Friday, November 3, 2017

Gansett Half Marathon

I swear, this sounded like a good idea when we all signed up!  Heidi W needed to find a race in Rhode Island (on her way to all 50 states).  It had been awhile since I'd been to visit Heidi T and she agreed to the fall race also.  It was mid-summer when we registered but planned on a nice crisp fall day come late November in New England.  Wrong.  I joined Heidi W for a few long runs, but ran into some achilles pain in one of our last training sessions and we ended up taking uber back to our cars (part b/c of my achilles... part b/c we mis-judged the circumference of the lake...would have been over 20 miles!).  This meant my last meaningful run was a full month before the race.  Then I made the rookie mistake of taking brand new running shoes out of the box and putting them in my weekend bag without even trying them on.  Bad idea.
The weekend started out well enough.  I had an uneventful flight into Providence and hung out with Heidi T for a low key afternoon and evening.  Heidi W arrived Saturday and we did the trip to packet pick-up, ate the most amazing pretzels in Westerly (yep, if the afternoon snack makes it into my blog, you know it's good!) and got ourselves ready for the event.  A 10am start meant no early alarm clocks - yay!

Race morning, we lined up at the back of the pack and were literally the last people to cross the start line.  It was a position I would be well familiar with for the entire race, less a couple minutes here and there.  Heidi T went ahead to semi-join her pace group and Heidi W decided to run the first mile with me.  I jogged most of that first mile until the right turn which I knew was a pretty big hill based on our driving course preview the day before.  I have a pretty fast walk though and stayed with Heidi. 
We noticed the sweeper cyclist right behind us - like literally right on our heels - and Heidi asked him if he intended to stay that way the entire course.  "Yes, unless somebody else falls behind you" - Ugh.

When we made it to the top of the hill, which was a little longer than I had thought it would be, Heidi decided to pick up her pace a bit.  That left me all alone with the cyclist who was still maintaining less than a car length of space between us.  He was also announcing, rather loudly, to each volunteer that I passed, "this is the last runner, you can finally go home..." -- umm, I can hear you!!  There were a handful of people I could see in front of me and my goal was to keep pace with them and not fall too far behind.  I spotted Heidi T on the first out-and-back portion and she seemed to be running at a pretty good pace.  I kept trucking along, jogging and walking, not in any particular interval set.  We were on the shaded part of the course and I was trying to enjoy it....for a late October day in Rhode Island, it was pretty hot!
I was getting a little [more] irritated with the cyclist right on my ass, so when we got to the downhill section, I let gravity take over and picked up my speed.  I passed about 3 people and was feeling pretty happy to have finally lost my escort.  We made the turn onto Ocean Drive and I knew I had to try to keep up a slightly faster pace because these people were not too far behind me and could easily catch up and pass me again.  Normally I don't care about my position in a race, but that cyclist was so annoying!  Of course, about a mile later I heard the familiar sound of tires on gravel right behind me... "You really picked up some speed and passed a bunch of people......but they all dropped out so now I'm with you again".  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! 
Hard to see but the cyclist is in this photo!  He's so close to me it looks like I'm the one wearing a bike helmet!
The cyclist also mentioned that I was doing OK with my pace and was likely ahead of the cut-off limit.  Uhh... the cut-off limit???  I had scoured the website before signing up (like I always do) and never found anything indicating a time limit.  I was at a 14:30(ish)/mile pace and wasn't super concerned, but I was less than halfway and the fact that he mentioned a limit made me nervous.  He told me that his direction was that anybody not at mile 10 at 2:45:00 would not make it.... oh.... ok..... no problem.  Why did he even bring it up?  I was WAY ahead of that limit.  What's weird was that he kept mentioning it, which made me glance at my watch a lot more than I'm used to.  At one point, a volunteer started jogging with me telling me she was going to help get me through the upcoming intersection.  It seemed super nice, but the sense of hurriedness that everyone imparted on me was concerning.

I made it to the turn-around and saw Heidi W.  I was last by a decent margin so I didn't feel bad taking extra water at all the water stops.  Heading into the halfway point, I realized I had not taken in any salt or nutrition.. D'oh!  Stupid, stupid, especially considering how warm it was.  I grabbed the gel out of my race belt and chugged it, but it was probably too little too late.  My hands were really swollen already with about 6 miles left to go...and it was getting hotter.  There was plenty water on hand at all the water stops, but I do wish there had been some Gatorade or other non-water option.  I heard later that there had been something, but they must have run out by the time I made my way through.
My calves started cramping up pretty bad whenever I was jogging, and my left achilles was really bothering me, so by mile 8 I decided to [speed] walk the rest of the way.  One volunteer actually told my cycling escort that he didn't need to stay with me, that there were a bunch of people walking just ahead of me and it was fine for him to go see how they were doing also.  So he went ahead, chatted with the person about 50 yards in front of me for a min... and then came right back to me!  Seriously.  I actually worked my way past another woman, but wouldn't you know...she ended up dropping out also.  The cyclist kept telling me to try to catch the man up ahead so at least I wouldn't be the last person, except my position among other people couldn't have been further than anything I cared about. 
At mile 10, I took out my phone and my hands were so swollen that I could barely operate it to send Heidi T my pace, so she'd have an idea of when to expect me to finish.  I remembered I had my salt tube, and shortly after a volunteer came driving by offering us BOP'ers a full bottle of water which I used to wash it down.  The mile markers actually seemed to come and go pretty fast, and it probably helped that the race had half mile markers for ever mile.  I really thought it would be more windy along the coast, but the sun was burning down on the back of my neck and I wanted to be done.  I finally gave in and started up a conversation with my cycling buddy.  My pace slowed down considerably, but I did enjoy the company to get me through that final part.  Turns out he is a swimmer and thinking about doing the Save the Bay swim next summer.  
So happy to be finishing... and there's Heidi W in the green shirt, proof that she was actually there!
Finally I was at the seawall which indicated the final mile of the course.  There were a bunch of cars parked and I wasn't sure if I should hop on the sidewalk or stay in the road...but there were a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalk and the racer (I use that term loosely) in front of me - who had his own volunteer escort - stayed in the road, so I did too, even though there were a bunch of cars passing us.  I was hot and swollen and very uncomfortable.  Heidi T popped out from behind the parked cars and kept me company for the final part.  There were actually a bunch of people at the finish line cheering which was quite impressive, especially for a smaller race.  I'm used to desolate finish lines... it was nice.  And I was done!  Yay!
This is Heidi T's medal and her photo that I stole cause I think it looks really cool
The Heidi's and I made our way over to a bench so I could rest for a minute.  Both big toes were extremely bruised thanks to my poor shoe decision.  Sitting was probably a bad idea though... when we stood up, the hot spots on my feet made for very painful steps.  Heidi T offered to go get the car, and Heidi W gladly volunteered to wait with me.  A shower, lunch and lounging around were on the agenda for the rest of the day.  It was an early bedtime, and Heidi W and I had an early flight (4:15AM alarm!) home...straight to work and back to reality. 

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