Every night for at least the past 2 months, Carmine has gone right to sleep after I feed him in the middle of the night, but of course the night before I was about to run the longest race I had run in a year, he decided that he'd give me trouble about going back to sleep, and had me up for over an hour after I had finished feeding him. He wasn't crying - just squirming and fussing now and then, and even trying to talk to me, and smiling and laughing a bit. He just plain wasn't sleepy!
And of course I was sitting there watching the minutes tick by, thinking about how my alarm was going to be going off in three hours.... Finally he went to sleep, though, and since I rarely get a really good night's sleep the night before a race, it probably wasn't any worse than I've slept on any other race day eve.
Alarm went off at 5am, and I had my coffee, bagel and banana, got dressed, and got all my stuff together and ready to go. At 6am, Carmine woke up, and I realized I now have one more pre-race ritual: nurse the baby. Luckily I had everything else ready to go, so I had just enough time to sit down and feed him and then dashed out the door at 6:35.
Picked up my friend and running partner for the day, and we headed up to Providence. We got to the race start with about 40 minutes to spare, and immediately hit the porta-potties, knowing the lines would only get longer. Then we checked out the post-race setup and figured out a place to meet up, and then hit the porta-potties one more time. We literally just barely made it to the start - we were both walking out as they were singing the national anthem, and a minute later, we were off!
I've run lots of races with people I know, but have never actually run with someone for the whole race (or even part of the race), but we were both planning about a 10:00 pace, so planned to run together for as long as possible. I hoped I'd be able to speed up a bit as we got toward the final miles, and we both agreed that neither of us would be upset if the other chose to go ahead.
The weather was great - a little warm and humid for this time of year, but there was a nice cloud cover, so it never got too hot. The start was awesome, watching the wall of runners ahead, all of us making our way through the very flat first mile that wound down along the river and through the city.
The second mile was the first of the hills - not too steep, but very long. These first few miles were the same as last year's course, but somewhere farther along, they had changed from last year's course, and it was definitely a little less hilly than last year, and the previous year, which was a welcome change. Still plenty of hills, but they were mostly gradual inclines, and they did a good job of avoiding the steeper inclines that we had run up the other years. This is the third year they've had this race, and the third course design, so they're clearly trying to tweak things a bit. Personally I think this was the best one yet.
Since I'm nursing, deyhdration is even more of a concern for me during a long run like this, and on top of that, it was such a warm day, so we stopped at every single water stop on the course. The quick walk breaks were nice, and the water was definitely a necessity.
As much as I love listening to my music when I run, I found that it was really, really nice to have someone to talk to during a race. I think if I was going for a PR or something, I wouldn't feel that way, but since I was in this just to finish, the company was so nice to have, and the first 10 miles of the race literally flew by.
We were maintaining a pretty consistent pace, somewhere between 9:30 and 9:40 - a little faster than we had planned, but we both felt good, so stuck with it. The hills were rolling, and slowed us down a bit, but nothing too drastic. And thankfully, the sun stayed away, so although the air was kind of heavy and humid, it never felt terribly hot.
At mile 7, we took a longer break at the water stop and downed a few shot bloks with our water. I typically don't eat anything during a half-marathon, but I felt like it might help me today, so I decided to give it a try. I'm not really sure how much it helped, if at all, but it didn't hurt, so, no harm done.
Miles 8 and 9 were actually fairly flat, and we were soon coming back to the river, and to the bike path that would lead us back into the city. There were several times during miles 7 - 9 that I felt like I could pick up the pace a bit, but then a few minutes later I'd feel like I was glad I hadn't, so although I was tempted to push ahead early, I didn't, and in retrospect, that was definitely the right decision.
At mile 10, though, I knew I had it in me to go a little faster for the final 5K, so I said goodbye to Jill and took off. I didn't speed up that much - averaged just under a 9-minute mile for those last few miles - but it was enough that I definitely felt it, especially since I hit the final two hills of the course just a few minutes later.
I powered up those hills, and took comfort in the fact that they were in fact the final hills I'd have to run, and that the rest of the course was flat as a pancake. And I could see the city skyline again, which was a welcome sight.
I wasn't running all-out at this point, but I was pushing it pretty hard, and when I glanced at my Garmin, a few times I saw a sub-8:00 pace, which I really didn't think I had in me at that point!
Miles 11 and 12 felt comfortably hard, and even though I was really working, I was also elated, because I knew that I was really going to do this - I knew that essentially, I already had done this - and it was a pretty awesome feeling - almost as exciting as when I ran my first half-marathon ever.
Mile 13, though, sucked. I was spent. But I was determined to finish strong, so I pushed just hard enough to keep up my sub-9:00 pace, but not so hard that I'd be limping across the finish line.
And I most definitely did not limp. I had just enough left for a final kick to the finish, cranking it up to a 7:47 pace for that final .1.
And I crossed that finish line feeling pretty darn invincible, seeing as how it was just 3 and a half months ago that I had a baby, and it had been a full year since I had run 13 miles.
I collected my medal, and since I felt my calves threatening to cramp up on me, I made sure to keep moving. I walked over and watched Jill come in about 5 minutes after me, then found her in the crowd, and we grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the car.
It was fun to recap the race as we drove home, and after I dropped her off, I had just enough time to get myself home and get a quick shower before moving on to my new post-race ritual: nursing the baby : )
It was a great race, and a great day, and a great feeling of accomplishment for me. I registered for this race when I was still pregnant, so I'm really happy that I was able to follow through and complete it.
And now I'm going to allow myself a good month's worth of low-mileage weeks. I worked up to this race pretty quickly, and I think my body deserves a little bit of a respite, and a little more cross-training for the next few weeks. I'll still run, but just lower mileage, and shorter long runs - at least until June, which is when I need to start ramping up the mileage again, in preparation for the Blessing of the Fleet 10-miler in July.
It's so great to be racing again, and to be looking forward to the next race on my schedule, and planning my training. I handled my 4-month hiatus much better than I thought I would, and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, but it's still awfully nice that it's over now!
The final numbers:
Finishing time - 2:08:07
479 out of 985 in my age group
1279 out of 2362 overall