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November 27, 2010

Race Report: Manchester Road Race

The Manchester Road Race is fast becoming my favorite holiday tradition.  Whether it's the crowds in the early morning cold of Thanksgiving morning, or just doing something active on a day that some have dubbed Fatsgiving, I'm not really sure.  One thing is for sure, I always keep an eye out for this guy: Safety Man!
The man, the myth, the  legend...
What do I love about Manchester?  One thing is for sure, it's not the line for the porto-potties.  Still, I've been around for five years, and I know that the lines closest to the first turn of the race are the shortest.  But parking on that side is the worst.  But I certainly enjoy all the unique characters and the occassional llama (it was an alpaca, after-all).  But I certainly enjoy the mainstays: the Blues Brothers, Santa, and, of course, the Hanson Brothers.  That's these Hansons, not these Hansons.  You know, Steve, Jack, and Jeff, not Isaac, Taylor, and Zac.  As the race website says,
"The Manchester Road Race has a little bit of everything.  At the front of the pack you will find the elite runners - internationally known, professional, Olympians, etc.  Next, you will find the serious runners.  The course is seeded to 40 minutes - those people who have proven they can run the course within specific time periods will line up in "pens" according to their finishing times.
Behind the seeding areas you will see all of humanity!  Some wannabes, some people in costume, some just out for the fun of the day."
Jess Checca: "OH MY GOD A LLAMA!!!"
There a lot of nice things about this race.  Though I know there's a mile and a half hill, I also know the rest of the course.  That proved handy this year.  Also, because it's a holiday, you get to spend it with family.  However, it's quiet, with family.  That's something holidays have never been in my life.  But running the race, I know that I'm both by myself, and with my family and friends.  It was good to catch one of my old roommates and his wife post race, after their first Manchester.  His wife had spotted the alpaca.  And, I also know that, as long as it isn't raining, I can count on my wife to run (plus her mom to beat me, and her sisters will more than likely join in.  This year, they all had a friend), even if she's getting beaten by the Christmas Tree.
They made me hungry (my favorite: Egg Nog Man)

"Hurry up, you just got passed by the Christmas Tree!"

Regardless, here's the race recap.  Last year, I ran my worst time ever.  I came in just under 50 minutes. It was embarassing.  I had vowed to do better, but hadn't been running well since the half-marathon (and that was Columbus Day weekend).  With the help of Dr. J, I had hoped to remedy the hip issues I had been having since mid October.  If I could, I could run faster (but I hadn't tested myself after my 2nd visit in a week, and wouldn't know how I felt until I ran).  In my mind, my best time had been a 44-something, which seemed unattainable, but a 45+ seemed good.  So, 45-something became my goal.

To do so, I had to get the start earlier.  Because last year, the race began with us in the porta-pottie lines, my mother-in-law (mMiL) and I decided to ditch everyone, and head to the start at 9.  The wife, her sisters, and friend waited in the warm car.The temperature was a balmy 37 the last I had seen, and it wasn't much warmer as we made out way to the start. Again, it was fortuitous to go past the start to get to an open bathroom with a short line.  The walk took about 10 minutes.  After, we attempted to get into the corrals at 9:40.  Of course, it was the usual crowds.  Eventually, after fighting through the crowd, mMiL and I had made it just a bit behind the open start.
The Hansons are a MRR staple
Carrie Underwood sang the anthem, (well, no, it wasn't live), and we were off.  As usual, the start was so crowded, it was worth walking for about 100 yards.  Then, it was a light jog.  For once, I didn't press, and I didn't weave through crowds, spiking my heart rate, and then dropping back to a slow jog over and over.  By the first turn, it was possible to be in a normal jog, but not a run.  It was that way UNTIL we hit the Hungry Tiger, the only bar on the course.
Really safe, guys...on a roof, drinking, with your dogs
At the Hungry Tiger, everyone came to a dead stop.  I have NO idea why.  We had already passed the unsafe Safety Man fan-club.  Why had everyone come to a screeching halt?  I can only imagine, this was because of me:
"By Michael Zdrojowy on November 26, 2010 4:50 PM
I would like to know why one runner chose to deliberately trip my 11 year old grandson. While he was not seriously injured, he ended up destroying a brand new school team shirt and running pants. (He just received the shirt Monday.)
I guess even during the best of conditions there is always a poor sportsman around.
Fortunately this did not sour my grandson's attitude and he looks forward to running again next year."

Still, I loved the response, 
By Sarah K on November 30, 2010 1:53 PM
There were 15,000 or so people out there and it was VERY crowded, with many runners trying to dodge around people walking or jogging slowly. How do you know it was deliberate?
I do not know if this is the case with you and your grandson, but if people who plan to use a run/walk strategy would start at the back (or with the walkers) they would be less likely to be run into, bumped, etc.
I'm glad he was not hurt and is looking forward to next year. It is a fun race!
because it exactly about what mMiL and I could talk about post race.  Why the hell can't people that plan to walk, or do the "run/walk" line up in the walkers' mall or in the back, like our good family and friends do (great job guys, we love that you understand about obstacles).  This year was by far the most crowded.  When we stopped outside of the Hungry Tiger, I definitely accidentally punched somebody in front of me, as I didn't slow up fast enough.  He staggered, and did bump a kid, but I didn't see that boy go down.

I digress.  Regardless, just past the Hungry Tiger is where the first mile marker is.  It also is shortly after we started that long uphill climb, past Highland Market (well, that's what I think of).  Mile 1-12:50 or so.  Yikes! In years past, I would have freaked out.  This year, I just stayed my course.  I hung just left of center, and maintained my pace, knowing the herd would thin, as we climbed.  I would press once we hit the top, knowing the crowd would be thin, and I could up my pace.  

Mile 2 is over just before the top of the hill (11 minutes even, speeding up, as we reached the top.  Not bad, with 2.5 miles left)  The road flattens out there. As the crowd and I reached that point, I heard some Noobs talking about how it was all over.  I looked over, cackled maniacally, and shouted, "Don't believe it, it's a trick!!  It's a dirty dirty trick!!!"  While I knew I still had 1/4 mile left to the top, others did not...or they didn't know why some insane man was shouting behind them.  Regardless, the crowd opened up, and I started to make my move.

As I turned left at the top, I eased my way to the left curb.  The race is all left turns, and I knew I could make a move on anyone at that point.  Much of the rest of the race was down hill.  I used the momentum I gained going up the hill, and unleashed my speed...or...whatever we can call it.

This is where the race got really fun, and the crowd, as usual, thinned.  I ran down the hill, arms high, like people on a roller coaster do on a big drop.  Opening my stride, I felt myself flying down the hill, but I was under control.  At this point, I was also singing "Don't Stop Believin'."  Sometimes I find myself singing unconsciously and loudly during a race.  With this song, it has happened in the past two races I ran.  This time, it wasn't as embarassing, as most people were laughing and sang, too.

When the course flattened out, we approached the end of the third mile.  That had been completed in 8:27.  I felt strong, and I knew that soon enough I would be in the home stretch.

For me, the home stretch is as the course makes a slight left (the 2nd to last turn), and takes us back to the start, and the center of town.  There's a Valero right there, and I always try to up my pace for that last 0.8 miles or so.  Never have I been able to maintain my pace, much less speed up from that point on.  This year, I hoped, would be different.  That's when I saw, and heard, the gong.

Every year, the guy with the gong is there, just before that turn.  I always forget, and it always surprises me.  This year, at least I saw him before I heard him.  Just as I passed by, he crashed the gong again.  Finally, I ran like I haven't run in a long time.  My stride was long, and I had good turnover.

As I hit that final turn, coming around the corner, and spotting that huge American flag, I felt fresher than I had since the first year I ran.  When I crossed, I did some quick math, and thought I had finished in 45:39.  I made my way to the corner, happy I had run almost 5 minutes faster, with a much larger crowd.  I worked through the chutes, toward the Army-Navy Club, for some post-race refreshment (and to meet up with everyone).

Friday, as I checked the official standings, I was astonished: I had run a 45:32. Scanning past results, I wanted to see where that ranked my 2010 race among the 5 Manchester RRs I had run.  What I hadn't realized was that my best was only a 45:26.  I had run my 2nd fastest time, my best having come in my first attempt.  On that day, there was a driving cold rain, and the crowd was thin.  I took that fact, and felt some simple satisfaction.  As far as I'm considered, this was the best I have ever run at a Manchester Road Race.  The plan worked.  I guess I'll just have to stay calm more often.


S December 3, 2010 at 10:33 AM  

Also, sing out loud whenever possible. It clearly helped.

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