In which the weather is incredibly windy, the course is excessively hilly, and I run MUCH slower than I have in any of my long runs, but all is not lost as I still manage to finish with a smile on my face.
**Warning: this is a long one, maybe grab some snacks…I recommend Cape Cod potato chips and Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
This recap isn’t the most exciting one to write because my performance on Sunday was pretty disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that I finished and I very much enjoyed the beauty of the course, but I think I should have been able to run a faster marathon. The course, described on the race website as “challenging”, was much more difficult than I anticipated even with that warning, and the goals/paces I had in my mind throughout training were not really realistic. I think that’s what really bugged me. Not that I ran the time that I did (5:31:??), but that it was so far off from what I anticipated (< 5 hours).
Okay, enough of that pity party…let’s talk about the good stuff!
The race is held in Falmouth, which is about a 2 hour drive from our house, so Jeff and I got a hotel for the night before and called the weekend a “mini vacation”. Neither of us have been to Cape Cod before, so we headed down early on Saturday so we could do some exploring. I use the term “exploring” loosely since we mostly did race related activities: packet pickup and driving the course. But we also made it over to the beach for a bit of a walk before the wind blew us back inside the hotel.
The race expo wasn’t anything to write home about, except for the way they did the shirts. When I picked up my number I was given a coupon for a free cotton race t-shirt. OR I could use that coupon for $15 towards an upgraded version of the shirt. And they were printing (silk screening?) the shirts right there. After much deliberation I decided to go for an upgraded shirt. While I don’t mind cotton race shirts, I DO prefer a shirt that fits properly. So I opted for a neon yellow moisture wicking shirt that was available in a woman’s size. I loved the way they did this. I now have a shirt I love and will wear.
After visiting the expo, walking around main street, and grabbing lunch we hopped back in the car to drive the race course. You pretty much already know how I felt about that because I freaked out after and posted about it. I’m glad I saw the course before hand and was able to readjust my goals a bit, but it was SCARY. I pretty much wanted to just go home and not run the race after I saw what I was in for, but we’d already paid for the hotel room, and I wanted to be able to wear that awesome shirt.
By race morning, I had managed to somewhat pull myself together. I decided to stay focused on my goal of enjoying myself, and try not to worry about my time. My top priority was to go out slow, but I planned to keep an eye on my pace in case things ended up going better than expected. With a new plan, and some pep talks by Jeff and the rest of my fan club (Jeff’s parents and sister), I was definitely feeling less terrified by the time I got to the start.
And then, we were off! The race started downtown, and then wound around some residential areas, before heading out to the ocean. I spent these first 3 to 4 miles keeping my pace in check, and enjoying the surroundings. Unfortunately, I had some pretty bad side stitches at this point, but I tried to think positively that this would deter me from starting too fast. That mental game seemed to work as I was about 30 seconds slower per mile than my training run pace and was all smiles when I saw my fans for the first time!
By mile 5, the side stitches had worn off, but that didn’t change my pace, and I continued to run at a pretty steady 11:30/mile for almost the entire first half of the race. According to the elevation profile, miles 5 to 12 were a steady incline. While I noticed rolling hills starting at mile 8, I didn’t feel like I was climbing before that. In retrospect, I’m guessing that my legs noticed even if I didn’t at the time. By mile 12, I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling. I’d been running slow and steady like planned, I’d fueled appropriately, and had seen my fan club three times! I should have had an excess of energy at that point, but I didn’t. So at the half way point I decided to throw out all time goals, and just keep moving forward with a smile.
Then after seeing my fan club again (seriously, they were EVERYWHERE..it was AMAZING), at around 15.5 miles, I changed up my strategy a bit more. The serious hills were getting started at this point, and I was really wondering how I’d make it another 10+ miles. So, I decided to run/walk up the hills. I started with a run a minute/walk a minute strategy, but for the most part I was able to run longer than a minute before I wanted/needed to walk. Even with this new plan, this part of the race was very difficult. It was so hilly, and with the wind constantly blowing in my face, I was starting to get a bit chilly. I just kept thinking about my fan club waiting for me at mile 19, where I’d turn back towards the ocean (and out of the shade), and that got me to put one foot in front of the other.
Once I made it back to the ocean, I knew the worst of the hills were over. Don’t get me wrong, there were still more hills, but at least they would be further apart, and I could enjoy some sunshine and ocean views while running up them. And that’s pretty much how the remainder of the race went. I continued to do run/walk (all the time now, not just on the hills), and I enjoyed the scenery and smiled like crazy every time I saw my fan club (another 3 times I think it was). Finally, at mile 24, the course flattened back out, and I plodded along back to main street.
Where I FINALLY, after five and a half hours, crossed the finish line!
Overall, I had a pretty good day. Like I said before, I was disappointed in my time, but I kept moving forward, and enjoyed everything I could. I had some awesome fans, and the course really was super nice to look at. I even got an oreo frappe right after the race, and it was quite delicious. I don’t regret signing up for this particular marathon, but I think that from now on, I’ll stick to marathons that don’t call themselves “challenging”.