Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shamrock 8k

Saturday March 21, 2009

After being treated to a fantastic sunrise from our balcony Loni and I shuffle down to the starting line 8 blocks away. Being late we find ourselves 2 blocks behind the starting line and tucked in with the walking crowd. The Vibe is great; people are decked out in costumes, tutus, tights, fuzzy hats. One guy was dressed up as 80s guy and had a boom box on his shoulder.

The pack slowly lurches forward and we’re off down Atlantic Ave. With 7,000 entrants there wasn’t much space to move even after the pack started spreading. We somehow manage to run an 11 minute first mile. I say somehow manage because it felt like we had run a mile and a half with all of the back and forth we were doing in the pack. Loni settles in at speed that is killing me. I tell her we need to pick it up and that we’re still behind walkers. She’s frustrated with me because she wants to take it easy today while I want to keep leapfrogging ahead. I lose here again in the second mile but stop on the sidewalk and somehow am able to pick her out of the crowd and we resume our side by side trot. At mile 2 the clock ticks over 22 minutes. WE are at the end of Atlantic where we turn out onto the boardwalk on our return to Neptune. Loni’s puffing along still nursing her leg meanwhile I’m laughing and taking photos. The pack is slowly spreading out but on the 15’ boardwalk you still are stumbling over people. We catch one woman with a fantastic shirt.

Loni and I give a little boy and his sister high fives as we turn back onto Atlantic. I hear over my shoulder a pack of girls scream “GO LONI!” and I can’t help but smile. Her leg is starting to bother her a bit, I feel for her, but I tell her to push on. 11:30 3rd mile

Back on the road we approach the starting line again, now picking up the pace because we’ve passed Neptune and we know were on the final leg of this figure 8 loop. WE knock out the 4th mile in a speedy 10min. Someone yells from the sidewalk “don’t give up! You’ve made it this far” I look at the guy next to me and say, “hey at this point of a race have you ever been like, ‘well I’ve totally given up and here is my car, so I quit?’” He laughs and said “well I was going to quit but if it wasn’t for that guy…” and trails off. A woman who didn’t get the sarcasm runs by and yells, “DO IT FOR THE BEER! DO IT FOR THE BEER!” I laugh again. God I’m such a hack, people around me are setting PRs and trying there hardest. I’m totally here for a shirt, some laughs and a story.

We make the final turn out onto the boardwalk at block 38. 7 blocks to go, I tell loni we should finish hand in hand and she agrees. We trot back and forth on the boardwalk between walkers who have spent too much of their energy too soon. Along with trying to get in front of as many camera’s as possible. Finishing time on my watch is 55 min even. Not too bad, we stuck with our 11min/mile pace and I couldn’t be happier

Snagged our medals, our yengling beer and enjoyed the festivities.

8k - 54:57

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whale & Dolphin!

Great Success!
Loni finished the Dolphin (8k + half marathon)
and i knocked out the Whale (8k + marathon)
No injuries, no pain, not too bad for a couple of trail runners gone pavement for a few days!

Oddly enough about this race, I finished my marathon with a trail ultra runner from NH. Penny when/if you read this. Thanks for pushing me in!

Stay tuned for the Race reports in the next day or two.
until then....SHAMROCK ON!

Friday, March 20, 2009

VA Beach Day 1

Loni and I are treated to a smooth Trip down to VA Beach. The first time I had driven this way in 5 years. I’m excited to return to a place where I hold such fond memories. Ramon checks in on us from time to time during his night shift and informs us as we cross the Washington Bridge we are WAY ahead of schedule. Hey I’m ok with this. The less time I spend driving and the more time I can spend on the beach or on the boardwalk the better.
We stop to snap photos of the bay on the north side of the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel/Bridge (CBTB). I forgot how much of an engineering spectacle this was, especially now that I work for an engineering firm and have a mild grasp on how these things are built. It’s rather amazing to me that one direction was completed way back in 1964 and it only took them 3.5 years to build.
Ramon this photo is for you…close your eyes sucker!
Loni and I drive around what I refer to the old stomping grounds. So many miles rollerbladed here, so many drunken nights where straws were drawn to see who could get us home the safest? I even pointed out the imfamous site with the puke tree, the rain trenches and the odd pipe burst. We get lost a few times, but being ahead of schedule, we’ve got time to burn so no biggie. Once we figure out where we are and where a few local landmarks are we head over to the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
Here we are treated to our first look at how large this race is. The packet pick up is as efficient as it could be with what looked like hundreds of volunteers, but still no one seems to have their shit together. There are tables everywhere, but no guides to where lines are. As much as I hate those cattle troughs banks use. Obviously in a mob of people, those things are a key ingredient to the mix. After we made our way through the mobs of people we pick up an extra pint and a pair of race specific shot glasses for our bar collection.
Because everything had worked out so well thus far I decide that we should treat ourselves to a lunch at RJ and I’s favorite Irish bar on the strip. Murphy’s, oddly enough, named the same as my favorite bar in Manchester back home. We discuss our apprehensive-ness about the weekend, especially me as I’m looking down at my first marathon attempt and comparing it to my last two week training log. Some might call it a “taper” for me it was a, “eh, f it. I’m good!” And totally check out.

We check into our amazing hotel and immediately fall in love with the Hot tub and patio.
After we settle our luggage in and lay out our race materials for tomorrow I proclaim I’m going to go on a 3 mile sandy beach run. I was feeling like a sloth after not training and being surrounded by pros. Looking down from our balcony every few seconds you’d see an elite runner knocking out there last 2-3 taper miles before Sunday.
It was amazing how fast you feel once you get back onto a solid surface after the 3 miles just above where the waves lapped the sand. Running in sand is well, like running in sand, enough said.
My 3 mile jog ended at the 35’ tall bronze Neptune statue, the finish line of all 4 races this weekend. My legs feel a bit shaky from the extra stress from running in the soft sand, but I’m feeling pretty positive about this again. I figure I better, because there isn’t a whole lot of beans I can do now. Besides I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep since Thursday morning, it’s about 10:30pm Friday night now as I’m writing this blog (i.e. how much worse could I plan this). At 8am tomorrow Loni starts her quest on the dolphin challenge and I do the same with the whale challenge. Stay tuned for results, photos, reports, and pain, lots and lost of grueling pavement provided pain!

The Peak Winter 52.4

Run 1 (The Night Marathon)

We were to meet at the Pittsfield General Store at 9pm. I get a call around 8pm from my father (Rik) and found out they were across the street in the Fire Dept parking lot waiting for everyone else’s arrival already. I’m pleased to find out that there are 8 of us now joining in on this journey through the night. The 8 of us work out the logistics of parking and we leave Rik’s truck at the halfway point with what supplies we all think we might need 6.55 miles into our trek. Carl is rooting through his bags and the heckling begins, “KEVIN! WHERE ARE YOU KEVIN?” I’m psyched; this is going to be fun, 8 ultra running friends in the cold dark woods of Vermont. Who could ask for a better Friday night?

10:07, we’re off, 7 minutes behind schedule, probably a record for us. Rik, Tim, Ray, Tom, John, Adam, Carl and myself. As we start heading up the first accent we find out that the snowmobile is so compacted that we don’t even need our snowshoes. I’m probably the happiest of the 8; after all, I had only been on snowshoes 3 times this year. The trail was actually in really good shape, the snowmobile tracks had done an amazing job leaving ridges on the trail to provide decent traction. Every once and while we’d find a nice glazed over ice patch that would send whoever found it 10’ back down the slope. There is general chatter about how undertrained and how nuts this is. Nothing negative though, it’s a battle, it’s what we all love, and it’s why we are all here. The Barkley 100 comes up. We find out Carl is already IN and is in serious training mode. Meanwhile Rik and I remain on the waiting list and as far as I can tell will be lucky to survive 1 lap. Before too long we find ourselves out onto a road and it’s squishy, but certainly run-able, so we’re able to jog for the first time of the night. The trail is mysteriously familiar to me. I’ve got such a terrible memory for so many things, but once I’m back out on a trail that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years it all flows back. Oh yeah, this is where the bar was, there is a cemetery up ahead. Oh yeah, this is where I had the bathroom break behind this old oak. I put the idiot in idiot savant.

The 2007 course from above looks like a lolly-pop, we've completed the stick and now we’re about to start our loop around the sucker. It’s a long sweeping snowmobile trail that contained some nice run-able hard packed snow sections, some 2-3” deep typical Vermont springtime mud, and areas of about 50’ of sheer glare ice where you’d try to stop but be left at the mercy of inertia. I settle into a good pace along with my dad and we plug on through the darkness. Before we know it we see the 6 other lights head of us milling around in a circle and realize we’re at the truck. “Alright, half way, to half way, to half way,” I say. Rik had been telling us all of how he’s going to have Wine and Cheese at this stop but we all opted out of it. As much as that sounds like fun, with the task that we have lined up ahead of us it’s just unreasonable. It’s around midnight, we’ve all been up for 18+ hours and fatigue is setting in. I refill my water bottles, pound a boost, and half of a Starbucks Mocha-chino thing. I give pop the other half in hopes that it’ll lift his spirits. We load our bags back into the truck and slowly start the long climb back up to the top. It’s about a 20-30 minute “ultra-hike” up the muddy road. The weather is per typical Vermont night. Warm breezes followed by jet blasts of cold air depending on how the wind was swirling in the valley. One by one we all end up turning off our headlights and marching at our own paces up the hill lighted only by the now fully exposed moon. I see the first start of the night, and I wish for a safe journey.

Rik’s starting to fall a bit behind as he and I settle in side by side in our standard Robert Ultra shuffle. While he’s hacking up a lung, I find out that he’s been fighting a cold. Add in his long work days, tax season, and his fire/rescue duties I can sense the gas tank is running low. He tells me to go on ahead but I run with him, but I don’t care, I’ve got nothing to prove here.

The 6 lights ahead of us bob out of site and we get into a rhythm of trotting/sliding down the front side of Joe’s back to the cars.

First loop, 3 hours +/-

Rik is really feeling under the weather and he decides he’s going to take the road back to his truck. Tim volunteers to go with him, which makes me happy as I was worried about his condition and his lack of sleep. A pedestrian wandering down winding route 100 at 1am on a Friday night would leave anyone feeling uneasy.

The 6 of us take back off up Joe’s, for some reason I’m still feeling amazing. Could be the Starbucks Espresso shot I just pounded and I march up ahead of the rest. Tom settled in with me and we pulled away from the other 4 on our second climb up Joe’s. Tom talks about his plans to do the death race here in Pittsfield in June and how he’s fresh off of a marathon two weeks ago and how he’s still in recovery mode. I find out his a student at Norwich and his training is impeccable and I jokingly say to him “I have no business being at this pace with you.” But before I can let off the gas and settle back into a nice comfortable pace Adam comes screeching by. The 3 of us hold up and pound down our GU gels while waiting for the other 3 to catch us before our second loop around the backside of the mtn.

The only notable this go around was as we made our way through the muddy quarry the moon was in full display in front of us. I always forget how spectacular the moon is. You normally only see it in slivers and so far away. But when it’s close to the horizon and in this shade of orange you can’t turn away. It’s magnetizing. At the bottom of the hill we meet back up with Rik and Tim who had made it to the truck safely and were finally thawing out. We grab what supplies we think we might need before we get back to our cars and bid them farewell.

I settle in with Carl “Barkley Slumdog” Asker for a bit and get a window into his training methods for Barkley. I wish I had anything to contribute, he’s running laps on a track with extra weight and the only thing I’m doing to prepare for this thing is drink and hope I miss the cut off again.

The group of us head back down the front side of Joe’s for the last half of this 50+ mile journey. I find myself actually leading the pack a couple of times. Everyone seems to be very cautious of the ice. Meanwhile I run towards it and slide down it in skiing fashion. On the last really long stretch I get a good 40’ slide with one leg tucked under me in true professional baseball slide fashion. While it looked cool and was safer that way, I got soaked something fierce. Oh well, I figured, I was only 10 minute to the car and the warmth of a new pair of clothes.

We arrive back at the cars around 4:47AM. I’m pumped, THRILLED even, knowing that I’m about to get an hour or two worth of sleep before trying to go further 2x as far as I ever had gone on snowshoes.

WE all load into our cars are drive over to Aimee farm where we all park and make ourselves as comfy as possible for our short nap.

26.2 miles – 6:44

Run 2 (The Day Marathon)

Even though I had tossed a turned a few times and never got any good sleep I’m abruptly awakened by a diesel truck blasting through the muddy parking lot behind me at 7:45. He swings open his door with The Who blaring. I fall out of my passenger seat and start putting on my now only damp running gear and walk towards the barn to pick up my number. Everyone else appears to be awake, and moving around smoothly, I’m feeling it already, and I wonder what today will bring.

It’s nice to be back doing Ultra’s in VT. I get to see all of my old running buddies again that I don’t see in the off season. Delbac, Lecharitte, and Myers swap stories about how our off season has gone and how they are feeling for today. They tell me they had already spoken to John and then asked me what the hell I was thinking trying to do this stunt. Obviously they know me better then I know me, probably from years of running with my father and I. I simply can only reply with, well I figured what the hell do I have to lose? It’s not like I REALLY NEED another hammer.

I drink another Starbucks Espresso Shot, munch down a bagel, grab what I think I might need in my drop bag and walk over to the start. Lap 1, we’re off, I settle in on pace with John and Adam. Tom is long gone with his friends and Ray and Carl settle in at their pace a bit behind us. I’m feeling pretty good surprising now, the stiffness from the cold and the night before seem to be long gone. Or perhaps it was the adrenaline from the start of the official race. I was running with, and then ahead at times, of John who I knew was much more qualified to pull of this kind of a stunt. The trail descended down from Aimee farm towards the snowmobile bridge river crossing. Once over the bridge you’d make a big loop up and over Joe’s Mtn. The “hike,” I say hike because I can’t imagine anyone running, up Joe’s I broke down into 3 parts. The first section seemed like endless switchbacks to get out of the river valley. Some quick little switchbacks where you could see people 3-4 minutes ahead of you on the trail and others line swooping switchbacks where if someone was right in front of you they’d be long gone now. The second section consisted of what seemed like a climb to almost the summit before taking a hard left where you’d decent back down to the same elevation where you started. After marching up a bit of the snowmobile trail we ran on the night before we again were confronted with a long climb to the top of Joe’s, this time with no switchbacks or breaks, just pure calve screaming climbing. The snow is still nice and crunchy from the cold the night before and I feel like I’m moving along at a good pace. I refuel at the top and enjoy the dark cool evergreen trail known as the labyrinth. One last little uphill and you are on a wild “ski-shoeing” ride down the front side of Joe’s. I dubbed the term Ski-shoeing for when you’d be running downhill with your snowshoes but find that you’d end up sliding more each step then you would anything else. It was a battle just trying to keep your balance but I was having a ball. The sun was shining; it was still early in the day. Feelings were very positive at this point. I arrived back at Aimee farm just ahead of john and just behind Adam and the VT crew.

I grabbed some more drink powder and topped off my bottles before grabbing two gels and a Starbuck's mocha drink to power down on the square ¼ mile jog around the field before disappearing back into the woods. On our way back onto the second lap we are greeted with Carl and Ray on their 1st trip back. They are doing well, all smiles and appear to be having a grand ol’ time. On the next trip up Joes Adam was now long gone and John put the hammer down. I was sweating bullets and had to let up. I knew that if I was to have anything in the tank to go around 2 more times after this I’d have to conserve now. After watching he disappears on the switchbacks it was a lonely climb. I didn’t see any other runners until I caught Dan restocking at the summit aid station. I was thrilled to have seen someone finally. I was in my mid race lull and I had to break through it. I got in and out of the aid as quickly as possible knowing that running back towards the finish line with someone hot on my heels could be just the kick in the pants I needed. When I get back to the snowmobile bridge I see Lecharitte and Delbac, he makes the comment “John said you were slow as a slug!” I laughed and told him we’ll see about that. I see Adam leaving the Aimee Farm and he said he doesn’t have a lot of run left in him, and that John is just ahead of me.

That’s just the news I needed. I pound down two more GU’s and get out of there as quickly as I can. On the 3rd climb up Joe’s I took a page out of what I saw my father do here at the Peak 50 miler last June. I spot a nice dead branch and break it down to perfect walking stick hike. I found that this doubles my hiking/climbing speed. Even with my now doubled speed, Tom (our Ringer) blows past me as if I am standing still. He’s on lap 4 and looks like he’s on his first, while I’m still struggling up lap 3. I catch John in no time, in fact, pass him and see Adam leaving the station at the top. I hand over my hiking stick and proclaim to the kid tending the fire, “here’s a good poker stick.” They both exclaim, “So this is your last loop then?” “I wish, I’ve got another one, but if I carry that thing down the backside of this thing I’ll kill myself.” I know that John’s a stronger runner on the decent so I left him as far back as I could on the incline expecting him to rip past me on the backside of the loop. He comes darn close but I manage to hang onto a 1-2 turn lead coming back into the Barn.

I notice that I’ve now caught Adam who’s gone to his car to get a headlamp expecting to be out after dark. I assure him that it’s just not possible that it’ll take us that long, but in the back of my mind I wonder. I slam down a 16oz red bull and call back across the field to John, “YOU GOT THIS JOHN, YOU GOT THIS.” To which he responded with the finger, as was expected. John jogs up to us as we cross the snowmobile for the second to last time and the 3 of us head up Joe’s for one last grueling climb. I find myself another hiking stick and take off at a pretty comfortable pace. My feet are soaked, cold, and with each step squish in my shoes. I know I have to keep moving at a quick pace or they’ll freeze. Even though the 3 of us are together there isn’t much speaking, just huffing and puffing. Adam who’s been a machine all weekend must have been ready to be done. He was out of site of John and I while we were on the first section. We joked about how someone who said he, “had no run left in him,” certainly had plenty of hike left. John was starting to slow down now, stop even at times, I would wait up for him a turn or two ahead and holler back some words of encouragement hoping that he’d catch up. I was starting to freeze. When we got to the top we found that the station had been abandoned, there wasn’t much left other than an over sized Campbell’s soup can that I assumed had been used as a scoop, and some scraps. I took the over sized can and scooped out some of the now cooling ash filed soup and drank it right down hoping the warmth would bring my body temp back up. When John marched into the aid station it had started to rain. He joked about how much Adam was probably cursing him right now. Luckily for us as we started to descend into the labyrinth the rain let up. John howled in pain for the first time really letting me know how bad it was. If I had realized how crippling was I would have offered him some Advil sooner. He told me to go ahead, but I knew I was going to finish this thing either way at this point, and the least I could do was keep a friend company on his painful final stretch to the finish line.

On our final few turns I made the comment to John that when I accepted this challenge to do 50+ miles in the snow I forgot about rugged the landscape around Pittsfield was. And how it was much like a wet cereal bowl, up on all sides and nearly impossible to get out of. We were treated to a warm glow of a sunset as we approached the snowmobile bridge for the last time. A couple had walked up the trail a bit and asked if we had seen another runner. The middle aged woman made the comment “At least you’re having fun right?” To which I looked back and I saw John give this woman a look that could have killed. I turned back forward and couldn’t contain my laughter. “John I thought you were going to swear in that lady’s face!”

Final stretch, we can see the smoke rising from the bonfire at the finish line. We wonder how far ahead of us Adam was. Next thing we know we see Ray trucking up behind us and then past us. He said he was cold, I don’t blame him, I know I was freezing myself. I guess he had left Carl at the top because he was just too cold going at Carl’s pace. John and I make the final two switchback turns talking about how we were able to do this when both of us were unsure if it was even possible. In the last 50 feet the 4 remaining people at the finish line cheer for us like we’re 1 and 2 at a record breaking 5k pace. I laugh, as if this is a race, but trot in just to make them happy.

We made it, Jason grabs us our hammers as John, Ray and I all shake hands and talk about how crazy this journey has been. Adam comes back across the parking lot all bundled up in his jacket, the crazy SOB had finished 20 minutes ahead of us. It’s cold and getting dark, we all agree to get together for the next crazy stunt John has planned for us and part ways.

26.2 miles –8:44:12.3

I treated myself on the way home to 4 Wendy’s sandwiches and a 24oz Long Trail Double Bag. I’m a glutton I know, but anything to get the taste of Boost and Go out of my mouth was welcomed. It was my first real food in over 24 hours. All I can say is I’m still riding the high from the race. I was so apprehensive going into this thing with minimal mileage on my feet. Never mind that the previous 2 years at this event I had shown up expecting to run the full marathon only to drop after 13.1 and go home a beaten man. This time, 5 fellow runners and I put it all on the table, not once, but twice in 24 hours and all left with our heads held high, and with another hammer in our collection. I figure a few more years and we should be able to start our own framing business!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Wild Rover Series

Wild Rover 1- JP McBride’s 3 Miler – Feb 22nd 2009

We arrive in Haverhill per Loni-time (i.e. WAY to early in my opinion) and find a prime parking spot close to the bar. The morning was sunny back in NH, but here in MA there were rumors of a noontime snow squall. There had even been some chatter about delaying the race all together. It made me laugh seeing the emails darting around from the race director. I could only imagine the chaos some people were stirring up.

As we grab our shirts and D-Tag chips I run into one of the bartenders who I play hockey with on Tuesdays. He tells me I’m nuts for running 3 miles, if only he knew what I did on some of the other weekends. He mentions the Chili and Beef stew that we’ll be treated too at the finish is secular and that was all I needed for incentive to knock out this 3 miler as fast as possible.

As the race start drew near Loni’s nerves started getting the best of her. This was her first official race since she finished the VT50. I try to settle her nerves and remind her that I ran 20 miles the night before with John out in Dover and I was in no better shape to suffer through this than she was. We dawn our Team Robert Shirts for the first time of 09 and join the crowd at the starting line. Just as the RD starts his speech it starts to rain/snow. This is great, perfect suffering weather. I smile with glee while telling Loni we’re going to knock this out sub 30 minutes. Loni on the other hand, zipped her jacket up closer to her neck and I believe told me I was “f-ing nuts.”

We knock out the first mile in 11 minutes, not too shabby with a blustering rainy head wind. We make of the first big turns and start back down the ¼ mile hill we had just climbed.
“How are you feeling Loni?” I gesture over my shoulder, and I’m replied with a simple “hanging on,” between puffs. 2 mile mark at 22:10, I’m happy with this, Loni might not be the speediest of my running companions, but she’s certainly consistent. We cross back over the river and are treated with a ½ mile jaunt down Main Street. I can tell we are reeling people in that had used too much gas on the hill. One woman yells at another guy saying he should “drag her in.” I try to offer her words of encouragement but I forgot I’m in Massachusetts AND at a road race, and I get the standard “who the f are you and why are you talking to me” look. Oh well, screw you lady.

On the final turn I’ve discovered that the police have decided to open one lane of traffic in front of the finish line. Ordinarily not a bad thing, here in idiots-ville Ma, not the best plan, because they didn’t make it one way, they just let cars back up head on, and then swerve over into the lane that the runners were finishing with. I ended up running between cars (on the double yellow) on the last dash to the finish while Loni squeezed through between traffic and the parked cars on the right. What a joke. We crossed the finish line in an impressive 32 minutes and enjoyed 3-4 bowls of well deserved chili.

Total Time: 31:23

Wild Rover 2 - The Claddah 4 Miler – March 1st, 2009

We wake up two 2-3 inches of snow on the ground and more blowing in the wind. Its cold, I’m hung-over something fierce. I’m not looking forward to this race. Dustin cooks the 3 of us up some sausage and scrambled eggs. While not the best pre-race breakfast, it was the perfect hangover cure. I left Loni in charge of directions, I missed this race last year due to the flu and I was looking forward to seeing a new course.

When we arrive in Lawrence Loni seems bewildered about finding a place to park. I told her she was in charge of finding a spot and telling me where to pull over. Meanwhile I was busy trying to NOT run over idiot people walking in the middle of the street as if they’d never understood the concept of crosswalks or sidewalks.

We grab our numbers from the much unorganized and very crowded Claddah. Loni, Chris, and Dustin had great things to say about this race last year and the pre-post celebrations, so far, I’m unimpressed.

We jog back to the car with about 10 minutes to start. Loni informs me that she doesn’t have gloves or a hat for the race. I spin out in typical josh over-reacting fashion, but turn over my gloves and my hat and try to jump around to stay warm. I grab an extra pair of Darn Tough socks out of my trusty binto bag and use them as my gloves. I feel like a tool, I’ve got nice shoes, tights, a custom shirt, and dirty beat up socks on my hands. Sigh, oh well, we walk to the start where everyone is in the middle of their pre race rituals, some stretching, some talking about how cold it was, some doing sprints back and forth. I do what I always do, find a spot in the back of the crowd and quietly people watch.

The wind is howling between these old brick buildings. The gun pops and the crowd leaches forward. It’s a very slow start as people funnel between the parked cars, I tell Loni we better pick up the pace, and it feels like we’re doing 14+ minute miles! Main Street fades away after a mile and the pack spreads out a bit. Some folks are chatting; others are nervously looking at their watches. So far it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of joy at this race compared to the others in this series, perhaps it was the weather. As we pass an apartment complex about a mile and a half in there are 3-4 kids in a big bay window, jumping up and down and waving at us. I smile and wave back and then look over my shoulder at Loni whose head is down and appears to be focused at the task at hand. I try to say encouraging words to her, but they seem to fall on deaf ears. The snow underfoot making the pavement not seem as brutal as it does in other races. Everyone has told me about “the hill” at this race, it’s a short little thing, maybe 100 yards max. I walk it in typical ultra runner fashion and still end up passing 4-5 people.

Loni catches up to me by the top of the hill and I welcome her with more warm words of encouragement. This is after all, her longest run since the VT50k back in September.

One of the spectators yells at us, “It’s all downhill from here.” He wasn’t kidding. It was a gradual two miles decline to the finish. We crossed the finish line, grabbed our metals, a couple of bottles of water, and as my dad would say, ‘got the heck out of dodge.”

Total Time: 44:11

Wild Rover 3 – Hynes 5 Miler - March 8th, 2009

It was an amazing sunny spring day. After getting my first good night’s sleep in a couple of days I felt as fresh as a daisy, or rather, as fresh as you could after completing 53 miles on the snow over the previous 36 hours. The drive down to Lowell was pleasantly uneventful; Loni had apparently got lost on the trip down to this race last year. Well the 2 hour drive didn’t do me any favors. As I got out of the car I could feel the exhausted muscles saying to me “are you nuts!?” I jokingly said to Loni, I wonder what these people think of me as I hobbled towards the school. We grab our numbers, shirts and get to see some of the costumes people have dressed up in. Anywhere from the tacky, “Wicked Irish” shirts, to a fine looking babe in a full Irish beer girl outfit down to the leggings.

As we make our way to the starting line I hear the race director going over the standard pre-race speech. Something stood out to me though, he said “Prizes will be based on gun time, but no need to get to the front because your time is chip based.” It was one of the stupidest things I’d ever heard at a race. How can you say two different things in the same sentence in a race that’s been around for 16 years? I laughed and told Loni I hope there is a fight at the end because someone gets a better chip time and gets screwed.

We knock out the first mile at an 11 min pace. I tell Loni she needs to start going faster and I shouldn’t be ahead of her after the weekend I’d had up to this point. One of the beauty things of this race is it starts going up, and it ends going up. No mercy and you get warmed up pretty quick. So by a mile and a half we start stripping layers. Loni does and tricky removal of her under-armor without taking off her shirt. Impressive in itself, doing it without missing a step on our now 10 min/mile pace even better.

3 miles becomes 4 and I’m feeling amazing, the stiffness has left my legs and I’m calling over my shoulder for Loni to catch me. As we make one of our last few turns we settle in behind a woman with the crazies hinnies I had ever seen. She had the calves and upper body of a woman that should weight 110lbs tops, but her rump was straight off a 2 biller.

Good for her for being out here at least.

We hit 4 miles well ahead of target and I tell Loni we can destroy her PR from last year if she can keep it up. As we real in another 10+ runners in the last mile I tell Loni to pick it up. It stinks, I’m kind of a bubbly runner and I like to share stories and talk while on these things. Loni however is very introverted and doesn’t speak much, nor give me any idea of how she’s feeling. It makes her very hard to share any kind of mileage with, but I suppose at these short runs you’re supposed to be working you butt off. Me, well I’m kind of a hack, I look at these races as just training jogs with friends and I try to help them set PRs.

The highlight of the run was as we crossed the finish line and got our metals a spectator yelled “nice job Team Robert.” We drank our 2 free Coors lights proudly in the sunny parking lot and I smiled knowing what I had just accomplished in two days, would be more than many people could or would ever do in a lifetime.

Total Time: 52:21.7

Overall Review:
Last year I ran this race series strictly for myself. I wanted to run hard and knock out some good times. This year I shared each race with Loni, and even with the personal frustrations I had with having to stay in a low gear, I’m proud to have been able to share her PRs (on these 3 courses, and personal distances). I’m also pumped to be able to complete the series metal after missing out last year.

My ability to finish the first race after knocking 20 miles out during the night run just hours prior along with my ability to plod through the 5 miler after completing 52.4 in VT the day before has left me feeling strong and confidant for my upcoming first attempt at a road marathon. My training hasn’t certainly been up to where it should be, but the running gods might just shine upon me after all.