Sunday, February 10, 2008

Half at The Hamptons


When: Sunday, February 10, 2008
What: Half at the Hamptons
Miles: 13.1
Time: 1:58:01
Why: Pacing - 9 min milers
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My training continues towards my 2008 ultra-running season opener at the McNaughton 150 Miler in Pekin, IL this April. Along the way through these brutal winter months in New Hampshire, I have the need to find ways to motivate myself through another week. This week, has been by far, one tough week, earning every mile I ran. The weather this week has been stormy, with mother nature showing us a wide array of weather. Today would be no different.

From time to time it is nothing short of a STELLAR idea to do something that gives back to the running community around you. These days, not only do I find myself directing a race in Vermont, and sitting on the race committee for 4 others, but I decided to give back locally. I volunteered to be a pacer in the Inaugural Half At The Hamptons at Hampton Beach, NH. I offered to be the 9:00 minute man, and lead runners to a 1:58 half marathon, sub 2 hours.

I showed up not knowing what to expect. I had only paced in an ultra previously, at a time in a race where speed was not an issue and survival was. Today would turn out to be much different and more difficult than I had anticipated. As I strolled out for a 2 mile warm-up at my normal pace, I realized that the GPS watch I brought with me to provide the pacing, had low batteries. 6 Minutes into the run, the watch died. I knew right then that this could be interesting. I returned to the hotel to talk with a few other folks I have met in races previous and stay warm before the start of the race. I wandered outside and stood beside the road, spoke with other runners about "human potential" and then headed for the starting line.

The race as a whole was a truly classy affair. They played the National Anthem before the start, gave every runner a quality tech shirt, medal, and what I like to consider "minimal aid" for a road course. Either way, it was a fantastic event. I highly recommend the race to any first time or veteran runner. As the gun went off, I settled in to what I felt was 9/min miles... only to find out at Mile one that I was actually running 9:30's. CRAP! I'll now need to pick up the pace over the rest of the course to ensure everyone sub 2 hour finish. At mile 3, I was still running 30 seconds behind. This was rather frustrating to me.

Let me tell you how tough pacing was. Not only did I not have a watch and would ask out loud for the splits at mile markers, but every time I would pass someone, they would speed up to get back in front of me. This set me off into race mode and I'd hunt them down, this was not good because I felt like it was to the detriment to other runners.I tried my hardest to run my own race, keep it slow, catch up steadily... it was hard work for sure. Immense pressure to say the least. But I enjoyed it. I had a small contingent of runners who stayed with me, and it was a pleasure to have them.

As the race wore on, what little sunshine we had disappeared. At mile 7, an older gentleman had collapsed to the road and was slipping into shock. We later heard the medical staff arrive. The winds shifted and picked up, the sky darkened and it began to snow and rain pretty hard for the remainder of the race. The race directors asked me to run the first 5 miles at 8:55 min mile pace and then ease off. Not only had I failed at doing this, I was kind of glad I had seeing as I do not agree with this mentality of running. I'm a neg split kind of guy. Start off easy, settle in.. kick in, head for home. This is how I ran the race. As we slowly covered the course, those 9:30 miles quickened to 8:45 min miles with 2 or 3 miles to go. The ocean was a gorgeous green as waves crashed against and splashed over the sea wall. It was beautiful for sure.

It was incredible to cross that line at EXACTLY 1:58:01 and manage to get these folks to their 9:00 Miles. I watched as a few rose their arms in victory celebrating their accomplishment. Even a few "I did it!"s were heard. I turned around and gave high fives to the very last of the sun 2 hour runners. The headed inside to warm up and eat. I enjoyed a harpoon beer and some soup. A few of the runners I paced, came over to thank me. How very cool it was. As an ultra-runner, I often tend to forget that a few short years ago, I was in this mass of runners, just having finished a race of this length, thinking there was no further than that. The accomplishment in and of itself was HUGE. Even though now it seems lack luster and just another run on the training schedule... It was great to give back and to help share strength and courage with many others. Run strong folks!

If you haven't given back to your running community yet... think about doing it.
Happy trails!
SJ