Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cape Cod Marathon Race Report

Where do I start?  It always seems that I have a lot to process after running a marathon and Sunday's Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth, Massachusetts was no different.

I was registered for last year's race.  However, with Superstorm Sandy in the Atlantic about to make landfall, I opted not to get stuck in Boston for three to four days and ate the entry once I learned that I could change my flight on United for in the future without penalty.

(They actually ran the race last year before the storm blew in.)

My marathoning, for those that know me, isn't as serious as it is to many.  Once I accomplished my first one nine years ago (this past weekend), all bets were off, so to speak.

I've learned a lot about myself over the years.

When you (I'm speaking to whoever is reading) run a race of any distance, I hope you enjoy it and do well (however, you define "well").  That's it.  I'll ask you, "Did you have fun?"  And if you tell me, "Yes," then I'll say, "Fantastic.  Congratulations."

And then it is time for me to move on.

As well as it is for me once I finish a race, I'll move on and won't discuss it unless I'm asked about it -- or something that I learned from it that may help another person if it comes up in conversation.

I get more enjoyment out of maintaining regular workouts and then going out and running a marathon than I do following a rigid schedule.  I've done both with similar results.

When I've trained the right way, I've posted my third and fourth best times ever.

My best time ever?  It was the third marathon in three weeks.  Two weeks after that, I recorded my eighth best time (out of 50, to date).

I digress.  I had done half marathons in July (Erie, Pa.), August (Parkersburg, W.Va.) and September (Mansfield, Tx.), but missed the one two weeks ago in Charlottesville, Va. while visiting Waverly at Liberty University.

However, I had been trying to get back to the track on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to find out where my steady marathon pace was at.  Yes, again, non-traditional; however, it works for me.

In the middle of the week, I had checked on the temperature, which was to my liking (cold), but it also had some rain in the forecast.  This week, I came prepared with every possible combination to race in.

I also did something that I normally never do and that’s to look at the course profile.  And I’ve done some doozy of some races at altitude such as Bozeman (MT), Boise (ID) and Park City (UT).

Here were some of the reviews posted at comments on one version of a course map:

+  Very scenic, very hilly, very windy last 4 miles, very challenging, and a whole lot of fun & satisfaction.
+  I recommend it if you LOVE hills.
+  Hills are deceptively tough. Lots of up and down.
+  Those hills don't feel like much to skilled runners or those who train in real hills, but for those of us who are flat-land-recreational-runner-types... it's hard.
+  Very scenic but challenging course, particularly the second half.
+  Miles 15 to 23 beat you up pretty good.

So you get the idea.  They all basically said to go easy at the start because you’ll need it at the back end.  And they were right!

Since I went to an NCAA Division III college football game between Amherst and Tufts early Saturday afternoon, I opted to pick up my packet before the race on Sunday morning.

I stayed in Raynham, about 45 minutes to the north-northwest, to save $30-$40 per night in hotel expense since I was flying out on Monday morning.

With an 8:30 a.m. start, I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.  And even though I got off a wrong exit and lost about 10 minutes on a turnaround on the freeway, I still made it to Falmouth a little after 7:30 a.m.

Picking your packet up was easy and I was given a coupon for a shirt.  They actually printed your screen on your shirt while you waited with a hot press.  You could – for a price, I assume – get your name among a list of all others in your alphabetical grouping on the back of the long-sleeved t-shirt.  (I bypassed this option.)

I had elected to wear the shorts I had purchased in Boerne the weekend before – as they were a little loose-fitting -- with a long-sleeveNike technical top that I could tuck in underneath to avoid chafing around my mid-section.

I checked the weather on my phone and saw that the rain we had experienced earlier in the morning would subside within an hour and that the temperature wasn’t going to get any higher than 56.

I first opted to put a short sleeve technical shirt (my blue Lunar Rendezvous Run one) over top, but as I walked to the starting line – through a baseball field near the school where everyone parked – I felt like I should put the long sleeved Brooks technical shirt on instead.  (And later, as the winds picked up, it would pay off even as the sun made it a bit warmer towards the end of the race.)

I started near the back of the approximately 850 starters and looked to get into a rhythm.

“The first 10.5 miles are relatively flat, with the exception of one short hill at 3 miles, as the course goes east along the shore for about five miles and then heads inland through the farmland and cranberry bogs of East Falmouth.”

Mile 1 - 10:22.88
Mile 2 - 10:20.76
Mile 3 - 10:58.44
Mile 4 - 10:21.75
Mile 5 - 10:23.37
Mile 6 - 11:47.90 (water stop and pee break)
Mile 7 - 10:38.82
Mile 8 - 11:23.90
Mile 9 - 10:55.85
Mile 10 - 10:49.25

As you can see, I ran pretty consistent with course description.  The aid stations, though, were stretched out to about every 2.5 miles versus every 1.5 to 2.  I made sure that I got water and Gatorade at every stop.

At the mile five aid station, which was at the front of the driveways of two houses along a long road, I asked a guy that lived at one of them if I could slip in behind some trees and take a leak.  I did, thanked him and he was pretty happy that he could be of assistance!

“When the course turns onto Thomas Landers Road, the route climbs for 1.5 miles about 70 feet to the highest elevation of the course (about 100 feet above sea level).”

Mile 11 - 11:50.84
Mile 12 - 11:28.45

Indeed.  I acted as if I was in an ultra, walk the uphill and run the rest.  And this section was no different.  I felt like if I could go as many miles as possible under 12 minutes a mile, that it would give me a short of trying to be at or around 5:12 – for not being ready.

“From mile 12 to mile 15, the course heads south into West Falmouth and is primarily downhill or flat. There is a 3/4 mile downhill at mile 12 that starts that sequence.”

Mile 13 - 10:52.93
Mile 14 - 11:24.21
Mile 15 - 11:36.40

Again, the description was on the money.  Even though I was starting to fatigue a little, the mile 13 split was indicative of the long downhill stretch before we made a left-hand turn into West Falmouth and start our return to downtown.

Along the way, I passed these two young ladies that I would later learn – from looking at the results - that both were from Buffalo.  As well as an older gentleman that was running the course as a bandit and was always trying to engage in conversation.  I was focused on taking down one mile at a time – and not in the best mood to converse with others.

Past the mile 15 marker, I was spent.  I did the math – 16 minutes times 11 miles to go (for 2:56) – and added it to the 2:45:15 that I had already gone and signed off on a 5:43 finish.

However, as it normally goes, I try to find opportunities to shave time off of that.

“Between mile 15.5 and 23.5 the course proceeds south into Woods Hole and picks up the first part of the Falmouth Road Race course, going past Nobska Light at mile 22. This 8 mile stretch of terrain consists of a non-stop series short rolling hills mixed in with some flat and with some noteworthy hills (1/4 - 1/3 mile) at 15.5, 17, 20, and 22 miles.”

Mile 16 - 13:44.54
Mile 17 - 12:18.23
Mile 18 - 14:26.28
Mile 19 - 13:52.08
Mile 20 - 14:15.22
Mile 21 - 13:33.87
Mile 22 - 14:09.55

The Nobska Lighthouse was right at the mile 22 marker.  During this stretch and in miles 23 and 24, I walked much of it, especially the uphills, and then did my best to run as much of the downhills as possible.

The thing is that my lower back was taking most of the beating (and this is from my weight).

However, when I tried to run, I did so at a faster pace to alleviate my lower back discomfort and would end up being gassed.  If I could have just kept running steady on a flat course, I might have been able to have kept running longer – because I never really felt fatigued.

Starting at about the mile 18 marker, while I was wondering when the two young ladies from New York state would pass me, I saw a tall gentleman with a red top, black running tights and a white cap.

That could have only been one person and it took me until almost the mile 20 marker to catch up and confirm my suspicion.  It was Jim Simpson of Huntingdon Beach, California, who has almost 1,110 career marathon finishes to his credit.  He was running with Frank Bartocci from Minnesota.  Both of these guys I knew from their multiple appearances at the Texas Marathon in Kingwood on New Year’s Day.

As it turned out, though, I was having a better day than the two of them as I soldiered on.

“Just beyond 23.5 miles, the terrain flattens out again for the last 3.2 miles along the Vineyard Sound shore and back to Falmouth center.”

Mile 23 - 14:43.98
Mile 24 - 14:58.66
Mile 25 - 13:34:23
Mile 26 - 13:51.24
Last .2 - 2:16.86

And it was where, right before the 25-mile marker, the two young ladies passed me – as well as some others.

I finished in front of a couple – one of which was pushing their child in a stroller.  It reminded me of Iram Leon’s win at the Gusher Marathon this past March in Beaumont.  I thought to ask if he had seen that, but I thought that it was just bringing attention to myself (because I had a chance to have the finish line call of that event) and I decided against it.

It might have been before I caught up to Jim and Frank, I saw a woman with shorts that looked like a Texas flag.  She was from Sunnyvale in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and after later looking at the results, she had done the half marathon on Saturday to finish up the Clam Chowdah Challenge.  As I was walking back past the finish line on my way to the parking lot, she finished up a couple of minutes behind me.

I had no regrets running the race in Salem the day before.  To me, every race experience is different and special.

Before the race, as I walked back to the car from picking my bib up, I cried.

I was missing Waverly being with me.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle Houston in January as I will help drive her back to Liberty the weekend before.

She hasn’t been with me at a majority of my marathons, but she’s been with me enough – 21, to be exact -- that it brought me to tears then – and even now, as I write.

I know that my starting to run was the key for her to be able to lose the weight that she carried up until the end of her freshman year – and it is something that we enjoy together today.

People can – and maybe do – judge me for my lack of training, et. al., but they will never be able to take away the joy of sharing something with my offspring that no fast time nor BQ could replace or better.

Oh, my finishing time?  5:20:59.  Oddly enough, it was my 19th best finish out of 50 to date.

1 comment:

Ed Fry said...

Jon, another fantastic race report that provides inspiration on many levels. You are one of a handful of runners in the greater Houston area who have such a big impact on so many others.