Updated! I added the elevation profile, by popular demand.
Today, I ran in the UnitedHealthcare Cox Providence Half Marathon. It was not a great day. It was one of those runs were nothing works – it’s just too bad it happened during a race.
The day was dark, cool, and rainy. At race start it was 60 degrees with 100% humidity. It was foggy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I appreciated the cool temperatures and overcast sky, but wasn’t very excited about the rain. High humidity is asthmatic hell, so I knew it would be a tough race. I got to the parking area bright and early and headed for the “Exchange Terrace” area, a little street across from a park where they have an ice skating area in the winter. According to my pre-race email and attached instructions, packet pickup was on Exchange Terrace. I wandered around for a little while, totally lost. There were lots of people, but not a volunteer in sight. There was no one to ask for help and no sign of an obvious packet pick up area. Finally, I saw someone with a goody bag and asked. Packet pick up was in the ballroom of the Omni Hotel, a block away. I walked on over to the Omni and waited in line. Wrong line. I waited in a second line and got my bib. When I got to the t-shirt station, a not-that-friendly volunteer barked “Only larges left. You want one?” Resigned, I accepted my large, men’s shirt. Not quite the extra small I was hoping for. Everyone around me milled around in a state of confused disappointment. No one got the shirt they wanted and all of us were lost. There were no volunteers to help. I pinned my bib and followed the crowd, hoping they would lead me to the starting line. They did and I got there with 15 minutes to spare until the 8am race start. It’s definitely a post-Boston world. I noticed lots of security staff. Men with huge guns wandered in the crowd, police were stationed on rooftops.
8:05 passed, then 8:10. There was no sign of an imminent race start. At 8:13 someone sang the national anthem. The crowd was getting restless. All of the pre-race materials had said 8am start. Thousands of people were standing in the rain. Finally, at 8:17 (?) the race was underway.
The first four miles went well. I was cruising along and feeling soggy, but fine. I’ve been having some trouble with my knee (the had-surgery one) and it began to stiffen up. It doesn’t like the rain, and really doesn’t like changes in atmospheric pressure. The front rolling through was not a friend to my knee. My poor knee was stuck in a half-bent state, totally stiff and not straightening well in the forward part of my stride. I didn’t think it was too much of a problem until mile 7, when my calf and hamstring started cramping. Not dehydrated cramping, but weird muscle spasm/charlie horse cramping. I resolved to slow down and start walking the water stops. A side note on water stops. What a mess! The pre-race guide said water stops would be every mile and a half. No such luck. There didn’t seem to be much of a pattern to the water stops, only that they were about 2+ miles apart. Most were understaffed, a volunteer or two per table, so runners were pouring their own water. There was no pattern to the Gatorade/water distribution. Sometimes Gatorade was first, sometimes not, and sometimes it was all mixed together with both in one area and in the same style cups. The cup styles weren’t even consistent so there was chaos at every water station. Runners were coming to a full stop to search for and find a cup that had the right liquid in it. It was a volunteer staffing and organizational problem.
I felt wheezy and asthmatic. The humidity was not kind to my asthma or my knee. The wheels fell off at mile 9. My leg muscles were firing at all the wrong times. I couldn’t seem to get them to coordinate with the bending of my knee. I felt like Phoebe from Friends when she runs in the park. I’m sure I looked normal, but I felt miserable. I trudged along. I’m sad to say there was a lot of walking while I tried to get things under control and avoid running with a limp. This race wasn’t worth an injury, or angering my funny IT band attachment point, so I slowed WAY down to avoid limping.
The course itself was well-marked, but poorly staffed. There were no medical tents or personnel along the course. The few volunteers I did see at points in the course other than the water stops were children. Children young enough that I began to wonder where their parents were and why their parents were letting them stand on a street corner on a race course in arguably questionable neighborhoods. There were plenty of police offices at major road crossings, but few volunteers. The course itself was winding, and passed through a few attractive, and a few unattractive areas of Providence and Pawtucket. Compared to the Rock N Roll Providence course, this course was more older neighborhoods with less gentrification.
Finally, mercifully, the race course curved past the river (there were swans!) and toward the finish line. I was grateful for the race to be over, but sorry to see the report from my Garmin (thank goodness I had my Garmin since the clocks were all set to the marathon time, not half). I was headed to a Personal Worst. Now, I’m always happy to run a slow race and pace a friend, or be sensible when I’m undertrained, but this PW hurt. I am fit. I tapered. I ate well. I got plenty of sleep. I don’t know what went wrong. Other than a perfect storm of bad weather + asthma + knee stiffness + muscle problems, I don’t have an explanation.
I’m still a little sad about the race. I don’t know what went wrong. I’ll go back to my training log and look for a lesson, but this just might be one race in which the lesson is that sometimes running is random. Sometimes a run just doesn’t work. Today was one of those days.
Updated – here is the elevation profile.