Running in the Rhode Island Rain

I am not a big fan of running in the rain.  I know many runners who think running in the rain is wonderful.  Not me.  After running in the cold rain along the coast of New Hampshire in the Smuttynose Half, I had my fill of wet races.  But fate had other plans for me when I traveled to Newport, Rhode Island for a race two weeks ago.

Fun sculpture in the shopping area

Fun sculpture in the shopping area

Clark Cooke House circa 1780

Clark Cooke House circa 1780 – I love those windows!

The day I arrived the sun was out and the temperatures were in the 60s.  Really pleasant fall weather.  I wandered around town, looking at the unique architecture of the late 1700s buildings.  I peaked inside the grounds of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  I stumbled upon an Italian Festival and enjoyed some home-made baked goods.  Newport was going to be a lovely place to run a race.

Fred Perry statue at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Fred Perry statue at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

The beautiful weather disappeared the night before the race when it started to rain.  I came prepared for any weather but this wasn’t just a little drizzle.  It was a downpour. I wore my garbage-bag coat in a vain attempt to stay warm and dry while I waited for the race start.  Another runner mentioned to me she picked this race instead of the Smuttynose Half because it always rains for the Smuttynose race.  Looking at the downpour outside the shelter where we were huddled, she laughed.  I don’t think it is easy to avoid rain in New England in October.

Runner hack - how to keep your feet dry before a race

Runner hack – how to keep your feet dry before a race

Across from me I noticed a guy who had plastic grocery bags on his feet.  That was a trick I had never seen before.  He explained the bags were tied and secured at the ankles with rubber bands.  At the start of the race, he planned to take the bags off so he could start the race with dry feet.  It was a good idea.  But with the heavy rains and ponding on the roads, it wasn’t going to take long for his feet to be as wet as mine.

This runner came prepared for the weather with swim goggles!

This runner came prepared for the weather with swim goggles!

The Newport Half Marathon might have been one of the most beautiful race courses I have seen.  I say “might have been” because I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery.  I was more focused on avoiding the puddles, some that covered the entire road.  The stormy weather didn’t give us good views of the ocean either.  The wind picked up as we ran along the coast, turning merely wet runners into cold wet runners.  And there is plenty of wind in Newport – great if you are a sailor, not so great for runners.

A quiet little bay along the course

A quiet little cove along the course

The course took us past stunning mansions built in the 19th century for rich industrialists.  We could catch glimpses of them behind the iron gates and high walls that surrounded them.  On a sunny day it would have been breathtaking to stop and take pictures as we ran by.  I was more focused on finishing the race and getting into a hot shower.  Lest you think I am a whiner, let me quantify how much rain there was – over an inch of rain fell during the race alone, and in the entire 24-hour period, they had 2 inches.

I would love to go back to Newport.  There are plenty of sights I didn’t have time to visit.  As I ran, I saw scenery that I would have loved to photograph but I was trying to keep my cellphone dry and in my pocket.  When I plan my next visit, I will check the weather forecast before I go.

A Tale of Two Races

You may think that every half marathon is the same no matter where you go. I am finding that races can be as unique as snowflakes. The last two races that I have run illustrate how true this is.

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The Blerch

A few weeks ago I went to Carnation, Washington (just outside Seattle) to run the Beat the Blerch Half Marathon.   The Blerch race was inspired by a piece Matthew Inman wrote about running on his humor website, the Oatmeal.   The Oatmeal showcases Matthew’s absurd commentary on a wide variety of topics including cats, dogs, technology, and grammar to name a few.   Humor is a big part of the Beat the Blerch race too.   When I discovered Beat the Blerch, I knew it was the race I wanted to run in Washington.   Runners are encouraged to run for a PW [Personal Worst] in the Blerch. Since I was coming back from my broken toe, I knew I wouldn’t be running very fast. The Blerch was perfect for me.

Maple syrup or Nutella shot?

Maple syrup or chocolate sauce shot?

The race seemed to encourage eating bad food. We got fun Blerch merchandise in our goodie bag along with an assortment of candy. Most races have healthy food at the start line, at aid stations along the course and at the finish line, things like bananas, oranges and bagels. Not so at this race. Runners could participate in donut eating contests while they waited for the start. A man dressed as a Blerch walked around handing out shots of maple syrup and chocolate sauce to runners who might have missed their pre-race breakfast. And if anyone needed a last hit of sugar in the minutes right before the race started, he tossed fist-sized marshmallows into the crowd of runners.

I almost couldn't get back off the couch to finish

I almost couldn’t get off the couch to finish

There were Nutella sandwiches and cake at the aid stations. For any runners crashing from their sugar high, couches were placed along the course to sit down and rest. Adding to the fun atmosphere were people dressed in some of the craziest costumes I have ever seen including a woman runner dressed up as a can of Spam and more than one person in a Blerch costume chasing the runners. At the finish there was even more cake. I have to confess – the cake was so good that I had two pieces.

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Sasquatch almost got me

One of Washington's picturesque trails

The Blerch course

The course took us along the Snoqualmie Valley trail, through evergreen and mossy forests where I expected to see leprechauns pop up among the ferns. There were signs warning us of mountain lions and bears but the only “wild animal” I saw was a person dressed as a Sasquatch (Big Foot). Of all the races that I have run, I have to say that the Beat the Blerch was the most fun as well as the most scenic.

Scenery along the Smuttynose

Scenery along the Smuttynose

This past weekend I traveled to Hampton, New Hampshire to run the Smuttynose Half Marathon, a race that was totally different. There weren’t any runners dressed in crazy costumes and no efforts were made to elevate our glucose levels to near diabetic coma levels before we started the race. There weren’t any couches or Sasquatches along the course. Although it was windy and wet, running along the coast offered incredible views of surfers brave enough to venture out on their boards. When we finished the race, runners were treated to Smuttynose beer, New England clam chowder, and lobster rolls. Next to the Blerch cake, it was the best post-race food I have ever enjoyed.

Lobster roll and clam chowder - Yum!

Lobster roll and clam chowder – Yum!

Although the Beat the Blerch Half and the Smuttynose Half were two very different races, they also had similarities. They both covered 13.1 miles of beautiful scenery and were punctuated by delicious food (even if cake probably isn’t as good for you as soup and a sandwich). But the similarities stopped there. The Blerch was as silly as the Smuttynose was serious. I enjoyed the crazy atmosphere at the Blerch yet I was equally comfortable in the more focused atmosphere of the Smuttynose. I don’t want every race to be the same. I don’t want this journey to be the “same race, different place.” I like not knowing what to expect each time I head out for a race. The unknown is part of the adventure.

The Beat the Blerch race was inspired by Matthew Inman’s humorous piece on running.  Click the image below to read it on the Oatmeal.

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Source: The Oatmeal