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.
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.