I don’t know if this was the former “Shore Park 5k” or just the same setup/course, time of year, or what, but in re-reading that write up there are more than a few parallels – starting with the late registration.
I was trying to decide what to do for a run today, and the RD gave a presentation with a bib giveaway at Sneakerama Thursday evening so I decided to go down and run this. The time of day worked out well so it fit in with my busy lifestyle. <<eye roll emoji here>> The day started off with a slice of cold pizza, a sausage & French toast breakfast sandwich and a large coffee, so why not race a 5k?
This was my fifth marathon. A distance is swore I would never – NEVER – do. Where the Half Marathon is a challenging distance, but still doable, the full marathon is straight pain cave nonsense. The elite runners – the folks who have sponsorships to do this stuff – do this seemingly at will. Sure, they’re training, but it’s also their job. For Joe Average, this stuff is hard work.
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.
Back in 2019 or so, when I was fresh off my Baystate Marathon personal best, my friend Eric suggested that I should run this marathon. Mostly downhill, beautiful scenery, relatively inexpensive and small. There was a lot to like about this. “Sure. Why not?” and so I pried open my wallet and registered.
The Woodland Trail Series is billed as 3 5-mile races. The August race historically starts 30-minutes early to accommodate the series awards ceremony and the potentially waning daylight, etc. This year, the third race was also 2-miles shorter. Not sure why, but for a race that costs $6 and which this year donated roughly $500 to the local food bank I won’t complain. Besides, it was 91-degrees at the start time (6PM) and according to Strava, it felt like 103, so it’s entirely likely 5-miles may have in fact killed me.
It’s the end of July and this is recap number 6 for the year. Significantly below that which I have come to expect, and yet this race eclipses my total for 2020’s race (and everything else) COVID-shortened activity year. That said in the 5 races I did last year, the distance covered was 66.7 miles. If we include the unofficial “Bill’s Fat Ass Challenge” at the end of the year as race 6, we’d be talking about 98.7 miles.
As I sat down to write this, I realized I hadn’t read my last write up for this race when it was last held in person in 2019. I was surprised to read that I had essentially the same issues at the same points – I mean, today I didn’t have the foresight to use the porta-potty before the race and paid for that starting about mile 3.5, and my shoelace didn’t come undone – and ran essentially the same race, despite the fact that it was roughly 20-degrees cooler today than then. So, all-in-all, despite running today 27-seconds faster, I’d say I had the better race then.
It’s been a while since I ran a 5k – looks like it’s been since December 2019 since I actually raced one. This was the race that started me toward believing I could become a better runner – faster, do longer distances, more consistent. The club that runs the race –Central Mass Striders – has become important to me as a support system for both running and lasting personal friendships, but also giving back, so since the return of racing in Massachusetts I’ve been volunteering at this race while we work out the kinks on a new course and getting people back into the swing of things.
This week with the July 4 holiday on Sunday, meaning a long weekend for a lot of folks and the generally crummy weather, I figured there wouldn’t be too many people out running this race (I was correct) and with some encouragement that we could get some course monitors, but only if I ran the race, it was an easy decision to make.
Where in the before times the course was around the neighborhoods surrounding Worcester State University and Tatnuck Square in Worcester, and since the college is still not allowing outside events, the club partnered with a fitness club, Worcester Fitness, in another part of the city, to use the course the fitness club had typically used and to use their facilities for registration and the like.
It’s a reasonably familiar 5k route in Worcester, around Indian Lake. Worcester Fitness uses it for their runs, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, and the Greendale YMCA and Bancroft School used to run the Shore Park 5k using it but starting on the other side of the lake.
The first week we ran the race – June 5 – we had 34 participants. 31 the following week. 26 the next two weeks. The month of June gifted us with some beautiful Saturday weather. Today, July was kinder in terms of temperature, but the happenstance of the calendar noted earlier and the rain gave us 15 runners.
I ran a pretty good race today. I didn’t feel great, but I knew I was running pretty quickly, keeping up with the eventual winner for roughly half of the first mile and keeping him within shooting distance for probably 3.5k. I started off in first or second and kept that place for the entirety of the race and I got to High-5 a pair of very enthusiastic course monitors as I ran by which lifted my spirits.
Just as my watch clicked off mile 2, my heart rate was skyrocketing – I haven’t pushed that hard in a long time and it caught up with me – so I actually walked for a short bit while I brought it down. Short races are much different in terms of pacing and I’ve clearly not practiced running hard and short.
I finished with some of the best mile splits I think I’ve had in a very long time, if not ever, and came in second – which has NEVER happened. I’ve never even sniffed second place in any race. This was a top-3 5k effort for me. The dirty little secret here is that it’s probably a Personal Best, given the Top 2 are times earned at Canal Diggers races, widely known in the area as something shorter than 5k. But, it is what it is.
I’m only about a month behind with this recap, so I’m likely leaving a bunch of details out. It turns out that it’s a little hard to keep all the balls in the air when there are a hundred balls in the air, and they’re made of lead, and the clown in the corner of the room is throwing water balloons at you.
BUT a race is a race. This was the second of two that are on my calendar that wasn’t deferred from last year.
Unlike a lot of trail races, this one was really well marked – there was never a question as to where a runner needed to go. There were appropriate aid-stations every 4 miles or so.
About 5k into the race, there’s a really technical “killer hill” that accounts for most of the elevation gain of the event. Basically straight up, over boulders and the like. Otherwise, the trail itself – although there is a healthy sample of single track trail – isn’t terribly technical. I made the strategic error of wearing my Salomon Speedcross shoes thinking it would be a lot more technical, which compromised some of the cushioning and comfort another choice would have provided. It’s not child’s play – rocks and roots and all kinds of potential ankle twisters are afoot – but it wasn’t highly technical. It was warm and that too slowed things down.
I had made a plan for 3 hours for completion. It took me 3.5 and I really thought I had blown it because I only saw a smattering of other runners near me since that killer hill and the ones I did were basically running away from me, but as it turned out I finished 57 of 133. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to be ashamed of either. My ultrasignup ranking essentially stayed the same and I finished right about where their projections would have put me.