I ADORE NEWPORT. There. That is really the main reason I chose this race. John and I visited Newport last June and I truly fell in love with the City by the Sea. At the time, I mentioned that I would like to run there, and this year, it worked out.
|Cliff Walk, June 2011. Sigh.|
|Love this one of John petting the kitty in front of Rosecliff. Also from June 2011.|
Aside from taking place in Newport, I wanted to run this particular half because the race course is absolutely gorgeous. It began at Easton's beach and ran over to Fort Adams, where we could look out at the marina and all the lovely boats, then over to Ocean Drive for spectacular ocean views, then back by way of Bellevue Avenue, where all of the enormous Gilded Age "cottages" are.
We drove up to Newport on Friday after work, and checked in to the Hilltop Inn, the same bed & breakfast we stayed in last time. I love that place, and highly recommend it. The location is great - close enough to walk down to the main tourist areas, but far enough away so that you don't feel as though you're in the thick of the crazy all the time. The breakfasts and staff are great.
The Saturday before the race, John and I walked around for a while, then went down to pick up my race packet. The expo for this race was very small, so we just popped in and out. I was disappointed they didn't have any race gear for sale - I like to buy the hats sometimes, but they didn't have anything like that.
After the expo, we went to get some lunch at The Mooring, which we discovered last time. The lobster sandwich there is fantastic, so we had that and a few tasty beers before rushing back up to Bellevue Avenue to catch a tour of Doris Duke's mansion, Rough Point. (Note - if you are bored some time, poke around on the Internet about Duke's life. The Wikipedia page is pretty tame, but the richest little girl in the world led a wild life. She adopted an adult, probable con-artist woman because Duke thought she was the reincarnation of her dead baby. She killed her interior decorator friend by "accidentally" running him over with her car. She was also a great philanthropist and traveled everywhere, but, whoa, drama.)
|John at The Mooring. It's a tradition to take this exact photograph of him holding some sort of beverage at the beginning of every vacation.|
|Rough Point, from the back.|
|Doris Duke kept camels here while she was alive, and these topiary ones are there to remind visitors of that particularly quirky fact.|
|Rough Point, looking toward the water and the Cliff Walk. Too bad this one is kind of dark.|
After Rough Point, we went back to the inn to get ready for our "Ghosts of Newport" tour, which was certainly corny, but ended up being really fun. When it was over, we grabbed a late bite at a bar before heading back to get some sleep before my race.
Race morning dawned warmish, VERY windy, and cloudy. Our bed & breakfast was less than a mile from the start, so I took a coffee to go from the inn and ate a small muffin on the walk down. I chatted with some nice people on the way - a couple about my parents' age who were running their first half! They were awesome and I hope they did well.
I wore shorts and a light long-sleeved tech shirt and was warm at the start, but I was glad I had the sleeves around Mile 7 when the wind was doing its damnedest to knock me flat. This half was run along with a full marathon, so we all lined up together (which I like). I did NOT like the delayed start, though - they kept everyone standing around for 15 or so minutes because of some parking snafu. Eventually we were off, though! I felt great.
I knew there was no way this would be a PR race for me (my half-marathon PR is 2:01). I just didn't train for it. I didn't do much speedwork and was injured and/or lazy for a lot of the summer training cycle. But, I also knew that I could run a good, consistent race if I wanted to, and so I set my expectations around finishing in 2:09-2:10. That's just under a 10:00 minute/mile pace.
The course began at Easton's Beach and immediately went up a giant hill! John was strategically stationed at the top of it, right at the first turn. When I saw him, I veered way out so that I could hand off my gloves, which I definitely didn't need. We had planned for him to see me at the same spot when I came back the same way (between Miles 12-13), but I was SO FAST that he missed me.
|Right before Mile 1. I look like I'm having a great time! But, am I running this race all by myself there on the left? Hm. Also, my thighs look weirdly dumpy in this picture, whatevs.|
After I saw John, I cruised through Miles 1-4. The early part of the course went by Newport Harbor, so we could see the boats, and then up and around some rolling hills on the way out to Fort Adams. Once I hit Fort Adams, I was feeling the wind and the hills - I felt like everywhere I turned, there was more wind in my face and more hills. Miles 4-8 passed by in a blur of wind and just trying to keep my pace even. It was TOUGH. I did love the views on Ocean Drive, but views of the ocean also apparently meant that I had to deal with huge wind gusts and sand pelting me in my face, so I mostly just kept my head down. I remember at one water station the volunteers couldn't keep their cups lined up, because they just kept getting blown away.
Looking at the map, I can see that there was an inland turn around Mile 8, and from what I recall, the wind did get a little better. That said, I stopped for a bathroom break at Mile 9, and when I sat down I had a real fear that my port-a-potty was going to blow over!
Pretty soon after my break we got to Bellevue Avenue, which I had been looking forward to all day. Running by all of those amazing homes was terrific! This was the best part of the course, because it was more protected from the winds, reasonably flat, and very scenic. Before I knew it we were by Salve Regina University, and I knew the finish was getting close! Like I said above, I missed John at Mile 12, but after that turn I got to fly down the hill that I had to chug up at the beginning, so that was fun.
Overall, I wasn't great, but also wasn't terrible at sticking with my goal of keeping an "even" pace. I had some slower miles when I took that bathroom break and near the end when I got tired, but nothing extreme. I finished right around my expected time of 2:09.
After the finish, they had lots of good food, including pizza and soup! I grabbed a slice and a banana and trudged back up that same darn hill to meet John.
|After the finish! Woo!|
I loved this race, and would do it again. The hills can be challenging, but they are do-able. The crowd was pretty good, and the smaller number of participants was fun for me, coming from New York where every race is jam-packed.
After the run, we spent the rest of the weekend drinking dark & stormies and walking around. A great time.
|This sums up the rest of the weekend pretty well.|