Monday, November 18, 2013

Race Review: Myles Standish Marathon

As many of you know, the Hartford marathon, which I ran back in October, did not unfold as I'd hoped.  From mile 18 on, there was a lot of cursing, heavy cramping, some limping, slow shuffling, and more cursing all the way through the finish line.  Despite running a decent time, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to marathons in general.  I was seriously doubting whether I even wanted to continue doing them anymore.  That said, rather than close out the year with a bad race, I decided, upon my husband's recommendation, to run one more marathon with the hopes of having a different and better experience.  I have never run back to back marathons (these being 5 weeks apart), so this was a foreign concept and a bit daunting.  But, in my head, my heart and my gut, I felt like it was something I needed to do.  I truly believed, or wanted to believe, that what took place in Hartford was not the end all be all and that I could still find joy in marathon running.
So, the next day, before I could change my mind, I signed up for the Myles Standish Marathon, which was taking place on November 17th, in Plymouth, MA.  The race was small (about 300 runners), close by (45 min drive) and inexpensive ($50).  Done and done.  Five weeks, I thought, would give me just enough time to both recover from Hartford and to re-amp up my mileage for Plymouth.  I was looking at it as an opportunity to try again under very little stress and with no expectations other than to finish strong and have fun.  Game on.  The lead up to this second race was everything that Hartford was not.  First, there was no fanfare.  I decided to keep the fact that I was running it to myself.  This was a personal journey and there was no reason to shout about it on Facebook or Twitter.  I didn't even tell my parents I was doing it.  Second, for all 5 of those weeks, I was completely focused on my high school cross country team.  The girls would be competing in their League Meet, their Divisional Meet and, assuming they made it, their State meet.  My training was secondary to my job for those few weeks and the distraction was both welcome and appreciated.

LHS Ladies after finishing 4th in the EMASS Divisional meet, good
enough for a spot at the State meet the next week.
As I had hoped and expected, my girls made it to the State meet which happened to be the day before the Plymouth marathon.  Not ideal.  But what can you do?  In all honesty, I didn't have time to think about it.  But, after running around like a crazy chicken all day at the State meet, I seriously considered bailing on the marathon, as I was totally drained both mentally and physically.  I decided to sleep on it, and when I woke up at 5:00am the next morning, before my alarm went off, I took it a sign that I should forge ahead.  It was a beautiful morning; 40 degrees, clear and calm.  Perfect day for a marathon.  I drove to Plymouth North High School, which was the end point of the marathon, parked my car and hopped on a shuttle to the start of the race which was in the Myles Standish State Forest.  I jumped off the bus and within seconds I hear, "HEY!! Rebecca.  It's me, Rebecca!"  This other Rebecca, who I've never met but have chatted with over Twitter, is a fellow Oiselle ambassador who works at the Bayside Runner, the store that was sponsoring the race.  So, naturally, we hugged and asked someone to take our picture because we were really freakin' psyched to have found each other.

Rebecca T-W & I at the start of the race.
After chatting a bit and then agreeing to meet at the end, I checked my bag and headed off to the starting line which was a 1 mile walk from the drop off.  Huh??  As I stood waiting with the handful of other runners who were about to head off into the wilderness with me, I questioned my sanity and said out loud, to no one in particular, AM I COMPLETELY NUTS?  Seriously, what the hell was I thinking? It was not the best time to doubt my decision, so I turned on my music and turned up the volume to drown myself out.  After a very uneventful and almost zen-like, "ready, set, go", we were off.  My typical mistake when I run these things is to get caught up in the excitement and go out too fast.  Such a classic blunder.  Sometimes it pays off but most times it doesn't and it definitely didn't in Hartford.  So, despite my strong desire to cruise ahead, I held back.  Big time.  I was doing this for fun, NOT for time.  The course was beautiful.  We wound our way through the park, running on quiet roads and trails, passing lakes and horses and tackling hill after hill (after hill).  Did I mention the hills?  They were big and rolling.
The hills were alive with the
sounds of music and heavy breathing.
But, again, I wasn't worried about it.  I tracked my splits to make sure that I didn't get going too fast and held steady at a comfortable pace for miles 1-18.  And then, at mile 18, I had my first ever EUREKA! moment in a marathon.  It all made sense.  Conserve in the beginning and it will pay off in the end.  So ridiculously simple.  You'd think I would have figured this concept out before my 8th marathon, but alas, I did not.  When I hit mile 18 my legs were ready, my head was in the game and I was good to go.  I shifted gears and tapped into my reserves to give it my all for the last 8 miles.  I was able to bring my split times down 30-45 seconds per mile depending on the hills and I felt amazing.  I was running solo for several of these last few miles which was incredibly peaceful and oddly freeing.  I was able to cruise all the way into the finish with a smile on my face.  My time, 3:25, was not my best, but not my worst.  It was good for a 2nd place finish among the females and a $75 cash prize which I happily spent today at Whole Foods.  The experience, however, was far and away my best.  I have never had so much fun and appreciated a race as I much as I did on Sunday.  It was a much-needed reminder of why I love to run and should continue to do these races.  It could not have gone any better if I'd planned it.   And, in this case, I hadn't planned anything.  There is no manual to running a successful marathon.  We train, we prepare, we strategize, we eat right, we do everything we are supposed to do.  But there is more to it than that and there is no guide to this 'other' part.  On Sunday, I was reminded that so much of it is passion and spirit with a sprinkling of chance and luck.  I will most definitely be doing another marathon.  I am thrilled to report that I have, once again, found the joy in running.  Hallelujah!

Rebecca, Jayne (who came in right after me and happened
to be wearing the same shorts) and I at the finish.

Listen to this:
We're On Our Way - Radical Face  


  1. Awesome race and mental journey! Sounds like a truly great day! I was a race volunteer heading up the hill at 18.5 and was excited to see you donning the Oiselle name! Glad to hear that was around your eureka moment too :-)

    1. Thx, Stacey! So cool that you were out there, too. Thanks for volunteering. You and your crew helped make it an incredible race for me.

  2. Great recap! It was an eerily similar journey that got me to that starting line, too :) I had a terrible race in Chicago (also 5 weeks ago) – cramping, stomach issues, the whole nine yards. I decided to give it one more shot this fall, and also had such a freeing, awesome experience. The course, while hilly, was so peaceful and beautiful. I remember thinking around mile 16, "THIS. This is why I do this." I found myself almost dancing up a hill at one point (that exuberance faded around mile 22 and morphed into delusion, but I'll take it...)

    It was so great to meet you... I was sure from your shorts that you were a great person, and that proved true :)

    Hope to see you at local races soon... I'm close by, so I'm sure we'll bump into each other soon!

    My prize money is going straight into my #morerogas fund!

    1. Would love to run together again! I already spent my prize money but my effort justifies another pair of rogas, right?? :)

    2. Definitely! Possibly two :) I'm staring down the orange diamonds. Also want the flyte shorts.

  3. This is a great reminder that sometimes we just need to surrender to the moment and run... not get caught up in all the other stuff. Congrats and well done!! Oh, and I'm blown away that the song featured with this post is by Radical Face. Huge fan! xo