Name of the race: Amica Newport Marathon & Half
Where: Newport, RI
Date: Oct 7, 2018
Time: 7:30 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: rolling hills
|REGISTRATION FEES||MARATHON||HALF MARATHON|
Thru December 31
Thru March 31
April 1 – July 31
August 1 – October 4
October 5, 6 & 7
Swag: Technical shirt, finishers medal, and free race photos
Post-race Food: Chicken noodle soup, lentil soup, mac n’ cheese, assorted candy, orange, banana, bagels with cream cheese, water, and Gatorade
Performance: Overall: 132/1963; Gender: 36/1191; Age (40-44): 2/126
Weather: 66 degrees, 82% humidity
I’ve wanted to do this race for a long time, but the first week of October is a busy one in terms of races. It’s the start of the big fall racing season, so there are several excellent races that weekend and I want to do them ALL.
Originally the Newport Half was supposed to be my big fall half, much like Wineglass Half was last year. I was supposed to have started marathon training, do huge volume, test my fitness with a fall half, and continue to dominate marathon training. Everything kinda unraveled. Not that training was going badly, but it wasn’t going great either. It was reminiscent of Steamtown training in 2016.
I told Leah that I still wanted to race Newport, which she gave me her blessing to do. We knew it was a kinda difficult course because of its rolling hills and miles of headwind along Ocean Drive, but I’ve been racing well even with non-PR friendly courses, so I felt I was up to the challenge. Then a few days before the race, Mother Nature decided to throw another curveball at me and bequeathed us with warm temps (for racing) and high humidity. I was really hoping to break 1:40 in a half this year, but the chances of this happening seemed slim because frankly I would need all the factors (e.g., PR-friendly course, good racing weather, etc) to line up for. With a tough course and now tough weather, it was simply a question of how well could I hold on.
Because the Amica Newport Half fell on a three-day weekend, Ben was able to make it up to Newport with me. I wanted to go back to Newport with Ben after our spring 10-miler there. We drove up Saturday morning and headed straight for the expo. I didn’t go in to get my bib (Ben fetched it for me) because based on what I read about Easton’s Beach, which is where the start/finish area and the expo were, it charged $10 to park there on the weekends. The plan was for me to stay in the car while Ben got my bib, so we could avoid paying $10 for a few minutes worth of parking. In reality, I didn’t need to be worried because the parking was free for runners going to the expo, but you don’t see this info anywhere on the website. I only figured this out after Ben already left the car and then he was already back. He said there wasn’t much to see of the expo.
Newport is a hoity-toity city in Rhode Island that’s famous for the mansions that were once the summer homes of the various robber barons of the gilded age. I highly recommend reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence to get a glimpse of high society and its rules from that era. The first version of The Great Gatsby (one of my favorite novels) was filmed in Newport. Newport is still one of the most ridiculously expensive places to find a place to stay while you’re vacationing. Being a small city, there aren’t that many places, so the limited supply drives up costs. Not being very happy with our choices in the weeks leading up to our trip, we decided to book at the last minute in case a last minute cancellation or opening popped up. We lucked out and found a beautiful apartment for $100/night on AirBnB (which is a BARGAIN in Newport) in the center of the city just days before the trip.
As we drove to our airport, I noted that we were in the heart of the Mansion District. That should have been my first tip-off that we were going to no ordinary apartment. We turned into a driveway that went through a stone wall that protected the mansion behind it from the declassé stares of commoners. We saw this beautiful mansion and immediately assumed that we accidentally drove into someone’s private property by mistake or that the servants’ quarters were turned into private apartments. I parked and we looked at our map carefully and then inspected the address. No mistake, we got the correct address and location. Ben and I shrugged and we made the decision to walk to the back to look for the servants’ quarters. We found the servants’ quarters, but the address for that building was different than what we were given. After puzzling over instructions and the maps for several more minutes, we came to the conclusion that we were meant to stay INSIDE THE MANSION. Gasp! Several years ago, the mansion had been sold off when the owner could no longer afford it and with no one being able to purchase the mansion, it was converted into several apartments. We were staying in one of those apartments! The original rooms (there were a few new additions in the conversion to an apartment) were incredible architectural delights! It was fun to pretend for a couple of nights to be members of high society.
As nice as the apartment was, it lacked a coffee maker (boo!). I frantically Yelped until I found a cafe that opened at 6 am and it was on the way to the start line from our apartment. Because of the logistics of the race (i.e., scarcity of parking space at Easton’s Beach), runners were required to park elsewhere and then be shuttled to the start/finish area. It made more sense for us to walk to the start line instead (Ben was then going back to the apartment and I would meet him there after I was done). As I drank my coffee, I reflected on how far I’ve come as a runner. This time last year, I was shaking with nerves at the prospect of running sub-8 min miles in order to take down the 2+-year long goal of getting a sub-1:45. At Wineglass, I had everything going for me — a great downhill course and absolutely perfect cool weather. Now, I can do a sub-1:45 as a workout.
My goal for this race was to hold onto a 7:45 pace as long as I could. The challenges for me were (in no particular order): 1) the soupy weather (we were having un-fall-like humidity), 2) the rolling hills, and 3) a brisk headwind for good long portions of the course.
I held on to that pace for 8 solid miles (the first mile was slower because of a massive hill, but I made up for it in the second mile with the equally massive decline). I could feel myself slowing for Mile 9 (7:59). The heat, humidity, the wind, and the hills were getting to me. The sun had come out and the rolling hills were relentless. I had to fight with myself to prevent a total meltdown. The next three miles I ran between 8:10 and 8:15. I was on the struggle bus. I kept whispering to myself, “Keep going, keep fighting. You want to tell Leah that you fought the entire time and didn’t give up.” At the Mile 12 marker, I said, “This is it! Go for it! Don’t leave anything in the tank! Go! Go! Go!” Part of what made the final 1.1 mile easier was knowing that there was a massive downhill waiting for me. I raced down knowing that the pain was almost all over (7:30 for Mile 13 and 7:04 for the last .1 mile). In retrospect, I think I could have run Miles 10-12 at least 10 seconds/mile faster. I still need to work on being tougher in final middle miles of a race. I finished in 1:43:18.
My name was announced as I crossed the finish line, which is always a nice touch. I don’t expect it at races, but I do love it when it happens. I love this year’s finishers medal. The ship in a bottle with the lighthouse and the shoreline of the Newport was perfect for this race.
I want to give a shout-out to the volunteers at the Amica Newport Half. They were absolutely fantastic! A guy and I came up to bag check at the same time. He apologized and said that he didn’t have time to properly check his bag, so he kinda just threw it in a corner without having it tagged. As he described his nondescript black bag, a volunteer casually walked up and asked, “Isn’t this it?” Sure enough, it was his bag! They saw him ditch it and tagged it right away.
I love fall/winter/early spring races that give soup to weary, hungry, and cold runners. After racing hard, I’m not in an immediate mood to eat a bagel, but I do need a little something in me. Soup is perfect. It’s nutritious, warming, filling, and light enough that it doesn’t sit like a stone in my stomach. I ate a cup of chicken noodle soup while I rested. Then I ate some mac n’ cheese.
I checked online to see what my finish was. Before the race, I thought if I got sub-1:42 that I had a pretty good chance of getting an AG award based on past results. Because I went over 1:43, I thought it was more likely that I came in 4th or 5th, but just in case . . . I squealed in delight when I saw I got 2nd AG! This is by far the biggest race in which I’ve won something. Biggest both in terms of number of runners and in terms of prestige. Amica Newport Half is a well-known race in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. I do believe that it’s popular half with the runners who are trying to complete 50 states. It was pretty cool to get second place AG. I won a mug, which I’ve been using as my coffee mug for most mornings. Ben fills it with coffee and hands it to me saying, “Who’s a winner?” or “For my winner” or some variation with the word winner in it. 😀
Late Sunday afternoon we took a walk on Newport’s Cliff Walk. It’s a 3.5-mile walk along the coast where you get to enjoy the magnificent ocean views and stunning mansions. We only did a part of it, starting at Memorial Drive and Easton’s Beach and exiting at Ruggles Ave. We started about an hour before sunset, so while the light was gorgeous at that time of day, when the sun did set, the lack of lighting made the trail treacherous because at the point we had finished with the paved portion and would be left with just the rocky trail part. It was a beautiful walk and I totally recommend doing it.