Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Cox Sports Providence Marathon

May 4, 2014 7:30 AM
Providence, Rhode Island

Time Pace Division Division
Bib #
Owen 3:42:09 8:28 M30-39 69/196 206/714 281/1,372 1878

Written by Owen:

A week before I ran this marathon my nephew, Casey Sims, was in a terrible car accident and broke his back.  Doctors give him a 1-3% chance of walking again.  I know he can walk again.  His attitude is amazing.  I decided to dedicate this marathon to him.

This race was only three weeks after the Carmel Marathon, and I had already registered for the Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon on May 18th (two weeks after this race).  But I've always wanted to travel via train to a race, and for this race, it actually was cheaper than flying (that's not usually the case).  So last minute, I registered and bought my train tickets.

My Amtrak itinerary had me stopping in NYC for a layover on the way there, and in D.C. for a 3.5 hour layover coming home.  Because my mom lives so close to D.C., I called her to see if, by chance, she could meet me in D.C. the Monday after the race for lunch during my layover.  She surprised me and suggested that she hop on the train with me on the way up to Rhode Island, and we could spend the weekend together.  Now I was really looking forward to it, before that it was just going to be me, so I could cross another state of the list.  Now it was going to be a Mother/Son weekend (the week before Mother's Day, even.)

Friday afternoon, we drove as a family to have dinner with Malissa's dad, who lives really close to the train station in Salisbury, NC.  We had dinner, then Malissa and the kids went home.  Malissa's dad offered to take me to the train station at 2 AM Saturday morning (REALLY NICE, thank you).  They even have a treadmill, so I was able to do my two-mile shakeout run.  We decided to just stay up and watch TV, as opposed to getting a couple of hours of sleep, that way I'd be tired enough to sleep on the train.

Unfortunately, at about midnight, I got an email from Amtrak saying the train was delayed until 3:50 AM.  So I slept on the couch and we set our alarms for 2:30 AM.  I woke to my alarm, checked my phone, and now there was another email saying it was delayed until 4:00 AM.  I didn't want Mark to have to wait anymore, so I had him take me to the station and I waited an hour or so there.

I finally boarded the train shortly after 4:00 AM.  I emailed my mom, telling her it was now delayed by two hours, so she could maybe get some more sleep. I got some sleep, got some work done, and waited. The train pulled up in Culpeper, Virginia, and she was waiting to board!  I was so excited.

We talked and the time passed much quicker.

On the train Saturday morning.
We made it in to Washington D.C., on our way North for a scheduled stop.  We didn't have to get off the train, so we just waited while they switched engines (South of D.C. they use Diesel, North of D.C. they use electric engines). They must have had more trouble, because we got delayed by another 45 minutes or so.  Now it was clear that we were going to miss our connecting train in New York.  So we called and got moved to the train two hours later, which had us arriving in Providence at 8:30 PM.

On the dining cart on the train, that was a special treat.
We made it to New York, and found that our next train was also delayed by about 35 minutes.  So we walked out and took some pictures nearby.

Mom getting a pretzel at a street vendor.

Outside Madison Square Garden, which is connected to Penn Station.

Waiting for our train in NYC's Penn Station.
We finally boarded the train and were on our way to Providence.

NYC's skyline, from the train.
We arrived in Providence after 9PM, the night before the race, 17 hours after I boarded the train in NC.  We still needed to eat, checkin to the hotel, and try to get some sleep before the marathon.  The day before the marathon is such an important day of rest preparing for a marathon and this was anything but restful, but I still enjoyed it.  I was concerned with how my body would react in the marathon the next morning.

We had dinner at Uno's Grill, recommended by the race website, and within walking distance between the train station and our hotel.  They were short-staffed, and out of a lot of food, so because of that, very slow.  It was still good and we enjoyed it.  We walked to the hotel and checked in.  FINALLY, a bed!  By the time I got unpacked and was ready to sleep it was midnight, with a 5:30 AM alarm clock set.  Not ideal, but I knew I would have no problem sleeping all 5.5 hours.

Sure enough, my mom woke me up from a sound sleep at 5:30 AM.  I felt good.  I got ready, and we headed to race morning packet pickup (first time I've had to do that).  The race was very organized and pickup was a breeze.

Just before the race, after picking up my bib.

Look hard and you can see the drone that shot the video below.

Seeing that drone fly above us was something else that I've never seen at a race, but was really cool.  Here is a link to the video that it shot.

The race started, and I settled in to a comfortable pace.  Because this was the second of three marathons within five weeks, no PRs were going to be set today.  I stayed with the 3:30 pace group for a while, but my goal was 3:40.  I like leaving some "cushion" for the last few miles.  I had no idea how tough the last few were going to be today.

The course was very pretty.  We ran on a beautiful running/biking path, but also on a lot of roads where we were confined to the shoulder with both directions open to vehicular traffic.  I didn't like that at all, there was not enough room for the quantity of runners, the shoulder had a lot of potholes, and it was very sandy. The organization/amenities of this race were great, but I would not recommend it due to how they stuff you on the shoulder for a good portion of the race.

One HUGE perk this race offered was FREE hi-res pictures.  All of them!  They were sponsored by TomTom, and you had to "like" their page and see a quick promo about their watch, but that's a small price to pay to get what usually costs $50-$75.  Here are some of them:

The wind really picked up at about mile 20, just when marathons get tough anyway.  This was an absolute brutal wind, really powerful.  Covering a mile in that wind was easily three times more difficult than normal, right when it's already more difficult with no wind.  I was on pace to beat 3:40 until that wind.  It really slowed me down, but I still was enjoying it.  I finished strong on the last 385 yards and crossed in 3:42:09.

After the race, we walked back to the hotel.  Our hotel (the Hilton Providence) was right next door to where the Barnum & Bailey Circus was going on at the big arena in Providence, named the Dunkin' Donuts Center.  I got in the shower, and as I was getting out, I heard a bunch of fire trucks, and ambulances racing toward where the Start/Finish line was.  I could see them out my hotel window.  I immediately was worried there was another Boston-style attack.  We checked out of the hotel and started walking toward where we were going to eat lunch.  We saw some EMT's loading a woman on a stretcher into an ambulance, and thought someone must have just fainted at the circus.  I didn't find out until the next day that this had happened.

Our outgoing train wasn't scheduled to leave Providence until after 10PM that night.  So we walked around the local mall, caught a movie, searched everywhere for a gift shop for some gifts for my kids, had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, and finally caught the train home.

The "black blob" next to me is my mom with her hoodie turned backwards, for sleep.  Note my stylish eye sleepwear.
The original plan had me taking the train all the way back to Salisbury, NC, and I would work Monday from the train.  But I learned on the way up that there were way too many "dead spots" where internet connectivity was impossible.  So I changed my plans and got off with my mom on Monday morning, and worked from her house.  I then caught a Greyhound bus late Monday night and had the worst night of my life travelling back home from Stafford Virginia, to Charlotte.  Nothing bad happened, I was just incredibly sleep deprived, and sat with a homeless man that had way too many layers of stinky clothes that spilled over into my seat.  The clock would not move fast enough.

I got home Tuesday morning just in time to start my day of work.  I had only slept in a bed 5 hours over the past four nights.  Immediately at 5pm, after work on Tuesday, I took a two hour nap.  Then I went to bed at 8:30 PM and slept for almost 12 solid hours and awoke a new man Wednesday morning.

I can officially scratch "train travel to a marathon" off my bucket list, what an experience. State/DC & Marathon #23 is now complete, and I get to look forward to another one in less than two weeks. I had an absolute blast with my mom, and am so glad she joined me on this fun, pre-Mother's Day, weekend.

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