Race Recap – Blackstone Valley Half-Marathon

Sunday, under slightly cool temps and gorgeous clear blue skies…magic happened.  I ran a 2:00:12 half-marathon.  Unfortunately it was on a 13.47 mile course.  I’ll explain later…

After having the Walt Disney World half cancelled and opting out of the freezing cold Ocean’s Run half I was itching to get out there on a course and see what I could do.

What’s funny is that neither of those were races I was planning to actually ‘race’.  But rather just run for fun.   And i’m not entirely sure when I decided that I was going to full on race Blackstone.  But once I did I went into serious preparation mode.

The few days before were all about hydration and nutrition.  Outfit and playlist. Course review and mental preparation.  Coming up with anything I could to give me that extra boost out there.

I almost never run with music.  Except for #turkeyvisionquest I hadn’t run outside to music in a couple of years.  I’m more of a ‘sounds of nature’ runner.  But again, I knew how using music in November had led to a PR, so I was going to see if it made a difference here.  I created a PEP (performance enhancing playlist) of all my favorite metal and rock songs, and threw in a few new ones from favorite artists (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Airbourne) which turned out to be perfect.

Also… my bib # turned out to be 201. And I got this crazy idea, maybe I could run my number. (I sort of did…)

Sunday morning was literally race perfect.  It was about 46 at the start, blue sky, slight breeze.  The race started/finished right by Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI.   Tons of parking right by the start (in fact the hubs was able to sit in the back of our hatchback watching runners fly to the finish) and access to the visitor center and really nice bathrooms were a bonus.

After a beautiful and oddly moving national anthem (maybe it was the way the flag was waving in the wind with the sun shining on it got me…) we were off.  Kickoff playlist song?  Rock & Roll (Zeppelin).  🙂

The course headed south, looped around and headed back past the start.  And this is where it got interesting.   I was tucked in with a crowd and had Robert Plant in my ears and when the group turned, I went with them.  I think I knew in the back of my head it wasn’t right.  But I didn’t question it.  Because racing is pack mentality.  One goes – all go.

Until the race director chased us down to tell us we’d been sent the wrong way and turned us around  (Is this were we tell the course volunteer “you had ONE job”? LOL).  For me?  This ended up with an extra .37 miles that I spent the rest of the race trying to make up for. Turns out the lead runner?  He’d tacked on an extra 3/4 of a mile with the ‘detour’.   And the funniest piece of all this?  The song Plant was singing? Communication Breakdown.

But I was in a very good-natured group.  We joked about “well, I’ve always worried about getting lost on a course.  Now that it’s happened, I don’t have to worry about it”  And “There goes my age group win.”

The rest of the course?  Clearly marked and absolutely beautiful.  Just enough change in elevation to keep it interesting, but not overly challenging.  The only ‘beast’ came around mile 5.  One of those hills where you turn, see it, let out a quick curse word and shimmy to the top.  Only to turn and see it keeps going.  Ugh.   But that hill was followed by a long spectacular downhill with mountain views.   And was great for me for just coasting and resetting for the second half.  And also let me knock off two of my ‘standard race goals’ – high-fiving a kid and barking at a dog.

There isn’t a ton of crowd support out there – tho the water stops were filled with enthusiastic volunteers – but a few people stood on corners or in their yards.   And the sections on the bike path and some cyclists pulled over watching us.

I saw a couple of funny signs “if trump can run you can too”  And a set early on of “just 5 miles to go’ and “she can’t do math” with an arrow pointing to the first sign.  But my favorite sign?  The town sign of Central Falls aka Chocolateville.  Seriously – you can’t go wrong if you’re running through Chocolateville.  LOL

But like I mentioned earlier, I feel like I spent a lot of the race trying to make up for the detour.  I ran that course with determination and strategy.  I cut ALL the tangents and tried to limit any extra steps.   I also watched my pace.  And when I hit the 10k mark in 57 minutes flat (what?? How???) I mentally calculated that I could still pull off my hopes of a sub 2:05 clock time.

Because I was fairly sure that I couldn’t hold this pace forever.  I fully expected that i’d slow down. Because I hadn’t run this fast for this long in…oh I don’t even know.   But then I let it go…and I stopped looking at my watch.  And I let my music and my legs lead me.

And when my watch beeped 13 I looked down…and pushed just a little. And watched myself hit my fastest 13.1 time in nearly two years (since June 2015).  A 2:00:12.

And with my favorite speedwork song playing I gave it everything I had and ran on to that finish.  Saw the hubs right before it and gave him a smile,  a wave and a thumbs up.

And then crossed that line in 2:03:22.  Which still, is my fastest half in two years.  And a darn good Disney POT (LOL). (Side note – that last half mile was an 8:32 pace. Wow!)

Got my shiny medal (seriously – the back of this thing is mirror surface) and a water, and tried to not throw up. (Guess I really was racing all out.  lol  Its not the speed – its the sudden stop that does it.)

I’m feeling really proud of myself for doing so well.  And i’m also feeling this new confidence going into the Maine Coast Marathon.  This half was just what I needed.  

Am I disappointed about this being an ‘extended cut’?  Sure…but its okay.  There’s always another race.  And this was still a great one that I will definitely run again.  Only next time, pack be damned, I am NOT making that right turn.

 

 

The Greeter

Can I just say how April’s weather is so far a vast improvement over March? Yay!!

And just in time with all the miles that sit on my calendar between now and the Maine Coast Marathon. Because 20 miles is WAY more fun at 50 degrees than in 30.  

The other advantage to this weather is that I’m back logging regular lunchtime runs along the lovely Charles River path. Me and TONS of other runners. 

My tribe…has returned. And yes, there are lots of characters among them.  

It’s amazing to think how many random strangers I know by their sneakers, or their hat or their lack of shirt. Lol

But there is one fella I know by his wave. (And his beard. He has a cool one.)

I’ve seen him probably 3 or 4 times recently, and I absolutely love this guy.  

Why? Because he goes out of his way to wave at every single runner (or walker or dog) he passes.  And it really makes me happy to wave back and say hi. 

He’s become one of the highlights of my “runches”. 

This week, I passed him from behind early into my run and was actually disappointed that I wouldn’t get to say hi. But due to some kind of path and pace magic, after I hit the turn around point, there he was coming at me (yes!!). So I was able to wave and smile after all. 

It’s the little things. Because sure, we all have different goals and paces and reasons for why we lace ’em up and head to the river. But when we are out there…we are all runners.  So why not be friendly. 😀 👋

As far as training? It’s going awesome. Sunday was “just” 12 miles so I used it as sort of a time-trial for the Blackstone Valley Half (in 2 weeks).

I think there’s hope for me yet! 

And pictured are my must have long run accessories –  buddy pouch, Brooks launches & garmin. Plus look ma – no sleeves! Gotta love t-shirt weather. Woohoo!!

Hope you all have a great week, beautiful spring weather and happy runs. 😃

Running Goldilocks

I feel like the Goldilocks of half-marathons…. in search of one that’s just right.

See…the first was too stormy and the second one too cold.  Here’s hoping the third one is a perfect fit.

I should be sitting here right now writing a race recap.  And instead, i’m explaining why i’m not.   Essentially its because a windchill of -5 does not make for ideal racing conditions.

After the Walt Disney World Half-marathon got cancelled due to extreme thunderstorms I went in search of a spring half-marathon to ‘check the box’ of a half for the year (gotta hit for the cycle again, of course). Knowing I didn’t want to run Hyannis again this year but needing something that fit into my training plan for the Maine Coast Marathon I discovered the Ocean’s Run Half.

A nice scenic half marathon along the water in Westerly, RI.  Had all the makings of a fun half.  One that I didn’t really train for except getting my distance mileage back after off-season.  I knew that it wouldn’t be one of my best but just a good solid training run.

So as the weekend went on and the temperatures started looking less than ideal I knew i had a difficult decision to make.  Do I suck it up, wake up early, drive 90 minutes to go run in ’11 feels like -3′ with strong winds?  Or do I sleep in, eat waffles and christen my new treadmill with a 20-miler.

I don’t take missing a race lightly.  In my 8 years of racing I had only missed two other half marathons.  One, because I was on crutches and couldn’t run it and the other  because it was free, it was extremely early, and it was already 80 at the start.

I hemmed and hawed.  I still put out a set of extremely warm clothes just in case.  I reached out to a Facebook running group that i’m in (hilariously enough, they were was torn as me.  Half said run, half said don’t.  Most asked about the medal.  LOL) and, when I went to bed was 99% sure I was staying home.

But ah, that 1%.   And when I woke up at 4am I said, let me just go check and see if the weather magically improved.  Noting it hadn’t, I STILL played ‘do I, don’t I’ on the way up the stairs.  At which point I missed the top step, smashed my shin and said to myself “go back to bed moron, you’re not going to the race”  Because clearly we sometimes need the universe to knock some sense into us.

Side note – love my new treadmill.  And netflix and ‘mill is a good way to send a Sunday morning.  Especially since I discovered Ultimate Beastmaster.  Its awesome.

And, from what I found out later, about 50 people opted out.  Including the race photographer.  And that it was an extremely brutal race to where even the fast runners had way slower (like 90 seconds per mile slower) times than usual.  Yeah, I was only going to run this as a ‘fun half’ and that would NOT have been fun. (Plus the medal was fine, but not WOW. So not worth it to me.)

So, as a goldilocks seeking the just right race…I started searching again.  And knowing that there is no way I am taking a chance on another one in March, I looked at April.

Which also means i’ve now totally blown my idea to run only in odd months. Tho I did at least pick one with on an odd date!  April 23rd.  The Blackstone Valley Half-Marathon.

Its in Pawtucket, RI, so WAY closer than Westerly.  Its not too hilly (tho I hear there is one good-sized hill) and it winds along a bike bath that the hubby and I ride on quite a bit (so I know some of the course).  Its three weeks before Maine Coast, so its well-positioned as a time trial for me.  And, plenty of time to train for it as a serious half.  (because, while I have a 2:05 Dopey Corral POT in my back pocket, of course I want a better one.)

So lets home third time’s the charm and that this half is ‘just right’.