Saturday, September 19, 2015

Race Report: Jamestown Half Marathon (Jamestown, RI)

I like to run half marathons towards the end of my training season, heading up to or using them as my long run in taper. I know for some people "tune-up" races are a normal part of training, and for others they aren't. The common wisdom on this changes in every other issue of Runner's World. So I just do my own thing.

When I started running longer distances (up to the half) I really became interested in this "Triple Crown" event thrown in Rhode Island. It consists of three different half marathons throughout the course of the year and in different areas in the state. This is a beautiful state. Running is a really great way to see it.

Unfortunately every year I missed at least one of them, so I could never justify registering to do the triple crown. I ran the Providence HM as my first half, and then today I ran the Jamestown race.

I received some confusing emails in the week before the event regarding instructions -- one with the mistakes and another couple of correction emails. The usual stuff about packet pickup and placing yourself based on intended finish times. No matter, I figured, I'll head to the island early on Saturday and do all the pickup stuff before the race. They also mentioned that parking was not plentiful at the start point.

I got up at 3 am, had some Greek yogurt and got my kit together. I went outside to put stuff in my car, and noticed the fog. A thick, heavy fog hanging over the ground. I headed down to Fort Getty Park (takes about 45 minutes from where I live). I got there slightly before 4:30 am. Still very thick fog. Very few of the race folk were around at that point, so I decided to take a cat nap until the registration tables opened up at 5 am.

I woke up to my phone alarm a half hour later, and also heard a race volunteer telling another runner not to park where we had parked. Maybe they thought I was on staff, or maybe they saw me sleeping and figured they'd deal with me later. No matter. I started the car and headed to the parking area.

A quick check of the NOAA weather app on my phone confirmed that not only was it foggy, it was also 96% humidity. This is problematic when you're engaged in endurance sport. If the sweat can't evaporate off your body, you can't cool yourself down to ensure really optimal performance. I went into the pavilion to pickup my packet, and could barely see the table at the other side. Because there was fog. The fog was inside the pavilion, too.

So after getting the stuff, I dropped it at the car (I don't like to race in t-shirts in fall, and also, it is nice to have a dry shirt at the end to throw on.) I went to find the bathrooms. They weren't marked. I also don't think they had dropped any port-o-johns off at the registration area at that point. I found a state park facility. When it was my turn to head into the stalls I noticed that the door didn't have a latch. The toilet was also too far away for one to sit on it and hold the door shut. I tried to make my feet VERY evident under the stall walls.

Sorry, that was gross. But I also thought it was kind of funny.

So with all of that out of the way, I got my stuff together and ambled off into the fog in search of the starting line. I found it, speakers blaring out irritating pop music, and people gathered around stretching. The race director said, "We have a nice cool morning for you!" and the reaction was mixed.

Because the thing is, if you're out running in the fog, you're having a strange day to begin with.

But if the sun comes up and the fog doesn't burn off, then you just get steamed to death.

And also, you paid $70 for this.

Heading out of the chute I felt pretty good. I was trying to hold back a bit, figured I would save my real pushing for when the pack had thinned out a bit. I fell into rhythm with a few different people in those early miles, and that was cool. When you're running with someone else, even if you don't know them or talk to them, you can still use them to push you psychologically. Not even in a competitive way, really. I'm not an elite because I don't have a "killer instinct". I'm a pacifist. If I had to kill an animal to eat it, I'm not sure I could. Fortunately I'm a vegetarian, so we'll never need to find out.

Around mile 7 I was pushing a bit more to keep up with three folk in front of me. One of the guys had really excellent form -- very consistent and smooth. We were running up and down the rolling hills of Jamestown, and I don't think his pace dwindled much at all, it was just very even. When we hit mile 8 I was stunned to find myself running down a paved road through a lovely little patch of forest. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of this place! I was motivated to keep pushing on.

But I was weary to push my pace too much, because I don't really know the course for this race. I didn't want to be all out of drive and then find I had to climb the highest hill on the course.

Around mile 9 the guy with the really good form and I were running side by side and matching strides. He said something to me, and I slung my headphones off and gave him a "What was that?"

"Have we hit mile 10 yet?"

"I think so? I don't know. I've seen about enough hills today, is what I know."

"I hear you."

So we started talking and he filled me in on the course, what to expect for big hills, and he also threw me a bit of enthusiasm by saying, "You know, you're going to be a lot closer to your PR then you expect. We've been running close to 7:30s."

I felt really lifted by that, because despite having my Strava going I wasn't really listening to the splits. Just letting it record, and running by effort and managing my breathing. I didn't expect a PR on a difficult course and in 96% humidity.

We started to pass some folks on the course, dropping them as we went up hill. I turned to look over my shoulder at mile 12 but my running buddy had dropped back a bit on one of the hills. I decided to push towards the end and see what I could do.

I crossed the finish line at 1:40:16, 7:39/mile and in 31st place. No PR, but I feel better knowing I'm in good fighting trim for my return to the Baystate Marathon in October.

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