Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stratham Fair Road Race

Note: This entry is retro-posted.

The morning was warm and sunny. Alan and I were both going for the W in this odd distance 5.7-mile race. We had looked at results from the previous five years, and we both thought we could win. Alan thought he could take the top two men from last year, and I thought I could beat the women's winning times from the past five years. We registered but did not get any T-shirts because it was race day. Too bad. Only $12, though, a bargain.

We warmed up with four of the top contender men. Alan knew all of them. We spotted two college-age girls wearing Team USA sports bras and boyshorts-type bunners. Kind of intimidating. They looked like triathletes (because of the bathing suit-like uniforms) on the roads to bag a win. Not confidence-inducing. We went to the starting line and Eric pointed out a woman who was really fast, with a recent 3:14 marathon. "Stay with her," he said, "and you'll be fine."

The gun went off and we headed down the road. The fast lady, in blue, and one of the USA women took it out ahead of me. Eric passed me a little before the mile mark. I went through the mile in 6:06 with the other two women well ahead, probably 5:56. I was happy to know that it wasn't due to slowness on my part that they were so far ahead! I tried to keep an eye on them but they extended the gap. Fine, the awards went three people deep, no problem. I would just keep up my steady fast pace in case someone came up behind me or one of the two ahead came back to me.

Then, a little before two miles, I saw the USA girl! I reeled her in slowly and was so focused that I missed the mile mark (I asked a guy later, who was nearby at this point, and he said we went through in about 12:30). When I passed her, I said hi and kept going. Didn't look back. I could hear her for a little while, and then that was it, couldn't hear anyone behind me.

I focused on the men ahead. There was an older guy who had been about 50 meters ahead of me the whole time. The faster lady in blue was far ahead, but when we were on straight roads I could always see her up there. There was also this other guy who had been near me, and who had passed the USA girl first, letting me know that I could, too. We went through three miles in a little over 19 minutes, no problem. Kept the speed up. Went through four miles in something like 25:40. Not ideal, but certainly acceptable.

One nice aspect was passing the relay point at 2.8 miles. There were dozens of people waiting there for their relay partner to arrive. I had to run twice as far, and I was ahead of all of their partners! Kind of invigorating.

I had been resisting looking back, but just after four miles we turned back onto the main road for the long straight run back to Stratham Hill Park and the start/finish line. So after I had run on the road for about 100 meters, I glanced back to see where the girl was. Oh no, she was right behind me -- maybe 20 feet back! I thought I had lost her, but she had been there the whole time. Ahead of me I could see the fast lady in blue, far ahead but still within sight.

The road was quite hilly, three significant hills in succession between me and the finish line. I needed to drop her, so I turned on the speed and surged up the first one. I was approaching a guy who had been ahead of me the whole time. On the second hill I caught him and planned to just stick right with him and use him to pace me faster than I had been running, but I felt myself slipping past him and decided to go with it. I left him behind. At the top of the third hill I glanced back again and I had over 50 meters on the girl. Whew. The road flattened out and I imagined I could almost see the entrance to the park and finish line.

I got to five miles in 32:21 -- a PR (previous 32:33 at Red Rooster #3). People on the side of the road shouted confusing things like "a quarter of a mile to go!" and "you're the third female, good job!" I could swear I was the second female. (There was a female on a mixed relay ahead of me -- the male had run first and given her a lead, and she had run fast enough not to lose it.) Finally the finish line appeared and I started to kick. The man I had passed on the hill kicked harder and passed me, but I did manage to pass an older guy just before the line.

In the end, I got second in 36:04, with the first-place female a minute ahead and third place 30 seconds behind. I nipped the 60-and-over male winner at the line. The third-place female has a 2:14 800 in Division I, but no idea what she's doing in a USA uniform. Alan was fourth, having led the race for the first half. This is the first time I have placed higher in a race than him (except when he dropped out of Boston and I finished).

For prizes, we both won $50 to 11 Water St -- me for 2nd overall and Alan for first in his age group. It is our favorite restaurant, so that's lucky. I also won the raffle prize for two Red Sox tickets, a $430 value. We will go to the game later in the summer. Finally, the race director was asking trivia questions, and I correctly answered "Lynn Jennings," so I won a collapsible cooler.

I was initially mad because he asked "who was the first American finisher in this year's Boston Marathon?" and I correctly answered Kara Goucher, but he didn't take that and instead gave the prize to someone who answered Ryan Hall. Excuse me, did you watch the thing? The elite women start before the men. They finish before the men. Kara Goucher finished at least five minutes before Ryan Hall did. I was protesting this glaring case of male chauvinism but Alan would not let me say anything to the guy because he said it was too geeky. Luckily, I answered "Lynn Jennings" and got a cooler a few minutes later, which placated me somewhat. So, I got $50, two Red Sox tickets, and a cooler, plus a 5-mile and 5.7-mile PR.

Full results.

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