"Somewhere on the journey we all bound to get tired
When life get lower, we get higher
The roads all open, the views get wider
Live long, head strong, shoulders, lighter"
My Power by Chika
So, I met this guy. He's a runner. An ultra runner, actually. His name is Brian. The two of us were both running long on the Cape Cod Rail Trail a few weeks ago and we started chatting. We threw out some of the typical runner questions like Are you training for something specific? and What's your preferred race distance? Brian was training for the Ghost Train 100 miler which was originally happening in October but got canceled. And I had planned to run Boston, first in the spring and then in the fall when it got moved but that, too, ended up getting canceled all together. As it turns out, Brian has done quite a few ultras and is hoping to do the Massive 100 this fall. Fingers crossed. I mentioned that I'd started dabbling in the longer distances since Covid as I'm trying to mix things up and keep myself motivated by trying something new. As of now, I told him, I'm hoping to run the Hamsterwheel Ultra in November and I'm shooting for the 12 hour race. Again, fingers crossed. I think. Well lucky for me Brian was chock full of information on all things ultra like how to find local races (which I need because I'm not going to fly to a race any time soon), pacing strategies, preferred gear and fuel (I have never carried water on long runs before this summer. Note the new vest in the top photo), specific race suggestions for the newer ultra runner to start with and so much more. We cruised along together for about four miles, exchanged info so I could reach out with more questions and said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways. I mean I don't necessarily believe in the whole "it was meant to be" thing, but given where I am and what I'm trying to do as far as running goes I couldn't have gotten much luckier to have found this guy. Two weeks later, Brian reached out to let me know he was headed back down to the Cape and to see if I wanted to join him for a long run. Here's how our conversation played out:
Brian: We're coming down to the Cape this weekend. I'll be doing long runs on Saturday and Sunday (he does back to back 20s) on the rail trail if you're interested.
Me:I'm actually doing the Falmouth Road Race, a virtual 7 miler. I'm aiming for 6:30s. You're welcome to join in if you want some speed work for a change.
Brian:Ha. I think I might die if I try that. I was thinking 20+ around 8 minute pace. I'm considering running the rail trail from start to finish. I think it's 26ish. I might register it for an FKT (Fastest Known Time). I don't think anyone has done it yet.
Me:Bummer. It would have been so nice to have some company for a long run. But, I have to squeeze this in. I mean, I paid for it so, you know.
Brian:OR you could do your fast 7 on Saturday and then do 26 on Sunday.
Me:I knew that was coming.
Brian:Glad you're in....What time do you want to start on Sunday?
Me:Wow. You're good. Okay. I need to think about it.
In a matter of minutes I went from, No, I can't run long with you on Sunday because I'm racing on Saturday and will need to recover the next day to I guess there's no reason I can't do both so I might as well check in with my coach and see what he thinks. Which I did. Obviously. And we both agreed that given my new foray into the ultra world and the fact that I've been doing a shit ton of mileage these last couple months I could probably handle both the race and the long run. He told me not to go all out on the 7 miler, maybe 95%, so I had a little in the tank for the next day. And then he reminded me that I'd be pretty wrecked for a few days after this double whammy. And then, as you probably guessed, he gave me the green light to go for it. And that's all she wrote.
Fast forward two weeks. It's 6:30am and I'm getting myself both mentally and physically ready to bust out a 7 mile race. On my own. Yes, I absolutely could have just run 7 miles easy, submitted it and called it a day, but what would have been the fun in that? Honestly, I'm a big believer in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and as much as I dislike the shorter race distances I know they are good for me to do every once in a while. I considered pinning on my race bib but last time I did that I got a lot of baffled stares from those who were out and about and in hindsight it probably does look a little weird to have a number on when you're running solo. It was about 70 degrees outside and a little humid so I made a note that my pace would probably not be as fast as I'd planned, though I was still going to give it a shot. After a warmup, I was ready to rock. I pumped up the tunes, got my game face on and took off. First mile was a 6:30. Right on the nose. Boom. Mile two? 6:40. Yikes. Get it together, Rebecca. Mile three was a 6:32. Back on track. Ok, I can do this. Mile four was 6:35. Good. I'm still in. Stay focused. Mile five 6:49. Oops. Or don't stay focused? Clearly not. I don't know what happened but let's just say I was in la la land for that fifth mile. Thoughts like, why am I doing this? and maybe I should just stop at five and oh look, there's a coffee shop started entering my mind and it pretty much went downhill from there. The wheels didn't completely fall off but I never really managed to get myself back together or closer to my original goal pace. I managed to run both the sixth and seventh miles right around 6:50 giving me an overall average of 6:42 for the full seven miles. After which I concluded that I am never running another virtual race on my own as I just don't have the mindset to push hard when I'm not surrounded by other runners and pulsing with my typical race nerves. Lesson learned.
Might as well go run a marathon the next day. For fun. Right? The plan was for me to drive to the finish of our route and for Brian and his wife, Sayra, to meet me there so she could drive us up to the start. Yes, she is a saint. My alarm went off at 5:45 so I could make myself a cup of coffee and wake up a bit before hitting the road at 6:15.
As I laced up I found myself, once again, wondering what the hell I was doing. Don't think. Just go. That was the mantra for the day. Note the Falmouth Road Race coffee mug in the photo. I earned that puppy! And then I was off. To meet up with a stranger and run a marathon. I do realize how this sounds. Not that I cared. Sarah and Brian scooped me up at 6:45 and we made our way up to Wellfleet where we'd be starting this adventure. Again, Sayra got up with her husband at the crack of dawn to drive him thirty minutes South to pick up a random woman and drive them an hour North so they could run for four plus hours. I mean, if she doesn't get the medal for coolest wife ever, I don't know who does. Okay, so we hopped out and took a quick photo.
I won't give you the play by play as that will take too long. We got incredibly lucky with the weather as it was cloudy when we started and lightly drizzling as we finished. We cruised comfortably at about an 8 minute pace. We took one wrong turn and had to back track about a half mile. And as we finished we realized that I parked my car a couple miles further than the official trail end which made those last miles a bit painful. But we did it.
We ended up running about 28 miles give or take a few point somethings. We were totally drenched by the end. And my legs were pretty angry with me. But, hell, you only live once. I dropped Brian off at home and drove myself back to my in-laws house. And I quietly thanked the running gods that it was raining which would make it easier for me to be somewhat lazy at home with my family without feeling too guilty. The rest of that day is a bit of a blur. I was dealing with a new level of exhaustion. And it made me a little worried about my new goals as I couldn't help but wonder how I'd be able to push myself harder than I just had. But, I suppose that's the point. It's not supposed to be easy. My coach tells me this all the time. He also reminds me that we have to scratch what's itching. The marathon isn't really doing it for me anymore. I'm eager to wade out into uncharted waters and see what I'm capable of. This weekend just gave me a little taste of what's to come. I'm pretty sure I like it. Actually, I might have to get back to you on that after I've had a seat at the table for a while. More on that soon. Stay tuned.