Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday, Nov. 26: Rollinsford 5K (#130) which I was injured by a bagel. Read on...

Went out to New Hampshire's eastern limits this morning to run a race in Rollinsford, a town on the state's border with Maine. In fact, the "Tatenda 5K" crossed over into Vacationland and back, making it the only bi-state race so far in the 130 I've completed in my quest.

It's been unseasonably mild for the end of November, so some of us (me included) ran the race in t-shirt and shorts, which is very unusual for this time of year. At left is photo taken at a more verdant time of year. For me, the barrier is usually 40 degrees Fahrenheit -- anything below that, I need pants, a sweatshirt, etc. I brought all the cold weather gear with me on the hour-long drive, but at race time (9 a.m.), the temperature was already in the mid-40s, on its way to the upper 50s. So bare skin prevailed.

Rollinsford (population 2,500) is a town I know nothing about except I have a cousin who lives there. (Hi John Fortier!). The town is centered on Salmon Falls Village, which itself is clustered around a large brick former textile mill complex on the Salmon River. As in every other old New Hampshire milltown, textiles are long gone, but Rollinsford doesn't seem too be doing too badly. The sprawling complex of what used to be the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Co. has been renovated into space for artist studios and chai cafes and many other small businesses. The town, as well as South Berwick, Maine across the river, has a kind of hippie flair to it, with organic cafes and coffeehouses and funky small restaurants everywhere.

An unusual feature is that the main railroad line connecting Boston to Portland, Maine runs right through town, crossing the Salmon River on a very high bridge, at least from the perspective of the mill below the falls. As I was warming up, I heard the tell-tale honk of an Amtrak Downeaster passenger train from afar, and was surprised to see it suddenly shoot over the bridge way above us at a fairly fast clip.

Speaking of which, I was hoping to run at a fairly fast clip as well, as the course was promoted as "flat." All I can say is, whoever decided that must have been raised halfway up the Mount Washington Auto Road. The course, which makes a zig-zaggy loop from Rollinsford into South Berwick, Maine and then back, was full of ups and downs. That, coupled with a persistent minor cold and a lousy night's sleep, prevented me from breaking the 30 minute barrier, though most other conditions were favorable -- I've been running regularly, the temperatures were cool, and I felt pretty strong.

The finish was tough because you come back into the millyard and there's a long straight stretch to the finish line way in the distance. I could see the clock said "29:something" but couldn't tell the seconds. As I got closer, it was in the 40s, but I kept pushing even though it appeared I would slide past 30 minutes. The official time: 30:14, finishing 24 out of 45 participants.

Two unusual things. At the start, announcer Andy Schachat handed over the mike to an organizer to say a few words, and she concluded her remarks by unexpectedly saying "Go!" Half the field immediately took off, but Schachat called everyone back to try again after the National Anthem. Also, after running a total of 130 races, this was the very first time that I suffered a treatable injury. It happened not during the race, but after, while slicing a bagel, when the plastic serrated knife went through the bagel and fairly deep into the tip of my right index finger. Sheesh! Injured by a bagel. Many thanks to the women of the White Heron Tea Co. (Motto: Good Tea for Good People), who allowed use of their first aid kit for me to patch myself up.

Entry fee: $25, not outrageous, and all proceeds support Tatenda International. And what the heck is that? It's an international service group that supports "efforts of established relief organizations via retreats, resources and youth development." The word 'Tatenda' means “thank you” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. For more information about the program, check out the group's Web site.

So a big Tatenda to all who made this race happen. It's likely the last new city, town or unincorporated place in New Hampshire that I'll race in this year, and was a memorable finale. So we end 2011 with a total of 130, meaning there's just 104 to go.

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