Back to back races always make for an interesting adventure. Over the past few years, whenever I find a race I like, I take a look at the surrounding states and see what else I can do. After finding the race in Hartford and seeing that another race was happening the next day just a few hours away in Newport, Rhode Island, I knew it was meant to be.
Race: Newport Marathon
Location: Newport, RI
Date: October 13, 2019
After finishing up from the food truck (not the best) in Hartford, we made the 2 hour journey to Newport. Even though the race had offered packet pickup options on race day and we were staying the night in Providence (Newport was just way too expensive for needing just a bed), I had decided that I’d rather have one less thing to deal with race morning so we made our way directly to Newport.
The drive was beautiful through Connecticut. The fall colors were in full effect, even more so than we saw heading through Pennsylvania. Per usual, I ranted on about the previous race as Kaela showed as much interest as someone could after standing around for hours while I ran around a city (she tells me that she really does enjoy the stories though). The packet pickup was taking place at the start/finish for the race at Easton’s Beach. When we got out of the car we were almost blown over by the cold wind coming off the water. Now when I say cold, I don’t mean like a brisk chill, but like full blown freezing. The temperature was a lot different from just a few hours west and my body wasn’t ready for it after being so comfortable with my seat warmer on.
We walked in the small “expo” which amounted to just a room with a handful of sponsors giving out swag. I was wearing my Hartford Marathon shirt and when I walked up to get my bib, one of the volunteers said “not another one of you crazy people” referring to those that were doing back to backs. Apparently there had been enough that she noticed and I wasn’t even the first one from Ohio. Another person overheard the conversation and started asking questions. “Aren’t you sore? How are you going to run this? Should you be doing this?” These were all questions that I have fielded a handful of times and I usually answer with “I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
As we headed out of the parking lot at Easton Beach, we decided to get away from windshield time and decided to hit up Newport Brewing Co and Distillery. They didn’t allow dogs inside but they had a nice outside bar that was mostly hidden from the cold wind. We tried a few of their beers while chatting through some of the race course details for the next day. We also threw around some ideas for dinner but with the weather being what it was, anywhere we would go would require sitting outside or grabbing some take out and taking back to our AirBNB. After a little bit of discussion, we remembered we had a decent amount of leftovers but I would just need a little bit more. On our way to our place in Providence, we stopped by Walmart to pick up some pasta side mix for my dinner and some fruit for Kaela to have for breakfast.
We arrived at our place later than we wanted to but got settled in, dinner cooked and eaten before prepping for the race day. We happened to book a two bedroom place which is always clutch on the back to backs as I already move enough in bed but when you add in sore legs, I’m a nightmare to be in bed with. Kaela was exhausted from her long day and passed out pretty quickly. I reviewed the course information and laid out everything I needed to make the morning as easy as possible.
My alarm came way too soon and my body was hurting. Everything was just sore as I was walking from the bedroom to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I had a single bagel with jelly and a Honey Stinger waffle on the side. I didn’t double up like I usually do because I wanted to give my body enough time to digest. I like to finish all of my breakfast at least two hours before the race and also allow an hour at home to make sure my “pre-race stomach issues” have had the time they need. Well this wasn’t possible unless I was getting up at 3am, so I decided I would just adjust the morning calories to prevent any issues on the course.
As I talked about earlier, the race started at Easton Beach. The issue with the start was that there was no parking available nearby. We had to park a few miles down the road and get shuttled in. There were a good handful of emails scaring people into making sure they arrived on time and didn’t miss a shuttle to get to the start. Well the emails obviously worked on me because I was going to make sure we were at the start around 6:15am for the 7am start. With a 90 minute drive to the parking lot, it was a busy morning.
After eating breakfast and getting dressed, I packed up the car and we made the journey back to Newport. Our car GPS was taking us up and around in circles on back roads to avoid the road closures that were already active around town. The parking location was nice, located right on Second Beach and along the course so it was perfect to use as an aid station later in the race. There were a handful of buses waiting to take the participants and spectators to the start, so I was in no rush to make my way as the “worry” of missing a bus was mostly just an illusion at this point. Another plus at the parking lot was the extra wide, handicap accessible porta-potty to take care of business. I knew the race start would have some but they would more than likely have super long lines so decided to do what I needed to at that point.
As we crammed on a school bus, I was quickly made aware of how sore my body was feeling. Everything was tight and for some reason, I still felt very hungry (maybe I should have had that extra bagel). The shuttle was just a short ride to the start and once we got off the bus we were in the crowd of people. Similar to Hartford, the race had the same start for half and full marathon runners so it made for a lot of people in a small area. Kaela and I made our way to the beach to get away from the crowds. I tried doing some dynamic stretches to shake out the tightness knowing that I still had a literal marathon in front of me to finish. The weather wasn’t as cold as it was the day before but there was still a harsh wind that would cut through you.
After my pre-race photo, I grabbed some photos of Kaela and Bella playing on the beach. Bella loves just running around like a crazy person on the sand and making banked turns as she shoots up sand with every step. It gave me great use of a new lens I had just recently purchased. I gave the two of them a kiss, Kaela wished me luck as I made my way to the starting corrals and she made her way up past the start for her first spot. In the corral I just closed my eyes and tried to block out the noise to just give myself some peace. I whispered a quick prayer of focus to keep moving forward and to make sure I had a good time. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t want to make it way too serious and ruin the day. When I opened my eyes I could feel a release come over me and I was ready to get this thing going!
Both the half marathon and full marathon started at the same time. We would start the race with a 13.1 mile loop before going out the opposite direction for a new 13.1 mile loop(ish) route. There was a hill right at the start of the race. My already tired legs were not a fan of this start, but I do think it helped “wake” them up a bit. Kaela was near the top of the climb and captured a great photo that overlooked the coastline.
After the climb, we were all packed on one side of the road, slowly rolling downhill to downtown Newport. There were decent crowds on both sides of the road cheering us into the small quaint downtown. Around mile 1 I saw a lady that was just going her own pace and I decided to grab on to her heels (not literally, I hope that is clear). I was sticking with her stride and kept myself aware of where she was as we passed by other runners. The road became narrow and I had to spend some time bobbing and weaving so as not to run someone over.
After leaving downtown Newport, we started to wrap into a more residential district and at the same time I started to realize that this course wasn’t as flat as I had expected. After the first hill I thought I was in the clear but around mile 3 I started to hear people talk about the continuous hills that never seem to let up. I kept my pacer (the lady from earlier) in my sights and if she would slow down I would keep the pace and she would slowly make her way back up. It was nice having my own personal pacer, even though she had no idea it was happening. We were all still in a pretty tight group of runners which helped block some of the cool wind that was making its way down the street.
Just before mile 4 we hit a little loop around a park/boat dock area that my guess was added to give us that little bit of extra distance that a typical loop couldn’t have provided. It was nice as we hit an aid station twice and there were volunteers handing out smarties and jolly ranchers and I gladly took some of each. Back on the main road we started to pass some beautiful mansions that were along the coast. These houses were just something else. I felt like I was running through a high end lifestyle home magazine. The wind picked up as we got a clear view of the coast with homes now only on one side of us as we turned on to Ocean Avenue.
If you remember from my report on the Hartford Marathon I was carrying Skratch as an electrolyte supplement as the Nuun wasn’t really cutting it. Today I decided to just go old school and had my bottle filled with blue Powerade. I took my first Honey Stinger gel of the day and knew instantly that it wasn’t going to be enough today. It was going to be one of those days that I ran off of sugar. After the gel I polished off one roll of smarties as we ooh’d and ahhh’d about the views we were seeing. Mansions on one side and a gorgeous rocky New England coast on the other.
The next few miles were more of the same. Rolling hills with some strong wind gusts, followed by beautiful homes and the coast. I kind of zoned out and just kept my pacer in sight as I put one foot in front of the other. Around mile 9 I could feel my body starting to give me signals that this pace was not going to last for the rest of the race. We made our way back into a historical type district just outside downtown Newport on some “flat” terrain. I told myself to try and keep the stride at least through the next time seeing Kaela back at the parking lot of Second Beach, 6 miles away.
We made two out and backs that took us to the water and then instant 180 to head back in the same direction. Approaching the first turn around at around mile 11, my pacer broke away from my view. It’s not that she took off but rather I started to slow down. I slammed more smarties and tried to get energy any way that I could. At this point the half marathoners that were around me were feeling they were close to the end and were in high spirits. I rode their highs as we approached the original road that we came up on at the top of the hill. The road was still lined with folks cheering people down the hill and into the Easton Beach parking lot as we stayed on the beach walk next to the sand.
I came into the finish area, hearing all the cheers for those that were done with their day. Mine, however, was far from done. It was quite literally only halfway completed. We ran literally 5 feet from the finish line, separated by just a few barricades to guide those running the full marathon to their next part of the challenge. We passed by the finishers area, circled the parking lot and headed back on the main road heading east.
To my surprise, I finished the first half in 2:11. Putting up a solid first half on tired legs gave me some optimism but I wasn’t foolish enough to think it would carry me through the second half.
Back on the main road we stayed on the sidewalk as the road was open to traffic. The sidewalk was short lived though, soon turning right back onto a residential street that of course was just an ever so slight steady incline. I came up to a runner and decided to chat to get my mind off the soreness. He was from the Boston area and was just enjoying the race. We chatted for a little bit and talked about some other races I should look into to complete the New England area. I must have been slowing him down as it felt like it was a short lived conversation before wishing each other luck and him taking off ahead.
At mile 15 we were greeted with a steep downhill that at the time was very much welcomed, however being an out and back I knew I would not like it at the end. As we approached Second Beach we took the road around the bend and saw a lady was holding one of the funniest signs I had seen. “You have so many more miles left.” The sign was bedazzled with glitter and bright colors and brought me to audibly laugh out loud. A guy next to me (that seemed in worse shape than me) didn’t find humor in the sign and honestly acted like he took disgust to it. I thanked the lady for the encouragement as I ran on by.
When I came up on the beach parking lot I could see Kaela and Bella in the distance. She had set up a little aid station on the hood of the car in preparation for my arrival. We filled up my handheld with more Powerade and with filled the pocket of it with all the sour patch kids I could fit in it. She gave me a Honey Stinger waffle to try to get some more substance in my body because I was just plain out hungry. This would be the last time I would see her so she wished me luck and I powered on along.
I walked for a brief moment to eat but then tried to get back into my pace. I felt like I could hold it just a little longer before mixing in a run/walk mentality for the race. We made our way to the end of the road before turning around and heading back in the same direction. We didn’t head all the way back but cut right early around Gardner Pond on to the rest of our second loop. I ran up to a lady shortly after mile 16 that was struggling and her husband/fiancé was walking beside her giving her motivation. I joined in and found out it was her first marathon. I gave her even more praise and encouragement to have her hold her head up high.
The next few miles were just plain out tough. They were rolling hills down a residential street on a lollipop section, so I was able to see people that were much faster than me making their way back towards the finish. I would judge how fast they were by pace groups to determine how far ahead of me they actually were. Just for your sake, don’t ever try to do that as it doesn’t usually brighten your mood. One thing that was cool with the area we were in was that it allowed spectators to continue down the course on side streets so I was able to continually see a few of the same folks. There was one family where their son was running his first marathon and wasn’t far behind, so I got to see them every mile or so. They were a lively bunch shouting out and cheering us on through the relatively quiet neighborhood. A few people had made their way out to the end of their driveways but for the most part it was just hearing the sounds of my feet hitting the pavement.
At this point in the race, I’m not sure if it was lack of shade cover or the ridiculous amount of sugar I had been consuming compared to water, but I started to get hot. A few moments of getting a little light headed caused me to walk more than I had wanted to. The lady running her first and I played a little back and forth running and each time we passed each other I made sure I gave her some more encouragement to keep pushing on. At this point I was just trying to be as big of a hype man as I could be as my legs were spent.
We made it to the turn around and then took a right shortly after heading back for the lollipop portion (and I honestly think so they could just add more hills), then we entered a little more “country” of a section. Houses weren’t on top of each other and the little bit of shade I did have was completely gone. Shortly after mile 20 I came to an aid station of some high energy ladies that were happy to be out serving us. I thanked them for their support as they loaded me up with some more jolly ranchers to finish out the race. On the other side of the aid station was yet another little climb so I decided to power hike it.
I came up to a lady that was leaving the aid station about the same time as me and was feeling the hills and the draining sun as well. Maura was from outside the Boston area and I believe it was her first time running the race. We talked about races we had completed and how this was just her last training run before heading to the New York Marathon. She had completed Boston the year before as a fundraiser with Team Boston Medical Center. We talked about how I was trying to apply for some fundraisers but had already been denied by two of them and wasn’t sure if it would play out. She told me about all that they do in the greater Boston community and then had mentioned about their food programs, which then lead me to talking about Hangry (all of these conversations are happening while we pushed out a decent run/walk). Long story short, she recommended that I reach out to Team BMC and let them know that she had sent me and she would tell them as well.
Now in my delusional mindset, I was trying to remember Team BMC, the contact name and Maura’s name all while trying to put one foot in front of the other. This was going to be a tough task.
Maura had made a comment about having wanted to finish a marathon in under 5 hours but wasn’t sure today was going to happen. I took a look at my watch and after some quick math determined we can definitely make that happen. We spent the next few miles powering through the climbs and letting gravity handle us on the falls. At mile 23, we had 45 minutes to make it into the finish and knew that we needed to keep moving along and not lollygag. With the exception of that stupid hill at mile just before mile 25 and a few short walks on the rollers, we kept at it.
As we made the turn back on the main road and stayed on the sidewalk, we opened up our stride and “glided” our way down the road. Participants and spectators were on their way back from the finish and cheering us on in the final stretch. We made a hard left turn to wrap back around the way we exited the parking lot at the half split and by direction of volunteers (whose arms had to be tired of pointing) we made it to the finish.
I gave Maura a high five and a congrats as we got in under the goal. I thanked her for keeping me company that last stretch as it made it so much more enjoyable. Kaela was on the side as I came into the finish and she made her way to an opening in the finishers area. I introduced her to Maura and she thanked Maura for keeping me company as well.
I stumbled my way over to the beer area before realizing I needed some food as well. The food however was on the other side of the parking lot. Kaela took a seat on the pavement while I stumbled over to grab some food. The food was worth the walk as it was catered in from a local company similar to Panera Bread. I walked back to Kaela and joined her on the ground as I ate and talked with her about the race. While we seated the lady that was running her first marathon had walked up behind and I gave her a high five and said congratulations for finishing. She said she wanted to thank me for helping push her through that tough back portion of the race. As she stumbled away for a beer her partner said thank you in a softer tone. I knew the tone as I had heard Kaela do it before when I was in the struggle bus and someone assisted me in getting it done.
After eating we hopped back on a school bus to take us back to our car at Second Beach. I cleaned up with some Dude Wipes, stretched and rolled, put on some fresh clothes and we were back on the road heading home.
Overall I want to say this was a great race that was well put together. The volunteers were amazing and the spectators came out to keep us moving along. This recap may have felt lighter in detail than others because I really was just in the moment. I had to look back at the course map as I was writing this because I honestly couldn’t remember some of the portions of the course. Not to say it wasn’t beautiful or memorable, but rather that my focus was on just being in the moment and then once I started running with Maura, I was engaged in our conversation too much to pay attention to what was happening around me.
Well just to kill the suspense of Team BMC (I know you were just dying to know), I did reach out and within a few weeks was accepted as part of Team BMC to run Boston in 2020. So Rhode Island not only ended my year of races but helped jump start a new motivation heading into 2020. But before running Boston there is some work to be done as I head back down south to Mississippi for the weather issued Mississippi Blues Marathon.