Putting 2018 to Bed

Hi reader, sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I thought I didn’t have anything to say, but it turns out I’ve got a lot to tell you. It’s been a while since I wrote one of these. A lot has happened. More than four months have passed since my last entry, and in internet time that’s like 13 years.

I did some running. I ran some races. I put on an event. I signed up for some 2019 races, too.

Let’s go back to September, when I had one of the worst races of my life at the New Haven Road Race 20k. Without clicking on the link, here’s the TL;DR version: It was hot and humid, I ran a fast first 10k, took and ill-advised gel, puked my brains out, jogged it in last 10k, remembered how much I hated running shorter distances.

Was determined to get redemption at the Hartford Half six weeks later; wanted to run sub-1:25 for a chance to get in the NYC Marathon without having to enter the lottery, but I read this section wrong:

“A limited number of time-qualifier spots will be available to runners who meet the time standards in a non-NYRR race. These spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants who apply with a non-NYRR race qualifying time will be placed in the non-guaranteed entry drawing during the application period (January 14–February 14, 2019) until their time can be verified. Verification will be completed prior to the 2019 entry drawing on February 27, 2019. Those who apply with a non-NYRR race qualifying time after the number of spots available has been reached will be placed in the non-guaranteed entry drawing.”

So I didn’t necessarily have an automatic entry but I had at least a decent chance to get in with a fast time. More on this later…

So in classic Jimmy Mac self-sabotage fashion, I took my eye off the end prize (trying to run sub-3 at the Philly Marathon on November 18th, five weeks after Hartford) and threw everything I had at Hartford. I got it in my head how much easier it would be to run a fast half rather than a fast full, and decided three weeks before Hartford to just do a bunch on half-specific workouts and cut the mileage to be fresh for a fast 13.1.

Well, it worked but much like a major league baseball team two games back of the wild card a few days before the trade deadline I went and mortgaged my future. Yeah, I got the wild card but was knocked out in the first round. When I should’ve been peaking for Philly I was tapering, racing and recovering.

Anyway, Hartford was a great race, everything just clicked into place. Settled early on with a group of about 5-6, a few dudes I knew from Manchester Running Company that I had met from racing over the summer- as well as some speedy young ladies. It was a nice light drizzle, high 40s, perfect half marathon weather. Things were looking good.

I tried to tuck in behind Dave Fusfeld, another fast grey beard from the MRC and at mile five he announced to our now splintering group, “it’s time to go to work!” and pulled away. I tried to stick with him but dude was on a mission, ended up running a 1:23:14.

So now I was all alone, just gritting teeth trying to hold sub-6:30 pace. Ended up running a 6:13 for that mile and felt really good. Decided to crank it down and try to hold 6:25 pace until the end. Took 200 mg of caffeine at mile seven, and once that got into my bloodstream it was on, clicking off a 6:24, 6:26, 6:23 and a 6:06 for mile nine, when I made my move.

hartford 2

I feel as terrible as I look.

Basically it was less of a move and more of a desire to get as far the fuck away from the guy running next to me with his Strava app open on his phone calling out his splits every couple minutes. Seriously, who the fuck races with that arm band iPhone thingy? Road runners you kill me, and not in a good way. After 9+ miles of racing hard I was in no mood for anyone’s bullshit.

Anyway, I hit 15k right at 60:40 and thought, “here we go, 6.1k to the finish”.  I needed to run 4-minute kilometers or 6:25 pace to get in under 1:25-flat. Piece of cake! The fact that I could still do math at this point meant I was going to be okay, but I think that was mostly a function of being so ridiculously caffeinated.

6:23

6:11

6:05

And then a full-on sprint to the finish for a very satisfying PR of 1:24:24.

hartford 13.1

The feeling of knowing you gave it everything you had that day.

Honestly, I was wrecked afterwards. I was actually wrecked for about a week, legs just did not bounce back. Once the glow of that wore off and my legs returned to normal it had dawned on me- Philly was in four weeks. Eep. What did I just do?

Two days later the DOMS set in, then the next day rolled an ankle, then that next Friday tried to do a marathon pace workout and could only get to within 20 seconds of my goal pace, I felt screwed. Then a discouraging 20-miler on Sunday left me feeling like Philly was going to be really tough.

The next week I focused on a ton of volume- 88 miles with two decent workouts to bring back some sense of confidence, then I could go into a week of sharpening runs and finally start to rest a bit.

screen shot 2019-01-10 at 2.46.45 pm

Staring at the camera = breaking the fourth wall.

Welp, Philly came and went- I say that with a tinge of bittersweet agony as I ran a new PR but came up 5:46 short of running that sub-3. At 42 years old, my window is closing fast on that goal. Here’s a brief account of the race:

Went out easy right behind the 3-hour pace group, wanted to hit the half at just off 1:30 and then negative split (lol). Hit 10k at 42:24, about 20 seconds faster than I wanted to, but hey, party! Saw my wife, kid and sister at mile 8, got a nice boost from them. Felt great all the way through until about mile 16, splitting the first half at 1:30:28. Started trying to crank it down but just could not find that extra gear I needed. Split 30k (18.6 miles for you non-metric folks) at 2:09:31, now a full 90 seconds behind pace. Oof. Took 200 mg of caffeine at about mile 17 but that did absolutely nothing except make me better at math (again). I had to run 6:40 pace to close out the last ~12km to squeak in under three hours. Saw my Dad in Manayunk at miles 19 and 21, he took videos of me passing by and my form looked awful, all stiff and upright- but a huge mental boost from seeing him, that was awesome Dad! Saw my buddy Tucker about a mile later, dude was fresh off a 6:53 top 20 finish at JFK 50 the day before (thanks for the kind words my dude, also for the slap on the ass). Then saw my buddy Dave at mile 25ish, he was all, “dude you look awful…” to which I replied, “oh my god, I feel like shit”. Crossed the finish line in 3:05:45.

screen shot 2019-01-10 at 2.47.00 pm

Do you really think this photo is worth $69.95?

I still haven’t figured out the marathon. I might never, and I’m in that weird place between wanting to give it another go and walking away from it entirely. Time heals all wounds, and dammit this one is gonna be hard to sit with for a year plus. If I know anything about me I’ll probably be chomping at the bit for another go-round on the roads. I mean, hell- it’s a Boston Qualifying time; 4:15 under the new standard, so I got that going for me. There’s a really good chance that Boston 2020 could be my last marathon. There’s also a really good chance I run like 3:01 there and that stokes the fire for another try at 2:59:xx

screen shot 2019-01-10 at 2.47.23 pm

You think I’d be happy with a PR.

After the sting of Philly had worn off, the real FOMO started to set in. The fear of never running sub-3 might be more of a physiological missing out; I might just not be able to physically do it, like “genetics” and shit, and if that’s the case then that’s okay. I don’t really want to believe that, just like an 86-year old doesn’t want their driver’s license taken away, but I’ll be 43 next time I line up for a road marathon. My window of “fast” might close on me in the next 15 months.

The real FOMO I was experiencing post-Philly was of the mental variety- the fear of not running an ultra for the first year since 2012; and that hit me big time.

Actually what I had been missing was the ultra community. I missed the “did you finish?” people rather than the “what was your time?” people. The folks that didn’t mind the “pooping in the woods” jokes or the people that have also tried peeing on themselves while running. Those people are always going to be my tribe; the silly misfits, the outcasts, the ones that go out for an eight to ten hour “run”.

The ones that don’t cringe when you explain to them that at some point during your last 50 miler your toenail came off your toe and is inside your sock and you didn’t stop to take it out because you somehow managed to get it to wedge perfectly between two toes and it just stayed there and both toes and toenail were quite happy with this situation. Yeah, I missed those people.

So I had this silly idea to create a “Fat Ass” event- yeah, that term probably needs a makeover but until then whatever. I had a course in mind, designed it using Strava’s Route Creator and got to work. Actually, it didn’t take much work at all. I’ve run thousands of miles up at West Rock Ridge State Park and wanted to showcase it, hopefully evoking the same feelings and emotions that it gives me every time I run here.

West Rock is CT’s second largest state park after Macedonia Brook SP; or it’s the 3rd largest if you combine Mohawk Mountain SP and Mohawk State Forest, again; whatever. West Rock offers 1,691 acres to play in and I wanted to show it all off.

I wanted people to experience all the cool trails here, even using the water property land under the ridge that the Quinnipiac Trail sits on in the north end of the park, as well as the teal connector that brings you from Lake Wintergreen south to the playground and ball fields in Westville.

Everybody got lost!

I went out on a few runs the week before and put up some very minimal markings, mostly at the turns. Due to the sub-freezing conditions I did not put any water out at Aid Station #2 and #4. Oh well, nobody got dehydrated.

Honestly, I initially thought three or four people might come out and run this with me. As interest started to build I started getting psyched. The week before I tried to sit down a few times and prepare a speech but nothing came up. Basically just wanted to say “hey, here’s this giant park in our backyards that no one uses!” It’s been my experience that most runners are not using the whole park.

“CT DEEP has no idea what is going on in any of their parks…”

A local trail running group called the West Rock Ramblers that organize short group runs on the weekends only use a small portion of the southern and sometimes central part of the park, in fact they seem to completely skip the northern end altogether- in my opinion the best trails are the ones on that part of the ridge. Luckily I hooked up with a local speedster named Neil Clauson when I first got to town and he showed me all the amazing parts of the park that can be accessed from the Hill Street trail head.

Actually, the Fat Ass was Neil’s idea- we ran together on New Year’s Day last year and were planning out our years- we wanted to have another go at the Q Trail FKT as well as put on a few events; an inside-out Q Trail Fat Ass, then a Sleeping Giant “All Trails” Challenge, where basically you have to run all the trails on the Giant, not repeating any of the east-west trails (yellow, white, green, orange, blue and purple) and using the red connectors to link them all. He also pitched the idea of a West Rock “All Trails” Challenge with a similar bent to the SG idea.

Then I got sucked up into Boston training, Neil moved away to Maine and the rest is history.

Little bit bigger than I anticipated…

It was a pretty joyful day, seeing this many folks out enjoying the trails. Okay, the course markings where blue met red were very confusing, but hey- a lot of folks got to do the half marathon option! There were Ramblers, Mixers, Striders, Bimblers, Steepers, hell- it was CT’s best and brightest mountain/ultra/trail folks. Definitely the most fun I’ve had all year.

photo courtesy Tobias Tello

Mad props to Jeff Grant for his huge win at the 15k distance and Tobias Tello for his win at the 50k in 7:15. He then went back out for another loop in the dark and finished with 37.6 miles on the day. Jake, Terry, Art and Will all also completed the 50k distance. Art actually did like 36 miles from my shitty course marking and lack of a real explanation.

photo T. Tello

Then New Year’s Day came and went and life got back to normal. Then, just as I was sitting in the glow of how amazing the CT ultra community is, I got a text from Art asking me to be on his CULTRA Podcast, New England’s premier mountain/ultra/trail podcast. Go there, listen, subscribe and like. If you write a review, they will read it on air! In the future, everyone will be podcast famous for 15 minutes.

Okay, that’s it for 2018.

Bring on ’19!

Here’s two more events I’m hosting, come on out and enjoy the trails with me!

6 Hours at the Reservoir and The Blue2Blue Challenge

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