Race Recap: Cape Cod Marathon Half (Updated)

On October 27, 2012, my running friend, her half brother, and I ran the Novo Nordisk Cape Cod Marathon Half. No, I didn’t type that wrong. The race is really called the Marathon Half. The Cape Cod Marathon is in its 35th year and is a Falmouth, MA fall tradition. This year was only the second year for the half marathon option, and the race is named after its big brother. Thus, a marathon half. Race weekend events include the half marathon, marathon, marathon relay, and the Clam Chowdah Challenge (the half and full marathons on back to back days). When my running friend suggested the race, I was intrigued. It’s advertised as a mostly flat, scenic course, and the race winds through Falmouth and along Vineyard Sound. I hadn’t been to Cape Cod, so I signed up.

The registration process for this race was a bit strange. I completed my application, mailed it in, and assumed I was all set. A week or so later, I got an email that said that the race had filled and I was on the waiting list:

We received your half marathon registration form on 9/4/2012; however, as you may or may not know, the race filled on Saturday, August 11.  At this point, you have been placed on a waiting list, on which you are  # 42.  … Last year we had more than 100 runners withdraw and we have reserved some spaces for sponsors which may become available in September.  

I found this very strange. The website still listed spots open in the half marathon, but, sadly, I was wait listed. And, more than 100 people withdrew and were replaced – even more strange. My friend and I decided to wait it out. Sure enough, a few weeks later I got the email that I was selected for the race. Yay!

The night before the race, our little group headed to Cape Cod. We decided the best course of action was to pick up our packets the night before.

We arrived at the packet pick up location, “race headquarters”, to a group of runners milling around outside. Doors were opened promptly at 5pm and we all filed inside the school. Packet pick up was very well organized and completely efficient. We received instructions to come back the next morning for the race – there would be parking at the school.

On race morning, the weather was ideal. It was about 50 degrees, partly sunny, and breezy. Perfect running weather! We suited up and headed to the school to park. Parking was well organized and efficient. A number of volunteers were on hand to guide runners and organize the parking. The school was open and available for warm ups, bathrooms, and pre-race waiting. I was delighted to have a real bathroom to use before the race. The small luxuries of a real stall and soap and running water cannot be underestimated.

From the school, we headed across the playing fields and through an alley. We emerged on Main Street, directly across from the Town Hall Square and lined up. The start was organized chaos. It was a free for all start, no fancy corrals or pace groups here, but everyone seemed to have a good sense of where to line up and what to do.

The course was amazing! It is probably one of the more beautiful and scenic courses I’ve run. I didn’t take pictures along the route (I hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t want to add another complication), but you can see some amazing views from the race organizers here.

The first miles wind through neighborhoods and head out to the coast. Miles 2-3.5 or so are run along Vineyard Sound, on surface streets and past mansions, beach homes, historic camps, and marinas. At approximately mile 4, the course turns and moves onto the Shining Sea Bikeway. The paved bikeway is literally ocean front. There’s the bikeway, some beach scrub trees and bushes, and the sound. The views were amazing and the ocean area was humid and salty. The course continues on the bikeway until approximately mile 6 when it rejoins surface streets and begins the climb up to Nobska Lighthouse. The course is flat in the early miles, but at about 6.5 miles, it begins to climb and continues to feature rolling hills for the remainder of the course. The course turns near Falmouth Harbor (gorgeous views!) and then winds back along Surf Drive and towards town. The “in town” parts of the course are pure New England – a combination of Cape Cod style homes, little beach camps, and mansions, all with a seaside feel. Many miles of the course are directly seaside and the views are truly picturesque.

It is a well-designed course and was well marked on race day. Though the roads were open to traffic, there were helpful volunteers on each corner and the course markings were very clear. Mileage was posted and was accurate.

Despite my appreciation for the beauty and simplicity of the course, I was dissatisfied by one aspect of the race course. The water/fuel stations were not optimally placed and did not seem to be “approximately every 2.5 miles”, as advertised. The first water stop was about 2.5-3 miles in, then the second was at mile 4. There were no water stops on the bike trail. There was a water stop at about mile 7, then one at 9 and another at 10. It was warmer than I expected and I probably wasn’t properly hydrated, so more predictable water stops would have helped me. I didn’t drink enough at the stops at miles 3 and 4 to last through the bike course drought. In the future, I would plan to bring my own water.

The finish line was on Main Street, near the start line. The chute was well organized and festive. Announcers made sure runners were acknowledged and volunteers handed out the super fun medals.

At the finish line area, there were apples and cups for water. The full lunch spread – vegetable soup, rolls, salad, Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, and, inexplicably, clam chowder, was available at the school. There was plenty of food and it tasted delicious. My soup was super hot and handed to me by a smiling volunteer. I still can’t fathom someone eating clam chowder after running a race in warm weather, but some people at it and rumor had it that it was tasty.

Overall, I loved the Cape Cod Marathon Half. It was well organized, well-run, and had an absolutely beautiful course. I would definitely do it again – and recommend it to others.

Rachel and Running friend, post-race

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Run: Swiftly top (it’s an older one, patterned with flowers, in flash), Lululemon capris, really old, I’m not even certain the name, but fit like the new Run: Track Time capris.

Update:

Someone (rightly) pointed out that I didn’t include the elevation chart as I usually do. Sorry about that. Here it is:

And, pictures from the race can be found here and are searchable by bib number.

A Trip, A Race, and A Mystery Illness

It’s been a super long time since I’ve written anything – perhaps the longest time ever between posts. I swear, I’m still here and still running, but I’ve been out of my usual routine. This is the first time I’ve had my computer on in 11 days (or so my automatic backup tells me). Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to.

I ran the Hartford Half Marathon as a pace leader for Fleet Feet West Hartford.

Running as a pacer for the first time in a major race was so. much. fun. Earlier in the season, Fleet Feet hired me as a coach in the half marathon training program. I was lucky to be matched with an awesome training group who ran together consistently throughout training. On race day, my mom and I headed to the Fleet Feet meeting area. It was freezing cold – about 28 degrees and everyone was bundled up. We had trained in much warmer conditions, so this was new to most of the first time half marathoners. I managed to find a few of my group members before the race and offered to pace them to their goal of 2:15. We had a great time, felt amazing, and cruised in at 2:12. It was a great time and a wonderful race.

My mom was in town!

Yay! I love my mom. She’s a walker and runner and lives in Florida now so we don’t get to work out together as much as I would like. But, she was in town for 10 days. Hooray! We picked apples and made pies and apple sauce. I ate a slightly scary quantity of apple cider donuts. We walked on the trails in the area. We even completed an epic, 9 mile walk on the rail trail.

All in all, we had a great time. It was wonderful to have my mom here.

My running friend and I started a running club at University of Connecticut.

Following the success of the University of Connecticut Run@Work Day event, my running friend and I were asked to start a running club for university faculty and staff. The JM Club had its first ever group run last Friday. Sadly, only my friend and I showed up. It was about 50 degrees and pouring. We got soaked, but we got in the miles and kicked off the JM Club events.

I have a mystery illness.

It’s true. I’m sick again. Only I’m maybe not sick. I have a mystery illness. It all started with a sore throat about two weeks ago. The sore throat went away, but then I developed a stuffy nose. The stuffy nose went away, but then I developed new symptoms. Now I’m fatigued, have a headache, and my nose is running. Weird. It’s that day-before-being-super-sick feeling. I keep thinking that I will wake up in the morning super sick, but, thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I’ve been resting, sleeping lots, drinking tons of water, and taking my vitamins. I hope that I can beat this mystery illness – whatever it is.

 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me and there’s more fun around the corner. Today, I leave with my running friend for the Cape Cod Half Marathon in Falmouth, MA. I’ve lived in New England for 5 years, yet I’ve never been to Cape Cod. What better way to see the Cape than on foot, in a race? Expect a full report later.

Back on the Wagon – Day 1

All of your suggestions were just the motivation/kick in the pants I needed to get back on track. And, as one friend pointed out, I do have this very public forum to which I can hold myself accountable. I’m sure the shame of having to report on my junk food consumption or speed work slacking in a public way would be highly motivating.

So, I’m back on the wagon. It’s a taper week (bad timing to want to get back on the wagon, I know), so I went to the gym instead of running last night. Ah, the gym. I am not a huge fan of my gym. The best thing about it is that it’s cheap and has a decent selection of cardio equipment. The downside is that it’s cheap and has a decent selection of cardio equipment, so it tends to be the place that not-too-serious exercisers flock. I decided to do one of my usual workouts – 10 minutes on each of the five cardio options available to me (elliptical, treadmill, recumbent bike, spin bike, and regular bike). As I looked around at the people texting while walking on the treadmill at what could only be described as a leisurely pace, the scrawny guy sitting on the leg press watching TV, and the college girls laying on the ground pretending to be stretching, I had a realization. I’m not really off the wagon. I’m not really slacking on my workout regime. My running mileage has been high, I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve been doing my strength training. Yes, sticking to my training plan and doing my speed work is important, but I have been running and working out. That’s pretty good.

Feeling a little bit better about my fitness, I decided on Subway for dinner. I got a nice, healthy sub, and some pickles. Yum. I had some of my most favorite, totally healthy, sweet potato chips from Food Should Taste Good. All of you must try these chips. They’re delicious, healthy, taste good alone or with dips, and are made of sweet potatoes.

A totally healthy day. Yay!

Off the Wagon

It’s true. I’m off the wagon. Not the running wagon – but the training and eating right wagon. I’ve been running, but not training. I’ve been eating, but not eating well. Combined, this makes me feel like a slug. It also makes for boring blog posts, so I’ve been off the blog posting wagon, too. It’s time for a change.

I had the shocking realization this weekend that I haven’t done speedwork in more than a month. I haven’t been following my training plan. I’ve just been running, randomly. I’m getting in decent long runs – those are the one part of my training that I’ve been able to maintain. I’ve also been getting in lots of nice, conversation-paced runs, but I’m not really training. I’m just running.

Part of the problem is that my brain needs a break. I usually struggle with training when the runs are too precise, or require a lot of thinking. Running is my time to not think. I like to go out for a run and not think, not stress, and run until I’m tried enough to avoid thinking the rest of the night. I like to run first thing in the morning so that I can be calm and focused all day. I like to run to clear my head, and that sometimes interferes with training. Things like 600 repeats, progression runs, and tempo runs all require thinking. Lately, I just haven’t been in the mood to think. Things are crazy and super high pressure at work right now. The summer is over, the days are short, my schedule is a mess, and my general sense of unease has made my brain tired. I need running to be a time to not think. But, I’m over a month into my not-thinking phase and I’ve realized that it’s really impacting my running. I’m slower, for one thing. I’m not feeling as strong, and now my running is one of the many things I am stressing about. Combine this with my propensity for candy, particularly when I’m stressed, and it’s a recipe for sluggishness.

I need to get back on track. I know I can do it. This certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last time I’m off the wagon. But, I could use your help. What’s the best, kick-in-the-pants advice you’ve gotten?

Connecticut Race Report, October 2012

In this Connecticut Race Report (also featured on Pace Per Mile), I’m highlighting some great events in Connecticut in the month of October. With the Hartford Marathon and some fun Halloween-themed races, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Here are a few running events you might enjoy:

Aids Run & Walk

AIDS 5k Run and Walk, West Hartford, CT, Saturday October 6, 2012 at 10:00 am – Come out and run or walk the 5K course where the proceeds will benefit AIDS Project Hartford and the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition. Registration is $25 for the 5k run and $10  for the 5k walk. Amenities include professional timing, awards, and water stations.

ING Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay, 5K & Kids KING Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay, 5K & Kids K, Hartford, CT, Saturday October 13, 2012 at 8:00 am  – Join thousands of runners at one of Connecticut’s most popular marathon/half marathons! The races start in beautiful Bushnell Park and wind through Hartford, West Hartford, and other nearby towns (depending on your distance). Registration includes a shirt, awards, finisher medals (for the marathon and half), on-course entertainment, and post-race food. This year there will be NO race day registration, so come prepared! Check out their website for registration details and information about the associated weekend events.
Harvest Run and Walk, Manchester, CT, Saturday, October 21, 2012 at 8:30am – This 5k race is sponsored and organized by Manchester Running Company and will be held at Manchester Community College and will benefit the Community Child Guidance Clinic of Manchester. Registration is $20 in advance and $25 on race day. The first 100 registered participants will get race t-shirts.
Race for Crew, Mansfield, CT, Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 10am – This new race starts and ends at EO Smith High School (near UConn’s campus) in Mansfield Connecticut. Proceeds will benefit the EO Smith High School crew team and help support their season. Prizes will be awarded for overall and age group winners. Registration is $15 in advance and $20 after October 19th. Register online or in person on race day.
Devil made me do it 6.66 miler and Not so devilish 3.33 miler
Devil Made Me Do It 6.66 Miler and Not So Devilish 3.33 Miler, Glastonbury, CT, Sunday October 28, 2012 at 9:00 am – The devil made me do it is a fun Halloween themed road race that is designed for runners of all abilities. The courses begin and end at Smith Middle School. All registered runners will receive devil horns!

 

Staying Motivated After a Race

So you’ve run your first race. It was amazing – you finished, you had fun, and you achieved a goal. Now what? For many runners, there is a post-race lull. This is a normal part of the racing season and post-race lulls are great times to rest, recover, and reevaluate goals. Here are my suggestions to keep a lull from becoming a rut:

  1. Register for another race. Nothing motivates me to stick to my training like having another race on my schedule. I love to schedule new races just after finishing  – a new race always seems like a good idea when I’m still crazy from the joy of finishing.
  2. Stay in touch with running friends. It’s likely that you’ve made or reinvigorated running friendships during training. Keep those friendships up and schedule group runs. Knowing someone is waiting for you outside in the cold at the crack of dawn is highly motivating.
  3. Mix it up. The time period after a race is a great time to try something new – a new distance, a new running group, or a new trail. Keep running fresh and fun.
  4. Cross train. Once you’re out of an active training cycle, it can be good to revisit other activities for a while. Not only will you be ready to return to running after some time off, you might learn how much you love something other than running.
  5. Hire a coach. Need to stay accountable after the end of a group training program or heavy training season? Pick a new goal and hire a coach to help you achieve it. See my post on working with a coach for more.

No matter what you do, stick with running. Find the joy in running and it will repay you with fitness, friends, and lots of fun memories.