Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Falmouth Road Race 2015 Race Report

On Sunday I took my first crack at the Falmouth Road Race - a race which I vaguely knew about for the last couple of years as a New England "thing", but not something that had ever crossed my mind to do until, in the weird personal turmoil that was the couple weeks after Boston, I was on the Brain Injury Association of MA website for something to do with work and happened to notice that they were fielding a fundraising team for Falmouth. I waffled back and forth for a couple of days about whether I thought I would be able to raise the money, logistics, etc, but eventually I wound up signing up and shortly after found out that I was on the team! So now, several months later, it was finally time to actually run the race!

My mom came into town to join Andrew, Dayton, and I for the weekend at the Cape (aka - I was basically like, mom, will you drive me to the Cape so I can do this race and don't have to drive myself? And she was like, OK. My mom is great.) We headed down on Friday night in a surprisingly successful attempt to avoid the insanity that is Cape traffic and had a pretty low key evening Friday night.
Dayton got an entire hotel bed to himself, hahaha

Saturday morning I woke up fairly early to get in a shakeout run, and was unpleasantly surprised when at 7:20 it was already uncomfortably hot and humid. This did not bode well for a 9 am race the following day with pretty much the same weather forecast. Still, I had a nice shakeout through West Yarmouth, including a stop midway at Seagull Beach for an impromptu photo shoot, because I'm the coolest human being ever. 
 Judge me all you want, but I very much enjoy this photo
 Beach! Shakeout run! Let me take a selfie!
The beach minus obnoxious humans

We then headed to the expo - unfortunately almost an hour drive from our hotel - which was about as intense as I expected. Not nearly as crazy as Boston or even the NYC Half, but any time you send 12K plus people to number pick up and throw in some merchandise booths, things are bound to get at least a little bit crazy. I picked up my number, which is probably the coolest number I've ever had for a race - 777 for a 7 mile race, what what!
Requisite "I had to pick up my bib before the race, and they have a photo backdrop" shot

Post-expo, our goal was to attempt to find somewhere to hike and to check out Cape Cod Brewery. My mom had initially found a place in Falmouth that supposedly had trails or something, but after about 30 minutes of driving around and not being able to find any sort of entrance or trailhead, we gave up and decided to go back to the brewery (another ~45 min drive. There was a LOT of driving involved on this trip). The brewery itself was fantastic - super low key and dog friendly, they even had a brewery mascot dog! We did a tasting and bought some hot dogs and beer cheese dip from some 14 year olds running a food truck outside. It was an absolutely perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Dayton and brewery dog Buster

Beer tasting with mom!

We left the brewery and headed to Sandy Neck in Barnstable to take a stab at 'hiking'...an unfortunately ill fated decision on my part since after about 15 minutes of wandering through sand dunes we realized that we had made a huge mistake. It was 85+ degrees out, full sun, and we were walking with a black dog who was not enjoying his Saturday afternoon. Grumpy times were had by all, but we survived. After that adventure, I headed to the BIA team dinner at an Italian restaurant that happened to be right down the street from our hotel - random but extremely convenient! It was pretty cool meeting the other team members, all of whom had some connection to brain injury whether they were survivors themselves or had family members who had been affected. I left the dinner feeling really proud and happy that I had chosen to run this race for a cause instead of just for myself, and even more excited about the following day.

My 5:15 am alarm came pretty damn early on Sunday, and it was extremely confusing. My body was like WAIT! We're getting up super early and you already have a bib number and HOLY SHIT are we running a marathon today?! That's gotta be it, right? This only happens with marathons! And then my brain was like, hahaha no you know what's amazing? Is that you only have to run 7 MILES today! It was really strange having all of this pomp and circumstance leading up to just a 7 mile race, but in a way it was also extremely fun - all the excitement of a marathon, without, you know, actually having to RUN a marathon!
It is 5:30 am and I am exciteddddd

I met up with the rest of the BIA team around 6:30 and we headed over to the buses. Everything went really smoothly - the bus system was super organized and the volunteers were fantastic. The Porta Potty lines I saw before getting on the bus made me a little nervous about what the scene would look like in Wood's Hole, but to my absolute surprise and extreme pleasure, there were so many porta potties spread out throughout the staging area that the lines were 4-5 people long at most...Falmouth, you get ALL the props for this! The way the busing system works (last bus at 7:45 am) pretty much everyone gets to the start insanely early, and I wasn't really sure what to do with all that time. I stuck with the team until about 8:15 and then decided that I probably should go warm up. I jogged around for a couple of miles in weird circles and tried to pretend that I was a serious runner who deserved a seeded bib number. At one point I saw a couple of GBTC girls, including one who I kind of know...forgetting that I wasn't wearing a GBTC singlet and these people otherwise most likely have no clue who I am, I smiled and waved and got blank stares in return. Derp. Hahaha. By the end of my very easy warmup, I was already absolutely drenched in sweat - not even 8:30 am yet and it was already warm and wicked humid. Rut roh. Not good. I think by this point I was already managing my expectations pretty well, and I wasn't really nervous or anything, but I knew that the heat was going to impact me and that my time probably wasn't going to meet my "best case scenario" expectation. Oh well.

I decided to start working my way up through the crowds to the seeded corral at about 8:40, which seemed reasonable since the race started at 9. This did not turn out to be one of my better ideas - there was some sort of incident out on the course that prevented the wheelchairs from going off on time and that basically set everything back by about 10 minutes. As a result, I ended up standing in the full sun without any water for about half an hour before the race started, something which I don't think did me any favors once I started running. It was pretty neat getting to be in the seeded corral, where everyone was warming up and doing drills and generally appeared to be pretty legit. I told myself "well, YOU'RE legit too, or you wouldn't be up here" and tried to find anything that vaguely resembled shade. By the time the national anthem was playing, I was already very, very warm - a feeling which wasn't going to go away any time over the next hour.

Finally around 9:10, we were off! Despite being in the seeded corral, the start was still a pretty big clusterfuck. There were definitely still some people who had placed themselves higher than was maybe reasonable, and as soon as I crossed the line I found myself running at what could only be described as a light jog. Everywhere I looked - wall of people. I didn't want to waste too much energy zig zagging around, but I also really didn't want to spend an excessive amount of time behind a line of 3 men running 9:00 pace, so I did make a little bit of an effort over the first half mile or so to break out into a group that was running closer to my pace. Once that happened, I felt pretty good for about 3 minutes. After that, I started to realize that I was ALREADY noticing the heat. We weren't even at the mile mark, my legs felt like I was basically doing a tempo run, and yet the rest of my systems were already starting to send up red flags. Yup - this was not going to be pretty. Not that I ever really had a plan or specific goal for this race, but after about half a mile I had already realigned my expectations for "survival" vs. racing.

We headed up towards the 1 mile mark up the hill that heads towards the Nobscot Light. I am not kidding - this is possibly the most gorgeous view I've ever seen on a racecourse. It was absolutely breathtaking - the ocean and cliffs to your right, this incredible lighthouse straight ahead, and all along the road a sea of runners. Mile 1 was a 6:58 and my thought process was - neat! That pace is about to drop by about 20 seconds for the rest of the race. Get used to the idea. I already felt like I was dragging my body up that first major hill, and there were still 6 miles to go? Woof. During the second mile I think there was some shade and some downhill, and while I totally missed the mile marker it looks like I was able to sort of hang onto my pace for that mile (7:02). But oh dear, that was where the carnage began. I knew by the time I hit the second mile marker that I was already dehydrated and starting to overheat. I was feeling seriously rough for having only run 2 miles.  Again, my legs really didn't feel like they were working that hard, but I could just tell that my heart rate was crazy high for the effort I was putting in, especially whenever I would go over even the slightest incline. I felt like I was already crawling. Somewhere around mile 2, we finally came up on a water stop and I immediately downed a cup, then took a second one and dumped it over my head. This helped for about 4 seconds, until I ran back into the sun. It was like Boston 2012 all over again, except I was kind of trying to run fast, and thankfully only had to run 7 miles. I thanked my lucky stars that this was NOT a marathon or even a half several times during the race. 

I don't really know what to say about miles 3-5 from a running perspective. I was riding the suffer bus big time, though I was vaguely aware that everyone around me was as well. There were people walking, people who looked like they should be running a lot faster who...weren't...all the usual hallmarks of a race where everyone is getting stomped on by the elements. Mile 3 was a 7:28, I remember at some point during that mile there was this miniscule little hill that I just thought was going to break me. I couldn't believe how hard I was having to work just to continue to move forward. Despite how shitty I was feeling, I was desperately trying to cling on to reminding myself of WHY I was doing this race - for the people I work with every day. I reminded myself that I had all of their names written on the back of my bib, and that I was absolutely blessed to get to run 7 miles in the blazing sun for people who can't. As cheesy as it sounds, that did help me to keep fighting to move forward. I wanted to represent this team and this organization well, and to represent my patients as they deserve. So I kept trucking. Miles 4 and 5 were flat as flat could be, pretty amazing in a New England race. However, on this particular day there was a problem, which was that besides being flat they were also completely exposed on the coastline in full sun. Again, it was absolutely gorgeous and I tried to make myself look at the water, but I also couldn't help but imagine how absolutely GLORIOUS it would be to just stop racing and go jump in the water right this very second. Mile 4 I rallied a little bit on the flat despite the sun with a 7:16, but by mile 5 I was just straight up toast - 7:35, and I was WORKING for it. 

Just after the 5 mile mark, a few things happened that helped me to believe that I was going to make it through the rest of the race. The first was the realization that I only had 2 miles to go - NBD, right? The second was that we turned onto a somewhat more shady section of the course, and as the pack had thinned out quite a bit the crowds (which were really, REALLY great by the way) were able to pick out more runners by name, and I was hearing a lot more "Go Audrey!"'s, which I tried to give a smile or a wave to each one. I high fived some kids. And then came the most glorious pack of spectators EVER - they were handing out full, ice cold water bottles. I took a couple of swigs and then dumped the rest over my head. How can I even explain how absolutely ridiculously AMAZING it felt to have ice cold water pouring over my body at that point in the race? I had been running through every sprinkler and hose that I saw and was egging kids on to spray me with their water guns, but to just be soaked in freezing cold water? I could not think of any better feeling at that moment. Despite the fact that my entire body was now soaked and my feet were squelching in my shoes, I began to feel my strength returning. It was around this point where I felt like I was starting to pass people. I was still suffering and overheating big time, sure. I just wanted to not be hot any more, yes. But the last 2 miles I really made an effort to run strong and attempt to enjoy myself. Mile 6 was a 7:20 (bringing it back, yeah!) and I finally was like, last mile, just GO. I knew there was an unpleasant hill just before the finish and it was about as unpleasant as advertised, but after that I tried my best to kick it in down the hill, past the gigantic American flag, and to give some sort of smile as I crossed the finish.

I was running behind that guy in the Moldova shirt for most of the last mile, and I just kept reading it over and over...proof of exhaustion hahaha

I was mildly disappointed to not have snuck under 51:00 (official time was 51:09), but primarily I was happy to be no longer running and to still be standing upright. I chugged a water bottle, dumped another one over my head, and then drank some sort of weird cranberry juice thing in the post finish area. After eating a celebratory hot dog, I figured I should attempt to find my way back to my family...unfortunately, the handy map I had drawn for myself had literally disintegrated in my pocket, so I had no clue where I was or where I was supposed to go. I ended up walking for a bit with a girl from Somerville Road Runners and we eventually found our way out of the finish area. My original plan was to do a 4 mile cooldown (HAHAHAHA LOL) but I figured that after all that managing 2 miles was still way better than nothing, so that's what I did. 

So...that was Falmouth! I didn't have the greatest race, but I think I can mainly attribute that to the heat. All I heard after crossing the finish line from other runners was "holy shit, that sucked" or "man, I was way off my time" so I know I wasn't the only one who didn't hit the pace I wanted. The race itself is absolutely fantastic and I would absolutely love to do it again - don't think it will be an every year occurence like Boston, but definitely one to keep on the radar. The crowds are great and everyone is incredibly warm and welcoming - the town really embraces the race and it shows. I also think the course really has the potential to be fast if the weather cooperates - my legs felt good out there, and I wished that the rest of my body wasn't melting so I could go along with them!

Falmouth Road Race 2015
7 miles
51:09 (7:18 pace)
458/10782 OA, 117/5905 women, 86/3091 open women (19-39)

The results also had a few fun stats that I kind of enjoyed...
During the first 5K, I passed 182 runners and was passed by 87. At the 5K mark I was in 563rd place. From 5K to 10K, I passed 82 runners and was passed by 28. At the 10K I was in 465th place overall. Between 10K and the finish I passed 18 runners and 2 passed me. So I definitely passed WAY more people than passed me, and based on these stats I actually ran a fairly strong second half compared to people around me in the filed - moving up by over 100 places from 5K to the finish ain't too shabby! When I look at it that way, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I stuck with it and didn't get overly frustrated by how hot/uncomfortable I was - my goal was to just keep running and that's what I did. And now, back to your regularly scheduled marathon training....

Post race = a 3 hour drive over the Sagamore bridge, lots of fried seafood and a lobster roll in Phymouth, and beers at Mayflower Brewery. And also, going to bed at 9:30 pm.