Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stratham Fair Road Race

(Results) I ran this race last year, and was hoping to be able to race for the win this time around. Last year, the women's winner (Stephanie) beat me by exactly a minute, so I wasn't close to her at all. I was expecting to be closer to her this year. Alan's plan was to run with me and help me run fast. However, while warming up with Bob and me, he realized that Bob was the only fast guy there, so he registered for the race and decided to run at his pace.

On the starting line, I glanced over to make sure I knew where Stephanie was, at exactly the same moment that she was glancing over to see where I was! So the stage was set. Alan had asked me if my race strategy was going to be "sit and kick," and I told him that it was. However, when the gun went off, I did not feel like hanging back and sitting, so I led. Stephanie hung on my shoulder, chatting with this guy. Seriously, they were chatting about the houses in the area that he had recently toured with a real estate agent. We went through the mile in 6:04 and they were still chatting away. My goal was 6:10 pace, so this was fine.

So after the mile mark, I relented to my strategy and backed off a little to hang on her shoulder. I did this for maybe 3/4 of a mile, until I realized that it was not advantageous to be on someone's left shoulder on a clockwise course. Going up a hill, I surged ahead to take the inside of the turn and passed a few men. I could hear breathing behind me, but I couldn't tell if it was Stephanie or a man. I passed the 2-mile mark in 12:14, for a 6:10 second mile, right on pace.

During the third mile, we went up a couple of hills and I focused on catching the men ahead of me (or perhaps I was just watching them slow down and come back to me -- hard to say, really). The number of water stops on the course was amazing; there were at least 6 water stops on a course of less than 6 miles, plus three people spraying hoses. I didn't drink much, but I poured water on my head and torso at every opportunity. I got to 3 miles in 18:34, for a 6:20 third mile. That seemed reasonable, considering the hills. There was a photographer at mile 3, who snapped a picture just as I looked at my watch. So it goes.

During the fourth mile I think I caught two relay people (the exchange was just before 3 miles) whose partner was faster than they were. Then I caught up to a guy (Todd) and followed him for basically the rest of the race. I kept hearing footsteps behind me, and I actually glanced back once or twice when we went around curves, but there was no one behind us that I could see, no one at all, not even men. I passed 4 miles in 24:39, for a 6:05 fourth mile. Fine with me! I had remembered the final hills as being between mile 5 and the end, but in fact they were between mile 4 and 5. So we climbed the hills of Rt. 33 in Stratham, and Todd was able to get a bit ahead of me.

I passed 5 miles in 31:07, for a 6:28 fifth mile. Again, it seemed okay considering the hills. I knew that it wasn't far to the end from there, and I set my sights on catching Todd. The road curves to the right several times in the last half mile of the course, and I kept thinking the finish was right around the corner! Finally I saw the cones and time clock ahead, and I kicked past Todd to the finish line. Here is a picture (from the Portsmouth Herald):

The next finisher was about a minute behind us. The photographer from the paper asked me where I was from, for the photo caption, and as usual I had a hard time deciding what to say (I unfortunately chose Providence). Then the reporter (Ken) caught up with Alan and me, and interviewed us for a long time, maybe 10 minutes. In the meantime, the next female finishers came along, and it was a sprint finish! To my surprise, Stephanie was out-kicked for second place. Very exciting. Ken asked me many questions. My favorite exchange went like this:
K: So, how many races have you won this year?
D: Um, about 20.
K: Did you say "three"?
D: No, twenty.
K: I mean just this year.
D: Yeah, about 20 this year. Maybe it was only 15. A lot of them are this weekly race series... (etc.)

In the paper, he wrote that it was my 15th or 16th victory of the year, of which 14 were Red Rooster Rambles. In fact (I looked it up this morning) it was my 22nd win of the year, of which 14 were Rambles. So I am slightly less lame than the article suggests.

We ran a nice 3-mile cooldown; we ended up with nice gift certificates as prizes; I won a raffle prize (though not the Red Sox tickets this year), and we returned to the fair later in the day for our free entry with race numbers! It was a great day and I hope to do it again next year. My finishing time was 34:40, which for 5.7 miles is an average pace of 6:05 per mile. So I am sure the course was not quite 5.7, because running 6:06 pace for 5 miles on a flat course at the Red Rooster Ramble absolutely knocked me out. (5.6 miles would be 6:11, which is probably more reasonable.) This is 84 seconds faster than I ran last year (4% faster), and 24 seconds faster than last year's race winner.

The full article, from the Portsmouth Herald:

By Ken Stejbach
July 25, 2010 2:00 AM

STRATHAM — Saturday's 37th annual Stratham Fair Road Race had that "Cheers .... where everyone knows your name" feel about it.

It was a friendly place for the winners — Bob Wiles and Diana Davis — both of whom earned their first Stratham Fair titles.

Wiles, a 32-year-old from Kittery, won the men's title, crossing the finish line in 29 minutes, 34 seconds. Davis, a 24-year-old from Exeter and Providence, R.I., who grew up in Madbury, won the women's title in 34:40.

There were 207 runners who finished the 5.7-mile course, which began and finished at Stratham Hill Park.

Alan Bernier, a well-known local runner who also resides in Exeter and Providence, was second in the men's race in 31:16, while Brandon Gerrish, an 18-year-old from Lebanon, Maine and graduate of Portsmouth Christian Academy, was third in 32:01.

Heidi Nadeau, who grew up in North Hampton and presently resides in Portsmouth, was second in the women's race in 36:58, just edging last year's winner Stephanie Crawford, a two-time winner of the race, who finished in 37:01.

"A couple of young guys took it out good," said Wiles, noting Gerrish was in the lead for the first couple of miles. "We were keeping an eye on him. He was running good."

"I knew I came out a little too fast," said Gerrish, who will attend Texas A&M this fall and hopes to continue his running at the college level.

Gerrish went through the first mile in 5:12.

Wiles ran with his friend, Bernier, for the first couple of miles.

"About two miles in (Bernier) told me I was on my own," said Wiles.

Wiles' win was his 10th of the season.

"I am having a good year," said Wiles. "I'm picking all the right races."

Wiles, who was fourth at the Market Square Day 10K has a best 5K clocking this season of 15:23, which he set in winning the Redhook 5K.

As far as the Stratham race goes ...

"It has a hometown feel to it," said Wiles. "Gary (Rohr, the race director) does a great job and it's a fun way to start the weekend. It's one of those fun races you look forward to every year."

Wiles was second the last couple of years, last year to Lawton Redman, and the year before to Casey Carroll.

"I was hoping the third time was a charm, and I lucked out," said Wiles.

Wiles wasn't the only one who placed second last year.

Davis, who attended Phillips Exeter Academy and now teaches algebra there during the summer, was second last year behind Crawford.

Davis and Crawford also ran the first couple of miles together until a hill began to separate the two.

Davis, who's been running 55-60 miles per week, said she's been getting stronger. Last year her goal was to break 19 minutes in a 5K; this fall she wants to break 18.

For Davis, who ran at Williams College, this was her 15th or 16th win of the year.

"If you want to win, it's a matter of choosing races wisely," said Davis, who is going for her PhD in math at Brown University.

Most of those wins (14 of them) have come in the Red Rooster Ramble Series, a five-mile, 24-race series in Providence.

Her biggest win of the year, however, was the Providence Half-Marathon, which she ran in 1:26.

Crawford, a 33-year-old from Dover and member of the Coastal Athletic Association, said she "just didn't have it" this year. The speech therapist from Easter Seals said she hasn't run in too many races this year.

Nadeau, the former standout javelin thrower at Winnacunnet High School and Penn State University, caught Crawford at the finish.

"It was an all-out high school wild finish," said the 23-year-old Nadeau, who ran almost two minutes faster than she did last year and about eight minutes faster than she did the first time she ran the Stratham Fair race a couple of years ago.

"Every year I try to get faster," said Nadeau, whose goal is to win her first ever race.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stonington Six - July 3, 2010

(Results) For several years now, I have had a goal: to win my hometown 10k. Now, one could argue that it's not actually my hometown (since I am From Away) and that it's not actually 10k (probably 6.25+). But nevertheless, ever since I won the Fun Run four years in a row back in my youth, my goal has been to come back and win the real race. Let's quickly review the history:

1996, age 10: My first time running the Fun Run. I asked my parents if we could drive the course beforehand so that I would know where to go. They assured me that I would not be winning, so I could just follow all the people in front of me. One mile into a 1.2-mile race, I found myself battling for first place with a 40-year-old lobsterman. We got to a T intersection and I turned left; he turned right. I quickly corrected my error and caught back up. As we sprinted down the final straightaway towards the finish line, he was able to get a slight advantage and beat me by a nose. I have a picture of this somewhere -- it is epic (but not digital). My prize was two lobsters from the co-op!

1997, age 11: I am ready for a rematch with my lobsterman friend. Unfortunately, he is not in the race this year. My brother (31 years old at the time) is running, and he slows down to run with me and then lets me win (we went 1-2). He gives his "first male finisher" prize to the kid who finished behind us. Our dad finishes sixth overall in the fun run. The prize was $10 to the grocery store.

1998, age 12: My brother and I return, but now for whatever reason there are lots of kids from abroad visiting the island and they all decide to run the race. I finish sixth, but first female again. (The prize was $15 to a local restaurant.)

1999, age 13: All the years kind of blur together. I don't know what happened, but I know I won four years in a row. (The prize was a size-large T-shirt from a local museum.)

2000-2007: I was always away for the Fourth of July, so I couldn't run.

2008: I came to the race hoping to win, and I led the first three miles, but then a woman passed me, and at five miles a girl passed me and ended up winning. Happily, she was from the island. A third woman tried to pass me in the last mile, but I held her off. Good thing, because she was in my age group! (And the prize was a $25 gas card, very useful.) I ran either 43 or 44 minutes -- the results got messed up that year and my record-keeping was ambiguous. The winner ran 42 minutes.

2009: This time, I was really in shape, and I thought I would certainly win. However, another woman was doing strides on the starting line! Danger. I held her (Susannah) off for the first mile, but then she passed me and ran away, running about 35 minutes. It turned out that she had been 4th at the Olympic Trials marathon and was the current national champion in the 50-miler. So I didn't really stand a chance. Running alone, though (not even with any men), I still ran 40:36, which was a 10k PR by nearly 1.5 minutes. (The prize was a 6-pack of Poland Springs water and a tote bag.)

2010: Now, finally, maybe it was my chance! Alan said, "last year it took the national champion to beat you, so you'll probably win." Of course, if Susannah had shown up, I would not have won, and if Elizabeth had shown up, it would have been a very tough battle. However, I did finally win it this year.

I was barely able to get onto the starting line, because it was full of young boys all jockeying for position. Alan gave me his spot and I lined up next to a girl in pink:

She took it out at the gun and, from my vantage point behind her, I could see that her shirt said "Manchester Invitational." This meant two things: first, she was a high school cross country runner, and second, she must be young, because the shirt was synthetic. Back in my day, they were cotton. We went back and forth -- she would surge and I would cover it. Then I would surge and she would cover it. She was running a very erratic pace, surging to get ahead of me and then slowing down. I did this for a few minutes, and then decided to put an end to it. I sped up until I had put about 20 feet between us. She didn't catch up. I hazarded a glance as we made a 90-degree turn and she was further back. A little before the two-mile mark, I looked back and there was no one.

Ahead of me were five men: Alan running with a Tufts collegiate runner, then two men that we had seen on our warm-up and thought were twins running together, and then another man close ahead of me. I stayed behind the fifth man and was happy to let him carry me through the tangents on the curvy course. A little before three miles, I felt myself catching up to him, so I passed him and ran on ahead, moving into fifth place overall. The rest of the race was relatively uneventful except for the usual tug-of-war between my desire to run the tangents and my desire to avoid the cars. I was fortunate that the walkers, who had a 30-minute head start, ran interference (walked interference?) for me on much of the course.

I got to the 6-mile mark in exactly 38 minutes, the same as in the MDI YMCA 10k where I ended up running 38:55. In Stonington, from 6 miles to the end you bomb down this steep downhill, make a turn and then kick for the finish. So it should have been faster than at the MDI. However, I finished in 39:31. So I think the course was a little long, or 6 miles was short. (It should be noted that my split from 6 miles to the end was the same as Alan's, so I was not lollygagging.) I was surprised to look at my popsicle stick and see a "4" on it, since I knew I was fifth! But one of the twins (?) had made a wrong turn and cut off maybe 1/2 mile of the course, finishing ahead of Alan, so he was disqualified.

By the way, it turned out that the girl in pink was running the Fun Run (they start together, and split at about 1 mile). She and her brother went 1-2 in that race. I won the 10k by over seven minutes. Like I always say -- "The key to winning races is choosing your races wisely."

I chatted with some people I knew; then we ran back along the course until we met my brother and sister-in-law, and we ran with them to the end, and then cooled down back to the car. (They ran about the same as last year, but a little slower.) Ironically, in our rush to drive to the parade, we forgot to go to the awards! After all those years of hoping to win. But it's really about the pride, not the schwag. Luckily the rest of the family was still down at the finish area and picked up our prizes for us, which were nice blue duffel bags with the race logo. Sweet! I even managed to get in a swim later in the day, and much fun was had by all.