Saturday, March 11, 2017

Frigid Ocean's Run Half 2017

Westerly, RI
Sunday, March 5, 2017

Signed up for this race back in the fall when Kathy was running a half-price deal.  Shortly after I registered, Kathy added a marathon option which I toyed with as it's local roads I know, but in the end I passed and stuck with the half.

A week before the race (yeah, I'll fast forward shortly), I got a text from Mike B.  Remember that guy?  He let me know race day forecast was for "my kind of weather":  cold.  Then he added if 32 degrees is really that cold.  32 degrees?  That sounds just fine, possibly even singlet weather with a light hat and light gloves. 

Warm up:  Left the house at 10 degrees F.  Yeah, so much for 32.  Drove the full mile to the start, sat in the car with the heat blasting while texting Tommy 5K until warm-up time about 20 minutes before the start.  It had "warmed up" to 13 degrees by now, but the wind was howling over 20 mph and gusting over 30.  The wind was out of the northwest, but being wide open at the oceanside parking lot, it just seemed to hit you everywhere.  Ran all of 1/2 mile with Tommy and Mikey, before running back to my heated car and heated seats with my tail between my legs.  I was dressed in shorts ready to go, but that short frigid dash convinced me to swap the shorts for tights.

First four:  Tights, two tech shirts, a hat, and gloves.  Tried to keep moving and jumping on the start line, lined up between Aaron running the 4-miler and Tommy the half, with Mikey right behind us.  After a frozen wait, the race went off right at 8am (my Strava post shows 8:01am), much to RD Kathy's credit. 

Kathy had made it abundantly clear in an e-mail update and at the start that due to the wind, signage could not be put up, rely on the arrows painted on the road, if no arrows, no turn.  Yet two rambunctious "kids" continued to make wrong turns off of the course, right turns off Atlantic where there were clearly no arrows painted.  I yelled when they incorrectly turned onto Winnapaug, and they turned back, but when they next turned right onto Fisherman, they were too far ahead of me and unfortunately other runners followed them, before they eventually turned back.

Anyhow, about 1/2 mile in, Tom pulled ahead for good, and another runner Jared came up and introduced himself, and asked me, "Aren't you Matthew Walker's father?".  (I don't have my own identify anymore, and must live vicariously through my kids.)  It turns out he's an assistant coach for Tollgate, and we chatted the next few miles away.

Back half:  Yeah, not exactly half with 9 to go.  The inattentive kids (that couldn't follow the course arrows) turned off as they were only running the 4-miler, and we trucked on.  A smarta$$ Westerly cop yelled out, "Come on, Walker, you're dogging it.".  (I called him up the next day and gave him grief, as he's also a co-worker and friend.)  My hands and face felt frozen the first two miles, and were finally warming up as we had a tailwind headed out to Weekapaug.  Jared pointed out that there were only two ahead of us now:  the leader, and Tommy.

Turning north at the Weekapaug Bridge, we went right into a frigid headwind, and this would be the slowest mile of the whole race at 6:26.  A half mile later, happy and encouraged to see Tommy turn off onto Cove Road and out of the wind ahead of us.  Most of the course was bereft of spectators, so after turning onto Noyes Neck Road, was very happy to see the rest of Tommy's family cheering me on:  Steve, Mary, and Shara.  We would see Shara one more time on Wawaloam, before making the trek back to the finish on Atlantic.

With a couple miles to go, I knew that Jared had more in the tank than I did, as he was breathing easier than me.  He held off with a kick until the state beach was in sight, and then he went as he narrowed the gap between me and Tommy.  I felt fine when I finished and hung around for about 10 minutes talking to Steve before I got cold, but my friends didn't fare as well.  Tommy looked like he was throwing up, and when Mike B finished, he left immediately saying he was cold.  He didn't look well.

Thought about staying for awards, but I eventually got cold myself and then started to shiver.  The water bottle I picked up at the finish had chunks of ice, the food was frozen, and it was time to go.  I've run races in the upper teens before, but I think this was the coldest race I have ever run.

Final results:  1:23:18, 4th overall out of 342.  1st in age group (slightly, the next 50+ guy was 23 minutes behind me)  Results link


  1. Strong race, Gazelle! The conditions couldn't have been much worse. I think those were the coldest conditions I've raced in or it was at least the coldest long race I've done.

  2. Great work gutting out what sounds like a hellish race!

  3. There was a 1/2 marathon in Westerly on Sunday?