It doesn’t matter if it’s mid-January or mid-June, one thing I love about New England and it’s running culture is that you can find a road race every weekend of the year and New Year’s Day, with sun, but negative wind chills, is no exception.
It was really cold, but the anticipation and waiting was worse than the actual running. Yes, your feet felt like rocks, the sweat froze to your face and your nose hairs rattled with each breath, but you were moving and it was only 3 miles so the cold was more motivation to go faster and get back inside than actual hinderance. Mostly….
The Ashland Lions Olympic triathlon is a long-running (this was the 26th year), local race held in and around Ashland and Hopkinton, MA. Part of the bike covers the marathon start. It’s run by FIRM racing, a smaller outfit that does a variety of endurance events in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They run the popular Appleman tri in July.
I hadn’t actually heard of this race until I literally ran into during a training ride in the area a few years ago. There aren’t many Olympic distance events in general (compared to sprints and 70.3s) and to find one almost literally in my back yard seemed like an invitation.
It took a few years longer than I thought, but I finally toed the starting line this past weekend.
So how did it go? Let’s find out.
I now have a sworn enemy for this race. His name is Sam Burgess and he’s 12 years old and for the last two years he has humbled me and taken me down at this race. I can’t out run Sam. I can’t out run youth. But I can hate them both a little bit. Even though Sam beat everyone else at the race, too, and running a sub-19 minute 5k as a 12 year old is sort of impressive. It definitely is to my 12 year old self.
I drove into Boston on Sunday morning to attend Race-Mania, which has become the unofficial kickoff to the endurance season in the Northeast. It might not be spring yet, but you can at least sniff it. Time to start cleaning gear and firming up those race plans for the year. No better way to kick-start flagging motivation or find an inspiring race or new piece of gear than an expo dedicated to all things endurance racing.
Training for endurance sports can often be a lonely pursuit, even if you’re on a team or have a coach, so it’s always nice to emerge from the training bubble and mix and mingle with other people that think about run cadence, single versus double leg power meters or what flavor of gel is best at mile fourteen of your run. You are not crazy. You are not alone. You are just an endurance athlete.
Here’s a free tip. The night before a half marathon don’t stick your face in a bucket of tabbouleh salad and eat till you’re stomach swells with bulgur and parsley. It won’t end well. There were some nervous moments in the hours leading up to the race and a few frantic twinges in the middle miles, but (spoiler) everything ended up ok and I actually had a pretty solid race in a unique twist to the annual Old Fashioned Ten Miler in Foxborough.
Finished off the year with my hometown 5k yesterday. I’ve written about this race in the past, so I’ll keep it short, which actually turned out to be sort of the theme of the day.
Two things of note this year. One, they smartly added a competitive corral at the front of the race. The Angel Run is heavily promoted through the schools (it was started to honor a third grader that passed away) and always brings out a lot of young kids. Which greatly adds to the energy of the event, but also can add to the challenge of the start as you weave and dodge around pre-teens that sprinted out the first 200 yards before abruptly stopping. An expected time of sub-23 got you entry into the corral.
At this point, the Rock ’n’ Roll running series is a pretty well established brand and I’d guess most runners would have a general idea of what to expect when they are the race directors. (They also have a healthy ego as on their About page they claim the RnR format “ignited the second running boom”).
You are going to get a professionally packaged race experience that is used to putting on a big production, typically in a big city with a big entry field. You are going to get bands/entertainment at most mile markers. Well stocked and spaced aid tables. A nice finisher medal. And lots and lots of upset opportunities to enhance your race day experience.
At the Brooklyn Half, I experienced all of that and a few more things, but had little complaint. I knew what I was getting in to. But let’s start at the beginning.