The Case of the Accidental PR

This post will not only chronicle a strange mystery – the case of the accidental PR -it will give a race recap for the Providence Rock N Roll Half Marathon. Read on for Rachel’s strategies for breaking all the pre-race rules and still running a PR.

On Sunday, August 19, 2012, I joined about three thousand of my closest friends to run through the streets of historic Providence at the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. I signed up for this race months ago, thinking it was a great idea. I would be in full training mode, I like Rock N Roll races, I hadn’t run Providence, and it would be a great tune up race for Hartford. Fast forward four months. My mileage is high, but my long runs have been two-a-days so I haven’t run longer than 10 miles at any given time in at least six weeks. The day before Providence I rode in a 35-mile charity bike event in the pouring rain. Then, I ate lots of Mexican food and went to bed.

At the insane hour of 4am I left my house for Providence. I arrived at the Providence Place Mall, the designated race parking area, at about 5am and ate some Fig Newtons. Being insanely early, the sun was hardly up and the volunteers were just setting up the finish line area.

At race start, it was about 72 degrees, partly sunny, and gorgeous – perfect running weather. I was joined in corral 6 by two friends. The only two people I knew who were running the race just happened to by in my corral. Yay! Corrals were sent to the starting line in 30-second intervals so, despite the large size of the race, the running was smooth and easy, even early on. The other notable member of Corral 6 was Patrick, the winner of Biggest Loser Season 10. I chatted with him during the first mile and he seems like a lovely person.

The race course was gorgeous. It meandered through adorable historic areas of Providence, along the waterfront, and into the center of the city. We ran through parks, across bridges, and all over the beautiful city of Providence. It looked exactly like what I imagined New England looked like before I lived here.

The course featured rolling hills and traveled along several really scenic roads. As is usual for a Rock N Roll event, there were helpful volunteers everywhere. At every corner and every water stop there were cheering fans and volunteers. All the roads were closed and police officers and a huge team of security personnel were guarding the crossroads. The race was well marked, and fun bands lined the course. The fuel stops were well organized and there were multiple flavors of Gatorade and Gu for runners to enjoy. The course was easy to enjoy because the race was so well organized. Rock N Roll knows how to put on a good race.

Since I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about my ability to race well, I approached the race with leisure. I ran fast when I felt like it, not so fast when I didn’t. I drank water from every water stop. I looked around. I listened to the great bands along the route. Heck, I even stopped and waited 3 minutes in a port-potty line to pee (thanks to too much water at those water stops). Put simply, I didn’t race. The miles slipped by and I remember something Kara Goucher said about the marathon – that it was good early on to save mental energy, to find a rhythm and let the miles pass. Awesome. I was running like Kara.

I was feeling strong. The miles were floating by! Around mile 8 I checked my Garmin. I couldn’t believe it was mile 8. I thought I might be misreading the data. I felt great! I decided it would be ok to not stop at every single water stop and to pick up the pace just a bit. When I hit the 10 mile mark I looked at my Garmin again and saw something shocking. If I didn’t stop, or go really, really slowly, I would PR. I was 10 miles into a half marathon I hadn’t raced, hadn’t prepared for, and generally ran aimlessly, and, barring any unforeseen problems, would PR without trying. I was on my way to an accidental PR.

The new of my pending PR inspired me. I ran like the wind for the last 5k. It was hilly and definitely challenging, but I sped along, buoyed by my possible PR. I ran my last mile in record time. Not just record for the last mile of a half marathon, but seriously fast, and close to my pre-surgery pace per mile. The official race photos are terrifying. I look like rabid dogs are chasing me, but I was determined to make something of a race I hadn’t taken seriously. I races those last three miles.

And then it happened. I PRed. Accidentally.

I was delighted, but perplexed. How had it happened? I violated several rules of racing success. I hadn’t run long in weeks. I didn’t taper. I worked out hard the day before; my legs were tired going into the race. I ate junk the day before. I got barely 5 hours of sleep. I sacrificed sleep to drive to the race on race day. I didn’t eat my usual breakfast the morning of the race. I meandered through the early miles. I stopped at a porta-potty. Yet, somehow, despite the odds, I ran the fastest half marathon I’ve ever run. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time. I wonder what I could have run had I taken the race seriously. But, what if my leisurely style is the reason for my success…we will never know.

I stumbled through the finish line chute, picking up my orange, banana, and water. I got my medal. I even managed to find my friends and reconnect with them for the amazing Karmin concert at the finish line. It was a great race and a great day.

Overall, I loved the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. It was well organized, wonderfully run, and had a really special, gorgeous course. I will definitely run with Rock N Roll again and I will be at Providence next year, hopefully ready to race.

Want to catch a glimpse of the glamorous life of a runner of the Providence half? Check out this great, 2-minute video my friend Ray made. It’s on YouTube: Ray’s Behind-the-Scenes Look at Rock N Roll Providence (and is work safe). Learn more about Ray and his running adventures at Running Ray, his blog.

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Run: Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve shirt, Lululemon Turbo Run shorts, Nike Free 2.0 shoes, CEP hat I won in a Twitter contest (it’s a Head Sweats hat), cool finishers’ medal.

9 thoughts on “The Case of the Accidental PR

  1. That course looks tough, way to go! You have to love the times when things just fall into place despite not doing what you think is “right” 🙂

  2. I ran this race too! I tied my PR down to the second! Great course and so well organized!!

  3. Congratulations! My running coach just told me this week to stop all of the water stations. She did and she PRd unexpectedly too. I’m going to try it for my 12 in 2012 half #8!

    Congrats again!

  4. Congrats on the accidental PR……maybe the fact that you weren’t focused on things allowed you to relax and just run? I should try that sometime……I’m running Hartford, too, so I hope to wave as you blow past me!

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