The Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon 2018 turned into another one of my running adventures. Every race is a bit of an adventure, some more so than others!
I signed up for this race in October 2017. I’ve run the race three times already and I was pretty certain I was going to run it again in 2018. I also wanted to get the super low early bird registration price.
Then a few months before the race my company told me that I needed to be in San Antonio, TX the day before the race! They were kind enough to let me get to San Antonio Sunday night and be ready to roll by 7:00 AM Monday morning.
I was lucky to have a colleague cover what I needed to get done that weekend. Thinks to Gina I didn’t have a worry all weekend. It helps to work with great people.
Rolling down the highway to the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon 2018
I had a 2:40 PM flight out of Boston. That meant I had to be at the airport around Noon, 12:30 at the latest. You never know what might happen on the way to or at the airport.
The race started at 8:00 AM and my plan was to run about a two-hour half and then hop in my car and drive from Hampton Beach, NH to Cambridge.
To make sure I could leave the race ASAP I needed to get a parking spot on the edge of town. I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic trying to leave the most convenient lot near the start line.
I got up at 5:00 AM and was on the road by 5:20 or so. There wasn’t any traffic so I set cruise control to 65 and stayed in the second lane all the way up the highway.
I rolled into Hampton Beach a little after 6AM. In the darkness I saw a sign for a private parking lot. It was on the one-way road that lead out of Hampton Beach and was on the edge of town. I took a left off of the one-way road into Hampton Beach and was the first person to park in this lot.
It was only $5.00 and I parked right by the road so I could easily get out. What a score!
Bib pickup had just opened at 6AM and I had almost two hours until race time! I was in great shape.
I knew where pickup had been before, but as I approached that parking lot all I saw was parked cars and 10 porta-potties. Then someone told me they moved it around the corner and down the street. No biggie.
I walked over with another runner and we chatted about the race and the weather. She had run before also and was looking forward to a good day for running.
We found the big white tents lit by Coleman lamps, just like every other year. It is New Hampshire after all! Hardly anyone was there, so I got my bib and my fleece in no time and headed back to my car.
Walking over I passed several shops selling coffee and breakfast food. I could not tell any difference between them so I walked into what I thought was the last shop on the street.
They had about five employees and there were about a dozen runners. I bought a large coffee and a blueberry muffin and headed for my car.
As I walked back I thought how much a town like Hampton Beach must love getting 6,000 runners plus family and friends to show up during the off season. Leaf peeping season is just beginning and Hampton Beach probably doesn’t get much traffic from that.
But as I walked along I noticed several motels had no vacancy signs. I was surprised, but it made me think about getting a room next year. No long drive and you can party hearty afterwards. My friends would love it!
Prepping for the Smuttynose Half
When I got back to my car the lot was about a third full. A couple in their 60s owned the property. I couldn’t tell if they had a shop on the first floor or not. I didn’t want to peek into their house too much, especially if there wasn’t a shop.
I spoke with the wife and she said they usually charge $5, sometimes more sometimes only $3. I need to remember that. They weren’t that far from the beach and the price is right!
I got into my car, started it, turned on the heat and plugged my phone in. The coffee and muffin were pretty good but I was full and left half the muffin for after the race. I took a salt pill and an Imodium and washed it down with a 500ml Poland Springs. In also took two Hylands Leg Cramp pills.
I’m a running pharmacy, but I know what works for me.
At 7:01 my buddy Don Keren texted me to see where I was. He and Durm Cahill were already in the corral near C Street. After I checked my gear and stowed things out of site I headed for C Street around 7:20.
I had two bottles on my belt with Hydralyte mix in them. I had two gels and my phone in my belt also.
As I headed down Bowman Ave I remembered to take a left onto Island Path so I could use the porta-potties one more time. I finally got into one around 7:40. Plenty of times and the nerves help move things along!
The race began on Ashworth Street near C Street. As I made my way through the crowd I heard Don call out my name. We were pretty far back and decided to move forward.
We didn’t get to far in the tight crowd. They played the National Anthem and I found a near-by flag. They made a few announcements but no one could really hear them. There was something about staying to the left or right depending on which race you were running. Everyone was confused. But when the crowd started to move forward we knew the race had begun!
Running The Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon 2018!
It took almost four minutes to cross the starting mats. About a 100 feet before the start we broke into a light jog. A few hundred feet after the start we were probably running a 12 minute pace.
I usually don’t warm up before a half, so a slow first mile fits into my plan. Durm, Don and I traded the lead several times. Don kept goading me that I was taking off, watch out for that guy, or see you later as they moved ahead.
We ran down Ashworth and took a sharp left onto Ocean Drive, hit mile one and then took a left onto Island Path around mile two.
Island Path turned onto Bowman and looped us back through the neighborhood. Lots of bungalows with a few convenience stores and restaurants. Bowman ended at Ashworth and we took a right.
Ashworth Avenue is also Rt. 1A and we took that all the way to Seabrook Beach for an out and back. Just before the bridge into Seabrook, NH we hit mile three.
Mile one had been 9:53 but two and three were 9:17 each. Not bad. I was settling into a good pace early in the race.
On the way down Rt. 1A to the turn we saw Heidi Caldwell come cruising by. She was in first place and no one was behind her! Usually a guy is in first place with the next runners close behind. Heidi had the field by at least two minutes. It was an amazing lead. She won first place overall by almost two minutes, with a time of 1:15:14!
Going over the bridge I saw Nick Kollett run by and we yelled out to each other. Nick finished in 1:39:53 and was 139th overall! So I never saw him again on the course!
The road to the turn around seemed like it went on forever. I tried counting runners, but there were too many of them.
Just after the turn we hit mile four and my mile pace was 9:23. My goal was 9:30 splits, so I was doing okay.
On the run back into Hampton Beach things began to thin out. Anyone can run a fast mile. Most people can run a fast 5K, we were now beyond that point.
Running The Plan
I knew what I wanted to do and I was doing it: I was running my plan. A few weeks earlier I ran a hilly 15.86 mile long run. It beat the snot out of me and I averaged around 10 minute miles.
To get to the airport in time I really needed to run a 2 hour half. I set my goal for an even 9:15 pace. I had enough supplies and I felt pretty good.
There aren’t a lot of hills in this race so I felt confident in maintaining a constant pace. I didn’t want to go too fast and struggle near the end so paying attention to my pace was my core strategy.
On the way back into Hampton Beach I took my first gel. This was probably around 4.5 miles. I like to fuel early before I need it. Once you become depleted you can never get it back during a race.
At mile five we were back on Ocean Blvd and could see the 5K runners making their loop through town.
The next three miles down Ocean Blvd were all about 9:20. Around mile eight I started running with Rebecca Mayerson with The Mystic Runners. Our clubs run together a lot and share many members.
We were both running comfortably and had a good conversation about running and the course. She had only been running about six months! She was doing pretty good.
Mile nine looped off of Ocean Blvd through a neighborhood. The road narrowed and twisted around. Rebecca and I kept our pace and moved through the crowd.
When we got back onto Ocean Blvd we were both feeling good and the pace picked up. Mile nine came in at 9:31 but each mile after that got progressively faster.
I had water with me and skipped the water stops. Rebecca didn’t have anything with her and also skipped the water stops. I told her she should grab something but she said she was fine.
We were now cruising down Ocean Blvd and consistently passing people. Mile ten came in at 9:09 and mile eleven at 8:56.
I told Rebecca about my plan to run even splits. But I was feeling really good and nothing hurt. That was pretty unusual. We agreed not to kick until mile 12.
After mile eleven we picked up the pace and started picking people off left and right. I could not believe how fast I was running this late in a half marathon, and nothing hurt!
Somewhere before mile twelve we passed Durm who looked like he was having a tough day. Don took off on him earlier and was having a great day.
I felt bad passing and leaving him, but I was having an awesome race!
Finishing Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon 2018
Mile twelve came in at 8:45! We both felt strong so we kicked it up another notch. We were now on eleven. 😉
My gait was long like I was coming into the finish of a 5K. My lungs felt great and my muscles were not tired. We were basically sprinting mile 13!
Rebecca had no problem keeping up and we swapped the lead several times.
Mile 13 came in at 7:48! That is faster than my pace for most of the 5Ks I’ve run in 2018! I was locked and loaded!
After mile thirteen we could see the finish and the crowd. Without a word we both kicked it up to twelve and had to weave around other runners. I knew she was trying to beat the old guy and I was having none of that!
I ran long and the last 0.31 mile came in at 6:31. Where the hell did that come from? I have crossed this finish line many times in great pain at a much slower pace.
Our gun time was almost exact but my net time was 2:00:29.9 and her’s was 2:02:21.8. I’m not sure how that works. My overall pace was 9:12, 3 second faster than my goal.
I had one of the best finishes of my life and there isn’t a finish line photo! I was so disappointed! I even waited to stop my watch so I could get a good photo!
Oh well. A good photo wasn’t the goal. A well run race was the goal and that is what I did. Almost two hours on the nose!
Apre Rockfest 2018
My running goal achieved, it was now time to execute my extraction plan.
I saw Don soon after I finished. He finished in 1:57:24.9 in 870th place and looked pretty good. I think the weather agreed with him.
I told Don that Durm wasn’t too far behind me, so we hung out a bit. Before we knew it Durm had crossed the finish line. His time was 2:02:20.7 and he had a tough run.
They were heading for a pizza place for some beers and food, but I had to get moving. We said our good byes and I found an opening in the barricades.
It wasn’t too crowded yet and I quickly made my way to the food tent. Some people were milling about like they didn’t know what to do. I gave the lady my food ticket and went into the tent.
I grabbed a lobster roll and bowl of chowder. I ended up drinking the chowder out of the bowl and ate the lobster roll as I made my way through the crowd.
I had two beer tickets that I wasn’t going to use. Durm and Don didn’t want them, so I was looking to make someone else’s day.
As I moved towards a spot where I could cross Ocean Blvd I looked for someone I knew. As I crossed the street I stopped a stranger and asked if she wanted them. She seemed perplexed but took the tickets. Not the reaction I had been expecting.
As I headed back to my car I stopped at the porta-potties on Island Path. No crowd this time.
When I got to my car I quickly took off my shirts and used some adult baby wipes to clean up. Then I got back into my car, slipped under a towel and changed into fresh shorts to travel in.
I’ve seen people strip down in a parking lot under a towel, but getting basically naked in public was a first for me. It was odd to look up and see people feet away stuck in the traffic jam!
Once I got situated I had some more food and water and headed on down the highway for my trip to San Antonio, TX.
I really felt like this was one of my best run races in 14 years. It was far from my Half Marathon PR, but everything went according to plan.
I could have run faster but I wasn’t sure I could. Based on my year so far a 9:15 pace seemed a manageable challenge. If I pushed harder and got hurt I would either DNF or have a much longer race.
I could not risk being late to the airport, and I had to run my plan in order to get to the airport on time.
Fortunately everything, including traffic and security, worked out. To this day I still have a good feeling about this race. It’s not often that the runner’s high lasts this long!
Run well my Friends!