Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15: Hanover

This event had the nicest bathrooms I've seen in more than 100 races: luxurious marble and paneled wood commodes in the admissions office of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, which sponsored the race. Usually you get junior high boys rooms or port-a-potties at these affairs, so it was nice to go Ivy League for once. Too bad I left the camera at home this time!

Nice and cool, breezy and intermittently sunny weather for this 10K, the first one of this length (6.2 miles) I've run in quite some time. Hanover is Town #110 for me, and the race came with an unusual start: the woman announcing it and the speakers carrying her words were set up behind the runners, and so when she told us to go, no one up front heard her at first, so no one went. I thought a redo was in the cards until people just started finally moving and we were off.

Strange course in that there was a 5K with a turnaround only a very short distance from the start. So it weird to see the 5K people coming back the other way less than 5 minutes after we began. (Organizers said there was a turn-around at the 'half-way' point, but it was more at the one-tenth point!) Things spread out quite a bit once the 10K folks got past this and were on our own, making a wide loop north of town through over residential roads up on a ridge and then descending and swinging back to Hanover along a golf course. Thank God it wasn't hot and humid as this long stretch was completely without shade!

Interesting that the mile markers were a bit erratic: written in chalk and half-washed away by showers. So I was a bit hazy as to where we were during the race, which I actually like in contests that are longer than 5K, as it allows you to settle in to a pace and forget that part of you which quantifies everything.

And finally, one very unusual thing for me was that after the pack really spread out, at about the 2-mile mark I found myself fairly close behind a guy who was keeping about the same pace as me. I stayed behind him, having to push myself a bit to not drop too far back, but eventually he pulled quite far ahead of me as we ran along the golf course back into town.

"Oh well, guess I can't catch up to him after all," I said to myself, as we coasted down and then up a hill into Hanover, where I thought we were nearing the finish line. But then, looking ahead, he was noticeably slower on the hill, and I was surprised to find myself quickly closing the distance after all. It got so I came up right behind him as we crested the hill near the Dartmouth Medical School complex (if nothing else, conveniently located), and I felt strong, so I decided to work to stay behind him until the finish line was in sight and then see what I had left.

But as we neared what I thought was the final turn, the safety-vested volunteer posted there pointed at us to turn in the opposite direction of the finish line, off the campus and down a residential road back in the direction of the golf course. What?! Is this some kind of sick joke? Turns out we were only at about the 5-mile mark and there was still quite a bit to go. This took the wind out of me, so I immediately pulled back to conserve some energy and the guy in front of me was quickly quite far ahead.

And so I focused on just running with a smart stride (so as not to cause any damage, and I was already feeling it a bit), and that was that, I figured. But as we neared the turn-around out by the golf course again, I looked ahead and was surprised to see he'd stopped and was trying to figure out where the actual route was supposed to be. He found it and got back to his stride, but by then I'd pulled closer and I started to feel the urge again.

All the way back to town, I tried keeping with him. As we neared Hanover and the final turns, I had to push hard to keep him from pulling away again. Egged on by, among others, rowdy attendees of a front-lawn fraternity party, I kept it up. Finally, as we rounded the next-to-last corner, I widened my stride and increased my pace just enough to begin closing in.

And so I pulled up right behind him as we made the final turn in front of the iconic Sherman Library, and headed toward the finish line, now ahead of us but still in the distance, at the bottom of Tuck Mall. As I rounded the corner, a woman pushing a stroller in the road leaned in and said conspiratorily, "You can catch him," and that was all I needed. I felt strong, but knew it would take strategy to pull this off. The trick was to come up behind him close enough to be able to make my move when I felt the time was right. Too soon and I'd run out of gas and look like a dope at the finish. (Nothing new there!) Too late, and I wouldn't be able to make it in time.

So I stayed with him as the finish drew closer. Finally, we got to where I'd parked my car, and for some reason that felt right, and so I immediately widened my stride as much as possible and pushed the pace to the maximum I could manage. I breezed right by him and didn't look back, pouring it on all the way to the finish, which was now close enough for the cheers and the music and the adrenaline to carry me through.

I crossed in 1 hour, 2 minutes, and 24 seconds, according to the time clock sitting on the ground. (Official race results haven't been posted as of this writing.) And it was only after going through the chute that I turned around to see where my friend was: and it turned out he was still way out there, slowing nearing the finish line and keeping the same pace, which he hadn't altered despite my antics.

Not that it's that big a deal, but for me it's somewhat rewarding to be able to have so much left after a 10K race. Nice! And that's it for Town #110. Next up is Intervale/Bartlett, up in Crawford Notch, on Saturday, May 29. And hoping to work up to the big 10-miler up Pack Monadnock in June. Still possible if I keep at it!

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