Monday, May 7, 2012

Cox Providence Half Marathon Weekend

May 7 - My Cox Providence Half Marathon weekend was packed full of expo-ing, shopping, eating, meeting running friends, and of course running! I began blogging about this race in January after being asked to be a Rhode Scholar Blogging Ambassador and I'm excited to share my recap.

Saturday: Hubs and I arrived in Providence around lunch time. To our surprise, the host hotel was ready for us and allowed us to check in early. We loved this because our goal was to park the car and walk during our stay. The Providence Renaissance Hotel was gorgeous. Our room was at the cul-de-sac end of the winding hallway and it was beautiful. The large bathroom was the best with a glass enclosed shower and extra door leading back into the main room (sorry no picture). The hotel also offered free valet parking and late check out as part of the race weekend package. Awesomeness.

After checking in, we walked to Providence Place Mall where we grabbed a quick lunch at the food court before heading over to the Health & Wellness Expo. I've been to two other expos: Rock 'n Roll and Boston. I'm sorry to say that the Cox expo was disappointingly small. There were limited vendors and it was crammed into one small, dark ballroom at the Rhode Island Convention Center. I did get a good deal on Sport Beans at the Discount vendor though.

I can say that bib pickup went smoothly and the volunteers were friendly. The goodie bag was filled with the typical samples from sponsors including a cute clown nose promoting the circus which was in town.

Since we didn't hang out at the expo as long as we were expecting to, hubs and I did a little shopping at the mall, stopped in PF Changs to have a drink and then walked around a little before heading to the Cheesecake Factory to meet Kat, the only other Rhode Scholar able to make it to dinner. Kat blogs at Eating the Week and ran her first marathon yesterday! Although it would have been nice to meet all of the Rhode Scholars at dinner, we had a great time chatting and sharing running stories. You should read about how she broke her finger during one of her training runs!

After dinner, we took another walk to the local CVS and picked up some snacks and bottled water for later. It was fun strolling the sidewalks downtown and along the waterfront.

Sunday: The marathon start was at 7:30 and the half followed at 8:00. We made it to the starting line area just in time to see and offer good luck sentiments to Kat and Portia before they started the marathon. After a last port-a-potty stop, it was half marathon time. Both races had a great turn out of both runners and supporters, and they both started right on time.

The Race: I knew that this race was going to be challenging because of the month I'd had dealing with my calf issues and not getting in a long run of more than 8 miles since my last half marathon in March. My goal was to keep my pace around 9:30 and hopefully have enough energy left in my legs to get me to the finish. The course was exactly what I had expected: beautiful, lined with cheering supporters, and hilly. The gray skies started clearing up right away although it stayed cool. Great running weather.

For most of the race I felt good. My calf was pain free and loose, I grabbed water at nearly every stop, and cruised slowly up the hills. The first couple of miles were uneventfully straight while mile 3 was a series of turns through a neighborhood. Mile 4 (which was also mile 8 on the way back) was a straight-away supporter-lined boulevard. After mile 6, I pit-stopped at the port-a-potty and then hit a tough hill. Around mile 10 my legs started to tighten up and fizzle. I ran the last three miles on empty. Even though I ate Sport Beans and grabbed Gatorade when available I was fuel-less. I kept thinking how great it was going to feel when I could sit down and take off my shoes. I got a small burst of energy when I saw hubs and my step daughter near the finish line. It was just what I need to make it up the final incline. (I hate finishes that end uphill!) My tired legs and tired feet managed to get me across the finish line in 2:11:01. Not my best, but not my worst. Someone handed me a medal and a bottle of water, and I began to search for my cheerleaders. Before finding them I ran into Samantha, another Rhode Scholar, who PR'd her half marathon. Way to go, Samantha!

After walking back to the hotel and getting cleaned up, hubs treated step daughter and I to lunch in the hotel at Temple Restaurant, which offered a Mediterranean inspired menu in a relaxing but sophisticated setting. Between us we had New England Clam Chowder, Margherita Flatbread Pizza, and the Temple Mezze Platter. With full bellies we checked out of our room and drove to Providence College to drop off one almost finished freshman.

The Cox Providence Half Marathon Weekend was a success. We absolutely loved the host hotel and wish more hotels would offer one night stays, free parking, and late check-out. I would like to run this race again in the future with a regular and healthier month of training leading up to it to see if I could do better against the hilly course. Even though my performance wasn't stellar, I am happy with my ability to push through and finish the 13.1 miles. Today I'm feeling really good and am already looking forward to my next half marathon in August.

Have you ever abbreviated your training before a big race?

How do you power through a challenging race?