Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nahant Half Marathon

Course Map (inaccurate as we ran Little Nahant early and not at mile 12):

I was tentative about racing the Nahant Half Marathon. I signed up with a low pressure expectation of showing up and feeling my way through the beautiful course without beating myself up. I have been racing a lot recently and the Seasons 20K race I did a few weeks ago suggested that I was in 1:17 half marathon shape. The effort there also told me to take it easy. I want to have a good cross country season and wanted to not punish the legs in Nahant, if possible.

If you don’t know, Nahant has tough terrain. Basically, you are going to see a hill every four minutes. The Half Marathon is run and organized by the North Shore Striders. They trimmed the 30K course down to the Half Marathon distance this year. I warmed up and got on the starting line next to who I thought looked the fastest. He looked like a veteran marathoner. Lean, racing flats, New Balance racing singlet, et cetera. At the siren, we went off from the causeway near the bath house and headed to Little Nahant, following the police officer on the motorcycle who lead us through every inch of the course. I settled in behind the three men including the “veteran” until I saw Krissy about a half mile into the course. I moved over to the left as she pointed the camera. We began the climb into Little Nahant reaching the mile in 6:28.

Just after the start along Nahant Beach
Roberto Gonzalez in the middle with me on the right
Photo by KrissyK
I was fine with that pace - figuring that it would quicken which it did. I stretched out my legs on the down hills to feel out the guys. It was down to the veteran and I, leading the race through three miles. I was keeping the pace in check and still taking an inventory on who this veteran was. His watch was going off every kilometer and he was looking at the splits. Was he toying with me? Was he going to sit on me until 12 miles and sprint? I noted his breathing was a little bit more heavier than mine but he seemed calm with the effort of low sixes that we were putting down. I broke the silence when he was next to me running up toward the Angiulo’s mansion (4 miles). “How do you feel and what are you trying to run today?” He responded with a European accent that he was just here for a run. I was perplexed, not getting the answer I wanted. I opened up my stride down a hill, he matched. Fine. Time for another question to find out who this gent is so I can gauge how the next 8 miles are going to go for us. “Are you training for a marathon, if so, which one?”

I could not understand the answer, but did make comprehend: November and a reference of Spain. OK, I have a marathoner here. That is good but I need more. Time for credentials. “What are you looking to run there, you know, for a time?” He responded, and this echoed in my head for ten seconds - “hoping to run under 2:35.” I almost choked on a GU that I did not even have in my mouth. I wanted to give him my Chris Tucker and Ice Cube response of DAMN!

I said no more. We let the legs do the talking from there. He put a surge on through mile five as I thought for sure he was going to give me a 2:35 marathon knuckle sandwich all the way to the finish. I recall taking a cup of gatorade any way so he took off. I erased the gap and we hit some hills up Castle Road, Bass Point, and my favorite - Trimountain Road. He put another surge on Flash Road as I took my two Salt Tabs and Gatorade around mile 7. He put on four seconds and I started to have some doubt that I was going to close it if he kept the gas on. Fortunately, I closed it and start to throw in my game of surges through the next three miles. I was taking command and trying to not so much shake him loose but to tire him out, if possible. Splits were now under six minutes per mile. I was all business, racing, negotiating, and trying to now win this race. 5K to go, how is this going to shake out? Well, I know this course. I know the terrain and I know that we do not have to run Little Nahant on the way back to the finish. I felt an advantage there, just was not convinced he was not just sitting on me and waiting to collect a check at the end. I hammered the last decent downhill and he matched it like no big deal. It was on and I was loving it. This was going to go down to the end and I had no doubt. We passed Dunkin’s and Tides and were now on the bike path passing mile 12. I increased the tempo, ran in between pedestrians trying to shake this dude as we approached the bath house (half mile to the finish I guessed). I thought I heard him stumble, trip up, or something and then it go quiet while I pressed on to the finish. I looked back with 400m to go and was in the clear for the win. He finished 15 seconds back. I grabbed a water and came back to greet him, now on friendly, boxing gloves down terms. I shook his hand and thanked him for the battle. We never separated more than four seconds but certainly for 99% of the course, he was my shadow or I was his depending on how you look at it.

Mid flight at the finish of the Nahant Half Marathon
1:19:45, 1st place
Photo by KrissyK
My winning time of 1:19:45 is what it is. It was well earned. Did I have a chance to run faster and run quicker at the start? Yes, but would I change the approach today? No way. This was a fun chess match today. I think we both got what we wanted out of it. The veteran mentioned above is Roberto Gonzalez, from Eloibar Spain. He is going to rock the San Sebastain Marathon in November while I hope to rock a decent effort at the USATF New England Cross Country Championships. Thank you for a great race today sir. I am grateful for the company. Thanks to the officer who led the way and the North Shore Striders for the opportunity to allow me to win my first race of 2015. Full Results and a few Photos by KrissyK

Myself and Roberto who is from Elgoibar Spain
Update December 1, 2015
Roberto Gonzalez Fernandez placed 12th in the 40-45 age division, racing to a 2:40:11 at the San Sebastian Marathon a few days ago.

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