15K Great Stew Chase
2018 marked the 44th running of the 15K Great Stew Chase and the second year the Great Stew Chase has been part of the Melrose Running Club Racing Series.
We had a great day this year. The temperature was in the high 40’s with slight breeze. That’s great running weather any time of year!
I rode to Lynn with my buddy Derm Cahill. The race started at 10AM and I think we were the first runners to show up around 8AM.
We picked up our bibs and went for a walk. We were looking for coffee but we really needed to move. Derm has been fighting pneumonia for three weeks! He’s taken some time off and is getting better, but it’s holding on. The walk helped him clear his lungs a bit.
I pulled my left calf muscle during the Tuesday Night Club Run and wasn’t sure I’d run the race. All week I worked on getting my leg back to running condition. Five days isn’t enough time to heal.
I needed the walk to stretch my leg and see if running the race was possible. As we made our way back to the Knights of Columbus I knew I could run the race if I took it easy.
We decided to take it easy. Real easy. Our goal was to finish. Derm’s lungs wouldn’t let him push the pace.
I knew that the moment my leg cramped I’d be finished running. If it happened early in the race I was going to turn around and walk back. I figured I’d take pictures at the finish line.
This is an out and back race. If I cramped near the turn around I’d be at the farthest point from the finish. All the big hills are within a mile of the turn around. How perfect is that?
Fellow MRC member Courtney Koschiei was manning the water stop at mile 3. She told me I could sit in her car if I fell apart and needed a ride. It was a huge relief knowing she could help me at miles 3 and 6.
Hanging at the Lynn Knights of Columbus
By the time we got back to The Knights most of the runners had arrived. Most of the tables were full but we found one to claim for Team MRC.
As we looked around we saw a few purple shirts, but we saw several MRC members in other club’s shirts.
Eventually about a dozen Melrose Running Club runners showed up for the Great Stew Chase.
We were never able to get everyone in a group photo, but we managed a few photos.
From the clock in the back ground, you can see we had about 31 minutes to race time when we took this photo.
A few people did a warm up run before the race, but for Derm and I, a long walk was about all we were up to.
Running The 15K Great Stew Chase 2018?
About 220 runners signed up for the race. As we gathered in the parking lot before the race the crowd looked pretty thin. The weather was great, but the race registration company had some web site problems.
I spoke with the owner after the race and he had about 20 paper forms from people who had registered and had their receipts but were not on the list. I wonder how many gave up trying when the web site crashed.
The Great Stew Chase is an old school race. At the start they had a bull horn to get us started and no National Anthem.
Derm and I started at the back of the pack and planned to stay there. There is actually a photo of me at the very end of the pack at the start of the race.
There were some hills early on and I cautiously made each step waiting for a twinge.
Hill running requires a strong push off for forward motion against gravity. This puts a lot of stress on the calf muscles. I purposely took it easy and held back to see what was going to happen.
I was ready to turn around at any point that my muscle cramped. I didn’t know if that would be in 100 feet or a few miles down the road. Where ever it happened I would have to stop running and head back.
Things were going better than expected and Derm was okay also. We settled into a 10:30 or so pace and before we knew it we hit mile 1. My watch hit chimed right on the mile marker!
We managed an 11:16 mile that included 61 feet in elevation gain. It wasn’t pretty, but we survived. I tried not to get too ahead of my self, but I began to feel that I could run this race if I stayed smart.
As we ran along we had a full conversation.
If I had been running as hard as I normally do, my heart rate would have been around 180 bpm. But running well below my cardio threshold my heart rate was probably 140 bpm and I was never short of breath.
A few times I thought my constant banter was bugging near-by runners. I was the guy who never shut up.
Before we knew it we were running over Rt. 93 and headed for the hilly part of the race. So far so good, but I was worried how my leg would react to these hills.
I was in worse shape than Derm and and let me slow the pace on the hills. There was absolutely no competition between us. We were there to help each other along and there was no room for that.
As we took the left onto Intercontinental Ave a lot of runners were heading back from the turn around. It was nice to know that we were close to the turn, but I also remembered the hills we had to assault to get there.
Just before the turn we hit mile five with a pace of 10:42. Not bad for holding back a bit on the hills.
As we headed back down the hill I remarked that we were now half way. We had run 5 of 9.3 miles and we had run the hills out to the turn. The first miles of the course had rolling hills, out here we had some real hills to run.
We ran smart and backed off a bit on the hills. It made a difference, and now we just had to run back up the hills we had just run down.
Once we were back over Rt. 93 the big hills were over and we only had about 5K more to go. There was still plenty of time for a cramp, but so far so good.
Mile six came in at 10:27.
Until just after mile 9 the rest of the run was on the same road we ran out on. Mile nine came in at 10:01. We were picking up the pace a bit.
We agreed not to run in the final kilometer to the finish. After getting this far problem free it just seemed crazy to stress my leg to pick up a few seconds.
As we came across the finish line our friend Brian Walfield met us with cups of cold water. Since it was only about 45° we decided to head in for some stew.
Apre Great Stew Chase
I was surprised how easy it was on my legs to get up the stairs of the Knights hall. We saw results taped to the wall in the hall, but it was too soon for our results to be posted.
We went into the hall, found our table and sat down for a bit. I took off my hat and gloves and put on my club running hat. Then we headed for the food!
They had lots of hot chicken soup and vegetarian soup. They also had great rolls wrapped in a napkin with a cookie. I thought they were small sandwiches until I opened it up!
The volunteers were great.
The soup was okay, but definitely not stew. The roll and cookie were delicious.
As we ate the rest of the crew rolled in and we swapped stories.
Soon they started the awards. Even with our small group, Melrose brought home four awards. Mike Sikkema, Lynda Field, Audie Bridges and Lisa Tysall placed in their age groups. Derm was 4th out of 6 in his age group.
The over-all top three finishers received running mittens and a gift certificate.
Age group winners received running mittens which were good quality. Everyone seemed to be very happy to get them.
Running is better than not running
I was 17th out of 17 in my age group! Last in my age group.
And that doesn’t bother me a bit.
When I got hurt Tuesday night I had a flurry of worries. At the time I had races on the next three consecutive weekends. How was I going to run those races and avoid further damage? Was I even going to be able to run those races?
How was I going to train for the Boston Marathon? I had just received confirmation that I had a number that day!
Finishing the 15K Great Stew Chase answered some questions for me.
All of the care and rest I gave my leg actually worked. I’m not ready to go all in, but I can run.
Finishing the race also told me that my leg is getting better. If I maintain my obsession with my leg, it will get better. Nothing focuses the mind like pain and fear.
Pain is actually easier to deal with than fear. All runners have pain at some point in their running. Most of us have pain somewhere almost all the time.
Fear is an elusive bastard to take down. Some injuries just cause pain. No big deal. Some injuries stir fear in the heart of a runner.
The fear is that whatever the current injury is, it may be long term. It may be a permanent issue. It may end the fun. 9 times out of 10, the pain goes away or lessens to a degree that the fear goes away.
In the recovery from every fear inducing injury there is a point when the fear goes away. Sometimes it vanishes in an instant. Other times if fades over months until you suddenly realize, like the pain, it is gone and you are back to normal.
For me, knee issues instill fear. I know they can really mess you up. Since nothing ever seems to heal 100%, I know that a bit of each one will be with me for the rest of my life.
I have always recovered at least enough to move on and usually completely. But one never knows when the current injury will be the one.
So while the finish wasn’t glorious it was a victory of other sorts.
Run well my Friends!