Friday, June 13, 2014

Run for the Homeless 2014 5k Race Report & Pleasant Mountain, ME (Shawnee Peak) Training Run

I haven't posted anything since the Wapack and Back 50 Mile Race, so I figured I'd write up something combining a scenic training run I did up in Maine with a 5k race.

Walk/Run for the Homeless 5k
The fundraising walk is in its 29th year with the addition of the run last year. Just prior to last year's race I was working on a project redesigning the St. John's Parish Center which operates a soup kitchen providing food to the homeless and underprivileged in the city, which had me interested in running the race. I ended up winning the race and giving to a good cause. With the lingering fatigue from the prior weekend's Wapack 50 miler, I planned to just see how I felt and sign up for the 5k on race day. I didn't have much for expectations, but as always going into the race I was hoping for a personal best at the distance. I think my training throughout the winter and my attempts to get a little speedwork done was working okay, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Matthew enjoying the snake painting he got from the face painter

Let me start by stating that I despise the 5k distance as it is a sprint for me compared to the typical races I run. I also lack a lot of important pacing knowledge (which I am trying to work on), especially on the flat road races. Maybe it's because I never do them and I feel more comfortable in the mountains and hilly trails, where most of my training takes place, or maybe its the lack of scenery. Whatever the case, I have been trying to expand my racing to the shorter distances in order to make myself faster, keeping my outside goal of someday running a 5 minute mile on the horizon.

Suffering during the last couple hundred yards. Photo courtesy Central Mass Housing Alliance, Inc.
My wife Amanda, two children, and I made our way across the city to Elm Park, where the race and subsequent BBQ was to be held. The course is not bad, very flat and fast, and runs from Elm Park along part of Park Avenue to Pleasant Street, Chandler Street and back along Highland St. to the finish at Elm Park. My plan was, just as I did last year, to take out the first mile hard and hope nobody hung on too close. Unlike last year, nobody was running right with me for most of the race and I rounded the first corner running a faster pace than I knew I could handle for the distance. I ended up going through mile one in 5:50, which I was surprised by but settled into a more reasonable pace (for me) for the next mile at 6:17. I looked behind me and didn't see anyone too close, maybe 30 seconds away and just tried to hold on for the last 1.1 miles. I rounded the last corner towards the finish line and saw that I might break 18:30 if I ran quick. My personal best time at the 5k was at last year's Run for the Homeless 5k, winning in a time of 19:24. Running the last section near Elm Park at a sprint pace, I was able to close out for a win at a time of 18:20 (5:54/mile avg. pace).

Pleased with the effort and glad to be done

I am excited about how this race turned out so closely after my hard effort and second place finish at Wapack, and I have renewed my motivation over the summer to work on my shorter distance pacing and keeping that 5 minute mile as a goal. I have always struggled with increasing my speed which is maybe why I tend to concentrate on the longer distances. The plan is to try to mix in two speed workouts per week if I can, hoping to do one track workout and one run with longer intervals (2-3 miles) on trails and hills. The rest of the weekly runs will be easy and one hill repeat session, as well as a long run Saturdays with a hill run Sundays. Deviations from the plan are common for me as work and family commitments come up, but at least I have something that I can try to accomplish.

Back to the hill training...

Pleasant Mountain, ME training run
I have visited Pleasant Mountain, located in central Western Maine, two other times last year and found that while similar to Mt. Wachusett (my local hill for running), it has slightly lower trailhead elevations. What that means is with 3 or so hours of running I've been able to get in almost 6,000 feet of climbing on the four main trails up the mountain. I had a later start on this trip of about 5AM and missed the sunrise at the top by about 15 minutes, but was instead treated to some great undercast cloud views with lime green vegetation coming out for spring.

I was treated to some wet trail conditions and fog as I made my way up and down the mountain several times, but the scenery was great. This was a fun run and I can't wait to go back there and spend some time on the trails of Pleasant Mountain. Strava (run info) link here.

Instead of getting into a description of the trails, which I have done already in a past blog post, I am just posting photos demonstrating some of the scenery I was treated to up there that day.

Up next I am thinking of running a Presi Traverse or a variation of it with some friends next weekend on June 21st and maybe a Pemi Loop on July 4th weekend, just like last year. As the summer goes on, I really only have two goals so far...a Mahoosuc Traverse and a Hut to Hut Traverse. Neither of these will be for a FKT, but I will try to do them at a decent pace. I plan to train on the hills, both uphill tempo efforts and down, leading up to the runs and just see how it turns out. I might make another attempt at a Double Presi Traverse this year, but that I am not sure of. It will depend on how many times I can get away into the mountains with work and family commitments.

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