Saturday, May 25, 2013

Guest Post - Jack Morrison's #HistoricHalf Race Report

On Wednesday, I posted a great post-race report from Nick Dunford on his breakthrough Historic Half race. That was just a warm up for the guest posts, I hope. Today I bring you a long write-up from the one and only Jack Morrison.

Jack just finished up a seemingly life-sentence as the President of the Fredericksburg Area Running Club.  While President, Jack brought the Road Runner's Club of America annual conference to Fredericksburg and ushered in a tenure of blissful FARC meetings-- something anyone who had ever
Not creepy at all...
attended a FARC board meeting would have never thought possible. Jack's interests are good music, good beer, and good friends. He prefers to stay up late, and within the past few years got his first real job and has found a way to continue being awesome, even if he has to be a normal person now.  (These bios are pretty hard to write, if I'm being honest.) So without much further ado, I give you Jack's story...

Historic Half Marathon, Fredericksburg, VA—May 2013

So apparently I am taking up Bert at his offer to guest blog here. I suppose it’s appropriate as the Marine Corps races are known as “the peoples’” (at least the marathon is), which means runners of all varieties are welcome, and it’s not just about elites and the fast runners. I would guess I’m the slowest guest blogger to post on Bert’s page.

I totally love the Historic Half. It takes up all weekend for me—volunteering, hanging out at the Expo, going to the dinner the night before…It’s a great, tough race that covers a lot of ground here in my home-city of Fredericksburg. It brings in thousands of people—to run, it brings out thousands of people—to watch, it is terrifically organized, and the Marine Corps Marathon staff, and the Marines are great friends to the local running community (if you are not from Fredericksburg, you should know that our running club, FARC Fredericksburg Area Running Club co-hosted the national Road Runners Club of America Convention with the MCM in 2011).

When the Historic Half came to town in 2008, I thought this is a race that 15 years from now, I’ll be able to say, I’ve run every one of them. Ha! Should never have had that thought. Missed year two and year five with injury, but I was still there to watch, cheer, volunteer, and have fun. One of my favorite moments was watching Bert win it handily last year—very, very cool. (Shhh. Don’t tell him I said this).

Anyway, I apparently have the injury bug, so never know how my running is going to go. Missed five months last year with plantar fasciitis. But somehow I’ve come back, been running for six months and had a good spring. In April, I ran my second fastest 15K ever at the J Brian’s in 59:32 (tsk, before you scoff, go back to paragraph one), and decided I needed to try to step it up, and so needed some training help, to train for the Historic Half.  Went back to my old copy of Jack Daniels, and realized if you’re elite it trains you for a 10K and then hang on, or he’ll train you for the marathon. Couldn’t figure out what to do, so I called Greg Greven.

I think it’s been on Bert’s blog, but maybe not, that Greg coached Bert to his marathon PR in Arizona. I particularly remember Bert telling me and others that for one workout leading up to that, he told Greg to “just bury me”.  I can’t handle that much, but definitely needed to step up tempo and interval training. And Greg gave me some workouts to do.

You’re still wondering if I’m getting to the race right? It’s coming, I promise. I was at the Historic Half dinner the night before at Snowden House here in town and most of the talk from the runners and MCM staff was either about Sean Astin (celebrity runner), or the thunderstorms called for Sunday morning. Nice event, but quick dinner for me—I have to get up early...4:00 (oh yeah, I’m a guest blogger and most of you have no idea who I am—I’m not a morning person—stood Bert and some of our friends up on a Sunday run a couple of weeks back because they were going at 7:30…and I couldn’t quite do it). But hey this is the Historic Half, 10,000 runners are coming, and I want a good parking spot at Wegmans grocery store near the MCM FARC tents). So home I go.

Next thing I know, there I am. 4:50 race day morning. Only took 20 minutes from the house since I skipped out on I-95. Wander into Wegmans for a couple of bananas. Checkout person says I am the official first customer of the day—I’ll always have that. Plenty of activity, but I got the good parking spot I wanted, listened to some shoegaze on the car stereo. It’s foggy, a bit humid, but no downpours, and it just doesn’t look like thunderstorms—promising.

Gradually FARC people gather, especially Troy Durocher who sets up the club tent—this will be huge for post-race, but I tried to be pretty low key. At 6:15 Pat Early calls, we had arranged to warm up together. Met him up at the Sheetz on the corner and we run faster than I want, and likely slower than he wants. I’m stiff, sore, my hamstrings and back are chronic issues and I never know when they will sabotage me, but race day adrenaline often helps me out. Pat’s not parked as close, we run to the one mile mark or a bit beyond and both head back.

Weather is holding. Muggy and probably 60 degrees, but not too bad. I get to wear the new VA Runner uniform in a race for the first time and change into that. Great uniform—a vast improvement, especially the shirt. Never been a fan of the split shorts, but I’m in for the whole thing for this race. Fifteen minutes to go and I don’t want to go to the starting line yet…it’s only about 50 yards away. David Lovegrove tells me I’d better, because of the crowds, so off I go.

Good thing. The Marine volunteers, all of whom are great and polite, apologize to me when they firmly won’t let me get to the starting line from the front, but make me go all the way back to the end of the fencing and work my way up through the crowd. No matter, I didn’t have to stress, and I got there with five minutes to spare. Find myself standing next to FARC member and friends Bill Hamilton and Andrew Dolby. Bill and I notice that the Washington Nationals George Washington mascot is there. Cool.

 Look up to the front and there are Pat Early, Nick Dunford, and Joey Hess in the very front row. I catch Pat’s eye and he motions me to get up there, but 1) I’m not that fast, and 2) I need not to get caught up in the anticipation. Pat had told me he was going out at 6:30 pace (my race goal pace) and then pick it up. I know this means to stay behind him, because he’ll go out faster. 

BAM! That’s the musket for the wheelchair racers. Loud. Then a minute later we’re off. Lots of adrenaline, but very leery because of my back and hamstrings…I feel like I can do well, but what will my body say? Lots of great crowd support in that first mile, easy, easy….hundreds of people cheering. By mile 1 a lot has changed and I’m at 6:28—a touch faster than I had planned for the first mile, but not enough to even think about. Up and over the 95 bridge and I’ve caught up to Pat, and we’re joined by Jimmy Hayner and we ease our way down Cowan Boulevard, to see the Semper Fred 5K runners coming against us on the other side of the road. 1st place guy, 2nd place… wait that’s FARC member and college-bound Nate Lasker, son of our great friend Janice, and he’s smiling and thumbs-upping us—he’s doing well.

Mile two is 6:29. Pretty effortless. So into the Westbrook subdivision we go. I’m not crazy about it. I know there is a long uphill, relatively steep, it can sap early momentum. Meanwhile Pat is talking, narrating our journey really, but very upbeat positive. He’s already saying, look some of these guys are coming back to us. But, the best part is when he says:

“Hope you guys don’t mind me flapping my gums. Just trying to channel Bert here.”

Me: “you don’t have a chance of talking that much!”

(Not making this up for the blog)

Mile 3 is 6:39, but significant uphills in Westbrook so all if good. Out of the subdivision and into the nice long downhill of William Street before the Blue-Gray Parkway. Some random voice says we are #’s 42 and 43 in the race. Really? Only a non-runner thinks of that just past the 5K in a half.

From the start, Pat and I are on a pattern. I catch him or go ahead on downhills; he catches or goes ahead on uphills. When the road flattens we are pretty much running side by side.  I’m feeling pretty good, but don’t trust my legs, but I don’t feel like I’m working too hard, and that’s good. In the meantime we chat up a guy in a green shirt who tells us he’s too fast at the 5K mark, but hangs with us. He and Pat are very positive in their conversation…I realize that talking is just a bit harder for me now.

I get a 6:05 for mile 4. Hmm. Lots of downhill, but didn’t seem to work that hard. Not sure if that’s accurate but don’t want to work that hard if it is. Next mile is 6:40. Pat thinks the course is off, because that was downhill and onto the flat of Sunken Road. Don’t know about the course, but we’re rolling, passing a few people, and Pat is right about runners coming back to us. Sunken Road, Kenmore Avenue, these are the roads we run on all the time, and they move by with good spectator turnout. At one point someone yells “Go Jack” and yes, we’ve heard it before. Pat says, “you should run for public office you’re so popular:” I say “I’m so popular because I don’t take a public stand on anything besides running”. (And I’m not that popular, I’ve just been in town for a long enough time).

At the six mile mark we’re at 38:42. I’m okay with that, but realize I want to be just a bit faster. I stop at the water stop because I’ve never been able to drink on the run. Pat goes ahead as has been the case, but this time we have a slight uphill not too far past the 10K mark and I don’t catch up. As it turns out, ever. My legs are okay at this point, but I’m thinking they aren’t that strong. Miles 7 and 8 through downtown have good crowds and I turn out to have run 6:22 pace for those miles. But by now I’m running by myself. Had a hand slap with a Bodyworks gym guy as I turned the corner on Amelia Street, and then alone until the 10 mile mark. Feel like I’m holding up, but I’ve slowed slightly—6:29, 6:28…no real time in the bank for Hospital Hill.

I take an e-cap at the water station right before the hill. A few years back my hamstrings had cramped right after that stop but had taken an e-cap and it went away. First time I had ever had a hamstring cramp dissipate. I will always take an e-cap at that spot on that course—forever and ever. So I’ve run this hill many times, and I know hills aren’t my strength, but I focus on shorter strides and quicker arms.  Out of nowhere, never saw him coming, Greg appears to coach me up and run from the parking deck to about the turn. Head up eyes on Pat he says. Yeah Pat, had been about 15-20 seconds away from me through miles 7-10, but he was getting  further away. I am slowing a lot and I know it, but that’s my legs, and Greg’s support gives me a mental boost. Still I’m pretty disappointed to see 7:11 for mile 11. Really thought I’d be around 6:50. Damn.

One thing I’m always surprised by is being able to recover after Hospital Hill. Once I get to level ground on Cowan, I really feel a bit stronger and perk up. Whatever band was out there was playing Rolling Stones both coming and going (all day?). They were on She’s So Cold on the return and I have no idea why I notice, but it made me laugh.  Between the turn off Hospital Drive and the I-95 bridge I pass three guys running the Half (10K people are out there too), including the guy in the green shirt from the 5K mark who had been well ahead for some time. This is something that always seems to happen in this race. I think it’s the home course advantage. Up the Cowan Boulevard hill, which a lot of people say bothers them more than hospital, but not me. Nice shout out from Katie A. of Off Da Couch Training, and her group at the top of the hill. 6:37 for mile 12—not great, but mildly reassuring that I wasn’t completely dead yet.

And suddenly there are a bunch of 10K runners and walkers. There’s something about the increased road traffic, and the increased crowds that makes me refocus, and I can feel I’m picking it up a bit. Head up, move my arms. Head up, move my arms. Got nothing left in my legs. Once I cross Fall Hill and curve pass the Sheetz, it is truly a great feeling—big crowd, I can see the finish line, I can hear Marc Goldman of MCM talking about the winner…I’m not sure I actually picked up the pace here, but I definitely picked up my attitude. Mile 13 was 6:19, and pushed into a final time of 1:25:12. Exactly 6:30 pace which I had set as my goal (secret goal was about 1 minute faster, but this is a tough course).

Turns out I finished 24th overall and ran my fastest time on this course, 11 seconds faster than the inaugural race. Won my age group. Would have been 3rd master, but they don’t go three deep in Masters anymore. I don’t mind. It’s my fastest half in 3 ½ years. I trained hard and didn’t hurt myself and ran a solid race. Can’t ask for anything more.

Immediate post-race highlight was being greeted by MCM Race Director Rick Nealis at the finish line. I have come to know Rick over the course of our RRCA Convention connection. Rick is a rock star in American running events, and also a great guy. A pleasure and a privilege to know him, and to have him come over and congratulate me on the race was very, very cool.

On to the FARC post-race tent and get together where the rest of the morning was spent watching other finishers, swapping race stories, and re-hydrating.  A great end to a great weekend and a great race.

Thanks Bert for the invite to blog, and if you read this, thanks for indulging me.


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