"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
~ Russell Baker
People ask me all the time how I continuously bang out 80-90 mile weeks when I'm training for a fall marathon. And I get it. Summer training can be brutal. But it's also a gift. An opportunity for me to take advantage of the long blocks of time when my girls are at camp that I don't have during the school year. Plus, on top of that, my daily agenda during the summer is very different; significantly less regimented because we simply don't have as much going on. For example, instead of my typical school year routine which might look something like this - drop girls, run, splash water on face, chug coffee, go to grocery store, service car, drop forgotten lunch back at school, walk dogs, make lunch for myself, shovel it in while driving to XC practice, pick up girls from soccer & gymnastics. My summer day tends to be more like this - drop girls at bus, run, dynamics, core (though, if I'm being honest, I've really been slacking on this lately), coffee, walk dogs, stretch, rest, eat lunch while actually sitting down and tasting the food, second run, desk work, shower, pick up girls from bus. And while the girls are then home with me for the rest of the afternoon, there's a lot more down time than usual so I'm not carpooling to and from multiple activities as I usually do. On a day to day basic, I can get so bogged down by the intensity of my summer training. It's a lot of miles. It's super hard. It's really freaking hot out and that makes everything monumentally harder. But, I do appreciate what I'm able to do with the time that I have during these three months. And I'm trying to make a note of that, particularly on the tougher days, like when I'm staring down a 21 miler and it's 90 degrees outside or I've got a 12 mile tempo run and it's 90 degrees outside or when...well, you got the point. I ran my best marathon last fall. And it should come as no surprise that my training last summer was some of the most quality work I've gotten in since I shifted gears and began upping my game. So, while I'm still chasing big goals and working to reach my full potential as a marathoner, I'll continue to take advantage of these summer months and all that they have to offer me in terms of training. Plus, there's the ice cream. Summer offers a lot of ice cream, too. Just sweetens the deal even more.
For a while now, we've had the good fortune of spending some quality time on Martha's Vineyard in late June through early July with my parents, who come up from FL and rent a place there each summer. For the past ten years or so I've lined up for the Murdick's Run the Chop Challenge, a 5 miler that's held on July 4th over in West Tisbury. This year we had to take off a little earlier than usual because my older daughter signed up to be a counselor-in-training at a day camp on Cape Cod and would be starting on July 1st. I love that she wanted to do this, but I was pretty sad to cut our time on MV short and to miss the race, an event that I always look forward to. But change is good, right? Back in early June I got online and started looking around for a race of a similar distance that I could tackle on the Cape and found the Chatham Harbor Run, a 10K that was happening the Sunday before the 4th right down the street from my in-laws' house, which is where we'd be staying for the month so Rosie could do her thing. Bingo. Rosie and I got to the Cape the night of the 3rd and shut it down pretty early as we'd both had a crazy few days of travel beforehand. Might as well start things off with a bang and hop right into a race the day after we arrived. Well, Rosie didn't race. She slept in. As usual, I got up early on Sunday and went down to have coffee and chill with Clover who I hadn't seen for the past two weeks because she wasn't allowed in the rental on MV. It's sad but fair. She's really hairy and she sheds a lot.
Needless to say, we were both really happy to see each other. The race wasn't starting until 11:00am which was less than ideal given that I was up at 6:15. Five hours is a lot of time to kill and even though it wasn't super hot first thing in the morning, I knew it would be nice and toasty by the time we were lining up. Whatever. The dogs and I went for a walk, I came back and had a second cup of coffee, I did some stretching, I got myself organized and checked the time thinking I must have killed a good three plus hours. It was 8:30. Not even close.
So, I did some reading. Some unpacking. Some more stretching. A little rolling. I mean, I was really having to come up with random stuff to do to kill time. And, of course, my nerves were now in high gear, so there was some useless pacing back and forth in there, too. Finally, around 9:45, Jeff, who was joining me, and I headed out. We got to the school parking lot and went inside to register. Neither of us had cash, which, of course, was all they were accepting, so Jeff zipped off to the bank and I filled out the forms.
Once we were good to go, we pinned on our bibs and then I left for a quick warmup and Jeff went back to the car to stretch in the shade. Side note, I had entry number 411 and as many of you may know, for too many reasons to explain in this post, 41 is my favorite number, so I was very happy about that. As expected, the heat was slowly creeping up and by the time I got back, even with a shorter than usual warmup, I was soaked. Apparently the race used to start at noon but they moved it back an hour because people have struggled with the weather in the past. Thank goodness, as noon would have just about killed me and potentially kept me from doing it all together.
Jeff and I wished each other good luck and made our way over to the line. Race photographer, Rick Heath, captured my pre-race state of mind perfectly in the photo above. A little bit of, oh boy, here we go, mixed with some why do i do this again, and a dab of don't think Rebecca, just go. I love how everyone is focused on the start except for the guy in green who seems to be looking back at me and wondering what the hell I'm doing. The race director told us two things before we took off:
1. We changed the start time from noon to 11 due to the heat. (again...NOON?!?!) Please make sure to take water at every stop & be smart w/ your pacing.
2. Note that it’s a very hilly course & most of the hills are in the back half.
Right from the get go, I knew things were going to be interesting. My pace has typically fallen somewhere between 6:20-30 at the Run the Chop; also a hilly course, though not as bad as this, and usually hot as blazes, so I figured I'd aim for a similar range for this one. That said, knowing the back half of the Chatham race was mostly uphill, I made a conscious decision to start off a bit faster. Within reason, of course. Very rarely is it wise to go out hard & then try to hold on. Maybe never, actually. I did it anyway, crossing the first mile in 6:16. Ok, I thought, one down, 5 and change to go. Giddy up. There was a short climb in mile 2, but it wasn't too bad and we had a little shade for half of it, so I held on fine and crossed at 6:35. Even though my split for mile 3 was a mere 6 seconds slower than mile 2, it honestly felt like it had been an hour between the two miles. The heat was kicking in and we were totally exposed on the road. I cried a little when I digested the fact that I had 3.2 more miles to get through rather than my usual 2. At that point, I stopped looking at my watch. I knew my pace was slowing and the hard part was coming and I didn't want to get defeated. So, I focused on my music. A six minute mile tends to be about 2 songs, plus or minus a little. I needed to run for about 7 or 8 more songs to make it to the finish. Holy shit, I remember thinking, that's a lot of songs. At each water stop, all of us were pouring water on our heads and down our backs. The water was warm at mile 4. That was a bummer. I think it was around mile 5 that I got into step with a gentleman who was running my same pace. This helped a lot as we took turns leading and when I fell back, I'd work to catch back up with him. Mile 5 just about did me in as it was all uphill and my body was basically telling me the party was over. Thankfully, Joseph Andersen, the guy I was now hanging onto for every step, was still pulling me along. Literally. Bless that yellow shirt. Finally, we made it through mile 5 and with one to go, I knew I could hang on. We finished on another uphill; not pretty. But, praise be, we were done.
I rolled across the line in 41:16, successfully creeping in just within my goal pace range; the high end of the range, not that I cared. Holy crap, the 10k is long. Unlike the half, you don't have enough time to settle in and find a groove and are basically riding the pain train the entire time. I am not a fan of the distance and don't see myself lining up for another one any time soon. But, as my coach said, it was a solid effort on a challenging course in tough conditions so I should be pleased. And that was that. Another feather in my training cap. And another personal albeit ugly battle fought and won. What doesn't kill you....