Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When the Experience Means More Then the Result

11,000 people. That’s how many ran the 40th Annual Falmouth Road Race this year.  It was my first as I used my time for the Harwich Half Marathon last October to get in via the lottery system.  11,000 people and me; I knew that the beginning especially was going to be a mess.  It would probably be a mixture of walking, trotting, and slow jogging.  I knew that setting some sort of time goal was most likely not going to work. 
The weather on race day further emphasized that idea.  The torrential rains which were falling when I awoke at 5:30am would keep going up until race time at 10.  It would eventually flood much of the race course and cause delays while crews drained the water from the worst areas.
I thought getting up extra early might help me find a parking spot closer to where you caught the buses from Falmouth down into Woods Hole.  I was right, but many other people had the same idea.  I was in traffic for the last five or so miles of my trip.  It was three hours before race time and there was traffic, then again there were 11,000 runners and who knows how many supporters as well clogging the streets that day.
I parked at the Town Hall lot which was nearly empty.  The buses were in sight, a short walk from my car.  I sat inside as the rain continued to come down.  I had bought brand new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12’s only a week earlier.  They were all black and I was drooling over the thought of running the race in all black ala Johnny Cash.  Still, I had to make a decision.  Do I run the race in my new shoes and risk them being ruined by puddles of water?  Or do I ‘un-retire’ my old Adrenaline’s that were now my everyday shoes?  Ultimately I erred on the side of caution and broke out my old shoes. 
Being that the grip and cushioning were lacking in the new shoes my expectations for my time dropped.  That did not matter though, the experience of being in Falmouth that day started to win me over.  I mean, how could you not like trudging through the rain and seeing hundreds of people wrapped in trash bags?  That’s the runner spirit.
I made my way to the local elementary school where the school buses were lining up to begin taking runners to the starting line.  I was able to get the small, very back seat much like I did all during my school years.  It was a neat bit of retro until the guy sat in the seat in front of me and proceeded to open his window all the way.  Remind you it was still raining at this point.  Not to mention he was the only one to open his window.  The water came drizzling in on me of course.  I was wearing a hat but still.  Then he laughs as he mentions there’s water coming into the bus through a vent in the roof.  I said ‘yeah and it’s coming in through your window, too.’  That didn’t change a thing.
Upon arriving in Woods Hole we runners we directed down a side street toward Water Street where the starting line resided.  The rain was lighter but still coming down.  Now not only were there people covered in trash bags but they were also hiding out in any dry crevice and overhang of buildings.  They also huddled under trees.  Me?  I figured I was already a little wet why not just wander around and get a feel for the location.
I had dug out a very old long-sleeved gym shirt to wear over my running clothes so I was not totally exposed.  I also had stuck my Iphone in a Ziploc bag to keep it dry, leaving a little opening for my headphones.  Oh yeah, running with headphones was not allowed but the photos of me crossing the finish line show me wearing them, oops.  
I tried my best to get my usual routine of stretches in as race time approached.  With about ten minutes until start time I got into my position.  Due to the insane amount of runners we were divided into ‘corrals.’  It was like being cattle, fencing and all.  I tossed my wet and old gym shirt into a nearby trash and got ready to run. 
Then they announced the flooding on the course.  We’d be delayed close to twenty minutes.  So, there I was wedged in among hundreds of people unable to do anything but wait and cool down.  To top it all off the rain stopped and the sweltering humidity became more evident.
Once the race got started I felt good, I was able to navigate the array of hills that greeted us all.  Three miles in I was ahead of my original pace goal.  Then the humidity, delayed start, and old shoes got to me.  I could feel my legs aching which caused me to slow down some.  At every mile marker there was a clock so you had an idea of where you stood.  Once I got to Mile 5 and I was off pace I decided to get back to enjoying the experience and letting go of my time expectations.
To keep my legs going I began to slap hands with all of the kids I passed.  It made me feel important so why wouldn’t I?  I noticed the people playing music along the roads, actual instruments, guitars mostly.  The spectacle of this event was unlike anything I’ve been a part of.  Then the sun broke out as I closed in on the final mile.
At this point I saw the first medical tent which I was glad I didn’t have to visit.  The crowds grew along the roadside, some place four or five people deep.  They cheered me on as I wanted to slow down.  Of course with only a few hundred yards to go there was one final hill leading to the finish line under a gigantic American Flag.
As I soaked in the immediate aftermath of a tough but exciting race my phone went off and there was my running mentor and best friend Emily asking how the race went.  The funny part was that just as I checked my phone a photographer took a shot of me so that moment is frozen in time.
I walked to where the first water station was after the finish line.  After grabbing water I slid slowly down a metal barricade and collected myself. People soaked in sweat passed by staring at their finisher medals.  I looked down at mine and was happy.  I got up and followed the crowds to the field where all of the food and beverages were being dished out.
I gladly accepted the bagels, raisins, bananas, hot dogs, and water then set off to survey the scene.  People were still being announced finishing so the crowds continued to grow while I walked around.  I stood in line for a Yasso Frozen Yogurt bar that I had gotten samples of at the Running Expo a few nights earlier, really good.  I walked to the very edge of the packed, muddy field, stood up on a fence, leaning against a trailer, and snapped a photo trying to capture that moment.  I do love running, but for me the best part of a race is when it is over.  Hopefully I am in one piece and I can reflect on what I have done.  That is what I did in Falmouth.
I was tired and had no clue where I was.  I actually had to use my phone’s GPS to locate myself and then get a map to where my car was parked.  After running 7 miles, and walking a good half mile to the field, I had to walk nearly two more miles to my car.  This may have been the best part of the day though.  I played songs that fit my mood, and since I was wearing my bib number I received a lot of smiles and waves from the sea of traffic which I soon became a part of. 
The Falmouth Road Race is every bit of the unique experience that people say it is.  The crowds, the festivities, it all adds up to a great day.  Now, the traffic I can do without, needing over two hours to make a 40-minute drive home is nuts, but I would do it all again, and will in 2013. 
How about you, my fellow runners?  Have you participated in any races where the time takes a back seat to the overall experience?  Notice that I wrote nothing of my time/pace/finish.   

At the Finish Line, checking my phone like I said, here's the 'Proof.'

Heading for the buses to Woods Hole

In 'Corral 3' with the Starting Line in the distance.

The best view of the madness after the race, the finish line flag is on the right.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Brooks Marathon Training Shoes

So I am less than 3 months away from my 1st marathon and am getting up there in distances.  I did 18 miles yesterday which was 3 miles longer than any run I have ever done.  My question is about shoes since it is all about the shoes.  I am loyal to my Brooks brand, and love my Adrenaline GTS 12.  However, I was wondering if any other Brooks runners knew of possibly another shoe under their label that might be better suited for the distance training?  It's not that my Adrenaline's are giving me trouble, but as with running in general I am looking to always improve.  If there is another Brooks shoe someone finds better for marathon training I'd love to hear about it.  Or maybe the Adrenalines are the best and I will just stick with them.  I am throwing this out to all of you.  Thanks in advance for your help/advice.