The Über Race Report, Vol. II

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Yesterday we brought you Vol. I of the Über Race Report, and today we bring you Vol. II. Anne London (of CRC and Nacho RC fame) decided to take on four races over a span of six days and chronicled it all for us. This segment involves events number two and three (the third one being a swim).

After having gotten to work early and packed eight hours into five, we were Rhode Island-bound. The humidity was building along with the thunderclouds, but that was no deterrent. This race, The Blessing of the Fleet 10 miler (now in its 41st year), was one of my favorites. This race is the unspoken test to whether a cross country runner had done their summer workouts – you’d be sure that all of the high school and college coaches are checking the results.  Close to 3,000 runners descend upon Narragansett, RI for this fast, flat, and scenic event. This year, my husband Brian and I were joined by his college friend Grant, a newly-minted running enthusiast who had made the decision to drive up from New Jersey for the race.

As the three of us chilled out at Narragansett High School before the race, Grant made the comment, “Everyone looks so fast, so serious. Everyone looks like they’ll run six minute miles, but that’s not how it goes, is it?” It’s true, ten miles is no walk in the park. For 99% of the people there, they had trained for this. You don’t just get out of bed one morning and say, “I’m going to run a ten miler today”. You train, you prepare, you COMMIT to achieving that goal. As I ran the race that night, I thought of all of the hard work that the runners around me had done, all of the sacrifices and planning that had gone into making it to the starting line that day.  I pushed through the familiar course, feeling stronger and stronger as the miles ticked by.  I happily finished with a 10M PR, a result of training and smart running; a skill that is only developed over time.

NACHOs ready to tackle 10 miles at the Blessing of the Fleet.

Less than twelve hours later, we found ourselves across the bay in Newport at the Naval War College for the Annual Save the Bay Swim for event number three.  The Save the Bay swim is a big event in Rhode Island, with politicians, local vendors and some of the region’s best athletes converging on a small beach in the early morning.

It has also been a big event in my family for the past twenty years: this year would mark my husband’s third swim and my father’s twenty-first consecutive swim. All season (and I mean ALL SEASON - he’s outside swimming in November!) my father trains for this one event, with the special challenge of swimming the bay in as many minutes as he has been alive in years, in this case, 59 minutes. What’s nice about this goal is that you get one extra minute each year to meet it, allowing for a “natural decay” in time as you yourself, well, decay.

He had this reach goal, 1.7 miles in 59 minutes, while me, I just wanted to finish. And so, we formed the NACHO Save-the-Bay swim team, a team Brian and my father wanted to do for a few years but they could never find a third person. My youngest brother, John, was dragged in to be my kayaking assistant, as non-elite swimmers were required to have a kayak spotter that would give help to the swimmer if needed. Help was definitely something I need.

Now, I am NOT a swimmer. Sure, I’ve completed triathlons, but there is a difference in finishing a sprint triathlon and trying to swim from Newport to Jamestown, especially when there is a perfectly acceptable bridge with a toll that now accepts EZ Pass to speed up the process. But this year was different for me - after watching my father finish for the past twenty years, I finally got the courage to try it myself. This wasn’t a decision made lightly. For starters, I hate being cold and wet (kind of my least favorite thing actually), so I had that to contend with. Secondly, I am an incredibly slow swimmer. Like, old lady in the lap pool-slow. Third, it’s not my thing… I guess that kind of goes back to the whole “not liking being cold and wet thing”, but it’s all related. I am not a swimmer, and I don’t enjoy it.

So why was I here? In my mind months earlier, I had convinced myself that swimming the bay would make me a better and healthier RUNNER. I have had a range of ridiculous orthopedic injuries, and with the New York Marathon looming this upcoming November, I figured getting off of the roads and forcing myself into a pool and/or ocean was a smart decision. So I jumped head first into swim training (pun kind of intended). I started working with the triathlon coach at MIT in the mornings before work and squeezed into the wetsuit starting in May to practice my sighting in small ponds in Rhode Island.

Vol. III will feature the end of the swim race and the last road race. Look for it later this week.

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