Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Taking 39.3 . . . the Cape Cod Marathon Chowdah Challenge

39.3 miles over 2 days?  Was This My Idea?
Of course it was.  It is, as my husband would be quick to tell you, ALWAYS my idea to do these things.  How many times have I thought, said, or written these words. . . "it sounded like a good idea at the time!" ?  [As an aside, how many times have you thought or said those words in any context?]
Seriously, I must say it 10 times a week.  In some athletic endeavour, for some self created volunteer obligation, for some parenting task gone wild, or some combination of the above.

Back in July, when I was sitting around my parent's house looking for a good fall marathon, feeling invincible in advance of my 1/2 ironman and listening to all of my UltraTeam friends talk about ULTRA training, it was a great idea. . . training for it. . . working my way through double run Wednesdays (am and pm), medium run Thursdays (6-10 miles), and long run Friday's (15-20 miles) wasn't terrible-- it was a little lonely but it was also a great way to explore the new neighborhood-- there really aren't many streets in Worcester and Holden you DON'T run on while out on a 20 miler.

Of course, as usual in my world,   the week before the event descended into chaos. 

IronMom Strikes Again
Tuesday involved a 4 hour stint at the book fair . . . Wednesday baking 50 cookies for the bake sale. . . Thursday? A 6 hour daytime book fair shift, a play date, and a 4 hour nighttime shift at the book fair.  Friday arrived with the need to pack for my own adventure, get the kids football, soccer and boy scout gear together, cook for my family for the weekend, play date, a playoff football game for Will,  Jack coming down with hives, and get up and get ready for Saturday's race.

Fortunately, Saturday's race was in a place that I know well.  For the past 20 years (or so), I've done the Falmouth Road Race and race headquarters for the Cape Cod Marathon was the same school where we pick up the buses.  So, although exhausted, I knew I wasn't getting lost on the way.

Even better-- there could not have been better race organization!  Seriously.  This race was everything you love about the Falmouth Road Race without all the hassle (and minus about 8K runners and 50K spectators). Pulling into the school found ample parking, an open school--with real pottys and heat-- tables, coffee, and a friendly group of volunteers all willing to say, "oh, the Chowder Challenge-- yeah, good luck with that!" or "Oh, the Chowdah Challenge, you're crazy."

My parking mate, Lacey, was a first time 1/2 marathoner and it was her first time in Falmouth.  If she was 23, I would be amazed.  She was so nervous.  We talked about racing, made fun of the other participants-- the super dedicated looking ones-- and chatted until race day.  At one point, she looked over at me and said, "I'm laughing too hard to be nervous-- this is great!"

The Best Laid Plans
Day One:  The 1/2 Marathon
I really did have a plan coming into the weekend. I promise that I did.  This is something I always need to work on in my racing.  Sticking to the brilliant plans that my amazing coach and I come up with. . .  So, Saturday's plan was to GO REALLY REALLY SLOW.  Despite how fast (for me) I'd been getting in training, I was supposed to throw away the desire for a PR in the half marathon and SLOW DOWN. Forget that I'd been running 10:12's in practice and run 11:49's for the entire 1/2 marathon.  Really.  I can do this.  I can go slower.

The first time I knew I was in trouble was about 1/2 mile in.  I was headed down the road and felt like I was standing still. Seriously, I felt like I was standing still.  People were passing me on both sides.  One girl was chatting to some guy about how she was running the Chowder Challenge and was "running really really slow today".  I looked over and said I was doing it as well and asked her what she planned on running. . . the answer?  10:15-10:30's.  Oh well, there goes my really really slow.  Off she ran. . . and I hit mile 1.  My watch beeped and I looked down.  10:43.  SERIOUSLY?  10:43.  I FEEL LIKE I"M STANDING STILL AND REALLY ANNOYING PEOPLE ARE PASSING ME TALKING ABOUT HOW SLOW THEY PLAN ON GOING AND I"M SUPPOSED TO RUN A MINUTE PER MILE SLOWER THAN THIS??????

Didn't happen.  As we headed down to the shore road, my pace stayed about the same.  Heading left we stayed on the Falmouth Road Race Course for a bit before heading off into a neighborhood that, although my family has lived in Falmouth for the past 35 years, I'd had no idea existed.  It was around this time. . . mile 2 1/2, that the lead runner passed us heading back around the turn into Woods Hole. 

After a stint back on Surf Drive, we were on the Shining Sea Bike Path-- i.e. the less hilly way into Woods Hole.  I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the amazing people I met running this race.  One lady, who I played leapfrog with was 69 years old, and running her first 1/2 marathon AFTER HIP REPLACEMENT SURGERY-- she was also running a leg in the marathon relay the next day.  The mom and two daughters who were running together and having an unbelievable discussion about breast feeding as they headed down the road.  The gentleman from Waco, Texas who I leapfrogged or ran with for about 4 miles.  A friend of his had this on his bucket list and he said, "sure, I'm in."   Runners are incredible people. 

By the end of the bike path, we were back on the Falmouth Road Race course, heading up the hill at Nobska Lighthouse.   For those of you that have never seen this. . . there really aren't words for how beautiful it is.  You run down by the water and head up a winding hill.  As you get to the top. you see the lighthouse. . and hear the strains of the theme song from Rocky --which I truly believe has been continuously running since about 1972 when they started the Falmouth Road Race.


(for all of you bubble bursting, movie buff historians out there, you don't need to tell me that the original Rocky did not come out in 1972.  leave me to my own motivational daydreams)

How was I doing?  I was feeling good. Legs were getting a little fatigued but then again, I was ripping (for me) up the course.  I came down and found my way to the finish line in 2:24 minutes or  a PR for the the half marathon distance. 
Had I followed my plan?  Not at all, I was 10 minutes ahead of where I was supposed to be. My heart rate had gone a good 10 beats per minute than it was supposed to. . . I was probably more tired than I was supposed to be.  But I had about 22 hours to recover.

I walked to my car, both happy about my good race and angry with myself for not following my plan.  When I got there, I saw a paper under my windshield and leaned over to pull it off. . . what did I find?
Runners Rock

I'm not kidding.  I was headed to my parents house, and bless his heart, my husband was staying home with the kids in Worcester taking them to soccer and boy scouts.  I HAD THE WHOLE DAY OFF!  My mom did the cooking, we watched the Ironman World Championship Show (and got to see my amazing friend Heather Wajer who lost 157 pounds on HER Iron Journey). We spent much of the day watching storm coverage and with me getting nervous that I wasn't home to help my family prepare for the gathering stormagedden.

I stayed up too late watching storm coverage but still managed a good night sleep due to the Marathon's late (8:30 am) start.

Following the Plan-- Maybe
Was today the day?  I'd been running SO well in training; I'd run really well-- too well actually-- yesterday.  Was today going to be the day that I finally got my marathon time back down under 5 hours?  Part of me was afraid to hope that it would be.  I've been so frustrated lately with the slower times, and I've been running better than I'd run since I had kids. . . maybe today would be the day.  But then again.  I ran a 1/2 yesterday. . . and I'd run it pretty fast. . . for me.  I was feeling a little tight in the calves and Achilles tendons were snapping a bit.  What to do.  My coach and I had devised the plan. . . I was going to stay between 11:30 and 12:00 minute miles for the first 13.1; then, if I was feeling good, I'd speed it up to 11:-11:30's between miles 13.1 to 20.  At that point, I could run as fast as I wanted to. 

Let me tell you how that worked.  I came through the 7 mile mark running 11:30's.  The streets were not closed to traffic-- although the runners  had pretty much taken over the streets.  After so many years of bike training, I would call out ahead of me "Car Back" as I was approached from the rear-- now that I think about it-- runners don't really seem to understand that. . . That being said, I'd like to say that people appreciated the warnings, especially when some of the "cars" that were back there were trucks pulling boats that were being evacuated from the Marina's in advance of Stormagedden. While certainly NOT the first time I've ever been almost hit by a car running, its fair to say that it IS the first time I've been almost hit by a BOAT!

Mum and Dad had come down to the corner at Davisville and Rt 28 to see me, and I took a minute to say thank you for coming to both of them.  As loyal readers know, usually my TNT family is the only family I have out at races, so to see biological family out there is always special.

Speaking of my TNT family, I was sporting my IronTeam duds for the full, hoping for a few hearty Go Team's out there on the course.  I think I chose poorly, since I don't think I got one GO TEAM the whole time I was out there.  Need to work on that. . . the whole getting Iron Team recognition out here.

NEWSFLASH:  26.2 miles is a long way.
About mile 11, we started into the hilly part of the course.  I was feeling good.  Ran for a while with an amazing lady who was running her 100th marathon or ultra!  Ran with one of the 3 guys from Texas, who said he'd gone out WAY too fast yesterday as well and was taking it really easy today.  He also spent about 20 minutes quizzing me on triathlon.  As did many people.  Not the least of which was the state trooper manning an intersection around mile 16 who stopped me-- seriously, I turned around to continue the conversation because I didn't feel I could be rude to a state trooper-- to tell me he'd done 23 and 11 in Hawaii. . .   Someone else felt the need to ask me how Lance Armstrong had done at Kona. . . but I digress.

Around the 1/2 marathon mark, I felt pretty good.  I was a little nervous anticipating the hills, and a little nervous knowing that I had now finished the broken "marathon" part of the 2 day race. . . and needed to get myself through ANOTHER 1/2 marathon before I was done.  I decided that I was going to WAIT and not start to pick up my pace for a few more miles.  I set my sights on picking up that pace when we get to mile 16. 

Mile 16  came. . . and went.  I was hitting the hills, I knew I needed to get to mile 21-- or the top of the Nobska lighthouse.  Then I'd be home free.  I set my sights on picking up that pace when I got to mile 20. 

While I wasn't picking up the pace, I wasn't slowing either.  I actually was feeling good.  If you'd've told me that 30, 31, 32 miles into this 39 mile adventure I'd be feeling as good as I was I'd NEVER would have believed you.  NEVER.  But I did.  My quads were smarting with every step, but other than that, I felt pretty good.  And then, we took the turn out of  Woods Hole and we were back on the Falmouth Course.

After about 16 Falmouth Road Races, finding myself on the course that I know and LOVE so well was a REAL lift.  Knowing that I wasn't even going to have to run the whole Falmouth Road Race. . . even better. 

As I came up the hill to the tune of Rocky, I laughed out loud remembering Will, my 7 year old son, who'd run the race with me in August, "Mommy, what is everyone complaining about?  This isn't a hill? Those things in California were hills."

Up and down and through the rollers.  I still felt good.  I was going to pick it up right?  Yeah, NO I wasn't going to pick it up.  Maybe I was more tired than I thought?  Maybe I was just in an 11:30 groove.  Not sure which it was, but I found myself saying, "I'll pick it up when I get done with the rollers that I knew existed in the 2 miles after coming down from the lighthouse. 

I still had a shot at that sub 5 hour marathon.  It was close.  I can do it in those last 2 miles.  Its that close.  I can taste it-- no wait, that is my orange cream cycle nutrition from my back pack making me crazy-- I can feel it. 

No wait-- that is the 20 mile an hour headwind that hit me in the head like a brick as we emerged onto Surf Drive.  Those last 2 miles. . . seriously, Sandy's Stormageddon was on its way.  The wind was whipping, the light rain was dripping, it was like a Tennessee Valley Run pretty much 300 days of the year with cooler scenery.

I was setting my sights on Road Kill-- people I knew I could pass.  My head was up, my form felt good.  I flashed back to the Ironman Championship show I'd seen the day before-- when people with energy were passing people without energy.  I FELT like I looked like on of the folks doing the passing.  My head felt high-- my posture felt good-- although the quads were barking I never felt that  leg dragging feeling that you can experience at the end.  I felt confident and comfortable.   I realized that, outside of planned walk breaks, I hadn't had a single moment of this marathon where I'd felt like walking (which may be a first). 

Coach, and other coach type people, would say that this is what happens when you work your plan in training and in the race. . . who would have known that they were right????  I felt great as I took the last left onto Main Street. . . and in the din of the lead up to the finish line. . . heard my mom saying, Go. Runners. . . Go Runners. . GO PAULA!!! GO PAULA.   Mom had come back to the finish line and was parking the car as I ran right by her!!!! HOW AWESOME IS MY MOM!!!!

I cruised to the finish line in 5 hours and  2 minutes.  Would I have broken the 5 hour mark if I'd not run so fast on Saturday (or not run Saturday at all?)  Maybe.  Would I have paced myself and felt so strong on Sunday if I'd not raced on Saturday?  Maybe-- or probably (based upon umpteen marathons, halfs and triathlons) not.  I probably would have done what I always do and gone out too fast and fizzled in the end. . .  So, to make a long story short, I feel like I learned a TON from this race.  First, pacing is key--yes, I knew this, but this may have been the first time I actually executed it.  Second, I can do a 50K.  Really, I can.  And that may be next. . .

HARD EARNED SWAG.  Seriously, how much do I love that the shirt says NOT A WIMP??
All in all, this race rocks.  AMAZING people, FABULOUS organization, BEAUTIFYL COURSE, TERRIFIC course support, COOL and UNUSUAL swag, and, of course, A CHALLENGE.
As most of you know, I race for a cure.  All that I put myself though is nothing compared to those who race for the cure to Cancer.  If you've been inspired or enjoyed the ride, please take a minute to check out my website

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