The Blessing of the Fleet is one of those races that (at least for me) you love to hate!! The temperature on a Friday night in late July down in Narragansett is typically uncooperative to say the least and getting out of work early on a Friday to race is a very odd feeling. The entire experience is very different from your normal local weekend race in my opinion. My opportunities to run the race have typically been few and far between for the last several years, as I have either been out-of-town with DJ at the Junior Olympics, on vacation or injured. This year DJ was not doing Junior Olympics, there was no family vacation planned and I was not injured. I had no built-in excuses to not do the race. Plus 10 miles is one of my favorite race distances and I had not done one in a while, so I was actually looking forward to it this year. I took half a day out of work so I would have plenty of time to get to the race early and avoid the masses of people showing up at the last-minute. However, as I was walking in the door to the house from work, the screen door did not open up all the way and closed abruptly on my Achilles Tendon / Upper Heal. The bottom corner of the metal door ripped a nice triangle-shaped flap of flesh into my left heel where the back of a running shoe would rub!! Needless to say, I thought my race was over before I even left the house!! I calmed myself down and cleaned the wound up as best as I could. I did not believe it needed stitches so I put two butterfly band aids on it to hold the flap in place and then taped it up with some athletic tape for some added security and headed to Narragansett.
In the weeks leading up to the race, I had set a goal of breaking an hour and was not about to change that since my heel was feeling okay and the weather was shaping up to be perfect. I did a 2 mile warm up and then toed the line. I saw many of the usual suspects and was trying to size up the field for Masters competition, but in the end all I really wanted was a good consistent run under 60 minutes. The race started on time and I ran at a good pace for the first mile. I expected to be a bit under pace as the first mile has some downhill and is always fast, but when I went through the mile in 5:36 I immediately thought this is a little too fast for me. The 2nd mile has a lot more gradual uphill than the first mile, so I knew the pace would correct itself if I relaxed a little. I settled in and ran a 6:00 flat for that mile and felt great, so now it was time to start racing. I was running just behind Glen Guillemette and a couple of others in a small pack, so I put in a little burst and got in the pack. As a group we pushed the pace and started tracking down and passing other runners. The pack consisted of 4 of us and we all stayed together exchanging the lead here and there until the 6 mile marker. At that point Glen broke away and one of the other guy’s went with him. The other guy and I held our pace and did not (or could not) follow them. I had been clicking off 5:55’s for the last few miles and it felt good, so I did not want to tempt fate at just over half way. The other guy and I ran together for another half mile and then he too pulled away from me just before the 7 mile marker on Kinney Ave. I looked at my watch and I saw that I was at 41:07 through 7 miles, so I was thrilled. I was way under pace and thought that now I had a great shot at sub 59 minutes!! I immediately started doing the math in my head and realized that all I needed was to maintain 5:57 / 5:58 pace and I would have it. So that became the focus for the remaining 3 miles. I stayed in pursuit ran a 5:55 for mile 8, which has some uphill back to the school. I was pretty confident that I could hold that pace for the next two miles which were faster miles. I ran a 5:46 for mile 9 and was closing in on two of the guys who had pulled away from me earlier. I could also see another runner from the Ronald McDonald House falling back to me as well. I started pushing pretty hard and I finally caught back up to Glen somewhere around 9.75 miles on the long straight away to the finish line.
The other two runners were right in front of him and in true Glen G form, he told me to “go get those two guys”!! I passed Glen and started making my move to overtake them both. I passed the young kid first and he did not react. Then I pulled alongside the runner from the Ronald McDonald House and tried to get in front of him. He reacted immediately and we went stride for stride for about 20 meters. After a few strides, it was clear that I was spent and that I went for it too soon. He started to pull away from me, but the finish line was just up ahead. I was still hoping to keep my lead on the young kid, but I had nothing left for a sprint and he nipped me at the line! I do not think I have ever been so happy to get nipped at the line. For starters, he was in his 20’s and should be able to out kick this old fart and then I had run over a minute and a half faster than I anticipated. I ended up in 20th place and was 2nd Master with a finish time of 58:27. I broke my Master 10 mile PR by 6 seconds from 6 years earlier when I was 40 and I believe it was my second fastest 10 mile ever! The weather had a lot to do with the great times that people were running. It was about as good a night as you could ever expect for a Friday in late July and we probably won’t see a night like that again for 10 years!