Monday, May 28, 2007

Tea Time

Bay Hundred residents Mike Keene and Pierre Bernasse get fuel and gear straight before the Chestertown Tea Party 10-miler on Saturday, May 26.

I am not hot. I wouldn't show up on the list of what's hot that Paris Hilton dubs with whimsical insight. Maybe that has something to do with why it is difficult for me to post personal fast times in heat-laden races.

On Saturday morning, Mike Keene, Pierre Bernasse, and I made a pilgrimage to the annual Chestertown Tea Party 10-mile run. Mike and I ran this race last year, and were sure to put it on our calendars this year as well--due in part to its Eastern Shore location, beautiful course, enthusiastic volunteers, and well, beer truck at the finish. After the Cherry Pit 10-miler in early April, this was my second 10-mile race of 2007.

Logic and the best-laid plans don't always hold for running. Leading up to the race, I figured: with a course less hilly than the Cherry Pit and some more quality runs under my belt, I had a shot at a 10-mile PR (under 1:20). Then there's that damn heat. Gotta remember that next year.

There is a fantastic energy around the Tea Party runs, 10-mile and 5K. Runners from everywhere, including plenty of Talbot County harriers, and the gathering at Washington College and running through Chestertown and then the back roads around the town, make for a memorable race. In my mind, there are only two down-sides to this great event. The first manifests itself in the form of a mass start, without chip timing, where the 10-mile and 5K runners and walkers crowd a narrow line and then have to sort through each other for the next 3/4 of a mile.

This year, one thing made the starting line chaos worthwhile. The race director made an announcement to all runners that there was a blind runner, who has run the race for several years, who was there to run the 5K, but needed someone to act as a guide. They asked for volunteers who ran at a similar pace, and a middle/high-school-aged girl stepped up to the plate, as well as some of her friends and running partners. An inspirational, heart-warming moment, that would have slipped by many of us, were there a tiered start. I will take that trade-off.

Mike and I both realized we had to position ourselves further toward the front than last year, which allowed us to come across the line with relative ease compared to those further back.
Also playing on last year's experience, we both opted to carry a bottle of Gatorade.

I hit the 1-mile mark at just under 8 minutes. I held that pace until the first aid station, where I walked to slug some fluids. Mad props to the family just before mile 4, who put their hose out as a mister for runners-by. Unfortunately, I could tell at about that point, that it was going to take more than cool mist for me to beat the heat. Though it was beastly hot, I can still take some pride in the fact that I was not one of the dudes puking on the side of the road.

The heat seemed to have an impact on most everyone. After I hit mile 6, I made a point to walk and drink Gatorade at mile markers 6 - 9. I needed every bit of it. This "strategy" (aka necessity) didn't help my speed, but did allow me to finish upright. I have known that heat can thrash me, but that came back in a real way with the hottest day of running for me so far this year. I managed to salvage a decent clip on the last mile, passing a couple folks and feeling decent turning for the chute.

I finished in 1:26:01, according to Tri-Sport Events results (my watch had it 2-4 seconds faster, but I will give them the benefit), which put me across the line 98 out of 289 finishers. Mike Keene banged away a 1:20:44, 70 overall, and Pierre rocked a 1:28:01, for 112 across the line. Pierre got a great training race in, sandwiched between a 20-mile run the previous weekend, and his first marathon attempt, June 9 in Mont St. Michel in France.

Easton's ultra-running legend Don Marvel (right) advises Pierre Bernasse in the prudent uses of the Force.

A lot of familiar faces in Chestertown: Easton native Trevor Robbins, who took 2nd in his age-group with a 1:16 and change performance, Greg and Brent Prossner, Tracy and Matt Saulsbury, Lori Callahan (female winner of B2B), Don Marvel (who won his age-group in the 5K), Ellen McGee of Annapolis Strider and Gotta Run Shop fame, and met Talbot County triathlete Bill Webb. Kind of funny aside, talking with Ellen, I mentioned always seeing the name of Annapolis Strider Robert Cawood near the top of distance runs and ultras--as it turns out, Cawood was the overall winner of the race. For full results click here,

The moral of the story is that I would have dug running faster, but so it goes. I try to make it a point not to get hung up on times--no matter your time, you always run a race faster than if you stayed home. I think heat was the deciding factor, and I heard the same story from other runners, almost all of whom were less than thrilled with times, but overjoyed to be finished the race. And it is after the finish that I will air my only other critical comment about the race: the long and potentially confusing walk from the finish area, back to the start, about 1 mile away. It is what it is.

To wrap it up, if you are looking for a great 10-mile race for your late spring calendar, go for the Chestertown Tea Party 10-miler. It's as hilly a road course as you will find on the Eastern Shore, so challenging by regional comparison, but easy next to its western shore kin. And it is a stellar event to tie in to your Memorial Day weekend.


Michael Keene said...

Last year's Tea Party 10 miler was my longest race ever. Mike and I ran it side by side except for the last mile. It made an impressionable mark on my love of running and on the race calendar for the following year. There have been many more races over this past year; nearly all with Mike. Racing for PR's often found me running by myself,as was the case Saturday, which can be considerably less enjoyable. Saturday's race was a clincher for me. Though it was marked by all the attractive elements that make this race one not to miss again and the positive addition of having Pierre join us, it made me realize how much running with friends adds to the experience. This year's race was fun but less enjoyable than last year's due to not having Mike next to me during the race. We've talked about our race strategies; of me starting out faster (his first mile was just under 8 minutes where mine was at 7), how he has an ever increasing pace strategy where I have the fading pace strategy, and how we both can enjoy the race even if we're not side by side. But now that we're on the repeat circuit my sense is that the PR's are far less important than enjoying the experience on a social level. PLUS, Mike V. and I have eyes on doing a 2-man-team 8-day Stage Race in September 2008. We need to start competing side by side again to train for this potential grand adventure. Stay tuned for news on that one. In the mean time we both need support and encouragement to make such an event come to fruition. Best to all you runners out there. MK

Nancy Toby said...

Great report! I've never done this race, but I definitely should next year!!

stephen g. bardsley said...

WAT UP MIKE! dont know if you are thinking about the Annapolis 10 miler, its an awesome race.If you want hot, you got it with that one. Hilly as well, but great post race chow, beer, race premium, etc.

Robert said...

Great post! I just started getting into running a couple of months ago and wanted to test myself at a more "official" competitive level. I am pretty athletic so even in a short time I have been able to prepare for this race, the longest distance I will have ever run.

You said that the course is very hilly. What is it like? Is it an ongoing series of soft rolling hills? or is it a few steep hills here and there? My goal is to avg an 8.5 min/mile which I feel I can do, however if the course is hilly 8.5 min might be out of reach. The race is on Saturday and any input or advice would really be helpful. Thanks and good luck!