Monday, June 24, 2013

Stratton Faxon Half Marathon Race Review

The family and I arrived at the Shelton Marriott Courtyard ($100 per night with a AAA discount) at 11am on Saturday.  This hotel is very nice, a huge step up from the crappy Super 8 ($150 per night includes unidentified hairs in the bathtub) in Lee that we stayed in the night before.  I swam with the kids in the heated pool (Bonus!  I can't remember the last hotel I stayed in with a heated pool!) for an hour before they went home.  Let's just say that being in a hotel by myself was so unnatural, I had no idea what to do after they were gone.  So I left the hotel to grab coffee and lunch from the Starbucks down the road.  I also got two bagels from Dunkin' Donuts for race morning.

The Nun finally arrived at 4pm.  We went to the Bertucci's next door for an early dinner.  We both ordered the Shrimp Rossini.  It was pretty good.

We went back to the hotel.  What did we high school buddies do on our first night away from the kids?  Pass out from sheer exhaustion at 7:30pm.  Yup.  Kind of sad.  

What happened next may be the highlight of The Nun's weekend.  My cell phone rang and I jumped up out of bed.  My son was calling to tell me the 3 year old was crying.  As I talked to him, still feeling exhausted, I grabbed my bagel and decided to eat it in bed.  Maybe I could go back to sleep for an hour before I had to start getting ready.  I reassured Rema that I would be home the next morning and told Santos to go back to bed because it was very early.  He sounded wide awake, so I doubted this was going to happen.  As I was eating, The Nun turned over in her bed and asked, "What are you doing?  You've been asleep for an hour.  It's 9:00.  At night."  I turned to the window bewildered because it looked as though the sun was rising.  It was the damn "Super Moon" illuminating the sky.  After I got over my initial shock, The Nun and I just could not stop giggling about my absurdity.  I almost wish she let me get dressed in my running outfit and go down to the lobby.  

That's the Super Moon right above the finger growing out of the top of The Nun's head.

Real race morning arrived.  I awoke at 5:30am and finished what was left of my bagel from the night before.  The Nun was up by 6 and we were out the door by 6:45.  Plenty of time to get to the race before 8:30.  Or so we thought (I am quietly muttering a variety of obscenities at this point).  We took Route 8 to I-95 to Exit 22.  This is where the debacle begins.  To say the traffic getting off the highway was ridiculous would be an understatement.  We inched (no exaggeration) along the exit ramp for about 20 minutes.  They seriously needed to have a couple of police officers at the end of the exit ramp directing traffic.  We finally got to the intersection of North Benson Road and Post Road.  The police officer at the corner suggested that we park at the shopping center and walk 3/4 of a mile to the train station because it was probably full.  We listened to him.  Mistake.  As we were walking to the train station, I noticed that the other runners who also parked at that shopping center were neither in front nor behind us.  Odd.  We got to the train tracks, but still no runners in sight.  We quickly discovered the actual station was on the other side of the tracks.  I did notice plenty of empty parking spaces in the train station parking lot.  We lost almost 10 minutes for nothing (Can you feel the irritation building?).  We didn't board the charter bus to the start until 8:15.  The race begins at 8:30.  There were still a lot of people waiting for the bus behind us.  The Nun asked if they would delay the start until all the buses arrived.  I hoped so, but it was doubtful.  

The bus dumped us in the beach parking lot at 8:21.  There were port-a-potties in the lot that officials were directing us to use because the ones at the start will have long lines.  Fool us once...  We took our chances, and whaddya know?  The port-a-potties at the start were empty (Lesson:  Never listen to anyone in charge in Fairfield, at least during this particular race).  The Nun quickly used the bathroom while I ran to pick up my number.  I heard the announcer say 2 minutes until the start.  The women started on a different block than the men.  By the time I got to the end of the women lined up, the gun had already gone off.  The crowd of runners was unbelievable.  I ran at a 9 minute pace for at least the first three miles.  There was a steep hill right before Mile 3.  This helped ease the congestion slightly, but not much.  I picked up the pace, but as I did this I also felt the effects of the heat and humidity more.  Oh yeah, it was a steamy 80-something degrees.  

The crowd support during this race was great.  Lots of cheering.  Many residents sprayed hoses on the runners to cool us off.  Many had signs (A little boy near Mile 11 {?} was holding the best sign: "You're 83.97% done!"  My math is not as good as his, so I could be wrong about his placement).  The volunteers had plenty of water and Gatorade at the ready.  My fellow runners were interesting.  Some back tattoos stood out, like the dragonfly and peacock.  A lot of runners donned the Hole In the Wall charity t-shirts.  Great cause!  One particular runner stood out.  People who run races with their friends tend to create walls.  This can be utterly annoying to the people (meaning me) trying to pass who are already annoyed for other reasons.  When I find an opening, I take full advantage.  In one instance, a couple of women were shoulder to shoulder.  They separated and I ran through.  One of the women shouted, "You can't do that!"  Really?  You can't pass people in a race?  Isn't that kind of the point of a race?  I waved at her and she called me an asshole.  I was both surprised and amused by this.  Although, maybe she was crazy enough to run up to me and trip me or something.  Too bad for her, she wasn't fast enough ;)

Around Mile 7, I overheard a man telling his friend that he felt tingly and feared it could be heat stroke.  Earlier at Mile 4, I saw one woman lying on the ground with her eyes closed.  EMTs were tending to her.  I must have heard sirens on four separate occasions.  I felt pretty overheated at this point.  I also kind of had to go to the bathroom.  We were approaching a small beach with bathroom facilities.  I knew that if I stopped to go to the bathroom, my chances of a PR are out the window.  At the same time, I don't want to be stuck in some residential area with a "natural disaster".  I figured since I started at a much slower pace than I had planned, I might as well just chalk this up to a "fun run" and do what I gotta do.  So I did.  Once I made this decision, I felt a bit of pressure had been lifted.  I even walked at some points, hoping I would see The Nun.  I didn't.  The course finally circled back to Jennings Beach.  I decided to sprint at the end because much to my surprise, I still was going to finish under 2:00.  The announcer at the finish line called my name as I crossed.  I also saw my friend, Devant and his awesome girlfriend, Kristen, cheering me on.  My net time was 1:55:26.  About 10 minutes off what I was expecting, but not too shabby considering I used the bathroom and walked a bit.  

The crowd at the end was just as bad as the beginning, of course.  After crossing the finish line, I had to hunt down a drink.  Many races hand you a bottle of water or Gatorade immediately at the end, especially if it's EIGHTY DEGREES.  There was a hotdog stand next to the water table.  Where are the fruit and bagels?  Devant pointed out that there were a bunch of tents on the beach.  Sure enough, they were giving out pizza, watermelon, yogurt, and oranges on the beach.  I grabbed my food and also picked up my race shirt since I didn't have enough time before the race.  Of course, I got a large (Here you go, Pete).  The smaller sizes were gone with the wind.  I went back to the finish to meet The Nun.  She finished in the 2:20s, a great time for a first timer in this heat.

Overall, the race course was lined with pretty homes and energetic spectators.  Is this worth the crappy disorganization at the start?  Nah.  I won't be running this race again.  They also need to change the start time to 7:00am, instead of 8:30.  The half marathons I ran last summer both started at 7am.  It's too damn hot to run a good distance at a later time.

Sorry, no pre-race pictures, thanks to the time wasted sitting on I-95 and walking to the train station.

Chugging up the first hill.

This is how we roll.

We won!


  1. Great race recap. It's so disappointing when a race has bad organization. It really undercuts the overall experience. The heat and humidity must have been awful. Under all those circumstances, finishing under 2:00 borders on heroic.