One of the guys laughed -- "I guess someone wasn't happy with that split!" -- and one, in a red singlet (in the results as Tom), came with me while the other stayed behind. I locked onto Tom's shoulder and hung on through two miles, with a second mile split of 6:28. He cut the tangents like a pro, and I was right there.

Somewhere in the third mile, Tom apparently decided he didn't want to run with me, and put in a surge, which I didn't cover, so he was maybe 50 feet ahead of me, a gap that stayed constant for the next few miles. At this point, two men were way ahead, Clay was maybe 100 meters ahead of me, and then Tom was 50 feet ahead of me. So Clay was in the money as third male, and I was in fifth place overall. Miles three and four were both around 6:30. Mile five slipped to 6:37, but this part of the course had many turns and it is possible that I didn't cut the tangents as closely as Ray did when he measured it. Anyway, it was hot and we were just winding our way among many turns in a housing development for most of miles four and five.

Just before the 5-mile mark, it got interesting. Clay, who had been running 6-minute pace, suddenly lost his speed and started coming back. I shouted ahead to him, to let him know that someone was coming to take away his third-place spot. But it was no use; Tom overtook him. But actually, I was getting closer too! By they time I passed Clay -- incredulously! -- the gap between me and Tom was about half as big as before. So I made my move and caught up to him and passed him right as we got back onto the driveway of the organization, with about a half mile to go.

I derive much inspiration from passing people and wanting to hold them off. Whereas I ran mile five in 6:37, I ran mile six in 6:20. I was quite happy to be third overall and I didn't want to see that disappear. Also, after passing six miles in 38:41, I thought I could probably dip under 40 minutes, which before the race would have seemed depressingly slow but now was looking pretty good. I kicked the last mile and down the hill to the finish line and managed to finish in 39:55 and third overall. Tom was 14 seconds back, all over the last half mile (and Clay was 30 seconds back). As it turns out, I was the only person under 40 years old in the top five, and the second female was two and a half minutes behind me, despite her weighing about half as much as I do.

I did a 4-mile cool down, part of it with Clay and his young daughter, so that I could count it as a "long run" and not have to try to squeeze in a long run on graduation day. The awards ceremony was successful, as I received cash and my parents were duly impressed that running had become so lucrative. $200 is the most I have ever won in a race, the previous being $175 ($50 for winning + $100 for course record + $25 gas card for double-dipping age division, last August). Unlike last year, this year the calculation (money won) - (money spent on entry fees) actually yields a positive number! But this will make up for the fall, when I do things like race at Franklin Park when dozens of very fast people show up and all I win from my entry fee is a fun race and a warm sense of well-being -- like in the half marathon, when I paid $50 and "all" I won was five minutes of fame, some good finishing pictures, an awesome story to tell the grandchildren, and a nice supply of happiness and glory that is still carrying me along.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bedford Rotary 5k

(Results) I opted to do the 5k this year rather than the 12k, because I didn't have a great experience last year (I ran the 12k while sick) and wasn't too excited about doing it. So I simply watched the 12k and cheered for Alan and his teammates and Caitlin, and hydrated while hoping that it wouldn't get too hot by 11 am.

I warmed up on the course with the map in hand, but didn't get much of a feel for the course because the starting line was kind of far from the parking lot where I started and the race was a lollipop. So it goes. I was distressed to see on the starting line a really fast-looking woman. She appeared to be a master's runner with no body fat, clearly defined muscles and perhaps capable of running a 17-minute 5k. Well, there went my chances for this race! I loitered around near the starting line and some guy told me he recognized me and asked if I did the Newburyport track races. That seemed weird because I only did one, in fall 2008, in which I ran 5:58 for a mile (all out). Whatever. He introduced himself and asked what I wanted to run, and I said 18:30.

I lined up on the starting line and there were multiple photographers taking pictures. I used to feel bad about lining up on the starting line, because many of the men would likely beat me. But I have learned that it's okay to line up on the starting line if you're going to (try to) win. In this case I ended up 9th overall, so it was justified.

The gun went off and a guy (Dennis) running next to me said, "I heard you say you want to run 18:30. That makes you my new best friend." I introduced myself and he said he planned to run the first mile in exactly 6 minutes flat. That was okay with me. But I was thinking, wait, that doesn't sound right, 6 minutes flat is too slow for 18:30, isn't it? However, I was planning to start out conservatively because of the heat. Alan said "it's looking really good," meaning that no one was close behind me, so I didn't have to kill myself to establish a lead in the first mile. Dennis pulled away over the second half mile of the race and got to the mile mark a few seconds ahead of me, but I still got there in 5:58.

Over the next mile or so Dennis lengthened out his lead somewhat, catching up to a very little boy who had gone out ahead of us. I was afraid that I would run the second mile slower than the first, because he was getting ahead of me and because I usually run the second one slower. So I was pleasantly surprised to reach two miles in 11:51, for a 5:53 second mile. Not tearing up the pavement by any means, but not slowing down, either. I caught the little boy just before the 2-mile mark. He ended up being just 12 years old. Two miles in 12 minutes is pretty impressive for a 12-year-old, I think. This put me in 10th place.

As I turned back onto the road we had started on (I said it was a lollipop) Alan looked behind me and said, "you have at least 20 seconds on the next woman." Now, this could mean two things -- either "I can see a woman and she is at least 20 seconds behind you," or "I can't see anyone behind you but I can only see about 20 seconds down the course." I decided to assume the former, but it turned out to be the latter.

On long straight road, I caught Dennis. He told me I ran a smart race as I passed by. I got to the track (stadium finish!) and kicked like it was a track race, trying to catch the guy ahead of me. I was running fast enough that I was surprised that he wasn't getting any closer -- he must have been kicking hard, too. Just before I crossed the line I saw the clock and it said 18:33, so I knew I hadn't broken 18:30. So it goes. These cute cheerleaders held up a finish tape and some photographers took a picture. The little kid finshed about 30 seconds later, and his dad asked if I would pose with him for a picture! Gosh, that's the first time anyone's ever asked to take a picture with me. I was honored. Oh yes, and the very fast-looking woman finished 4th in 20 minutes. Still fast!

The timing company added about 6 seconds to everyone's finish time -- mine was reported as 18:41. The guy who won the 12k finished in 37:13, and they reported it as 37:19, which is too bad because he set a course record and it's 6 seconds slower than it should be. (My stopwatch and the finish clock agreed exactly.) So now I know that if I want to break 18 minutes at a race timed by this company, I should run 17:50 just to be safe! (easier said than done)

They did the awards ceremony before I even finished cooling down -- it was over by 11:45. That was surprising! Luckily Alan was there to pick up my medal and put down my mailing address. But happily, there was plenty of food left and we got a good lunch before setting out to hike a few mountains and then go camping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

West Bay YMCA Run 4 Fun

(Results) This seemed like a perfect race -- $100 for first, $50 for second, and only the first-place male competitive for the past two years (last year the second-place male ran 26 minutes for 4 miles and the top two females about 4 minutes slower). So Melissa, Haynes and I headed out to try to grab some fast times and three of the top four places.

The race was hard to find! It was in an industrial area around Electric Boat, with broad empty streets, manicured lawns and trees, and huge warehouses. Well-maintained, perfectly flat, and completely devoid of human life. We couldn't find the road we were supposed to take, and we encountered another guy also looking for the race, but we managed to find a parking lot separated from the race area by just a fence, so we managed to get there.

Registration was uneventful... until the Brown track team showed up! Two of them had just run their last collegiate race the night before, so it was the first day of their entire lives when they could compete for cash, and here they were to do it! So Haynes knew that his chance of second place was now zero.

... and then Jenna showed up! I have run with Jenna once a week all this year and twice a week last year, and I probably know more about her training than anyone other than her, but still I had no good guess as to how fast she would run. Her 5k PR is about 2 minutes faster than mine, but it was three years ago and she hasn't trained much recently, so who really knew what she could do? Haynes shared his helpful opinion that no matter how out of shape you get, you can still run one minute slower than your PR for 5k. If that was the case, she would surely beat me.

We did our 2-mile warm-up jog with the map. It was a confusing course with multiple loops around the same roads in different directions, but by the end of 16 minutes all three of us knew exactly where to go. When we got to the starting line, it turned out we were the only ones who knew where we were going! Lucky for the others, there were volunteers at the intersections.

The gun went off and a woman in pink sprinted away. Luckily, I had watched Alan's 5k in Central Falls two weeks ago and I had seen this woman do the same thing and then finish in 20:30 or something, so I was not concerned. I passed her after a minute or two, and the four of us (pink lady, Jenna, Melissa) ran together. Jenna offered to lead so that I wouldn't have to break the wind for everyone the whole time, and I acquiesced. We passed the mile in 6:00, and at maybe 1.5 miles I took the lead back and let her draft off me again. (Drafting at 6-minute pace may seem dumb, but there was actually some breeze since these roads were close to the ocean.)

We passed 2 miles in 12:11, for a 6:11 second mile. Now we were on the lollipop portion of the course, out on a straight road, do a little triangle, and then back on the straight road. As we entered the triangle, the lead guys (the two Brown track guys) were finishing the triangle, and they were shouting ahead asking the volunteers which way to go! When we finished the triangle at about 2.5 miles, Jenna was still right on my shoulder. We were running into a headwind, and I had a choice: drop back and let her lead again so I can draft, or try to open up a gap. I chose the latter. Jenna hung on for maybe 30 seconds, and then the sound of her breathing gradually became further away. I went through three miles in 18:22, so another 6:11 mile. However, I would never discount anyone's finishing speed, so I didn't think I was out of the woods at all. I continued to press, only glancing back once when we made a 90-degree turn, and I discovered I had somewhat of a cushion.

Now I was following two guys, Haynes in front and then a somewhat older guy between us. We were running along a loop that we'd done twice in the other direction, and suddenly Haynes took a right! Without thinking, I shouted, "are you sure? Haynes!" and he turned around and came back to the course, just behind me, and immediately passed me and ran ahead. Now there was about half a mile to go. I passed the older guy and ran somewhat behind Haynes. Now the question was, would I try to out-kick him? The answer is no: I tried to out-kick him at the end of a run once, and his top speed was just enough faster than mine so that I knew I didn't have much chance. We both kicked, and he finished one second (!) ahead of me, 24:26 to 24:27. In the race for second place, Jenna got Melissa by two seconds (!). All four of us finished within a span of just 30 seconds. Gosh, what a race! (In the men's race, Eric caught the Brown guys and won by quite a large margin.)

The three of us did our 2-mile cool-down on a shady road (unlike the race course, which was in direct sun due to its being completely manicured) and then added on another half mile with the Brown track people while we waited for the awards. Those guys were really funny! It was the most fun half mile of the day, with the guys joking around and everyone laughing.

At the awards ceremony, they did the raffle first and ALL of us won prizes! Three of us plus all three from the Brown team (two guys and Jenna). The prizes we ended up with were not so good -- gift cards to the YMCA and one of those RoadID discount cards -- but it was free! Much better than nothing!

They announced the winners and had us sign for our cash. They had decided to only give out $75 and $40 instead of $100 and $50! I expressed my surprise to the nice lady giving out the awards, but you can't really complain when they're giving out cash. Later, I wondered what the etiquette is in such a situation: They advertise $100 for the winner, and then when you win, they give only $75. Is that dishonest of them? Probably. Is it within their rights to do it? I guess so. It would be a big deal if the Boston Marathon, for instance, advertised $100k for the winner and then only paid out $75k, but in a tiny local road race you take what you can get, I guess.

We left shortly after and did another 4 miles, stopping by the race area one last time to ask a question about the YMCA certificates. The nice lady said she was so glad to see me, because they had decided to change it and pay out the full amounts! So I signed for my extra $25. Then I realized I would be seeing everyone else who won money later this week, so she allowed me to pick up their cash, too.

Now I was in the extremely unusual position of running with $70 in my key pocket! That's definitely something I've never done before and don't plan to do again! In all, the three of us had fun and everyone agreed it was a good race and a good day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rhode Races half marathon

Sunday, May 2 dawned cloudy and humid. I had been concerned about the heat, so I literally drank about a gallon of water the day before to ensure that I was fully hydrated. I do not do well in the heat -- a few years ago, as soon as warm weather hit I would find myself with my heart rate at 180 bpm struggling to run 10 minutes per mile -- so I wanted to take every precaution.

Brett was running the marathon, so Alan gave both of us a ride down to the start (otherwise I would have run). I did a one-mile warmup on the course, not wanting to do too much since 13 miles is a long way. I was happy to find a row of 50 port-a-potties near the start, but was shocked to find that each one had a line of 10 people for it! So I gave up on that idea; you can use your imagination about that. I saw my photographer friend George at the start and he asked if he could take some pictures of me. Here is the nice result (from this slideshow):

However, I also found someone else on the starting line, a fast-looking woman in BAA gear. Never one to beat around the bush, I introduced myself, shook her hand and asked what she was planning to run. She told me her name, and I immediately knew that my chances of winning the race were now slim to none -- this was someone who had won Penn Relays, and who had beaten me by at least a minute in all the cross country races last fall. She said she was planning to do a 10-mile workout with some miles at 6:15 pace, and then see how she felt for the last couple of miles. I was pretty sure that anyone with times like hers would feel just fine for the last few miles! At that moment, I would have put my chances of winning at under 5%. I vowed to just run my own race and try to run a big PR (my previous best was 1:30:47). Trish came to the line and we shook hands. I also ran into a couple of other friends on the starting line, Jim (from other Providence races) and Katie (one of my captains in college).

The gun went off and I was mostly worried about the huge video camera arm that was across half of the road. However, it swept away just before I got there. Alan said I could run 6:20 pace (1:23), so I positioned myself behind Mariko, who had said she would run 6:15s. I went through the mile in 6:12 and realized why Trish was not beside me; she was running a more intelligent pace! I tried to back off a little for the second mile and ran 6:16. However, I apparently had no trouble backing off in the third mile, when I split 6:40. I was concerned about this, but Alan was right there on the bicycle saying "nice job, right on pace." We both knew that 6:40 was not "right on pace," but no matter. My friend David caught up at this point and slowly increased his gap on me as we ran up Blackstone. I was pleasantly surprised to hear several people cheer for me by name, including a college teammate I haven't talked to since I graduated!

Here is a picture from the first mile.

Alan was riding ahead on the bike and timing the gap for me. I had given up on my short-lived attempt to maintain contact with Mariko, and she quickly put a 30-second gap between us. I went through five miles in about 32:30, and it occurred to me that this is about what I've been running at the Red Rooster Ramble recently, so that was good practice.

I was running with a tall guy in a black and yellow singlet (in the results as Isaac; see photo below) and this woman wearing a Team in Training outfit kept coming by on a bike saying things like "two minutes back from the leaders." I assumed that Isaac must be running for Team in Training, and this woman was giving him updates. However, Alan later told me that Isaac was wearing headphones so he couldn't hear anything, and the woman was actually MY escort, and was giving ME updates on my position! Crazy. I wish I had known at the time, so I could have used the information or at least thanked the woman for riding along with me the whole way. I'm confused, though, because at 7 miles or so she was saying the gap was 3 minutes, which is too much gap for the lead female (who was maybe 1-2 minutes ahead of me) but not enough for the lead male (who was at least 10 minutes ahead by then).

Alan had stopped giving me time updates about Mariko, either because it took too long to ride all the way up there and then wait for me, or because she was so far ahead that I was never going to catch her and so it was uselessly depressing information. He was timing the gap between me and Trish, though, which was about 35 seconds. This gap was pretty constant for the middle of the race, I think. My theory is that I went out too fast and put a 35-second gap between us in the first two miles, and then we both basically ran the same speed for the remainder of the race.

I went through 10 miles in about 65.5 minutes, a long way from the 63:20 that Alan had suggested I try to run. I like to think of the half marathon as 10 miles plus a 5k, so I decided I had to run the last 5k in 19:30 in order to run under 1:26. Now that I have typed that, I realize that it is wrong -- 19:30 would have put me at 1:25. Ha! (Just remember, I'm a mathematician, not an arithmetician, and I'm neither one during a race when my higher faculties are just in survival mode.) I did manage to pass some people in this mile, a body-builder looking guy whom Alan had told me to reel in and pass starting at mile 6, and my friend Jim who was walking every so often.

Does this look like a fast runner? No! It looks like a slow runner! Looking slow is good camouflage.

It was around this time that Alan started giving updates on Mariko again. "She's only 35 seconds ahead of you! You can catch her!" I was thinking that in this case A certainly did not imply B, because 35 seconds is a lot, and we're talking about someone fast here. I would have to run 10 seconds per mile faster than her, and she was fast, so it was probably not going to happen. I could not see her ahead of me and I had no indication that she was coming back.

Mile 11 was up the Pitman Street hill, and I ran it in 7 minutes. 7 minutes! In that one mile alone, the distance between Trish and me went from 45 seconds down to 30. Alan was telling me that Mariko was only 25 seconds ahead now and I could catch her, but 25 was still a big number! I ran down Gano Street to India Point Park and Michaela was at the water stop, telling me that the leader was only 10-20 seconds ahead and I could catch her. I was disoriented because the course map had said that the first two miles were the same as the last two miles, but we were diverted onto the path rather than the road. No matter; the yellow singlet had appeared in front of me. All odds to the contrary, she had actually slowed down enough that I was once again close enough to see her! In short order I passed her, said "good job" incredulously, and ran on towards downtown Providence. This was just about at the 12-mile mark.

Well, now I was really running scared, because I was the pursued -- two fast women were behind me and I couldn't see them at all. I ran under a bridge with a bunch of police officers under it and I heard one say "just stick with our original plan!" Then there were motorcycles passing me and converging in front of me. The motorcycle escort was so exciting at last year's Rhode Races 5k, and at the St. Pats 5k, but this year I was just concerned about getting myself to the finish line as soon as possible. I ran under another bridge and another friend was there on a bike. He told me I was 100 meters ahead of the next woman. That did not seem very far to me and so I was very worried as I ran.

Apparently Alan was not worried, because with half a mile to go, he told me where he had hidden the house key and rode off to go cheer for Brett out on the bike path! (He changed his mind and followed me to the end, I guess to see if I broke 1:26.)

Finally, I managed to make the final turn towards the finish line. I glimpsed the time clock and I saw it said "55" at the end, and my instincts said "speed up and you can beat the next minute" (whatever that might be). I vaguely perceived that something was blocking the way on the right side of the finish line, so I aimed towards the left side. Then I realized that people were pointing me over towards the right, and the thing that was blocking the way was the tape. Again, I was so excited to break the tape at St. Pats, and this day it hadn't even crossed my mind to think about it!

This video includes a clip of me breaking the tape (please excuse the 10-second ad before the video clip):

I had gotten a lot of crap for raising my arms over the tape at St. Pats, so this time I just ran through the thing. However, the following picture, which appeared on coolrunning, gives the impression that I ran into the tape with my face and choked myself with it (you can see a guy in a Team in Training shirt on the bike behind me, apparently my bike escort -- they are also visible in the video above):

They gave me a minute to catch my breath and then called me over for the live TV interview. I called Trish over because I thought she deserved to be interviewed just as much as I did. Here we are:

George Ross took closeups of us being interviewed. Here is mine:

We were interviewed on TV for a few minutes and then I was led away to do the microphone interview with the announcer guy. I tried to speak slowly and enunciate, because I know you can rarely understand what people are saying when they get interviewed at the end of their race. The guy asked me, "you won the 5k last year and the half marathon this year; are you going to win the marathon next year?" I said "we'll see." Here is the microphone interview:

Then a woman led me away to do a third (!) interview, this time with three people at once and for print. They held up pocket microphones and asked questions. After that was finished, I asked the woman who those reporters were and she said they were the ProJo and the New England Runner! I don't know if they weren't able to have extended interviews with other runners or what, but half of the ProJo article ended up being about the women's half marathon:

PROVIDENCE — She’d already run a lot of 5K races this season and hadn’t run a half-marathon since March of last year. So Diana Davis decided it was time to bump up the distance.

It proved to be a very good decision, as the 24-year-old Brown University grad student won the women’s title at Sunday’s Shape Up RI Half Marathon. Clocking a winning time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 59 seconds, Davis joined 31-year-old Phil Reutlinger on the medals podium. The attorney with the U.S. Navy stationed in New London, Conn., won the men’s half-marathon title in 1:12:36.


Davis, who trains with the Brown University Running Club while she pursues her Ph.D. in mathematics, describes Sunday’s victory as the biggest of her young running career.

“I love this course,” she said. “It’s basically all the runs that I do stitched together. … I really love the course, and that we didn’t have to go over College Hill. That was perfect.”

Initially, Davis thought the best she could hope for was second place, given the sizeable lead that 28-year-old physician’s assistant Mariko Holbrook of Somerville, Mass., established early on. But Davis began steadily closing the gap over the last four miles or so, and by mile 12 she overtook Holbrook, then held on for the win.

In third place most of the way, defending champion Trish Hillery also passed Holbrook and finished second with a time of 1:26:34.

Because the race started at 8:00, I was done by 9:30 am. I hung around the finishing area for half an hour or so, and was happy to see basically everyone I knew who was in the race. Everyone I talked to had run a PR! I think the running club had 100% PRs in the half marathon, with the exception of someone who's been injured and just ran it for fun. Sarah and I waited for the awards ceremony for about an hour, and then I went back to the finish line to ask them when the awards was going to be, and while I was up there they did the awards! So I missed them. I fished around in the box later, though, and took my plaque. Then I waited around for another three hours for the marathon/5k awards ceremony to see if there was any sort of gift certificate that went with the plaque, but there wasn't. I did get to chat with just about everyone I knew there, including my friend from college who had cheered for me on the course, and my friend Jim whom I had passed around mile 11 when he had to stop and walk.

I still haven't said "I won a half marathon" out loud. What a crazy thought. When people asked me how my race went, I said, "it went fine," or "I ran 1:26," and only told them my place when asked directly (I'm working on humility). I've been running 6 miles a day at 8-minute pace and my legs have been sore. I also ended up with a blister under my toenail (which I could feel during the race), the same toenail that acted up for the first time during the last leg of 100 on 100.

We got Chinese food after the Turtles and Alan picked up the ProJo sports section lying on the table, and it turns out they had a race preview article on Sunday, which was mostly about cancer but also mentioned me.

If any number of things had gone differently, I wouldn't have won this race. I am happy with it, and I am looking forward to running faster in the future. Marathon? Maybe!

Photos taken from Digital Photo Concept and Capstone Photo.