Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eastern States 20 Miler

A couple of weekends ago I ran the Eastern States 20 Miler (results) for the 4th year in a row.  This is always a great run and a good solid long race before a Spring marathon (like Boston).  A lot of locals (including being very popular w/ GBTC runners) use it for a tuneup for Boston.  This race (course map) is unique, as it starts in Kittery, Maine, goes south down Route 1A all the way along the New Hampshire seacoast (the shortest coastline in the U.S.) and finishes in Salisbury, MA.  3 States, 7 towns, 20 miles.

The only problem with this race is the wind you get off of the ocean for a lot of the race.  Some of the miles are just plain ruined due to the massive headwinds.  The rest of the way feels like the wind hits you from the side.  The wind aside, I really enjoy the course.  Route 1A is a beautiful stretch of road for most of the race, as you wind down through Rye, NH and both Hampton and North Hampton (right past Hampton Beach).  The beginning of the race passes right through down town Portsmouth, one of my favorite places to run.

I headed up to Kittery solo and met up with my sister, who was running the race for the second year in a row, as a tuneup for the Boston Marathon.  I warmed up for a few minutes with Patrick Moulton, who would obviously be running this race by himself (his brother Casey broke Ed Sheehan's course record 2 years ago with a blistering 1:45). Besides Patrick, I noticed a few GBTC runners including Junyong Pak and Ryan Aschbrenner, who are always a threat for a top spot, and Shaun Evans (NY) who ran 2nd, behind Casey a couple years ago to the tune of 1:50 and change.   I was hoping for maybe top 5, but really can never be sure how this race will play out.

The starting area is about a half mile or so from the school (Traip Academy) and I trotted down to the start and got right next to Patrick and Shaun as the gun went off.  Patrick shot out and began to settle into his own pace and Shaun wasn't that far back at first.  I ran in 3rd for the first 200M or so, but then pulled up next to Shaun as we both probably decided that Patrick would be unchallenged up front and we'd settle for racing for 2nd.  I would say within the first 400M I moved a bit out ahead of Shaun and from there, I started to build up a slight pad as we made our way over the Memorial Bridge from Badger Island into Portsmouth.  I clicked through my first mile in 5:26 and figured I was looking good and feeling pretty smooth.  My high end goal was to run marathon pace-ish (5:35).  I knew with the wind in the middle miles, that I'd need to bank some time early.

The course winds through Portsmouth for the first few miles as it crosses across the Market Square course, Out of Hibernation course, Harbor Trail course, the old Children's Museum course (and probably a few others in town).  I held steady in 2nd and had a good lead by 2 miles, clicking through the 2 and 3 miles in 5:24 and 5:23.  Mile 4 is where the wind started to kill me last year, but the beginning section of 1A wasn't quite as bad this year and I was able to lock in a 5:27.  Surprisingly, I could still see Patrick, who didn't look like he was pulling away all that fast.  He was still within close proximity and I just figured I'd enjoy the time I could actually see him and see how long that would last.  By 4-5 miles, I could no longer see the runner(s) behind me.

Miles 5 and 6 are now along the water and anything goes here.  I was still in the 5:20s and feeling good, but then a massive wall of wind came whipping in at miles 7 and 8 and it pretty much made me almost call it a day with a fast time.  I thought to myself, 'ok there goes the fast time, but just make this a race now for place'...  Patrick (I would find out later) would really use a lot of his energy up on these middle miles and pay for it later.  Mile 9 calmed back down and I was able to rock back into the 5:20s, but then mile 10 was back to being a wall of wind.  I came through in 55:08 for 10 and heard that Patrick was 3 minutes up on me (from someone at the 10 mile waterstop).  I could still see him and the pace car WAY off in the distance and the way this race course is laid out, hugging the coast line, it cuts way inland and then back out, enough to be able to see people way ahead of you, as they wind back towards the ocean.

I started to really feel the affects of the wind over the next block of miles, as I was now winding along the Saunders 10K course and trying to make Patrick out, in now a sea of half marathoners that you start to pass (the Run to the Border Half Marathon starts in Rye at the same time as the 20 miler).  I always start passing the half marathon back of the packers at about the same time every year and this year was no different.  I weaved through miles 11-14, passing most of these folks who offered me encouragement as I continued to look up and see Patrick way off in the distance.  I figured if I could still see him this late in the race, that I was either running well, or he wasn't having one of his best days.

Miles 15 and 16 started to get very windy again and really took the steam out of my race.  By mile 17, you are running along and through the Hampton Beach area and through this stretch I had lost sight of Patrick, but really couldn't see that far ahead due to the nature of the course.  Patrick's fiancée was driving along the course and was offering me some encouragement through this stretch as she would continuously pass by me, and then run into traffic.  I felt OK after 17, but 18 was once again into a very cruel headwind.  I hit 6 minutes and figured I was on the wrong side of 6 from this point on, but once I got over the bridge in Seabrook, I was back to flying along, as the wind shifted and I was back down into the 5:30s.

As I entered Salisbury, MA, I was in an all out kick.  I knew I was going to run fast and I felt great.  I knew I could continue on for more miles at that clip and that was a great feeling.  I came up on the finish line a lot faster than I was expecting and ended up running a 5:18 last mile with a nice tailwind and finished only 1:09 back of Patrick, who had some problems over the last few miles and was no doubt reeling from the windy stretches, which took a lot out of us.


Mile 01) 5:26
Mile 02) 5:24 (10:50)
Mile 03) 5:23 (16:14)
Mile 04) 5:27 (21:41)
Mile 05) 5:24 (27:05)
Mile 06) 5:26 (32:32)
Mile 07) 5:44 (38:17)***
Mile 08) 5:40 (43:57)***
Mile 09) 5:27 (49:25)
Mile 10) 5:43 (55:08)***
Mile 11) 5:37 (1:00:45)
Mile 12) 5:32 (1:06:17)
Mile 13) 5:38 (1:11:56)
Mile 14) 5:35 (1:17:32)
Mile 15) 5:44 (1:23:16)***
Mile 16) 5:46 (1:29:02)***
Mile 17) 5:41 (1:34:44)
Mile 18) 6:01 (1:40:46)***
Mile 19) 5:33 (1:46:19)
Mile 20) 5:18 (1:51:37)**

** actual time 1:51:35

55:08 for my first 10 miles
56:27 for my 2nd 10 miles

The splits (wind aside) really do indicate that given the right day (conditions-wise) and health-permitting, I should hopefully be good for a solid effort at Boston next week.

History at ES20

2008 - 6th place - 1:57:39 (5:53 pace)
2009 - 6th place - 1:56:31 (5:50 pace)
2010 - 1st place - 1:57:33 (5:53 pace)
2011 - 2nd place - 1:51:35 (5:35 pace)

I've lost to 2 different Moulton's in 4 years.

Here is a video I found on Youtube, although conveniently I do not appear in it. It shows the GBTC guys a bunch of times, and Patrick Moulton once, but no views of my speedy self.  I saw a TON of people out there taking photos and video, yet I cannot find one other picture set or video of the race.


  1. I don't know you but I'm friends with the Hammetts. Close enough. 6 degrees of separation..

    WOW!! F*#in' awesome race, man!! People would kill for that type of improvement over several years, especially given the wind!!

    Nice job!!

  2. Thanks dude! I highly recommend doing the race if you ever get the chance...just a really cool jaunt through 3 states...