Official Time: 38:46. 8th out of 542. 6th in Age Group (19-39.) Results here.
I've wanted to run this race for a few years now and when Tri-Mom offered a 50% discount earlier in the year, I seized the opportunity. Scheduling issues put the kibosh on their original parking plan and as a result there were cars stretching all the way from the park-and-ride to almost Rome Point, with just as many going in the opposite direction. Luckily my buddy Jay lives very close to the race and I was able to park at his house.
Most runners I knew were doing the Clamdigger down in Westerly, so I got there early and decided to do a long solo warm-up - I was well rested from three days off. I ran a loop on Snuff Mill Road - I haven't been on this road in years but back in high school we use to do the Snuff Mill 8-miler weekly. The memories came flooding back as I passed familiar houses and landmarks. I was relieved to not feel any agitation in my ankles/shins as I ran.
Basking in the nostalgia, I tackled Snuff Hill at an easy pace and made my way to the park-and-ride to stretch. Tri-Mom Productions puts on a great event and this was no exception. There's music, an energetic announcer and even a bag check. Going into this race I wasn't sure how I was going to respond to the hills. I wanted to give an honest effort but I was worried about going out too fast. At the start line I noticed a TNT runner that's comparable to myself and made a point to keep an eye on him to gauge my own pace.
The race began and we entered the on-ramp and began the descent towards the bridge. My pace was just below 6 and a group of people passed me - I ignored the urge to keep up with them. I felt I wasn't working too hard and I didn't want to get suckered into hauling ass down the initial decline. The group was a good ways ahead by the time the road flattened out and I could see TNT guy ahead of them. I wondered if I had started out too conservatively. By the time I reached the bridge I figured I was probably in about 15th place.
I was running alongside a man and woman for a bit but once the bridge incline began they dropped back. I gradually caught up to and passed two more runners. I thought my pace was good (based on passing several people) but when I glanced at my watch I saw I was running at a 7 minute pace. Not fast enough! I pushed it to the crest and then began moving down the other side of the bridge at a good clip.
The course takes the first offramp into Jamestown and then passes on neighborhood roads underneath the bridge before looping back around and onto 138 West. I was moving well on these local roads and appreciated the support from the locals. I passed a couple more runners and as I turned back onto the bridge I spied one more runner followed by TNT guy. Of the three big hills in this race, the second bridge ascent is the easiest - I passed the runner on the way up and closed the distance on TNT.
TNT put some space between us on the descent and as the bridge leveled off I began to doubt that I would catch him. I was closing on him again but I knew that the last half mile was a brutal uphill climb. Had he been saving himself for the finish? Did I have enough left to push past? I figured I was in 10th place and the voice in my head was telling me to just ease off and let TNT pull me up the hill. Top 10 is good enough, the voice said. There's no need to kill yourself. You've done enough.
Damn you voice! So soothing. So convincing. And I was so tired. But I thought about the age group awards. In the back of my mind, I knew I wasn't too far removed from them. Knowing TNT was my age and knowing that it could make all the difference, I pushed forward and as the last incline began I reached TNT. It was clear that he was already working hard and I pushed past him, trying just to focus on keeping my pace up. Up ahead was the Route 1A overpass, filled with cheering fans. Beyond that was the offramp and salvation.
I kept pushing up the hill. Lungs were burning. The hill seemed to go on forever and I hadn't even reached the mile 6 marker yet. But I had managed to come upon another runner. Knowing the end was near, knowing that this was another opportunity, I flung my arms back and forth in an exaggerated fashion and surged ahead of him. I saw him take a look at me but he too seemed to have reached his limits. I hit the curve of the offramp and continued to push. I had no idea if the guy was hanging on or if I had created a gap. My lungs were now screaming and I kept waiting for the finish line to appear around the corner. Finally I saw orange cones and then the corral. I crossed the line, thrilled with my effort.
The finish line is funny because you end halfway up the offramp and then you have to make your way across the road back to the park-and-ride. I congratulated the other finishers and was totally amped up by my performance so I went right into my cooldown and banged out another three miles. Back at the post-race party, I began my traditional feeding regimen. Pizza, pizza, pizza, cookie. Repeat. I'll say it again, Tri-Mom does a great job putting on these events and their spread is top notch. They even had free mugs.
Looking at the results, I thought I had a shot at the age group awards but I finished one out. Gah! Not to be. Had the top three finishers all been in my AG, I'd have picked up the AG bronze. Damn you forty year old guy! Still, I'm more than pleased with how this race turned out, especially over the last mile. Gutting it out on that last hill to pick up two more spots was a huge motivational boost. A great race!