Since we are training for our fall marathons, we decided to schedule a few half marathons to use as training runs. The Rock 'n' Roll Providence half marathon was on September 29, 2013. We picked this race to check Rhode Island off our list of the states. Also when you run more than one Rock 'n' Roll race you get extras medals. Having run the Philly race 2 weeks ago, Providence would earn us our "rock encore" medal. Being the medal whores we are, we were sold on the idea.
Donna, Hema, and I all signed up for the race. The plan was to drive up to RI on Sat afternoon for the expo and stay over to run the race on Sunday morning. Hema usually works on Saturdays. She had arranged coverage for herself, but at the last minute the guy who was supposed to cover backed out. She texted us on Thurs saying that she was not going to be able to make it. But after some finagling, we arranged for her to take a bus up after work and meet us in Providence Saturday night. She just could not miss out on the medals.
On the Road:
Saturday morning Donna and I got up early to head to RI. Donna had gone to party the night before and was still feeling the effects in the morning. But she was a trooper and got herself up and ready. By 10 am I was on my way to pick up the car and Donna made a Starbucks run for us. I picked Donna up and we were on the road. The ride up was uneventful. Half way through CT we stopped at the Connecticut Welcome Center. I found it strange that we put the welcome center in the middle of state. Donna has a love for taking pictures of road signs. She is working on collecting all 50 state signs. She was quite happy to add the "Welcome to Rhode Island" sign to her collection. We made it to Providence in around 4 hours with our 2 pit stops. We checked into the hotel and then drove to the expo.
The expo was held at the convention center in the downtown area. We picked up our bibs and t-shirts. The t-shirts were a nice. They were short sleeve tech material. I liked the fact that they were black and the design was nice. The expo was a bit smaller than the one in Philly, but they had all the usual vendors. This race they offer a half marathon, half marathon relay, and 3 mile mini marathon.
I had forgot to pack a headband. I found a booth that had a sparkly yellow one to match my outfit. We also stumbled upon an amazing find. There was a company there that makes custom race singlets. They said you can put your logo on it and choose any colors. No minimum order and there are only $32 a piece. We were so excited. We have been looking for a place to get Pro Oxygen shirts made for a while. We felt like we hit the jackpot. This was exactly what we had been looking for.
At the expo, they had a video the course. I decided to watch it so I had idea of what was to come tomorrow morning. It is a great idea but they speed up the video to keep it short which made it difficult to watch. It made me a bit seasick.
On the way out, Donna saw a sign for Dublin and had to stop to get a photo in honor of her upcoming trip for the Dublin Marathon.
Out and About in Providence:
Official RI soda
We were hungry so we walked a few blocks in search of a snack. We found a small café and got some food. While we were eating we saw a parade come down the street. There were a strange mix of characters there. We finished our food and followed the parade to get a few pictures.
Apparently, there is a lot of things happening in downtown Providence. As we walked from the parade back to the car we found a Street Painting Festival.
The street art was pretty cool. A lot of them were done by local high school groups.
Donna had done a less then stellar job packing for this trip. I suggested in the future if she knows she is going to go out she should pack before you goes to the party, not the next morning hung over. She had forgot to pack pajamas. So she went to the mall to get herself something to sleep in. While she did that I walked around and took some pictures of the River Walk and the State House. The downtown area was a really pretty.
Rhode Island State House
We got back in the car and drove back towards the hotel. On the way to the convention center we saw a paint store. So we stopped on the way back to the hotel. A few Pro O members want to make boards to hang their medals on. I had meaning to get paint for the project for a while.
The paint store was closed but we did walk by the Mister Sister Erotica store. I found it a bit strange to put a sex shop next door to an ice cream parlor. They were not subtle. There a mannequin dressed in S&M garb right in the window. But I guess Rhode Islanders like to be able to get a treat for the kids and a treat for themselves in one-stop shopping ;)
We also saw a shop that had a sign stating they were the best coffee house in Rhode Island. With a statement like that we would have to give it a try. Since we already had had 2 cups of coffee that day, we decision to wait until the next to give it a try. Plus how could we let Hema miss out of Rhode Island's best coffee.
After our shopping trip, we went back to the hotel for a quick nap. I figured we would go have dinner downtown around 8 then walk over to pick up Hema from the train station at 10:35.
After resting for a bit, we got cleaned up for dinner. Apparently, Playtex has started putting words of encouragement on their wrappers. I found it fitting that this was the first one I pulled out of the box.
Life is a marathon. Keep running. You got the power
While driving downtown, Donna came up with the brilliant idea to make a sign for Hema welcoming her to Providence when she got off the bus. We stopped at CVS and found some supplies.
We decided to just have dinner at one of the chain restaurants outside of the mall. We first tried PF Chang's. When we walked in half the tables were empty but the hostess told us their would be an hour wait. Really? She claimed that they had reservations for large parties coming in. So we left and went to Joe's American Grill. There was only a 20 minute wait there so we decided to have a drink at the bar while we waited. Within a few minutes 2 seats opened up at the bar giving us plenty of room to work on our sign.
While we were coloring in our sign a woman came over and asked want we were making. Donna explained about the sign. The woman said "oh, I thought you were coloring one of those kids menus." Please that would be a ridiculous thing to do in the middle of a bar. Coloring a sign is clearly much more sophisticated.
After dinner, we walked down to the river walk where they do their "Water Fire" display on Saturday nights. It was pretty. I was excited to work on my night photography.
They light cauldrons of fire all along the river. It starts at sunset and goes until midnight. There is a big circle of fire in the area we were at.
People come in their kayaks and paddle around the fires. You can book a boat tour to ride in a gondola during Water Fire as well. They had music and a lot of people lined the river.
We walked through a tunnel to get to the bus station that was lined with tiles of art work. They call it the Wall of Hope. It is their tribute to 9/11.
At 10:20, Hema texted me that the bus got in early. We were a little bummed that we were not able to be waiting for her as she got off the bus with our sign. But we walked up to the bench she was sitting on and flashed our sign.
She smiled and was happy to see us. But I could tell she was tired having worked all day and just getting off a three and a half hour bus ride. We were probably a little too high energy for her at the time. But we wanted to tell her all about our exciting day! We gave her a quick tour to show her the chalk drawings and Water Fire. After a few minutes to get our bearing and find the parking garage, we drove back to the hotel.
Morning of the race:
The race started early at 7 am. Having missed the start of the Philly half, this time I double checked the start time. We got up at 5 am. We all groaned and rolled out of bed. I had found my usual pre race breakfast of powered donuts at CVS the day before. We got dressed and put on our temporary tattoos.
The hotel I booked was 1.8 miles from the start. All the hotels closer to the start were booked by the time I looked. We decided walking over would be our best bet because the course ran right in front of hotel and we were worried we would not be able to get back if we drove with the road closures.
They would not allow us to pick up Hema's bib at the expo. I had called the day before and they told me she could pick it up the morning of the race. So we wanted to get there early in case there was a line or an issue with her picking up her stuff. We went to the solutions tent to get her bib. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and she got her bib and t-shirt. We had time for all of us to use the port-a-potties. Then we checked our clothes at gear check. It was a bit chilly in the morning probably in the mid 40s so we all wore long sleeve shirts to the start.
Marathonfoto does the pictures for the race. I have to say they were a bit aggressive at this race. They keep sticking cameras in our face even though I told them I already had my picture taken. I don't like marathonfoto's customer service so unless it is a monumental race I don't bother getting pictures taken because I know I would not buy them anyway. But I realize in this case it was going to be easier to smile than argue.
They started late. The first corral did not getting going until around 7:15. We were in the 5th corral and started about 4 minutes after the gun went off. They take a 1 minute break in between each corral to help spread out the field. Like I said it was a bit chilly at the start. It took me a mile or 2 to warm up. I was feeling good for the first few miles. I wanted to get a good time this race. My goal for a half this year is to get in under 2:10. So far my best is 2:13 so I knew I would have to significantly pick up the pace this race to reach that goal.
The mini marathon runners cut off after the 2nd mile. Knowing they only had a mile left to the finish, I was a bit jealous and tempted to go with them. The first hill came after the second mile marker. For the first three miles, I was keeping about a 10 minute per mile pace. But at mile 4 there was no clock. I am not sure why, the stand was there but no clock. Between mile 4 and 5 was the largest hill of the course. It was a pretty steep, but at least there was an equal downhill about a 1/4 mile later. At mile 5, there was a clock but it was not working. I was not happy because I could not judge my pace. Really for what they charge for these Rock 'n' Roll races, they should have their act together and make sure all the clocks work.
After mile 5 is the relay exchange point. That was very well organized. Lots of the signs and people directing relay runners. I have been to some races where the relay runners get in the way. The next few miles were uneventful. At mile 6, the time read 1:05:44 which meant I had slowed down and was over my 10 min/mile pace. I don't think the clock was working at mile 7. At mile 7, the course runs along the water. It was a bit foggy that morning, but it was pretty. End of mile 7 and middle of mile 8 are the last hills. They were not too steep, just long steady inclines.
At mile 8, the clock said 1:26:20, which meant I would have to make up about 2 minutes in the next 5 miles if I wanted to get in under 2:10. When I got to the top of the hill past mile 8, the people at the top were saying it is all downhill or flat from here. Usually spectators say things like that and they have no idea what they are talking about. But this time it was true, the rest of the course was pretty flat. On the way down the hill I heard some guy behind yelling "no more hills and only 4 miles to go, it is fun. Yayy!" That was annoying enough but then he started to sing about how much he loved running downhill. When I turned around to give him a dirty look, I noticed he was the 2:15 pacer. That lit a fire under me. I did not want to fall behind the 2:15 pace group and I did not want to have to listen to this guy any more.
I was off and running. After mile 9, I ran past our hotel. It was a nice landmark to hit and it made me realize I was getting near the end. At mile 10, the course crosses over the river and there is a 2 mile loop. I really like this part of the course. Nice and flat. The sun had come out. It was getting a little hot but it was not too bad. I just telling myself not much longer to go. I like to try to forget the first 10 miles I have already run and pretend I am just starting a 5k at the 10 mile mark. The change in course really helped me achieve that. I skipped the last water station in hope to cut off some time. The course goes back over the water right before mile 12. After the mile 12 marker it is a straight run along the water then back over a small bridge. I was hoping the course would just be a flat straight away to the finish.
But the course had a final turn and there was a small hill after the mile 13 marker. It was short but it was steep. That hill made my final dash to the finish a little bit tough. It definitely took the wind out of me. But I made it up the hill then it was about a 100-200 meter dash to the finish. It was not sure exact what time I crossed the start. But I figured it was slightly after the 4 minute mark. I looked up at the clock and saw it was at 2:14:30 when I was a few meters away. I turned up the pace. I just wanted to get in under the 2:15 mark. I think I crossed the finish line at 2:14:52. My net time was 2:10:46. Not under 2:10 but my pace turned out to be a 9:59 min/mile so under 10 min/mile. I was pretty happy with that. I had managed to run the last 4 miles at under a 9:30 min/mile pace.
I got my medal, a bottle of water, chocolate milk, a banana, and a bagel. They also had Gatorade and Power bars, but I decided to skip them. I chugged the chocolate milk. Then I try to take a bite of the bagel. My mouth was so dry I thought I was going to choke on it. So I threw it out and decided to stick with the banana.
I walked around to the watch the finish line and cheer Donna and Hema on. I was taking a drink of water and almost missed Donna. But she saw me and yelled my name. I managed to yell a quick cheer. I was hoping to get a picture but I had just put my phone in my pocket the moment before she ran by.
I saw Hema coming up the hill. I yelled her name but she had her headphones on and was in a zone. She finished in 2:28:33. That is a PR for her. Way to go!
We all meet up after the finish line. We got some photos with our medals. Notice how well my medal coordinates with my outfit.
They have a beer garden with a free beer for all finishers. But none of us were too excited about the beer. So we decided to skip it. Donna was saying how proud her aunt Kim would be to hear that we decided not to have a drink. We joke that when we first met, we were friends who run together and occasionally have a drink together. But in the last year, we seemed to be friends who drink together and occasionally run. After picking up our gear, we walked back to the hotel. Donna was excited because we had to walk along the race route to get to the hotel and she was able to cheer on the runners who were still making their way to the finish line en route.
The group that runs these Rock 'n' Roll events is pretty large. For the most part they do a good job. You can expect pretty much the same amenities at all their races. Pre-race there website is informative. They send out weekly email updates as the race get close. They have a link with Orbitz to book hotels for every city they do events in.
On the course they had 7 water stations. It worked out to be about every mile and half. 4 of them had Gatorade. They had Gu's at mile 8. Donna noted that they had multiple flavors of Gu. They had pace groups for 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, and 2:45. A good supply of food and drinks at the finish line and a beer garden. They had bands and DJs set up all along the course. For this race some of them were better than others. They also always have a stage at the finish line with a concert at all their events. Atlas Genius was the headliner. I'm not really sure who they are and we did not stick around for the performance.
After the race:
We went back to the hotel. Since the race started early, we made it back before 11 am. We had time to shower and rest up before checking out at noon.
We loaded up the car and headed out. Donna had noticed a Portuguese bakery when we were walking to the start. Since she had lived in Portugal for a while she wanted to stop and see if they had some kind of custard tart thing that she loves. The woman in the bakery was from Portugal and of course they had them. Totally making Donna's day.
Pastel de nata
We went back to the street that the paint store was on. They were open this time. But they were not any cheaper than the store in the New York and I was not sure of the colors so I decided it would be better to go back to Lee's in NY.
Best coffee house in Rhode Island
We left the paint place went to try out Rhode Island's best coffee. Over the course of 24hrs, Donna had somehow inflated this place to be "the world's best coffee." I reminded her that it was only the best coffee in RI, which is the smallest state in the country, so let's not get our hopes up too high. The coffee was good. They did have barrels of whole beans you could purchase. Turns out they were the best coffee house, not necessarily the best coffee.
We got our coffee and decided to find a place to eat lunch. I remembered seeing a few pubs on the drive to the hotel. That was clearly the way to this Aussie's (Donna) and Brit's (Hema) heart. We ended up having lunch at Whiskey Rebellion. It was a nice place. I'm not usually a fan of pubs because they tend to be a bit dark and dingy. But this place was actually bright and clean. The food was pretty good. I had the mac and cheese, which I think had Guinness in it, and they had the fish and chips.
The last item on our itinerary was to go to the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket. It is about 10 minutes outside of Providence. They have a giant Mr Potatohead outside their headquarters. I like to research American roadside attractions. I had seen this and knew I was have to work it into this trip.
On the way, we apparently had to drive into Masschusetts for a few miles. Donna was thrilled to get another, unexpected state sign. About a mile later we were back in Rhode Island and again she got a picture of the state sign.
I had put Hasbro in google maps and it pulled up Hasbro Way in Pawtucket, RI. I figured the headquarters had to be some where on that street. As we turned onto Hasbro way, we saw Mr Potatohead waving at us. "There he is!" We were way too excited. Clearly, the 3 of us are very easily amused.
We pulled over and had a nice little photo shoot with Mr Potatohead. Managing to check off a half marathon in a new state and a roadside attraction was very exciting for me. Nothing makes me happier than to check things off a list.
Donna offered to drive on the way back. I was tired and starting to get a headache. So I was happy to lied down in the back seat while she drove. Since I hate driving and Donna apparently loves it, I decided to make Donna the official Pro Oxygen driver and told her she could drive on all our trips in the future. Donna still managed to get her Welcome to Connecticut sign while driving.
On the way up, Donna saw this strange sign that said "Do Not Stop, Correctional Facility Area." She looked at me and asked if I thought that sign was there in case there were escaped criminals. So clearly she knew she would have to get a picture on the way back. I googled to see where there was a correctional facility in CT so we knew where to look. It appeared to be somewhere between East Lyme and Old Lyme. So I said that if we hit Old Lyme, we know we had missed it. I woke up and was on the look out when we got close. We found the sign but not in time for Donna to get her picture. We made a U-turn and looped back around. She got her picture.
Do Not Stop Correctional Facility Area
My head was starting to pound. We stopped and Donna gave me some Advil. I dosed in and out for the rest of the trip. There was a lot of traffic getting back to the city. All total it took us about 5 hours to get back.
Donna managed to get the Welcome to New York sign
We dropped Donna off at her apartment and dropped Hema off at the subway station. I put the car in the garage and took a cab back to my apartment. Thankfully, the Advil had kicked in by then and my headache finally went away.
All in all, it was a fun little road trip. We had a few laughs. I had great race. Donna got her state signs. We got our pictures with Mr Potatohead. And of course, a new medal to hang up on the board.
Pre-race info- A
Overall organization- B+
Swag/post-race food- B+
Surrounding area- A