Sorry for the crickets here, guys! I was away last weekend in Rhode Island to run the Providence Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon…and then I’ve been playing catch-up for the last couple of days.
For those who aren’t familiar, once you complete more than one race on the Rock N’ Roll series, they start sending you extra medals. And ya’ll know how much I loves me some medals.
Anyway, we arrived in Providence in the early afternoon on Saturday to hit the expo. We stayed at La Quinta Inn in Warwick, which was a few minutes outside of Providence, because all of the local hotels were booked by people who didn’t spontaneously decide to drive to Rhode Island for a race. The price was right ($100) and it definitely served our purposes.
As you may also know, in addition to my somewhat unhealthy addiction to race bling, I also happen to be a sucker for a race expo. There’s something about being surrounded by endless rows of running-related vendors that feels a little bit like heaven to me…so I was excited to check out the expo.
I knew this race was going to be quite a bit smaller than the Rock N’ Roll Philadelphia race that Todd and I ran two weeks ago (recap here!), but little did I know just how ridiculously small this expo was going to be! I was definitely disappointed. There was pretty much nothing. In terms of race swag…I have to say, I didn’t love the shirts, either. And they definitely run a bit small — I typically wear a medium, but it fits a whole lot more like a small to me.
However, it was still a race expo, so we managed to have a little bit of fun.
After the expo, we headed out to do some sightseeing (namely the capitol building) and grab some dinner at Ri-Ra (which I LOVE).
Later that evening, we participated in the Providence Ghost Tour. It wasn’t what I would call “scary” or anything, but I am definitely intrigued by the paranormal and hearing interesting stories about the likes of Edgar Allan Poe (clearly a nutcase) and getting to explore the city at night was a lot of fun.
Of course, as we’re walking the tour, I’m noticing more and more just how many hills there are in Providence. My legs and feet weren’t loving all of the standing around I had been doing all day, and they definitely didn’t particularly enjoy climbing hills. I was worried about just how many of those hills would be included on the half marathon course. (Spoiler alert: Let’s just say I was in for a not-so-pleasant surprise the next day!)
After the tour, we went to check out WaterFire, which is basically this water and fire (duh) spectacle held on the river on certain nights. There were also vendors and crafters and other artsy stuff to check out. It was pretty cool. Of course, by that time, it was getting late…my feet were feeling the effects of all the walking we had done, and I was tired and worried about having to wake up at such an hour to get to the starting line by 7am!
Fortunately, though, I woke up the next morning feeling a whole lot better than I had the night before the Philadelphia race, so I got dressed in my usual race-day garb — some form of themed shirt and Bondiband, and, of course, my Sparkle Athletic skirt — and we headed out. Parking in the Providence Place Mall was a breeze on race morning, and we got to the starting line in plenty of time.
While we were standing around in the corral, Kim from Barking Mad About Running spotted me! She’s a Jersey girl, too, and we are constantly running in the same races…but never actually see each other. But then we just so happen to find each other in a crowd of 4,000 runners in Rhode Island. Go figure. It was so awesome to finally meet her “in real life!” (And I hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing this picture!)
It was a gorgeous day (cold in the morning, but then it warmed up a bit too much for my liking!) and I was feeling pretty good, so when the race started and our corral was finally released, I felt compelled to take off and see what I could do. I wasn’t planning on this being a “redemption” race, per se’, but I wasn’t particularly happy with my time in Philadelphia (2:14) — my slowest half marathon to date — and I definitely wanted to see some improvement. Since this race course wasn’t nearly as congested in the early miles as Philadelphia was, I decided to just go for it.
Unfortunately, that meant losing Todd somewhere in the crowd. But, given the fact that I assumed he’d be starting out conservatively and then pick up the pace later on, I knew he’d catch up with me eventually. I was maintaining right around a 9-minute/mile pace for the first several miles, and felt great. Mind you, I quickly discovered that this was NOT going to be a flat course, and I wasn’t especially thrilled about all the hills I had to climb. But I figured I’d just go with the flow and see what I could do.
It was right around mile 4 when I approached THE hill. It was one of those hills where I feel as though I’m running at full speed, but can’t seem to actually GO anywhere. It was BRUTAL, and even though I refused to allow myself to walk, it definitely cost me a bit of time trying to recover my pace after that! Good lord.
Still, I was feeling strong, and wasn’t having too much trouble maintaining my target race-day pace. Once again, I had to use the bathroom, and ONCE AGAIN, I refused to stop in line and wait for a porta-potty (by the way, I really didn’t feel there were an adequate number of them along the course). I had been getting over a cold for several days, so I also had some unpleasant (and unattractive) issues of the nasal variety going on, but I was dealing with it.
Somewhere right before the 10K mark, I walked through a water station to take a couple of Clif Shot Bloks, and when I got back on the course, I happened to see a certain someone in his neon green shirt running up ahead of me! So I pretty much sprinted to catch up with him, and the next few miles flew by.
This time, we were running together, but I wasn’t exactly sure how the end of the race was going to go down. I had been pushing it for the entire race and didn’t feel as though I had much left in the tank, whereas I know that Todd is capable of taking off like a freakin’ bolt of lightning at the end of a race. Once again, I figured I’d just go with the flow…I was having fun.
It was in the last 5K that all the hills were starting to catch up with my legs, and as I silently cursed myself for not doing enough training on hills (since I’m apparently a big giant baby), I could tell Todd was getting antsy to pick up the pace. Unfortunately, I was already going pretty much as fast as I possibly could, especially since there were a few more — what else? — hills in those last couple of miles, and I was starting to run out of steam, as per my usual M.O. in a longer race. But we kept trucking along, and I’m pretty sure it looked a whole lot like he was physically dragging me towards the finish line. As evidenced by the following photograph. HAHA.
Still, I was feeling really proud of myself for maintaining somewhere around a 9:15/minute mile. It’s usually towards the end of a half marathon, especially when I’ve gone out as fast as I did, when I’m struggling to keep it under 10 minutes in those final miles. It was a little uncomfortable, sure, but I wasn’t DYING or anything…so it’s always nice to feel as though I am making some progress.
Finally, the end was in sight, and let’s just say that I was reeeeeally happy to have a finish line picture of us together!
I was actually pretty thrilled with my time on this race. My PR, which I earned during Runapalooza in Asbury Park this past April, is 2:03:25…and my finish time in this race was 2:04:14. Given the fact that this course was NOT FLAT, and Runapalooza was completely flat, I’m going to go ahead and take that as more evidence of personal improvement…and look forward to seeing what I can do in my next race! Which is what it’s really all about, right?
After taking some pictures and stuffing our faces with post-race goodies, which included pretzels, bananas, bagels, and (yay) chocolate milk, we hung out at the concert in the park for a little while.
We spent the rest of our time in Providence at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, which was really nice, and then spent all of 15 minutes at was probably the cheesiest, most ridiculous “natural history museum” I’ve ever seen in my life.
All in all, it was a great race and a fun trip! Now I’m looking forward to the Runner’s World Hat Trick — excellent training for Dopey, no? — in two weeks…and we may or may not be considering the ING Hartford Half Marathon next weekend!