Tips and tricks for mastering the run legs of Race the State!
We caught up with Dirk Johnson, member of the team with the fastest overall time, Island Idiots. Dirk contributed to the team’s overall ranking by running the second run leg of the course with a split time of 7:33/mile!
Normally I live on the Port-o-John line until the national anthem starts to play, which if I plan right gives me about 30 seconds to find my way to the starting line in time for the gun. Once the gun fires I’m good to go, unfortunately the waiting before the start also makes me good to go.
Unlike most running races where you have a prerace routine and known starting time, Race the State, as a relay, does not afford you the luxury of knowing exactly when your leg of the race will start. This can cause some anxiety for those who have pre race bathroom jitters as I do. Do your prerace transition area recon and know where the nearest port-o-john is, or if none, do yourself a favor and pack some TP in your kit, it’s much less stressful than looking for the nearest available properly sized leaves…
Once your teammate has come off the SUP it’s your job to remember to transfer the timing chip. Don’t expect your winded and exhausted teammate to remember to take it off and hand it to you. Nothing worse than getting through your run and reaching the Ft Adams transition only to have your relay teammate asking where the chip is. Ugh…
The Run – Strategy
While the nature of the race is an endurance effort, it is critical to pace properly yourself within a small or nonexistent running pack. I never saw another runner the whole 12.3 miles last year after the Sandy Point hill. It takes some practice and mental toughness to run at 100% race effort by yourself and without pacing runners. It’s very easy to let up ever so slightly with no other runners around.
On the other hand you also can’t run looking over your shoulder the whole time. Faster runners undoubtedly will catch you and pass you, do not get into a drag race when it happens. Stay in your zone and ignore them, run your race not theirs.
The hills are the hardest part of the run and it’s important to manage them. Adrenalin pumped, energetic and excited, you will want to gallop to the top amid the cheers of the fans lining the side of the road, big mistake! Stay in control here, yes you will spike your HR and yes you will have to recover once at the top, but just don’t blow up. Keep your breathing steady and do NOT go anaerobic this early in the race.
Once on the road, cars, dogs and pedestrians will not be giving you special racing room as they will have no idea you are in a race. You will look like every other Sunday jogger who stops at intersections and looks both ways before crossing. When you dash across the road make sure you have the opening you need.
Back to hills, there are 4 hills that will get your full attention before the race is over. Everyone knows Purgatory Hill at Surfers End which is minimized somewhat by the left turn onto Tuckerman part way up. Memorial Hill is next, watch the cobles past the entrance to Cliff Walk. Once on Ruggles the steep dip and Rogers Highschool Hill thereafter will get your heart going but it’s way too early to think about kicking it home from here. Regain your rhythm and hold on as you still have over a mile and one last sneaky badass hill at the Ft Adams entrance yet to come.
Finally you turn right into Ft Adams feeling the elation of being almost done. However this glow quickly fades as you start to feel the hill that you didn’t even know was there start sapping the last energy from your legs. You will feel like you are running in quick sand and your HR will be redline by now. Power through this with head high past the Ft Adams guard shack and you will see the finish down on the beach. It’s all downhill from here…!
Dirk and his teammates celebrating at the finish line in Westerly after Race the State 2016!
Additional Training Tips
Offseason: just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you can’t run! But don’t take our word for it, check out these tips from a Boston Marathon winner on running in the winter.
Know the Routes
The first and third legs of Race the State are designated running legs. Before doing any road race it helps to familiarize yourself with the course. If you’re in the area, practice running the race course a few times leading up to the race. If you’re not, here’s a break down:
The Sprint - the first run leg is a short 4 mile run. The course is straight and flat with only a few road turns that are clearly marked by signs and traffic police. There will be water provided at the start of the race and at the finish of this sprint leg, but not during. If you’re new to running, taking on this first leg as part of a team is a great goal to set for yourself and work towards!
The Long Haul - the second run leg is the leg that brings you from the SUP finish to the kayak start at Fort Adams. This is a big run, people, so train accordingly. The route is beautiful and scenic but along with the rocky cliffs of Aquidneck island come hills. We recommend running this route ahead of time or incorporate hill sprints into your training.
Run with a group: Get your friends to sign up for Race the State with you and make weekly plans run together and you’ll be less likely to back out!
Unconventional speed training: run fast or the zombies will get you! This app is Pokemon Go! meets zombies meets Race the State training. Turn on the app and start running, listen to music as you normally would. When you hear the zombies chasing you, pick up your speed! Set up timed intervals or have the app surprise you with zombie attacks!
Practice the transition: the second run leg comes after the SUP leg. If you’re doing both legs, don’t let race day be the first time you run directly after paddle boarding! If you’re on a relay team, don’t forget the timing chip!
Practice, Practice, Practice…
Warm up for Race the State with some of these other local races:
March 4 – Boldrdash Winterdash 5k, Exeter, RI
March 19 – New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA
April 15 – Newport Marathon and Half Marathon, Newport, RI
May 20 – Mystic River Run and Paddle, Mystic River, CT