Is it just me, or is that a ridiculously long name for a road race? Not to nitpick, but they should seriously consider shortening that for next year. In honor of the long race title, I've written an outrageously long race report : )
Despite the little shin-pain scare of early last week, in the back of my mind, I think I knew that I was going to run this race, come hell or high water (or sore shins). And I also knew, in the back of my mind, that the sub-2-hour goal was a very attainable one for me, based on my 10- and 11.5-mile training run times. My confidence level was pretty high, and once my shin started feeling better later in the week, I only got more confident.
But, still, regardless of training and confidence, you just never know what’s going to happen when you get out there on race day. The variables that can affect your performance are just too numerous, and all you can do is take comfort in the fact that you have in fact put in the training and you are ready.
And that was enough for me.
As for those aforementioned variables, I did take steps to ensure that one of them – a good night’s sleep – was not going to be affected. I slept in the guest room Saturday night, sans baby monitors, so that if anyone woke up, Scott would be the one to handle it. As it turns out, nobody woke up, but I’m still glad that we went with that plan, so that I knew for certain I was going to get a good solid night of sleep, which I definitely did.
I woke up crazy early, of course, since I was excited and nervous. But that gave me plenty of time to eat my bagel, check the weather forecast one last time (still forecasting rain and thunder), and make a final decision about what to wear.
I left the house around 6:45 and pulled into the parking lot at 7:20, and as I got out of my car, I saw that there was a shuttle bus waiting that was almost full, so I ran over to make sure I could get on it, so that I wouldn’t have to wait around for the next one to fill up. I made it, and just a few minutes later, we were on our way.
First thing I did when we got to the start was hit the bathrooms. The lines weren’t too bad yet, so I figured I’d take advantage of that fact, and I’m glad I did, as they got much, much longer just a short while later. After that, I got my number and my timing chip, and got both secured. I also picked up my ‘goody bag,’ which was a plastic bag with a few flyers and a stick of chapstick. Lame, lame, lame. Seriously. Why even bother? They could have at least thrown a Power Bar in there or something. Oh well. T-shirt was nice, though – a technical shirt, rather than plain cotton, so it’s something I’ll actually wear!
Then all there was to do was wait – and go to the bathroom a few more times. One complaint I have with this race is that there were not enough bathrooms available. Actually, there were plenty of bathrooms, but nobody knew where they were! The registration and starting area was on the campus of a culinary school, and people were just wandering into whatever buildings they could find that were open (only one or two), and wandering around some more to find restrooms. There were no porta-potties in sight, and the bathroom lines just kept getting longer and longer.
As it turns out, there were porta-potties, but they were right next to the starting line, which was around the corner from the registration area, so nobody knew they were there. And there were no signs to let us know. Very poor planning, and something I hope they improve for next year.
As for the weather, at this point it was just drizzling, so not too bad. I tried to stay inside as long as I could, but then it was time to head out and queue up at the start, which is when I donned my ever-so-fashionable garbage bag poncho. It may not have looked pretty, but it kept me dry for the 15 or so minutes I was just standing there.
While waiting at the start, I ran into a woman from the running club who I ran the 5-mile race with a few weeks ago, and it was nice to have someone to chat with during that anxious, impatient waiting time. The race started about 10 minutes late, due to some late-arriving shuttle buses, and just moments before the gun went off, the rain started really coming down, and you could hear a collective sigh rise from the crowd, as we were all thinking “oh boy, here it comes…..”
I didn’t even hear a gun go off, but the crowd started to move forward, so I knew it was time, and quickly got my garbage bag off and tossed to the side of the road, turned on my Garmin as I crossed the mat, and we were off.
The driveway out of the campus was a short uphill climb, which I soon realized was going to be the theme of the day. Miles 1 through 2.5 were actually very flat, though, and I moved along at a nice pace, just trying to stay to the side of the pack, so I wasn’t jockeying for space too much. The rain, thankfully, stopped almost as son as it started, and returned to just a light drizzle, which is how it stayed for the rest of the day. Hallelujah!
The beginning of the course, unfortunately, ran through some of the least scenic parts of Providence. I know there’s a ton of logistics they have to consider when designing a race course, but I really think they could have done better than to send thousands of runners – many of whom were seeing the city for the first time ever – through the heart of the city's industrial ports, an area which is also home to several strip clubs and adult video stores.
Thankfully, things got better as we approached Mile 3 and headed into the East Side of Providence. This is also where I realized that my Garmin was kaput. Not kaput, but way, way off on mileage. When I crossed the Mile 3 marker, my Garmin read 3.67 miles. So I knew I could no longer rely on it for much more than its stopwatch function, and that was fine. I had a feeling that would happen,, so I wasn’t surprised.
Mile 3 was also where the hills began. Providence is a very hilly city. I knew this, so I knew there would be some hills on the course. What I didn’t realize was just how many hills there would be. One after another after another after another. It was brutal. They weren’t all steep, and not all of them were horribly challenging – it was just the sheer quantity of them that got to me after a while. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the elevation profile I found online –
I coped ok with the hills at first, though. I had my music cranked up, and I was really getting into a zone, and feeling great, despite all the hills, and miles 3 – 7 really flew by. Shortly after mile 7 is where I started to feel bitter and annoyed with the hills,, and realized that they were taking their toll on me. But I gave myself a little pep talk and got back into a groove, and miles 8 and 9 weren’t too bad. I can’t say they flew by, but I was still feeling ok, and we were definitely in a really pretty part of the city at this point, so the scenery was much nicer.
Mile 9 was the turning point. My energy was really running low. I wonder if I should have brought some Gu with me. I never used any in my training, so didn’t think I’d need it. But in hindisight, it might have helped me out. I was definitely hydrated – I had stopped at every available water stop – but maybe just didn’t have enough gas in the tank. Lesson learned, perhaps.
I also didn’t like this part of the course, as they had us loop in and out of a few side streets, which was kind of annoying. I wanted to just get back on a straightaway and run. I did see another running club member along this stretch, though, which was a nice little boost.
And then came Mile 10. All that was left was a 5K. And I knew this part of the course really well, and knew that it was mostly downhill or flat. No problem. Piece of cake.
That may be what my head was saying, but my legs did not agree. They wanted nothing to do with 3 more miles of running. My feet hurt. My back hurt. My hamstrings were getting tight. My calves were cramping.
I seriously considered stopping for a walk break, but I was afraid that if I stopped to walk, I’d never be able to start running again.
So onward I pushed, and I was very, very happy to see the Mile 11 marker. Amazingly, I was still maintaining a pretty good pace at this point, but it felt sooooo much harder than it had in the early miles.
But when I had passed the mile 10 marker in just under 90 minutes, I knew how close I was to my sub-2. And that was the only thing that kept me going trhough those last few miles. I wad damned if I was going to come that close to my goal and not get it done.
Mile 11 took us down to the riverfront, and before I knew it, there was the mile 12 marker. Only one more mile to go (and .10, of course). I can’t say I picked up my pace, but I did hold it steady as we headed into the downtown area.
Crowd support was fantastic for the whole race – especially considering the lousy weather – and it only got better as we got downtown, and that really did help me through that final mile.
Finally I approached the last turn, and the finish line was in sight. When I read the clock and saw that not only was I going to come in under 2 hours, but I was going to come in under 1:55, I mustered the energy for one final kick to the finish. The clock read 1:54-something, but I knew my chip time was somewhere around 1:53.
I had done it. With time to spare.
It took a minute or so for it to sink in, and yes, I’m such a sentimental sap that I did get a little teary thinking about what I had just accomplished.
I got my medal, turned in my chip, and chatted with a few of the running club folks before grabbing some food and heading back to my car. I was very glad for the nearly 1-mile walk I had back to the parking lot. It was very good for me to keep moving at that point, and although I was exhausted and would have loved to sit down, I knew that keeping the blood flowing in my legs was a good thing.
Headed home to huge congrats from Scott and the boys, and that was that.
All in all, a fantastic race. The last few miles were purely a mental battle, and one that I think I waged pretty well.
I’m extremely proud of myself, and I’m really thankful that I was healthy, and able to do this race. I knew I had the sub-2 in me, but it’s nice to have actual proof : )
I can’t help but compare this to the Hartford half, and the differences couldn’t be more dramatic. That race was flat as a pancake, and the weather that day was gorgeous. And, of course, I had very little time to train, and was nowhere near as prepared, and ran it in 2 hours and 14 minutes.
Which means that in the course of 7 months, I chopped more than 20 minutes off of my half-marathon time!
Now THAT is progress!!!!