Earlier this year, I had grand plans of getting my half-marathon PR down to 1:35 (from 1:37:28). Then, as the weeks and months passed, my motivation to chase down that goal waned. I kept up with some racing and some speedwork all summer and into the early part of the fall, but my heart just wasn't in it. I didn't feel the drive to work as hard as I knew I needed to in order to run a half at that pace.
I've struggled with this over the past month or two, feeling like I was losing my edge, and like maybe it was the beginnning of the end of my PR days. Being a little dramatic, I know, but for someone who's spent the past few years so completley focused on time goals and PRs and competing, it's felt strange to not have that desire.
It came back a little bit with the Ocean Road 10K two weeks ago, and having a great race experience there definitely got me a little more excited about racing in Newport last weekend. And although I wasn't feeling PR-ready as I drove over Sunday morning, I was feeling race-ready, and I knew I was going to give it my all, which is all I can really ask of myself.
I met up with friends as we waited before the start, but since I had actually gotten there a little later than I planned, it wasn't long before we headed to the starting line. And then we stood at the starting line and waited. And waited. And waited some more. The race start was delayed last year, too - my only complaint about an otherwise fabulous event.
Waiting at the starting line is when I discovered that my Garmin was dead. Kaput. Not functioning. I reset it at least a dozen times (had plenty of time for that, since the delay ended up being a good 15 minutes!), but still nothing. I had my phone with me, since I had decided to listen to music for this race - something I haven't done in years - so I fired up mapmyrun and figured I'd use that. Even though I know it's nowhere near as accurate as my Garmin, I thought I'd try to have at least some data.
But since it was in my armband, I wouldn't be able to see the numbers, so I'd be running blind. I was surprisingly not rattled by this, though. In the past couple of years, I've gotten much better at pacing myself, and I usually only glance at my watch a few times even during a long race. So I'd just have to run by feel this time, and I truly wasn't worried about it.
I knew the start would be crowded, and I knew the huge hill at the beginning would keep my pace down a bit anyway, so I didn't fight too hard to navigate the crowds. I did work a little harder during the second mile, though, to try to make up a bit for what I knew (even without a watch to tell me) was a relatively slow mile 1.
I actually like the fact that you get this huge hill out of the way immediately - and then get to run back down it just before the finish!
Miles 3 through 5 were pretty uneventful. It was a gorgeous day - the temperature was absolutely perfect, and I quickly tossed my armwarmers, and was very comfortable in my shorts and tank top. There are a couple small hills in that stretch - including the driveway leading into and out of Fort Adams State park - but they aren't very tough hills, and they didn't slow me down much at all.
It was comfortable, but warm enough that I grabbed water at every aid station, but didn't stop to walk. And even though I haven't practiced drinking on the run lately, I did a pretty good job of not spilling water all over myself.
As we headed out of Fort Adams and down toward the water, I braced myself. My experience here last year was not a good one, with winds gusting up to 30 mph. It didn't seem anywhere near that windy this year, but I prepared myself mentally, just in case.
But luckily, conditions this year were blissfully calm. There were a few spots where we ran into a headwind, but I almost laughed at how wimpy it seemed compared to last year. And since it wasn't a battle running up that long stretch of ocean road, I was actually able to smile and enjoy it, which was a nice treat!
I was also having fun listening to my music. It's been so long since I raced with a playlist, and it was a nice change for me. I don't plan to start doing it all the time again, but for this race, it was the right thing, and I'm glad I did it.
The ocean road stretch is beautiful and scenic, but it's also a long stretch, and always feels like it just goes on forever. Having just run it a few weeks earlier, though, I knew what landmarks to look for to gauge how much further I had to go, which really helped mentally.
And at this point, I was feeling pretty good. I was racing, and I was working hard, but I felt strong, and I knew I was having a good race. I considered asking someone who was running near me what their goal was, to try to and figure out how I was doing, but I opted not to. I felt like not knowing was working for me, so decided I'd stick with it.
There was a moment between mile 8 and 9 where I was hit with a wave of exhaustion and wanted to be done. But it passed really quickly when I charged up the hill around mile 9, passing several people as I went. I swear, I felt like I accelerated going up that hill, and I felt stronger than ever when I got to the top.
That was the last real hill of the course, and I knew it, so I settled in and worked on trying to push it a bit for the last few miles.
As we ran back towards town, I knew the final miles were all flat or downhill, and I definitely picked up the pace here. I wish I had some kind of data so I could see how my pacing played out, but when I checked mapmyrun after I finished, it told me I had run 13.63 miles at a 7:06 pace - which is why I only use phone apps for running when I have no other option - far from accurate!
I know I was running faster in those last 4 miles, though, and I passed a fair amount of people as we wound our way up Bellevue Ave and through the side streets that would bring us back toward the beach.
I also knew that I needed to not sprint as soon as I hit the beach parking lot at the bottom of the hill. I made that mistake last year and it was not pleasant, as the finish line is a full half mile away at that point, and sprinting for a half mile at the end of a half marathon is really, really painful.
The long final stretch to the finish.
I was running at a good clip down that final stretch, though, and I had taken my headphones off about a mile earlier, so I soaked up all the cheers and cowbells and crossed the finish at just over 1:38. I knew my official time would be a teeny bit faster, but since I had lined up pretty close to the start, probably not that much faster - and I was right, as it ended up being 1:37:56.
I admit I had kind of hoped I might be able to pull off a small PR at this race, but I didn't spend too much time thinking about that.
Instead I focused on the fact that I ran with no watch, no pacing feedback whatsoever, and I was able to run just 28 seconds slower than my PR. And I also accomplished that just one week after running a 44-minute 10K, so I think taking all that into consideration, this was a pretty great effort for me!
And it was a good enough effort to get me a third-place age-group award, which I was not expecting at all!
A lot of friends were also running, so I spent a good amount of time at the finish line cheering them on as they came in, and then headed back to the shuttle buses to begin my afternoon and evening of relaxation (courtesy of my free night at the host hotel, which I won in a contest held by the race organizers).
It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Quiet, peaceful, restful, and rejuvenating.
Even though I had just raced 13.1 miles, I spent the afternoon walking around Newport shopping and people watching, treated myself to an enormous burger (my favorite post-race meal) at the Brick Alley (one of my favorite Newport spots), enjoyed a leisurely glass of wine at a bar right on the harbor at sunset, and then spent the evening lounging in my very luxurious, beautiful hotel room.
I wish every half-marathon could end that way, but alas, it's not par for the course for us non-elite runners. It was a nice treat, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time alone.
So, despite not getting a PR, I did walk away with another age-group award, and with the knowledge that I may not have made a lot of progress with my running over the summer, but I certainly have not lost any fitness. And I've gotten very good at pacing myself, which is a really valuable skill, and one I'm glad to have finally mastered!
1:37:56, 7:29 pace
3 of 418 age group
22 of 1,751 females
147 of 2,800 overall
And now, unfortunately, my cranky shin is being extra cranky (almost as cranky as it was a few years ago when I had to take many many many weeks off from running to let it finally heal). I thought I had nipped it in the bud a few weeks ago when it started feeling a little sore and I gave it my own home treatments - massage, ice, stretching - and it began to feel better.
But I guess two weekends of racing in a row was a bit much, and it's time to get myself back into PT. And it's also time to give it a rest.
So, in the interest of not doing anything stupid to jeapordize my Boston training - which is going to be starting before you I know it! - I'm taking some time off now. Hopefully it won't require too long of a layoff, but if it does, it's better to take it now rather than be faced with injury in the middle of a training cycle.
Right now I have a good attitude about the whole thing, and I've been living in my compression socks the past few days and have already felt huge improvements in how it feels, so I'm hopeful that this won't drag on too long, because the longer I go without running, the harder it is to maintain that good attitude.
Fingers crossed that my optimistic outlook isn't put to the test!