Monday, May 29, 2017

Narragansett Bay Half Marathon Review, Future Plannig

Yesterday I ran the Narragansett Bay Half Marathon.

I ran the inaugural running of this race back in 2014. That year the race was held in August, and it was mostly because Rock and Roll had pulled it's race series out of Providence, so the organizers wanted to give people another half to run. Funny to imagine that now, that there are half marathons everywhere in this tiny little state.

The race starts early, at about 7 am. It starts one mile from my house, so I run to the start line. I get up early, have breakfast, say to myself "You ain't no Dean Karnazes, kid." and head off at a lope towards the start. Dean runs from his house to the start of Big Sur, and I remember seeing him back when I ran that race last year. The guy is incredible. It's my little homage to him that I run to the start of this half, haha.

The race starts by heading down along the Veteran's Memorial Parkway, parallel to the East Bay Bike Path. That means there is a huge drop and then a steady hill to climb back up. Always have to pace myself up that hill, where the first aid station is at about a mile and a half. Slowly chip away at the hill before heading back down along Pawtucket ave and towards the Crescent Part Looff Carousel.

After the turn around and a bit of easy neighborhood running the course turns back up the bike path for another six miles or so, back towards the stadium where the race starts. There are some gnarly hills on that bike path, and I curse them as we run past volunteers. Previously I'd run 1:41 on this course, but that wasn't really in the cards for yesterday. I'd had too many halves too close together, so I just wanted a nice sub-2 pace.

I ended up walking two of the steeper hills in the last two miles, and then jogged in for an easy finish inside the stadium. Once inside I saw my wife and the baby, ringing the cowbell. I came through the chute at 1:51:51 on the clock (1:51:33 chip) which was faster than the half I'd run last week by a matter of seconds. Pretty cool stuff.

So I like that race, and I'll probably try to run the next one on this course in August. It's a miserable time to run that course, but a lot of fun. That race brought me to five half marathons in 2017, and bumped me up to Level 3 on my Half Fanatics qualifications. I'm not so interested in doing 50 states, but I'm looking to do New England as I only have Connecticut and Maine left, so I'll be thinking about that heading into next winter.

I just went through and mapped out my races for summer, and it is looking like a pretty full calendar. Some fun novelties at shorter distances, and another half in July. Additionally I'll try to return to the BAA Half this fall to see if I can PR, and tune up for the New York Marathon.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Providence Half Marathon Review, Angry Unicorn Half Marathon Review, and HALF FANATICISM

It has been awhile, so I wanted to put up an update.

The Providence Rhode Races series was where I ran my first half back in 2013. I'd intended to run the full in 2014, but an injury prevented me from taking to the streets. It's a neat course with some hills, and I enjoyed the race a good deal.

As I'd run Fighting Seabees earlier pacing a friend, and set/met a goal of two hours at Blackstone Valley, I figured I'd use providence to see what I could do comfortably. I managed a 1:50 time there. No PR, but certainly finding my way back.

I also killed a pair of shoes in Providence! About mile eight or nine I felt like I was being stabbed in the foot, only to find at the end of the race that the sole of my shoe had a massive hole in it. At least I'm getting my money's worth out of them.

After running Providence I talked to my wife about a goal I'd always wanted. I've got friends on Strava who are in the Half Fanatics/Marathon Maniacs club, and I thought that would be a neat thing to do in 2017 (my year of the half marathon.) I qualified with that race at the entry level, and I'm well on my way to moving up a level if I complete two more marathons over the next couple of months. It's a neat little club with fun gear, deals on races, and I have always found the half fanatics so nice to meet at races.

After doing the dues form, my wife found the Angry Unicorn Running Festival stuff online, and encouraged me to sign up. I hadn't really planned on a half marathon today, but I love the logo, and Ocean State Multi Sport always puts on a fun event. Once again packet pickup was Saturday, and about five minutes from my house. Super convenient.

Woke up about 5am, made some eggs, took my vitamins. I arrived about a half hour before start time, being that the race is only about a half hour from me. Baby girl didn't sleep well, so my wife opted to stay home and catch up on sleep. The elementary school that hosts it has a massive field where we parked, which makes me think next year it would be a really nice place to hang out and picnic after the race.

The course is nice, scenic through some country roads and along the beach. The downfall of that, of course, is that in New England we have some seriously rolling hills. It's also an out-and-back course, which means that every downhill you run on the way out you eat on the way back. Nice tree shade along most of the course, though, and the weather was truly perfect: sunny with a high in the mid-60s.

At the end the timing company gives out a little receipt with times, place, etc.  A neat feature to be sure, and the folks all along the course and at the end were super friendly. I came in 5th place in my age group, 25th overall! Time of 1:51:37. A tad bit behind my Providence pace, but there were some more hills, plus running on sand, etc. Overall a challenging but fun race.

Next week: running the Narragansett Bay Half Marathon, which starts a mile from my house. I'd like to run to the start as I did the first year I ran it, but we'll see how things shake out.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

13.1 +.75 Miles (Blackstone Valley Half Marathon Review)

Do I understand your question, man? Is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

--Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm

I'm a bit late on this one, but I ran the Blackstone Valley Half Marathon back on April 23. I'd gotten a bunch of emails about the race, and the Narragansett Bay Half, and decided to run both for the offered discount.

Blackstone Valley Half had absolutely gorgeous weather this year. Sunny, mild temps, with not too much wind. Couldn't ask for a better day to race. My Aunt and her boyfriend were back in town, so we ran the race together (on the one year anniversary of our running the Big Sur International Marathon!)

The race has some hills. Starts in Pawtucket near city hall and climbs up through Central Falls and into Lincoln before coming back down the Blackstone River bike path (greenway? Who knows.) Honestly the rolling hills didn't bother me terribly in the first half, but the gradual climb back up the bike path took a toll on me and I was feeling beat at mile 12. That said, my gps also seemed to be adding a mile to every mile, so I'd come through about three quarters of a mile ahead of the marker. Thought that was weird, but focused on getting to the end.

There were a lot of aid stops, as I know from previous years running races with this company. Lots of volunteers.

I came through the finish with 2:04 on the clock, which was pretty close to my target (I was aiming for an even 2.) I grabbed a couple of slices of pizza, a banana, and set in to watch my Aunt finish.

Turns out that several of us had taken a wrong turn on the course (an arrow had been put down by mistake) which added almost three quarters of a mile to the course. Some folks were really upset, the race directors offered free admission to the Narragansett Bay Half (of no use to me as I'd already signed up for it.) Honestly? Stuff happens.

I was in shape to cover more than thirteen miles anyway, so that didn't bother me, and it isn't like I'm going for the Olympics. I totally understand people being upset, but once you look down at your watch you can figure out the mistake, dial it in as an extra long run, and then race another time. These guys griping who finished around me, they still did a half marathon in two hours. I get that that's a big barrier for people, and a big deal to break. But it isn't the end of the world.

Also I've never had something like that happen in a race before. I'm willing to let that go. I got home, checked the pre-registered list for NB Half, and found that I wasn't on it. That DID set me off a bit, so I fired off an email to the reg company to see what was up. They emailed back (really quick, they were awesome) and took care of me, so I'm all set for that race on the 28th of May. I'm just saying, I get that things are frustrating, but it isn't the end of the world.

That said, I'm inspired to start adding more miles to my legs. I know if I can do that I'll shed some weight easily and be able to get in fighting trim over the summer, and hopefully have a good showing in my fall races. I'll be running the Providence Half Marathon tomorrow morning, which was the first HM I ever ran. I'm excited to see if the course is changed, as well as how I'll ease into the hills now that I have more experience. I don't expect to beat my previous time on the course, but that isn't the point. The point is in the doing of the thing.