Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saunders at Rye Harbor 10k

Thursday night was the latest race in the 2010 Seacoast Road Race Series.  It was the 34th annual (and 'maybe' the last) Saunders at Rye Harbor 10k (results) in Rye, NH.  I've always liked this race. It's in a beautiful town on the seacoast of NH.  It is well organized, gets good competition, is part of the Seacoast Series that I'm so fond of, and it's a pretty fast 10k course.

With Kristin still out in western Mass for the remainder of the summer, I headed up solo and showed up in time to grab my bib and head out for a warmup with Chris Mahoney (Whirlway) and Heather Searles (Whirlaway).  We ran the last part of the course and the weather was absolutely perfect. We were scouting around before the race and I only noticed John Mentzer and Tim Rider as being potential top finishers (along w/ Chris and I of course).  John is in great shape and I knew the race was his...Tim is coming back from a couple years off from serious racing/training...and Chris hasn't really been running that much recently, although he was coming off of a PR and great run at Beach to Beacon up in Maine.  I was reeling just a bit from my long weekend of racing this past weekend, but felt ok and optimistic about trying to run fast on this course.  I knew the course is a good course to run negative split 5ks on. I did it last year (16:11/16:09) so I knew I may be able to do it fast, I wasn't sure...but I did have in the back of my mind about trying to hit around 16:00 and then try to dip under 16 on the last 5k...

As the gun went off, it was immediately Chris, me, and John Mentzer, with one other guy seemingly close behind. I wasn't sure if it was Tim or not and only glanced once during the first mile.  Through the first mile, the three of us were all together.  We chugged through in 5:06, which was ahead of my goal of trying to be under 5:10s for as long as possible.

The second mile was clicked through nearly at the same pace (5:07) and I was still right with John...although now Chris started to fade back just a bit...somewhere after 2, I could no longer hear his footfalls behind me and I was starting to fall just a little bit off of the pace behind John.  The second mile has the steepest climbs on the course (2 actually back to back).  The steepest part being just before 3 miles.  Once you click through 5k, it is basically flat, downhill, and then flat again.  I came up through the slowest mile on the course in 5:11 (so 15:25 through 3).  I was pretty excited that I was basically still on pace even after that slow uphill section.  I came through 5k in 15:58 ticking to 15:59 and thought for a brief moment about being able to crack 32.  I was less than 10 seconds behind John at this point, but it was just enough for me to not think about going back up with him just yet.

During the 4th mile, it's a long flat stretch with some downhill.  I maintained a 10 second or so gap behind John and felt comfortable staying there and having him pull me through. I knew I probably had 2nd wrapped up unless something happened like a stitch or cramp or something.  I also figured that if I could just stay close enough, I would run a good time.  John is like clockwork with running strong races...I knew he'd be under 32, so I just had to keep it close.  I came through 4 miles in 20:31, which meant I dropped a 5:05 (my quickest mile of the race).  I got even more confidence to keep up the pace and not back down or settle.  At this point, it was me vs the clock. I stopped thinking about place, the win, or anything else. I wanted to keep the same pace up and finish strong.  The 4th mile dips down and turns onto Rt 1A and does essentially the 9th mile of the Eastern States 20 course.  John had maybe a 14-15 second lead on me here and that's basically where it would stay.  I clicked through 5 in 25:39 and knew it was going to be close!  That last .2 can be long!  I had all I could do to muster out a 5:08 and 5:09 last 5th and 6th mile.  I hit 6 in 30:49 and knew I had 1:11 to do the last .2 to get under 32 minutes.  The last .2 turns onto the road up to the restaurant and has a little steep uphill over a bridge.  I really worked this last part, glaring at both my watch and the finish clock...I really didn't know I was going to do it until I was about 10 steps from the finish line... In the end I came through in 31:53 for 2nd place, behind John yet again...I've only beaten this guy once (a couple years ago) in a million tries. This was also my PR for 10k (admittedly, I haven't run many 'fast' road 10ks in my career, but it feels good to break that 32 minute barrier I thought was going to elude me for good)... Most of the top guys had a mysterious 1.1 second differential in their gun vs. net times. It's weird because we were all on the starting line, which was essentially the starting mat. Potentially they started the gun time early, as the 'gun' was Andy Schachat yelling 'go'.

For my troubles, I won 25 beans, a nice Saunders shirt and short combo (they do that every year)... all the top finishers also got an additional race shirt, and I got a signed copy of another book by a local author.  Chris Mahoney (third place) and I both thought it was a little strange that the spread of prize money between 1st and 2nd was the largest margin I've ever seen (percentage-wise) in a local road race.  First place was $175, while 2nd was $25 and 3rd was $15.  That's a $150 difference between first and second.  Now, sometimes I've seen like 300 / 150 / 75.... but to drop $150 when the prize was only 175 to begin with (while keeping only 10 dollars difference between 2nd and 3rd) is definitely unique.  I am in no way complaining however, as I am always thrilled to win anything at these races...Its always a nice bonus to get an award of any kind....99% of the folks who show up and go through the same pain I do, walk away with just a t-shirt, so I'm one of the lucky ones (at least for now :) )...

I've run this race the last 3 years.  I was 4th in 2008, 3rd in 2009, and now 2nd in 2010.  And each year I've gotten faster. IF they have a race next year, maybe I'll steal one! :)

From Andy S's Facebook update: The other story of the night: with the Saunders restaurant closing in a few weeks the question is being asked about the future of the race. Race director Doug Zechel would like to keep the race going with as little change as possible.

We shall see...I'd love to be able to keep running this late Summer classic.


Mile 1) 5:06
Mile 2) 5:07 (10:13)
Mile 3) 5:11 (15:25)
5k) 15:59
Mile 4) 5:05 (20:31)
Mile 5) 5:08 (25:39)
Mile 6) 5:09 (30:49)
10k) 31:53

Fosters Article
Photos by Lisa Dressel-Rohr

Top 10 Overall

131:35.55:06JOHN MENTZER       33PORTSMOUTH  
231:53.65:09JIM JOHNSON        33SALEM       
434:43.25:36TIMOTHY RIDER      34ROCHESTER   
534:55.15:38CHRIS APKARIAN     20ALTON BAY   
635:03.75:40MARK GIBSON        43DURHAM      
735:24.35:43JASON PORTER       40BEDFORD     
835:26.35:43ANDREW MARSHALL    15N.ANDOVER   
935:39.05:45CHRIS RITCHIE      27HAMPTON     
1035:55.05:48JOSHUA RAYMAN      41            

785 Finishers.

Post race festivities (free Budweiser beer) with Chris Mahoney and myself...


  1. Dude, nice race! It is a good course, but the chances of getting a mild summer night to run on can make it a gamble.

  2. Great racing! Congrats on the p.r. You're in the zone, man.