Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29 (Sunday) - Eastern States 20 Miler

Summer is coming (slowly) to Hampton Beach...

March 29 (Sunday) - Now that my blood has just about stopped boiling over the times being botched at first in the initial results posting on Coolrunning (they first had me and everyone else, about 1:18 slow in the post race results but then added even more time to my time in the revised results that were initially posted, rather than take off the erroneous time from the first results)... As of posting this, they are still trying to fix results, times, places, missing runners, etc. because of a mistake with the clocks at the finish line between the two races....I can calmly refrain from a rant though and get on with my writeup as they indicated they were fixing it and it's obvious that they have been getting hammered by a lot of runners noticing the timing issues.  They responded very quickly to my email this morning and promptly adjusted the time.  It's unfortunate that that small hiccup kind of overshadowed the otherwise beautiful day of running on one of the most scenic courses around.  I have always loved this race and consider it a staple of the early year New England road running scene (at least on my calendar).

Despite my foot pain yesterday, I decided to make it a 'morning of' decision to run the Eastern States 20 Miler (20.2 miles) (results) today.  I woke up at 4am, started testing out the foot and everything seemed fine.  I was up for about an hour before I felt that twinge again right before I was leaving the house after figuring that everything would maybe be ok.   I almost decided not to go but it was really tough to try to convince myself to miss another race.  I'm getting tired of that quite frankly.  I figured maybe if I got there early and worked on my legs a bit, I could salvage something.  So I hit the road anyways, and made my way down to Hampton Beach to get the bus back up to the start in Kittery, ME.

Because this was the 20th Anniversary of the race and Race Directory Don Allison advertised free entry to all former winners.  I really wanted to take advantage of that and join the race for the 20th running.  It wasn't costing me anything and Don's been really good to me over the years and I really wanted to go and be a part of the race.  So I got there nice and early and hit the first bus up to Kittery.  I was there just ahead of 3 hours before the race.  Enough time to stretch, massage, stick, etc.  My legs have still been sore.  Hamstrings, calves, achilles, etc.  You name it, basically it's been bothering me.  But the foot pain is the worst.  It is absolutely linked to tight everything-else.  I just need to keep working on the stretching...

Once I finally went out for a warmup, I noticed only about 1.5 miles into the 2 miles around the school and starting area, that my foot was super sore.  I stepped around a corner where the sidewalk meets the road and got the shooting pain in my foot.  I hobbled for a second and immediately went from very nervous to terrified.  I figured that that was it.  No way I was making the race.  I immediately thought about having to DNS and having to get a ride back to Hampton without even starting the race.  What a nightmare.  I went into the school and tried to figure it all out but all I could do was stand there.  It was going to be nearly impossible or so I thought, to run 20 miles let alone race 20 miles on this foot and with my hamstring, etc.  I wanted to race but I didn't want to have to drop out again (I dropped out in 2013 at 11 miles).  Dropping out of this race is tough logistically.

I walked over to the start, gingerly, and stood there pondering my next move.  I did a couple of strides (or lame attempts at it) and didn't feel the issue, so I wasn't sure what it would take to tweak it. I was hoping maybe I could run possibly a decent amount towards the finish, maybe walk/jog, and just finish.  I planned on taking it very easy from the gun and just running tempo effort for the first bit to test it out. If anyone was running 5:30s, I'd let them go.  My goal became just finishing the race or getting as far as I could.  20 miles seemed like a LONG way to go with a sharp, unpredictable foot pain.    To add insult to literally an injury, Don announced to the runners that the course was 'slightly longer than 20 miles this year'.  A couple of small changes just made the course measure out to slightly longer.  Not so great news to me.

The race went off a minute or two past 11 and immediately 2 GBTC runners shot out to the lead.  It was a little on the slow side, but I still let them go.  I was thinking 6 minute pace....6 minute pace.  I was running behind Jason Bui and 2 others for a little bit as we made our way out of Kittery and across the bridge into Portsmouth.  I kept looking at my watch and seeing 6:00/6:01 tick back and forth for pace.  I kept it right there.  Nice and easy and it felt great.  But my foot was the big question mark.  Every single step I took I was subconsciously preparing myself for the worst.  It sucked.  I ticked over the bridge in 6:01 on my watch...right on pace and right in a very comfortable cadence for my fitness.  I ran through Market Square in 5th place or so and by the time we made our way up to mile 2, I moved ahead just a little bit into 3rd.  The two GBTC runners were a bit ahead already and spreading out from one another.  I kept it easy, controlled, and focused on my foot.  Each step, wondering whether or not I was going to be bouncing up in the air and then falling off to the side of the road in pain.

Mile 2 came and went. 5:54 and feeling like I was running on the roads of Silver Lake.  It should feel like this running that pace.  I usually go out way too hard in races like this and it felt very strange just backing off and letting things play out.  I figured 6 minute pace give or take, would put me in probably the top 4 or 5 if I just kept it as even as I could.  This course allows you to almost run dead even splits if you have no bad spots of wind along the water.  I've known this for years and know you can almost click off splits at will if you are patient enough (which I never am).  I did't want to let it go and just kept my foot on the brake, constantly looking at my watch and backing off during each mile when the pace got too quick.  I kept my mind on the goal of getting closer to the finish and not worrying at all about what was happening up ahead or even behind me for that matter.

Photo by Melissa Garfield
Miles 3 and 4 started to get a little quicker and I was eventually moving into the neighborhood of 5:46s for some reason. That's eventually where I'd end up just settling into for a very comfortable run.  I was catching the 2nd place GBTC runner ever so slightly with each mile.  The leader and the lead police car was in sight but way up the road.  Typically you can see the lead vehicle almost the entire way if you are only a couple minutes back.  There are long stretches of road in this race, which sometimes can have a positive or negative affect on you mentally.  Just after mile 5, the course went around this turn and up and over a slight hill which made you lose sight of the lead vehicle.  For some reason the 2nd place runner thought that the course turned sharp left there and went up into a park along the ocean.  I yelled to him as I passed.  I was sure the course went straight but right before the gun, Don did mention that the race was slightly longer than 20 miles.  I wondered for a few moments as I ran ahead, if he was right in going left.  He put his hands up as he was running as if to say 'where the hell are we going?'.  I yelled again that I think we keep going straight and I kept going straight.  He just continued to run up the road in the opposite direction.  It was very strange because after a few miles, the rest of the race is almost all on the same main road.  As I went up and over the crest, I saw the leader up ahead.  I also realized that the way the 2nd place guy went up, had no outlet back onto the course so he was going to have a lot of ground to make up on me to catch back up as he would have to turn around and retrace his steps.  For me, there was never any sense of urgency.  I just kept thinking about keeping it near or under 6, nice and controlled.  At that pace, probably the only one who would catch me would be him.  But I was gaining on him from mile 2 so I wasn't so sure anyone was going to catch me IF my foot held together.

Photo by Melissa Garfield
Miles 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc. all had similar feel. I was slowly losing ground on the leader but barely.  I could see him the entire time because of the nature of the course, but I wasn't gaining on him.  I was locked into a state of holding back, pacing very controlled, and hitting 5:40s with very very little noticeable energy expenditure.  My cardio was rock solid.  But my foot was definitely holding me back.  It hadn't hurt at all, but each step I was expecting it to. I kept trying to forget about it after 6 or 7 miles and just thought about getting to halfway.  I was clicking through similar miles and really feeling like I put myself into good shape this winter despite the aches and pains.

I got to mile 10 in around 57:45 and felt pretty good. I started to feel slight issues in my hips and hamstring/calves but nothing I wouldn't expect after 10 miles given how things have been going.  I knew that the last time I had toed the line at this race I dropped between mile 10 and 11.  That was on my mind as I hit the 11 mile mark and recognized the lonely stretch of highway with the ocean on one side and the marsh on the other.  I pushed forward and hit a corner near 12 miles where Don was parked and the lead vehicle was sitting there waiting for the next few people.  He told me as I passed that the leader had about 90 seconds on me.  I knew that was probably the race unless he had serious issues.  He was at that point very slowly pulling away with each mile and I could tell.   I just focused at that point on keeping my 2nd place and more importantly keeping the pace going the same. It was really working for me and felt great.   There was the nice small climb up through the nice neighborhood near mile 13 and I got through that without any issues.  When I dropped back down onto the main route again and started mile 14, I started to feel like my legs were slightly now noticing the effort.  I was still completely fine cardio-wise but my legs were slowly tightening up.

Somewhere in the next couple miles, I hit Hampton and really started to fee like I was actually possibly going to make it.  My foot was completely a non-issue up to this point.  I was starting to weave through all the half-marathon people now (they start 7 miles closer to the finish and at the same time).  Typically around mile 13 for the 20 miler is where you start to catch the stragglers of the half marathon if you are running just under 2 hour tempo for the 20 miler.  It's actually a small little boost at times, as you get to pass people and they sometimes give you motivation.  Despite slowly feeling like I had been racing for 15 or so miles, I was still clicking off 5:4Xs.  It's amazing what pacing yourself does!  It is so much more enjoyable when you run even splits and feel in control and strong late in the race.

Miles 16, 17, 18 take you right along the boardwalk in Hampton Beach.  Somewhere in that stretch I started to get very mixed signals about where the leader was.  I had a group of girls running the half, tell me that I could 'catch him..he was right up ahead'.  Of course now with all the traffic and runners on the side of the road, it was hard to tell.  But I thought it sounded a little off.  Then I had a runner tell me as I passed, that he was only '20 seconds' up.  Of course I can see 20 seconds and there was no leader anywhere in sight.  Another person told me '1 or 2 minutes'.  That of course is a pretty big window.  I thought maybe he was rigging up and if so, I'd have a very late strike on my hands.  But I again had no intention of diverting from my plan and just kept the 5:4X streak going.  It was working for me quite well and I knew as I passed mile 17, that my car was right there in the Casino parking lot.  I would be able to bail if I needed to. I had made it.  But I looked up ahead now and set my sights on getting a surprise podium spot.  I was beginning to realize that I was going to run in the 1:55/1:56 range which with the exception of 2011, would put me right where I've always been at this race.  Pretty incredible really.

Mile 18 was a tad slow as I was starting to feel a bit tight in my hips.  I was weaving all through seas of half marathon people and was really starting to feel like I was going to do it.  It also has a very tight turn around the rotary and then an up and over of the bridge into Seabrook, NH.  That definitely slowed the mile down. I actually pushed on that mile and into the second to last mile.  There's some slight uphill over the course of that stretch and my miles 18 and 19 were slow just due to the course. I had picked up the intensity to try to salvage a decent time.  I was able to drop down the pace to an even 5:40 on the 20th mile and that came and went with the state line sign still off in the distance.  I still had 2 tenths of a mile to go!  I was 1:55:22 at 20 miles on my watch (57:37 for the second 10 miles).  I knew I'd be in the 1:56s at the end because of the longer course, but I was thrilled.  That put me 2nd fastest for the 20 split (give or take) that I had run here.  In the end, I came up through the finish in 1:56:32 and a big 2nd place with absolutely no foot issue during the race.  Being under 2:00:00 for that type of effort felt amazing.  20.2 miles.

I saw the leader right away, and went over to congratulate him on his race.  It was Adrian Macdonald who was 2nd last year in an amazing 1:49:45 behind Andy Huebner.  He lightheartedly told me that there was a significant tail wind last year almost the whole way.  I wish I had that luxury this year.  I cooled down with him for 10 minutes (1.3 miles) and chatted a bit about his marathon training.  He's running VCM.  He should do very well there.  He seemed like a really nice kid and ended up really putting some time into me over the last few miles, running a 1:53:23.

Total miles on the day, 23.5 miles.


Mile 01 - 6:01
Mile 02 - 5:54
Mile 03 - 5:51
Mile 04 - 5:45
Mile 05 - 5:43
Mile 06 - 5:42
Mile 07 - 5:36
Mile 08 - 5:42
Mile 09 - 5:46
Mile 10 - 5:41
Mile 11 - 5:46
Mile 12 - 5:46
Mile 13 - 5:46
Mile 14 - 5:40
Mile 15 - 5:43
Mile 16 - 5:46
Mile 17 - 5:43
Mile 18 - 5:48
Mile 19 - 5:50
Mile 20 - 5:40
Last 0.20 - 1:13

First 10 miles: 57:45
Second 10 miles: 57:37 (yes negative split...this is what happens when you just run even and relaxed)

Strava data:

 Overall I am super happy about the run.  It's unofficially my 2nd fastest run there factoring in the 20.2 mile distance.  It was 1 second slower (overall time) than I ran in 2009 though.  That stings a bit.

My history at this race (so far):

2015 - 2nd - 1:56:32 / 5:50 pace (based on 20) (5:46 pace based on 20.2 actual distance)
2013 - DNF at 11 miles
2011 - 2nd - 1:51:35 / 5:35 pace
2010 - 1st - 1:57:33 / 5:53 pace
2009 - 6th - 1:56:31 / 5:50 pace
2008 - 6th - 1:57:39 / 5:53 pace

After the race, I boarded the bus to go back to the Ashworth Hotel at Hampton Beach.  While on the bus, my damn foot started acting up again.  It was really strange.  Just sitting there it started again.  Thank God it was dormant during the entire race.  Not sure why, but I'll take it.

I got back to hotel, got something to eat, and stayed there for the awards.   There was some timing mixup with the times for the 20 miler as they ended up printing the results based on the clock for the half marathon rather than the 20 miler.  The two clocks were off by over a minute to a minute and a half.  So the races didn't start at exactly the same time.  I knew this when I came across the line.  They had me run over in the wrong side of the chutes through the half marathon side.  They were directing everyone over there.  I yelled that I was in the 20 miler, but they kept telling me to stay to the left side, which was wrong.  I looked over at the other clock on the right side, and it was matching my watch.  But they had me go through the half side.  Needless to say, they were wrong and of course, the times were all incorrect (and there are still people missing in the results as of my typing this).  So as they were calling off the awards and times, everyone was short-changed by almost 90 seconds or so.  I brought it to the attention of Jim Garcia who promptly made some phone calls and did some investigative work to begin to correct the problem with the timing company.  That battle still continues.

Then it was off and back up north for a couple hours as I barely made it back to my house before my car broke down.  Off to the shop this week to figure out how many thousands of dollars it is going to cost me this time.  Oh yeah, then, while making macaroni & cheese for myself and Tabby Rose, I bit into a hard pasta elbow and broke a huge piece of my molar off.  What a day.


  1. Nice race! Glad to see your back out there

  2. Thanks Jeff. Hope to see you out there somewhere this year!

  3. Most definitely! I'm hoping to make some NH races this year.