Monday, October 24, 2016

Race Report: Runner's World Classic 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon

Oooooh.... pretty bling!
After such a thrilling weekend celebrating my milestone 50th state, I had a dilemma and needed to figure out to do with the rest of that month.  Knowing I'd be embarking on more marathons, and ultimately, the crazy idea of doing the San Francisco Ultramarathon at the end of July, I tacked on the Runner's World Classic, a brand new race series held over the third weekend of July.  Back in June 2014, Runner's World partnered with Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises (Dave has been the race director of the Boston Marathon since 1988) to put on the inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival, a mostly out-and-back course from the campus of Boston College that went out along Commonwealth Avenue, through the town of Newton, and made its way around Brae Burn Country Club.  It was named after the notorious 0.4 mile hill that came after the 20 mile mark of the Boston Marathon, coming at a point in the marathon where muscle glycogen stores were most likely to be depleted, aka "hitting the wall."  That race, however, did not return in 2015, rumored to have been blocked by the city of Newton and the residents who lived along the course. In March of the following year, Runner's World announced that they and DMSE were partnering up for another race, this time to be held in North Andover, Massachusetts.  McGillivray was able to bring his alma mater, Merrimack College, on board to host the race, and they had secured permits to put on a two-day event in July through the towns of North Andover and Andover.

I jumped onto the challenge of this race weekend, knowing that I'd be racking up 22.4 race miles after running the 5k and 10k on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday, in addition to picking up lots of bling, as challenges were given to runners who ran the two Saturday races (the "Five and Dime") and if they added on the Sunday half, they'd get an additional "Hat Trick" medal.

With summer hours in full swing, I left the office at 2, and got myself to the Megabus pickup spot near the Javits Center for my 3pm bus, which arrived in Boston at 7:45. After arriving, I had to make my way via the T from South Station to Back Bay Station, and take the commuter train up to Andover.  Only problem was that it was a VERY tight connection. I hauled ass to get to Back Bay, only realizing upon getting there that I didn't have to worry - the commuter train was about 20 minutes delayed.  Arriving close to 9pm, I was picked up by my Airbnb host for the weekend, who was kind enough to pick me up at the train station.  We even drove out to figure out the best way for me to get to campus in the morning, as I was going to be walking over there; ultimately, we found that there was a small path cut through the woods to a large parking lot.  It was accessible from a cul-de-sac about a ten minute walk away from their home that cut down the overall walking time to campus by fifteen minutes.  The couple who hosted me, Ned and Betsy, were super kind, and provided me accommodations in their quaint and historic 1850's farmhouse.  I got a good night's sleep and was up early the next morning to head to campus to pick up my bib for the weekend and get ready for the first race of the day.

Percival, the most skittish corgi I've ever met.  But I found a Massachusetts corgi!
It's quite warm this morning, but Pam is here!
9.3 miles in this heat will be quite a test!
I got up around 5:45 and headed out the door around 6:15 to walk over to the campus via my shortcut, and on the way there ran into a lady giving a skittish little Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Percival his morning walk.  Skittish is an understatement - this dog was so scared of people, lol!  But it was the mark of a good race - I found a Massachusetts corgi!  I headed to the campus through the path in the woods, and ended up in the parking lot, and as I walk toward the start village, guess who I run into, but my friend Pam from New Hampshire!  I had bugged her for weeks about joining me and doing this race, but she wasn't sure because her husband (fellow runner Steve) had a gig with his band the previous night.  I guess the enabling was a success, because she came in for both races that day, tempted by the medal haul she'd bring in.  The half was still a big maybe for her, but it was still up for consideration. Besides, her friends Ashley and Tom, who she introduced to me that weekend, were there already, so why not?

Running by Phillips Academy
during the 10k. It's effing
hot out here.
At 7am, 863 runners were off to do the easy 3.1 mile loop that started in campus on the corner of Walsh Way and Flaherty Road, in front of one of Merrimack College's dormitories. We headed northeast on Walsh Way past the Rogers Center for the Arts, and made our way through the Parking Lot in front of Sullivan Hall, onto Medina Drive and past the Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher, the nearly 70 year old spiritual center of the Merrimack College community.  The route continued through more parking lots along Burke Road, and then emerged on the western edge of the campus, taking the curved path of Rockrdige Road toward Foxhill Road and onto Elm Street, which had a lane of traffic closed off for the race, and where we hit our first mile marker.  We turned right onto Washington Avenue, and then left onto Summer Street, where we'd travel on a slight uphill for 3/4 of a mile to Highland Road.  We turned left here, as the road turned into Hillside Road, and then emerged onto the Andover Bypass Street, which we'd follow northward for a short distance.  We re-entered campus at Alcott Way, and the followed the treelined Cullen Avenue back toward Walsh Way, all the way to the finish line.  I ran alongside Pam for the entire race, helping to pace her to one of her faster 5k finishes.  As we made the final turn back onto Walsh Way with only .05 miles to go, I decided to sprint ahead, and I finished in 33:36, with Pam only 9 seconds behind me.  She joked that I "tried to kill her," but I thought I only helped her a bit with some speedwork. ;)

I am not having it. This heat and humidity sucks.
Lots of pretty tree lined
streets to run through, though!
After a little bit of rest (and cool down in the college's gymnasium), the 10K started with 752 runners at 8:30.  Following a similar route as the 5K, the 10K started about 0.1 miles further back on Walsh Way, circling its way around campus.  Instead of cutting left onto Washington Avenue, we continued on Elm to Summer Street, and then turned left, taking it for about a 1/2 mile to Upland Road, and then cutting right onto Chestnut Street, just opposite of where my Airbnb was situated.  We then took Chestnut Street on a very slight downhill to Bartlet Street and the mile 3 marker.  Here, the route took itself on a 115' uphill climb over the next 3/4 mile, passing by Doherty Middle School. We emerged onto Main Street at around the 3.5 mile mark, and continued on the uphill climb as we passed by the expansive 500-acre campus of Phillips Academy, a highly selective, co-ed prep school, also known as the oldest incorporated high school in the U.S., established during the Revolutionary War - and the high school that both Presidents Bush 41 and 43 graduated from, in 1942 and 1964, respectively. We turned left onto Salem Street, where the elevation slightly went downhill and then uphill again, passed mile 4, then turned left once more onto Woodland Road.  Woodland Road, a quite appropriate name for the area, went northward where we joined back up to Highland Road, and then followed Highland Road back up to Hillside Road, where the course ended the same way as the 5k.

5k an 10k complete. Five and Dime challenge done. Tomorrow... The half, and the completion of the Hat Trick!
Team Hoyt's Dick Hoyt w/ Elijah, and
Boston Marathon bombing survivor
Adrianne Haslet at the Celebrity Mile!
After the 10K, I stuck around campus, and chowed down on some much needed food in the beer garden, which included their complimentary beer and hot dog.  I stuck around for the Celebrity Mile at 11am, a really amazing part of the weekend that I will definitely remember.  Set up as a two-loop course through the small Merrimack campus, the Celebrity Mile included such luminaries as Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon Winner and former Runner's World Editor-in-Chief; Bart Yasso, Runner's World "Chief Running Officer;" Billy Evans, Boston Police Commissioner; Bill Squires, coach to Greater Boston Track Club and numerous Olympians; David Willey, current Runner's World Editor-in-Chief; Geoff Smith, two-time Boston Marathon winner; as well as Boston Marathon bombing survivors Jeff Bauman and Adrianne Haslet.

With Bart Yasso! I'm pretty sure I have like 3 or 4 of these "ussies" with him now.

Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo
At the 2013 Boston Marathon, Jeff Bauman was spectating when the first bomb went off at his feet as he awaited his girlfriend's finish. Standing nearby was Carlos Arredondo, who immediately sprinted into action after the bombs went off and he can be seen in a series of photos and videos of the aftermath pulling debris and fencing away from the bloody victims, clearing the way for emergency personnel to tend to their wounds. He saw Jeff Bauman, missing both of his legs and losing blood rapidly, and he knew Jeff needed help the most. Arredondo lifted Bauman and put him into a wheelchair, pushing him to the nearest medical tent.  At the Runner's World Classic, the Celebrity Mile would mark Bauman's first road race appearance since the bombing. Arredondo had recently broken his leg and was wheelchair-bound; in a stunning turn of events, it was Bauman who pushed him for the mile, with nearly a hundred people organically coming together to march alongside them in their second half mile lap. It was a beautiful display of hope - as mentioned in a Boston Herald article following the event, a "poetic and inspiring moment."

After the Celebrity Mile, Runner's World hosted a series of seminars.  I got to hear from Amby Burfoot and Budd Coats, Director of Training at Runner's World, Senior Director of Health and Fitness at Rodale, and four-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, as they chatted about how to become a faster and healthier runner through training tips and tactics and cross-training; as well as from Bart Yasso, who shared his lessons, wisdom, and insights learned from running in more than 1,000 races all around the globe, along with fun photos from his travels.  After the seminars, I got to network further with some more people who were participating in races over the weekend at the delicious pasta dinner at the Sackowich Campus Center.

With Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon and RW Classic race director and
With 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot
Bart Yasso shares his awesome running experiences during today's seminars, including this photo of him from the Big Sur Marathon... And no, he didn't run it in 1932!
Running down Elm Street
Early the following morning was the half marathon, which started at 7am.  I headed back to the Merrimack campus, following the same route that I had gone the day before through the wooded pathway and into the parking lot; and lo-and-behold, I run into Pam, who decided that she needed to get those two extra pieces of bling and signed up to complete her Hat Trick!  We took off promptly at 7am with nearly 550 other people on the circuitous half marathon route that would duplicate some of the previous day's running. As in Saturday's races, we followed the same first 1.5 miles as the 5k and 10k, but this time turned left onto Howell Drive, then followed Summer Street back toward campus.  We followed the road back to where we would head straight back to the finish line if it were the 5k, but instead of turning left toward the finish, we turned right for a second loop back through campus.  The second loop, though took us out on Elm Street (bypassing the Rockridge and Foxhill Roads detour), continuing down Elm Street all the way to the middle of historic downtown Andover, as we turned onto Main Street, passing by the mile 5 mark and the Memorial Hall Library, constructed in 1873 in memory of the 53 Andover men who lost their lives during the Civil War.

Running down Main Street Andover

Running by Memorial Bell Tower
at Phillips Academy.
We continued down Main Street and up the tough hill that took us back by Phillips Academy, but this time continued past Salem Street, crossing into an affluent residential area surrounded by thick forest. After passing Salem Street, the course became a nice downhill, from a crest of 281 feet, down to 98 feet at approximately mile 8.  I actually ended up running my fastest mile, a 9:02, at the 8 mile mark of the race.  We turned right onto Gould Road, where we proceeded right back uphill on State Route 125, a slog that gave me two significantly slower miles. It was on State Route 125 that I ran into David Willey, Runner's World Editor-in-Chief, and we got to chat on a small segment of this part of the course, as I mentioned to him I had just finished my 50 states challenge for half marathons and was eager to get states checked off for fulls and national anthems, too.  At about 9 3/4 miles, we turned left off of the highway into a residential area along Wildwood Road, then followed Holt Road northward until we reached Salem Street, then followed the end of the 10k route all the way back to the finish.

Sorry for blurriness... One of the humongous mansions set back from Main Street...
Getting passed by Runners' World Editor-in-Chief David Willey, late in the course. Lol...
It was an epic slog that in the heat, but it featured some unusually fast middle miles, but I managed to complete the half marathon in 2:12:14, which helped me redeem myself from the 2:46:42 finish I squeaked out in May of last year at the Boston Run to Remember. I got a nifty medal and a second one for completing the Hat Trick! After finishing the half, I managed to find both Dave McGillivray and David Willey at the same spot, so I got a truly epic Victory Headstand photo with two luminaries in the running world! While the heat was tough, I finished a fantastic and well-run event, and came home with five new medals, and the ability to participate in an inaugural run!

Victory Headstand! An iconic headstand next to Dave McGillivray and David Willey!
Weekend bling haul!
Success! Check out these Hat Trick finishers :) (Photo by Ashley Liles)

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