Today was my first experience with the Great Bay Half Marathon, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a well organized event on a good course.

The weather was absolutely beautiful, although there were some pretty strong winds throughout much of it that made moving fast relatively difficult.

About 5 minutes after the scheduled start (and a pretty good national anthem performed by a local high school student after she had a shaky start,) the race began with an abrupt right turn. This might not be so bad, except that they decided to start the new 5k option with the half marathoners, and the 5k splits off within the first half mile. I don’t know how well that worked out or not, though, as I was in front of everybody at that point and couldn’t see.

I led the first 2½ miles with Nate Huppe right behind me before I settled into marathon pace. There were a couple guys that tried to run out front on a lark and seemed to be trying to be funny, but their joke kind of fell flat when they couldn’t run fast enough to get in front of me. As I ran a 5:21 first mile, I wasn’t going that fast.

After a 5:32 second mile, there were some decent hills to run up in the third mile that finally brought to my marathon goal pace of 6 minutes per mile. There was also a nice dirt and gravel road that you run along that wasn’t the fastest surface to be moving forward through. For the rest of the race, I mostly ran in the 5:50s with 2 more faster miles and 3 miles over 6 minutes. I pretty much ran all of those miles alone, as I never at any point had somebody running right in front of me.

At about 5½ miles into the race, Jason Porter decided I’d make a good engine to his caboose as he decided to run right behind me for most of the rest of the race. I basically wound up giving him a ride and a pace through the headwinds. On downhill stretches I would drop him for a little while, but usually he’d just catch back up once the wind started blowing in our faces again.

I managed to drop him in the last mile, though, running a 5:42 13th mile and finishing almost 30 seconds ahead of him. I also came within about 20 seconds of Huppe, who took the proffered Gu packet and didn’t wait until the next water stop and thus had to deal with some stomach problems over the last few miles.

I also feel that I need to point out the 6 or 7 belly dancers in the development near mile 10. You do an out and back with a loop through this stretch, and I respect any race that can bring out the belly dancers to cheer on the runners.

For race preparation, I basically just got a good night’s sleep, drove down first thing in the morning, and then did some work while I sat in my car until it was time to warm up. I did a 4½ mile warmup at about 8 minute pace, which ended with a nice spill as I was running across some wet, saturated grass. Thankfully, most of the soaking stayed in my warmup pants which came off shortly thereafter, although I did have a few tufts of grass stuck to my shoes at the start of the race. I took a Crank e-gel between my warmup and the race, and then took another one about 5 miles into it.

Looking at the day, I rather liked the long warmup. I don’t know had I been going full tilt and trying to stay with the leaders the whole way that it would have been the best preparation, but it worked out really well with the goals that I did have. I don’t think that I’ll warm up quite that much in May for my marathon, but will probably get 2½-3 miles in ahead of time.

After the race, there was a great spread of food available. You come through the finish chute and are handed a cup of water, and then there’s a small area with bananas, potato chips, bagels, granola, Vitamin Water, and things of that sort. Once you go in the cafeteria, they had Quizno’s sandwiches, hot soup (both chicken and vegetarian) served with fresh bread, and slices of pizza. I spent about 45 minutes chatting with folks and eating a helping of everything to make sure I got some before starting my cool down.

I ran another 4½ to 5 miles for my cool down, which I thankfully finished right before the awards ceremony. I got to walk in and collect my prizes, which included a Great Bay Duffel Bag and a gift bag that had a running hat, running socks, a knit hat, a shoe wallet, and a box of chocolates.

The chocolates are getting wrapped up tonight for my wife’s upcoming birthday. She’s already found both of her birthday presents so I need something for her to open. (I intended her to find the new shower head, as I installed it a few weeks early. The cat’s gift to her of some new photos was supposed to be a surprise, however.) If you see her, don’t tell her about the chocolates.

That’s the day in a nutshell. My final time was 77:41, a little slower than I predicted but within the range of what I was looking for. I felt that I could keep that pace up for at least 20 miles, so hopefully come race day on May 3rd I’m able to keep it up for twice the distance that I did today.

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