Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Race Recap: Eastern States 20 (aka My Love Affair with Running)

My 20-mile run this weekend reminded me of every wonderful, crazy thing that I love about this sport.  The Eastern States 20-Mile has been on my running wish list for several years now.  There is just something SO irresistibly cool to me about running across state borders in a race.  Like "yeah, no big deal, I ran through three states on Saturday morning, what did you do this weekend?!"  The brag factor is big with this one!  

Eastern States is a point-to-point race starting in Kittery, Maine and running primarily along Route 1A (which stretches from Maine, all the way to Florida) through New Hampshire and finishing just over the Massachusetts border in Salisbury, MA.  It is almost 100% along the ocean, and is extremely flat, with only about a 50 foot elevation change throughout.  
I was excited to be able to share this experience with two new friends from my running club, who I met at 6 AM in Newton to drive up to New Hampshire together.  That meant setting my alarm for 4:30 AM on Saturday morning... which would have been rough, had I not been SO excited all night long (yes, I am obnoxiously perky on race mornings!)  As we made our way to Hampton Beach for the shuttle, we caught a glimpse of the beach from a side-street and parked to get a closer look.  The sun was just beginning to rise over the ocean, casting streaks of yellow and orange through the sky.  The scene took my breath away, and I knew in that moment that it was going to be a magical day.

After a quick coffee (and chocolate glazed doughnut) stop, we boarded the shuttle that would take us from Hampton Beach up to Kittery, Maine for the race start.  A quick 15-minutes later and we were at Traip Academy for packet pickup and a mega-long porta-potty line!  We spent much of the next hour waiting in line while debating our race attire... It was 39 degrees and slightly cloudy, but forecasted to be 45 degrees and sunny by the finish, with a slight wind along the ocean.  The challenges that we runners face!  After much angst, I decided to put my windbreaker in the gear check bag, and couldn't have been happier with my decision when I warmed up within minutes.

Who doesn't love a good porta potty line pic!

It is hard to say enough about how beautiful this race was.  I am fairly positive I spent the first 18 miles of this race with a cheesy grin on my face, just completely in awe of my surroundings.  Totally obnoxious, like I said!  
Just can't help myself!

The first mile or so of the race ran through downtown Kittery to Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Maine-New Hampshire border.  There we passed Warren's Lobster House, my all-time favorite seafood restaurant from my time living up in Maine, which brought back some incredible memories of friends and food comas.  We then crossed through  downtown Portsmouth, making our way to Route 1A and the ocean.

The next 10 or so miles of the race followed the curve of the coastline past several state beaches, and more lobster shacks and ice cream shops than I could count.  Talk about great memories of Maine summers... I could practically taste a buttery lobster roll with a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.  I have to say, my sports gel was not quite the same!

We began passing a series of beaches that I recognized, first by name and then by sight, having spent some fun long weekends with friends along the New Hampshire coast.  First Wallis Sands Beach, and then Rye Beach, where there was a small crowd of spectators braving the cold winds to cheer us on, and then a view of the Isle of Shoals off in the distance.  Although the stretch between Rye and North Hampton marked 13 miles, I barely felt the distance, believing instead that I was on my own little tour of coastal New England.

It was somewhere around mile 16 and Hampton Beach when reality started to hit.  At this point, my legs felt heavy and with the sun out, the water stations started to feel further apart.  We passed the parking lot where we had met the shuttle over 5 hours before, and then the hotel where the post-race party being held, and the half marathoners were already celebrating, which mentally was a little rough.  Only four more miles!  Hampton Beach was undeniably beautiful though, and I tried to let the scenery take my mind off the distance.

The last two miles seemed to stretch forever for me, and I really started hurting just as we approached a small climb over the Hampton Bridge.  I started counting down half miles and then quarter miles, pushing to keep up my pace and get it done.  The race turned slightly inland, so I lost track of my blissfully distracting beach views as well.  I was so relieved when we approached a large crowd of spectators and then turned a corner and saw the finish line just100 yards away.  

Elated to have completed my last 20-mile training run for my April marathon, I walked (okay hobbled) to the gear check bus, where I was amazed that the incredibly organized race volunteers had already retrieved my bag and had it waiting to hand to me.  Just a few steps beyond that, a shuttle bus was waiting to take runners to the post-race celebration.  It couldn't have been better, because when we got back to Hampton Beach, I practically inhaled three cups of chicken noodle soup, two slices of pizza, an orange slice and a Diet Coke.  Recovery food of champions! 

I was psyched to check off one of my wish list races and to be still feeling halfway decent after 20 miles with a finish time I could be proud of.  I felt lucky to have had such an incredible race experience, running through one of the most beautiful parts of New England, with a tailwind behind us, on a perfectly clear and sunny March day.  Most of all, I couldn't have been happier to share this experience with some new friends from my running club family.  Everything about this day epitomized everything I love about this wonderful sport of running.  Here I come, Eastern States 2017!

I am linking up this post with the Tuesdays on the Run link-up with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Marcia's Healthy Slice!


  1. Great job on your 20 miler race! Those last few miles are always the worse. Way to finish strong! -L

  2. Super Proud of you Michelle!!!! Sounds incredible!!!! Maybe I can join you in 2017 ... you've made me want to put this on my 'wish list' of races too!!!! :)