I was bummed about missing out on the Mayor's Cup XC race last Sunday (10/25) when I began thinking about jumping into another race the following weekend. A neighbor had been talking to me about the Gansett Half Marathon, but I had dismissed it as too expensive. But besides the price, it should be a fast course and a great chance to put up a half marathon road time that I would be proud of (I've never run one before on roads). I then sent out a couple of feeler texts to gauge other people's opinions about the idea. After their feedback I was convinced this was a good race to try. I registered on Tuesday.
My week of running went well. I snuck in a longish run on Monday and a XC workout with Galoob on Tuesday. Then I tapered. There were just two things working against me for a great race on Sunday: the weather and my health. The weather initially looked good when I signed up - sunny and high 40's with some wind. The reality was that it was going to be very windy (high wind advisory), cold (high 30's), and wet. I awoke on Saturday feeling a little under the weather. No bid deal, just a minor cold from my son, but it was in my chest. I was not thrilled with the idea of running in the cold damp air with a chest cold. I hoped the race might get cancelled. I had a poor attitude.
Sunday morning, and the weather may have been worse in Narragansett than advertised. The rain was "stuck" over that portion of the state, and it was cold enough for snow to be mixing in. The sustained winds weren't too bad, but there were incredible gusts from the north northwest. The course mostly runs north to south and then back. The second half of the race would be brutal. I still had the chest cold thing going on. I told my neighbor that I was 50/50 about going and I might need to be talked into or out of it. She replied with this text: "My friends say we are New Englanders running in November and to buck up." For some reason this worked. My attitude improved and I got ready to race, including a five minute shake out run to test my legs, lungs, and how cold it really was (cold!).
I arrived at registration about an hour early. I didn't need to even go inside since I had picked up my bib at Camire's the day before (good excuse to get fish tacos at El Fuego), but hanging out in my car alone didn't seem appealing. I packed up my bag with my seven wardrobe possibilities and two pairs of shoes and ran inside the inn. The place was packed, but I wasn't seeing anybody I recognized. I wiggled my way over to the far corner and claimed my spot.
To backtrack a bit, I had some goals coming into this race. Before the gloomy weather forecast, I had the following time goals: (A) sub 1:18 or better, (B) 1:18:30ish (6 minute flat average pace), (C) sub 1:20. I really felt that I should have no trouble attaining (B), unless I did something stupid. I was hoping for (A), and thought I had a great shot at it. My revised goals that morning were to still go sub 1:20, but hopefully place in the top 3 (cash prizes). I figured that the crappy weather would keep away some fair weather fast runners, and that with my trail experience and my run year round no matter the conditions training, I had a shot.
Back inside pre-race, I finally saw someone I recognized - Derek Jakoboski. Damn. No chance of beating him. Still I felt pretty confident as I scanned the crowd for other fast looking runners. At 35 minutes to go, I headed out into the elements for a warm up. I was cold for the first few minutes, but did warm up. I ran along the open roads near the town beach, and got to practice running into the stiff wind. It was terrible. I then veered off into the woods on the Canonchet Farm Trail. I turned around after 3/4 of a mile and returned to the inn. It was very warm and stuffy in there. I decided to bail on wearing tights and switch to shorts, which were still in my car. Ugh! More running and changing. I wore a warm long sleeve underneath my new long sleeve WTAC tech shirt, hat, and gloves. I switched shoes at the last minute, opting for the comfort of Nike Free 3.0's versus the lighter untested Fly Knits. Time to line up. Way too cold, so more running while I waited, until 2 minutes to spare. I ducked into the crowd for body warmth. Lots of BAA jerseys up front, and many fast looking women. Hopefully I would not be running alone today. I toed the line for the siren.
I took it out very relaxed at the start. My plan was to not go too fast, and try to stick to an almost 6 minute mile. I executed it perfectly, but for some reason Derek (in particular) and others were starting even slower. I was leading the race and it shouldn't be happening. I kept checking my watch to make sure I wasn't messing up, but I was consistently in the high 5's. Finally, as the course veered north (into the wind) on a small hill (Earles Court), Derek pulled up along side of me. We passed mile 1 in 5:58. I was happy to run on his back shoulder to let him do the work into the wind. Still it was tough going. The course then turned west for a cone turnaround (following the Super 5K course so far), and a BAA runner caught up to us. We ran together for most of the 2nd mile, passing it in 6:01. That seemed good considering most of it was into the wind. Derek then picked up the pace. I did not have any delusions of sticking with him, and instead stuck to my pace that I had settled in to. It felt manageable, but I was disappointed my legs (or more precisely lower core muscles) didn't feel that great already. Was this lingering fatigue from NipMuck?
I was now solidly in third place. My feet and clothes were already soaked, but I wasn't cold. In fact, as we turned left onto Rte 108, the wind was pushing from the side and behind, and I debated taking off my hat. I passed mile 3 in 6:05. Hmm. I continued down Rte 108 following 2nd place by about 10 seconds. The course then veers left again on a side street (Clarke Road). Someone was gaining behind me (another BAA guy). With the wind at my back and a slight downhill mile, my pace seemed quick. Oh well. I figured this guy was going to catch me soon. Still, I passed the mile 4 marker in 5:56, as the light rain switched to snow here. Soon I turned right onto Ocean Road, where there were many volunteers, port-o-potties, and photographers. It was nice to get support. Mile 5 was a peppy 5:55, thanks to the wind. Mile 6 was tough. It was very open on Ocean Rd, passing Scarborough Beach. The wind was from the side and gusty. I was passed here by the BAA guy who had been stalking me the last two miles. I was now in 4th place overall. I distracted myself by taking a GU. Mile 6 came in at a slow 6:10. Mile 7 (6:06) was lonely, except for the Ocean Rd, Rte 108 intersection that had a few volunteers and spectators. I wasn't happy being alone and continued to be exposed to the nasty elements.
I was now nearing the Point Judith Lighthouse turnaround. I passed Derek who was firmly in first place, and then the two BAA guys. I made my turn and then was greeted with a horrifying head wind. My tech hat (which fits tightly) almost blew off my head and I had to turn and look to my right hand side to avoid being straight into the wind. It was deflating. I pushed harder than ever. Why not? Over halfway done now. I could see how close 5th place was to me (another BAA guy!) and also the top 2 females. This may have contributed to my increased effort as well. Still, 5th place moved up to my back shoulder by the time I passed the 8 mile marker (6:11). I continued to break the wind (heading NE into the NNW wind) for this guy and knew exactly what he was up to. I let him draft off me for a half mile or so, before deliberately slowing down and tucking behind him. I told him it was his turn, which he said he was happy to do. We were actually catching up to 3rd place at this point. I was getting excited (mile 9 - 6:17). It became obvious that the guy I was running with was slowing down. I wanted to keep 3rd place close, so I quickened my pace and retook the wind-breaking position. The guy I was with fell off my pace, and by the time I reached mile 10 (6:15), I had gapped him by a few seconds. What a miserable stretch though, again running by Scarborough Beach.
I now focused on 3rd place as I began the "climb" up Ocean Road. 5K left. I was going to be able to finish this thing in decent shape. I took a second GU. I didn't know if it would help with the race, but again it was a distraction from the wind. The hill was tough and then there was little relief the rest of the way. Wind gusts would cripple my pace to a crawl. The guy in 3rd place seemed to put some distance on me, but I was increasing my lead on 5th place. It was turning into no man's land. Mile 11 was a hilly windy 6:27! Ditto for Mile 12 (6:20). Just over a mile left now. I increased my effort, but the wind seemed to increase when I reached the seawall. I was not catching 3rd place, and kept glancing back to see if I was going to be caught from behind (nope). I was annoyed with the traffic. I then reached the 13 mile marker (6:11). Time to sprint, but the wind gusted one more time through the towers that again almost took my hat away. 38s final .1 and I crossed the line in 1:20:37. I was done! I congratulated the guys who finished ahead of me and the guy behind me. Soon the top women finished. I need to get inside as I was cooling off and soaking wet. I was the first runner back inside the inn. I quickly changed into dry clothes and then chatted with others until the buffet opened up. I had to wait around for a while to get my age group award (top 30-39 finisher) and then headed home.
Even though I missed my finishing and time goals I was happy with this race. The conditions were really tough. My shoes and clothes were soaked the entire time. I battled a headwind for half the race (it seemed liked more than that!). I was slightly under the weather (my cold got worse on Monday). Finishing 4 minutes behind Derek seems about right (he finished 4 minutes ahead of me in a 10 mile trail race earlier this year). I'll take it, but I'll need to run another road half someday to prove I can run sub 1:18.
Week in a glance:
Monday: 13 miles - Saunderstown mix of roads, trails, beach, and hills in 1:31:07 with 830' of climbing.
Tuesday: 9 miles - XC workout at Curtis Corner fields and trails with Galoob. 4 x 1200 (estimated) repeats which included a decent little hill and plenty of grass. Results: 3:52/4:00/3:58/3:56. We then did 6 x 15 or 16 second field sprints. Total time 1 hour with 414' of elevation gain.
Wednesday: 9 miles - Quonset Bike Path and Calf Pasture Point alone in 77 minutes.
Thursday: 5.5 miles - Ryan Park trails (west side) alone. Nice and easy in 43:38.
Friday: 6.5 miles - Beavertail roads alone. I parked at Mackeral Cove and ran to Beavertail and back. My effort felt easy and I was averaging 6:50 pace. Feeling good. 43 minutes (6.3 miles).
Saturday: 0 - chest cold beginning, took it easy.
Sunday: 16 miles - Gansett Half Marathon with 3 miles of shakeout and warm up. No cool down.
Weekly Total: 59 miles
Last Week: 70 miles
Year to Date: 2,796 miles
October Total: 268 miles