Monday, October 30, 2006

2006 Cape Cod Marathon Race Story

Monday, October 30, 2006
Some report the Falmouth Track Club sincerely tries hard to put on the annual Cape Cod Marathon and I agree. Overall, considering the conditions I recommend this race to anyone looking for a challenge. After reading their!!Important Stuff to Read!! Handout I discovered that it may not be until the end of the week until the official race results are posted. Results listed are unofficial

The 2006 CCM Story
Run under 2:50 to get published in NE Runner. Beat my May 2006 Master PR. Finish high on the masters list.

A Saturday arrival allowed us to pick up the bib number and a new pair of Stickman gloves from the New England Runner table. We ate a hearty lunch at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. They have an excellent chili stuffed baked potato. Next we toured the course by car, from what was passable.

We started driving through a flooded section on Menauhant Road and decided best to back out as the water was getting deeper and we didn’t want to get stranded or flood the car with salt water. Six miles driving to the point from the other side we came across a barricade blocking access to the seaside drive.

Through the rest of the course we found plenty of deep puddles, downed power lines and branches. See my previous post for photos.

We spent a sleepless night at the Hyannis Marriott, unbeknownst to us there was a Halloween Party that evening. Our room was sandwiched between party-goers fully dressed in costume and revelry. Glad they had fun. Breakfast was a simple bagel, oatmeal, green tea and water. A twenty mile drive, a few rain drops along the way, gave us an arrival at the race headquarters 100 minutes before the start.

Too much time was wasted in the cozy gym atmosphere which led to a rush to do race preparations and get to the start line on time. They had free coffee and donuts compliments of Dunkin Donuts, a handful of vendors and fellow racers to chum it up with. Once outside, a half-mile of jogging and light stretching left me drawn back to the shelter of the school.

Outside one could hear the wind howling through the trees and buildings of downtown Falmouth. Fortunately the sun was nice and bright and clouds would quickly get blown away helping the 40 degree temperature feel warmer. Racing attire was shorts, singlet, cotton gloves and the Saucony Fastwitch racing shoes. The use of a visor hat would only have been a nuisance with the wind; this became apparent in the race as I observed another runner carrying his mile after mile in his hand. Five bandages, three on the left foot, two on the nipples and some Aquaphor in chafing areas rounded out the preps.

At the 8:30 a.m. start line, I somehow positioned directly behind last year’s male and female winners. Both were expected to finish ahead of me so it was my obligation to yield toeing the line. But, on our right a young Ipod runner felt it was his prerogative to toe the start line of the New England Grand Prix Championship race; he was rightfully passed within the first mile never to be seen again.

At the sound of the canon we were off, like most races runners sprint for some unknown reason and I trying to stay contained in self-imposed limits to my ability. Ahead I spotted my Wife and future Sprinter with the stroller cheering me on as the wind blew us off of Main Street and onto Shore Street.

Mile One: 6:07:28
Many runners passing through and I almost missed the split. We experienced a strong cross-wind and heavy influx of relay runners. I did a double take on the split time and tried to slow down. Too fast as this course honors those that mentally and physically conserve the first half.

Mile Two: 6:21\12:28
It’s hard to run slow early on a flat course with following winds and all the hype. This area is the “townie” and “harbor” area. It was the first chance to duck in behind another runner and start the drafting game that would be a tactical strategy for the remainder of the race.

Mile Three: 6:42\19:11
That’s a better split, but it’s so hard to gauge pace with all the wind. This should’ve been easy as the course has been primarily flat so far. An exception is the memorable uphill leading to Falmouth Harbor, The number one photo spot on the course. Everyone looks good being early on and the view is fantastic. I was flanked by a shirtless runner (only one that day) and a shadow, with shirtless ahead. I slowed to allow shirtless open the gap to keep him out of my photo, but he kept slowing. Finally, I surged past with the two following and got on with the race and hopefully a good photo.

Our first downhill brings us into Falmouth harbor with a spectacular view of the sea. The wind is whipping high waves, whitecaps and blowing sea spray across the horizon. The relay exchange is off to the left at mile 2.6 and not a bother to marathoners. I spotted one of the previous years winners, also a master, on the sidelines and nodded as it was one less that would be ahead of me.

5K: 20:00
From what I can remember that was the time and I was pleased as it was a good benchmark to hold. From the back I thought I heard a runner chatting on a cell phone or narrating his race, it turned out to be another runner in a group of nine. They appeared to be club runners and one International (possibly Japanese). Listening in on the conversation and gauging their running I decided to hang on as drafting is very key on a windy day.

Mile Four: missed the split
The race was just settling in and I had a group to tag along with, we pushed the pace along Menauhant Road. This wasn’t hard as it was next to the beach and primarily a tail wind. This strong wind blasted sea salt and sand. I was surprised how well they were able to pump out the water. The heavy duty grader, front-end loader, dump truck and street sweeper were still on the scene as they worked up until the race came through. My hat is off to Falmouth to making a clearing, albeit still a little wet sand, through this stretch.

Mile Five: 12:22\31:33
This marker is by the turn heading up Davisville Road away from the beach. Split time was a minute faster than the 6:30’s . I noticed the group slowed slightly as we passed the clock, but then in a quarter mile picked it up and I let them bridge a gap.

Fan support thus far has been really good with locals and the relay providing plenty of distraction. The scenery is fantastic. On my right I heard a small bell ringing, I looked over and saw this little old lady in her house with her hand reached out of the partially opened storm door ringing away, such dedication.

Mile Six: 6:34\38:07
Another master caught up to our group and was chatting away about how they may place well for their team the BAA. The chatter from before, Joe (2:57:07), said he planned on running under three hours. Well, this guy, John (3:08:06), I know of him from other races inquired of who was ahead, BAA, and then he surged ahead. My thoughts are he felt three hours was too slow. Then again why was Joe running 6:30’s if he wants to break three hours, too fast? So, I pass Joe and hung behind the pack.
At this time looking way ahead you could see the lead vehicle, it’s a long straight stretch.

10K 40 Minutes
Right on track.

Mile 7: 6:37\44:44
Joe catches up to me and is now running strong and talking less. We will work together from here on as runners are starting to spread out. The group is well ahead and we comment they will later come back to us. So, the pace is finally right about on overall, the course is now away from the ocean and wicked winds. We have tree protection but a strong crosswind. I pull out a gel and squeeze a little in my mouth. Water is at eight so I think I am safe.

Mile 8: 6:34\51:19
The rolling hills are here, we just passed a cranberry bog. I thought it was interesting they were harvesting cranberries on a Sunday morning with high winds. This section was real tough to break the wind, I tucked in behind Joe.

I have had water and one Cytomax up to this point. Never before have I had Cytomax another runner commented it tasted like lemonade. All my training was with Gatorade. Around this time I developed a small side stitch on the right side that would last for seven miles. Perseverance to run through it and keeping the long goal in mind would help. Also, trying to do the belly breathing and stay away from the Cytomax. Sometimes the volunteers hand you, or you the racer grab Cytomax and you take it in because you need the fluids. Typically, they were calling out water or Cytomax. I was to rely on gels and water for replenishment for the rest of the race.

Mile 9: 6:35\57:54
Joe and I share the load breaking the wind, mostly Joe breaking. I notice one of the earlier pack runners stopping for water.

15K 1:00:00
This is really starting to come together.

Mile 10: 6:28\1:04:23
The course is flatter, had to avoid relay runners walking at us to get to their station. Do they know how much harder it is to run 21 miles farther than their five? The earlier pack runner is walking through the water station, our first casualty.

Mile 11: 6:51\1:11:14
Time to start giving a little back as there are three memorable hills here with plenty of headwind. Joe and I continue to work together.

Mile 12: 6:54\1:18:08
We get passed by three, appears two were picked up by a strong master. This makes it interesting as I have finished ahead of this master in the years past; he is a very strong and consistent racer.

20K 1:21:00
We gave up a minute due to the wind and hills.

Mile 13: 6:36\1:24:44
We continue to push wind the course is rolling turning flat. This is a nice relief from the last battle.

Half Marathon 1:25
We hit this and I think that running negative splits is going to be tough.

Mile 14: 6:32\1:31:16
Joe asks to tuck in behind. What’s that, ask? Such courtesy, I feel like I am running with a British Harrier. I reply with no problem as I squeeze a little more gel in to try and hold my part. The course turns rolling and Joe fades back. That’s a shame; he really supported a good consistent pace, now I was on my own.

Mile 15: 6:40\1:37:57
Pass the relay and start to look for my bride. There she was with much needed water and a packet of Jelly Bellys. It was great to see her and our boy. They had taken Gifford to Brick Kiln, a six mile run to meet me. Our scheduled time was 1:37:30; later she told me I was off by 20 seconds and didn’t look good.

25K 1:41:40
I was surprised of another loss of 40 seconds.

Mile 16: 6:48\1:44:45
I grabbed the much needed water bottle from my wife and took in a good twelve ounces. Time was slower, indicative of my water station transitions on this race. This is something to work on in the future. I have always thought it was a trivial matter, but it’s not.

Mile 17: 6:33\1:51:19
Back on track. Water does the body good! Rolling hills and wind through here. A big mental boost was passing a highly ranked NE Runner from NY, Mike (3:22:12). Pacing is off the pack of three from earlier that has split with the master leading the two as they continue to work.

Mile 18: 6:48\1:58:08
Wind and hills, I made a decision last mile to not let any runners take me from here on. I am starting to build confidence but the wind and hills keep coming, uggh.

20K 2:02:55?
I gave up some more time and it’s getting harder to focus on the 5K splits.

Mile 19: 6:51\2:04:59
I pass the master(2:57:54 actually a senior) as he was slowing. Each runner you come up on isn’t necessarily someone to pace with. I crested one hill and it felt like all forward motion stopped from the headwind that kept me running in place. Where is Joe when I need him?

Mile 20: 6:44\2:11:43
That is got to be the toughest hill on the course. A very hard one as it comes in two stages late in the race. I grabbed a gel from a volunteer. The package was new to me and it had an interesting tingly feeling on your tongue with a citrus flavor. Later I try another one. The race “officially” begins here.

Mile 21 and 22: 13:36\2:25:20
Spotted the “hot shot” master that surged from earlier, John. He was well ahead but slowly coming back to me. The course is rolling as it takes you through Woods Hole.

Mile 23: 6:42\2:32:03
I decide to pass John rather than pace with him as were coming off the uphill from Nobska Lighthouse. Vineyard Sound is in full sight and it is gorgeous. Most of the course from here on is along Surf Drive. Another runner, George 2:52:41)comes up and passes me and I say “hey, way to go”. I draw that imaginary line to have him pull me along. He offers encouragement of “only 5K to go” to other runners that we are passing.

We pass the hill with the Elvis water station. Thankfully, as I believe this was the last hill of the race and it’s a flat ride here on in. I have had enough hills!

Mile 24: 6:33\2:38:36
Cruising along feeling good, it’s a tailwind!

Mile 25: 6:08\2:44:45
This is very cool as I hang onto this runner about ten yards ahead of me. We cross a flooded section that is deep up enough to get your socks wet. We passed a number of runners along here that I recognize from the earlier pack. I love running with a tail wind at mile 25 it was faster than what I wanted to go but gauging what I had left it was working.

Mile 26: missed the split (last 1.2M=7:43\6:25 pace)
We turn off the beach and start heading for town. Mentally I am thinking there is only a mile to go and start to draw confidence from my track repeats. This is all flat running and the gap is closing on my pacer. A gentleman on the side of the road calls out “number 31, number 32”. Are these marathoners, relay runner numbers? I power past my pacer before the turn from Walker to Main Street.

Finish: Unofficial 2:52:28, average pace 6:35
Once on Main Street the finish line and cheering crowd is just ahead. I don’t hear any footsteps and my Wife is somewhere yelling to pick it up as there is another runner there. I dodge the photographer in the street and coast across the line. Then I noticed the chip mat was positioned another ten feet away.

So, the start chip line mat was behind me in the beginning and after the finish line. This is a little deceiving to me and not quite understood. I eased up at the finish and it may have cost me a few seconds. A few seconds that I believe would have beaten my Master PR from May.

I hear Joe’s name being called as I was chumming it up with my pacer. I hope he got his three hour break. He did.

For me, it’s a rush off to the gym to use the facilities and a quick massage. We quickly turn that around and make the two hour drive home in time to get our future sprinter dressed up in his monkey costume. At last, a cool down, walking the little one in a traditional neighborhood parade led by a local fire truck.

I didn’t achieve any of the goals; which is slightly disheartening. This will only provide fuel for further, smarter, faster training.

In retrospect, given my training with injury\illness, barely 60 mile week average, hills and wind I ran decent. Fair is fair and lessons are learned in every marathon. It’s the experience that will bring on faster times for this master.

I give plenty of thanks to my Wife for her enduring support and encouragement. Also, thanks to friends, family and fellow running bloggers. CCM you did a wonderful job putting on this race and I hope to be back to run another year.


  1. Anonymous4:32 PM

    Too bad about not breaking 2:50, but I can't help but think "WOW!" when looking at your time. Smokin' fast! You'll get'em next time. Those were definitely tough conditions.

  2. Great mile at 25. Also, you didn't appear to tire as the miles went on. Great endurance!

  3. Great report and race on a less than ideal day. Good luck in the taper and next cycle.

  4. You picked a tough one to try for a PR on.

  5. Great job, Mark. Nice race report too.

  6. Tough race to run fast Mark, and as you mentioned the setbacks you suffered along the way definitely took a toll. I think you showed much strength and determination though, especially at the end.

    If you want to split hairs you certainly could have flown somewhere to a faster course and probably lopped off a minute or two, but the added expense coupled with an absence from the family just might not be worth it. To me the image of you walking in the Halloween parade with the family instead of hanging your head on a long flight alone later in the day makes me think you made the wise choice here.

    Also, the training you did this time around will probably benefit you more for the next cycle anyway, and certainly your endurance base will be improved after chasing two marathons in a year. I say well done and congratulations.

  7. Anonymous10:57 AM

    I'd say you ran more than decently. A sub 3-hour finish is always an achievement, and you missed your masters PR by a matter of seconds, despite less-than-optimal training and a tough course. With more luck on the next cycle, 2:50 should be a possibility.

  8. Great job Mark. It seems to me that you just ran out of real estate. You were closing quickly on that PR, you just didn't start your kick early enough.

    Nice job. I have no doubt that you have a faster one in you soon.