Monday, April 09, 2012

Great Bay Half Marathon 2012

There was no racing scheduled for my Laser frostbite fleet this weekend (something to do with a goddess called Eostre and rabbits and eggs, I think) so I drove up to New Hampshire on Saturday and ran in the Great Bay Half Marathon.

What an unexpected pleasure! Much of the 13.1 mile course was in the Great Bay Estuary and National Wildlife Refuge, a beautiful area of pine and oak forest with ponds and marshes and distant views of the Great Bay Estuary itself. Several miles were on dirt roads through the forest, which made a pleasant change from hammering away on paved roads.

The course started and finished in the charming little mill town of Newmarket, which is built around the Lamprey River. I wonder if there are lampreys in the Lamprey River?

A surfeit of lampreys

About the only thing I know about lampreys is what every schoolboy of my generation in England learned at an early age, that King Henry l died of a "surfeit of lampreys." At the time I didn't really know what "surfeit" or "lamprey" meant, but it did not sound like a very pleasant way to die. I always felt that a much better way to go would have been the fate that befell the Duke of Clarence in 1478 who was executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Although the "surfeit of lampreys" was probably not as bad as what happened to poor old Edward ll in 1327 who was allegedly murdered using a method that left no marks on the outside of his body but which involved the use of a red hot poker. Ouch!

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The Great Bay Half Marathon.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the Great Bay Half Marathon was coming across entertainers at random intervals round the course. We were running along the dirt road in the depths of the forest and we started to hear in the distance what I thought at first was a recording of a human voice, electronically enhanced in some way. Eerie. Magical. Even better, perhaps it meant there was a water stop around the next bend?

But when we reached the source of the music, we saw that it was actually a guitarist at the side of the road playing an electric guitar plugged into an amplifier, powered by his truck battery presumably? One of the runners near me commented that this was the "Backwoods Rock and Roll Half Marathon."

After the guitarist we were entertained by an accordionist, a one man band, and a folk group. Just before Mile 11, there were were even some dancing girls!

A surfeit of belly dancers

After my embarrassingly slow half marathon last October, I must admit I was wondering if I was getting too old for this lark. In that race, I totally ran out of steam after about 9 miles and basically hobbled the last 4 miles to the finish. If I couldn't do better than that on Saturday, I was ready to give up the whole idea of running half marathons and take up something less strenuous like... ummm.... black belt sudoku, maybe?

The Great Bay Half Marathon was billed as "challenging", a "roller coaster course" with "some steep hills." Hmmm. Knowing how the people who write these descriptions are usually iron men who run 20 miles up a mountain before breakfast every day, I was assuming that the description was probably understating the difficulty of the course.

But I needn't have worried. I set off at a cracking pace (for me) on the relatively flat roads in the first few miles, slowed down a bit on the hilly middle section (even walking up the occasional hill), then picked up the pace in the final few miles as I bantered with my fellow runners about how I was in a hurry to get to the beer tent. And then we were back in the center of Newmarket, running downhill alongside the Lamprey River into a surfeit of spectators including the beautiful Tillerwoman, who captured a perfect photograph of me looking totally insane, waving my arm in the air and with what looks like an umbrella growing out of both sides of my head. How does she do it?

I had not only beaten my goal time for the race. I had run it 13 minutes faster than my half marathon in October. So maybe there's life in the old dog yet?

But why was I faster this time?

I can only attribute it to my training diet. For the past few weeks I have been on a strict Marmite diet. Marmite with grilled cheese. Marmite on bagels. Marmite on turkey sandwiches. I don't know if it's the high B-vitamin content, the riboflavin, the niacin, or some other secret ingredient, but it definitely worked.


Baydog said...

Any vegetables in that diet? Perhaps some Branston Pickle?

Tillerman said...

Not much. I wonder what fried lamprey and mushy peas would taste like?

Pandabonium said...

A surfeit of Marmite was the yeast of your worries.
This post is great. It reminds me of an episode of The Avengers : "A Surfeit of H2O". (Any post that gets me thinking of Diana Rigg is a great one.)
Perhaps you were faster because you were running away from that surfeit of nightmarish scenarios running through your head. Red hot poker! Aagh!

Tillerman said...

Aaaaah, Diana Rigg. What a joy she was to 1960's English schoolboys!

PS. This post is now #1 on Google for "Marmite on lampreys."

Baydog said...

And American schoolboys too..

Tillerman said...

According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, some episodes of The Avengers were a little too racy for American audiences. ABC initially refused to air five episodes from the first Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) series including the one that so inspired Panda: "A Surfeit of H2O."

O Docker said...

Yet another use for Marmite!

Of course, everyone knows it's a great marine caulking compound, and I learned here a while back that it can be used as an emergency survival food, but who would have guessed you can train for running events with it too?

Does it work like running with weights? After you develop a tolerance for it, you stop eating it the week of the race and your endurance improves?

JP said...

I had marmite on my breakfast toast! I feel stronger already!

Of course, relating to Henry I, the definitive history of England states that he died from a surfeit of palfreys, which was a Bad Thing.

Tillerman said...

Ah yes, JP. Who can forget 1066 and All That? Especially the instructions for the test papers. "Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once".

Skippy said...

Please check to make sure you are buying English Marmite. There is a shortage of New Zealand Marmite and you are requested to use it sparingly.

Lots of Lampreys on the Willamette. They are nasty when they die en masse up at the falls. Bad time to water ski.

Tillerman said...

Absolutely Skippy. I would only buy English Marmite. There is a surfeit of English Marmite in our pantry.

I did read about the great New Zealand Marmite Deficit. Very sad but what can you do? The New Zealanders will just have to spread their Marmite more thinly. Let them eat Vegemite.

Chris said...

I've already chosen my means of execution, should the need arise for me to specify, and the choice be granted.

I'd want to be chased off a cliff by a surfeit of beautiful naked women as in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" (the link is NSFW:

Tillerman said...


Alas, poor old Graham Chapman (Arthur Jarrett) didn't get to choose this superb way to go, but instead died of tonsil cancer at the age of 48. As John Cleese said of Chapman at the latter's memorial service, "Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries."

frankie said...

"Enter your comment", it says. Allright. I just want to show off my new 'fabicon' on my french blog... given up talking about sailing actually, now blogging about tapestry... ah well!

As for the death of Edward II, read 'The Perfect King' by Ian Mortimer. He has another idea about it. As for choosing my death, I think I'd like it from a surfeit of chocolate frogs :-))

Frankie Perussault said...

Ah blast... my fabicon doesn't show... I'll try another identity

Tillerman said...

Fabulous fabicon fab frankie.

It is true, there is some doubt about the exact way in which Edward ll died. Ian Mortimer did indeed advance the theory that Edward did not die in Berkeley Castle in 1327. I wonder if he was at all influenced by the fact that Edward's murder was supposedly ordered by one Roger Mortimer who was in a "liason" with Edward's wife.

As part of my research for this comment thread I did visit Berkeley Castle in 1966. The red hot poker theory was only hinted at obliquely by my guide, but I was shown a prison cell in which there was a deep pit. Apparently dead animals were thrown in the pit and left there, in the hope that the fumes from the rotting animals would eventually kill the prisoner in the cell. I thought at the time that a red hot poker would have been a much more certain way of finishing off a political enemy.

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