Tag: Robert Gomez

Gomez Wins Maine Marathon

Guest blog by Rob Gomez

I’m beginning to think that overzealous focus on the little things is just a bad idea. What happens if I eat a piece of bread and break my carb depletion? What happens if I don’t get my Monday run in? What if I missed a Zicam on Wednesday, will I get a taper cold? And ol’ Mickey always said “Women weaken legs”, right? What if I don’t listen to his sage advice?

Well, I’ve got news, and it’s good:

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I went into Sunday’s Maine Marathon with fewer nerves leading up to the race than I ever have. I canned the carb deplete less than 48 hours into it because I didn’t want to be cranky anymore. I drove to and from Baxter State Park for a wedding the two days prior to the race. I had a drink or three more days that not during the two weeks leading up to the race. I lifted regularly for 8 weeks and went into the race about 6 to 7 pounds heavier than I normally am leading up to a marathon. I just had fun, lived a more balanced life, and did my training as best I could in a more ‘sane’ manner. I hit the workouts I needed to hit and none that I didn’t. I didn’t bulk up on junk mileage (I averaged 70 mpw between B2B and taper). I just approached this race much differently than for previous marathons — I treated it as person training for a race, rather than a racer training for obsession. If I did poorly, I wouldn’t feel like I wasted the past few months for nothing. I had a goal in mind (the sub-2:25 time bonus) but I wasn’t planning on destroying PR’s or shattering CR’s.

The morning started with a blueberry bagel with butter and a Beet-It shot (yes, I’m still doing the beet juice thing… you should read up about it here). After picking up Breagh’s Nova Scotia comrades at the La Quinta, we all headed down to the start. We had about a half hour before the gun at that point, and after I gave Breagh my well-wishes and a good luck kiss I did my thing — stretch, piss, gu, tie the shoes again, dynamic stretches, piss, a couple of strides, piss again, and head to the starting line. The characters at the start are always great… Goodie, Bunker, Homich, Erik McCarthy,  Rand and Hoogs were all there, Jorma mingled even though he wasn’t racing, and a late-arriving Hugo was cracking jokes and slapping high fives as always.

The air horn at the start was sudden and more of a wheeze than a blast, but a person working the starting line yelled “GO! GO! GO!” to all of us and we all took off about 2 seconds late. I high-fived Moninda as he immediately started to pull away from everyone else and then tucked in behind Bunker, Hoogs and Erik. The first mile was a pedestrian-feeling 5:30 as I let the half guys push ahead a little (perfect) but in my excitement I caught the trio again by the mile 2 marker with a 5:23. The next few miles I hovered between 5:30 and 5:35, with even a 5:40+ in there as we worked our way into Falmouth. I ran to the half-marathon turnaround point with Hoogs, got a “Count it!” fist bump, and ventured onto the rest of the course in relative solitude.

The pacer bicyclist beside me was humorous and relatively unobtrustive and the clock truck was ever-present and always within a first down’s reach, but besides that the next few miles were quiet, and by my pace standards not very promising. At about the 10 mile marker, due to my pace at the time and the condition of my legs (I thought I felt fatigue), I had all but concluded that my sub-2:25 goal was toast and that I should simply hold the current effort. I hit the turnaround and then crossed the halfway mat in 1:13 flat — the official time had me at 1:12 low but that is incorrect because the mat was placed at around 13.0 and our first pass over the mat was recorded instead of the second. I was able to calculate based on our time away from the turnaround when we crossed each other that I was a little under 4 minutes ahead of Goode and needed only not to blow up to grab the win, so I just kept rolling. I waved to Jesse and Jeff Caron as they went by and told Jeff as he passed that sub-2:25 just wasn’t going to happen. This was all before the Tuttle Road Hill.

Then something funny happened.

You see, the Tuttle Road Hill is probably the most taxing hill on the entire course, even with the course modification this year including more hills than the original course. Last year the hill all but cooked me, and I struggled to a 5:5x for the 17th mile split. This year I prepared for the pace-destroying onslaught once again and just started chugging up the hill, not worrying how quickly I scaled it, just trying to keep a consistent effort. Byrne Decker (who has won the race 4 or 5 times or something along those lines) gave me a yell and a high-five near the top. I gathered myself at the top, locked back in, and at the 17 mile marker I checked my watch again.


I felt great, recharged even. I had a lot of downhill ahead of me the next 5 miles. Best of all, I had just scaled the hill 15 seconds faster than I had ‘budgeted’ in my race plan. My even, controlled effort the first 16 miles was starting to pay off. I even think the more aggressive fueling strategy (a Gu before the race and Gu’s at 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22 miles) was starting to kick in (quick sidebar: okay, so maybe attention to detail is good, but it’s more important on race day than it is on the training leading up to it.)

The drums at the Town Landing crossing pumped me up and a high five from my mom near the Rt. 1 intersection got my legs churning even harder. I hit 20 miles almost exactly on pace for 2:25 (perhaps a shade slower) but I felt I had a real chance to break the tape in under my goal time. My pace never dropped below 5:25 the rest of the way and I felt strong, the strongest I had felt all race. The much-ballyhooed hill by the cement plant felt like no more than a bump in the road and I ate those two miles alive. I was ready for the finish but not nearly out of gas as I crossed Washington and hit Back Cove. Back Cove always seems so loooong on the way back but I’m not sure if that’s just because of where it lands in the race or because you can see the finish from more than a mile away… probably a little bit of both. Regardless, I was pretty amped when I hit the finish in 2:24:22. This is what I looked like:

Of course I’m showing off here, but there’s a real possiblity that I’ll never be that amped at the end of a race ever again. Those are some pretty decent finish line shots.

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The best part, though? Breagh was waiting for me right at the end of the chute:

after-the-finish gomez Leister

(Photo courtesy of Chandra Leister)

So I was able to grab the win, score the bonus, and get the girl. It’s by far the smartest marathon I’ve ever raced. I’d have to say that despite having better running performances in my life, this race has to be my best.

Can I cut off 6 minutes and 23 seconds on a faster course with stronger competition and a better training cycle at some point next year? Possibly… and I may try for that (again). However, if I retired from my competitive running hobby today, I wouldn’t be upset about it.

Going out on top (well, on top in Maine anyways) might be the way to go.

Thanks everyone.

Follow Rob along on his training and racing adventures with his blog A Mile Down the Road. Finish line shots courtesy of David Colby Young/Maine Running Photos.

Monday: Triumph Amidst the Tragedy

Guest blog by Rob Gomez

When Eric first asked me to write a guest blog for Level Renner, I balked. My account of the events that unfolded on Monday, April 15th, 2013 seemed very insignificant. The tragedy that occurred on Boylston St has been recounted so thoroughly and from so many different viewpoints, and the impact that this tragedy will have on the Boston Marathon has been prognosticated very eloquently by hundreds of writers and bloggers.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that every person involved in Monday’s events should share their story in order to help our tightly-knit running community understand, heal and grow together. And of course, no story of Monday’s events is complete without including the backdrop of the marathon itself – that’s what we all came together to celebrate in the first place, and that’s what will continue to bring us together in the future. My story is no more important than anyone else’s, but sharing it will help me understand, heal and grow.

I can best recount my day on Monday as a series of sharp moments protruding abruptly from a cloudy lake of emotions. Here’s a timeline of those moments.

Rob, before horrifying the co-ed (bandana still on his head). Courtesy of Scott Mason.

Rob, before horrifying the co-ed (bandana still on his head). Courtesy of Scott Mason.

3:55 AM: I’m up and I’m not going back to sleep. The gears are turning in my head.

5:25 AM: Choking down the last eight ounces of beet juice. I’ve been pounding this stuff for two weeks straight with the promise that the influx of nitrates will improve my efficiency in oxygen consumption. It’s almost not worth it.

7:05 AM: Kirby has to pull over on I-90 because I have to piss so badly. Good to know that my body is ramping into race mode.

7:45 AM: Grabbing some duct tape for my torn gear bag from a very nice couple in Hopkinton that’s just handing out free stuff to anyone who needs it. Their daughters are doing cartwheels and playing catch in between handing out band-aids. Maybe this was a bit of foreshadowing for the kind of goodwill that so many people showed later in the day.

8:35 AM: Sitting on my throne of cardboard next to Lauren in the Athlete’s Village, propped up against a tent pole, listening to “Recover” by CHRVCHES. Jeff loves this song. I’m reminded of how he got me back into running. I’m out here for him today.

9:55 AM: The guy next to me wonders why his 2:22 at St. George didn’t get him into the Elite corral. I keep my mouth shut.

10:15 AM: So I’m still only a few steps off the lead pack and we’re almost three miles in. Yeah, this isn’t aggressive at all.

10:35 AM: I need to slow down.

10:40 AM: Screw it, I’m not slowing down.

10:55 AM: I’m running through the center of Natick, spectators three deep it seems, and there’s absolutely no one around me. Naturally, I throw my hands up to get a better reception. I’m a sucker for a big crowd.

11:10 AM: I throw my American flag bandana at an unsuspecting Wellesley co-ed. Her expression is of pure disgust.

11:25 AM: Vassallo looks as giddy as a schoolgirl as he jogs with me for a few paces and offers me Gu (which I should have taken). I’m out here for him today, too.

11:35 AM: Just stay relaxed on the hills. Stay RELAXED. A few more miles and you can cruise the rest of the way.

11:45 AM: And there go the wheels. I do not want to take another step. Wow that happened quickly.

12:05 PM: I want to be done with this sh*t.

12:20 PM: I’m looking for my parents and I can’t see them.

12:22 PM: Holy crap, I might not even PR.

12:25 PM: Denise Robson finishes just ahead of me. She turns around, gives me a big hug, and we stumble forward together for a minute. I promise to see her at Cabot in just over a month.

12:40 PM: It feels like I’m walking on stilts. My parents are trying to get from Boylston to Stuart to meet me without the help of a smartphone. A random group of Latino adolescents want their picture with me.

1:45 PM: I give my dad a hug before he leaves, a good hug. We never really hug anymore, just bro-hugs and good-natured razzing.

2:30 PM: I decide to depart the Marriott for the Cheesecake Factory with everyone else in the room instead of sticking to my original plan of meeting Mary and Co. at the Cactus Club. I feel bad about it but text Mary to tell her I’ll make it down there shortly.

3:00 PM: While waiting for a seat at Cheesecake I notice people flooding, running, sprinting down the Prudential Plaza escalators and stairs to the exits. Looks like a good idea to follow suit.

3:05 PM: People everywhere. Emergency vehicles are flying into the square. No one really knows what the hell is going on. Everyone is wearing confused and anxious expressions. Steve says he heard two sounds in succession that sounded like a tailgate slamming down. I see one woman on the phone, bawling. We walk away from the square with no destination in mind.

3:10 PM: I call my mom. She and my dad are already on a bus headed back to Portland. I tell her I have no idea what has happened but that they’ll probably hear about it and that I’m fine.

3:15 PM: Finally getting word through Twitter. BREAKING: Explosion near the finish line. And Jon and I were headed back towards the Cactus Club.

3:25 PM: My phone is constantly vibrating now. It seems like the most logical thing to do is to head back to the hotel.

3:30 PM: I pass a couple of white guys verbally assaulting a person that appears to be of Middle Eastern descent. Can’t believe this is happening already.

4:00 PM: The NBC Boston channel keeps showing the blast video over and over. I can’t get through to anyone.

4:30 PM: Mary’s at MIT. Sheri is under lockdown in the Fairmont with Al and her kids. I’m so thankful that Juliette isn’t here in the middle of all this with me. Lauren tells me via text to meet her at her sister’s place on O Street and we can catch a ride home from there.

4:45 PM: There’s a drunk guy giving some firefighters crap for not letting him through the barricade in front of the Marriott.

5:15 PM: Walking next to a young couple pushing their 3-month-old back to their car in South Boston. They offer to give myself and Jon a ride the rest of the way to O Street. This kindness is so encouraging on a day like this. Gives me hope.

5:55 PM: Juliette calls me and her voice shakes as she tells me she’s watching the news about the “Boston Bomb”. I finally cry.

7:30 PM: On the way home with Lauren and her parents. Lauren looks a little washed out from the events of the day but sitting next to her brings a sense of calm to me. An ambulance merges onto I-93 right next to us, sirens on. I’m so numb to sirens at this point that I make no effort to turn my neck to look at it.

11:15 PM: Slouched over motionless on the couch at home, phone put away, the bulb over the stove the only source of light. I can hear the peepers from the pond across the street making a racket. Sweetest racket I’ve heard all day. I resolve then and there to run Boston in 2014.

The night before the race, Rob and Seth Hasty invited me to come by their room to hang out for a little bit. It was good to see them and talk shop a bit the night before the big race. Rob told me about his beet juice regiment and even gave me a “shot” of it. It reminded me of being a college freshman all over again, with the “wise” senior giving me a shot of Jack. I just barely choked it down and the aftertaste was brutally indescribable. Kudos to Rob for going the extra effort to squeeze the most out of his race.

I could be wrong here, but Rob scored himself a nine second PR by running a 2:22:53 on Monday. Rob may be too humble to divulge that on his own, but one of the reasons why I wanted Rob’s account here was because I know he ran very well. It might not have been good enough to make all that beet juice worth it, but a PR is a PR. Like Rob said, “every person involved in Monday’s events should share their story”, and in his own unique experience you can see the ugliness (racial profiling) and the beauty (strangers lending a helping hand) that was present in the aftermath. The tragedy seems to be dominating the headlines but we need to find the triumphant stories within and tell the stories of the successful races as well.

Thanks once again to Scott Mason for the photo. More Boston Marathon photos can be found on his website.

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Run (Fast) Westfield

The organizers of the Run Westfield 5k really knew what they were doing when they set this up and must have gotten exactly what they wanted. Set up a fast course, offer a lucrative prize structure and then watch the talented runners flock to you and lay down big PR’s.

Harvey, Chorney, Rupprecht & Murphy, bask in the glow of a fast race.

Harvey, Chorney, Rupprecht & Murphy, bask in the glow of a fast race.

Per the results posted on the web, there were just over 1,100 finishers, but a whopping twenty-one of those went under fifteen minutes!

Bob Rosen helped us fill in some of the gaps in coverage and provided ample notes to us from his vantage point on the lead vehicle. Bob is very close to Philemon Terer (5th) and Benard Langat (9th) and really knows his stuff.

About the course: it loses 90 ft from start to finish, but there’s actually a slight elevation gain of about  20 ft in the first mile. From that point on it’s basically flat with a slight downhill over the last mile.

As far as the race itself, it went out fast. Obviously. They went through the first mile in 4:18, but again that’s a slight uphill. Temps were mild with a slight tailwind (ideal conditions). Lead pack for the first mile: Simon Ndirangu (eventual winner) was right up front with Terer alongside, slightly behind. Alistair Cragg was a second behind (maybe), and then there was about a half dozen guys within two seconds of them.

Ndirangu asserted himself in the second mile and looked totally in control. Terer was with him, but they know each other from Kimbia. Knowing his opponent, and knowing that Terer isn’t a 5k guy must’ve given him more confidence. Cragg caught Terer just before mile two. Those two were back at it again only two weeks removed from their battle at the Holyoke St. Pat’s 10k, where Cragg took down Terer in the last mile. Ndirangu had 3 or 4 seconds on Cragg here. Two mile splits: Simon in the high 8:30’s, Cragg in 8:44ish, Terer in 8:46.

Over the last mile Ndirangu looked to be running away with it. Ndirangu kept kept his foot on the gas and put ten seconds on Cragg while Cragg opened up on Terer. Sang and Tefera overtook Terer in the last quarter mile, which is a huge loss for Terer. That drop in the results of only two spots cost him $1,500. Zach Hine had a huge PR and finished 6th, one spot out of the money.

For a little more about the course, we can find some good info from Rob Gomez’s race report:

I had scouted the course map a little before I arrived but during the warm up the potential for fast times really started to sink in. After cresting a small hill within the first quarter mile of the race, the course never went uphill again, instead dropping ever so gradually the first two miles and then more precipitously the last mile (although not so much as to cause a person to put on the brakes at any point). The one turn in the race comes in that same first quarter mile, and the wind (at least on this day) was fairly brisk and at our backs. Throw in perfect temps and a faster field than anything I’ve ever been a part of and… well, this happened:

Mile one: 4:33
Mile two: 4:34
Mile three: 4:43?, 29


That’s a PR of 44 seconds. In a 5k. It still doesn’t feel real.

That’s pretty crazy, but with a fast course and a tasty prize structure you’re bound to see things like that. Speaking of prizes, here’s how it broke down: $5k – 3k – 2k – 1k – 500 for both top five men and women. They also incredibly offered $500-400-300-200-100 to top five Westfield residents. When you see the WMDP boys celebrating in the video, you’ll know why. The three of them got a combine $1,200 for their troubles. That’s incredible.

Speaking of the WMDP boys, the Messer’s averaged 15:02. That’s unfair to say though, since then we’d be saying that Andrew Messer’s 15:20 was below average.

For the ladies, Kim Smith ran what appears to be the third fastest road 5k ever for a woman. We saw that and embedded in a good discussion here on Letsrun. Kim had an almost unbelievable 44 second cushion between her and her training partner Amy Hastings.

Shout out to the masters as well. Sheri Piers (of Dirigo RC & the top female American at Boston last year) and Kent Lemme (Greater Springfield Harriers) took home the titles there, running 16:29 and 15:13 respectively. Wow.

Here’s a look inside the numbers compared to other high level 5k’s around here:

4 guys broke 15:00 at Kerouac (14:46 won). This was held in September and was the USATF-NE 5k Championship.

29 broke fifteen at CVS (8 broke 14, winner was 13:52). Also held in September, this was the National Championship.

Here in Westfield, the top six broke 14, 21 total broke 15. Winner came in at 13:16, and the top six under Ben True’s winning time in September. Although

It might not have the challenges of a loop course, but it’s not without it’s merits. Without a doubt there’s going to be debate about the legitimacy of the course, but hopefully the course certification can put that to rest. It appears to be a legit length, and although it’s downhill, it’s not like running a down a ski slope. If this doesn’t excite you because it’s a downhill spectacle, maybe you just need to embrace it in the same way people embrace things like a home run derby. If anything it’s just fun to watch. Try telling anyone their Boston Marathon PR isn’t legit and see what they have to say about it. This race could very well be the next big thing around here. There’s not a lot of money in running so it’s good to see another race step up and offer some substantial prize money

Great course, excellent prize money, deep field. Can’t wait for 2014.

Johnson Out-Duels Pelletier

The New Bedford Half Marathon was a few days ago, so you probably are already well aware of the outcome by now (if not, it’s probably a good idea to read this earlier entry by Jim Dandeneau). Kevin Johnson of the Western Mass Distance Project (WMDP) outlasted Matt Pelletier on his way to a win and a new PR of 1:06:04.

After the race, the cool down and taking a moment with the fans (the phrase “a brush with greatness” was thrown out there, which would make for a good title of the video), Jim interviewed Kevin:

Although Matty P wasn’t on camera for an official interview, we did catch up with him later to get his take on the race:

426507_552719524748477_1738086516_nIt was disappointing not getting the win. I felt like I was in similar shape to last year, but I’ve been sick a lot this winter (something kind of serious) and missed more days of running than I’ve missed in a long time. That said, I bounced back pretty quickly I thought that maybe being sick hadn’t been as bad as I thought. I feel like the difference was in the wind. Our first mile was 10+ seconds slower than last year, and our 2nd mile was 14 seconds slower. I feel like the wind aided miles were about the same as last year. Aside from not getting the win, I’m disappointed I couldn’t match Kevin’s move when he passed me. I feel like I should have been able to go with him, but he was really strong and it just wasn’t my day. Kevin’s time was faster than my PR, so it would have taken a great day from me to beat him, and it wasn’t that kind of day. He looked really smooth. I think had I been able to push him for another 2-3 miles, he would have gone under 1:06.

Like I said, I think I was in similar shape compared to last year so I was hoping to go under 1:06:30 and just be a few sec. faster than last year. I don’t like to race in the cold, so when I got to the race and warmed up I knew it would be tougher than last year. I wasn’t really sure how the race would play out. With the WMDP kicking ass lately, and Brian Harvey moving up in distance, I wasn’t positive I would win. This was a stepping stone on the way to VCM, so a fast time, a win, or both were all goals. Obviously I walked away with neither, but it is what it is. I still have 10 weeks to prepare for 2:17 guy Chris Zablocki and some other fast guys. Hopefully this will serve as motivation for Memorial Day weekend.

To complete our coverage of the open men’s division, here’s an interview with Rob Gomez (Dirigo RC). Rob played a key role in the race by helping to break it open earlier on. He then slowly worked his way up the ranks and finished an impressive third.

In the men’s masters race, Chris Magill enjoyed his first road race as a master by cleaning up. Although he was the second master in the race, he was the first from the USATF-NE association so he still ended up being a masters champion for the day:

See the rest of our New Bedford coverage here. Want to see more race pictures like the ones included here? Be sure to visit Scott Mason Photography’s great website. Also, special thanks to our sponsors for providing prizes for some of the top runners: Skechers provided pairs of shoes, along with a couple hundred goodie bags for finishers, and Sigvaris provided custom fit compression socks. They support us, so please consider supporting them.



Guest blog by Jim Dandeneau

Kevin Johnson, 24, and Stephanie Reilly, 35, took different paths in winning the 36th Annual New Bedford Half Marathon race, the second leg in the very competitive New England Grand Prix road race series. Johnson, a 2011 University of Massachusetts alumnus and presently a graduate student at Dartmouth College pulled away from defending champion Matt Pelletier just prior to the 8 mile mark in running 1:06:04, significantly faster than the 1:07:22 he had run last year in placing third.


After a conservative first 3 miles covered in 15:41, Robert Gomez, 29, started to break up the pack of approximately 15 runners with a push up Hathaway Rd. After making the turn onto Rockdale Ave. Pelletier started to put the hammer down covering miles 4-6 well under 5 minutes a mile and had a lead of approximately 5 meters hitting 6 miles in 30:21. However, he could not shake Johnson who was running off the 2012 champion’s shoulder and had caught Pelletier just after 10 kilometers. Hitting 8 miles in 39:58 Johnson started to gradually pull away and by 10 miles, reached in 49:53, had a 175 meter lead and cruised up County Rd. to the finish in dominating style to win by 50 seconds.

Johnson, who had also won the DH Jones 10 mile race, the first leg of the New England Grand Prix road race series and had to stop two times during that race due to intestinal issues suffered no similar stomach ailment on this day. Gomez, running determined throughout, ran a significant person record clocking 1:07:14.

Reilly, 35, running in 2nd place throughout the 13.1 event, passed Erica Jesseman, 24, just after 20K (12.4 miles) in running 1:15:52. Jesseman, prepping for next month’s Boston Marathon, ran 1:16:09.

More to come on this weekend’s racing, stay tuned!

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