Despite having run my half marathon PR a week earlier (more on that below), I had decided I wanted to run this one fast too. I find it difficult not to get caught up in racing, particularly when so many other RVRR runners are there (and this is a popular one, partly because of its status as a USATF Team Championship race).
Parking is easy at this race, particularly if you arrive early, but I wanted the freedom to drink later in the day so I used this as an excuse to catch up with a friend who lives in Jersey City, less than a mile from the race, and crashed there for the night.
Admittedly I did not get the best night’s sleep doing this, and then I was woken early by another team captain calling me to work out who he could use from my team. I ran the almost mile to the start area and on the way picked up a lost runner who was looking for the start area and was heading in the wrong direction. When I got there, there was plenty of time to finalize my team and drop my bag the bag drop, which appeared to be working efficiently. I didn’t use the toilet facilities but I did hear a report that they had volunteers directing people to porta potties as they became available to keep things moving fast which was apparently very effective and a neat idea.
After another mile warming up with members of RVRR I headed to the start line. This course has generally been good to me (except last year when the unseasonal heat and being underprepared caused a problem). Some people like the course, others hate it. Those who don’t like it generally refer to the uneven surface and all the twists and turns.
I don’t know if I was more aware of it this year, but the road surface seemed worse than previous years with too many potholes to avoid. Of course, when you get to Liberty State Park that’s not so much of an issue, but once again runners had to deal with a head wind along the water front as they turned to run back through the park past the Statue of Liberty (I believe 2 years ago there was the same issue). This time I had no one around to run behind so picked up my pace to try to catch the small group ahead. It was during this stretch that I started to slow down and realized I would not be able to PR.
If I hadn’t run LeHigh Via Half the previous weekend, my time would still have been a PR – I was about 10 seconds faster than my previous PR (which was on this course), however I was 40 seconds slower than the previous week’s run. My legs felt tired towards the end, and it felt harder than my previous week’s effort and I suspect this was due to recovery time.
I know several people who had PRs that day despite the wind, so even with that, it still seems to be a good course to record a fast time.
In comparing the 2 races, there are pros and cons to both. Newport provides the benefit of a large number of runners, so you will always be near others, which, I believe, boosted my speed during the race, but the twists and turns and the wind took their toll. The VIA Half is net downhill and because it had fewer runners there were times when you felt isolated. I was lucky in that there always seemed to be runners within view that I could target to either catch or at least try not to lose sight of them.
I’m pretty sure I will consider both again next year, but if, for some reason, I have to choose one or the other, it may be a difficult decision.
Did you PR? Do you hate the course or love it?