Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Race Report: Half at the Hamptons

Large Road Race!
March marked my return to checking off states in my journey to complete half marathons in all 50 states. The Half at the Hamptons in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, was supposed to be my 20th lifetime half, my 22nd state, and my 6th half marathon of 2015, but due to "relentless accumulation of snow, compromising parking, roadway access and overall safety," the February 22, 2015 edition of the race was postponed to March 15, a date that I had already booked with the NYC Half.  Eleven days before the rescheduled race date, organizers sent out an email ultimately was cancelling the race "due to the extraordinary Winter with record breaking snow, and continued cold weather."  They added:

"The streets continue to have huge snow banks that have recently caused a significant number of accidents.  Additionally, the streets are still very narrow and dangerous at intersections and at blind driveways with 5-6 feet of snow banks. Many of the race course roads have no shoulder at all and the finish area at the beach is now full of 35-50 feet snow dump piles!   Holding the race would put at significant risk over 1,000 runners, 200 volunteers and police and medical professionals."
Thankfully, and unprecedentedly, the race directors offered a deferral program into the 2016 race or complimentary entry into another New Hampshire race in 2015 they offered.  I decided to take the deferral, and so March 6, 2016, came along to mark New Hampshire off my list as my 60th lifetime half, my 43rd state, and my 3rd half marathon of 2016.

Snow on the beach!
I took an afternoon bus from New York City to Boston, transferring at South Station to a "Boston Express" bus that took me up to North Londonderry, NH, where I was picked up by friends and New Hampshirites Steve and Pam Provencher, who I had met at the RnR Las Vegas Half in 2014, and subsequently met up with at multiple races throughout the country, including RnR New Orleans, Philadelphia Love Run, and Boston Run to Remember.  We headed to nearby Manchester, NH, for a delicious pasta dinner at popular local restaurant Fratello's, and then headed back to the Provenchers' home in Merrimack for a good night's sleep before the following morning's race 45 minutes away in Hampton Beach.

The startline
The race had a later start than other races, with the gun going off at 10am, so we got to sleep in a tiny bit longer than usual.  We picked up Pam's friend Scott nearby, before driving to Hampton Beach, where we easily found parking only a couple blocks away from the Ashworth by the Sea hotel, which housed bib pickup and post-race food.  Once again, I had emailed the race directors to offer my services of singing the national anthem, which they approved, and I sang the national anthem a couple minutes before 10am to about 900 folks gathered behind and around the startline along Ocean Boulevard.

Quiet and residential...
Being situated next to the Atlantic Ocean, the race was super flat and at sea level, save for a 100 foot climb over 3/4 mile at the 10k mark.  In 36ยบ weather, we set off, heading north on Ocean, immediately making a sharp turn onto  Island Path, and then ran down Brown Ave, which turned into Ashworth Avenue, where we would run toward the southern end of town, past the mile 1 mark, and onto where Ashworth Avenue connected onto Ocean Boulevard.  We made our way around Duston Ave (which unfortunately wasn't fully plowed and had a slippery layer of packed snow covering the asphalt) and Harbor Road, before taking Epping Avenue and River Avenue.  At the mile 2 mark, we returned back to Ocean Boulevard, and headed back northward, passing the startline.  We continued on up the coast along Ocean Boulevard for several miles.  I was having a rough time in these first few miles with my left leg - likely still being tired from the previous weekend's 24 hours in Arizona to run the Phoenix Marathon, and suffered while running into the wind along the seawall.  We also passed by the New Hampshire Marine Memorial, a memorial dedicated to all New Hampshire servicepersons lost at sea due to warfare, a kneeling woman gazing out to sea, a laurel wreath in her hands, and an icon of Hampton Beach. Around mile 4, Scott passed me by, and at mile 4.5 I saw my Mainly Marathons friend Dave waiting for his wife.  It wasn't until we finally made our first left turn away from the coastline and away from the headwind onto High Street at mile 5, that the pain in my leg subsided.  Right before the turn, Pam had caught up to me, and we walked a bit while my leg pain started to subside.  As we ran away from the coast, Pam and I played leapfrog for a few miles, and my stride began to normalize.

Victory Headstand!
We turned right onto Mace Road, which was where the small uphill began.  We took Mace Road up to the 7 mile mark, where we turned onto Mill Road, before turning right onto Barbour Road.  This whole area was the very residential areas of the town of Hampton.  At mile 8, as Barbour Road connected into Woodland Road, I caught up to Pam and Steve, who began to run together.  At this point, I felt a second wind come on, and I began to lock into a steady 9 minute per mile pace.  We curved our way through what looked like some of Hampton's newer homes, as we turned onto Great Gate Drive, Juniper Lane, and Huckleberry Lane, as we headed right back to Ocean Boulevard, at roughly mile 10.  With only 5K left to go, we returned back to Ocean Boulevard, running southward under warmer temperatures and less wind, headed straight to the finish line just past the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel and New Hampshire Marine Memorial statue.

Post race celebratory photo
with Scott and the Provenchers!
I crossed the finish to the triumphant announcement of the race announcer, who had met me at the beginning of the race and saw me finish, in 2:22:06.  The Provenchers finished about five minutes later, and we celebrated by taking some pictures at the Marine Memorial, as well as my customary headstand photo.  We then went inside the Ashworth to warm up and take our celebratory vegetarian chili (which was absolutely delicious!) and some local beer from Smuttynose Brewery.  I met up with Dave and his wife Gail, as well, and then soon, we had to head off so I could take a quick shower back at the Provenchers' house, pack up my things, and get me to the bus station in Nashua to catch my bus down to Boston South Station to transfer to my bus back to New York City.  It was another quick trip, but I got a new state checked off my list, and my fourth national anthem state, too!

Post race with the Lewises... and a spoon (not a fork)
(Photo by Dave Lewis)
Mmmm.... Vegeterian Chili!

The Provenchers coming in for their finish!

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