My expectations for this race were mixed. There was the goal of beating last year's time (19:04). I also wanted to place better than in the race last week (6th). The truth was that I was lacking confidence because of fatigue from two early week track workouts, and lingering foot/ankle issues since Christmas (thanks Santa). I also know that I tend to do better in the longer trail races. This race is a "fast" course, and for whatever reason, I don't seem to do well in it. But, by the morning of the race, I was feeling rather excited.
I rode with my dad to the race and got there on the early side. The rest of my family was coming later, so that my son (8) could run his first 5K. After milling around the registration tables talking with the Galoobs and various running friends and watching the surf, it was time to get in a warm up. It was rather windy (surprise surprise) and I got rather cold standing around for so long. A group of WTACers headed out to check out the course. As stated before the beach was fine. We crossed over onto the sand trail and then ran into the giant puddles (ponds). There was no avoiding them and they looked deep. We turned around and headed for the stone building ruins, also part of the course. The entrance/exit were going to be slow and tricky, and the inside was filled with water. We continued along the coastal trail of Black Point. This trail was just as I expected (muddy and wet), but runnable. At this point, it was down to just me, Woolley, and Justin. This was the same crew I warmed up with last week foolishly through the deep snow. This time, we kept it easy and returned via the road. There was ample time to make final preparations (left on my trail shoes - Nike Terra Kigers and shed my upper layers to leave just my WTAC singlet). I found my wife and kids and made sure everyone was all set for the race.
Waiting for the start. Photo by Scott Mason
The field spread out along the start line, which was the width of the beach. I found myself near the water, next to Bob Jackman and some Turtles. Most of my teammates were higher up. I figured the sand was firmer where I was (if not wet in places) and I had a more direct route to the turnaround flag (the race begins as an out and back on the beach). At the siren, I took off in a controlled manner. There were plenty of people ahead of me. The wind was blowing mostly into our faces and I figured I would take my time, but not letting any competitors get away from me. At the flag (about a 1/2 mile?) it was Woolley in the lead, followed by Dan Hawkins and Bob Jackman for TNT, with Tom Bosquet (WTAC) and myself trailing them. I wasn't feeling great, but I made sure to keep my intensity high, especially considering how many fast guys were right behind me (Justin, Jeff, Nate, Seth, Bob Corsi, etc.). The southern end of the beach was more pebbly than sandy. These are beach conditions I'm more accustomed to running in North Kingstown, and I thought this might be an advantage. After reaching the starting area (about a mile in), the beach is all sand, and the only obstacles are two runoff streams. It is rather strange to see which lines people run. I could see Woolley hugging the shoreline with Jackman way off to the left. Tom had passed Dan, and I was still trailing by a few seconds in fifth position. Justin was close behind me ( couldn't see him, but I just knew).
Racers ahead of me. Photo by Scott Mason
Racers behind me. Photo by Scott Mason
I continued to push hard on the beach. Finally I reached the sand trail through the dune area. The thick sand makes things slower. I felt like I was gaining on Dan. I reached the "ponds", and took wide strides right through them. My feet were soaked, but my shoes drain fast, and I'm used to dealing with this thanks to all the trails I run. Justin was still on my heels. We reached the short (1/4 mile) road section that is a gentle uphill grade. I kept my effort high, but I'm sure my pace quickened with the easy footing. I was catching Dan fast, and motored by. I then hoped he didn't catch back up to me. This was not to be, as I immediately had company once on the gravel trails of Black Point. I was tired, and wanted a break, but unfortunately, there weren't going to be any breaks today. This would be good for my overall time, but it was going to be a grind. I tried to push hard on the trails - on the downhill, through the mud, down another hill, through more mud. No dice. I finally reached the tricky section near the stone ruins. I checked my watch and saw there was only 3/4 of a mile left. I can do this. I splashed through the ruins, navigated the rocks on the other side, and reached the final beach stretch.
Ready to splash through the ruins. Photo by Scott Mason
Tom (3rd), Dan, Me, Justin nearing the finish. Photo by Jana Walker
Finally, as the finish seemed like it was actually close, I began sprinting. Dan had a pretty big gap, and although it was unlikely I could catch him, it felt good to finish the race strong, gain ground, and make him have to work hard to stay in front of me. I crossed the line in 18:53, fifth place overall, one second behind Dan. WTAC won the team competition. I felt really good about running hard and relatively fast, despite my pre-race worries. I even set an eleven second PR.
A funny side note is that when I finished the race, I realized my watch wasn't on my wrist anymore. It had fallen off somewhere during the last 3/4 miles. After checking on my daughter (thanks to Becky Galoob for entertaining her during the race), I needed to go search the beach. Luckily, someone saw it during the race and picked it up. Space watch crisis adverted. Although it lost my race data and I wasn't able to upload to Strava. Ha! Instead of running a cool down, I hunkered down out of the wind, but in the sun with my daughter, drinking scalding hot hot chocolate, waiting for my son and wife to finish. Eventually we could see his blaze orange shirt in the distance! He was going to make it.
My son in orange, finishing up his first 5K! Photo by Scott Mason
My son finished up and seemed rather proud of himself, albeit very tired. This was not an easy first race. He ran the first two miles, walked a little, and ran the rest. He even won his age group and took home some candy from the prize table. You can see from the pictures it was an amazing day at the beach, and one I won't soon forget.