Going into this double weekend, I wasn’t too sure on how it would go. I knew times would be slow, but honestly, just 10 weeks out from surgery and my mileage being so low in general, I was just worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish one if not both of these races. New Hampshire and Massachusetts were the last 2 states in the Northeast and I was happy to have found a double that was logistically feasible to help lower some of the travel cost. The weekend would start with the Big Lake Half Marathon in in Alton, NH, on Saturday and follow it up on Sunday with the Horseneck Half Marathon in Westport, MA.
I flew in Friday night after work and met Kathleen at the Boston airport since she was joining me for half of my trip. She still needed a NH and this one seemed to fit pretty well into her schedule. We got our rental and started heading north. We stopped for some dinner and was at the hotel by 9:30pm. We were staying about 15-20 minutes away from Alton. Pretty quickly we settled in and passed out. We planned to leave the hotel by 6:30am since we needed to pick up our bibs in the morning and we had an 8am race start.
The alarms seemed to come pretty early. As soon as we started moving around, Kathleen remembered it was the Royal Wedding so we turned it on while we got ready. We were out of the hotel by 6:35 and on our way to the race start. The start and the finish we not in the same place, so the race had everyone park at the start and then shuttled runners and spectators back to the finish. I thought it was good on them to provide a shuttle for spectators to the finish line area as well. You could walk, but it was about 1.5 miles.
We got to the school and had to sit in a small bit of traffic while the volunteers parked everyone. Kathleen jumped out to get our bibs so we could then could just hang in the car until it was time to walk over to the start line. While she did that, I found the Royal Wedding live streaming. About 10 minutes later we finally got parked into the school lot. There was a random port-o-potty by our car, so I hopped out and decided to use it. While I waited in line, I totally continued to steam the wedding. The other ladies in line were appreciating it so they could see Meghan’s dress. Don’t worry, when it was my turn, I put the phone away.
We hung out in the car until 7:45am and then walked about a quarter of a mile to the start line. The temps were in the mid 40s but they were calling for it to warm up. It was chilly, but ended up being a pretty perfect day temperature wise. Kathleen jumped in the bathroom line at the start and while it was chaotic, it went pretty quickly. It seemed this race last year had just under 500 finishers and this year they jumped up to 699 finishers. What’s interesting though is that results show that there were 920 entries. That’s a lot of no-shows or people who did not finish.
In the start corral, I saw a past Zooma Ambassador, Emily. She was running this with her friend Gail and then heading to CT for their double. While we waited for the race to start, at 8am they finally did the National Anthem and then finally got the race going. At 8:06am, I was across the start line for my 38th state and 61st half marathon.
Going into this race, I knew it was going to be hilly. Other runners said the worst parts were miles 5-9, so as I got going, I was just waiting for those miles to hit. I started with a 3/1 interval and figured I would run as much as I could and walk more if I had to. I also knew I would end up walking up all of the hills. As we got going, I heard a runner complain about how crowded it was. With less than 700 runners, there was truly no issue with the course being crowded. Maybe that runner needs to go run a big race and then complain about a course being crowded.
Around mile 1.5 we finally got to Lake Winnipesaukee . It was gorgeous! The majority of the course took us around this lake and you probably had some type of lake view for about 75% of the race. A lot of the houses along the course were great. I have always loved running around water, so this race really did it for me there. As we were making our way thorough the small town, we passed the finish line area on the right. I really just wanted to jump and over and scream, I’m done, but sadly, I knew that wouldn’t get my anywhere.
For the most part, these early miles were pretty flat. There were some small rollers, but nothing major. It wasn’t until the end of mile 4 that we started to see some type of climb. The other nice thing is that this race was also about 80% shaded course. While it was overcast on this day, if it was sunny, you’d be protected most of the time. Around mile 2.5, Emily and Gail caught up to me. They were also doing a run walk and we sort of stuck together until about mile 6. It was nice having the only other person I know out there with you on the course in a way.
Mile 5 came just after a spectator overlook. The course actually took you into the overlook parking for the water station and most everyone around me was stopping to snag a quick selfie. Mile 5 started with a slight downhill, but there was an ominous corner up a head. Just as you went around the corner, you had the first big climb of the race. You also saw a sign for Mt. Major and about the same time, Emily and I let out that we were glad we weren’t climbing anything named mountain today.
I was actually pretty proud of myself for this climb. I let the intervals go as planned and actually did not walk any extra going up this particular climb. We sort of flattened out a little with some small downhill for mile 6, but nothing major. Around 6.5 or so, we turned into a beautiful wooded area along the lake. The next few miles became the hardest of the race.
Mile 7 started with a screaming downhill. I probably let myself go a little too much, but unlike at Pittsburgh, the downhill wasn’t hurting my abdomen, so I went with it. It was probably the start of the demise of my legs. From this point everything that went down, went back up and everything that went up, went back down. Rolling hills seemed to be the name of the game in these miles. It’s here where I definitely got off of my intervals, but overall it wasn’t terrible.
At some point, a local resident had a water stop set up. I really thought it was beer and when I saw it was just water, I was really disappointed. Not one single beer stop on this course. Do better people. Bring out the beer!
As we approached mile 9, we basically started off with the longest climb. I ran what I could, but didn’t mind walking the rest. What was nice though is that once you were at the top, there really weren’t many climbs after this point. A few small mole hills as I would say, but nothing that tripped up my intervals again.
The last 5k seemed to be a blur to me. I didn’t have my watch on the main screen with distance and time, so I had no idea where I was. I had it just showing my interval instead. That really seemed to work well. I remembered from the early miles that the last two miles were back on the same road you ran on before. You turned on it right at mile 11, so I knew what to expect for the last 2.1 miles.
As much as I was hurting and I really wanted this race to be done with, I was shocked that I kept passing people in these last 2 miles. It wasn’t that I was trying to pick them off, but maybe I was just legit stronger out there at that point. I never really seemed to run with people on the course, but someone always seemed to be just in front or just behind me.
At mile 12, I messaged Kathleen to tell her I was almost there. I figured I had 3 more walk breaks before I was done and that was a great thing to focus on. My last walk break came just before mile 13 and while maybe I didn’t need it, I took it so that I could finish the last quarter of a mile strong. I was so happy to come across that finish line too! They had someone calling out your name and here you were from which was a great personal touch.
We didn’t spend much time at the finishers party. They had beer which I grabbed a can, but wasn’t my style. Kathleen said they had pizza out, but none by the time I came through. They did have ice cream which is not what I would call ideal after a race. We hung out for a few minutes before getting back onto the bus to the car. We both didn’t think we’d be headed back in the time we did so we didn’t ask for a late check out, but we stopped back at the Holiday Inn we stayed at the night before to change. They were gracious to let us use their bathrooms and gave us some towels. We grabbed a quick lunch and then headed back to Boston Logan so Kathleen could catch her flight and for me to then continue on down to Westport.
Overall, I would recommend this race to other runners. The biggest things I noticed were the lack of Gatorade at some of the major water stops. If this would have been a hotter day, that Gatorade could have been clutch. The other big downfall was the medal. Two years ago the medal was this huge colorful medal and then Loco Races took over and they have done the same medal now 2 years in a row, but changing out the ribbon. They really should go back to what it was before. If I climbed up and down those hills, give me something to be proud to have earned.
The biggest issue tough to me was the traffic on the course. I absolutely understand this was a small town and you had to keep roads opened, but cars were flying by us at 50+ mph. Some drivers were respectful but others were not. There were plenty of police out there and in fact, one of the great things I would say about this race is that I saw police and medics going back and forth on the course at all times. If someone went down in the middle of the course, they would have been found pretty quickly.
This was just race number one of the weekend. I still had the Horseneck Half to get through and based on how much legs were doing, I was nervous. I was using my moji in the car as much as I could and foamed rolled once I got to my AirBnB. I ended up meeting a Rock Boat friend for dinner and was in bed around 8:30pm for the next race.
Official Finish Time:
120/145, Female 30-39