I'm not blogging about this as a way of bashing the Jamestown race. I truly do like so many things about it.
It's a great location - Jamestown is absolutely beautiful. It's an incredibly challenging course, but part of me likes that. I wouldn't want to run easy, flat courses all the time. The on-course support is great - water stops every 2 miles. The medal this year was beautiful, and the post-race watermelon was the perfect choice. And I know lots of people aren't fans of the 6:30am start, but for an early riser like me (and on a hot summer day), I think it's a great starting time.
All that being said, they still have some kinks to work out. The first year, there was an alarming absence of porta-potties at the race start (they were finally delivered 5 minutes before the gun was scheduled to go off). Last year (I didn't run it, but friends did) the start was nearly half an hour late. This, I think, led them to decide that this year the race was starting on time no matter what.
Unfortunately, that meant that those of us who showed up to the shuttle buses in Newport just after 5:30am (leaving nearly an hour to get over to the starting area, which we assumed would be plenty of time) and discovered mile-long lines waiting for said shuttles, and ended up not getting to the starting line until 6:5o were greeted with announcements that "the race was underway, and the starting mat would soon be broken down and taken away, so we better cross it asap."
This is not the way you want to start a race, for so, so many reasons. I was really looking forward to this one. I've been doing regular speedwork and temp runs for about 6 weeks now, and have been running faster paces than ever before, and feeling great. We did a practice run on the course just a few weeks ago, so I knew it well and was prepared for what I'd be facing.
I was ready, I was excited, and I couldn't wait to be on that starting line with the crowd, feeling that energy and getting ready to go out and attack the course. Instead, we showed up, found out we'd be lucky if we even had the chance to cross the mat and get an official time - forget about any kind of warmup - and had to simply dash over the mat without so much as a single bit of fanfare.
It was anticlimactic, to say the least. And yes, I'm glad I got there in time and didn't miss the mat entirely, and not having the whole 'race start' fanfare probably didn't make that big a difference in how I ran, but it did affect me a bit, because I count on that rush of adrenaline, and it just wasn't there.
What was there was a sense of panic, when we heard that they were moments away from taking the starting mat away entirely, and I thought once I settled into my pace a few miles in, that feeling would go away.
But I soon realized that was not going to be the case. The first couple miles wind through the center of Jamestown, and at just about a mile into the race, I was met with a literal wall of walkers. And since we were in residential areas, the streets were fairly narrow, and there wasn't much open space to be found on either side of the street, so right away I was bobbing and weaving my way through the pack.
It was frustrating, and it was making me feel very frantic. And even though I knew the race was chip timed, and my official time would reflect when I had actually crossed the mat, there was still that sense that we had started so late, so I felt the need to kick it into high gear almost immediately.
Which resulted in a 7:21 first mile. Way too fast, and I knew it, so I did try to back off, and got mile 2 down to 7:40, which was more where I wanted to be.
It was all just feeling so awful, though. Physically I didn't feel bad, since it was still so early in the race, but mentally, I was all over the place. And 2 miles in, and the crowd still hadn't thinned out. I skipped the mile 2 water stop entirely, as it was just too mobbed.
I have to pause here and note that I am all for people walking a race - I admire anyone who gets out there and gets it done, and my frustration was not with the walkers, per se - it was with the fact that I had started behind them and now had to work so hard to get through. Not their fault at all - just a very tough way to race, especially when you had a very specific goal in mind.
I continued to try to somehow find my race pace, even though I was all over the road, working incredibly hard just to get clear space in which to run. Making things even more challenging, of course, was the insane course elevation - hill after hill after hill after hill. And not small hills - crazy long hills that seem to never end.
Even with all the crazy back and forth and weaving among walkers, I got down to 7:29 and 7:23 for miles 3 and 4, and at that point the crowd became slightly less thick, and I even pulled off a 7:15 for mile 5.
That one was probably a little too fast, but because my head was so messed up by the crazy circumstances, it was extremely difficult to maintain any sort of consistency with pacing. I kept trying, though, and did succeed in evening things out a bit with a 7:39 for mile 6.
Mile 7 included one of the biggest hills on the course. You climb and climb and climb, and you think you're at the top, but then you go up a little bit more. That one slowed me down, and between that and the water stop just after the mile 6 mark I slowed down to 7:56 for mile 7. I was walking a bit at the water stops, because they were so crowded it was nearly impossible to try to run through.
Most of the hills - the mile 7 one included - are not steep climbing, but endless climbing. I'm proud of the fact that I did not stop and walk up a single hill, though. I refused to give in, and continued to pass people both up the hills and down the hills and on the flats. I honestly don't know if I had a single person pass me the whole race. There must have been at least a few who did, but it felt like the entire race I was passing rather than being passed, and I knew that's what I had to keep doing, so I stuck with it.
One of the other problems with starting so far back in the race, though, is that you're nowhere near evenly matched with the people who are running around you, so there's absolutely nobody you can pace off of, and nobody you can chase. I will often stick with a runner who seems to be running the same general pace as me - or try to catch up to someone who's running stronger than I am. It's motivating, and it's very helpful, to be in similar company.
But with the absence of that, it was just me pushing myself. And believe me, I push myself pretty hard, so that was enough, but it was tough not having that little bit of extra motivation. I count on that in a race, and it definitely wasn't part of this race experience for me.
So I drew on the track workouts, and the tempo runs, and all the times during these past 6 weeks that I was doing a tough workout and wanted to quit, but didn't. I knew I had the mental toughness to deal with the conditions I was facing, and I just had to keep reminding myself of that.
Miles 8 - 10 were actually the best I felt all day. I was still doing a bit of dodging slower runners, but was mostly able to stick to the outside edge of the pack, near the traffic cones, and felt almost settled into a decent pace. I ran 7:29 and 7:41 for miles 8 and 9, but the mile 10 water stop cost me a bit of time, and brought that mile down to 7:50.
This was actually also the point at which my rib started hurting. Earlier in the week, I had leaned very awkwardly over the front seat of the car to try to get something out of the back seat, and had bashed my rib into the corner of the seat. As soon as I did it, I knew it was bad. I had run once since then, and it didn't bother me on a short run, so I had hoped it wouldn't bother me on a long run.It was kind of painful to take a really deep breath, but again, I just hoped it would hold up ok, and until mile 8, it did.
But that's when I started to feel it. It was sore, and I was getting a side stitch - probably because my breathing was a little messed up. But it wasn't so bad that I felt the need to stop, and I focused on trying to breathe as deep as I could, and it stayed at a manageable level, so I pushed forward. It was actually worst after the race, when I tried to drive home (in Scott's car, which is a manual transmission) and was unable to shift into reverse with my right arm, and had to reach over and do it with my left, which had me thinking I might be paying the doctor a visit. Thankfully a day later it was feeling much better, and a few days later it feels almost normal, so it must have just been a very bad bruise.
And thankfully, despite the pain that was setting in, and the huge hill that I knew awaited me in the mile ahead, mile 10 is always a great spot. The exhaustion is kicking in - and on this day, the heat was really beginning to be a factor - but so is the knowledge that there's just a 5K to go. And despite the fact that mile 11 is the second-biggest hill on the course, I ran that mile in 7:15. I was tired, though.
Mile 12 is mostly flat, and mile 13 is downhill (gotta love the downhill stretch to the finish), and those came in at 7:31 and 7:15, and I got the final .1 to the finish at a 7:12 pace.
The clock time was irrelevant, but my Garmin showed a 1:39:20 finish, and I was anxious to see if the timing would match up with that. Thankfully it did, and my official time was 1:39:19. Not a PR, but I wasn't going for a PR - what I had set out to do was run a 7:30 pace, and I pulled it off, so I was happy.
And with everything I went through leading up to Boston, and the fact that I've only been doing regular speedwork for 6 weeks, I'm pretty thrilled that I ran this half a full 5 minutes faster than I ran the Providence one in May (and just two minutes off my PR time of 1:37) - and it was a course PR by two full minutes, too!
I'm very glad about the progress I've made in such a short time, and feeling great about my chances for a PR at the Blessing in two weeks, and even better about what I'll be able to do in Philly in November.
So although it wasn't quite the experience I wanted it to be, at the end of the day, it was a good race for me. And probably one that I can be even more proud of, because I faced down some pretty tough obstacles and still fought through and accomplished what I set out to do.
And if I can run a 1:39 very hilly half-marathon on a hot day with a 20-minute delayed start, I know a half-marathon PR won't be far behind, when conditions are more favorable.
I'm glad that whole experience is behind me, though, and already looking forward to my next starting line, for which I will be absolutely sure I am EARLY!
The final numbers -
1:39:19, 7:32 pace
4 of 208 in my age group
17 of 984 females
96 of 1632 overall