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.