Monday, March 22, 2010

New Bedford Half Marathon

This weekend was race #2 in the USATF-New England Road Racing Grand Prix.  The 33rd Annual New Bedford Half Marathon (results) was once again the Half Marathon championship and the weather could not have been more pleasant.

I met up with Bob Wiles, Dave Quintal, and Dan Verrington at the rivah in Andover for the carpool down to the race.  A pleasant 90 mile drive in the sunshine and we were in town and got a good spot a couple blocks away from the Start/Finish.  We headed down to the YMCA (following the hoards of people all flocking in the same direction) to pick up our numbah's.  We were directed by team manager Al Bernier ahead of time to go to the 'problem table' to get our bibs. The problem table turned out to be the 'no problem table' as it was the only place in the YMCA that wasn't teaming with 100s of people.  We walked up and grabbed our numbers without issue and headed back outside, where we met up with a bunch of the CMS guys who were all congregated by the flagpole.  It wasn't long before everyone was in attendance and we headed out for a team warmup, joined by Keenyan Mark Miller (who refuses to admit he wants to rock the Polar Bear)... I got to chat with Justin Fyffe who admitted that he was under the weather and has been fighting a head cold all week.  I knew it would probably be a tough grind for him, and it turned out to be the case...but he had a struggle last year at both this race and Rhody and still came back to win the overall Grand Prix, so I wasn't too concerned and knew he could tough it out enough to help the team.  After a couple miles of warmup and a few ad-hoc pit stops in random alleys in downtown New Bedford, we were back to the car for last minute preparations before heading to the line.

The race was delayed about 15 minutes due to obvious problems with registration and some definite shortage of bathroom facilities... As we waited around before the start, I got to talk to some of the guys including Steve Wolfe (who was nursing an injury) and some additional CMS guys including Ben Nephew, who shocked the heck out of me by showing up to a ROAD race... Once everything was ready to go, I raced over to the line and ducked in and made my way up near the front (maybe 3 rows back) and mingled in with the Whirlaway contingent as the gun went off (kind of).

The beginning was non-eventful. I didn't go out hard (like I normally do at a Grand Prix event) and really focused on just staying relaxed and trying to run 'my pace'.  I stuck right next to Bob Wiles and not too far away from Kevin Tilton.  As Kevin made his way slowly but surely up and through the pack, Bob and I followed.  We stuck behind Chris Mahoney and Jose Ortiz for a bit and eventually continued to move up.  We then came up around Kim Smith (NZL) who appeared to be hammering along.  I wasn't expecting to be close to this 2 time Olympian for very long, but stuck with her through to the mile mark as we ticked through in 5:17.  I got a bit nervous when I saw the split because I wanted to go out a bit slower, but I was rolling along and didn't want to lose Bob or Kevin that early.  Greg Hammett, Al Bernier, Andy McCarron, and Justin Fyffe were all ahead of me, making me the 7th CMS guy between 1 and 2 miles...

As Bob and I chugged up to the 2 mile mark, we had 'dropped' Kim Smith (or so we thought) and kept picking off guys.  We talked a bit back and forth about the course and I mentioned to him that after 3.5, the hills were basically done and there was a bunch of long, slight downhill.  I also told him that at our current pace, we'd be seeing guys comeback.  No sooner did we finish the hills and crest up to the 3.5 mile point of the course, did we see a bunch of guys come back including Kevin, Al, and Greg.  At around the 4 mile mark, Bob and I made contact with the 3 other CMS guys and now we were running 5 strong, accompanied by Joe Navas (Whirlaway) who's always a strong threat at these distances, and a GBTC runner.  Shortly after forming the pack, we were joined once again by Kim Smith and the lead woman's truck, complete with the race clock, a videographer, and what appeared to be either her coach or a friend, who was coaching her continuously throughout the race.  Kim tucked in and we really started to roll in a good pack of 5 CMS guys which then turned to 6 as we caught up to Andy McCarron who was obviously beginning to labor.  Once up to Andy, we now had 6 CMS uniforms all together and we were crankin'.  Andy adjusted his pace and we all kept going, picking off guys one after another.  Joe was hanging on and a few others jumped in as we continued on through miles 5, 6, 7.  Special thanks to Joe for handing me water numerous times during the race, when I missed water stop opportunities. It is guys like Joe (and Bob who also gave me some water), who make me want to go race each week and be around the scene...very cool indeed.  Runners look out for one another...even in competition.

Somewhere around 7 or 8 miles, I started to drop back a bit.  Al Bernier would occasionally turn and offer words of encouragement that was enough to get me going again.  I would move up and rejoin the pack (especially in the windier sections) before falling back off the pace a bit again.  There was still 6 of us together and amazingly Kevin, Greg, Bob, and Al would all take turns moving up and leading.  Andy started to show signs of falling back and soon fell off the pack a bit.  Kim Smith was still hammering on next to us and seemed content with staying with us. I moved aside a few times when I thought I was boxing her in, but she seemed fine with the group and continued on with us.

I had a breakthrough around mile 9 and felt the need to move up a bit. I went up past Al and moved closer to Bob Wiles who I believe was still trailing Greg and Kevin as we began to spread out just a tiny bit.  As we came down and turned onto the last stretch along the water, I started to feel really good.  As we neared the 10 mile split, I glanced at my watch and knew I was going to PR in a big way through 10 miles.  As I crossed the 10 mile clock said 53:45 and I knew I would PR over the 13.1 if I could just hold it together.  I don't remember feeling that good in a race (let alone a Grand Prix) ever.  Right around this stretch, I was still next to Kim Smith and we came up on a runner who was jogging on the side of the road.  Bob Wiles recognized him before I did and said 'Damn, Tarpy blew up'.  I then realized that it was indeed Patrick Tarpy (last year's winner in a blazing 1:03).  I felt awful that his race hadn't gone well, but being the class act that he is, as we came up past him, he asked Kim if she was OK and offered some words of encouragement for her as she continued on, not letting his own disappointment affect her race.

Somewhere between 10 and 11, I moved up past Kevin Tilton who was now breathing really hard and started to make my way up to Greg Hammett who was still hammering along.  Bob was still with me and Kim was still hanging on, as was BAA's Andreas Heilmann, who was telling Kim to hang tough and trying to get her to pick up the pace.  Around 11 miles I had come up on Justin Fyffe who had unfortunately had some stomach issues and had been yaking for a couple miles.  His head cold had prevented him from maintaining his pace up front and he couldn't hang on anymore.  As I came up past him he was in his usual high spirits despite how his race was going.  He said he'd hang on with us but that didn't last too long, as right around that time I decided I had to make a move.  Kim started to fall back quickly and soon Justin, Bob, Greg, and a couple others who were hanging on, suddenly weren't there anymore.  As I made the right hand turn back onto the last main stretch of road, I had a pretty good lead on everyone behind me.  I knew now that I was the first CMS guy and I really needed all the seconds and places I could get.  I had gone from thinking a few miles back that I wouldn't even score for the team, to now being the first guy.  It was a VERY strange feeling then, and is still something I am having trouble comprehending.  So much changed in my mental state over a span of 3 miles.  It really started to make me think that the majority of the race IS in fact mental..especially in these longer races, with this type of steady, deep competition.  I had so many factors and events align to pull me through to 10 miles and that was enough to get me to the point where I could start hammering home a strong finish in a Grand Prix (something I have not done up until this point).

After that last turn, I could no longer even hear the women's pace truck and looked ahead now to see a white jersey, a yellow jersey, and a grey jersey in front of me (all spread out, but within sight).  Just 3 spots ahead was all I could see and peeking behind, there wasn't anything near me that I was concerned about.  I had put a lot of distance on everyone behind, in a very short period of time.  I now focused up front and knew I could get the guy in white.  It took me up past 12 miles before I got him.  Once I was past him, I was constantly looking at my watch, trying to figure out just what I could get for a time.  This took my mind off the last uphill and allowed me to actually run a couple of my fastest miles up that last section.  There were a lot of spectators up the hill and it helped getting the cheers and motivation as I continued up the climb.  I heard one guy yell out 'Number 14!' and suddenly realized that I was really having a good day here timewise AND placewise (which was an added bonus).  My eyes focused ahead, and not of the guy in yellow now, but the guy past him in grey. I knew that guy in grey was Ryan Carrara (NB Boston) whom I NEVER beat, let alone see at the end of a race.  He was 2nd here a couple years ago and I knew he wasn't having his best day (although he was still beating me :) )... I had visions of pulling up next to him on the final stretch, but by the time we took the last couple turns down to the finish stretch, I knew I was running out of room.  As I took the last turn, I heard another guy yell out that I was 14th, so I knew it was accurate.  I also knew unless I really blew up over the last quarter mile, that's where I'd finish.

As I hit the last straightaway, I started to realize I may be able to break 1:10 and was shocked at how fast I had run the last 5k.  As I ran down the last stretch, in the mix of people and music and cheers and cowbells, Andy Schachat made his way out on the course and gave me a fist-pump as I ran by...Andy is 'in-the-know' when it comes to 'who runs what, and how fast...' he knew I was having a big day and I appreciated his support as I came across the line in just over 1:10 for a new PR of over 3 minutes.  I also was fortunate enough to hold off the charge of a slew of other great runners including Kim Smith who blazed in a 1:10:52.  I should mention that Kim's Half Marathon PR is 1:07:55, but I digress :)...

Not too long after I came across, a slew of CMS teammates all came in under 1:11:30 (top 5) with many more not too much further back.  It was a great day for the CMS brotherhood, even with Andy and Justin not having their best days...we still managed to scrape together a hearty group of guys who got it done and placed where we should have placed, finishing 3rd overall as a team behind BAA and Adidas New England.  This was my first GP 1st team place for CMS (since joining in 2008) and my 2nd highest overall individual finish in a Grand Prix (I finished 13th overall at the Baystate Marathon in 2009).

Splits - Half Marathon - 1:10:07 (5:22 pace)

Mile 1) 5:17
Mile 2) 5:22 (10:39)
Mile 3) 5:27 (16:07)
Mile 4) 5:31 (21:38)
Mile 5) 5:13 (26:51)
Mile 6) 5:18 (32:09)
Mile 7) 5:16 (37:26)
Mile 8) 5:16 (42:43)
Mile 9) 5:37 (48:20)
Mile 10) 5:27 (53:48)
Mile 11) 5:18 (59:06)
Mile 12) 5:16 (1:04:22)
Mile 13.1) 5:45 (1:10:07)

PR'd through 10 miles and at the half marathon.
16:19 last 5k (that includes the last uphill grind)!  My last 5k was also faster than my first 5k, which is always good (and never happens to me in ANY distance).  Mile 4 had the last of the initial hills and Mile 9 and 10 had some wind...the rest of my splits were pretty even.

Photo thanks to Krissy K.  One thing I noticed is that the finish clock was 2 seconds faster than everyone's official time. Looking through all of Krissy's photos, I noticed that everyone had a finishing time 2 seconds faster than the clock read. It matched my watch also.  I noticed that the split clocks were sometimes 2-3 seconds off of my watch as well.  I started my watch as soon as the first gun shot (mis) fired.  The start was a little clumsy, but I'm going by the official results from the time keepers.

Top 20 Overall (Plus CMS in blue)...Scotty Clark was missing from results at time of this posting...

1DERESE DENIBOB    28BRONX NY         1:05:20.85:001:05:21.4 
2CURTIS WHEELER    24BUXTON ME       1:06:26.95:051:06:27.5 
3LUCAS MEYER       26RIDGEFIELD CT    1:06:48.05:061:06:48.6 
4NICHOLAS WHEELER  24GORHAM ME        1:07:34.45:101:07:35.0 
5JARED MARKOWITZ   27CAMBRIDGE MA     1:07:53.55:111:07:54.6 
6MATTHEW ELY       33NATICK MA        1:07:55.05:121:07:55.6 
7MARK MILLER       29KEENE NH         1:08:14.55:131:08:15.1 
8BRIAN HARVEY      22ALLSTON MA       1:08:31.65:141:08:32.2 
9BRENDAN CALLAHAN  28MIDDLETON CT     1:08:42.55:151:08:43.1 
10DANIEL VASSALLO   24REDDING MA       1:08:57.85:161:08:58.5 
11NATHAN KRAHH      24BOSTON MA        1:09:15.95:181:09:16.6 
12RYAN CARRARA      33HUDSON MA        1:09:54.35:211:09:56.1 
13ALEX TAYLOR       30SOMERVILLE MA    1:09:57.05:211:09:57.8 
14JIM JOHNSON       32SALEM NH         1:10:07.65:221:10:08.8 
15PAUL RYAN         29BELMONT MA       1:10:38.15:241:10:38.7 
16ANDREAS HEILMANN  25BROOKLINE MA     1:10:39.55:241:10:41.4 
17MARK OLIVIER      25GROTON CT        1:10:43.65:241:10:44.3 
18BOB WILES         32KITTERY ME       1:10:49.15:251:10:50.5 
19PATRICK MACADIE   26ACTON MA         1:10:51.35:251:10:54.6 
20KIM SMITH         28PROVIDENCE RI    1:10:52.55:251:10:54.5 
23GREG HAMMETT      32CHESTERFIELD NH  1:11:00.65:261:11:01.2 
26JUSTIN FYFFE      29EAST DUMMERSON VT1:11:10.15:261:11:10.7 
27ALAN BERNIER      35PROVIDENCE RI    1:11:17.55:271:11:18.1 
29KEVIN TILTON      28NORTH CONWAY NH  1:11:26.95:281:11:29.2
63JIM PAWLICKI      35BEVERLY MA       1:14:15.95:411:14:19.4 
66KEVIN GORMAN      33NORWOOD MA       1:14:21.35:411:14:22.8
69JEFF GOUPIL       22KEENE NH         1:14:36.15:421:14:39.4 
70ANDY MCCARRON     27KEENE NH         1:14:48.85:431:14:49.4 
75BEN NEPHEN        34MANSFIELD MA     1:15:06.65:451:15:09.2 
94ERNEST BRAKE      48N.SUTTON NH      1:16:49.85:521:16:52.6 
99DAN VERRINTON     47BRADFORD MA      1:17:06.15:541:17:09.1 
109DAVID QUINTAL     46SALEM NH         1:17:31.05:561:17:36.0 
123JOHN PAJER        47LEICESTER MA     1:18:27.46:001:18:32.9
139CHRISTIAN MUENTNER36YARMOUTH ME      1:19:32.36:051:19:35.2 
178ROD VIENS         42GRANTHAM NH      1:22:12.76:171:22:15.0 
401DAVID HARPER43LEOMINSTER MA      1:31:40.07:001:31:45.6 

Some videos...

The first one is the race recap.  Note, when they are interviewing Kim Smith, I am standing right behind her!  It wasn't enough that I raced right next to her the entire way, but now I somehow get to ham it up behind her interview....

This next one is funny... skip to 36 seconds in and you can see the pack of CMS guys with Kim as we crank past this guys house.  It's Bob, Greg, Kevin, Kim, then Al, me, and Andy.

Last but not least, thanks to Krissy K!!!!!  An AWESOME video of the entire race... Great job Krissy! :)


  1. Thanks JJ, now I don't have to write a race report. Mine will just say, "See Jim's report, except picture me 15 seconds per mile slower over the last 5K." Dude, you hammered the last 5K. And where did you find that second video???

    The middle of the race was awesome. I hope we can get the Polar Express rolling like that in another race this summer.

  2. Wow,Great breakthrough race. A 3 minute PR is huge. Great writ-up as usual. I really like the Drowning pool soundtrack on Krissy K's video!