2012 amica marathon race report

* Warning: This entry is a very long-winded account of running the Amica Newport Marathon and has nothing to do with Quinn. If you’re not interested in running, you may want to skip this one. It’s long and will bore you to death.

Well, marathon number 6 is in the books. While I am a little disappointed in the outcome, I do feel good knowing that I gave it everything I had out there on a challenging course on a ridiculously, windy day.

I had 2 goals for this race. One was to run another sub-4 hour race. Out of the 5 marathons I have run, I have only managed to run one sub-4 hour race. I felt pretty confident in my training that this could be done.

My 2nd goal, although I knew it was a long-shot, was for a PR. Last year I PR-ed at Steamtown and I knew this course would be a lot more difficult so I didn’t bank on it. But, I knew I had to try.

Lets start with some pros and cons. I did enough reading up on the marathon that I pretty much knew what to expect going into Newport, but here are a few things that stuck out about this race:

Pros:

Beautiful course.

The first half of this course is rated among the top in the country as far as the scenery. I have to agree. Miles 6-8 along Ocean Ave are insanely gorgeous. 

However, the beauty came with a price. Ocean vistas are hard to enjoy when you are fighting intense winds, which was the case any time there was an ocean view on this course (and there were a lot of them). More on that…

Smaller race.

I like running smaller races. There were less than 6000 total runners (half and full) in this race and it was nice. The first 2 miles were packed, but after that, it opened up nicely.

Great volunteers.

The volunteers at this race were all wonderful and friendly. Actually, everyone in Newport was extremely nice.

Good weather.

While I was concerned it was going to be a bit warmer, the temps were between 55-60 degrees the entire race. This could have been bad if it had been sunny, but since it was overcast, windy and sprinkled a bit at the beginning, it was never hot. Which was great.

Cons:

Hilly.

This course was way hillier than I thought it was going to be – the 2nd half in particular. While it was mostly rolling hills, there were a few brutal ones at miles 18 and 24. I don’t mind hills in races, but this course was by far the most challenging I have run as far as the elevation is concerned. This is not necessarily the marathon’s fault, but more my lack of training for it.

The course.

Yes, the course is beautiful -at certain spots. You run along spectacular ocean bluffs and past huge Newport Mansions. But, this is definitely a half marathon with a full thrown in for good measure. The 2nd half on the course is still pretty in spots, but it’s very isolated. A lot of it is along neighborhood streets, there are 2 out and back points that are just confusing when you are trying to figure out how much longer you have before you turn around. The worst part though was that the entire 2nd half of the course was open to traffic. There were random cars driving along the second half of the course on narrow 2 lane roads. It just wasn’t safe.

And did I mention it’s hilly? If I failed to mention it, please just take a look at this elevation chart that looks less like a course elevation chart and more like a lie detector test result.

Wind.

I know that it’s not the marathon’s fault that there were 25 mph winds for the race. It just happened to be the luck of the draw that day. However, every previous race review I had read talked about how windy it was, so no matter how gentle the breeze, it’s going to be windy up on those vistas. And this day, it was just brutal.

Organization.

I wasn’t overly impressed by the organization of this race. The expo seemed like an afterthought, there was no course map for spectators, they were bussing people into the start 10 minutes after the start, the race started 10 minutes late, there was no real announcement that could be heard at the start (people just kind of started moving). I also wasn’t fond of the race shirt, but I know that’s just personal preference.

All-in-all, it was a decent event. I think there is room for improvement, but it wasn’t terrible. Personally, I wouldn’t run it again but if you want a challenging full marathon or a pretty half marathon in Rhode Island, this one is a good option. And the town of Newport is a great destination.

The night before went really smoothly. Jeremy and I ate an AMAZING pasta dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Mamma Luisa’s. It was probably the best pasta I have ever had. After that, we came back to the room so I could get my stuff ready. I usually like to take a hot bath the night before the race, but we didn’t have one in our room so I wandered down to the hotel’s indoor Jacuzzi for a bit.

Here I met a few other runners who were talking about the next day’s race. One in particular was an 11 year old boy, who was running his 15th half marathon this year. He started running them when he turned 10 and now he and his dad just travel around doing half marathons together. The kid looked eerily like a young Ryan Hall and was fun to talk to. I told him if he saw me in the race the next day, to try not to pass me. He told me he couldn’t promise anything. The next morning, I saw him while I was running. He was about 20 yards in front of me the entire time. I never caught up to him.

The race.

Race morning I woke up feeling great after a good night’s sleep. I ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal bread with peanut butter, a banana and a cup of coffee. Jeremy and I left the hotel around 6:30am to walk the mile to the start. It was an easy walk and beautiful place to start a race.

After waiting in port-o-potty lines for 40 minutes, I checked my bag, said goodbye to J and found the starting corral. We sort of stood around waiting for a while as the race started over 10 minutes late. By this time, it was starting to sprinkle and was getting cold with the wind gusts. Finally, everyone just started moving and we were off. I didn’t hear any sort of start to the race (no anthem, announcement or gun going off) but maybe I was just not close to a speaker? Not sure. Once we started moving, I turned on my music and tried to zone out.

The race started along Easton’s Beach and immediately went up a decent hill. Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” started my playlist and it was fitting with the epic scenery. At that point, the hill was no big deal other than it was a little crowded. I do remember hopping over a dead seagull in the road, which was a pretty ominous way to start a race.

The crowds started thinning out after a few miles and it was easy to get into a good spot. I immediately remember regretting that I didn’t bring my handheld water bottle. I was already thirsty and knew I had at least 2 miles before a water stop. It was a last second decision not to hold it and I don’t think it would have bothered me at all since I was holding a GU in my hand the entire race. I’m definitely carrying it for Philly. The first few water stops of the course were chaotic, but that’s the case in any marathon. The volunteers really were very good.

1. 9:35 (hill, crowded)

I saw Jeremy at the top of the hill. It made me so happy to see his face and immediately put me in a good mood.

2. 8:44 (that’s better)

3. 8:58 (first water stop)

At this point we ran into Ft Adams State Park. “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley came on and I played it twice.

4. 8:46

This is where we came along Ocean Ave. This was by far the most stunning part of the entire course. It was also the first difficult section of the course. Miles 5 and 6 were spent running up a bluff into blistering wind gusts. I remember looking at the runners in front of me, and everyone was sort of leaning sideways into the wind. I was gorgeous though to get to the top and look out over ocean crashing into the rocks below. And once we turned at the top, we had a nice decent with a strong tailwind to make up for it.

5. 9:07

6. 8:51

Miles 7-9 were all rolling hills. Not crazy hard, but enough to give you a good workout. I remember thinking at this point I am usually settled into a good pace, but I didn’t feel it yet. I felt like I was still struggling to find it.

7. 9:05

8. 8:44

9. 8:52

Mile 10 was along Bellevue Ave – the historic mansion district.  It was a nice street, but you couldn’t really see the homes behind the high gates. It was a decent stretch though, but towards the end of mile 11, I started feeling really sad for some reason. I wasn’t sure why. I just felt lonely. I saw some girl puking on the side of the road, which rattled me. Suddenly Bruce Springsteen’s “Out on the Street” came on and I immediately cheered up. I had never been so happy to hear Bruce Springsteen before. It totally changed my mood.

10. 9:00

11. 8:52

12. 9:01

Right before I hit the half point, I saw Jeremy on the side of the road. It definitely gave me the boost I needed. I was so happy to see him and this part of the race was a nice descent. I picked up some speed here.

13. 8:44

OK. Now the race is starting. I immediately felt like I was running alone after the half point. We were also running on just the shoulder of a busy road with open traffic on both sides. I didn’t love this, but I tried not to dwell on it. We immediately started another slight hill climb, but I felt ok. “Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire came on and it got me going a bit.

14. 9:07

15. 9:02

Miles 15-18 is where things started to get hard. We ran on a stretch along the water that was extremely windy. Sand kept blowing in my face and my ponytail kept slapping me in the eyes. It was also our first out and back section. I didn’t realize there were 2 out and backs on the 2nd part of the course, so when I saw the faster runners coming towards me, it gave me a false sense of the length of the course. Then, we hit mile 18, which was a pretty brutal uphill. At this point though, I was ok with it. Until I realized I was going to have to run back over it at mile 24.

16. 8:50

(“Hello Bonjour” by Michael Franti came on here and had me happily singing for a little bit).

17. 9:01

18. 9:26

(Bjork’s “Army of Me” came on just as I was trying to make it up a big hill at mile 18. It helped.)

19. 9:19

Mile 20 is where I knew I had to reevaluate my strategy. I was hanging on with everything I had, but at this point, the hills were starting to get to me. Also, my left IT band blew up with every downhill and I had to stop a few times to stretch it out for a few seconds. I took the knee strap off of my right knew and moved it to my left knee, but at this point it was too late. Every uphill was a battle and every downhill I was in extreme pain. And I still hadn’t reached the last turnaround yet. I thought I could possibly still hit a sub 4, but I knew this was not a day for a PR. The Scissor Sisters, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” came on. I played it twice and sang it out loud to keep me distracted.

20. 9:37

21. 9:21

We finally turned around at 21.5 which was a relief, but we turned straight into a headwind that lasted the rest of the race. Also, the hill at mile 22 was insane. I had my headphones on so I’m not sure how loud I was, but when I saw it, I yelled the F-bomb as loud as I could. I felt like someone was just playing a mean prank on me at this point. My music was doing nothing to help me anymore. It was just kind of distracting background noise and couldn’t drown out the negative voices in my head. Also, the battery in my Garmin was running low. It had a “LOW BATTERY” alert across the entire middle of the face, blocking out my total time. So, at this point, I had no idea what time I was at, only my pace and distance. I tried pushing buttons to make it go away, but I was scared to stop my watch, so I just left it and ran.

22. 9:48

23. 9:44

One more big hill at 24. I remember running up it (slowly) and passing a very athletic man to was walking. He told me “good job” as I ran by him. A few minutes later on the downhill, he blew past me.

Also, I knew I had to take one more GU at mile 24, but the thought of eating another one make me want to be sick. I did choke one down, but man, it was hard.

24. 9:29

Mile 25. Still more hill, this one wasn’t as big, but still. It was relentless. “WORST. MARATHON. EVER.” I kept repeating to myself. This of course, wasn’t true, but at that moment, I hated everything about everything. I started walking at one point, for about 10 seconds. Then, I got mad at myself and started running again. “Don’t walk at mile 25!!!”  I saw a guy with horribly bloody nipples and wondered why men with bleeding nipples always wear white shirts. U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” came on. I cranked it as loud as I could.

25. 10:01

I saw the sign for 26. I told myself at this point I didn’t care how fast I was, to just KEEP RUNNING. Since we were back at the beach, the wind really picked up again. I ran as hard as I could, but I felt like I was just running into a wall. Because of the battery alert, I had no idea what my time was, which was probably a good thing. I’m sure I would not had picked up the pace if I had known. At this point, I was just seriously trying not to throw up. I saw Jeremy right before I turned the corner, but I could barely muster up the strength to give him a weak wave.

26. 9:14

I turned the last corner and looked up at the clock. I remember feeling like my whole body deflated when I saw the time – 4:04:30 - I knew I was roughly 2 minutes behind the clock. I tried so hard, but I didn’t make it. I was just about 3 minutes over my goal.

.54 – 8:41 (course marked a little long, but way to pick it up)

 Final chip time  - 4:02:57

I hobbled into the finisher’s chute and immediately, my right leg gave out. Someone handed me a medal and a mylar blanket and I stumbled over to the fence where I hung on and just tried to compose myself until Jeremy came over. He told me how great I did and he helped me walk over to the finisher’s area so I could get some chicken soup and water. My hamstrings where destroyed from the hills, I had sand in my eyes and teeth, I had windburn on my face and because of my body tensing up against the wind, my whole upper body felt like it had been hit by a truck. So, you know, I had the typical post-marathon glow.

Afterwards, I rested at the hotel with a hot shower and an hour lounging in bed. Later we spent the afternoon eating lobster rolls, clam chowder and drinking Sam Adams Octoberfest at the Seafood Festival – which made everything worth it.

I have had a few days to sort of relive every moment of the race. And I have to honestly say that I’m not disappointed I didn’t PR. I didn’t really expect to, even before the race. I am disappointed I didn’t run a sub-4, but I truly don’t believe I could have done anything differently. I needed a quick walk break towards to the end. I needed to stretch my IT band a few times or else I wouldn’t have been able to keep going. So, in the end, I ran a decent time on a challenging course. It’s still my 2nd best time out of 6 marathons so, I’m pretty proud that I was able to pull that off  in spite of everything.

And if I can do that, I’m excited to see what I can do in Philly in 4 weeks. Bring it on.