Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Catching Up with some Races

Getting caught up w/ some running info / updates as I've had more people ask me over the last month or so about my blog than I actually thought even read it so I'll just post some catch up info... I haven't been focused too much on running and racing and to be honest, my heart isn't really in it right now as much as it usually is as I have just been becoming more and more interested in doing other things with my 'spare' time. I've been much happier to spend time in the yard and at the beach w/ the girls and coinshoot some old pre/post colonial sites and local beaches (and in the water) here in the valley.  I've been spending more hours looking for coins and relics than I have running (probably easily 2-3x as much)... So racing is pretty much showing signs of this....hence my reluctance to race as much as I had originally planned on doing this summer.

I haven't been keeping track of runs or mileage at all so I have no idea what I've done the past month and a half or so...I 'think' I've raced 4 times since I last updated this page.  I won't dive too deep into the details of all of them as they are starting to get a little hazy but basically it breaks down like this:

May 29 - Redhook Brewery 5k - Portsmouth, NH (results)

3rd OA. 15:58.

I don't have much to say about this race other than I'm happy I was able to run it this year. I missed this race THREE years in a row due to injuries.  It wasn't my slowest time.  I ran slower in 2007 (my very first year racing)...but ran faster every other year I ran.  I did manage to maintain my podium streak here though (top 3).  I felt like death on the way down to the race.  I was seriously contemplating turning around on the way down.  I was pretty much determined to NOT miss this race AGAIN so I sucked it up and made my way down there.  After the warmup I felt slightly better.

I stayed 'competitive' for about a mile...then settled back into 'my place' and let Alex and Aliaksandr run away with it.  The only thing good about that was the fact that both of them ran faster than I ever ran here so I would have had to PR on the course to change the outcome of the placement.  I got $100 for 3rd which I'll take any day...especially at my advanced age.  Any and all cash I pull in these days from races goes immediately into the cash registers of Toys R Us on the way home.  It was no exception here.

Historical breakdown:

2016 - 3rd place - 15:58 - Field Size: 1923
2015 - stress fracture
2014 - two huge heel blisters from Wachusett day before ... couldn't even walk the next few days.
2013 - very sore after Wachusett. Decided to stay home. Big mistake. Could have run.
2012 - 2nd Place - 15:37 - Field Size: 2038  - day after running Wachusett Mountain Race
2011 - 2nd Place - 15:28 - Field Size: 1886 - day after running Wachusett Mountain Race
2010 - 3rd Place - 15:34 - Field Size: 1842 - day after running Wachusett Mountain Race
2009 - 2nd Place - 15:38 - Field Size: 1958
2008 - 1st Place - 15:32 - Field Size: 1898
2007 - 7th Place - 16:33 - Field Size: 1824 - one of my first real races back running...

I missed the kids race because it was during my warmup.  Tabby and Morgan both ran and had a great time.

Above, Tabby and Morgan re-enact the infamous Jim Garcia vs Jan Vandendriessche at the 1999 Chancellor's Challenge 100K in Boston.  Below is the original photo just after Jim 'made his move'.

June 11 - Market Square Day 10k - Portsmouth, NH (results)

9th OA. 33:57

Utterly forgettable.  Basically a personal worst.  I did run slower at this race once and that was my first ever time racing a 10k post collegiate.  And even then, it was only by a few seconds.  This was a horrible race effort and a horrible experience.  It's one of, if not my favorite race and I bombed.  I missed a golden opportunity last year when everyone decided to skip this race and I was sidelined with injury...this year I had high hopes all winter long, looking forward to it...but it was my own fault. I got lazy and didn't prepare or train for this race at all.  No workouts since April of any kind.  Just running and racing 5ks (and not really running all that fast at them).  I started scaling back the work and not taking anything seriously which obviously resulted in one of my worst races ever.  It was a pretty deep field this year as matching my PR on this course from 2011 (31:56) would have only gotten me 5th... but still....I had some thought that I 'should' be able to break 33.  Nope.  Barely broke 34. Embarrassing.  I was running so badly and it hurt so much both physically and emotionally that I actually stared to worry about next week's Mt. Washington race during the 10k and couldn't fathom how bad it was going to be... My top 10 streak at this race still is in play though... I won't bother with any more historics or details on this race....I just want to forget this ever happened.

Silver lining... spending the day w/ the family at a great festival in one of our favorite areas.  The kids had a good time.  We ate like crap and enjoyed some live music so it wasn't all that bad by the end of the day...just as long as I didn't think about the actual race that happened.

June 18 - Mount Washington Road Race - Greens Grant, NH (results)

5th OA. 1:07:27.

A 180 degree turn from the previous week. I had literally zero expectations here (other than colossal failure)...  I thought I was setting myself up for a PW here for sure.  After the previous week's career low performance I figured a deep "1:teens" was coming up the hill.  I got to the race a little late because of idiotic traffic and barely did a warm up.  I shuffled into the field about 10 rows back at the start and was in no rush to get going when the gun went off.  What played out afterwards was one of the strangest experiences I've had racing.  I meandered through some of the field during the first half mile or so including a slew of my CMS teammates and some other heavy hitters on the hill.  I just had my head down and tried to stay comfortable but consistent for as long as possible and not stress over anything.

Pretty soon (maybe a couple miles in) I had rolled ahead of some folks who had gone out pretty hard. Yes, I know I just breezed over the first couple miles which I think are the hardest, but it really was just the usual sufferfest of settling in and slowly creeping by people that may have gone out too hard.  I kept trying to forget about anyone else and just focus on putting one step in front of the other and keep up the same intensity while not going too far into the red (if that is at all possible in this race).

After passing a few guys I wasn't expecting to be in front of at all at any point in the race, I caught and passed Brandon Newbould who I had pegged for the Crossan Cup this year (top NH finisher).  I made the decision to just keep going and not hop on and run with him.  I had been steadily catching him and decided it was best to keep doing what I was doing.  If he hopped on and passed me back, fine...that was almost expected... but at least I wouldn't have changed my plans and run someone elses' race when things were going just fine the way I was handling things.

Moving ahead through the crowd.  Photo by Joe Viger

Early on in the race.  Photo by Joe Viger

The next target was Matt Byrne from PA who has been a consistent top finisher at the race over the years and he's been on the US Mountain team multiple times (as well as a 2x Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon).  He went out with Simon Gutierrez and started to drop back during the 3rd mile.  I went past him and again kept just doing my thing....looking up to see who was next.  I found myself just bridging the gaps from one guy to the next in the first few miles. There wasn't seeming to be that many bodies out on the road at this point so it was a little easier to focus up ahead on one or two guys. All this time I was thinking there was a pack of guys way up ahead and I had no clue what position I was in but was pretty sure it was back a ways.  There always seems to be a pack or two way up the road and I lose sight of them...I figured this year was no different.

After moving away from Matt, I looked up to see Simon and Drew Best.  Drew was hanging a little behind Simon and possibly it seemed like he was catching him slowly just like I was. It was pretty surprising to see Simon at all let alone this early in the race.  It took some time for me to get up to Drew and Simon.  I was just a few steps behind them at halfway.  As splits don't really stand out for me in this race I wasn't particularly sure how fast or slow I was going but I was starting to feel like I was running strong.  I had left a bunch of good guys behind and felt like I was continuing to progress.  Other years in the race I felt like I was going backwards over some of the middle and later miles.  I still kept thinking I'd be caught by Brandon for some reason and wasn't confident about holding off all the NH runners for the Crossan Cup.  I had Ryan Kelly in mind too as someone who could pass on by me if I faltered late.

Going by Matt Byrne.  Photo by Joe Viger

Going by Matt Byrne.  Photo by Joe Viger

Newbould in the back. Passing Byrne. Heading up to Drew.  Photo by Joe Viger

Just after halfway, I was able to move ahead of both Drew and Simon.  At one point on a very steep switchback, I had taken a few steps of a lead on them both. But by the end of the steepest section, they had actually passed me back by a couple steps. It was the first time all race I had been technically passed.  I was pondering my next move...continue to progress again or sit back with them and run as a group.  Almost immediately as that thought entered my head, I decided to go ahead and push again.  Screw it. I had nothing to lose at this point as I was already well ahead of any expectations I had.  I was feeling surprisingly good so I went.  Simon followed and Drew seemed to drift back a bit.  Pretty soon only Simon was in tow and was never that far behind.  I worked to stay just ahead of him on the dirt section and my confidence just kept building.  I kept thinking to myself that I had put in too much work in the first 4-5 miles now to blow it.  

I pushed just ahead of Simon for the next couple miles and started to believe finally that I had the Crossan Cup (which was mindblowing at this point in my running career) as long as I didn't start to fall completely apart.  I wasn't really too worried about beating Simon and was actually OK with the thought of him going by me again late in the race but I didn't want to be caught by anyone else.  After all, he's a multi-time winner of the race, many times a member of the US team, etc.  He's a legend on 'The Hill' and it was just crazy to think I was even near him at 5-6 miles.  

By mile 7 I had consciously decided to fight to the bitter end.  Simon was back there and seemed to be closing a little bit of a gap I had built up on him.  Through the cow pasture I was a little lazy and I think he worked that bit a little harder than I did.  On the steeper sections I was surprised to be staying ahead of him (did I mention he's 50 years old now)...  but I was running out of race.  I usually have a good last mile of this race and as soon as the course 'flattened' out a bit and mile 7 came and went, so did I.  I ALWAYS seem to be racing someone during this stretch.  Some spectators on the sidelines were telling me that he was coming.  I believed them.  I had absolutely NO idea what place I was in and what place I was fighting for.  I also wasn't looking at my watch.  I had no idea what I was running for time.  I did look at halfway but it really didn't register with me what it meant.  And by 7 miles I couldn't even remember what that split was exactly.

Photo by Joe Viger

I didn't know I had my place held until I hit the bottom of the wall. I had seen Chris Dunn and the aR crew there cheering for me before I hit the 'wall' (literally) and I peeked back one more time to see Simon there but seemingly a little too far back to be able to catch me in that last 100 meters.  I have never walked a step in this race, even on the last bit to the finish.  I wasn't about to break that streak.  I came up through the finish ahead of Simon, Drew, Brandon, Danny Princic, and a few others I thought would have crushed me today.  Simon was only 19 seconds back but that's not too far back considering the pitch at the end and how slow that last part actually is.

When I crossed the line I looked over at the clock and realized I was just off my PR here which was pretty crazy.  I still think I have underachieved here in past years but still, my PR is my PR.  I can only imagine what I think I 'should' have run a few years ago... The reality is that a 1:07:27 is only 5 seconds back of what I did in 2011 and that was basically my best year running.  Maybe coming into this race completely unprepared is actually better than coming in with a long specific ramp up...Maybe it was Dan Verrington's friendly subtle dig at me right before the gun went off about this race being a 'long 5k' that subconsciously motivated me.  Not sure.  But whatever it was, it worked.

Photo by Dan Houde

Photo by Joe Viger

Photo by Joe Viger
Photo by Joe Viger

Photo by Joe Viger
Joe Viger (from whom I stole all these wonderful photos and expect a cease and desist letter from) was one of the first people I saw when I came across.  He took a picture of me and then I heard someone say to Simon that he was 6th.  I looked at Joe and asked him what place I was and he told me I was 5th.  I was completely blindsided.  I knew Joe Gray and Eric Blake were obviously up there at the front.  I forgot about the two Italian runners but that made sense that they'd be up there too...but where was everyone else?  I couldn't believe there was no one in the literally 3 and a half minutes between the last Italian runner and me.  Usually there are a bunch of runners in that gap.  This year, no one.  I finally picked a race in the right year, to run well.  Usually it seems that that doesn't happen to me.  Joe quickly did the confirmation math that it was Joe, Eric, the two Italians, then me and Simon.  Crazy.  I heard Andy Schachat mention the Crossan Cup after I came across the line and everything started to sink in.  I had hung tough, raced well, ran hard both physically and mentally, and executed a near perfect race if not a perfect race. Possibly my best race ever based on the outcome and the reality of where I am in my running career.  Yes it was a lighter-than-normal year but it is what it is.  There are potentially thousands of guys out there that 'could' have been in front of me but either didn't run well or didn't register and toe the line.  That's always the case.

DD and I at the bottom. He got me by a second or two at the end...

After quickly bagging the summit, I talked to a few people before hitching up with Dave Dunham for a nice relaxing run down the mountain.  The first time in my 8 finishes that I've run down with DD.  I was a little sad that for the first time ever, I had no one (family-wise) at the top.  Kristin was with me but I was pretty confident before the race that I was going to run like sh*t so I basically convinced her to just walk up the road a bit and then I'd meet her at the bottom and we'd get the hell out of there (I was anticipating being a post-race grouch).  Instead, we'd have to wait around until the end for the awards (I'm not complaining)... Still it was great having her there during the first couple miles and then after the race.  She ate my Harts Turkey Farm dinner though.

Amber and I w/ our Cups for top NH runners. Photo by Joe Viger. Still the same grey shorts from 2007.
In addition to the Crossan Cup for top NH runner, I actually got a 'podium' spot (top 5 overall) and actually cashed.  I would have never thought I'd cash at this race.  A cool $100.  I'll take it.  Lastly and certainly not least, we WON as a team.  CMS Men's Open took home another Washington title.  Matt Viega ran a great race and continues to get better in the mountains.  Being from the mountainous region of Lynn, MA is paying off ;).  Todd Callaghan continues to defy the laws of nature and physics and crush climbing events all over the place. It was a great feeling being back on a winning team again here. CMS won the Open, Masters, and Seniors championships for the Men.

Mt. Washington Podium - Top 5 Men & Women + Tom Raffio (Northeast Delta Dental).  Photo by Joe Viger

Garmin Splits:

Mile 1 - 7:46.98
Mile 2 - 8:43.12
Mile 3 - 9:09:06
Mile 4 - 9:00.82
Mile 5 - 9:38.54
Mile 6 - 9:18.10
Mile 7 - 9:12.70
last .6 - 4:37.77

Kristin's 2 mile mark (approx.) Videos in case you haven't seen them:

Part 1 below:

Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
part 5 here.

Mike Giberti's Raw Footage of the race and finish line:

Crossan Cup History - Males (CMS in blue)
(Since it's inception in 1987)

2016 - Jim Johnson - (1:07:27) - Madison - 5th (CMS)
2015 - Justin Freeman - (1:05:55) - New Hampton - 8th (RUN)
2014 - Justin Freeman - (1:06:29) - New Hampton - 9th (RUN)
2013 - Justin Freeman - (1:06:52) - New Hampton - 8th (RUN)
2012 - Kevin Tilton - (1:05:54) - North Conway - 18th (CMS)
2011 - Justin Freeman - (1:06:28) - New Hampton - 8th (RUN)
2010 - Kris Freeman - (1:07:56) - Thornton - 15th (US SKI TEAM)
2009 - Craig Fram - (1:06:58) - Plaistow - 11th (Whirlaway)
2008 - Craig Fram - (1:05:45) - Plaistow - 10th (Whirlaway)
2007 - Kevin Tilton - (1:09:34) - North Conway - 10th (CMS)
2006 - Kevin Tilton - (1:12:09) - North Conway - 22nd (CMS)
2005 - Kevin Tilton - (1:03:42) - North Conway - 5th (CMS)
2004 - Josh Ferenc - (1:06:21) - Westmoreland - 7th 
2003 - Craig Fram - (1:03:27) - Plaistow - 2nd (Whirlaway)
2002 - Craig Fram - (28:28 - halfway) - Plaistow - 3rd (Whirlaway)
2001 - Craig Fram - (1:04:29) - Plaistow - 3rd (Whirlaway)
2000 - Mike Casner - (1:09:30) - Keene - 6th (CMS)
1999 - Thomas Anderson - (1:04:36) - Keene - 8th (CMS)
1998 - Mike Casner - (1:05:48) - Keene - 7th (CMS)
1997 - Craig Fram - (1:04:48) - Plaistow - 1st (CMS)
1996 - Craig Fram - (1:04:22) - Plaistow - 4th (CMS)
1995 - Craig Fram - (1:03:20) - Hampstead - 2nd (CMS)
1994 - Dave Dunham - (1:03:22) - Londonderry - 1st (CMS)
1993 - Dave Dunham - (1:00:44) - Londonderry - 2nd (CMS)
1992 - Dave Dunham - (1:03:18) - Londonderry - 3rd (CMS)
1991 - Dave Dunham - (1:02:07) - Londonderry - 2nd (GLRR)
1990 - Dave Dunham - (1:01:37) - Londonderry - 2nd (GLRR)
1989 - Jeffrey Robie - (1:10:45) - Kingston - 8th
1988 - Martin Kryska - (1:06:11) - Hanover - 4th
1987 - Mike Casner - (1:06:10) - Bristol - 5th

11 different winners in 30 years.

Fram = 8 cups
Dunham = 5 cups
J. Freeman / Tilton (tie) = 4 cups
Casner = 3 cups

Kryska, Robie, Anderson, Ferenc, K.Freeman, Johnson (tie) = 1 cup

July 4 - Four on the Fourth - Bridgton, ME (results)

2nd OA.  21:04

I headed over to Bridgton, Maine for a race I had registered for a while back.  I wanted to give this 4 miler a go and it was the 40th edition of the race so it was a good year to make my debut.  A lot of good runners (especially from the valley) have made this race a staple of their 4th of July festivities.  Even Ben True has shown up and won this race in the past.  I knew it would be competitive.  I knew I STILL have not gotten serious about running and workouts.  But I wanted to do it anyways and try to stay sharp.  I went solo because Kristin and I got awful sleep the night before and she was up constantly tending to Tabby who was really having trouble staying asleep.  I had also spent the entire previous day jumping off my parent's raft in the lake and obtained a nice backyard football injury to my quad when I collided with my nephew trying to swat down a pass (I made the play).  I had water in my ears, felt like I had been in the sun far too long, and had reduced flexibility in my right leg.  A perfect storm for tackling a hilly 4 miler (Course Video) the next day.

I warmed up with Uptown Nick Brown and Kevin Tilton and then made my way down to the line for the showdown with a bunch of fast looking young dudes.

The race went off pretty conservative and I set my sights on sticking to Silas Eastman for as long as possible. I had no thoughts of actually being able to beat him but I wanted to keep him close if I could for as long as I could.  Eventually race winner Moninda Marube pulled ahead after a quarter mile or so.  Silas adjusted and sat on his shoulder. I stayed behind by a little bit and fought back and forth with a couple of other guys.  I went through the mile a few seconds behind Silas and Moninda and right with a small pack.  We were just over 5 minutes and the hills were now coming fast and furious.  

I dropped one guy and started yo-yo'ing back and forth with another guy for the next half mile or so.  Finally after 1.5-1.75 miles I broke slightly clear and into 3rd place.  Moninda had pulled ahead and Silas was lingering ahead.  He was still up a ways and it took me a little bit to catch him.  Again I played out the 'should I stay or should I go' in my head when I finally caught him just around the 2 mile mark.

After 2 miles, I moved ahead of Silas and into second.  He didn't completely give in at that point but I did put a decent pad on him by the time all the hills came and went.  In the third mile you have a nice drop and I tried to stay on the gas but felt like not only was Silas coming back on me but also some others too when I turned to look and check out the damage behind.

In the last half mile there's a slight uphill past the lake and then a downhill / flat turn to the finish.  I could see Moninda for most if not all of the race (less the parts around the corners).  I was just in finish mode and wanted nothing more than to hold my place.  I wasn't thinking much about time as the course has some pretty steady climbs which really do a number on the splits.

In the end, I somehow held off Silas (who is probably not in tip top shape either right now) and got a solid 2nd place in a pretty competitive field.  My time of 21:04 wasn't bad either considering the course and the fact that I'm a big bag of slow right now.  Cooled down w/ the Brown family.

It's almost over....
workin' hard to hold off Silas
Contemplating retirement...
I turned my 2nd place $75 gift cert to Fleet Feet Portland into cold hard cash thanks to a willing friend who happened to be passing right by there on his way home and was going to stop in there anyways...(I don't know when I'd ever be in Portland again any time soon).  I also got a nice Brooks running jacket that will be delivered in 'about a month'.

Side was the first time ever that my 'USA' jersey has ever actually finished a race.

Up idea. Not in any rush.


  1. Hey Jim, thanks for posting this. When I saw the Mt. Washington results online I was psyched to see you had done so well. Congratulations!

  2. Hey John, thanks for reading man...I appreciate the kind words. Hopefully see you on the trails or snow this fall / winter for sure! You and I have podium spots in the GSSS to defend ! :)

  3. Is this how I reach you now??

  4. yes. that or yell down the street because you know i'm always outside.