The Shoreline Biathlon was the race that started it all for me - the one that got me hooked on running and racing.
Ten years and 63 races later, I knew I'd beat my old PR for sure, and was looking forward to seeing just how much I had improved.
On the way to the race, driving down Route 1 toward Westerly, I got to see the Firmman half-Ironman athletes cruising through the bike leg of their race. Always inspiring to see - and especially so when I was on the way to my own race!
The other 4 times I did this race, it was very small, so I anticipated the same this year, and figured the turnout might actually be even smaller, since this was their first year back after a 4-year hiatus.
It was indeed small - 45 participants total! I really like small races like that, though. So low-key, and so easy logistically - no parking hassles, no huge lines for the bathrooms, and just a nice, friendly feel to the whole thing - it's almost like you're just out for a really big group run.
I do hope they get a bit of a bigger turnout next year, though. It's a great little race, and I'd love to see it continue and thrive. There aren't very many duathlons around, and it's a great option for people who want a multisport event without having to swim.
I arrived with about half an hour to spare, so had plenty of time to set my things up and get in a quick warmup run, and without too much fanfare, we lined up, the gun fired, and we were off down the road.
I knew I'd go out too fast on the very flat run course, so I just did what I always do, and used the first half mile to try to regulate my pace and settle into what I knew I could maintain over the next 4.5 miles.
I was successful, dropping from a 6:40 pace to just over a 7:00 pace. I found myself settling in around 7:06, and it felt good, so I stuck with it, hoping I wouldn't crash and burn in the final miles.
There were two other women ahead of me when we first started, but I passed them near the end of the first mile, and never saw them again. And I knew there weren't too many guys ahead of me, either. Like I said, this was a very, very small field, so there was not a lot of competition, but it was still pretty cool to be way out in front like that.
It had been 5 years since I had last done the race, but I remembered the run course like the back of my hand. It's a really nice course along the ocean and through some quiet neighborhoods, and with the exception of two small rolling hills, is mostly flat and very fast.
The weather was great, too. The race starts at 11am, and some years that's meant very warm temps, but this year we were lucky and cloud cover kept it from being too warm. I was sticking to a pace right around 7:06, and still feeling great - even wondering if maybe I was holding back. But I reminded myself that I did need to save a little something for the bike.
Miles 1 - 3 felt fabulous. Working hard, for sure, but feeling great and having fun. Mile 4 was a little tougher, and Mile 5 was definitely a challenge. But I repeated the same thing in my head that I repeat in almost every race, when the going gets tough during that last mile - "You can do anything for just one mile."
I was very happy to run through the chute, and ecstatic when I heard the volunteers shouting to me that I was the first female!
That news was more than enough to get me moving quickly through transition, and I was back out on the road in no time, pedaling and grinning ear to ear.
I hadn't done so much as a single brick workout to prepare for this race, but going from the run to the bike is a little less difficult than going from the bike to the run, so I wasn't too worried. And as I figured, my legs felt a little tired at first, but I quickly shook that off and got into a good rhythm, heading down the super flat first stretch of the bike course.
I was in such a good rhythm, in fact, that I missed the first turn on the course! Ack!!!! In my defense, I don't think the turnoff was even marked. I should have remembered it, since I've ridden it 4 times before - but, it should have been marked.
Luckily it didn't take me long to realize what I had done, and in the end, I only rode a total of .6 extra miles, but it was enough to get me flustered. I had no idea how far behind me the 2nd place female was, but I didn't want to find out.
As I got myself back on the course, I flew past the few guys who had jumped ahead of me, and after a few minutes of pedaling frantically in an attempt to make up for that lost minute or so, I settled back down and enjoyed my favorite part of the course - a nice flat, smooth ride past vineyards and a golf course and farms. So pretty, and so, so fast!
The only real hills are pretty small, and are over quickly, and before I knew it, I was flying past the finish line and heading into my second 8-mile loop (the bike leg is two 8-mile loops).
I didn't have a lot of company on that second loop, but that was ok with me - I knew that meant that I was still out in front, and I was happy to be there : ) There were a few spots where we hit a decent headwind, but overall, the bike was fast and fun, and I was loving every minute of it, especially since I was maintaining just over a 20mph pace.
As I rounded the final corner and knew I had just about a mile to go, I got down in my aerobars and pedaled for all I was worth, and as I flew into the chute with the time showing just over 1:26, I was pretty certain I had held my #1 spot - and I knew for sure that I had just set an 11-minute PR.
Since it was such a small race, the results were posted and awards handed out pretty soon after. It was nice to go over and see my 1st place finish in writing : )
I hung around to see almost all the awards handed out, but since I was paying a babysitter to watch the boys (Scott was up in MA, completing a metric century ride), I didn't want to linger too long.
So, the biggest thing I take away from this race is that I've come a looooooong way since I set my PR of 1:37:29 in 2007. My time for the 5-mile run that year was 46:24, which is a 9:17 pace. This year, I ran the 5 miles in just over 35 minutes - an average 7:10 pace.
And that year, my bike split was about 51 minutes. This year, it was 48 minutes.
Training, hard work, persistence, and dedication pay off - this was definitive proof of that - and the jump in those numbers is what I'm most proud of. The 1st place finish is just the icing on the cake.
I keep feeling like that 1st place finish has to be followed by the addendum that "it was a really small race, and not terribly competitive," so it isn't really quite as justifiable as a 'win.'
But on this day, and in this field, it was a win, so I'm still proud of it. Besides, I'll probably never win a race again in my life, so I'm going to really soak this one up and revel in it.
When I came home with my trophy, the boys excitedly asked me what place I came in, and when I told them first, they asked "In your age group?" I love that they've never done a race themselves, but they already know about age-group awards.
And I also love that I was able to say "No - not in my age group - first place overall!!!"
I know they'd be my number one fans even if I came in dead last, but it's fun to give them something big to cheer about : )
The numbers -
5-mile run - 35:55 - 7:11 pace
16-mile bike - 48:39 - approx. 20mph pace
1st female finisher
For more from Michelle, check out Me and the Boys, her blog.