Sunday, October 18, 2015

Karma

Those that know me, know that I am not really a religious person. I do enjoy the solitude that comes with distance running which also gives you a lot of time to think and reflect on your life.

Below is my latest story of Karma.

3rd Annual Dan Scharfman Memorial 5K

Location: Belmont, MA
Date: 10/4/2015
Distance: 3.1 miles
Goal: 17:45 / top 3 finish
Actual: 17:35 (5:39 / mile)
Place: 1 / 382 OA

If there is one race each year that I run where I truly care about my performance and my placement it is this race.  My neighbor Dan passed three and a half years ago and this was the third running of his memorial race.  The race takes you up to the Belmont Reservoir, past 4 schools (Dan was a School Committee member), and around Clay Pit Pond by the high school before a track finish.  The course climbs 189' over the first mile and a half before a steep descent.  This is not your fast / flat 5k.  

The race is a major fundraiser for the Belmont Education Fund and currently responsible for ensuring all students at the Belmont High School have access to iPads (Dan worked in non-profit IT). 

So this year when I signed up, the website asked if I wanted to make an additional donation.  So I said, why not, its a good cause and donated $50.  

So race day came around and I was feeling pretty good.  As I tried to line up at the start, I was immediately pushed back to the 4th or 5th row with all the middle school kids that thought they were hot shots. A couple hundred yards into the race, I had dispatched all but 5 people.  At this point we were running around 5:30 pace, so I backed off a little, but kept a close eye on how everyone was doing.  

We all made it through the first hill (up Orchard) all right and onto School st.  As we began our next climb I passed one kid as my watch beep signaling the end of the first mile (5:50 -- same as in 2014).  As we turned the next corner, I blew by the next group moving into second place.  Less then a quarter mile later, I took over the lead.  

As I began the descent down Goden, I looked at my watch and realized that I ran the last quarter mile at a pace of 50 seconds / mile faster then the previous year and I was still feeling good.  As I bombed down the street with my police escort a few of my neighbors were yelling "Go Scot go." As I turned onto Concord ave, I glanced over my shoulder and no one was in sight.  

As my watch beeped signaling the end of mile 2 (5:33 - 15 seconds faster then 2014), I knew I had the race in the bag.  A few second later, I realized I had a shot at my PR, and really picked the pace up.  About a quarter mile later, running at 5:15 pace, I realized this may have not been my best idea.  Pushing on I turned around the pond and made my way back to the track.  

Just before I entered the stadium, my watch beeped for the third time (5:29 -- one of my goals for this race was to run a sub 5:30 third mile).  

I hit the finish 17:35 (9 seconds slower then my PR, but 21 seconds faster then last year) for the win.  Happy to represent my neighborhood.



Baystate Marathon 3:35 Pacer

Location: Lowell, MA
Date: 10/18/2015
Distance: 26.2 miles
Goal: Finish as close to 3:35 as possible without going over
Actual: Gun 3:34:14, Net 3:33:58 

Within hours of finishing the Sharfman run and letting all my Facebook friends know, I was asked to be a pacer for the Baystate Marathon.  Baystate is one of the few races that I know about that uses amateur athletes to pace and pays them for it.

The plan was for Nat (Farny) and myself to pace the 3:35 group (8:12 / mile).  I would pace the first half, and Nat would pace the second half.  The plan also was for myself to continue on and run the 2nd half as a way to get some extra miles in.  The bonus was that each pace group would be payed $300, split between all
runners in the group

Unfortunately, Nat hurt his back leading up to the race.  This also gave me the opportunity to just pace the whole thing myself.  It was a little more pressure, but thought I was up to the task.

Come race day, I got up at 5:30 and arrived in Lowell around 6:30 to collect my pacers shirt and sign.  As I walked around with the sign before the race, a few people came up to me introduced themselves, asked me what my game plan was, and where the rest of my pace group was.

I laughed a little and explained my goal was to run a consistent pace (8:08 - 8:10 per mile as courses tend to run a little long) throughout and that they were stuck with me for the whole thing.  As the race started I was quizzed a little bit more on my qualifications, "What is your PR? Are you going to get tired at some point?"  After I dropped my PR time and a comment about having completed 10 Ultra-marathons, they all seemed settled in.

Over the first 6 miles we fluctuated from 8:05 - 8:15, but were able to hold a 8:08 average.  The toughest part was each time my watch beeped, I instinctively sped up.  My group at this point was ~20 people strong and about 90% women.  I had at least 3 people who were running there first marathon.  We traded war stories about times we naively went out too fast and I quickly became aware about how much faith they were putting in me.

We completed the first half of the race in 1:47, dead on pace to where we wanted to be.  Funny enough, they called it the 3:35 pace group, but the splits on t-shirt / sign that was given to me were 8:10 / mile which had us finishing at 3:33:55 (1:05 under).  For fear of going over the time, I tried to stick as close as possible to the splits.

By 18 miles in my group was staying intact and everyone was holding strong.  There a few times where people started to get ahead of the group a little and then did a check to see where I was and came back.  At mile 20 we passed a painted broken wall on the street and to my delight everyone ran through it like it wasn't even there.

Unfortunately around mile 22, my group shattered and many people started to fall off the back.  We passed the official clock, it had us 30 seconds under our goal split time.  I slowed to an 8:15 for mile 23 trying my hardest not to lose anyone else.  This section of the course had the worse marked mile splits all day and my GPS went from reading (0.07 long and 30 seconds under schedule to 0.2 off and 30 seconds over schedule -- note that 30 second over is still under the true goal time of 3:35).  

Throughout mile 23 I could see a few more falling off and by the time we reached mile 24 we were down to 5 people.  Each of the 5 seemed to have their breathing under control which gave me hope they could hang on.  I wanted to go back and try and motivate some of the others I lost, but there was no way I could do that and ensure the remaining 5 made it through.  

As we hit the 25 mile marker, I double checked the time on my watch and if we ran 8 minute pace for the remainder of the course we would finish in 2:34:30.  Now that we were down to a group of 5 we collectively picked the pace up and knocked out our fastest mile of the day at 7:42.  With just 0.2 to go, the group literally said "Thank you" and I shouted "Good luck" as they ran off.  

I finished the race alone.  Not really how I was picturing it, but thinking back that really is the way it should be.  

As I walked through the finish chute with my sign, I got a couple of nice jobs, a few thank you's and they even offered me a finishers medal.  I turned around to watch one of the stragglers from my group slide in at 3:34:56, 4 seconds under the goal time and 4 seconds under her Boston Qualifying time.

I had a blast pacing the race.  A supported long run, a bunch of new friends who are interested in me; where did you go to college, how many marathons have you run, whats your favorite race, etc.  The $300 was just a bonus.  Looking forward to doing it again sometime.

Karma

It started with a $50 donation and has manifested into $100 in gift certificates to marathon sports, $85 voucher for a private pilates lesson, and $300 in cash for pacing a marathon.  Looking forward to seeing where Karma takes me next.

- Scot





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