"Damn, it's hot!" I thought to myself as I traversed another seemingly endless hill. I was half way through the race and felt like I was moving backwards. The sweat had clouded my sunglasses, forcing me to look at my feet. Clearly, the day was not going as planned.
I signed up for the 2015 Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon on a whim a few weeks earlier. Some colleagues at work were discussing it and we all decided to sign up. After all, I was looking to find a faster half time for my Chicago Marathon and Disney race corral placements, so I figured "what the hell?" Never mind my jacked up ankle from a recent trail run accident and forget I had my first trail race on the Sunday, which this race preceded on Saturday, I'm sure it would be fine.
To give my ankle a little support, I decided to try taping it via kinesiology tape, that the guys from GO Tape had sent me to try out. Normally, I'm not one for tape or compression gear, but given my ankle was iffy, I decided this would be a good time to try it out (look for a more in-depth review of GO Tape in the coming week).
The race was held in Portland, Maine, some 95 miles from our home. It started at 7a, which required us to get out of the house by 4:15. You may asking yourself why we didn't just grab a room. That's a perfectly logical question. Well, hotels were running for about $200 a night, not to mention we had our dog, so add in a $100 nonrefundable deposit, and you've got yourself quite an expense. In reality though, the drive was actually really easy. Given the time of morning, the highway was nearly devoid of any traffic (except the fellow outdoorsman headed to the wilderness).
After talking our way into VIP parking, we made it through the very simple bib pickup. Here's something I thought that was incredibly odd, runners had to pay extra to get a race shirt! After running over 65 races in my running tenure, this was a first for me. Honestly, I thought it was a little cheap of the race organizers to hold off on free shirts, I ended up not purchasing one.
Once we picked up my bib, we had some time to kill, so my wife, pup and I walked around Portland. When you think about quaint New England seaside villages, think Portland. It's situated right on the water, with cool little shacks and signs for lobster everywhere. It's a wonderful glimpse into what makes Maine great. I highly recommend it.
Some time had passed and it was time to bid adieu to my wife and hop into the corrals. As mentioned at the top of the post, my running had been spotty lately, and any running was mostly done on slow, hilly trails. Still, my inflated and artificial confidence told me this was going to be my "PR" race. My only goal was a 1:44:00 or under. Yes, fans, I'm stupid. My strategy was to start out slower and after the hills, drop into a higher gear and finish strong.
The first sign this race was not going to be a PR event, was the beginning of the race. As we passed through the start line, we headed down the main street, but tightly packed in a roped off section with traffic on both sides. I felt like a sardine packed in a can and couldn't break free. This was only a mile or so, but it felt like more due to the sheer amount of runners packed in. Finally, the course widened and I met my first Maine hill.
The second sign this was not going to be a PR event were the hills. Were these things really hills small mountains? This thing went straight up and kept going, making it worse was that it went around corners, leaving me to guess when the agony would stop. Finally, it broke for level ground only to hit another hill. Gah! I could feel my legs slowing and my heiny muscles hurting. It was clear I was certainly not ready for this course. On one stretch of the course, I looked over to my left and saw a forest. I yearned to be there, running among the trees and cover. But, alas my road took further away into the sultry heat.
I will say, the views on this course were beautiful! On my right, the bay glistening in the sun. On my left, centuries old homes that were well maintained with manicure lawns. Truly, beautiful vistas. After a few miles at the top of Portland, we made our descent back into the city. The descents were just as dramatic as the hills. Steep, curvy and endless. It was tough to get any time back, as I had to keep breaking to make the turns. Honestly, I was worried I was going to have a shoe blowout.
By this time, my ankle pain kicked back up and the sun had become a cruel opponent, with its rays acting as energy sucking chains holding me back. I could feel my legs starting to get heavy and my pace slowed to a trot. I knew I was done, so I texted my wife I was going to be awhile and stopped to enjoy the scenery.
With 5k to go, I picked up the pace and decided to finish strong. This was made harder by witnessing not one, but two runners collapse in front of me. They were being worked on by EMT staff, which is always a sobering sight to any runner. The last stretch of the race course was on a running trail just off the water and it was littered with spectators cheering us on. That helped as I crossed the finish line and like all the other runners, made a b-line straight to the mist tent to get a respite from the evil sun. I had finished in exactly two hours, a time so poor it was only better than my very first half marathon four years earlier. So, yeah I never came close to my PR, but I guess that's what happens when you don't train and expect fate to intervene. Well, it did and not for the better. This was a clear illustration of sacrificing training for a positive attitude doesn't work. I get it.
I collected the cool race medal, which was in the shape of a ship with very intricate detailing, had some lunch and then made the journey home. We didn't dawdle as the following day would be my first trail race, something I had been anticipating for a long time.
Although, it was a poor performance on my part, that shouldn't dissuade you from running this race. It's really well done and the organizers think of everything (except that pay-for-shirt thing). The course is challenging, but it's fair. Aside from the hills and heat, which they can't change, the course did have a lot of turns, making it hard to get in a good groove, so be on the watch out for that.
My next post will be a recap on the Vert Series Sasquatch sprint trail race, a race I had been counting down the days to experience.