or, simply put, lessons learned!
Ok, let's get the ugly truth out of the way up front:
2:24:08 (10:55/mile.....according to Senor Garmin, I ran 13.21 miles)
Good enough for 456th place out of 579 finishers, 236th out of 273 men, and 29th in my (50-59) age group.....but hey, I beat 6 other guys!!! WOO HOO!!!!!
In spite of my initial negativity, there's an entirely different truth to my Rhode Island experience yesterday morning. The simple truth is that I wasn't actually "racing" this half-marathon, but merely using it as the long run for Week #5 of training for the Hartford Marathon I'm running in October. What's complicating this view is the fact that when I sat at this same keyboard on Friday, I wrote that I had hoped to run 2:04 and maybe even PR at around 2:01.
So what happened?
The day started very early, as the race had a 6:30AM start time. Complicating that further....runners had to park their cars in Newport, RI and then be shuttled over the bridge to Jamestown, with yellow school buses running from 5:00-6:15AM......and Newport is roughly an hour from my house, so I needed to leave from here around 4:30.....WAY too early! Even in the pre-dawn hours, it was already in the mid-70's and humid, so I knew that the conditions would be something to deal with. Hydration would be key, and I was making sure to keep my tank fully topped up.
The drive down was uneventful, but by the time I reached the parking lot, I was looking forward to using the "facilities"......but there weren't any. I asked one of the volunteers and was told that there were bathrooms on the island, so after a bumpy bus ride over the Pell Bridge (the largest suspension bridge in New England!), I was getting a bit anxious. As we pulled into the start area, we could see two flat-bed trucks hauling port-a-potties......they hadn't even been set up yet! There were hundreds of runners milling about looking to use them, and we were just arriving. Ok, so I had to wait a bit longer.......got in line, only to find that once they'd been set up, there wasn't any TP!!!! Really????? WTF????? Nice planning! After a few anxious moments, the TP arrived, right about the same time the race announcer was calling for the start! "Are you ready", he shouted....with hundreds in line at the port-a-potties shouting back "NO!!!!!"......thankfully, it was a chip-timed race, so the clock would start only once you passed over the start mat, but still........I've been to maybe 75-100 races over the past 4 years and I've NEVER been to one that didn't have facilities available for runners to use before a race, so am I wrong for being a little pissed at the organizers???
About 5 minutes after the race began, I crossed the line and began my journey......alone. Sounds sad, doesn't it? I'm used to ending up running alone, but I actually enjoy the chaos of dodging bodies at the start of a race. The beginning of the race was a gentle, slightly winding uphill......that's seemed never-ending. The slope was never steep, but it went on for nearly 2 miles......now I don't shy away from hills, but I also don't seek them out. As good as I feel my aerobic conditioning gets, I still struggle with long, gradual hills, with a decided preference for short, steep efforts. Needless to say, the opening of this race wore on my confidence. With the sweat already pouring down my face, my brain started weighing my options......I was pretty sure that a PR wasn't happening, and my initial time goal was going to require some real hammering to get on pace, and the initial hill had already taken it out of me, so what to do?
At that point, Hal Higdon was in my ear........reminding me that I should be running my long runs at a slower pace than my desired marathon pace.
Get outta my head, Higdon!!!!!!
But that was exactly what I needed to hear at that point........save the PR for a day when I feel better.....when it's not as hot/humid.......when I haven't had to drive an hour, only to find no bathrooms.....after all, I've got 2 more half-marathons scheduled between now and October, so those are 2 more opportunities to go for it (if it feels right).
Once I shifted goals to make this a great training run, I relaxed and began to enjoy the process. The route covered most of Conanicut Island, with many lovely views of Narragansett Bay, along quiet streets and along major roads with lots of traffic. In some cases, residents came out to cheer, but for most of the route, the runners were on their own. The volunteers at the water stops (roughly every 2 miles) were very enthusiastic and I was VERY happy to see that they had not just water, but Gatorade as well. On the back half, they were also handing out packets of GU, so the on-course support was very good. The route itself could best be classified as "rolling", as there were VERY few flat sections.
I'm pleased with how I ran, and would love to have another chance to run this route again in the fall....the heat and humidity made it seem more difficult than it actually was, and I know that I've got a lot more work to acclimate to heat and humidity.
I'm still a bit tired today, but took myself out for a recovery run this morning......it was already over 80 degrees when I left at 8:30, so I took it easy and only ran 3.5 miles.......pleased to have run 34 miles this week and having crossed the 600-mile threshold for the year. Feeling good and ready for the challenges ahead!
Blog on, my friends.....blog on!