Time again for the Blessing of the Fleet, a 10 mile road race held in the late afternoon on the last Friday of July. Conditions are usual hot and muggy, not exactly ideal for running. But the crowd support and vibe of the race make it an enjoyable if grueling affair. Going in I had more anxiety than usual. Amanda and Ezri were coming with me to hang out at a party near the finish line and I knew other friends would be watching the race as well. Most of the faster WTAC guys would be there and as the hours ticked away on race day I was feeling slow and undertrained.
Luckily the weather was about as good as it gets for this race. Temp in the mid 70s and the humidity wasn't oppressive. I navigated the backroads to get us there with plenty of time to spare and did an easy two mile warm-up that led me to the starting line. It occurred to me that I hadn't eaten much since lunch time - would that be my undoing? I was very thirsty and made use of several of the waterstops during my warm-up. I arrived at the start which is always a fun spectacle with hundreds of fit people standing around waiting. Saw the usual suspects including the MIA Grey Ghost himself. The race folks actually shut the road down five minutes earlier this year so we lined up around 5:52 instead of 5:58. A nice change. After a few minutes of standing around feeling antzy, an airhorn blared and we were off.
I immediately felt better once we were running. I attempted to avoid going out too fast but it's hard with so many people flying by. The Mighty Gazelle quickly went by, on his way to another impressive PR at age 50. I considered trying to stay with him but I was already moving too fast so I tried to reign it in more. Despite my efforts my first mile clocked in at 5:56 and I was worried I'd pay for it on the back end.
|Waving to my adoring fans on Gibson Ave - Photo by Miriam Overend|
Still I was feeling good and the nervous energy of pre-race had long since vanished. I eased into a 6:15-6:20 pace and it was feeling hard but manageable. A group of young college guys had been behind me for the first mile, shooting the shit, jawing each other at their 6:20 pace. It was annoying hearing them converse while I was already working. Finally the herd of shirtless wonders passed and pulled ahead down Ocean Rd, no doubt to annoy other suffering people.
By the time we reached Scarborough Beach I had stopped getting passed and became the passer, picking people off one by one. Some kid said "doing great old man" which made me smile despite it all. That's the grey hair/moustache combo for you. The return stretch along Point Judith Road was as endless as ever and I posted my slowest mile of 6:25 on Mile 6. It's not exactly the most picturesque stretch of road, it's hot and you can see that you still have a ways to go. The walkers set out an hour before the runners and this is where you encounter them en masse. There were a few annoying points where I had to go around them but overall I didn't mind having all the extra people on the course - kept it from being a lonely slog.
|Nearly done and about to be passed|
Photo by Scott Mason
The shady Kinney Ave was a welcome change and I latched onto a couple fast ladies as we made our way back towards the cheering spectators. Em and some friends were cheering for me on Gibson Ave which was welcome support but it was all work after that. I passed the women I had been trailing and saw the next runner was off in the distance. There was someone right on my heels - one of the women? I came upon the mile 8 water stop which annoyed me for some reason because I thought I had already passed 8 miles.
A guy with an orange singlet passed me with about 1.5 miles to go and quickly put distance on me. My foot began to hurt. I wore my minimal NB 730s which I often use for road runs in the 4-7 mile range. This was my longest foot race and in them I was feeling the impact with a mile to go. Last year I was able to peel off a 6:01 for the last mile. I probably ran that race a bit too conservatively in retrospect - this year I felt much worse towards the end but I still was able to churn out a 6:07. I saw/heard Amanda and Ez not far from the finish and that helped propel me forward. I closed the gap on a guy in front of me but couldn't catch him before the finish.
|Glad it's over! Photo by Spitler Race Systems|
One minute and seven second PR over last year! Very pleased with how the race turned out. All the doubt and nervous energy disappeared as soon as the race began and I hit the pace I was aiming for. Afterwards I walked around, eating bananas and chatting with the guys. Seems like everyone had a good day. The area quickly filled up as walkers and runners completed the course and after a few minutes I jogged back to Amanda where I enjoyed a dip in the pool, a beer and some grub.