Market Square Day 10K

14 June 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Events

A friend told me about the Eastern States 20 Mile Race last last year. After reviewing my upcoming training and race calendar,  it seemed that the March 24 date would work well in my preparation for the Delaware Marathon on May 12. Both my friend and I signed up, and this would become my first ever 20 mile run.

My intention going into the run was to use it as a long slow run training day. I expected that I would run around a 9:15-9:30 pace and that it would take me about three hours and ten minutes to complete. However, I broke my training plan a little bit. I have been following the Hansons Marathon Method for my training program. This program is one of running on constantly tired legs so that you are prepared for the last miles in the marathon when most runners are hitting the infamous “wall”. For this race, I decided that I would back off my training miles a little bit (not really a full taper), so that I would be able to run on fresh legs.

Now back to the race. This was the 18th running of the Eastern States 20 Miler. It is race that traditionally starts in Kittery, Maine, just across the border from Portsmouth, NH, and runs to the Massachusetts border mostly along coastal Route 1A. Due to a new bridge being built, however, last year’s race and this year’s race both started at Portsmouth High School with a little loop through Portsmouth to add on some mileage. The weather was perfect … in the mid-40s and sunny with a light breeze.

The race is a relatively low key and loosely organized event. There were 444 runners who finished the 20 miler. There is also a half marathon that starts at the same time farther down the course, and there were 309 runners who finished the half marathon. Many of the 20 mile runners use this race as a prep race for the Boston marathon, and there were many people wearing their blue and gold BAA gear.

Let’s start off with logistics. There is no course map or directions published on the race’s website, and we received an email with a Word document with directions for the course about a week before the race. An actual course map and an elevation map would have been very helpful for many of us running the race. Personally, I like to plan and strategize while reviewing a map. Just for reference, it is a relatively flat course with some rolling hills. My Garmin showed 255 in elevation gain and 318 feet in elevation loss.

Since this was a point-to-point race and not a loop, there were buses provided for an extra $5 that runners could use to get to the start line (leaving from a meeting point in Hampton, NH) and returned to Hampton for the post-race activities. I didn’t use the bus or the bag drop. I carpooled to the start with some friends and then my family was waiting for me at the finish line. so I can’t comment on how that worked. Nor did I go to the post-race activities.

There was no pre-race bib pick-up. When we got to the high school, we got in line in the cafeteria and got our race shirts and bibs. The first thing that we noticed was that there was no chip on the bib, so this race was going to be “old school”. Given the fact that this is promoted as a Boston Marathon prep race, I thought that this was a bit odd.

With 15 minutes until the start, we decided to head the start line. The problem with this is that there was no clear indication of where the start line was located. After talking among ourselves, we guessed where it would be. As we were just about to start, someone from the race came out with a bullhorn and said that the start time would be delayed by 10 minutes because the police were not in place yet along the course.

After waiting around a little longer, we headed to the start line. We were waiting for the start and all of sudden noticed that people were starting to run. There were no pre-announcements/warnings so that we could get into our starting positions. And thus is began.

There were a smattering of police officers and volunteers along the course to guide us along the way. In terms of actual race markings, there were none. Nor were there any mile markers or pace clocks along the route. In many parts of the race, it seemed that we were all just on a big group run and that it wasn’t an organized event. The most disturbing part was the fact that we weren’t very well protected from traffic for most of the course. Since the race goes along the coast and it was a nice spring day, there was a fair amount of traffic passing by (sometimes much too close for comfort). At times, there were also disrespectful drivers angrily honking their horns at us as we ran the course.

So how did I do? As I mentioned above, I was originally planning on a 9:15-9:30 pace. I started running with a friend expecting that we’d be at a similar pace. However, we had both agreed that if one of us want to run faster that it would be OK and that each of us should run our own race to the best of our abilities.

I started off much faster than expected (which usually isn’t a good thing, especially on a long run). However, I felt good and kept it going. When I would look at my Garmin, I was typically running somewhere between a 8:30 and 8:45 pace. I was pleased with this and decided to keep it going.

I continued to push on at this pace, and I did start to feel the effects of starting a little too fast around mile 17. However, I kept on pushing and ignored the voices in my head that were telling me that I should think about stopping. A quick shot of GU Roctane helped overcome some of those voices. I managed to stay well hydrated with water and watered down Hammer gel as well as nourished with some GU Chomps, as well as the that extremely helpful packet of GU Roctane toward the end.

Along the way, I was cheered on by friends, family and a smattering of people watching the race along the route, which was a great help. As I was approaching the finish line, I was greeted by wife and daughters. My daughters decided to jump in and run along with me for a bit, which was an incredible way to end a long, hard run.

I crossed the finish line at 2:58:38, giving me an official pace of 8:56. My Garmin had me completing 20.28 miles with a 2:59:09 time (and an 8:50 pace).

At the finish line, they were marking down bib numbers and handwriting finish times. We were given a finisher’s medal (the first time that the race has given out medals) and handed a bottle of water. There was a table with some protein drinks and water, but that was it for any post-race support.

Based on the level of organization, it is hard to believe that this was it’s 18th running. However, it was a great experience along a beautiful route, and I would definitely consider running it again.

Race Report: Market Square Day 10K 2013

18 June 2013, 12:00 am
Published in Race Reports

The Market Square Day 10K took place on Saturday, June 8, at 9:00 AM in Portsmouth, NH. The race is part of the Seacoast Road Race Series and is a relatively large race (1,694 finishers this year).

The course starts in downtown Portsmouth and then winds back and forth throughout the city before ending at historic Strawbery Banke. It is a relatively flat course and is enjoyable run. The major concern going into the race was whether the rain would end before the start.

Weather forecasts were predicting 2-4 inches of rain Friday night into Saturday morning. Luckily, the rain did pass by prior to start, leaving us with perfect running weather (high 50s/low 60s and overcast). The only downside was that the course was wet and there were some puddles and mud (where there was some road construction under way).

I met up with some friends at the start line; however, we started to seed ourselves in the crowd a little too late. So we started much farther back in the pack than I would have hoped. Once the race started, it took quite a while to break out of the pack. This left me with around an 8:00 mile for the first mile. Quite honestly, I’m not sure where I wanted to be. I was two weeks off of running a 50K, four weeks off of running a marathon and four weeks off of being injured and not having run for the previous four prior to the marathon. In my mind, I felt that I would be OK with around an 8:00 pace overall, but would really prefer to be sub-7:30.

For the first couple of miles, I picked up the pace but remained conservative while running with a friend. At about the half way point, I started to pick up the pace and started to push it a little more (but still remaining pretty conservative). Overall, I feel like I continued to pass people throughout the race and very few people passed me (that is always a great feeling).

Just before the final dash across the finish line, there is a little hill. I pushed up it and then picked up the pace some more. In the end, my official pace was 7:39 (7:31 on my Garmin). All in all I was happy with these results, and I look forward to improving upon that pace throughout the year.

At the finish line, there was ample water, sports drinks, bagels and fruit for the finishers. There also was a display screen and chip reader so that you could stand in front of it and immediately get your results.

Would I run the race again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. However, I have two complains:

(1) Picking up my bib and my wife’s bib the day before was not the friendliest of experiences. I didn’t have my wife’s ID or confirmation with me, and I had to go through an act of congress to be able to pick up her bib. The claim was that this was for “security purposes” and I was given quite a bit of attitude of questioning it. Having run many races (from 5Ks to marathon/ultra), I have never had a more negative experience in this aspect. And it just wasn’t me. While I was trying to work my issue out, this happened to other people also. There was even one man who thought that he had his wife’s printout, but it was the “wrong” printout. He didn’t click through all the links and print out what the organizers were looking for. He was left out in the cold.

(2) The starting line was chaos. I really appreciate it when larger races have pace markers/corals at the beginning of a race so that runners can seed themselves accordingly. There will still be people who disregard this, but at least it provides an opportunity to create better organization and make it a better race for runners focusing on their paces. Quite honestly, there are many novice runners who do not know where to line up and simply push to the front … only to become obstacles for the faster runners behind them.

Overall, the negatives could easily be fixed, and if they were, this would be an even better race in the future.

Redhook/Runner's Alley 5K

25 May 2014, 12:00 am
Published in Events