Monday, October 26, 2009

How It Went Down

I slept very little the night before the race, maybe three hours. Pre-race anxiety and a howling storm kept me up most of the night. At 5 a.m., I headed downstairs for breakfast - two Clif bars, a banana, some dried mango and lots of Gatorade. My body felt good. No pains anywhere. That would change in a few hours.

Dori, her Uncle Tim and Aunt Jean, the kids and I arrived in the town of Falmouth about 45 minutes before the race. The local bank said it was 57 degrees, and the sky was clearing. We had a great running day for the 32nd annual Cape Cod Marathon.

A start cannon boomed and sent us on our way at 8:30. I ran my first mile in 10:20. I was in discomfort, hoping for a port-a-potty. I soon found one, losing only 30 seconds. A light NW breeze pushed us down the flat road, as we meandered along the the coast. My plan was to run 10:45/mile, but I wound up going faster. I felt great, like I was hardly working.

Through Mile 8, when we arrived at the cranberry bog, I was feeling strong. The course from Miles 8 through 15 rolls gently. I felt very good through this part, talking occasionally with fellow competitors. I passed the 13.1 mark in 2:15. Wow, I thought: If I hold this together, I might break 4:40.

At a water station at Mile 15, I looked at my Garmin, which said I was on a 10:12/mile pace. Too fast, a voice said, right before the first hill appeared. The hill at 15.5 was a long one before the turn to Sippiwissett. The course now was all bumps and big rolls, with three or four impressive hills. I didn't stop once, save for the bathroom break, until Mile 17. I walked very briefly here and again at a big hill at the Woods Hole Golf Course. I arrived in Woods Hole, where the ferry takes residents and tourists to Martha's Vineyard, feeling rough.

From here at Mile 21 to Mile 24, it was a battle. I guess I hit what folks call the wall. I had taken gels every 2.5 miles or so since Mile 4, but could not summon the energy to blast up hills. My biggest concern was the calf seizures I was having on climbs, a precursor to a cramp I could not let happen. That would have made finishing more than difficult.

I alternated running eleven-minute miles and walking up hills, including one at Nobska Light. I would say 80% of fellow racers were doing the same. Maybe they went out too fast, too. At Mile 24, the course flattened along the coast, with a view of Martha's Vineyard to the right. I told myself I was going to run the last two miles to the finish without stopping, attentive to the calf issue and despite the screaming pain. Where did it hurt? All over, but the things I'll remember are my back, knees, left achilles (which hurts today) and right side of my abdomen. I felt cramps, too, in the latter area.

Heading up Walker Street for the Green in Falmouth, I took a left at Main Street, where I sighted Uncle Tim. All excited, he yelled, "He's here!" He sprinted up the street to alert the kids, who bolted onto the course to run with me. Kathryn laughed with joy and Will said, "Dad, they're going to announce your name on the speaker!" I crossed in 4:53. Unbeknownst to me, Dori was near the finish line asking an official my whereabouts. She never saw me, but found me seconds later. She came up to me as I was hunched over, told me how proud she was, and watched me choke up briefly.

I enjoyed crossing the finish line, but not the next 25 minutes. Everything hurt. Stretching didn't help. The walk to the car was brutal. I could barely do that. This told me two things. I needed to train a little harder than I did ... probably more miles and hills, but not much more. It also told me I had left everything on that course.

In the car with Dori, the pain started to subside finally as I lifted my legs. I looked at my knees, which were caked in salt. Weird. Dori said my eyes were bloodshot. At the house, I took a brief ice bath to get the swelling down. This helped my legs significantly. Dori and the kids headed to Providence for their flight, while I catnapped. When Tim and Jean returned from the airport, they found me with some Old World French wine in hand watching the chickadees bathing in the birdbath. We had a great dinner and conversation. They're great hosts.

I learned a lot yesterday. If I ever run 26.2 again, I have some lessons, both training and race-day. I certainly would have benefitted from having a running buddy, especially for the hills. And I went out too quickly, 10:12/mile on the inner half, which led to a 12:03/mile on the home leg. Without the mistakes, I believe I would have run 4:40 or better. On a flat course, maybe closer to 4:30 or better. But 4:53 is a finish, and that was my goal.

The Cape Cod Marathon was the best organized race I've experienced. The race director and his team have it down pat. I love the size - 1,200 runners and the relay teams. I'll never forget the scenic course and the day God gave us to run it.

Cape Cod Times: Race Report and Photos
Marathon results 628 out of 791 finishers, about 1,200 entrants
This sounds familiar Thankfully I avoided the DNF
A very good account


Laura Creekmore said...

Jim, I'm so proud of you!! It sounds like the day really came off well -- not perfect, but a good result -- and what an accomplishment!!

Anonymous said...

Jim, Congrats. I have never run a full marathon but I have run halfs. I know how hard it is and the sacrifices you have made. I read your blog regularly even though you don't know me. I'll just say I am Craig from Cincinnati. Your support of Dori is amazing and you are an inspiring and amazing person. Go Jim!!!

Ann said...

Congratulations! You are amazing!

Dan said...

Nice work Jim!

ChuckEastNashville said...

Jim, the best marathon you endured was battling Dori's cancer. Cape Cod should have been a walk compared to that bigger battle. Congratulations on your marathon finish. Higher congratulations on being a great husband and father.

Lucky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


I don't even remember how I came across your blog, but I follow it regularly and your support for your wife and your attitude to life in general is really heartwarming.