The great thing about doing a 7-mile race is that I've never done a race of that distance before, so I knew I'd walk away with a PR : )
The bad thing about doing a 7-mile race on a late June evening in New England is that the weather has the potential to be very unpleasant, and unfortunately, it was. Heat and humidity - that classic summer combination - was in full force, and when I saw that forecast, I knew that my goal of running the race in less than an hour was going to have to be secondary, and that I'd have to just focus on getting through the distance without killing myself.
I met up with a friend when I got to the race, and we passed the time chatting as we waited to get started. The temperature was probably in the mid-80s, the sun was blazing (still really hot, even at 6pm), and it was very humid, and I had gone from really looking forward to this race to completely dreading it.
The course followed parts of the Blessing of the Fleet 10-miler that I did a few years ago (and plan on doing again this year), so I was familiar with most of it, and it's a relatively flat course. A few small hills, but nothing to slow you down too much. And the first mile is mostly flat and/or downhill, so as usual, I ran it faster than I should have - 8 minutes exactly.
I knew that was too fast, so reeled it back in for the second mile - 8:28. Those first two miles felt great, though. I was feeling strong, and the heat, surprisingly, wasn't getting to me all that much.
Miles 3 and 4 were a different story. We turned off the main road and cut through a golf course, and then turned onto a side street that was nicely shaded, but, despite still being right near the ocean, had no breeze whatsoever. The air was so still and humid, and I was definitely getting tired. Still holding to a pretty decent pace, though - 8:34 and 8:31.
Mile 5 felt a little better - I got a bit of a second wind. It helped to know that I only had 2 miles to go! Ran that mile in 8:30. I had been checking my Garmin all along, and couldn't help thinking that my goal of finishing in less than an hour was still looking pretty attainable. I didn't want to overexert myself in the heat, but seeing how close I was to achieving that goal did keep me moving!
There were only two water stops on the course, and I stopped at both, and both times, I took one cup of water to drink, and dumped the other on my head, which felt lovely. I wish there had been one more water stop, though - I could have used another drink, and another soaking.
Mile 6 went ok, but my energy was fading again. I knew I was almost done, though, and I knew I was soooooo close to finishing in under an hour, and was able to push it a bit, finishing up that mile in 8:19.
Mile 7 was really, really tough. I knew I was almost there, but I was hot, and I was tired, and I was ready to be done. And as I approached the finish, I was kind of expecting that the finish line of this race would be in the same spot as the finish line of the Blessing, since the other parts of the course were identical to the Blessing course. But that wasn't the case - for this race, the finish was a few hundred yards further down the road. Not a lot, granted, but after you've run almost 7 miles in sweltering heat, those few hundred yards make a big difference!
I was determined to finish strong, though, and seeing that the clock was still under an hour, and hearing a few people cheer me on as I passed into the chute gave me a huge boost, and I finished mile 7 in 8:02.
I went immediately to get water, and drank an entire bottle, followed by a granola bar and a bagel. After that, I felt a lot better, and chatted with some folks from the running club, then cheered on my friend, who had a fabulous race, and after socializing a bit more, we walked back to the cars and headed home.
I'm still kind of surprised that I was able to keep up that pace for 7 miles in that heat. I don't know quite how I did it, but I'm thrilled that I came in under an hour - always nice to accomplish your goals!
It was a fun race, and I hope they keep doing it. It was definitely a nice warm-up to the Blessing, and gave me a really good taste of what it's going to be like to run 10 miles in that kind of weather.
The final stats -
8 out of 25 in my age group
72 out of 142 overall