I set my alarm clock for 5am before I went to bed Saturday night. With nearly a 2 1/2hr drive on Sunday I figured I'd get to North Conway for the 24th annual White Mountain Half Marathon (results) with just over an hour to spare. Not Scotty Graham early but good enough for me. As usual I was awake before the alarm went off so I got up, got dressed and headed down stairs. As I walked into the dark kitchen I noticed every digital clock displayed 6:15am, not 5:15am. What the? A check of my watch also confirmed the actual time: 6:15am. Oh crap! I knew immediately what had happened. My alarm clock automatically changes the time for Daylight Savings. Cool feature, except when our government changes the day from the last Sunday in October to a week later. Of course I immediately shift into full stress mode. I envision myself showing up with 15 minutes to spare and even showing up late. I don't like to be late...for anything. I've driven to North Conway a million times, you'd think I'd remember how long it actually took to get there. So for the next 2+hrs I drive a tad above the posted speed limit, stressed out. But wait, there's more! As I get near the end of Rt104 in Meredith I notice a police car parked in the middle of the road. The road is closed! You can't be serious? I look up....nope, the sky isn't falling. The nice police officer directs me down a side road. Have a nice day. No signs, no directions, no idea where to go now. I do my best Jeff Gordon-Watkins Glen impression trying to find a way back to recognizable roads and finally make it back onto Rt3. I'm stressing out so bad now my lower back is starting to seize up. All the time I'm constantly doing math in my head trying to figure out how much time I have. You see, my friends....this is exactly why people like me need to leave and arrive early.
I arrive at 8:30am. Phew. I head over to registration, grab my number and head back to my car to change. I'm back at the start just before 9am, ready to go (except I skipped the warm up). And then I hear the announcement: Walkers start at 9am. Runners start at 9:30am!!!!!!!!!!! You got to be kidding me.
Ok, enough with the back story. Yes, there was a race yesterday as well. At 9:30am I lined up right in front. I've done this race before and it has a strange start. It starts in the side parking area next to the Eastern Slope Inn, runs about 100ft and then turns left 90 degrees onto Main St before heading down West Side Rd. To avoid any bottleneck you need to be in front. Also strange is for the 3rd week in a row I don't recognize anyone in the crowd. There is a CMS guy (John Pajer) and a WMM guy (Tim Livingston) but no other race singlets I could see.
As we make the turn onto West Side Rd Tim is running alone out front, followed by a young kid (the eventual winner) and then John Pajer. Then there's probably 5 or 6 of us running in a pack not too far back. And then I notice a bandit join right in front of our pack. For some reason this really bugs me. 1. The race is only $40. 2. It's the White Mountain friggin half marathon. Come on loser...
It was a beautiful day, a great day for running. Temps in the mid 50's and sunny. It was a bit breezy and that would become very noticeable later on. I got into a groove pretty early on and felt great. It was my mission for the day to drop that stupid bandit though. He bugged me. I chased him down for the first 5 miles before finally putting the hammer down in mile 6 (my fastest mile of the day) and dropped him (and the rest of our pack) for good. For most of the first 8 miles or so I was clicking off 6:15's, although at the time I didn't know it. I never looked at my watch and just ran hard. For all of the second half of the race I was in 4th place o/a, all alone. The only hiccup of the race came in miles 9-11. The breezy day turned into a pretty strong head wind and my pace suffered, running 6:31, 6:41 and 6:28 during this stretch. John Pajer maintained a good minute or so on me for most of the race but I managed to narrow the gap in the last couple of miles as I got back on pace. I finished strong, 29 seconds back of John (3rd place) and 4th place overall in a time of 1:22:45 (6:19 avg). So in the 24th annual White Mountain half marathon and my 24th half marathon lifetime, I ran my 2nd fastest race ever. I'll take it!
Now if you've never run this race you're missing out on a great event. For 40 bucks you get a beautiful, mostly flat course, well supported by tons of volunteers. The water stops are manned by some of the loudest, most enthusiastic kids I've seen at any race. A nice, long sleeve tech shirt plus a finishers medal are also included. The Eastern Slopes Inn even opens up a bunch of rooms for runners to take showers after the race. On top of that they serve up one of the best post-race meals anywhere, hosted by the Flatbread Pizza Company. Pizza, pasta, salads, pulled pork, soup, cider, cookies, bread and probably more stuff that I missed. Nothing like good hot foot after a nice fall race. I'll be back next year.
photo credit - Tami C.