Thursday I woke up about 6AM to get to Manchester in time to catch the first shuttle to the start line. ( Figured I would park at the community college and ride over on the buses and avoid traffic and being boxed in until the race ended.) Well I arrived at 7:00AM and sat around waiting for the bus, I managed to talk to a couple of people,who like me, were doing this shin dig for the first time. I began talking to this fellow first timer, Jeff, as we waited for the first shuttle to arrive, he was meeting up with some friends before the start. The first shuttle showed up at about 8AM "Man this is cutting it close for a 9 AM start." I thought to myself. We arrived in "downtown" Manchester about five minutes later the bus parked in a lot about 1 mile from the race start. As we walked down I noticed people going in and out of the school where they were doing registration. I talked to Jeff to see where he and his friends were meeting up before the race, ( he had offered to stow my race bag in his friend's car.) I went into the school and found it was not only open but that there was a team of massage therapists setting up for business. I stripped down to my shorts and short sleeve Nutmeg State Half iron race Tee and a set of gloves ( after all it was a tropical 35F at 7AM) I bumped into No Bike Mike from HEAT who was also rocking the Nutmeg Half Iron shirt and shot the shit for a while before I went to warm up. I ran down to the Webster Bank lot and met up with Jeff, his friend Prospect Jeff (who will now be know as PJ) and Prospect Jeff's son Matt. I stood in the sun trying to stay warm figuring I had only 15 min. before race start. Then PJ chimed in " You do know this thing kicks off at 10am right?" Damn I has prepped to go an hour early. Jeff turned on the car and I was able to stay warm for another 15 to 20 min...on "company gas." I really had to pee, and the line to the portolets was curving out of the parking lot. Now I'm going to go on a rant about how runners seem to bred to using portolets, At the Nutmeg State Half Marathon I made a similar observation, that there were 500 people lined up for the portolets while there was no one even thinking of using any of the available flush toilets. So I jogged back down to the school, went into the nice warm clean rest room, ( past yet another mass of people waiting for the portolets in front of the school.) did my thing, and began to talk to this tri chick from Mass. Yevette, as I stood inside trying to stay warm until 9:45. at about 9:45 I made my way down main street to the 30-35 min. Starting corral, handed in my seed card ( a postcard with the picture of the race director standing next to some pro.) and tried to stay warm. The odd thing was I was standing right behind the Fox 61 mobile studio so I tried to wave to the camera a couple of times as the race commentators did their usual pre race jabber. Seriously I hate when non-athletes are the commentators, I mean even if someone is a recreational runner they know a little bit about the sport, but some times you end up with total Yutzes ( read Al Trautwig) destroying epic moments in athletic history with their commentary....also I hate it when Yutz runners ( read me.) try waving to the camera...so I guess it all came clean in the wash. Enough of all this pre race crap Let's talk turkey...trot.
( Note the dude wearing bib 11675 staring at his watch that's me.)
At 9:55 they did the National Anthem, as runners continued to file into corrals. One kid in a Navy shirt was debating sneaking into the corral. I talked to him for a bit and foundout that it would blow for him to have to start in the back. ( He was a sub 30 runner.) As soon as the Volunteer's back was turned I was like " dude now or never." he snuck under the blue fencing and that was the last I saw of him. The Vollies removed the blue fencing seperating the corrals, 2 min. to go then the 60 sec. countdown, the gun went off and off we went. As soon as I hit the timing mat I started my watching, gluing myself to the kid infront of me riding right against the barricades. As we ran down main street, some bandits jumped in on this thing, and unlike Boston the race directors were cool with it. The first mile was pretty flat, a couple of bottlenecking turns, I saw No Bike Mike running by me, he shouted "come on Rob..time to get moving." We hit "the hill" at about the 1 mile mark I hit the clock at 6:11. We started up and I passed three guys wearing nothing but their sckivies and red white and blue body paint, I began to pass some of the herd as some of the faster runners who were bottlenecked in the back starting coming forward. the hill Continued up for about a mile and really slowed the average speed. I hit the 2 mile mark at the summit and my split was a 7:19! 7:19 more than a minute slower than my previous mile. We approached the summit of the hill only to be greeted with screaming crowds, bag pipers, Music Blaring and lots of signs bearing Over the Hill Jokes. For as gradual as the hill went up it went down in a hurry, I tried to control my pace but it seems everyone behind me had the "Shin Splints be damned" Angry Runner approach to desecending. I watched almost helplessly as about 10 of the people I had out ran up " the hill" were getting sweet revenge. We hit the three mile mark in about 20 min. my mile split was a 6:27 worlds away from the grind up the hill. It was about this point the kickers were coming forward...to explain what a kicker is, if you ran track in high school do you remember the bum that used to tuck in behind you for say 3 and 3/4 laps in the mile (7 and 3/4 laps in the 2 mile) and then on the last straight they just opened up and would lay waste to you like you had been standing still....yes these guys/gals have grown up and started running road races too. It was about this time some kid in black shorts and a singlet came along side and started to make his way forward I tried to keep Mike in sight but with all the passing and getting passed it was like rush hour in Hartford, with everyone zigging left and right in and around, eventually the pack strung itself out as I tucked in behind someone going my pace. we hit the 4 mile mark at about 26:30 a 6:34 mile. there was a little over 1k or .75 of a mile left and we were heading for down town, the crowds got louder, it was like being in a human tunnel because everyone was just going crazy. Dude in the black track get up was over by the side of the road "reliving breakfast." the pace had gone from fairly hard to "daddy stop the pain" in a little less than a quarter mile, I was now begining to feel breakfast making a reprise, and decided to tone it down a notch hey I didn't want to drive an hour plus back home with a sick Coffee and bagel and stomach acid combo after taste in my mouth. So the kid in his black singlet got his bearings back and decided to go until he puked twice, and he flew on by as I conservatively sprinted toward the Huge American Flag and the Start finsh line. As we approached the line we were told to fan out into one of six chutes, I was locked in a dead sprint with about 5 other guys, I couldn't really tell who won but I was pissed when I looked at the results and they put some kid who had the same time ahead of me. Official Time 31:29 Net time: 31:24. 363rd overall 107th in my age group.
In a field of 10,000 not a bad day at the office. I made my way through the finish chutes and back to the school, got a quick massage and got dressed in my "warm clothes". I bumped into one of my classmates, Ashley, and her boyfriend, told them about the massage tables, foundout that they had not made the official start. Apparently a few of the shuttles were delayed in getting to the start line and by the time they made it down, the volunteers were already installing the finishing chutes because the wheel chair racers were coming in and the elites were about 5 minutes away.So they jumped on course and ran it out. I managed to go back to the finish line area but I could find no sign of Jeff or PJ so I made my way back to the shuttle pick up and after about a 20 min. wait made my way back home for a hard earned shower, turkey and a nap. I think this might be the start of a new Thanksgiving tradition.