Falmouth: The Great American Road Race

In it’s 39-year existence, the Falmouth Road Race has become an integral part of summer on the Massachusetts Cape.  The unique and picturesque course, which is a 7-mile point-to-point run that winds along the Atlantic Ocean starting in Woods Hole, MA and ending in Falmouth, MA, attracts 11,000 runners every year, including some of the best runners in the world.  The race’s rich history, which includes past winners such as Americans Alberto Salazar, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers, as well as some of the top international runners, and signature finish – a giant American flag welcomes runners home – has earned it the distinction of being known as “the Great American Road Race.”

A race like this will generally bring out a lot of big names, but looking over the start list for this year’s race was like gazing over a who’s who list of professional running.  It can be pretty nerve racking looking over a start list like Falmouth when you know you’re not in great form.  A long season, stretching from the end of January well into late summer, a rough couple weeks of training, including a few poor race results, a nagging hot spot on my foot and an impending cross country move, left me questioning whether or not I should even go to the race.

Let’s just say that I’m glad I went.The race itself went well; I covered the 7-mile, rolling course in 34:20, with a 10k split of 30:21.  But more importantly, I felt better during race than I have felt in about a month and I remained engaged for the entire race.  Like I said previously, I had been struggling through workouts for a good 2 weeks or so and although I was hoping for the best, my expectations were for the worse.  It’s hard not to think that way when your struggling to cover shorter interval workouts in a pace you hope to hold for 7 miles.  And as many of you know, running isn’t like other sports, where you might wake up one day and magically feel better, all cylinders clicking.Before I went to bed the night before the race, I thought a lot about how I would react when I reached that point in the race when things got tough.  Over the past month, during both workouts and races, I’ve been both physically and mentally anemic and have not responded well.  Thankfully, this was not my reaction at Falmouth.I was certainly not at my best at this race, but yet I was able to salvage a solid race.  This gives me some confidence going forward because I know when things come together training wise and I get settled in with my knew living and training situation, I will be able to mix it up in big races like this.  That being said, I was happy to stay within range of, and even beat, some really good runners.

Post-Falmouth race. Hanging out around the finish line.

These are the races that help aspiring runners improve.  Racing well when everything else around is not ideal is something I can look back on when I encounter future rough patches.  Challenging myself against a world-class field is what I need in order to get better.  It’s good to get beat because it keeps you hungry and focused on the necessary things for improvement.  I can learn more from a race like this than an entire summer’s worth of smaller races back in Ohio.More than that, it’s fun to run in these marquee events.  The crowds are amazing and I can really feed off the energy they provide.  The race organizers take great care of us.  And I love being able to interact with other runners after the race.  It can be intimidating at first, because many of the guys I compete against are runners I’ve looked up to, but when you start to see the same faces at these races, you begin to form some friendships.

I’ve got one last race on the schedule (US 20k Championships in New Haven, CT) before I shut things down for the season.  I’ve only taken 1 day off from running since mid-February, so it will be good to rest up before I begin my Olympic Marathon Trials training cycle.

Leaving Ohio; Heading West

I am excited to announce that big changes are on the docket in the not-so-distant future.  For the first time in my lifetime, my mailing address will no longer be traced back to Ohio.  I am officially moving to the West coast!

I will be moving to Eugene, Oregon in the coming weeks, as I have been presented with an opportunity to train with a group of post-collegiate runners out there.  Giving up a full-time job and familiar surroundings for just the opposite doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (after a few years working as a professional, most people are not looking for ways to climb back down the ladder), but this is something I have wanted to do for a few years now and to have the chance to live in a community with such strong ties to running is something I could not pass up.  So chase my dreams, I will.

The list of things I will miss about Athens is too long to even begin (tonight at least…although stay tuned in the coming weeks for my best attempt at said list).  After what will have been 8 years (almost to the day) spent in this gem of a town in SE Ohio, it’s time to move on and see what else is out there.  I’m excited about the opportunities and experiences that will come with being a “professional” runner.  I’ll be living and training amongst some of America’s best men and women distance runners and I hope this environment helps me to see continued improvement in my times and performances.

In the meantime, I’ve got a busy next few weeks of packing and racing.  I’ll be running a very competitive 5k in Wheeling, WV the first weekend in August (Debbie Green 5k) and then I’ll fly out to the Massachusetts cape to run in one of the premiere American road races – Falmouth – on August 14th.  It’s a 7 mile race that runs along the cape coast and features some great American and international runners.  Check back soon, because updates will be frequent these next few weeks!

My Midwestern Tour: A perfect way to spend the 4th of July

After spending 9 days on the road, touring the Midwest and running a couple of very competitive road races, I’m glad to be back in Athens, sleeping in my own bed.  The trip was great and the races went well.  I got to see and spend some quality time with family in friends, too.

The trip started with a drive from Athens to Van Wert for dinner with my parents, then proceeded to Chicago, where I played my first round of golf since December with my brother, before heading to Cedar Rapids, IA for the CVRA 5th Season 8k on July 4th.  I knew going into the race, that it would be competitive up front, but as I got down to the starting area that morning, it was still surprising to see just how many African runners would be running.  A contingent of 20 or so had made their way to Iowa and I recognized a few, as they are total studs who frequent some of the big US road races.  In addition to that, there were a couple of Olympic Trials qualifiers running as well, including a member of the US World Championships half marathon team, Stephen Shay.

I made the decision early on that I would key off of Shay and try to run with him.  When the gun went off, it didn’t take long for the African runners to get things rolling.  A group of around 15 went through the mile in the mid 4:30s; I was a few meters off the pace with a smaller pack, including Shay.  Our group was able to pick off some runners who went out too fast and we eventually found ourselves moving up close to the top 10.  During the 4th mile, Shay started to put some space between he and mysefl and then in the 5th mile the other OT qualifier who had started out the race running conservatively went by both of us.  He finished 11th, Shay was 12th, and I was 13th.  Overall, I was pleased with my time (24:09) and liked the fact that I was aggressive early on – even if it cost me a little bit of time in the end.

After the race, I hopped back in the car and heading north to Minneapolis.  I spent several days in the City of Lakes with my former college roommate, his brother and wife, and their cousin for a little OU reunion.  I realize that the 3 times I have been to Minneapolis has come during the summer or fall months, but every time I go, the weather is beautiful and I have a great time!  They keep telling me to visit in January – I highly doubt they’ll ever get me to do that!

I ventured back south to Chicago on Thursday and spent the night with my Grandparents who live north of the city.  On Friday, I met up with some Van Wert friends for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, along the lakeside, in Chicago.  We had a great time and I really enjoyed hearing Dave, Ray LaMontagne and O.A.R.; the experience of getting home that night was certainly interesting!

On Saturday, I made the hour trip north to Milwaukee for Summerfest.  Having never been to Milwaukee, I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I have much in terms of expectations.  But let me tell you, if you get a chance to visit Milwaukee for Summerfest, or any time in the summer, I would do it.  Overlooking Lake Michigan, Milwaukee has a fun little city.

And that brings us to Sunday, the day of the Summerfest 10k and my final day of the trip.  It was by far the warmest day of my Midwestern tour, which I didn’t mind so much at the start.  However, the warm weather, combined with a course that was unshaded, resulted in a major water-shortage problem.  Prior to the 8:30 start of my 10k, there was an 8 a.m. half marathon start.  Well, the 3,500 half marathoners drank up all the water, leaving nothing for the 3,500 10k runners.  Needless to say I was pretty shocked when we made our way to the first water stop, only to find they had nothing left.  You can read/watch more about the water issues below:

http://www.weather.com/outlook/videos/runners-treated-for-heat-exhaustion-21251#21251

Because of the high temps and lack of water, the race became very tactical.  It was slow early on, and at the halfway turnaround I found myself running with a group of 6 Africans.  In the 4th mile, the pace began to ratchet down and things got strung out pretty quickly.  I settled into 6th place and eventually caught up to 5th place – who happened to be Ezkyas Sisay, an Ethiopian runner who I saw run 61-minutes in the NYC half marathon earlier this year.  I was able to put a little distance on Sisay after passing him, but he passed me back in the final 200 and I ended up in 6th place, the top American finisher.

The Milwaukee race was unique for many reasons, but overall it was a race I enjoyed.  I felt like I ran better in Milwaukee than I did in Cedar Rapids, so the trip ended on a good note.  Also, it was cool to see former OU runner and recent alum, Annie Beecham, finish 2nd, which earned her a big check…no really, she won a GIANT check! (see picture).

9 days. 6 states. 2 races.  In total, I put over 2,000 miles on the car!  But I had a blast.

I’m about to head out for a light run this morning in Athens, before heading up to NE Ohio for the Johnnycake Jog, a 5-miler in Painesville, OH.  What am I looking forward to the most about this race, you ask?  Well, the lack of Africans and the familiar faces!  In the past, this race is one comprised primarily of Ohioans, so it’ll be good to race against people I know and do some catching up afterwards.

Life on the Road(s)

It’s been a while since my last post and in that time I’ve seemingly been all over the US.  Over the last month, I’ve spent time or made stops in Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, West Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, and of course, Ohio.  My time spent in Athens has usually been just long enough to get a couple loads of laundry done, before repacking my bags.  It’s hard to believe that June is almost over!

In the midst of my travels to Iowa for the NCAA Track and Field Championships and to Oregon for the USA SR and JR Championships, to watch some of the athletes I help coach, I’ve also been able to squeeze in some racing of my own.  10k were the distances.  Columbus and Clarksburg, WV were the locations.  Although the topography of the two races were vastly different (not a single hill in Columbus and hardly a strip of flat pavement in Clarksburg), for me, the end result was the same: a 2nd-place finish to a few speedy Kenyan fellows.  Overall, I was pleased with how both races played out and feel like I’m in a good place for my July races.

I’m going to enjoy the remainder of the week in Athens before packing my bags again for an extended 4th of July week that will take me to Cedar Rapids, IA and Milwaukee, WI for an 8k and 10k.  Both races will feature deep, international fields.  Stay tuned later this week for more information about these upcoming races.

With the summer road racing circuit in full swing now, my life continues to be played out on the roads, as I travel from city to city in the hopes of running fast times and making money!  Godspeed.

Home Track Advantage

As someone who has grown up bleeding Bobcat green – that’s what being a son of 2 OU alums will do to you – there isn’t a whole lot about Miami University that I particularly care for.  I didn’t like them when I was 6 years old and they were the Redskins and my feelings haven’t changed now that I’m 26 and they are the Redhawks (make sure to read additional story below).

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to know that I have always been a little agitated that a Miami University runner has held the 5k track/facility record at OU for more than 5 years now.  There are few places during my time in Athens that I’ve spent more time at than the track.  A unique bond is shared between a runner and his/her home track; it is, after all, the place where we runners routinely pour every ounce of effort into workouts – rain, snow, wind or shine.  It was time to bring that track record back “in house,” where it belongs.

This past weekend we hosted the annual Sunset Distance Classic.  I decided to create the meet 4 years ago, after OU dropped its men’s track and field team, with the hopes of generating some revenue for the cross country program, providing our guys with a chance to run another competitive race, and keeping track alive at OU.  What started as a small meet in its first year has grown into an Athens-tradition and it couldn’t be possible without the help of other runners around the state of Ohio who choose to make the trip to Athens for the weekend – for that, I want to thank anyone who has ever run in the meet…it means more to me that you might realize.

The main event of the night’s races has always been the 5k.  For the first time in 3 years, this meet worked well with what was going on in my training, so I made it my goal to run under 14:33 and erase that Miami name next to the 5k track record.  On what turned out to be a great night to run in Athens, I wound up eclipsing the old track mark, setting a new track record that now stands at 14:25.  Thinking back on the race now, it was the easiest and most comfortable 5k I have ever run.  I owe a lot of thanks to my rabbit for the first 6 laps, Ridge Robinson.  He set a solid early pace, which made it possible to just find a good rhythm the rest of the way.

As always, the meet was a success.  Thanks to everyone who ran or helped make the meet possible.  It was great to have so many friends, former teammates, and alums back in town.  My hope is that the meet will continue to grow and be even bigger and better next year.

I’d like to end this posting with one of the finest pieces of hard-hitting, investigative journalism articles written by the student-writers of the OU Post.  After stating what bothers him most about Miami, OU baseball Coach Joe Carbone (one of the best storytellers in all of SE Ohio) received confirmation that the younger, not as quaint or nice, bricked-lined campus to our West has a mascot that is indeed fictitious.  As the article so eloquently puts it: “yet another reason to dislike Miami.”


Zoologists confirm Carbone’s claim about RedHawks
http://www.thepost.ohiou.edu/content/zoologists-confirm-carbones-claim-about-redhawks