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.

 

 

Things that fly…level 10k recap

Things that fly? Heron, dragonflies and me. 

The first two I encountered pre-race and the final, during. 🙂

Sunday I ran the Level 10k. A race I hadn’t planned on or trained for. Or even known about until the week before.

And there is something so relaxed and liberating about that kind of race. 

See, I’m right in the middle of my ultra training, and focused way more on distance and heat acclimation and cumulative movement than I am on speed. 

But when your bestie asks you on a Monday “wanna come run a 10k Sunday?”  You say yes. 

Because running a 10k she’ll be at is way more fun than a standard 12-mile solo run. 

She warned me it was a hilly course (despite being put on by Level. Lol) and I knew it would be hot. But I craved the challenge. 

It was a nice small field (about 200 people) in a lovely state park. And right from the time we arrived had a great feel to it. 

I found my bestie and her friend immediately. And hung out while we waited.   

 Group photo!! 

It was 81 and humid at the start, but mostly overcast. And even tho the sun did come out, the course was fortunately quite shady. 

It was a looped course, which I actually quite liked. An initial shorter loop, followed by a longer one. And the start was below the finish. 

This meant I got to pass my cheering section (my hunny and my pup) twice during the race. 

It also meant I got to run Tower Hill three times. Ulp! It’s one of those hills just tough enough.  And I’m happy to say I successfully ran it all three trips. Tho the third time, at mile 6, was not easy. 

Advantages of a small race? No corrals, no formality, just a group of people casually chatting while they waited. Got the pre race announcements and the “any questions?” To which the smartass in me replied (only loud enough for my bestie and a couple others to hear) “how far is it?” 🙂  

And we were off….

I started with the crowd, completely unsure of my pace. Trying to set a good, but not crazy, pace from the beginning. I had no idea how I would do, but had hopes to be under 1:05 overall, maybe 1:02 (a 10 minute mile average). 

Cruised up the hill and saw my hunny with his phone, so I cut across for the photo op.  

 Early race photos are the best – I look so fresh. Lol

And I cruised along…the crowd thinner and I ran my own race. Neither hard nor easy, sort of trying to figure out what pace I could hold for 6.2 miles. 

There were a lot of wonderful downhill stretches which were great for saving energy, knowing tower hill was coming back up shortly after mile 2.  And oddly, it felt easier this time. 

Saw my hunny again – got a high five – and was told “a lot of runners are grabbing water to pour on their head. Want to?” I told him in was fine right now, bout would soon. 

Kept cruising, and passed the timing mat at mile 3 in about 29:30. Hmmm…I thought. Keep this up and we got 1:02 no problem. 

And at mile 3.5, I did as advised and grabbed a water. Few sips and the rest on my head and neck. Oh yeah that felt great!!

I knew there’d be another stop at mile 5. And I knew I’d do the same them. 

But for now, I held pace. Which I could feel was getting faster. I tried to reign in it a little, but since I felt okay and was breathing fine I didn’t worry. 

And as I neared the final turn late in mile 5, and the urge to surge hit, I told myself “Don’t  be stupid.” Followed by “Don’t be a chicken”. 

And I held where I was…because that hill loomed. 

By now I was hot. And I was slimy. And I was tired. But I was NOT going to let the hill win. I dug in. Fought for it. And was rewarded by this picture of me cresting the hill.  

 The photographer said to me “Congrats. You made it to the top”.  And that smile was my response. 

I hit the straightaway, slowed for a second to catch my breath, and saw the cones for the finish just as the downhill hit. 

And I surged. And I flew. You know, that kind of speed where your legs feel unhinged from your body and you are giving it absolutely everything you have left? That kind of flying. And thanks to my friend’s daughter for getting this picture.  

 

My official finish time? 1:00:54. Sweet!!

And oddly, it placed me 5th in my age group. Whoa!! 

I guess you don’t know what you have in you, until you let it out. 

Thanks to my bestie for talking my into sole sister Sunday. 

And thanks to Level Renner for putting on a great event. I will totally be back next year!!

One hump or two…

Well, I finally did it. I gave in and bought a camelbak.

Because already owning four ways of transporting water during a run isn’t enough. Lol

But I don’t like carrying things in my hand. And anything that goes around my waist tends to slide and move. And when I get constantly irritated during a run, it definitely makes it less fun.

So normally I don’t carry anything. I’ve logged 10 – 12 mile runs without hydration. And I’m usually ok. Slightly thirsty by the end, but ok.

And yes, I know that it is probably affecting my performance, but it’s just training. During races I take advantage of water stops.

However…it’s summer. And we’ve hit that time of year where I’m thirsty two miles in and gritty by mile four. And that’s not good.

So yesterday, when I seriously considered running through a random stranger’s sprinkler, I knew I had to do something before Sunday’s long run.

But I’m smaller framed and don’t want to feel like a pack mule in a giant backpack.

And I lucked out. Because camelbak makes kid sized 50 oz packs.

And not only is it the loveliest shade of pink and fits light and easy – it has multiple pockets. For my phone and gu and heck, I could probably fit a sandwich in there.

I tested it out so far just around the house. And sure, there’s a little sloshy noise to deal with – but sloshy versus collapsing on a run is a good trade off right? 🙂

So tomorrow – my hump and I will take it out on the roads. Wish us luck 🙂

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