The saga of the endless pandemic effects continues. The Black Cat is typically run in March as a training race for the Boston Marathon – with the 20-mile distance being a healthy part of a solid training plan. Well, as we’re aware the 2020 races just didn’t happen, so this got deferred to 2021. Which too didn’t happen on schedule.
Now the company that runs the Black Cat, also runs a half marathon called the “Wicked Half,” a race I ran in 2019…you know, in the “beforetimes.” So, incorporating the majority of both courses and combining the races made sense for 2021 and here we are.
There’s no easy way to say this. It was abominable. The Laborious Labor Day 10-miler is the Labor Day version of the same race a local club – the Highland City Striders – runs near Thanksgiving, the Tough Turkey Trot. It’s basically 8-miles of downhill, until it’s not for the last 2.
On this day, I ran the first 5-miles pretty well. Until I didn’t.
This is one of the situations where I feel like I could have, should have done better. It was a nice day, a familiar – albeit challenging – course. It was a bit of a wake up call for me. “You ran a marathon last weekend!” I heard that a few times, and I’m sure that was part of it, but honestly I know I hadn’t hydrated well. It was a train wreck that never should have happened.
Racing is definitely becoming less important to me than getting good training runs in. I made a calculated decision some time back that fewer, higher challenge races was where I wanted to go. As a result, my race totals have consistently dropped over the last few years while my aggregated miles per year have consistently increased.
So, the Old Fashioned Ten Miler is a race I’ve done three times now. The first time I did it, it was a part of the “bad ass combo,” a 5k race they tack on before hand, which can be a bit of a challenge – I mean, 5ks are meant to be balls out, and then to run a 10 miler after, that is a feat. BUT, I’m kind of out of the business of getting medals for completing a high-cost 5k, so I’ve not run that in some time.
When I did do it the first time, it was a personal best…my 10-miler time was crap, but the 5k got crushed.
This is a race through the streets and back roads of Foxborough, Massachusetts. If you’ve ever watched a Patriots game, you’ve seen the rotary near the town center, with the town name on a sign. The course runs by there, down past a school, behind Gillette Stadium’s private access road. It’s a nicely organized race, starting and finishing at Schneider Electric and the Foxboro Company. And because it’s sponsored by Ashworth Awards, there is some SWEET Swag for finishing.
I haven’t been feeling great about my running lately, some of which is because I’m still in winter hibernation I suppose, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The fact that I haven’t been racing much at all – my first and only other race on the year was New Years’ Day’s Freezer Five – so all those slow, plodding and high heart race runs led me to believe it could get ugly out there.
As it happened though, the weather was just shy of perfect – about 40 degrees Fahreneheit.
Despite my new Age Group, and despite my lack of confidence going into the race, it turned out to be my fastest 10-Mile time, with my overall pace beating out my then-PR pace 5k time three years ago. My ten mile pace was faster than my 5k. There’s even a youtube of the finish line – don’t blink, you may miss me finish! The funny part is that when last I ran this race in 2018, I finished just 2 places (both overall and in gender) behind where I finished this year. Except the field was much, much smaller.
The running club in a neighboring city – The Highland City Striders, which sounds like it could be one of those rival clubs in a redux of “West Side Story” with HCS playing the role of the Sharks and my club CMS playing the role of the Jets…or vice-versa, it doesn’t really matter – hosts a few races each year as does my club. They run the “Running with the Wolves” 10k, where I hit my 10k PR last year, and they run this 10-Miler along with a companion race, the “Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot” at Thanksgiving – it’s the same course, but rebranded for the time of year…and perhaps to allow for continued gratuitous alliteration.
The entry fee is 15 canned goods for donation to the local food pantry. So if getting 10-miles on the odometer early on the morning of Labor Day doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the going out of your way to help someone else in need may.
Either way it’s a good thing. I’ve run this two other times – both as the Tough 10-Mile Turkey Trot – and have been eaten up by the “Hosmer Hill” both times. As the race director Mark Vital – an old colleague back in the distant pass – announced at the first time I ran this course, “You may feel like you’re going to get a PR <personal record> as you hit Mile 7…forget it. You aren’t.”
As you come around Mile 7.5 or so, near the memorial beach, it comes into full view. The course is mostly downhill for the first 7 miles or so, but man when you hit 7.6, there it is. It may as well be Mt. Everest. And you run up, hit the crest…and look up. There’s still more to go. It’s ridiculous.
Even knowing that, I did the course again. I haven’t been running very long lately – I mean, I’ve been consistently getting 6, 7, 8 miles – sometimes 9 – but haven’t run long since the weekend I did the Kelley Half Marathon and the ultra trail race, and neither of which was a great time. With this being a long weekend, I took advantage of the situation and ran long on Saturday – 13 miles – followed by my longest run in a long time right after my longest run in a long time on Sunday – 20 miles. Today I wasn’t sure it wasn’t going to go sideways and be a complete train wreck, but I brought my canned goods and registered anyway. My legs felt rather stone-like, but a good number of my favorite people were there to run and since I’ve been commuting to work, I’ve not seen many of them so it was super important of me to be sure I connected with them.
As it happened, and perhaps because I don’t run too many 10-mile races, I came *THIS* close to a PR – foiled really only by the untied shoelace at mile 3. The 20 seconds or so there cost me just enough time, although I can point to more than a few points at which I could have made up time.
It was a good run today, and it gives me some confidence I was lacking heading into this month of racing.
Cameron: “I’m dying.” Ferris: “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do. “
My favorite descriptor for a negative situation is “Dumpster Fire.” I laugh every time, it’s just such a funny mental image comparing an event or happening to a flaming container of trash. Urban Dictionary contributor Guitarist1234 nails why I start this recap thus:
I knew upon registering it wasn’t going to be a stellar performance, given the race the day before was also going to be of some distance, but after having run that race, I knew how badly out of trail condition I was. I’ve never been a particularly good trail runner, but I’m at least generally competent, and that day I was marginally competent.
Sometime later, I knew it was going to be something substantially below “not a stellar performance” when I realized that I was also going to the “Awesome 80’s Prom” the evening before. So to recap: Trail Half Marathon, 80’s themed night out, 10-mile trail race.
So at the appointed time Sunday morning, I met my friends at the registration table, and picked up my bib. I had paid $12, I was going to run this race (despite having protested the evening before that I had only paid $12 so it’s not like I HAD to run this race…) I was moving on approximately 4-hours sleep, a can of Monster, and certainly had a head a little larger than usual with a decidedly greenish-hue to my complexion. Dumpster fire.
This course was shorter than the advertised 10-miles. My watch clocked in at roughly, but I have some questions about the watch’s trail accuracy there. Other folks seemed to come in at somewhere between 9.4 and 9.5. The half marathon the day before came in at 13.9, where others’ came in at about 13.4 so I know something’s hinky with the calibration there. BUT what I do know is that it is calibrated with itself, so I feel confident saying that on Saturday there was roughly 1200′ of elevation and Sunday – on a shorter course – there was about 1425′. My point here is that I felt like this was a harder course and it would seem to be backed up by that, despite my having spent the majority of this post discussing why I was such a… dumpster fire.
The race director was clear that this was the wettest he’d ever seen the course. Fantastic. And I can tell you for sure, it was wet. Muddy, at points it was almost a river race. It started on a car road heading up, and my friend Tom who had just said that he wasn’t in condition to race for 10-miles, took off like he had been shot out of a cannon as soon as the horn sounded. So I knew I was clearly out of my element.
I started off “okay” enough, but the wheels came off pretty quickly. My first couple of miles were respectable enough, but by mile 3 the wheels were completely off between my lack of proper preparation, and increasing elevation gain I was toast. From there, I varied between sub-optimal and poor performance wise. I did finally catch up with my friend Jen to come in ahead of her by about 30-seconds, but that was only because of a net elevation loss on that stretch.
For what it’s worth, Tom finished roughly a half hour ahead of me. Meaning he ran a trail race 10-miler with 1400′ of gain at slightly slower pace than my best 10-mile road races.
If yesterday’s race was a lark, today’s was really all business. I’ve been struggling with injury issues for a couple of months now – and haven’t been running as much or as well as I’d like, with the end result being my conditioning has really suffered. So it was important to me to get out there today and push hard, get it done, do well. My one goal on the day was not to PR (after my last couple of months, that is going to take some time to get my conditioning back), but to do better than last year.
I pushed hard – According to Garmin, my average heart rate was 89% of max with the highest being 94%. My Garmin data tells me the “Training Effect” of my run today was a “5.0,” classified as “Overreaching,” the description for which was:
“This activity was very demanding. While it can significantly improve your cardio-respiratory fitness, it can become harmful without enough recovery time and should be done sparingly.”
So, that’s a thing. I know I was huffing, and as I look through my pace data I can see where my heart rate was up there and where took a bit to walk it off: the two line up quite nicely. I also took a quick potty break somewhere in there as well that gave me a little bit of recovery time as well.
It was quite unpleasant, but it was exactly what I was striving for. I’d never run a pace under these circumstances alone, and its for that reason I love races – I push myself harder, beyond that which I would normally do with a casual group run or alone. And while I know my conditioning won’t just come back to where I was before the chrome started falling off the fenders, its efforts like this that will help me get there sooner than otherwise.
It wasn’t a great pace – although I did beat last year which pleased me. I recall thinking at the time last year how good a race I had run, and to now be able to best it (after having taken a 66-second porta-potty pit stop no less!) was a bit a redemption. I didn’t best it by much (about a minute) but the fact I did means a lot to me, especially after Horseneck where I was still dealing with a shin-splint caused by me working too hard to get through the piriformis strain.
So, it wasn’t the race I anticipated when I registered, but it was the race I wanted to have when I woke up today.
The course itself is beautiful. Stunning actually. The race organizers have done a really nice job of showcasing Newport’s scenery, and not just it’s natural scenery but also its real estate. I wanted to remember just one address so I could go back and look it up for giggles – which I did (despite my cardiac induced haze). According to Zillow the property value for this almost 46-acre, 7700 square foot home is roughly $20-Million more than my house, and when I say “roughly” its because it exceeds $20-Million. The “similar properties” section displays several homes for sale in Newport, none of which are less than $4.5-Million. So, it’s a nice neighborhood and a beautiful course.
While I won’t link the specific home I’m talking about, I will share a link to an animated recreation of my run on the course so you can get a really good idea of what the course was like.
As for results, this was my second fastest 10-mile race of eight. I just can’t help feeling like I was in much better condition and I let it slide BUT I will say it feels pretty good to know that even after having backslid, I’m historically in pretty decent shape.
Other 10 Mile Races Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2016: 1:30:26
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2017: 1:36:10.20
Black Cat, Salem MA 2017: 1:25:40.6
Mattapoisett (MA) 10 Miler 2017: 1:22:08 Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot, Marlboro MA 2017: 1:28:56
Old Fashioned 10 Miler, Foxborough MA 2018: 1:26:17.85