After running a 7:45 pace in the Jamestown half a few weeks ago, I felt pretty certain I could pull off a PR at the Blessing. But the weather in July is always a huge factor, and the forecast for this year's Friday-night race looked like the heat and humidity were going to be in full force.
So although I hoped I could still run a good race, I didn't go into it with any real concrete expectations, other than planning to run at least as well as last year's 1:19.
As I made the mile or so walk from my car (parked at the finish line near the beach) to the race start, there were some rather ominous looking clouds moving in, and when I was about halfway there, a runner heading the other way told me the race start was being delayed half an hour. And when I was 3/4 of the way there, the downpours started.
It rained until just about 5 or 10 minutes before the delayed start time - just long enough for me to be completely soaked. And even though it was pretty warm and humid, I actually started to feel a little bit chilly due to being so wet, and was thinking how great it would be if the sun didn't come back out.
Unfortunately, it did. And the rain had only made things more humid, so the air was stifling. We were treated to a nice rainbow over the ocean, which was pretty, but I'd still rather it had stayed cloudy.
Having the start delayed kind of threw me off a bit, too - it's hard enough waiting all day for a race, but then to unexpectedly have to wait an extra half hour - I was practically jumping out of my skin - I just wanted to get going! Finally, at 6:30, we were off.
My Garmin was on, but upside down on my wrist - I was going to use the same strategy I used in Jamestown - pace myself entirely by feel. It worked out exceptionally well there, and I hoped it would again.
Even though I wasn't watching my Garmin, I knew full well that I went out way too fast, as I always do at this race (7:17 - yikes!). So I gradually started to back off a bit during mile 2 and 3 (7:22, 7:35) - which was easy to do, since the sun was blazing, and I was already SO hot and uncomfortable.
The slowing-down trend continued for miles 4, 5, and 6 (7:46, 7:44, 7:52). I was actually feeling pretty rotten at this point. I was paying for those too-speedy first one or two miles, I was hot, and I was feeling discouraged, because even though I knew I was still running a pretty decent pace, I also knew I was probably running a little slower than I had wanted to run, and was not enjoying myself at all.
I dumped several cups of water on my head at the water stops, and it helped momentarily cool me off. And I freely accepted cold showers of water from people out on their lawns with their garden hoses. That, combined with the spectators lining the roads, kept me going.
The crowds that come out for this race are reason enough to put yourself through the torture of running 10 miles in the heat and humidity of a July evening in New England. There are so many people cheering you on, and they are some of the most enthusiastic spectators I've ever encountered in a race. It really does make a huge difference when you're out there pushing yourself, and it's one of the main reasons I plan to run this race every year from here on out.
Once we turned off the dreaded Route 108 stretch and onto Kinney Road, my mood instantly changed. This has always been the turning point for me in this race, and it was at Gansett, too - the point where I knew that, no matter how awful I felt at that moment, I would be able to muster the energy to make it to the finish line.
I slowly started to feel a little bit of energy coming back - helped by the fact that some cloud cover had returned, too. It was still disgustingly humid, but without the sun beating down, it was slightly more bearable.
And between miles 7 and 8 (7:41, 7:38) is one of the greatest spots on the course - it's a 4-way intersection that's jam-packed with spectators. I got such a huge boost from that, and from passing the 8-mile mark just a few minutes later. I knew I could hold on - and maybe even pick it up a bit - with just 2 miles to go.
Those last two miles, I was fighting for every step (7:37, 7:21), but I wanted to be sure I had given it my all. I finished Jamestown feeling like I could have run faster, and I didn't want to feel that way this time.
Crossed the line in just over 1:16 - completely spent, but also completely ecstatic, knowing that I had just set a new PR by 3 minutes! I never imagined I could run that fast in such tough conditions.
Final numbers -
1:16:22 - 3-minute PR!
7 of 317 in my age group (thrilled to be in the top 10 in my age group in such a competitive race)
304 of 2600 overall
This was definitely a tough race, and I feel like I fought for every second of that 3-minute PR I earned. But that makes me feel like I really truly earned it. It was a battle both physically and mentally - but in the end, I won : )