, pub-4167727599129474, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Road to Boston SLR 11

I woke up on time, but the world had moved on to Standard Time. And I was running late!

The road to Boston continues with SLR 11, a sixteen mile run out to Lake Quannapowitt and a loop inside of Breakheart Reservation. A few hills in the park but a mostly flat course with a few rises in the road.

Due to the time change over night, I woke up at 7:30. Our run begins at 8AM. I had stayed up a bit later than usual but I usually wake up around 6AM and had set my alarm for 6:30. When I checked my phone, the alarm was not set.

I quickly got dressed, slammed 160z of cold brew, and had a banana for breakfast. Fortunately I lay out me running clothes the night before every run, so I didn’t have to search the house for any thing.

I drove a little faster than normal and pushed a few yellow lights to try and get to Melrose before everyone left. But, since we were running the course on the map below I wasn’t too worried about having to catch up.

Road to Boston, Sunday Long Run 11

When I arrived in Melrose, Bobby Taylor had already begun giving instructions for the route.

Since I knew the route, I wasn’t too worried about missing some of the details.

As I approached the group I could hear Bobby giving all of these instructions which didn’t make sense to me.

Then I realized we were running the bike trail route that we had to abandon a few weeks earlier because it was icy in a lot of places. I guess a lot of people wanted a shot at running this route, and so we were.

I saw Bobby’s email earlier in the week and he did mention something about this. But I have been totally slammed at work and never looked at the map he provided. I never gave this alternative course a second thought.

Well, I missed the first minutes of his instructions and wasn’t even sure how we were going to start. I correctly guessed that we were headed north on Main Street, but had no idea what the first turn was!

Oh, the morning was getting off to a great start!

Because I had to accelerate my morning routine I barely stretched at all and didn’t get in my pre-run constitutional. I was just in the finest running shape I possibly could be! Not!

Road to Boston SLR 11, Boston Marathon Training

Running SLR 11

We had about 30 runners and probably 10 of us were running long. This concerned me a bit because I had very little idea of where I was going and this made it crucial that I run with someone who was running long AND knew where the hell we were going.

As usual, I started out with the lead group and before everyone else was ready to go. As the faster people take off, I still have more runners catching up to me.

I spent a few minutes running with Bobby and the pack. After several asks I was told that we were turning onto Franklin Street. So I was good for the next mile!

Franklin Street ran us through Stoneham and headed towards the bike path. I ended up following a guy running the short course and followed him up Maple Street in Stoneham. And I do mean up. We gained 130 feet on mile 5 and I think most of it was on that hill.

I kept telling him that I thought we needed to stay on the bike trail longer. At the top of the hill we met Rowena Hakkaoui who told us this was the course for the short run!

I wasn’t really pissed at him since it was my fault that I didn’t know where I was supposed to go.

I ran down the hill and gave my left knee a slamming that it did not need, but added about 0.2 miles to my run. Everyone told me that was my bonus distance! I run with a very positive and encouraging group, for sure!

The Road to Boston goes through many towns

My little detour turned out to be my good fortune. When I got back onto the bike path I caught up with four other runners who were going the distance and at my pace. I was happy to have the company.

After running about five miles by myself, I was getting deep into my own head. Paying attention to my wonky knee, my breathing and overall energy level. I only ran 4.2 miles since my 20 miler nine days prior. So there were a lot of things that could go wrong.

Now that I was running with people, I had to respond to questions! And have a conversation that made sense to someone besides me. And this was still early in the run!

Just after mile six in Woburn, we had our second water stop with Paul Locke. I had a large Snickers bar in my pocket and took a bite around mile three. At this stop I finished what was left of the first piece and had a cup of Gatorade.

We thanked Paul and headed off to weave our way through Woburn to Winchester and to loop Horn Pond. About half a mile before the pond we hit mile 8, or I hit mile 8 since I had about an extra quarter mile on everyone.

The parking lot at the pond was a construction zone and the restrooms were boarded up and fenced off. No water fountains either.

But there was a porta-potty for the construction crew, so I decided to make a pit stop. It was remarkably clean and didn’t reek.

Everyone else kept on going on, so I had to catch up. Fortunately, when you are going around a pond, it’s difficult to get lost. After mile nine I caught up with the gang.

There were a few people out walking, sitting by the pond and walking their dogs. It was good to see people out and about.

Finishing up the Road to Boston SLR 11

As we rounded the north shore of the pond my watch chimed in at 10 miles! Only 10K to go. By this point my left knee had settled down to pain level 2 and I could put it out of my mind.

But I was feeling the run. My legs were getting tired and I could tell that my energy level had dropped considerably. We all mentioned how it would have been nice to have a water stop in the parking lot at the pond. But we’re big boys and girls. We can hack it.

As we ran away from the pond Jose and I consulted the map several times. No one was 100% confident in their knowledge of the route and no one wanted to run extra!

We had our 3rd water stop around 11.5 miles. This was also our 2nd water stop on the way out and we had a nice chat with Paul as we refueled.

Eventually the ladies ran ahead of us and I ran with Jose and AJ for a few miles. After we turned onto Park street and started the last 5K of our run, I found my self running alone. By this point I knew where I was going.

I was happy to know we had less than three miles to go. At the Stone Zoo I was on the wrong side of the street and missed our fourth water stop. It didn’t bother me at all. I was headed home.

As I ran down West Wyoming Street in Melrose I envisioned running down Comm. Ave in Boston. When I turned onto Main Street I envisioned Hereford Street. After Grove Street I envisioned Boylston Street.

It was great to finish a 16.26 mile run. Just three weeks before this, it was all I could do to run 13.1 miles.

The twenty-mile run last Friday was encouraging and this run enhanced my confidence. My knee seems to be stabilized with the knee brace and my stamina is building!

Run well my Friends


Running Hills

Hills can make a big difference in how your race turns out. Here I look at three half marathons, some training runs and The Boston Marathon to make some comparisons.

Running hills is part of being a runner. We run hills when we train to make ourselves stronger and we run hills during races because they are between us and the finish line. Many people driving by a runner chugging up a hill probably think we are crazy. This is especially true if the runner doesn’t have a bib pinned to their shirt.

A few weeks ago someone asked me about the hills I ran during a few recent half marathons. I hadn’t really given it much thought. I knew that The Half at The Hamptons had fewer hills than the BAA Half, but I hadn’t thought about it much beyond that.

I decided to take a closer look at the hills of three local half marathons that I ran this fall.

Running Hills in New England

The old saw is that New England farmers are experts at growing rocks. Every year the frost pushes a fresh crop of stones into the path of their plows. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of stones between the farmers field and the bed rock. While the stones are handy for building those iconic stone walls, they make farming difficult in New England.

Just like the never ending supply of stones New England farmers find in their fields each year, New England runners have a never ending supply of hills to run. 

Coastal locations like Gloucester and Rockport have many challenging hills for a runner. While the rugged coast may not provide steep or long hills, they are many. Inland we have hills left by the same glaciers that planted all those stones in farmer’s fields. 

The three races I will look at are the Smuttynose Rockfest Half in Hampton, NH. The BAA Half in Boston and The Howling Wolf Half in Melrose, MA.

I’ve added The 2018 Boston Marathon and three training runs for comparison. SLR stands for Sunday Long Run. For my analysis I am simply looking at the hills as measured in total elevation gain over various courses. Even though running down hills is implied, I mostly get questions about running up hills. It’s what many runners dread.

Comparing Different Race Distances

Elevation chart, pace and total elevation gain for The Boston Marathon, BAA Half, Smuttynose Half, Howling Wolf Half and three Sunday Long Runs in 2018.

I will start with The 2018 Boston Marathon. This legendary race is famous for it’s hills and in particular “Heart Break Hill.” On the chart above you will see some killer hills between mile 17.5 and 22.  These are The Newton Hills that begin as soon as you take the sharp right turn from Washington St/Rt 16 onto Commonwealth Ave/Rt 30.

The reasons these hills are so tough on runners is that they come late in the race with mile 20 right in the middle of them. Mile twenty is the magic mile where many runners’ dreams drift away, even on a flat course.

Boston Marathon 2015, Mile 20 Hill
Boston Marathon Mile 20 Hill

The three highest climbs in Newton are approximately 60 ft, 54 ft and 97 ft. Throw in some rolling hills in between and I estimate a 250 foot gain in The Hills.

That’s not a lot of elevation gain, but it’s 40% of the total elevation gain for the Boston Marathon over three miles.

Normalizing and Standardizing data from Running Hills

This analysis focuses on elevation gain during three half marathons. I’ve added the other runs for comparison. 

The first step in turning data into information is normalizing and standardizing the data gathered. Fortunately my analysis is using feet to measure distance and elevation gain. Elevation gain is given in feet, I just need to convert miles to feet.

A mile is 5,280 feet.

The calculation for elevation gain, or grade, is rise divided by run: rise/run. To get the denominator I convert miles into feet. The marathon has 26.2 miles at 5,280 feet each. The calculation is: 26.2×5,280 = 138,336 feet.

Rise over Run

The numerator is the total elevation gain during a run taken from my Garmin watch.

For The Boston Marathon the total elevation gain is 631 feet.

The calculation is: 631/138336 = 0.0045 feet gain per mile. To convert to percent I multiply this by 100 and get 0.456% average grade over the course of the race. Hardly a noticeable incline.

The problem is that most of this 631 ft of elevation gain is done over short distances such as The Newton Hills. If I estimate the elevation gain in the three miles of The Newton Hills as 250 ft, we get 250/15840 = 1.58% grade. This is more than 3x the average grade for the entire course.

This is a simplistic calculation, but it will help compare the different races and training runs. Let’s take a look.

Hill Running Comparison

First lets look at the three half marathons to get an idea of their difficulty. A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 69,168 feet.

Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon had 97 feet elevation gain. 97/69168 = 0.14% grade.

BAA Half Marathon had 418 feet elevation gain. 418/69168 = 0.6% grade.

Howling Wolf Half Marathon had 578 feet elevation gain. 578/69168 = 0.84% grade.

Now lets look at three training runs.

Sunday Long Run 10 on September 16th. 452 feet of elevation gain over 16.75 miles. 452/88440 = 0.51% grade.

Sunday Long Run 14 on October 14th. 504 feet of elevation gain over 12.54 miles. 504/66211 = 0.76% grade.

Medford Long Run on November 11th. 352 feet of elevation gain over 7.6 miles. 352/40128 = 0.88% grade.

The Smuttynose Half was by far the easiest run of the three halfs and The Howling Wolf was the most challenging.

Obviously no race has a constant elevation gain. Most races have many miles of basically flat road. The elevation gains usually comes over a short distance. It’s these short bursts of elevation gain that are so challenging to runners.

Mine is a simple analysis: I simply looked at the total elevation gain of the half marathons. Below I cite a more focused analysis.

As a runner I can tell you I could feel the difference between the Smuttynose and Howling Wolf. Even though I finished The Wolf faster than Smuttynose. I was in better condition for the Howling Wolf, but Smuttynose was so flat I was able to run some negative splits. 

To get a better understanding of what these grade numbers mean, lets look at road grades.

Lombard Street in San Francisco. 14.3% grade
Lombart Street – Rick from Boulder

Almost everyone has heard of Lombard Street in San Francisco. It’s featured in movies and commercials often. I was there once and a film crew was shooting a commercial. 

The grade of Lombard Street is 14.3%. Some of the steepest streets in San Francisco have a grade above 30%! The Interstate Highway System generally adheres to a 7% maximum grade. Local roads are usually no steeper than 12-15%. 

For comparison, when you are on the Interstate the grade is normally half of Lombard Street.

Here is a hill in the neighborhood behind Diamond Head in Honolulu. If you ever get to Honolulu you need to check out this neighborhood.

The views are stunning and the hillside neighborhood is a fascinating drive. Keep your eyes open for oncoming cars and make sure your brakes are in good working order!

This is probably a 20% grade, and not the steepest road in this area.

In 2013 Robert James Reese wrote an article for Runner’s World.

He did a closer analysis of the notable hills from five popular marathons.

Here is the link to his article: Just How Bad Is Heartbreak Hill?

Using his GPS watch he looked at just the big hills in these races. For Boston he looked just at Heart Break Hill not The Newton Hills.

In his analysis Heart Break Hill has a 3.3% grade or 91 feet over a half mile. The big hill at Big Sur is 536 feet over two miles and has a grade of 4.6%. The “hill” in The Chicago Marathon at mile 8 is 17 feet over almost two miles and has a grade of 0.2%.

Here is his table comparing the featured hill in these five marathons. 

Robert James Reese, Just How Bad Is Heartbreak Hill, marathon hills

Sometimes when I am out for a run it seems like I am discovering new hills. I often run the same roads I drive all the time. Some hills you barely notice in a car as they may climb a few hundred feet over a mile or more. But if you have to run a long slow hill, you will notice it.

So while your car may barely notice a 7% grade on Rt. 128, you will notice the 3.3% grade on Heart Break Hill. 

Are you a hill runner? Do you enjoy hill running? What is the hilliest race you’ve run?

Run Well my Friends,


My First 5K-January

My first race in January is the Derry 16 Miler

Derry 16 miler, running
Boston Prep 16 Miler

This race is notorious for the hills. Each year it also seems to land on the coldest day of the year!

Lots of hills, freezing cold temperatures: now you’re talking New England Winter Running!

We are due for a few inches of snow on Saturday and the high for Sunday will be in the mid 30’s.

That means snow on the ground for race day. Just to keep things interesting!

first 5k race, boston prep 16 miler
Four layers to keep warm and regulate my temperature

With highs in the 30’s any sort of breeze will drive temps below freezing. While the body will warm up after the first mile, any exposed skin is at risk. Hands and feet can also get frost bite in these conditions.

I will be wearing sunscreen to help protect my face. For the body I’ll be wearing three or four layers, running mittens, balega socks and probably my Brooks Adrenaline ASR 10 GTX shoes.

Last year I signed up for this race but had a DNS due to a knee injury.

This year I have some tendonitis in my left thigh near my knee. The plan is to take it easy and see what happens. I don’t want to get my first DNF, I also don’t want to be foolish.

Even though I’m running 16 miles, I’ll give my self credit for 3.1 miles from this race.

I set a goal of running 50 5ks since I’ve turned 50. I don’t want to stop running longer races, so I’ll give myself credit for any race 5K or longer.

After the first 5K

I will be rolling, icing and taking some ibuprofen after this one. I haven’t run more than 12 miles since October. I’m confident that I’m up for this race. But I know that I’ll need to take care of my self afterwards or suffer the consequences.

They always have plenty of food for us after this race and a band. It’s a lot of fun and I enjoy hanging out with my friends from the club, runners I’ve met over the years and new friends.

The race proceeds benefit the Greater Derry Track Club Kids Summer Fun Run Program. The race is limited to 900 runners.

Do you have any races this weekend in the freezing cold?

Run well my friends,


Last Long Run

This past Sunday the Melrose Running Club had their last long run of the season.

The long route was 12.5 miles and the short route was 7.1 miles. The long route took us over the Fellsway Hills twice! On the way out I charged up the hill and practiced running on my forefoot. There were four hills with elevation changes of 100 to 200 feet each. The Fellsway hills on the way out were about a 150 foot climb over a mile or so.


lant long run
elevation map



Practice run

I wanted to use this last long run to test my Boston strategy. I carried a bottle of Gatorade with me that I picked up at a BAA Runner’s Clinic. It’s the same formula they will have on the course so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try on a long run. The taste was fine and my stomach did not have any issues.

The bottle has a twist top which makes it easy to drink from while running, without worrying about dropping the cap. One twist, squeeze the bottle and your are done.

During The Marathon, I plan to avoid the first few water stops by using the bottle instead. The water stops start at mile 2 and are then at every mile. At mile two the crowd will be thinning out a little bit but there is usually congestion at the stops until well into the race.

Later in the race I’ll probably walk the water stops. I still had drink in my bottle at the end of Sunday’s run, so I should be able to get to Natick before I need to grab a cup and walk. At that point in the race I’ll still be able to walk and not worry too much about my legs tightening up.

I also wore the singlet I plan to wear for the marathon. It was in the 40’s Sunday morning but I did not wear an Under Armor top. It was a little chilly starting out but by mile one I could feel the sweat under my arms. I used TwoToms body glide in my usual problem spots and didn’t have any problems. I’m fairly confident that I can run 26.2 miles in this top without any issues. If the weather looks bad for Marathon Monday I know I can add the Under Armor shirt before the bag drop on the Boston Common.

I also wore my Amphipod belt fully loaded with various gels. I took my phone out of the Otter Box case and it took up much less space in my belt. I forgot how thin the phone is without the case. I’ll probably put it in a sandwich bag for The Marathon just to give it some water protection. They are so fragile and expensive, it made me a little nervous to have it out of the “protective” case.

At Marathon Sports on Saturday I picked up a clip on pouch from Amphipod. It’s about 7×4″ and has a firm clip. I loaded it with four gels and clipped it to my belt. It was okay, but it seemed more secure clipped to my waist band. It bounced around some but nothing intolerable.

long run, running
Long Run Map

I turned the 12.5 mile run into a 13.06 mile run: almost a half. My pace was 8:57 and my time was 1:56. I’d like to be closer to 1:50 at the half-way mark in Wellesley on Marathon Monday. That will give me 10 minutes to play with and still hit my goal of a 4 hour Boston Marathon.

On the glide path

Now that the last long run is over, it’s all down hill until Newton! I’ll run 3-4 miles a couple of times next week and skip the Tuesday night club run – no more running in the dark. It’s time to focus on diet and keeping the fiber content low.

When I pick up my BAA drop bag on Friday I’ll know what I can bring. The bag looks pretty small in the photos, so I’ll be packing very light. Maybe a t-shirt and change of socks.

Are you ready? Bags all packed?

Run well my friends!


© anagelin 2014