I’m going to lay this post out chronologically. Mix it up a little.
5:00 AM – the alarm goes off, and I can’t remember why I would possibly want to get up this early on a Sunday.
5:09 – As the alarm goes off again, I remember what I was thinking. Oh yeah, half marathon day. I’m running in the inaugural New England Half Marathon. Any time a race is in its first go round, you have to expect things to not go well, but so far, the team at Millennium Running seems to have their act together. It’s a point-to-point course, which I really like (better than running laps on the same territory). Okay, okay, I’ll get up. I had laid out my race wear the day before (including the ever-popular J Walking Designs running kilt, my favorite race-day wear), but didn’t have the socks I wanted. I found them on the drying rack and threw them in the dryer.
5:50 – Sophie was getting up and getting ready for work as I pulled my socks out of the dryer. I finished getting ready and headed out the door.
6:10 – Breakfast of champions, on the road. I went to McDonald’s. I know this sounds like a recipe for disaster, but my typical race day breakfast is a bagel with egg and sausage on it. Especially if I’m more than two hours before the race starts, this sits well in my stomach, and has a nice blend of carbs and protein. It works for me. Don’t judge.
7:00 – I made it to Concord, where the race would end. It was a bit of a challenge to find the finish line thanks to the weather. Check it out – I’m literally less than a quarter mile away, but no chance of seeing it.
7:10 – After consulting my GPS, I found a bus and hopped on. We left about ten minutes later, and reached the start just after 7:30. The race was at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. I don’t go in for auto racing, so had no idea just how big that place would be. In a word… huge.
8:20 – After a mile warm up run and finding a restroom, it was time to find my spot in the starting area. I went into this wanting to push myself a little, but not too much. With the Marine Corps Marathon just 28 days out, I figured a nice 9:10/mile pace would be a good training run. I have a lot of miles to put down this week, and wanted to give a good effort, but stay fresh. I chose the 9:00 to 10:00 section, and hoped that the people around me were choosing according to their ability, not their dreams.
That sounds a little snarky, I suppose. This is one of my pet peeves. People, line up according to your actual ability! It’s okay if you’re not fast… you’re there. You showed up. You trained. You worked hard to get here. No need to put yourself in trouble by trying to go way faster than you are capable of running, and therefore slowing everybody down at the beginning of the race. I’m not fast, either. We’re working on it. Line up where you belong. (end rant)
8:30 – the gun went off and the crowd started moving. The announced participation was just over 1,800, and I was pleasantly surprised that in a field that large, people really did a good job of lining up according to their ability. When my watch signaled the first mile, I was quite happy with an 8:55 pace. My experience with large fields is that you can anticipate you’ll run at least 0:30 slower than your pace group would suggest. Good stuff.
9:00 – Three miles in, I was feeling pretty good, and I remembered that I planned on capturing some of the fall foliage. I pulled my phone out of my running belt to grab a shot. This one turned out okay, I think. I was putting my phone away when I saw the guy below.
Obviously a very hurried shot, but I’m posting it anyways because it’s not that often that you get tutus on your male spectators. It turned out that a woman just behind me was this guys wife, and that’s her driveway. The guy she was running with said to her, “I totally didn’t even recognize him.” She said, “Neither did I!”
Really wish I had snagged a better photo, but I wasn’t about to go back… by this point, I was having a really good half, and feeling pretty solid. We had lost about 50 feet of elevation in the first three miles, gently rolling hills with a net down-hill result, and I was averaging 8:50/mile. In spite of the pace, I was breathing well, and feeling good. Two minutes later, the first of four decent uphill sections started. I maintained pace, not knowing it was over a third of a mile long. My pulse started climbing, and when it reached 173 I eased off a little, but not much.
9:13 – Roughly 5 miles in, we passed through a valley, and I grabbed out my phone again. It was still pretty nice temperature wise, but the temperatures were climbing. Two hills down, and the largest climb of the course was about to start. I ran mile 6 in 9:00, and mile 7 I dropped off even more, 9:12. About this point I was wondering if I had been fooling myself for the first half of the race, and had gone out too hard. Then we started a downhill stretch that would last a mile and a half, and I finished mile 8 in 8:36. My pulse was up and down with the hills, but mostly staying below 170, which is where I want it to be two thirds of the way into the race.
10:08 – As I approached the end of my 11th mile, I could see a climb looming. Turned out it was time to cross the river. The prior two miles had been fast ones for me, clocking in at 8:35 and 8:37, but the climb to get to the bridge sapped me a little bit. The people around me were feeling it, too, and I continued to push myself. Heck of a view once again, but I was starting to pay for it. My pulse climbed to 179 as I crested the bridge, then we dropped down again before another bridge to cross the freeway (180 beats per minute). Roughly a mile and a half to go, and I was starting to hurt. Mile 12 ended up being 9:13, and mile 13 wasn’t much better… but then I could see the finish line, and in spite of a wicked stitch that started to develop at the start of the 13th mile, I stepped it up. What’s the point of running 13 miles if you’re going to walk the last 0.1?
10:26 – I crossed the finish line with a pace of 8:54/mile, and a time of 1:56:24. A new PR! Miss Manchester Katie McClain greeted me at the finish line with a medal and a smile.
I’ll go off on a brief tangent here. I am friends with Miss Massachusetts 2009 (Amanda and her husband Alex are part of Team in Training, and we ran Boston together). To my knowledge, she’s the first pageant contestant that I’ve been friends with, and she’s what I like to call “good people.” Growing up a math nerd and a band geek, the girls who I perceived as potential pageant contestants didn’t run in the same circles, and I had a perception that they were aloof and looked down on me. In the real world, that’s not been my experience. The young ladies handing out medals on a very warm morning were gracious and kind. Pose for a photo with a sweaty dude who just ran 13.1 miles? “Yes, absolutely!” Thanks, Katie. You’re an ambassador for your community, and represented well. I may never understand the whole pageant scene, but I can embrace the sense of community outreach that seems to be part of it.
And now, mustaches.
It was a mustache kind of race. Medals, beer, socks, skirts… whatever. Mustaches all around.
(I didn’t take that photo – snagged it from the Traveler Beer Company Facebook page…)
54 weeks ago I’d never run a half marathon. Now I’ve run over a dozen. This one was my favorite! Here’s why:
- Free beer at the finish (huzzah). I had the Traveler Curious Shandy… very tasty! I need to find some of that and bring it home…
- GREAT water stops. The first two stops were water only, the last ones were water and Gatorade. All were well staffed by volunteers, and no one had any trouble getting the hydration they needed.
- The medals were very nice – not cheapy in any way.
- Millennium Running allows you to transfer your race entry fee to another race with 30 days notice.
- They allow you to transfer your bib to another runner with as little as 30 minutes notice, and the transfer fee is only $10.
- Point to point courses are harder for the race organizers, which is why they’re so rare. Having to bus runners adds to the complexity and cost of an event, but as a runner, I really appreciate the effort.
- Net downhill course certainly helps with your PR aspirations!
- Perfect time of year for autumnal foliage. The race was 12.5 miles in the forest followed by a finish at the state capital – a VERY nice run.
- They gave away fleece jackets instead of your typical running shirt.
- Great timing tech, including timing mats at 5K, 10K, and 10 miles. If you don’t run with GPS, this allows you to get your splits at those points, which is very nice. They also had a couple displays where you stood on a mat and there was a sensor that read your bib and displayed your results at the finish. Very cool.
- I bought some bread and cookies at a bakery that was open, and was chatting up the guy working there. He said that the race organizers had reached out to them about the race, and requested that they be open for business. He said they had a steady stream of customers. A lot of businesses were open at 10:30 on a Sunday morning; something I’m sure is not typical of downtown Concord. Manchester marathon: take notes!
Looking forward to next year…