Time: 1:03:55. 79th out of 2706 overall. 13th out of 295 in Age Group. Results here.
The Blessing of the Fleet is a 10 mile road race that takes place on a Friday evening in late July in Narragansett. Tons of people run it, there's a seafood festival at the finish line, great crowd support and it's usually a humid, sticky affair. After last year's sopping wet delay and subpar performance I didn't think I'd be gung-ho to run it again. However as the 2013 race drew closer I decided to take another go. Last year I ran it in 1:17 and I knew I was capable of much more. After hitting 1:14 in the Run with the Beaver trail race earlier this month, I decided to shoot for 70 minutes. Jonny pushed me to go for 65 minutes and I decided to take a shot at it - 6:30 miles would do the trick.
I left work early and took a long roundabout way in order to avoid the maddening traffic. I ended up getting there with plenty of time to spare and was able to relax for a bit. It was raining as I got ready but it tapered off shortly thereafter and the conditions ended up being just about perfect - cool, overcast and not too humid. Much better than last year. I did a short warm-up that brought me to the starting line. With almost 3,000 runners it's pretty goofy that they don't close the road until three minutes prior to the start but there you have it. Once the starting line tape went up, everyone scrambled to get a decent position. I saw Gunshow but didn't see any of the WTAC folks. Almost as soon as the tape went up it went down and then the race began.
I tried to keep the pace in check at the start but it was tough with the adrenaline and all the speedsters. I ended up running the first mile at a 6:04 pace. Way too fast! I eased off as we made our way down Ocean Road and settled into a rhythm with the surrounding runners. Second mile clocked in at 6:30 - right where I wanted to be. They had big red digital clocks for every mile of this race and I quickly became obsessed with them, calculating how much time ahead of goal I was.
At 3.5 miles, a pack of high school runners went by, chitchatting and being all awesome. Goddamn younglings - they weren't even working that hard. I let 'em go and instead focused on my pace - which was actually now in the 6:20 range. I was keeping ahead of the my goal time but questioned if I'd be able to maintain it for another six miles. I decided to just keep it up and if the wheels came off, so be it. Turning off of Ocean Road, a guy shouted that I was in 90th place. Top 100! Now I just had to keep it. The last corner as we turned onto Route 108 was packed with people and though I know Muddy hates this stretch, it actually invigorated me and helped me push.
At least for a while. Route 108 drags on and on and by now we had caught up to the walkers (they started an hour before us.) Most of them were out of the way on the sidewalk but occasionally there would be a few in the road and I'd have to swerve around them. Aggravating. As the long stretch of Route 108 wore on, I recorded my slowest mile at 6:37. I had passed several people over this section and only one or two guys overtook me. Just before mile 6, I looked over at the latest overtaker and there's Gunshow. Together we pass a couple more guys and finally leave Route 108 in favor of Old Point Judith Road.
Four miles to go and I'm working to hang with Ben. He's getting a lot of support from spectators - everyone seems to know him. Man of the People, that guy. I hang with him for about a mile and then I drop back as it's starting to feel like too much. Now on Kinney Ave, we finally hit the neighborhoods where the crowds grow and the end approaches. I'm starting to get psyched - my pace is still in the 6:20s and even if I drop to 7 minute miles I'd still hit 65 minutes.
The stretch of road that takes us past the starting line was the worst of the run as I was anxious to wrap the race up. A guy with a great beard pushed past me looking strong and I gave him encouragement. Turning onto Avice Street, I pull even with Gunshow and we pump each other up as we turn onto Kingstown Road for the last mile. Ben clearly had a bit more left than me as he moved ahead on this last section which is thankfully downhill. A little fellow in an orange shirt passed me as well but I was already motoring and watched him pull away.
Now on the last stretch, I passed some spectating friends who gave me encouragement and I pushed hard down towards the finish, lungs burning. I passed one more guy who looked like he was struggling and was beginning to gain on Gunshow. Two guys pulled up next to me and I heard one of them say, "do you want to take it?" I think they were just using this as a training run and not giving it their all. Screw that, no way they were going past me - I hammered it and pulled ahead of them, finishing just behind Gunshow.
So I finished in under 64 minutes and was absolutely thrilled. I guess from now on it's In Hammett I Trust as once again he sized up my potential correctly. Met up with the WTAC guys and learned of their successes - Muddy ran a sub 59, Jeff paced his son Matthew to a sub 68 minute PR and Mike B experienced the craziness of this race for the first time. And who was the last runner to cross in under an hour? None other than David Principe Jr, the young Tuesday Night Turtle who thwarted us at every turn in the winter trail series. This was a strong night for everyone.
Here are my splits:
Mile 1 - 6:04
Mile 2 - 6:30
Mile 3 - 6:23
Mile 4 - 6:21
Mile 5 - 6:27
Mile 6 - 6:37
Mile 7 - 6:25
Mile 8 - 6:22
Mile 9 - 6:22
Mile 10 - 6:01