The Horseneck Half Marathon was race number 2 for the May double weekend. This was my first double since December 2017. I had picked up my bib on Saturday afternoon at the Westport Rivers Vineyard. If I had had more energy, I would have stuck around for some wine tastings, but I was too exhausted so I did a quick in and out. They did offer bib pick up on race morning, but if I can get the bib prior to that, I always try to.
This race did not start until 9am. As my second race of the weekend, this was nice in a way but I just feel that any race that is held after May 1st should start at 7am. Why wait so late in the morning? In this case, I was staying about 8 minutes away from Horseneck Beach, which is where the race started and finished. Since I had slept about 10 hours, I gradually got up on my own at 7am. I sort of putzed around and slowly got myself together. I ended up leaving around 7:50am and was on site by 8am. I probably did not need to leave so early, but I ended up snagging a great parking spot and just hung out in the car listening to my podcasts.
Around 8:20am I went and waited in line at the port-o-potties by my car. I figured I’d do one last pre-race bathroom visit. This gave me an idea of what the weather was like. It was interesting since we started so close to the ocean, as that area was so cold, windy and misty. I ended up pulling out my arm warmers and lots of people were standing around in jackets. Some runners waiting in the bathroom line were talking about running in long sleeve. While it was cold there, I was glad to have kept to my tank and shorts.
Finally at 8:50am, I walked across the parking lot to the start line. Just was I settled in and was getting my watch going, they announced that we wouldn’t be starting for another 20 minutes. You quickly saw all of the runners back out of the corral and head to cars or huddle in small groups to stay warm. I didn’t see the need to walk back to my car, so I went over to the big tent and hung out until 9:10am and then started the process all over again. This time, right at 9:15am they got the race started and I was going across the start line for half number 62 and state 39.
This course was one large loop around Westport from Horseneck Beach. There were a total of maybe 6 turns all together, all of which were right turns except the left coming from the start line. Within the first quarter mile, I could feel my legs revolting. I thought to myself that this was going to be a long day. I would start with the 3/1 interval and if I had to deviate and do more walking, I would. I wasn’t expecting much from this race.
As compared to the night before, this course was very flat. I had driven a fair amount of the course just getting around, so I knew what to expect. Right out of the gate, you head over a drawbridge. I am sure my heart rate spiked as I hate running across the metal grates. I did more of a walk on my tip toes to get over this point.
Just like the day before, this course was an open course with cars on the road. And again for the most part you had pretty courtesy drivers, but not everyone was. In fact, I will absolutely call out the silver BMW that had official race magnets on it BLAZING by runners at a high rate of speed and being one of the worst offenders. Since we were on back country roads to the begin with, the speed limit was around 30mph to start. Since this was a loop and the course was opened, it was a great race for spectators. You would see the same people out there every so often. I settled into my run/walk pretty easily. At the end of mile 2, we had a slight incline but nothing major until the end of mile 4.And once again, I kept my watch to my internal times versus my overall mileage and time. I did look at the mileage a few times in the beginning as I was buzzing almost a tenth short.
As I mentioned, the first big climb was coming out of mile 4. We ended this climb turning onto Hixbridge Dr and came into mile 5 shortly on this road. This section of the course was around 1.25 miles and the worst and was by far my slowest section on the course. Since we were also at the further point from the start, this area was so much more clear and had no fog. We crossed one small bridge and like many runners that I saw in front of me, hopped up for a quick selfie. I ran for a small bit, but hit a hill and just kept walking. At the top of the hill was the second water stop and I decided to grab the sport drink they were giving out. I had never heard of it and was a little nervous trying it, but it wasn’t bad at all. It was easy on the stomach and the taste was decent.
There were a few more ups and downs and finally we came to the next turn onto Horseneck Drive and found mile 6. We were on this stretch of road for about 5 miles. This is also the stretch where something just sort of turned inside and I did nothing but pass people. Again, I wasn’t trying to pick people off, but the legs were just turning over and I was going with it. Other than seeing a mile split here or there, I had no idea where I was with my overall time.
Around mile 8 I passed two ladies who had some amazing spectators out with them. I kept seeing this car out there everywhere. Come to find out, one of the runners, Susan, was running her fist half. I’ve run so many Half Marathon now that I feel like I can do it in my sleep so it’s so amazing to see the excitement in someone’s eyes when they are running their first.
I bobbled a little in mile 9. There was an ever so slight incline to start this mile and I felt it. It really wasn’t anything major, but with almost 22 miles on my legs by this point, I wasn’t feeling any sort of incline. Luckily there were some cows off the side to help distract me. The fog by now was setting in again since we were getting a lot closer to the beach.
Since mile 9 had the slight increase, mile 10 had the slight downhill. I knew we had one last water stop at mile 11 and I had planned to grab the sport drink again before hitting the last 2 miles. All of a sudden, the last water stop was more around mile 10.5 and not 11. I am not sure if this was planned or not, but it caught me a little off guard. Finally just before mile 11, we made the last turn which was right along the beach and we were greeted with a horrific headwind. I am talking 20mph at least.
I immediately lost confidence to finish these miles. While I was not pushing for time, I had really felt good and then the wind just took that away from me in no time. It was also right at mile 11 that Susan, the first time half marathoner, all of a sudden came out of no where and just took off. I didn’t see her again until the finish when I was able to congratulate her. I buckled down as best as I could, but these miles were tough. We came up to one intersection and the cop standing there cheered on to the runners, “The faster you finish, the faster you can drink your beer.” I had a good chuckle out of this and told him I was doing my best to get to that beer.
I thought the turn at mile 11 was the last one, but I was wrong. We had one two more technically. The second to last was turning onto the path that took us into the park again. For a small while we got a little reprieve from the wind, but then it just hit us as a nasty cross wind. I got to mile 12 and just like the day before told myself I had 3 more run/walks and I would be done. In fact, I had actually been counting down these intervals since mile 10 and it seemed to really help. I took my focus off other things and by breaking down the runs into 12 more intervals, I was able to get through to the finish.
Finally I could see the finish line area coming near. I saw a few runners who had finished walking back which is always a good sign as well. I was pushing as hard as I could, but because of that wind almost felt like I was going no where. About mile 12.8, my watch buzzed for another walk break. this time however, I ignored it and decided that I could push the rest out and still finish strong and it worked! We turned into the finish chute and I was so happy to cross that finish line mat and receive my medal.
I couldn’t stop smiling after this race. I not only finished a few minutes faster than the day before (okay, sure it was a flatter course), but I was just so happy with how I felt. I honestly didn’t feel like I thought I would. Sure my legs hurt, but I have felt worse. I asked some super nice people to snag my picture both at the finish line and on the beach. If it would have been nicer weather, I would have maybe ventured further toward the ocean, but at least I was standing on the beach.
I headed over to the food tent and the line to get in was beyond crazy! I gave some people in line my beer and food ticket and decided to just go grab a shower. My AirBnB host was gracious to let me come back and shower after the race. I didn’t want to take advantage of that time too much, so I didn’t feel like waiting. I had leftover brick oven pizza from dinner the night before so I ended up eating that for lunch. Since I didn’t get my post race beer, I headed over to New Bedford to snag a flight at Moby Dick’s Brewing. I wanted to go to New Bedford anyway to visit the Whaling Museum so that worked out well.
Overall, this race was really well run and one I would recommend. It worked out so well with the NH race and hopefully it would continue to do so for future 50 Staters. The biggest gripes would be the 9am start time (just why?) and the lack of a 5th water stop. I just think for a half, having 5 stops make sense. Yes, I do carry my own water, but sometimes I need a little more and really like grabbing whatever sport drink they have out there. The other minor gripe is that not all of the water stops had trash cans and cups were everywhere. This seemed to be the first 3 stops and I really hope volunteers were able to get all of the cups before they littered the beautiful countryside. Also, I would have been concerned if any runner went down on the course. Not once did I see medical or police go by. As I mentioned earlier, there were cars with the Horseneck Half Magnets on them, but it wasn’t that frequent that they would go by.
Being 10 weeks after surgery, I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t this. I felt strong and I was so happy with that. Double weekends are not easy, but this one definitely just rolled off the legs like it was no big deal. I’ll work on getting my times down, but being able to finish two races feeling strong means more to me than seeing a faster time. Thanks NH and MA for being so nice to me.
Official Finish Time:
123/142, Female 30-39