Oct 17, 2010, Newport Rhode Island Marathon
With the JFK coming up in November, I was time for another training run. I’d done the Smuttynose Marathon two weeks earlier, mostly alone as Dane had failed to register and Ranger Dave signed up for the wrong marathon. Dane played some tricks on the rain gods for this one, as the skies were clear all day!
This marathon is billed as the #4 best marathon in the country. So in addition to a beautiful fall day, we were counting on superb organization and visions of lobster and steamers at the finish line. Little did we know..
The crew this time around consisted of Ranger Dave, Dane, Gary, Xuan, and Hongmei. Xuan would be attempting her first ever half marathon, and Hongmei was coming out of long distance running retirement. I’d somehow convinced her a week and a half ago that it would be easy to ramp up to a half marathon in one week. Like Flounder in Animal House, she %^$#@(@#& up! She trusted me!
With an 8:00 (AM) start time, we were pondering leaving my house at 5:00 or 5:30. I finally decided to host a pre-race carb loading dinner at my house, so Gary could hang out for the evening and not have to drive the extra hour in the morning. Ranger Dave wasn’t sure he could make it, as he was fretting over who was going to feed his cat in the morning. I finally convinced him to put out an extra bowl of whatever before he left the house, and instruct the cat not to eat it until the morning.
On Saturday afternoon, Nathan called, he was at a Home Depot and wanted to know what kind of headlamp I’d found there for RTB. This would turn out to be a critical phone call, without it none of us would have gotten starting times during the race. It turned out that Nathan was working the marathon the next day, so I gave him our numbers and asked him to pick up the numbers and packages for us.
Dave, Gary and myself headed out for some pasta (those two aren’t dumb enough to trust my cooking the night before a race), we went back to my house and settled in for the night. The only problem was, I just couldn’t sleep. Bo Burnham had a new special on Comedy Central, that was pretty funny. I forget what was on Comedy Central after that, eventually I found myself watching Predator II. “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”. Ok, that’s a line from the first one, but you get the point. If you’re watching those kinds of movies at 3:00 AM, and have a 4:00 AM wakeup call, you know you’re in for a long day..
Eventually I got up, made myself a pot of coffee (Gary doesn’t drink coffee and Dave gets jittery when he drinks it), so I had the entire pot to myself. A hydration plan and a wake up plan all rolled up into one! Dane showed up right on time, the plan was to drive to Xuans house, then take their Honda Pilot (seats 8!), pick up Hongmei, and arrive comfortably just after 7:00 AM. Nobody seemed to mind that I hadn’t slept the night before, everybody (except Xuan) was comfortable to let me do the driving, so we got to Xuans house, transferred our gear to the Honda, and I had all I could do to not drive the entire way in reverse. You see, this Honda had a video camera pointing out it’s butt, you could drive around backwards without even looking out the window!
It also had an onboard computer that you could talk to. Great! I’m a software engineer with a background in AI (Artificial Intelligence), so I know how to ‘interface’ (technical computer term) with these things. I gave the computer an easy, well formed instruction to get things started:
ME: “Computer, take us to Blueberry Lane!”
Computer: “Temperature set to 83 degrees..”
Hmmm, ok, maybe this thing wasn’t so bright after all. Xuan, however, did respond to the ‘computer’ request, and punched in the address on the onboard GPS.
We made it to what we thought was Hongmei’s house (the lights were on so we parked in the driveway), and while we were waiting I issued another command:
ME: “Computer, we’re hungry! Take us to a Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Computer: “XM Radio set to station 101, all music, all the time!”
Xuan (frantically punching in instructions on her iPhone): “I think there’s one on Route 20!”
Unfortunately, the one on Route 20 was on the wrong side of a divided highway, so we headed in the general direction of Rhode Island and decided I should try a different approach with the computer. Xuan thought the problem might be that her husband always spoke to it in Chinese, but that wasn’t working, so I tried a menu approach.
ME: “Computer, FAST FOOD!”
Computer: “Look on the display, moron..”
There it was! The display was filled with every fast food joint except Dunkin’ Donuts! Progress!
Hongmei finally directed us to a real DD, where we grabbed some more coffee and breakfast to go.
A little after 6:00 I called Nathan, to make sure he was awake. He assured us he was at the start line. Or the finish line. Ha ha ha. (The course was a loop). As we had plenty of time, we told him we’d head to the FOURTH BEST organized marathon parking in the country and take the shuttle bus to the start.
We got to Newport, and with a mile to go came to a screeching halt! Traffic was backed up for a mile! Most of us were panicking, but Ranger Dave was laughing. He’d arrived at the start of a Boston Marathon a half hour late one year, and discovered it was a lot less crowded that way. So in his opinion, we were right where we wanted to be.
Except that a pot and a half of coffee had my teeth pretty much floating. Gary was feeling much the same. With no end of traffic in sight Gary finally jumped into the bushes, and as soon as he got back I jumped out and did the same (remember, I was driving!).
We eventually arrived in the parking lot (The problem – traffic cops! Go figure!) and hopped on a shuttle bus. By the time we got to the start we all had to visit the porta potty, I called Nathan while waiting in line. He was waiting for us at the start line. Or the finish line. Ha ha ha.
We did our business, found Nathan, and started strapping on our numbers. At this point the organizers were getting ready to roll up the starting line, almost 23 minutes had passed since the official gun went off!
Here we are 22 minutes after the official start. Notice the lack of runners in the background – they’re all gone!
Nathan held the starting line in place for us, we started running, and I’m pretty sure we were the last ones off.
For me, the plan was simple. Xuan had been working towards this goal for a long time, so my job was to get her to her finish line. Dave and Dane were going to run fast and hurt themselves, Gary was planning on a 10 minute/mile pace, and Hongmei had been sniveling that she hadn’t trained properly, her hip hurt, and she was having a bad hair day, or something like that. So she was going to run with Xuan and me.
Well, that lasted for about 50 feet. She looked at us and said “Do you mind if I start running now?”. No, of course not, go ahead and join the real athletes. I was trying to convey to Xuan that she shouldn’t try to keep up with anybody, just run at her comfortable speed. Or preferably a little faster, for the first couple of miles she was really crawling. I’d plod along, get a little bit ahead, then turn around and take a picture.
Slow, but not last!
This course had a couple of ‘out and backs’, which I usually hate. Why run back and forth to end up at the same place? However, it does give you the opportunity to say hello to your faster friends.
Hongmei – “I’m running fast, whoo hoo!”
Gary – “I’m running fast, whoo hoo!”
Around mile 6, the last of my coffee started pressing on my bladder, so I told Xuan I was going to run ahead to find a porta potty. She should keep running at her comfortable speed, I’d wait for her, or catch up if she got by me. I ran that mile a little too fast, and ended up waiting for a few minutes at the porta potty. Xuan actually ran by while I was waiting in line, but of course never notice me standing there 10 feet away.
Xuan ignoring me..
I eventually finished my business, then set about trying to catch up to Xuan. Except something strange happened. She started running faster! What the heck? I ran a little faster than my comfortable pace for the next couple of miles, and I wasn’t gaining any ground on her, so, realizing I had another 16 miles ahead of me, I decided I’d better back off a little bit and save something for the second half.
Just before mile 12 an ambulance came flying past me, there was a runner down ahead of me. Worried that Xuan might have overexerted herself, I stopped to see who it was, but it wasn’t her. Sadly, it was a gentleman who appeared to be in full cardiac arrest. I hope he’s ok..
Xuan ended up finishing her first half a few minutes ahead of me, in 2:13! Whoo hoo! Hongmei, who’d finished a touch over 2 hours (bad hair day my a$$!), gave me some pain killers for my hip, then grabbed Xuan to go find some food. I set off for the second half.
The rest wasn’t very eventful. I saw Dane once, Dave once, and Gary a whole bunch of times.
Dane, I almost missed him!
Dave, not far behind..
Gary, for like the 4,000th time
I plodded along, getting slower and slower. The course was very hilly. Then, all of a sudden, there was a blur and I was passed by, huh?
That’s right! I was passed by a caterpillar! Here’s a closeup of the little %!$!#^@%&$
Well, that was embarrassing!
Anyhow, I plodded along, crawling up hills and making slightly faster progress down them. Ranger Dave had promised to turn around at the finish line and come back and find me, my calculations had us meeting up around mile 18, but I guess the finish line ‘hydration’ got to him, because it ended up happening right at mile 26.
Ranger Dave always has some great insight into these things. Todays was a gem:
RD: “This is what I love about these things. There are so many different things that can go wrong! There’s always something happening to make you smile..”
And with that, I turned the final bend to the finish line.
Wait a minute, what’s that? Zoom in…
Son of a $#@(&#! He got me at the finish!
ME: “Computer, I want to go home.”
Computer: “Temperature, 83 degrees..”