Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Cape Cod Marathon - A Story

.... A race I will never forget!

Keith and I headed up to Cape Cod on Friday evening, checked into our cute little Inn, and decided to get a few beers at a local dive bar where there was a Halloween party going on in full force. We saw a few pirate wenches, “sexy” sesame street characters, and Lady Diva (Lady Gaga’s younger sister… in drag). Needless to say, we were entertained.

On Saturday, we headed to the Marathon Expo to pick up my bib and t-shirt. It was complete chaos, but I left with a neat little bumper sticker and keychain to remember the race by!

Is that a pre-race pumpkin spice latte in hand?
You know it.
We grabbed lunch at a cute Irish Pub, and then headed to the ferry to take us to Martha’s Vineyard. We hopped on the 2:30, hoping to check out the island for a few hours before the Nor’easter really hit. But as soon as we got to Vineyard Haven, the crew instructed us we better take the next boat back as the waters were already getting rough. Almost instantly, they canceled the next ferry, and Keith and I waited in anguish to see whether the 5pm would go back to Falmouth.

We finally began loading for the 5pm ferry, and fantasized about what we would get that night from Stone L’Oven, a cute little pizza and pasta place that would help me carbo-load for the race. As soon as the boat started to move, however, we crashed into the dock, and they canceled the trip. As well as the rest of the ferries for the night. 
(Don't worry, I went to Stone L'Oven eventually. And their pizza is dynamite.)

Keith and I were not exactly in a good place at this point. With me crying (ok, weeping), and Keith angry and upset, we had a long pity party at the “Vineyard Harbor Motel” we had to stay at– aka, the no-heat-and-we-aren't-quite-sure-the-last-time-it-was-cleaned motel. Really negative thoughts began to race in my head. Would I make it back to the marathon? Would the marathon be canceled? I couldn’t stand the thought of not running the race after my months of training. It was almost too much for me to handle. Big thanks to my mom and Kelly for talking me down from a ledge and helping me sort through the ridiculousness of the situation.

After several tissues and hugs, Keith and I picked ourselves up and took a cab to an amazing Italian restaurant on the other side of the island, where at the very end of the meal, the power went out. But we got yummy pasta and chicken dishes to fill us up for the rainy cab ride back, and our spirits were much higher.

Keith's yummy chicken dish!
The next morning, both the 6am and 7am ferries were canceled, as it was still raining with wind gusts up to 60mph. Luckily, the 8:15am ferry took off, so I had my peanut butter and banana sandwich on the boat, and tried to listen to my marathon playlist to pump me up. Wait, did I mention that the race officially started at 8:30am?

We rushed back to the inn, and I thrashed around the room looking for my sneakers and jelly beans in a hurry to get to the starting line. After informing two unfriendly volunteers that I was going to start late, Keith dropped me off at the starting line, and I began to run my first marathon an hour and ten minutes after the gun went off. Keith, my miracle of the day, suggested I bring a map of the course in case I couldn’t find my way. Even though we drove the course the day before, the race crew already took down signs for the first several miles. Between running and looking at my map, I had another pity party in the first couple miles of the race and wondered if I would ever be able to finish it. Luckily the rain let up, and it was overcast and in the high 40s when I started the race.

The trusty map!
In my marathon training book, the authors write about how everyone has a running angel who comes to them at a key part in the race (usually at the end when you hit the “wall”.) My running angels came at about mile 3.5, where I saw three other stragglers who also got stuck on Martha’s Vineyard the night before. They didn’t know where to go, so I showed them the way in exchange for them lifting my spirits. I told them they were my running angels, and they giggled.

At about mile 5, a pick-up truck sponsored by the marathon came our way and let us know that they were going to follow us to make sure we knew where to go. We began to see the marathon signs again, but they had already taken down most of the water stations. On the ball again, Keith recommended I bring a bottle of Gatorade with me in case they had already dismantled the water stations. What would I have done without him?

A little winded around mile 12... Thank goodness for Keith!
My running angels were a bit faster than I was, so they went on ahead and I plugged in my marathon playlist. I was finally enjoying my race, and just took in the scenery as best I could. In the first eight or so miles, I waved to and thanked every volunteer I saw on the course, as I’m sure the last thing they wanted to do on that cold day was wait up for the LAST person (not even a joke, I was the very last person running!!!) to pass them by. I appreciated their smiles (and sneers), and really got into the zone with my running.

At about mile 9, the pick-up truck following me was replaced by a police car with flashing lights. He also became my running angel. I began to feel a little bit tired at this point, and I started having a cramp in my right quad. I had a little bit of a mental barrier when I passed mile 12, as I realized I had only run about half of the race.

My own personal Police escort?
Heck yes!
Right at this time, I saw Keith on the side of the road, decked out in his “GO KATE” t-shirt, ready for anything. I popped some ibuprofen for my quad, and fueled up on Gatorade. Seeing him exhilarated me, and the best part of the race really began for me.

I felt like I could run forever. Miles 14-17 became rolling hills, but they didn’t bother me. I think I achieved what my marathon book calls “runner’s flow,” where you feel like you are floating as you run. Once I hit mile 18, I couldn’t believe how strong I felt, and I was so excited for the last 8 miles of the race.

Fist pump! Yeah!
I saw Keith again at mile 19, where I started my marathon mix to get me going through what was sure to be several tough miles. I wondered if the cop car behind me could see me dancing to my mix, but I didn’t really care. Keith told me that I would soon pass some walkers (The Walking Dead anyone? Yes, walkers at mile 19 actually do look like zombies), which really motivated me to keep running. I gave some encouraging words to everyone I passed. About half of them smiled back at me, the other half looked like they were in serious pain and wanted to hurt me. I hope I was a running angel to at least one of them.

All smiles!
The camera loves me.
At mile 21, Keith was stopped again, and said to me “You do realize you’re already at mile 21?! You look so strong!” I was so excited and finally hit the part of the course that went along the coast of Falmouth. I passed stretches of the Atlantic and beautiful, abandoned beaches, and I never wanted the marathon to end. At about mile 23, I finally reached the part of the course that the marathon is famous for – a view of the Nobska Point Lighthouse. I teared up, and could not believe I was still running. The sun was shining as I ran up the hill to the lighthouse, and I continued to encourage the stragglers I passed along the way.

Took this photo of the Light House...
Keith’s last post was at mile 24, where he told me he would meet me at the finish line. I was still running, and finally my personal police escort pulled up next to me and asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling really strong, thanked him, and he pulled back behind me. I still saw him behind me for the next mile, and couldn’t believe that he continued to follow me despite the fact that I began passing people. Mentally, it helped so much to know that he was there. I found out after the race that he and Keith had a little camaraderie going on as well, which made me so grateful.

Awesome picture of the beach that Keith took!
By mile 25, I was really tired. There were only 1.2 miles left, and I had just taken the final turn toward the finish line. It felt like the longest mile of my life. I was still running, but had to dodge puddles formed by the Nor’easter despite the fact that my legs had no ability to change direction. I ran through a few puddles, and started my marathon playlist over, as my favorite songs were at the very beginning.

Most likely listening to Beyonce.
I saw the mile 26 sign, and began to run as fast as my legs would take me. I turned onto Main Street in Falmouth, and finally saw the finish line. I ripped out my headphones, and heard Keith calling “C’mon Kate!” as he ran backwards with me towards the finish. I finally crossed the finish line, and teared up. It was over, and I felt so amazing.

About to cross the finish line!
The night before, during my crocodile tears, I told Keith that all I wanted was my medal and space blanket. For some reason, these two things were huge for me to prove that I was a marathoner. Keith actually checked with the race coordinators at headquarters to make sure that I would get both of these, otherwise he would have gotten my medal and space blanket for me just in case. When the medal went around my neck and I had my space blanket at the finish line, I felt like I was on top of the world. All of the pain went away, and the moment felt surreal.

Medal and space blanket in hand!!!
Keith asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted a burger and beers! We picked up some pumpkin beer on the way back to the inn, I showered, and we went straight to a local joint to get cheeseburgers. I don’t know that a burger has ever tasted so good in my life.

My favorite cheerleader!

The race coordinators adjusted my score so it reflected the time I had on my watch... 4:32:30! I'm pretty content.

I had a hard time walking yesterday, and today I still feel like the tin man. I can’t really walk up or down stairs without my legs giving out; it’s really quite amusing to watch. I still cannot believe that I finished after the emotional roller coaster that preceded the race. Even though I ran by myself almost the entire time, it helped in some strange way. It felt like MY marathon, and all of my nerves about the race went away. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family, and I definitely could not have done it without Keith fueling me along the way. It was such an amazing experience, and I’m pretty sad it’s over. I can’t believe I’m a marathoner!!!

1 comment:

  1. You ARE a marathoner AND a strong woman. Congratulations Kate! What a great read and amazing pictures. Love ya!