It's been kind of strange not experiencing much of the post-race blues since running Hartford a month ago. But since I qualified for Gansett, and will begin training for that in just another month or so, and I've had a few other races on my plate, there hasn't really been any lack of excitement or goal-planning.
One of the races that I was most looking forward to was the Newport Bridge Run. I signed up for this one a day or two after registration opened months ago. I knew I wanted in as soon as I heard about it.
I'll be honest, though - I had some reservations in the interim months. I am not a fan of heights, and I worked in Newport a few years ago, so had to drive over the bridge every day, and there were times (windy days, snowy/icy days) where I got a little freaked out and felt very vulnerable and precarious crossing that span. But I knew that even if I was scared, I was going to do this, so I just tried to put those thoughts out of my head. Being consumed with marathon training helped, too - there wasn't time to think about anything else.
And then as the day of the race approached, I kind of forgot about being nervous, and just got more and more excited. Driving over the bridge Saturday afternoon to go to packet pickup only intensified that feeling. I'm not a native Rhode Islander, but I've lived here for 10 years, and spent 4 summers working on Block Island, and have had a lot of memorable times in Newport - numerous Folk Festivals, day trips with the kids, my first marathon, and my first triathlon. So although we don't make the trip across the bridge all that often, it is a special place to me.
I had all three kids with me when I arrived at the Marriott to pick up my number, and was pretty dismayed to see how long the line was. If it was just me, I wouldn't have cared. But with three crazy little boys to keep entertained, I was really nervous about how I'd survive the wait.
It did take a while, but the line moved fairly quickly, so it wasn't too bad. I do hope they can smooth that process out for next year, though. I estimate we waited about 35 minutes. Not awful, but I don't think I've ever had to wait that long for packet pickup at any race ever. Like I said, though, not too bad, and really, a very minor inconvenience.
I tried to get to bed early Saturday night, seeing as how my alarm was set for 3:45. Yep. Waking up BEFORE 4am. As I posted to my Facebook page, that's "a whole new level of crazy." Luckily I'm a morning person, and marathon training got me very accustomed to 4:30am wakeups, so this wasn't that much of a stretch.
I left the house at exactly 4:30am, and arrived in Newport at exactly 5am, just as I had planned. It was still dark out, and I decided to head into the hotel to make a pit stop before boarding the shuttle.
The lines for the shuttles were enormous, but moved so, so quickly. The whole shuttle process was organized impeccably, and I was so impressed with how fast they got us all onto those shuttles and over to the start.
The sun was just coming up as we reached the starting line. The line for the porta-potties was beyond ridiculous, and I knew there was no way I was going to take my chances with that, so I went for a quick warm-up jog, and kept my eyes open for a wooded spot I could duck into for one last pit stop. With that taken care of, I made my way back to the start. With a couple thousand people registered, and a fairly narrow road we were starting on, I didn't want to get stuck too far back in the pack.
I wasn't going into this race with any serious goals. I hoped to finish right around 30 minutes, but since nearly the entire first mile was uphill, I knew that was going to be a factor. Also a factor was the cold I'd been fighting the entire week. I was feeling ok, but definitely not totally up to par, so I didn't want to push myself too much.
And I also didn't want to miss out on the fun and spectacle of this race. I signed up for it because it sounded like such an amazing experience, and I wanted to truly experience it, and not be so focused on running a certain pace that I missed out on the sights and sounds.
With that in mind, I lined up near the middle of the front of the pack. I knew that even on a bad day, once we got up that hill, I'd be able to stay somewhere in the low 7s.
There was a lot of weaving in the first 1/4 mile, but then as we turned the corner on the ramp to actually start making our ascent up the bridge, the crowd spread out quite a bit, and it was much easier to find my pace.
As soon as we hit that bridge, I started smiling, and I don't think I stopped the entire time. It was tough getting up that hill, and it seemed to go on forever, but I knew that once I got to the top, it was all downhill from there - literally!
There is no way to describe how gorgeous it was being up on top of that bridge, looking out over the bay and the city of Newport, with the sun on the horizon. You never get to appreciate that view enough when you drive over, and it was awesome to truly be able to take it all in.
And as if that weren't enough, we had also been fortunate to have absolutely perfect weather. It was about 50 degrees, with clear skies and almost no wind. Unbelievable, especially for November in New England. I actually found myself wishing I had worn shorts and short sleeves.
Once we hit the top and started the downhill, I kept thinking that I didn't want the bridge to end. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was perfect, and running downhill was allowing me to run the third mile at a 7:00 pace!
But even more than that, there was just such a fun vibe to this race. You could literally feel all the positive energy - all the people who were out there just to enjoy a really special and really fun run with a few thousand other people. It's hard to describe, but it was different - it was no ordinary race - and it was awesome.
As we left the bridge and headed into downtown and the finish, although I was still basking in the glow of the bridge crossing, I did start thinking about how fast I could finish. That seven-minute third mile motivated me a little bit : )
I was getting tired, but I did my best to get my feet moving a little faster for a strong finish, and when I got within sight of the clock and saw that I could get a sub-30, I sprinted. And I made it - 29:49!
I'm really proud of my results, and glad that I was able to pull off a pace like that even when I was a little under the weather.
But more importantly, I'm so happy that I didn't run this race at an all-out effort. I held back, and I'm glad I did, because it allowed me to really and truly enjoy the morning. This was one of the most fun races I've done all year, and definitely one of the most memorable. I heard a lot of people commenting on how it was totally and completely worth getting up so ridiculously early, and I'd have to agree. It still would have been really cool at any other time of day, but at sunrise, it was spectacular.
I hope this becomes an annual event, because I would love to make it a permanent part of my race calendar every year.
Final stats -
4.2 miles - 29:49
7th of 326 in my age group
24 of 1,112 females overall
167 of 1,916 overall