So I have this race in VT in November with this really big 4 mile hill to open the 10 miles we must cover. Out of sight out of mind was great until Saturday. I have had this “can do” attitude about it so far because well I don’t have a choice other than walk or quit if I don’t just get it done. I’m all rah rah about it for weeks since we signed up. Well there’s this “hill” (using term lightly) that the girls in my group have been telling me about for practicing to get ready for VT. I haven’t gotten over there but Saturday I took my son and his friend with me and went to check it out. It’s in Fall River which is one of the absolute armpits of Mass. Not really a good place and the element that hangs there is sketchy. Now if you’re from there, of course you’ll say “oh it’s really not a bad area” but it’s just above the line of somewhere in NYC where stripped cars, grafiti all over everything and trash on the street and walking the street. It’s clearly above that line but not by a whole lot. Maybe that’s the country girl in me but I’m personally not comfortable there. I wouldnt go there by myself ever and the thought of leaving my car parked for a while makes me nervous but the girls seem fine with it and have been there in small groups and alone.
So back to the hill. If you are old enough to remember the TV show “The Streets of San Francisco” you’ll know what this hill looks like. One big giant uphill battle is what it is! My “can do” attitude came down a whole lot as I drove up this hill. Usually hills that are hard to run feel like nothing in a car. This hill felt hard in the truck! The picture I’ve attached is a picture of Presidents Ave. Now, this snapshot from Google does NOT do that hill justice. You can’t even tell how very steep it is but trust me, it’s super steep and reminds me of the horrible hill in the Lynchburg Half Marathon that I ran which had an elevation gain of 200 feet over a mile. If Presidents Ave continued on for 4 miles it would exactly mirror that hill. I thought one mile of that crap was hard let alone 4 in a row! Now I’m nervous not only about practicing on this hill but about our race. I will finish but it gives it a whole lot more perspective about what a hill is and how much mental fortitude I’m going to need to get my ass up that hill. We’re meeting on Sunday to run together and hopefully we get a few runs up that hill before race day just to at least get a basis for the impending struggle. We grow by challenging ourselves right? RIGHT! Let’s get this done!
I ran Falmouth again this year. This is the second time I’ve run this one. I don’t run it for the medal because they don’t give medals usually as I learned the hard way last year. Come to find out they give medals at this race every 5 years. This year was the 45th running of this bucket list race so guess what I got! Yep a medal! It’s beautiful and so worth the 7 mile struggle over hills in the heat.
ANYWAY… Today was many things. It was definitely all about the bling and the experience. As those of you who know me well understand, I love me a good medal! The race itself is always a hot one which makes it harder than other races. IT took us 25 or so minutes to actually walk from where we hit the main drag TO the starting line because in this race they do a pulse start which just means we set of in groups of like 50 at a time then they wait a minute and send the next group. It spaces us out and helps keep things moving. Even this small detail is just one of the many things that make this my all time favorite race ever! I wasn’t sure my race would be a good one because of the time of month it was. I’m always slow just before the blessed event so I was expecting it to be hard, but went into it just wanting to have fun at the very least. That I did achieve with no problem whatsoever. I wanted to beat my 1:18:15 time from last year and amazingly I did!!! I finished unofficially at 1:15:51! I believe 100% that that accomplishment is directly attributed to all the core workouts I have been doing. It definitely paid off because the hills were a bitch, especially the one at the very end that made 7.1 miles feel like 13.1. Over the 7 .1 miles I was perpetually stuck in a large group of runners the entire way so it was nearly impossible to run swiftly when you’re crowded in. I was grateful that that I couldn’t “take off” because it forced me to run a better more controlled race. Probably why I finished two minutes faster than last year. The feeling of struggling for 7 hilly hot miles seems to fade away as you give that last and final ounce of energy to push up that last horrible hill. When you crest it you can see the gigantic American flag that is hoisted above the finish line by a crane just a hundred yards below. You somehow find strength as people are cheering and shouting and you see the Jumbotron with the life finish line stream for those waiting for their loved ones to cross. The air is electric with excitement and you run to that beautiful painted word on the street “FINISH” that sits under the banner just above that signals the end of your 7 mile journey marked by a stomp on the timing mat to seal your race time. You can’t explain how it feels, you have to experience it yourself.
The Falmouth Road Race organizers, volunteers & medics are outstanding! They should get their own medal for the perfected work of making this race such a smooth well oiled event! I’m not kidding you, it is so well organized, you don’t have to search for porto o potties because there are literally about a hundred in the waiting area. Medics were visible with clearly marked signs at several points along the way ready to help those who needed it,. The police rode bikes along the route to ensure things moved along nicely. The people of Falmouth and friends / family of runners literally just line the streets cheering for you, soaking you with their hoses, giving you oranges and ice and 5 bands set up along the route and played music for us as we passed. There weren’t just a few… there were people that in some places were several rows deep just watching us come through. Some gave high fives (the little kids are my favorites to high five. They are wonderful cheerers!) Many blasted the radio, some had cow bells and others had horns. There were so many this year, more than last I thought. Any time I thought I might do some walking beyond just stopping for water I just couldn’t do it because the excitement of being there was compelling. I just cannot say enough good things about this wonderful race.
When you use the word Chaos mostly you think of confusion and craziness that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The gathering spot after the race can only be described as chaos. I’ve never seen or experienced organized chaos until I ran Falmouth. So many people all in the same spot but it’s oddly and strangely organized. From the pick up letters at the back of the field where families go to meet runners to the guys handing out the Yasso bars by the way, is by far the best at the end of a hard race! The band and the tent volunteers handing out post race goodies somehow swiftly corral all those people through with no waiting line. The whole race was start to finish amazing and something that you should do if you want to see how a good race is run. I can’t wait for next year!!
One of my favorite parts of my experience lies outside the race itself. I run this race with my friend Barbara and we stay with our friends Gary and Gail who live in Falmouth. Staying with friends who give you a ride to the busses and fight the crowd to pick you up from the finish line, who feed you and give you a place to lay your head for free absolutely makes the experience just that much better. Running this race with my friend, even though we don’t run together, is the BEST! knowing that I’m sharing something amazing with her is special. Taking selfies and pictures throughout our days there are memories that I cherish. Having someone to share what will become a tall tale that I tell my grandchildren later in life is one of those things that money can’t buy! I really love my running friend(s). This part of the experience and not having to worry about crowded restaurants, overbooked hotels, driving to the start or finding parking or worrying about my belongings while I’m racing turns what could be a crazy stressful weekend into a wonderful weekend of memories instead!
Today I ran a 10 Mile race with my friends. It was awesome having friends with me. We didn’t run together much but just having them there was amazing and invigorating and so freaking happy! We are all different in so many ways but runners are wonderful people with an amazing comraderie even to strangers. Today I had something happen to me that I’ve always feared. I missed the turn markers. This race was less than stellar in terms of most everything and the weather did a torrential downpour on us half way through. It would have been ok but my watch and phone are cracked so water is NO BUENO! So I was running respectable splits and would have hit my target finish time of sub 1:40:00 but I missed one of the turn markers. All of a sudden in the pouring rain while trying to keep my watch dry and jump big puddles and not get hit by a car I found myself all alone. I thought maybe I would see another runner around the corner but no…. I looked back and there was one of the girls I had met who came with one of my friends so I thought I was on the right track. I kept running until a woman in a truck stopped me to tell me that the runner behind me asked her to tell me i missed a turn. MISSED A TURN! uugghhhh! I thanked her and started back and it was my new friend that I met earlier at the start of the race. She stopped her race to get me back to mine. Only runners would do this.
This mishap is something that I have always dreaded. What would I do? Well now I know so it’s not so scary anymore. I have my new friend to thank for that. She’s a runner and we smile and say hello, cheer eachother on, pick eachother up, pat eachother on the back when things go wrong and we look out for eachother no matter what. I don’t know how long I would have kept running in that direction but it was far less because she stopped and helped me. It’s one of my favorite things about running. We support each other. So my overall time for 10 miles was more than I wanted but less than it could have been on the flip side. I’ll take that! I spent time with familiar smiling faces that mean the world to me and I met new friends and I’ll take that too! These ladies, this sport mean the world to me. I am so happy I started running! I love you all!
Today it was back to my everyday routine and running schedule. Jumping back in feels good having just had a week off. I slept like a rock which was much needed after a week of less than restful restless sleep. At 5:30 I jolted out of the deepest sleep which gave me that thick / flu like feel in my head and especially my eyes. I feel tired and I am but a run will make that feel better. I finish my pre-run routine and happily head out to put up 3 easy miles on an all too familiar route. Today, even though my head is in a sleep fog, I course over the neighborhood streets knowing every bump in the road and every rise and fall in elevation. Today, it is easier and the small rises in the road seem almost minute this morning. Almost like someone pulled the asphalt comforter wrinkles out, flattening the surface. Of course nothing is different and the increase in ease of effort is most likely because I have spent a week running the hills of VA. Compared to those elevated roads and rise and fall of the pavement there, this is a cake walk! My pace was in a good place because it was easier to navigate the all too familiar road and that felt great. I may not have gotten to do much interval training / Tabata workouts while I was there but I worked harder and actually put up the most miles of the month last week which is apparent now post first home run. Maybe I should put in more hill running on a regular basis just to add a strength aspect to my routine without having to add in more time. There’s only so many hours in a day so I’ll take whatever increase I can to make me as strong as possible wherever I can get it. I’ll miss the hills of VA as much as I cursed how challenging they felt while I was running them. Now I consider them a little secret like an energy drink or protein packed not so easy to get food that one stumbles upon and has to think about whether or not they’ll share with others. I don’t have to share this and I will put it away as one of my favorite things about my trips to see my family. Like a secret fountain of youth, the hills of VA make me feel strong and young and powerful. Not only do I benefit physically from running over them, I get to see the sin rise like I can’t see at home, smell air that is so fresh your lungs thank you and the beauty of the rolling hills with all its green grass, wild flowers and nature