I've learned a lot these past 4 months about what it takes to plan a race, but nothing could have prepared me for how incredibly rewarding it feels to see your vision become a reality on race day.
All of last week I was an absolute bundle of nerves. Taking care of last-minute tasks, wrapping up loose ends, and preparing for what was sure to be a really busy weekend.
My dining room, full of race shirts one night last week, as I was getting things ready for packet pickup.
And the increasingly foreboding weather forecast just made things even more interesting, as it became clear that we'd be battling the elements in a big way, with a Nor'easter on its way up the coast.
It felt good when Saturday finally arrived and we were ready to get the show on the road. We met up early Saturday morning to put shirts in bags for packet pickup, and barely had everything set up before people started showing up to pick up their numbers. But once we got through a few registrants, we got a system in place, and things went smoothly the rest of the day, with nearly 200 runners picking up their bags.
I hadn't volunteered to work at packet pickup that day, but ended up staying from 9am until just after 3pm. I was happy to be there, and it felt good to be helping, so I didn't see any reason to leave, even though I knew full well that being on my feet for 6+ hours the day before running a half was not a good idea (and kept being reminded of that fact by all my friends).
Saturday night was a combination of gathering last-minute supplies for race day, making scheduling plans for the morning, and also trying to get my personal things together. And the weather added some more excitement, as all of the porta-potties at the start/finish area blew over in the 50mph wind gusts. Thanks to one of our amazing race committee members, they were all upright and secured Saturday night, and stayed that way for the remainder of the event.
The howling winds woke me up around 3:30am, and I was too wound up to get back to sleep, so it was a ridiculously early start to the day for me. It may have been daylight savings, but I definitely did not get my extra hour.
Getting registration set up Sunday morning went much quicker, since it was our second time around, and we were up and running smoothly as soon as the first people began to arrive at 9am. Again, I hadn't planned on working the registration area, but was too nervous and anxious to just sit around. And it was also just really fun to be there and talk with everyone coming in.
The weather was every bit as bad as they had predicted it would be. The wind was insane, and it was raining, and it was cold. But runners were still arriving in a steady stream, and we even ended up with about 25 race-day registrants.
I looked out at the hotel banquet room a few times, and it was just the greatest feeling, to see all those people, and to know that we had brought them all there.
When we were within half an hour of the race start, I got myself changed and ready to run. So I had now spent an additional 4 hours on my feet. But I wouldn't have done it differently - I wanted to be there working, and my race had become so secondary at that point.
Standing at the start was awesome - so great to look out over the crowd gathered there - but also absolutely freeezing!!! Wind-driven cold rain right in our faces. But we started right on time, and as soon as I started running, I calmed down and got ready to just enjoy the miles. I'm thankful that I was able to be out there and run and experience the event as a participant - it was really fun, despite the awful conditions.
I haven't even downloaded my splits yet, but I know that for the first part of the race, I did what I planned to do, and ran in the 7:40s. The wind was at our backs for miles 1 - 7, so that pace felt pretty easy, and I chatted with a few club members who were running nearby, and those miles went by quickly.
We had rain - and some snow - for the entire race. At times it was just a sprinkle, but for most of the time, it was pretty steady, and I was soaked, and dreading having to turn around and have all that precipitation driven into my face by the headwind I knew we'd be facing on the way back.
I started feeling tired around mile 7. My legs just were not cooperating anymore, and I knew I was paying the price for all the work I had done that morning and the day before. And I knew there was no way I was going to run a faster second half. It just wasn't going to happen, and I was totally ok with it. I just wanted to finish in a halfway decent time.
Heading back into the wind sucked, as I knew it would. It completely drained me of any energy that I may have had left, and I even stopped and walked for a second at the two water stops on the way back. I had a couple miles that were over an 8-minute pace here, but I didn't care.
At mile 11, I finally got a little bit of energy back, and I was able to get back to around 7:40 and 7:30 for my last two miles, and it felt nice to be able to finish strong, even though I was feeling so beat up. I crossed just a few seconds over 1:44, and was happy to be done and get my medal.
If it had been a nicer day, I would have hung around the finish line and watched people come in, but it was way too cold and uncomfortable, and I needed to get myself into some dry clothes, so I didn't waste any time getting inside.
The rest of the day is a blur, but it went great. People came inside and stayed warm and dry, and ate a hot meal, and everyone seemed pleased and happy with everything.
The sense of relief I felt at knowing that we had pulled it off - with flying colors - is nearly impossible to describe. The weather may have sucked, but everything else about the day went as well as it could have.
I had no intentions whatsoever of getting as involved in the planning of this race as I did, but I am so glad that it turned out that way. It's been an incredible learning experience, it's been a lot of work, but it's also been a ton of fun, and it's allowed me to get to know some members of my running club a lot better, too, which has been great.
We had an amazing team, and it was awesome to see everyone pitch in with their own talent and their own specialties, and so exciting to see it all come together just as we had envisioned it.
No question about it - the first annual Gansett Half is one that people are going to remember for a long time, thanks to the weather conditions. But hopefully they'll also remember it because it was such a well-organized, fun event. Judging by the feedback coming in on our Facebook page, that seems to be the case.
And I know that it's just going to get bigger and better from here on out.
My numbers for this race are the least of my concern, so the numbers that really count -
603 registered, 486 who showed up and finished.
Can't wait 'til next year!