Sunday was the 4th annual Seacoast Half Marathon in Portsmouth, NH. The race actually starts and ends at Portsmouth high school but the race takes you down into Rye, up the beach and out around New Castle before returning to Portsmouth and climbing back to the high school.
Going into the race I knew that last year's winner, Chris Mahoney was entered to defend his title. I also knew that he ran Baystate just three weeks ago and had hurt a hamstring and taken some time off. So I was kind of hoping that a slightly injured Chris might be a good rabbit for me so I could try to shave some time off my PR from last year of 1:17:10. At 100% I don't think I can touch him right now. There were a few other Coastal folks running, including Hunter Bennett-Daggett, Todd Gerrish, and Stephanie Crawford, among others. I picked up my packet on Saturday at Runner's Alley so I wouldn't have to worry about that on race day. Sunday morning I got up early and had some breakfast and played with Camden for a little while before getting ready and heading over to the race. After parking I chatted with a few people and tried to relax for a little while before starting to get warmed up. I went out for a 10-15 minute easy jog to get warmed up and tried to time it so that I wouldn't have to wait too long before the start of the race. As I was walking up to the start I noticed another guy in a Whirlaway shirt lacing up some lunar racers and realized it wasn't Chris. Once I got to the starting line I saw Chris and said hello. I asked how his leg was feeling and what he had in mind for today. He then introduced me to Dan Princic, who I realized was the other Whirlaway guy.
After a nice national anthem and a few words from Andy Schachat we were ready for the gun. There was a nice crowd on hand to see the start (and good support for much of the race, actually) and within a few hundred yards it was the three of us alone already. The first couple of miles are gradually downhill, including a nice drop at Sagamore Hill, so I wasn't too surprised when we hit the first mile in about 5:17. The second mile has the big drop but I think we all cut back a hair after the first mile and we hit two miles at 10:45, so a 5:28 second mile. Just after 2 miles we got to Foyes Corner, which produced the only confusion of the day. The race turns left but there is a rotary and the lead vehicles went out around the rotary. The three of us saw it coming and I knew the race went left. Eric McKenna in the lead vehicle pointed for us to go left but a volunteer at the corner tried to usher us around the rotary behind the lead vehicle. So Dan and I ended up following them around the rotary while Chris went left, as the course is actually measured. Not a big deal, but it probably added about 10 seconds. Chris immediately slowed down and waited for us to catch up, which was the right thing to do and I tip my cap to him for being a good sport.
The next couple of miles we just worked our way down to the beach in a pack. I think we got to 4 miles in 21:48 which is just after turning onto the beach. There is a little bit of a climb and shortly after we got onto flat ground Chris surged a little bit. It was a little out of my comfort zone but Dan went with him so they made about a 10 yard gap on me. There is water stop around mile 5.5 and when they both pulled over to take water and I skipped it, I was able to pull back even and we were briefly in a 3 man pack again. However, just a few moments later Dan picked it up a little bit and put a few yards on me and Chris. We hit 10K in 33:47, which is just 6 seconds off my 10K PR. This scared me a bit, but I tried to remind myself that I haven't run a 10K since Market Square Day and I'm in much better shape now. Over the next few miles Dan gradually stretched it out a bit on me and Chris, building a lead of probably 150-200 yards by the time we got to 10 miles.
Chris and I plugged along back into Portsmouth and turned out towards New Castle Island still together. I think we both started to realize that we were going to hurt a bit coming home, at least I knew I was. As we approached the Wentworth Hotel I tried to use the couple little hills there to create a little separation from Chris. It worked a little, as I think I got 10-15 yards on him, but it stung me pretty hard as well. I got to 9 miles in 49:54. I had been hoping to get here in around 49:10, so obviously things weren't going quite as well as I had hoped. I know the New Castle Loop by heart because I run it at least twice every week, but usually in the other direction. But even going the other way it was a bit comforting to be on such familiar road. I got to mile 10 and took a bottle of fluids from Guy Stearns who was manning the sharp and potentially dangerous corner by the Coast Guard Station. I don't really have a 10 mile PR, but I got there at 55:33, which is definitely faster than I've ever run 10 miles by at least 2 minutes.
At this point I knew I was in rough shape and that the last 5K was going to be a test of determination. The last part of the course, really from about mile 8.75 back to the finish is all gradually uphill with just a couple of little drops. I could still see Dan on the straight sections but never really had any reason to think I would reel him in at all, unless he ran into a bigger wall than I did. I thought I had shed Chris for good by mile 9.5 because I couldn't hear him at all, but around mile 10.5 I took a quick peek back and realized he was still right there, only about 50 yards back. I remember thinking to myself, "Shit, he's going to reel me in as a die out here on the last mile or two." But evidently Chris was having about has much fun as I was because I did manage to hold him off over the last couple of miles, which slowed substantially for all three of us. Chris showed a lot of guts by coming out to defend his title knowing he wasn't 100% and he ran hard all day.
With about 2 miles to go I started doing some math. I realized that I'd need a couple of 5:30 miles to get under 1:13:00 and I knew that wasn't going to happen at this point, so I began to convince myself to just run hard and see how far under 1:14:00 I could get. I worked as hard as I could over the last couple of miles back into Portsmouth and up towards the high school, again traversing very familiar roads. As I finally rounded the corner back up Summit street and into the high school parking lot I was very thankful to be wrapping up the race. I was in a good amount of discomfort, as much as I've felt in a race before, so I was very happy with my effort and time. I crossed the line in 1:13:48 for 2nd place.
After sucking some much needed Finish Line Oxygen with my hands on my knees, I found Camie, Camden, Charles and Cindy for some congratualtions and kisses. I also shook hands with Dan and congratulated him on a good race and win. After going inside to change shoes and grab a bite to eat, Dan and I went out for a couple of easy miles to cool down. Dan's a real nice guy and we talked about maybe running a couple of indoor races over the winter. He and his wife have a little son and it sounds like they really love the Seacoast area. He was headed over to Red Hook with his Growler for some lunch and a beer after the race!
I picked up a couple hundred bucks for 2nd place, which ain't too shabby. It's my biggest payday from running so far. Also, Stephanie Crawford finished 2nd in the women's race, breaking the previous course record in the process!
Seacoast Online article HERE
Race results HERE
2) 5:28 10:45
3) 5:41 16:26 (with the extra loop around the rotary)
4) 5:22 21:48
5) 5:26 27:14
6) 5:35 32:50
7) 5:41 38:31
8) 5:32 44:03
9) 5:51 49:54
10) 5:39 55:33
11) 5:47 1:01:20
12) 5:56 1:07:16
13) 5:59 1:13:15
13.1) :33 1:13:48