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.



That’s odd…

So I’ve spent the week trying to find a half-marathon in the next couple months. Something to use as both a corral placement improver for Dopey and as a tune-up/time trial for Maine Coast. 

And as I sat at the table this morning with coffee in hand and a serious case of writers block, instead of blogging, I finally picked a race and registered. For the Ocean’s Run Half. 

One I’ve never done. But it promised flat and fast. Two of my favorite race words. Lol

It’s in March…and I noticed a pattern emerging. 

I seem to be picking all my races in odd months. January (Disney) March (Ocean), May (Maine), September (Adirondack). 

And I think this might be a fun add-on goal for this odd numbered year. Only race in odd numbered months!

So…that means July & November are options. Which actually, now that I think about it, works perfectly.

There’s a couple of 10k’s in July that I like and can choose from. And, I want another chance at that Thanskgiving 5k (turkey vision quest part 2 – the hunt for AG place continues). 

It also means – a heads up to my running friends – please don’t ask me to do races in April, June, August or October.  

Well, at least for now…we’ll see how this goal morphs during the year.  A runner reserves the right to change her mind if the right bling comes along. Lol

Oh and hey, even today is odd. Wednesday the 1st! (Let’s just ignore that it’s an even month.)

Happy February – and happy running!

Anchor Down – the recap

This is the longest its ever taken me to write a race recap.  But considering this was the longest race i’ve ever done, it seems appropriate.

It wasn’t even a matter of getting my thoughts together…it was a matter of getting my brain to wake back up.  LOL   I knew going into this that staying up all night running would take its toll, i just didn’t realize how much.

I will say that the Anchor Down Ultra was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  It was not my first ultra, and it won’t be my last, but it will always be special.

It was held August 19-20 (ten days ago) in Colt State Park in Bristol, RI.  A place I know fairly well as I live nearby and its one of our favorite places to picnic and watch the water.  But, I have never seen it like this.

The course was a 2.45 mile loop that I had 12 hours to circle as much as possible.  It was about a mile of trail and the rest paved with a short grassy uphill & matching down.

And I know people think running in circles can be mind-numbing, but having the breaks in terrain – woods to paved to grass to paved – actually broke it up nicely.

The event was incredibly well run and well organized.  The volunteers at both aid stations were amazing and completely made a difference out there.  Especially in the wee small hours of the morning. Seeing that beacon of light at the tent village was like a lighthouse leading me home.

I know I usually do recaps by miles…but right now I couldn’t sort lap 2 from lap 15. At some point they all sort of blurred together.  So instead i’m just going to share some general moments.

  • Ultra people ROCK. Unlike a marathon where people are more focused on themselves, ultra people focus on each other.  I may have spoken with every person out there during the course of 12 hours.  And they were all friendly and awesome.  Whether it was their first, or their 15th.
  • I’m very grateful to a couple of women I walked a lap with.  Hearing another runner’s story at 3am, while you’re both just keeping moving, makes the steps go by way faster. Thank you Hollie and Heidi.  You are both awesome!
  • Give a girl a Walt Disney quote and she knows she’s in the right place!
  • Give a girl some other people who are runDisney addicts and she’ll chat the miles away.
  • Watching the full moon rise is magic.
  • Watching the sun rise a few hours later over the water is beyond words.  
  • Having a volunteer yell “there’s my girl” as you approach the tiki torches of a water stop really gives you a boost. Thanks buddy!!  
  • Eating pizza at 2am while walking through the woods is surreal.  And Facebook post worthy.  LOL
  • Having a much faster friend pass you every oh, three laps, and check on you gives you something to look forward to.
  • Reflective lettering makes you a beacon in the dark for some runners.  Especially when you’re in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night.
  • My headlamp survived all 12 hours (Amazing).
  • My garmin did not – it died about a mile from the finish.  So close!
  • Realizing that there is a difference between someone who runs ultras and an ultra-runner.  I run ultras…the guy who flew by me on the trail at 4am while I was trying to carefully pick my way over the roots?  He’s an ultra-runner.

I am also, as always, eternally grateful to my husband.  For setting up my tent, getting me settled in, and then coming back for me at 6:30 in the morning to drag my carcass home.  Love you babe. 

Thank you to everyone for all the well-wishes and congrats I received.  And a special thanks to my bestie and her guy and her friend for helping to make that a night i’ll always remember.

This is what 11.5 hours and 44.1 miles looks like. Exhausted and happy. 🙂