Race Recap: Shape Up RI Half Marathon
|May 3, 2010||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I enjoyed running the Shape Up RI Half Marathon so much that I’ve started questioning why people ever want to do a full one! Ok, ok…I know there’s nothing quite like the pride that comes after you’ve completed a full 26.2 miles, and as hard as my marathon experiences have been, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Even so, I’ve never finished a race more excited to sign up for another than I did on Sunday!
But let’s back up a little bit and talk about the course/event itself, and then I’ll give you a recap of my personal race.
Shape Up RI Half Marathon Course
The Shape Up RI Half Marathon starts off in downtown Providence, and works its way along the water and up through the East Side. The course is pretty much a big out-and-back, with a couple of loops on either end. Anyone who has ever been to Providence knows it’s pretty hilly on the East Side (they don’t call it College Hill for nothing!), but I thought the race organizers did an excellent job of avoiding the major climbs. The course was rolling (my sore quads today are proof of that!), but most of the hills were long steady climbs. As an added bonus, the majority of the uphills were in the first half of the race, which made you feel like you were “cruising” home to the finish line.
The starting line itself was really well-organized. There were plenty of porta-johns (always a life-saver at the start of a race!) and runners were told to line up next to the sign that was closest to their expected pace per mile (starting at 6 min/mile and then working its way back). Music was playing and an announcer was entertaining us all, making the atmosphere really festive.
The actual course was extremely well marked and well staffed. There were so many cones and signs lining the way, volunteers directing people, and police blocking off/directing traffic that it made running really easy. Water-stops were really well staffed (though maybe a bit sparser than I would’ve liked) and all the volunteers were super friendly and encouraging.
The only thing I would say about the course is that the mile markers seemed to be a little off. This was my first race with my fancy new Christmas present – the Garmin 405, and while it was really nice to see the mileage and my splits, I kept getting confused because my watch would consistently go off before I got to the mile markers. By the end of the race, the markers seemed to be a whole 1/10th of a mile behind my watch. In total, my watch clocked me at 13.25 miles (not 13.1). Can a GPS watch be off? I didn’t actually start the timer until I crossed the official starting line and I would think a GPS using satellites in an urban area would be pretty accurate (right??). So, either I weaved and bobbed enough throughout the course to add on an extra .15 miles (possible I guess), or I think the course was just a tad long. This isn’t a huge deal, just an observation.
Finally, one neat thing about the race was that they used the new B-Tag system for timing . This is a chip that goes right on the back of your number, so you don’t have to worry about attaching it to your shoe…and accidently walking off with it at the end of the race!
Have I convinced you to come to Providence for next year’s event yet? Okay, enough about the course. Here is how my race went.
Starting at the beginning – Sunday morning I had my standard pre-race meal:
I don’t normally take GU or anything else on 13 mile runs, but I had no idea how I was going to feel yesterday, so I figured it was better to be prepared.
[A quick note on my pre-race fuel: In general, I try to eat natural, organic foods as much as possible. But when it comes to fueling before a race, I say, “bring on the processed-stuff!” Ok, I know maybe it doesn’t make much sense to be so careful what I put into my body most of the time but then, when I’m asking the most from my body and expecting it to perform its best, I load it up with highly-processed junk. But honestly, I use this stuff because: a.) I know it works; b.) it’s readily accessible and doesn’t require me finding a bunch of c.) difficult to find/special order ingredients that are d.) usually pretty expensive. If you make your own energy gels/drinks, I think that’s great, but for me…I’ll stick to the packaged stuff (for now).]
Anyway… Before the race, I clipped the GU to my shorts using a trick I learned from an old co-worker before my first marathon.
I just use a safety pin to attach it to my waistband. Then when I need it, it’s readily accessible and really easy to open – the pin being there helps the bottom rip right off. And you don’t have to worry about holding on to that little top piece.
I took the 5-hour energy shot about 15 minutes before the start. If you’ve never had them, these two-ounce shots are packed with B-vitamins, amino acids, and about as much caffeine as one cup of coffee. There aren’t any strange herbal stimulants, and each shot only has 4 calories. While I can’t make any claims as to their health effects on a long-term, regular basis, these little things have become my secret weapon before a race. You feel the effects pretty quickly and they really do give you energy that lasts!
I honestly didn’t have a great idea about how to pace myself, except to work off my standard long-run pace (especially since, up until about a month ago, I thought I was training for a full). So my plan was to put my music on and just sing and dance zone out through the first half of the race, particularly since I knew it was mostly uphill.
This strategy worked extremely well. About a half mile in, I turned on my iPod, Jason Wade started crooning, and all thoughts of being in a race melted away as I just concentrated on singing (silently) along with my music. Never under-estimate the power of lip-synching while running! It’s a great way to get your mind totally absorbed in something else (…just don’t get so into it you give yourself a stomach cramp!).
I promise I’ll show you my playlist in another post. But this is getting long enough as it is!
I went out quicker than expected, but instead of panicking, I just fell into a rhythm and didn’t worry about sticking to any particular pace. Instead, I just went by how my body felt.
Mile 4 – 5 was probably the hardest in terms of the course…it was a long steady uphill climb. I let my pace drop by a good 20 seconds/mile because it was so early into the race and I didn’t want to use all my energy on the hill.
As soon as that long stretch was over, however, I figured it was time to start pushing the pace a little bit. From mile 6 on, I really concentrated on keeping my pace up…even on the uphill sections.
A little after mile 8, we passed what I was afraid would be the last water stop. I knew that if I was going to take the GU, it would have to be then. I didn’t feel particularly tired or like I really needed it, but I was feeling so good that I was afraid I’d run out of gas soon (maybe not the most logical conclusion). I decided that it couldn’t hurt to take the stuff, and so I choked down about half a packet with the tiny bit of water I was able to salvage from the two dixie cups I snagged.
Miles 9 and 10 were mostly downhill, which felt amazing. The entire race, I had been running on familiar streets…roads that I run on all the time. I knew every stretch…every climb, every downhill, every landmark. It was such a great feeling to know how long a hill would last or that I’d have a long, steady downhill to rest during a certain section.
Sadly, every honeymoon phase is bound to come to an end. Mile 11 was when it happened for me. It started with my iPod freezing for no apparent reason. The logical part of my brain told me that I should just leave the thing alone, but I was so bothered by it that I just couldn’t. After a couple of minutes spent playing with it, I finally got it to start back up again. Of course once I had that fixed, my other electronic (the watch) started acting all weird. Which then led to a few moments of frantic button-pushing to get the watch to stop beeping wildly. And then…after all that madness had ceased, I was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea and that stupid packet of GU I had taken a few miles back decided it didn’t want to stay in my stomach any longer. Fortunately, I was able to hold the bile in (if you know what I mean…sorry for the TMI!), but there were no more water stops until the finish, forcing me to run the last two miles with acidic bile in the back of my mouth.
Once I got to mile 12, the goal was to finish as fast as I possibly could. I picked up the pace, and ended up running my last mile faster than my first (which never happens…and maybe shouldn’t have happened). As I came around the corner into downtown and saw the clock ahead, my focus was momentarily interrupted when another runner jammed into me and cut me off. Little did he know that he had just given me the extra motivation I needed to sprint to the finish!
Unofficially (aka according to my watch), I finished the 13.25 miles in 1:37:06, or a 7:20/mile pace. But… we all know that GPS watches don’t count, so my official stats are below:
Net time: 1:37:07
Overall place: 122/2,362 finishers
Division place: 22 (though not sure exactly what this means because I actually was 25th woman or 14th in my age group.)
Crossing the finish line, it was all I could do to keep that junk in the back of my throat from coming up. I must have been staggering around a bit, because a couple of officials came over looking all nervous, and were determined to walk with me through the corral. I really just wanted to be left alone (a girl needs room to breathe…and not puke on people!), but I know they were just doing their job. Thankfully the worst of the feeling passed in a minute or two, and I was able to sneak away from the medics and go for a walk.
There was a lot of food at the finish, including the usual suspects (water, gatorade, bagels, bananas) as well as pizza and free beer (one for every participant). The beer was cool in theory, and I do admit that I wanted to have one just for the principle of the thing, but I was feeling way to nauseous to think about keeping anything down, let alone alcohol. Not to mention the fact that this was all before 10:00 in the morning (minor detail…).
Instead, after about a half hour, I thought I would try drinking some of this whey protein drink they had at the finish. I had never heard of the brand before, but the Mix 1 protein drink boasts all natural ingredients and the nutritionals looked pretty good.
Sadly, although the blueberry-vanilla flavor looked promising, I couldn’t take more than 2 sips. It was just way too sweet for me. This might have been due to the fact that I had just finished the race with an upset stomach. So I decided to save it and give the drink another shot later.
Finally, I was able to force down half a bagel and half a banana. I know it’s very important to eat after a run, but my body just isn’t hungry right after I race. Give me a few hours, though, and I’m ravenous.
Overall, I was extremely happy with how I did and I’ve instantly become hooked on the half marathon distance. Going into the race, my goal was to finish around 1:41 (or a 7:45 pace), so I was pretty excited to end up beating that. However, since I finished up the last mile (okay, actually the last 2 nauseating miles) faster than I started, I’m left wondering if I could have gone faster. Since I’m already trying to figure out when my next Half is going to be, I guess we’ll find out!