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A Blustery Day, and A New PR - Newport Half, Triple Crown Finale

Michelle runs her fifth half-marathon of the year, and completes the United Healthcare Triple Crown Series, on a very windy day in the city by the sea.

Sunday's weather forecast called for "breezy" conditions. That was the understatement of the year.

I could hear the wind howling as soon as I woke up, and I knew it was going to make for an interesting morning.

Luckily it wasn't a cold wind - temps were in the 50s. Not hot, but certainly warm enough. But the wind. Yikes!

As I got ready, I reminded myself that I just needed to go out and run the best race I could, and if the wind slowed me down a little, so be it. It was something that was out of my control, so there was no use in getting all worked up over it.

I was a little disappointed it was so cloudy, though - I had been hoping to see the sunrise as I drove over the bridge. Instead, it was still dark when I pulled into town just before 7 a.m. I had no problems parking and catching the shuttle bus, and was at the start line shortly after 7 - plenty of time to check my bag, wait in line forever at the porta-potties, and get in a quick warmup.

I headed over to the start at 7:45, and got a spot right in between the 7- and 8-minute pace signs - exactly where I wanted to be. The street the race starts on proved to be rather narrow, as we were quickly jammed in like sardines.

The combined field for the half and full (which start together) was about 5,000, I think, and I'm pretty sure that's about the same size as Hartford was last year, but I do not remember feeling anywhere near as claustrophobic at Hartford as I did in Newport yesterday morning.

And I knew that claustrophobic feeling was going to give way to a very, very congested start, with much dodging and weaving during the first mile in an attempt to find clear space in which to run.

And when the race finally began (a good 5 or 10 minutes late, and with no gun to signal the start - or at least not one that I could hear ???), that was in fact the case. I knew that, for once, I was in no danger of going out too fast - I couldn't have even if I wanted to. I doged, I weaved, and I ran soooo much slower than I wanted to be running.

But I didn't get stressed out. I figured that holding back now would turn out to be a good thing later on.

That being said, I wasn't terribly happy when I saw mile 1 beep at 7:54, and now that the field had finally spread out enough that I was able to really run, I ended up running mile 2 in 7:11. Probably a bit too fast, but I knew I wasn't going to keep that up, so I wasn't worried about picking it up too much for that one mile. And I really couldn't help it - I had a lot of pent-up energy from not being able to run the way I wanted for the first mile.

We had now gone through town and were heading out towards Fort Adams State Park, and up to this point, the wind hadn't been too much of a factor. It was windy in spots, to be sure, but it wasn't constant, so I didn't feel like I was struggling. In fact, I felt pretty good, and was resisting the urge to check my watch. I had checked it a bit after running mile 2 so quickly, and I now seemed to be settling into a pace in the range of 7:20 - 7:30, and it was feeling great, so I figured I'd stick with it.

When we hit Fort Adams, the wind became much more of an issue. It seemed to be coming from all directions at once, and the short loop we did through the park also included some small inclines, so that little stretch was somewhat challenging.

Miles 3 - 6 went pretty smoothly, though - 7:26, 7:25, 7:23, 7:23.

Then came mile 7. This was the part of the course that turns around a bend and leads up to a long ocean stretch. It's beautiful and scenic, but it's also completely exposed, which meant that when we came around that bend, it honestly felt like walking into a wall. And it was a wall. Of wind.

I am not exaggerating when I say that for most of mile 7, I was struggling just to stay upright. I honestly felt like I was in danger of being knocked over by the wind. It was that strong.

I also stopped during that mile to eat my gel and drink some water, and some of the water got blown out of my cup. Seriously. It was insane.

I managed to drink what was left, and sucked down the Gu before the wind ripped that out of my hands. As I chugged along, fighting the wind, I just reminded myself that I was already halfway done (and the first 6 miles had seemed to pass very quickly).  And I also told myself that eventually, we'd go around another bed and this wind would be at our backs.

That bend didn't come soon enough, but it did come. And when it did, I felt like I was suddenly running along a conveyor belt. Mile 7 - 7:31. Ugh. Miles 8 and 9 - 7:11. 7:13. Thank you, tailwind!

The wind was still blowing for the rest of the race, but the effects were moderated somewhat as we finished the last of the ocean stretch and headed back towards town. We ran past the mansions, and I kept thinking about how amazingly flat this course was compared to Jamestown and Zooma. It was so refreshing to not be constantly climbing hills! I was feeling tired, but it was very different from the kind of tired you feel in a really hilly race.

Miles 10 and 11 passed pretty uneventfully - 7:23, 7:26.

As we ran past the mansions and made our way back toward the beach, I could remember so vividly running that stretch 4 years ago in the full marathon, and I thought about how at that time, I was running more than 2 minutes per mile slower than I was running right now. So unbelievable to think about how hard I've worked and how far I've come since then : )

With that in mind, I thought I'd try to pick it up a bit for mile 12, but only got down to 7:22.

But after that, all bets were off. I was getting really tired, I wanted to just be done, and as I attempted to do the math in my head, I was pretty sure that I could actually pull off a PR. So I pulled out all the stops and ran as fast as I could, without so much as a single glance at my watch for the final 1.1 miles.

And oh my god, it sucked. I knew I was close to the finish, but it seemed painfully far away.

Then finally I was heading down the big hill we climbed at the start, and then back into the beach parking lot. And then, I was still running. And still running. And still running some more, along the length of the ENTIRE beach!  The whole time, I just kept thinking 'My god, how long IS this beach anyway?????'

As I fought for every last step of that final .1 miles, I watched the full marathon runners veering off to the right to continue on out of the parking lot, and I was so, so happy that I was not one of them.

Then finally, finally, the finish line was there, and as I sprinted across, it read 37:28!!!!

Complete and utter exhiliration, and complete and utter exhaustion. Two signs of a well-run race.

After I caught my breath, I checked my splits on my watch and saw that I had run mile 13 in 6:52, and the final (never-ending) .1 at 6:49 pace. No wonder it hurt so bad.

I knew I wasn't in contention for any awards at this race, and for the first time in quite a while, I actually didn't have any friends who had run, so I didn't hang around long.

I got my Triple Crown medal and goody bag (which was one of the best goody bags I've ever gotten - tons of great energy gels and bars) and shirt, and grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then I was off, basking in the glow of a great race and a 30-second PR.

I loved participating in this Triple Crown series this year. I think it's a great concept, and I'm pretty sure I'll be signing up for next year's. Focusing on the half-marathon distance this year has been a great experience for me, and has definitely taught me to maintain what are - for me, anyway - some pretty fast paces over a long distance, which has really boosted my confidence for Boston.

And I was very happy with the organization for all three races, and for the Triple Crown series itself - great communication from the race organizers, good support on the course, and nice courses, too. I don't know how many people participated this year, but I have a feeling the numbers will grow with next year's series.

And speaking of numbers:

1:37:27

7:27 pace

5 of 503 in my age group!!!

23 of 1991 females

149 of 3300 overall

And, I noted as I was running that I crossed the 10-mile mark at just over 1:14 - a full two minutes faster than I ran the 10 miles at the Blessing a few months ago. I'll definitely be looking for a big PR at that race next year!!!

First things first, though - a little recovery, a few more track workouts, and then on to Philly to close out the year in style - running 13.1, and then cheering on all my friends who are running 26.2!!!!

For more from Michelle, check out Me and the Boys, her blog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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