Slamu the Whale (notice, not a penguin)
Race: New Bedford Half Marathon
Location: New Bedford, MA
Goal Time: 1:27:00
Actual Time: 1:28:07
Call me Jesse. Some years ago, having lost interest in the sports of grass and parquet, I set myself asail in the world of running. A return to the basest and rawest of sports (along with wrestling...) was my own slip from the world of relying on others to show up for basketball or soccer games.
In continuation of that rawest of sport, I returned to the whaling city for another attack on my white whale - the goal of a 1:25 half. (Yes, I'm making myself Ishmael AND Ahab in the same blog...) However, my goal is to work my way down toward it. The first step is to break 1:27.
The beginning of the New Bedford Half is always a little crazy. The corrals are too small for the number of people trying to fit into them. I had issues getting anywhere near where I was supposed to at the start. Instead I was able to get myself right up front. Realizing this would probably put me both in danger and just in the way of people running sub - 1:10s, I scooted off to the side. Kevin and Wendy soon joined me.
As the start approached they moved everyone to the starting mats, I slipped into the 8th or 9th row (still way to far up). Slamu, the mascot of the New Bedford Bay Sox, was at the start rallying the runners. I gave him a thumbs up and next thing I know... I'm hugging a whale to start the race (not a penguin...).
This seemed like it would be good karma for my assault on the white whale.
I mapped out a plan of attack. First, I would take the first 3.5 miles in the 6:45 to 7:00 per mile range. (The 3.5 mile mark is the highest point on the course. The hill is early and long but more like one that will kill pretenders to the overall title than one that should effect most average runners.) Then the next four and a half was largely gentle downhill to the water where I would hit an easy tempo 6:30s.
I successfully summitted the hill at 23:45, within my 45 second goal window. I then eased into stamping out the 6:30s and hit mile 7 still in my goal window. This was not before I was passed by Tim Harden at around mile 6.5.
At the water is the first real challenge of the course. It is a four mile loop along a peninsula. Victor always says it sucks one way or another. Either out or back will be a massive head wind. Tom Derderian says the head wind is like having a two mile hill. My goal was to fight through the wind at 6:30 whether out or back and then easy 6:30 when it was at my back.
Once again, I achieved this for the most part; I had slipped to 6:40s into the wind through miles 10 and 11. The issue was that at 11 when I was ready to explode toward my 1:27: if my chest had been a mortar, I would have burst my heart's shell upon it. The wind kept blowing in my face. Joe described it as fighting for so long into the wind, eventually you lose the battle and slow.
Indeed, by mile 12 and the last challenge - the big hill - I had virtually no chance at a PR. I took every remaining bit of strength in me and spit my last breath at thee to charge the hill without redlining. But, it was to no avail. I turned toward home and hit the 13 mile marker right at 1:27:30. I heard others sprinting behind me toward the finish, so I eased over to the right to get out of their way and ran a in the last of the distance.
The drama's done - 1:28:07 - second fastest half ever and a course PR. But alas, I am not satisfied. I stood at the finish high-fived Megan Hyland and talked with Brian Keefe who in a wave of Personal Records for others (to follow) were like me orphans of such glory...
SRR PRs (soon to be retitled: the Liz Cooney Report)
Liz Cooney, Brendan Caffery, Andy Marinelli, Jess Dombrosky, Amy Diertofupup, Tommy B., Tim Harden, (The Tommy-Tim race was apparently a knock down drag-out sprint) Alison Lackey, Claudia, Chris K., Bradley, Jake Barnett and Larissa.
Larissa also took 3rd overall - (precursor to a good showing in Pittsburgh?)