The Smuttynose Rockfest Half is one of my favorite half marathons. 2017 is the third time I’ve run this seacoast race and the slowest I’ve run this race.
Racing to New Hampshire
The race director encouraged everyone to get to Hampton Beach by 6AM. Parking is always tight when you have 6,000 runners and their friends come to town!
Durm Cahill and I left Melrose just after 5AM and had an easy drive up the highway. As we took the exit off of 95 North to NH 101 East, I saw a coyote on the side of the rode. Alive. I’ve only seen one once before and that was up near Lake Winnipesaukee, also in New Hampshire.
As we drove into the town of Hampton Beach we saw a line of cars at a stop sign. I told Durm to follow them to the parking area. Even though it was a Sunday, Hampton Beach collects parking fees every day of the week until October 31st. Almost as bad as Newton.
It was a bit of a walk in the dark to the race HQ. But we kept following the crowd. I’ve done this race before but I was a little foggy on which way to go.
When we got there everything looked just like I remembered it. Big white tents and about 50 porta-potties all in a row along the edge of the parking lot.
When we went into the tent to get our numbers the place was lit by Coleman lamps and there were no lines. In no time we were at the porta-potties for round one.
We headed back to the car and stopped to get a muffin and coffee as our pre-race meal. I ate mine in about 10 seconds. It was good and I was hungry. I didn’t finish the coffee.
After we got our gear situated we headed back to the porta potties and the bag drop area. They gave out a nice fleece instead of a shirt. We stuffed our fleeces into a sling bag and gave them to the attendants.
Running Smuttynose Rockfest Half
We were quite a ways back from the front of this crowd. Durm ran the Lochness Marathon the week before and I had barely run at all. I was actually still dealing with a cold on race day.
We were also running the BAA Half the next weekend. The idea was to run a 10 minute pace and see how we felt.
Starting in the 2:10 to 2:25 group seemed like the wisest thing to do.
They played the National Anthem and most people took it seriously. There were a few people behind us who didn’t stop talking for a minute. Another dufas had some sort of speaker system playing fairly loud music.
After they told us to “Go!” it took about six minutes to cross the starting line. We’ve all been there before.
The first three miles or so were a loop down Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Blvd/Rt. 1A. We managed to average just under 10 minute miles for those miles, even with the crowd.
Around mile Four we were headed North out of town on Ocean Blvd/Rt. 1A. The pack had loosened up a bit and we started to settle into a pace that we would work to maintain.
We enjoyed the ocean breeze, blue sky and comfortable temperature all the way up Ocean Blvd. There were a few people along the course cheering us on and traffic was light.
Around six and a half miles we took a left onto High Street. The road was freshly paved and I commented how we wouldn’t have to worry about twisting an ankle on this road.
I took my first gel at mile five and just up High Street they were handing out gels. I took one and sucked it down with some water anyway. I wasn’t out to be a hero.
Now we were away from the beach and in a more residential area. Along this road we hit our peak elevation of 54 feet. It isn’t much but you could tell some people were struggling a bit. Durm and I run hills all the time so we kept up the pace.
Mile 8 had the most elevation gain and we ran an 9:53 mile. Nothing crazy, but we didn’t slow down. Mile nine was 9:43 and each mile got faster from there.
Around mile 10 we got back onto Ocean Blvd/Rt. 1A South. We were feeling good. Nothing hurt and we just had the expected fatigue. I haven’t run much more than 5K at a time in about a month.
Finishing Smuttynose Rockfest Half
All the way down Rt. 1A we kept picking up the pace. Up until mile 10 I had kept a close eye on our pace and kept holding us back. For both of us the natural tendency is to run as fast as we can.
That’s not a good strategy for a half marathon. It’s especially bad for one guy who just ran a marathon and one guy who has barely run in weeks.
As we ran along the coast, more than once I reflected on my last race down this road. I hurt and I was exhausted. It was the Eastern States 20 Miler. At this point in the race I still had five miles or so to run and I was spent. I felt the level of pain and exhaustion that I’ve only ever felt at the end of a marathon.
This time, on this day I felt really good.
I could not have run nine-minute miles but we did keep passing people and increasing our pace.
The last three miles were: 9:13, 9:05 and 9:01. For the last sprint we managed a 7:21 pace for 0.17 miles. I’m always amazed at the last flash of speed when the finish line is in sight.
Durm said we should finish together. Then near the finish he darted in front of another runner that I could not get around. We finished hundredths of a second apart at 2:06 and change.
Apre Smuttynose Rockfest Half
The Smuttynose Half has an awesome apre race party. There is Smuttynose ale, of course. But they also have clam chowder and lobster rolls. You only get one of each but hot chowder and a lobster roll taste pretty good after 13.17 miles!
We headed to the beer area first. Had two beers, listened to the band and then went in search of lobster rolls. The food tent was down near the finish line. The beer tent was about a quarter mile south from there!
Fortunately we were okay to walk that far and it actually felt good. The line to get food wasn’t too bad and in no time we were drinking hot chowder from the bowl and heading back to the beer tent.
The crowd had grown and a few people were turned away due to lack of proper ID. Durm and I are old enough to be the card check guy’s father, so he just let us walk in with a hearty “Enjoy Guys!”
As we waited in line I spotted my friends from team “Slow and Thirsties.” Lisa Hines, Cheryl Varney and Susan Hanly. In a crowd of over 6,000 people I didn’t think I’d find them. But there they were near the beer tables! Imagine that!
We had fun comparing notes and our general silliness. I’m still not sure that the old gang is showing up for the Cambridge Winter Classic 5K. I had to hold down a team table all by myself at the Cambridge Fall Classic.
Durm and I decided it was time to head to one of the six bars that would take our beer tickets. I took out my map and spotted the first bar, almost across the street. It seemed to make sense to avoid the first bar.
So we headed to the second bar just across the street from the first!
We got in right away and went up three flights to the bar and quickly had another pint of the good stuff. Before we finished our beer our buzzer went off and we were seated on the second floor balcony overlooking the race area.
It was a bit chilly at times. I was still in just my race shorts and had cooled off by then. We enjoyed fish and chips, one more beer and some great conversation.
We slowly wandered back to the car and made our way back down the highway to Melrose.
Run well My Friends,