"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Breezy in Boston

I went to Boston to watch my mom run the city's marathon for the first time, so I decided to take in a 5k road race. Buoyed by a recharging 75 minute run Thursday in Falls Church with no set route and a pretty successful p-word run on Friday (10/10/10 at 6:00 (with a 5:45 first mile)/ 5:45/ 5:10), a long easy run with Melissa around the Mall Friday night and a short pre-race Saturday morning in a downpour, I was ready to go. My wallet was lighter after shelling out the $45.

I left my apartment at 9:50 to catch the metro to Greenbelt, where I took a bus to BWI, at which point I flew to Boston, where I took another bus to the subway. Almost six hours later, I shoved my way through a mob of people at the expo to get my bib, then I took a trip to Roxbury to have dinner with Pharaoh Hound Moira Davenport. I then went to Cambridge to crash at Dan Mazzocco's.

Dan was excited to show me the t-shirt I traded to him back in 2000 during high school. Our teams, Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon, were bitter rivals at the time, and it didn't help that my team was fairly insulated from others. Part of this came from the size of the team, and others in the area were smaller. Mt. Lebanon was also the strongest program in the south hills, and had been for years. Baldwin came together with a WPIAL-winning team very quickly and we had a full-scale struggle on our hands my senior year, in which we defended our unbeaten dual meet record but lost the championship to the Highlanders.
Plus, the close proximity of Brentwood, Baldwin, Bethel Park and South Park and their relatively smaller teams were conditions for those teams to have a much closer relationship. We mainly related to each other antagonistically, which I saw manifested in the Charlie VanGombos-Larry Quinn rivalry. Charlie took things pretty seriously, and Larry was a bit of a clown and, we thought, and ass. At the Tri-State Track Coaches' Association meet in the spring, I started talking with Bobby Toth and Dan on a whim, and found them to be agreeable fellas. Ryan Sheehan was also sociable, and the three of us traded our team's t-shirts. Scary Larry and Jeff "Hoag" Conroy were tougher to get to know, but now, I am more in touch with Quinn(who was running on Monday) than Charlie.
I ended up throwing one of the Baldwin shirts into a campfire and giving a photo of the engulfed shirt to Shawn Cavanaugh, who put it on his wall during his 2000 season racing Mazzocco for Pennsylvania cross country dominance.
The shirt is now threadbare, having been worn and washed for 11 years, but it still looks good. That classic gold on blue just seems right to me.

I got up at 6 and went to the race. It was raining and very windy. I felt alright during my warmup, but hardly sharp. I definitely felt like I had tried to pack too much into the previous afternoon. I started exactly the way I wanted to, coming through the first, uphill, mile in 5:05. The clock at the mark was five seconds fast, so I was worried, until I checked my watch. Then I slowed down in the second mile, which was stupid, because it was downhill. I just haven't been good at running downhills for several years. I came through the second mile in 5:10, and I realized the wind had been in our faces the entire race. I kept my eye on a Saucony rep named Dan I had met earlier, but I couldn't close the gap. I couldn't seem to will myself to run faster.

In the third mile, a Kenyan woman pulled up to me and I felt I could run faster with her, and we made up ground. She was exactly what I needed and it seemed like I was back on track. When we turned back onto Boylston, the wind no longer plagued us, and I was ready to just kick in like crazy. When I did, however, I started to see black spots on the bottoms of my eyes. I eased off until the disappeared, then I pushed again until they came back. I passed a group of five guys, but a few caught me again. I tried to stick with an NB Boston dude named Jeff, but he got away from me, as did the Kenyan woman, in the the last .1. Despite the clock edging up to the top of the 15s, I didn't push enough, and just kind of skipped across the line at 16:00, right behind three guys who re-passed me. I felt fine when the race was over, but couldn't understand why I couldn't push harder in mile two. I totally failed to take advantage of a downhill once again, and it boggled my mind that I ran slower for the second mile.

Less than an hour later, the wind was gone, the sky was clear, and I was wondering if the conditions I felt during the race were just my imagination. They weren't, but it didn't make me feel better. I didn't compete.

I had hoped to break into the top 10, but given that the top 10 guys all ran faster than 14:26, that hope was fleeting. The 5ks I have run in the last two weeks have each been the fastest and deepest fields of my life, and I have failed to capitalized on them.

I ran another three miles that afternoon in Sommerville, then my mom and cousin Lisa and I joined Watson, Hannay and the Sikoras for the BAA pasta dinner.

Watson, Hannay and Sherry, pictured here

Meanwhile, the Spiders ripped up the track at Mt. SAC on Thursday and Friday, with Benford running 13:55, Llano just barely missing breaking 14 with 14:00.01, Ryan Lee running an amazing 14:34 in his first collegiate 5k, York running 30:11, Amy and Nicol running 16:09 and 16:10 with Jill hitting 16:39. Really outstanding.

I stayed with Bain that night, and as he left for the race, he mentioned that Pilar's water had broken and JARRIN had left for DC after arriving less than eight hours before.
"At least he'll have some excitement today," I mumbled before falling back asleep.

A few hours later, I dropped off my bags at Shara's in Brookline near mile 24 and ran about eight miles of the course backwards. The wind, combined with the steep uphill for the first two miles, made me feel beaten down, but I still averaged 6:15s. I kept that up for almost eight miles, then turned around at the 16 mile mark and headed back, averaging easy 5:45s until the course closed to everyone at mile 21 when the wheelchair competitors came through. I got 15.5 in, total. After a delicious breakfast with Shara, I watched as the athletes I was there to see came through.
First up was Levi Grandt's sister Clara, running 2:29:54. Next was my Richmond teammate Seann Mulcahy, flying by on his way to a 2:33:24. Bain's 2:37:30 was next, Watson's 2:46:59, then Scott Koonce's in 2:53:09. Brian Quinn came through in 2:55:20, and I missed Hanny, who came through on his way to just over three hours. I was heading up the hill to a better spot when I saw Larry, slowing down and heading for the curb.

"Call Liz," he said. "Tell her I'm alright, but I hurt my calf."
Unfortunately, my phone had died, so calling his wife would take some doing. I ran into the Seven Eleven to get some change so I could use a pay phone, all the while repeating her number to myself to commit it to memory. Someone offered to let me use his cell phone, but when I dialed the number, I got some dude. Somewhere along the line I messed it up.
Mark Courtney came by, then Will and Elyse. I waited around for a while, and suddenly Joe came along with Lisa in tow.

Yep, that says "Joe's 26th Boston." I was getting weary from looking through the crowd for hours, and kept looking for the green top my mom was supposed to be wearing. All of a sudden I heard, "Charlie! Over here!" and there was my mom. Not wearing green.

I jogged a bit with her, but didn't want to leave my backpack with the relative strangers, with whom I had been sitting, with for too long.

After a crowded and slow trolley ride back downtown, I met mom and we traveled to the airport together. She ran 4:22:53, slower than her 4:16:16 debut in Pittsburgh two years before, but faster than last year' 4:30, also in Pittsburgh, despite training the least for this one. Most importantly, she had a really good time. She met another Pennsylvanian on the trip out to the start, and really had nothing bad to say about the race.

I've done this spectating trip for three years now and think I have had enough for a while. The race is too hard to watch, perchance I miss someone, and tourist is everywhere. The 5k is too expensive and I never put myself in a position to run well, with all that I do to make the trip worthwhile. I promised Pokey I would run Boston with him when he qualifies, but I hope that's a few years off. In spite of my reservations, however, I had a good time.

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