Another Blessing of the Fleet, another Matt Pelletier win.
We tend to grow accustomed to athletic domination from professional sports teams and athletes. Just as Tiger Woods, the New York Yankees, and Chicago Bulls devoured the nineties, Matty P continues to stand tall above the rest of his competitors. On Friday night in Narragansett, Rhode Island, Matt Pelletier literally ran away from the competition early on and never looked back as he coasted to his seventh(!) victory at the annual Blessing of the Fleet 10 Mile Road Race. For many people, the unique start time (6:00 pm) in the beautiful seaside town coupled with the sizeable field (regularly 2,000-3,000 competitors), the race is more akin to a half marathon. With all of its festive pomp and circumstance, the race puts forth an almost circus-like atmosphere to it — and Pelletier continues to be the ring leader.
I had the chance to catch up with Matt via email (no way I could literally catch up to him), and solicited a few questions regarding his continued domination of the humid ten miler in the coastal town. Despite repeated doses of modesty, he was nice enough to shed light on this year’s race as well as 2015’s contest.
First off, congrats on Blessing win #7. How does this one compare to the previous six victories? Is there any significance to this year’s domination/anything that stands out in particular or, at this stage of the game, are they all starting to blend into one big blur of wins?
I’ve run this race every year since 1997, except for 2009-2010 (knee surgeries) and 2013 (wake/funeral). That’s 17 Blessings. My first win was in 2003. That’s 14 years of races with 7 wins. 50%, which is usually what I consider my odds when I toe the line every year. Winning at this race depends on a number of factors: weather, competition, race plan, and who’s in shape for an end of July race. This year’s race everything just seemed to fall into place for me. If I go back and look at past year’s results, I can describe every race and how it played out. This race has a great story every year.
Although this year wasn’t extremely hot in terms of temperature, the downpours during the day left us with a very high dewpoint (700) and high humidity. Even though this race is almost always hot and humid, you ran over a minute faster than last year’s victory (50:32 vs 51:41). Did you have any difficulties adjusting to the moist conditions? Did they affect you in terms of pacing, fatigue, etc.?
Last year I had been sick for almost all of July. I went out hard in the first mile just to see what everyone would do. Everyone let me go, and I had to work hard to hold on to the win. Another mile and Eric Lonergan would have won. My second half was much slower than the first, and those last 4 miles were extremely difficult. Also, the results were way off. The clock last year said 50:55 when I crossed the line, and I had 51:00 on my watch. I don’t know where the extra 41 seconds came from. I even wrote that in my training log. Splits last year: 25:07/25:28
This year I knew I was fit and wanted to try and run the course hard from beginning to end. Much like 2014, I figured with the group we had, there would be a big pack until the last few miles, and maybe up to the line. I went out right where I wanted to be, and my 2nd, 3rd and 4th miles were all about 5 sec. better than I thought they would be. I was all alone, and after hitting 5 miles in 25:00, I knew running under 50:00 would be hard as I was starting to feel the humidity. We had a nice breeze for the first half, but it was gone in the second half, and you could feel the sweat pouring out. Splits this year: 24:58/25:17. Not too far off from last year’s splits, but this year I felt much more comfortable in the second half.
You pulled away fairly early on in this one (around mile 2?) from Shane Quinn, Liam Hillery et al. Was this an intentionally strategic move or were you running your own race and simply going by feel? Did you run entirely consistent splits or were there points where you threw in big surges to widen the gap?
The Blessing isn’t going to be won in the first 5 miles. The second half of the course is easier, but the weather also takes its toll. I found out after the race that Liam and Shane were just planning to run 5:10 pace. They had a nice little sprint battle to the line, but I think they ran the first 9.9 miles as a workout. I would have felt a lot better knowing that before the race. Brian Doyle was also a factor in the first couple miles, but he was battling an injury and had to drop. No interesting story on how the race was run. I know what the course is like, and I know what I want my splits to be, but ultimately it’s based on feel.
Extra time on Garmin: 12 sec
Speaking of other renners, would you have preferred to run a different style of race in terms of running solo versus working with a pack of other runners as you did last year with Eric Lonergan, Dan Vassallo and a few others? Do you prefer getting out alone and being chased or working off others (and then pulling away and crushing their spirits)?
Feeling fitter than most years, I would have liked some company for a little longer to help push through those hot miles on Rt. 108. I backed off there because it was so hot, and I had no reason to push any harder. Last year, I was just happy to get the win. Lining up, I had no idea that I would be able to hold off DV and Eric MacKnight. Eric Lonergan ran a really smart race last year, and had he gone just a little bit earlier, he would have got me. He was catching up fast, but just ran out of real estate.
A quick look at results shows that the average age of the top twenty finishers is a rather young, but to be expected, twenty two years old. How does it feel to be flirting with the masters age group (two plus years away) and know that the young guns are coming for you? On the same page, what do these youths need to do to defeat the infallible Matty P?
I feel as though the Blessing is an important RI road race. Probably THE most important. I’ll continue racing here, even when I’m not racing for a top 10 spot. It’s just a fun race, over a not so common racing distance, in a great town and state on a Fri. night. You finish at the ocean. What could be better than that? There’s going to be a time, when I can’t get the win anymore. These young guys are training hard starting in high school, through college, and then continuing on to post collegiate success. I’m just trying to hold on as long as I can until these guys make the transition from 5K/8K training to the longer stuff. 37 year old guys shouldn’t be winning 10 milers.
So there you have it. The Pied Piper of Friday nights in ‘Gansett plans on keeping it on the Level for the foreseeable future. Don’t expect him to go quietly into the humid, Friday night ocean breezes anytime soon.
Feature image courtesy of Scott Mason Photo. Check out Scott Mason’s gallery from the Blessing of the Fleet!