Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Veni, Cucurri, Vici: The Cape Cod Half Race Report!

My previous HM PR had been from my first attempt at the distance, which was the Brooklyn Half back in May. My goal was to get under 2 hours, but in hindsight, I really didn't know how to properly train for a half marathon. My mileage was probably not high enough, I took my easy runs way too fast, and speedwork seemed far too intimidating to attempt. In addition, after my one attempt at taking GU gave me a bad reaction, I was too scared to try anything else in time so I only drank water during the half. Big mistake. With all being said and done, I got a 2:01:50 after bonking in the second half, so that gave me hope that I could get a sub-2 half in the future.

I started training for the Cape Cod Half 12 weeks out, after taking a week to recover from the Queens HM, which I had trained more efficiently for, but didn't PR at since it was way too hot out. I used a smart coach plan I generated based on my half-PR, and managed to hit almost every workout on the plan. I peaked at 37 miles, and averaged around 30 mpw for the entire thing. I felt that this was my best cycle yet for a few reasons: I incorporated speed intervals for the first time, I got over my fear of doing them on the treadmill, and I managed to include two additional HMs as training runs and earn my 4/5 to get entry into the NYC half.

My parents were nice enough to come with me to the Cape to cheer me on - they probably also came because the Cape is simply an awesome place to be in the fall, so I was able to get a ride up from them. The five hour drive to the Cape was fairly scenic. We stopped at a popular diner that also had a used bookstore inside of it. I was amazed to see that there was already some snow covering the ground in the area. There was a possible threat of rain/snow earlier in the week, but thankfully it wasn't going to happen until a couple of hours after I finished my race at the earliest. It was still supposed to be cold, so I ended up going with a long sleeved tech shirt instead of my usual short sleeves.

After checking into our hotel, we went to number pickup at the local high school and I got the lowest bib number I would ever receive in a race since it was done based on the order of registration (as in there is no way I'll ever be fast enough to get #25 in a NYRR race). They actually had a special edition of their town newspaper where they printed up all of our names, bib numbers, and our previous best times (if we submitted them). They had the same thing for the marathoners. I did feel better once someone told me that there would be volunteers marshaling the course so that I couldn't make a wrong turn somewhere. After walking around town a bit, and having a nice pre-race meal of pizza with a glass of white wine, I got an early night and plenty of sleep.

I woke up at 6am, got ready quickly, ate my usual pre-race half of a bagel, and then we drove five minutes to the post office where most people were standing outside waiting. It was dark when we left, but as we arrived it started to get lighter out. After using the porta-potty, I stood around feeling awkward because it seemed that most people knew at least one other person. I eventually started talking to another girl who had the same time goal as I did, and we decided to start out together. At about 7:20, we all started to line up. There were no corrals, so I settled for somewhere in the middle of the pack.

I didn't know this at the time, but the person who was supposed to sing the national anthem was not able to make it, so they asked the audience for volunteers. Someone clearly stepped up to the plate, and moments later, we heard a loud gun go off. As I crossed the start, I pressed the start button on my garmin and off we went!

I ended up losing my running buddy shortly after the start when I started passing people. To me it felt like people were barely moving, but maybe I should have lined up a bit further towards the front. I tried to enjoy the scenery as I got a pace, and eventually I was hovering close to where I wanted to be. However, the one "crisis" of the race arose when I glanced at my garmin to find that it was....going into POWERSAVE????? I don't know what happened there, but I quickly reset my garmin and decided to wait until the mile 1 marker to restart. That's why my splits only include the last 12.24 miles. As I passed the marker, I heard a volunteer say that it had been about nine minutes, but after comparing my final time with my garmin time, it must have been around 8:41. I kept re-adding nine minutes to the watch to see how I was really doing throughout the race to be on the conservative side.

I had told myself that I wouldn't go faster than 8:45 (ideally 8:50-9:00) for most of the race, and I managed to stay close to that on average for the first 10 miles. I knew that I was going on the faster side, but I figured that the hills from miles 6-9 would slow me down and that I would reevaluate once those were done. The miles seemed to go by very quickly, and I had the mental advantage of knowing that I was really one mile ahead of what my garmin told me. Most of the route was very scenic, and in the earlier part of the race, we were running along a bike path that was right along the beach, so there were a lot of pretty views. I even managed to take my eyes off of the garmin long enough to enjoy them for some of the race. There was very little traffic on the route - there were maybe 5 cars and 1 bike and they weren't a big deal.

My parents were waiting for me at around the halfway point on a bridge. They got to see all of the runners go under the bridge, then come around onto the bridge itself before passing by. My dad took pictures of the lead runners as they passed. Eventually, I came around, and there were pictures taken. At the time, I was talking to a Scottish guy who was doing both the half that day and the full marathon the next day - otherwise known as the Clam Chowder Challenge (the Massachusetts version of the Goofy Challenge). When I passed them, I gave her the hat she loaned me since I no longer needed it.

Shortly after the halfway point, we hit the rolling hills they were talking about. I thought that I would slow down significantly, but I didn't find the hills to be such a big deal after the hills of Central Park. I think I actually sped up during those miles. As I was getting to mile 10, I realized I was speeding up and decided to go with it for the final 5k. I realized around that time that sub-2 was almost certainly going to happen. It was simply a question of by how much, and that by itself inspired me to go faster towards the finish. Other than a sore ankle towards the end, I felt great all the way up to the end.

There were two sets of costumes that were particularly memorable to me. There were these two girls who wore green t-shirts that said "two peas in a pod" and two girls dressed up as insects. I ended up playing passing games with them before passing all of them in the end. The girl I had lost at the beginning of the race ended up finishing less than a minute behind me, and I saw her at the end as well.

As I approached the final half a mile, I turned around the bend to see people cheering, and was surprised to hear many people yell out my name. How did so many people know my name? (my mother apparently told them to cheer for me so that she could run towards the finish line). I vaguely heard my dad shout "you're going to get under 1:55!" - I didn't believe him but as I went around the bend and crossed the finish line, I realized that he was right - I crossed the finish line when the clock still said 1:54:xx. Later on I found out that my gun time was 1:54:45 and my net time was 1:54:27. I was stunned - I was expecting 1:58 as a best case scenario. In fact, three days later I'm still kind of in shock.

Yes, the craziness runs in the family, or at least on one side, at any rate
This was my first non-NYRR race, and I was very pleased with how well the race was organized. The course was beautiful, and I enjoyed doing a smaller race for a change. There were only a couple of things that I wasn't thrilled about. Their water stations could have been spaced out a little better - there was one at mile 3, then one at mile 4.8, but we didn't see another station for a while after that. It kind of messed with my nutrition, but I ended up taking one shot blok at mile 5, 7 and 9 and it seemed to work out. Also, they determined all AG placements by gun time, not net time. Looking at my results, there were people who were really faster than me who were placed behind me, and people who were slower than me who were placed ahead of me. I would care more about that, but since I was 62 out of over 200 people in the 14-39 year old open division, it didn't really make much of a difference. Still, assuming my first marathon goes well, I will probably come back within the next few years to do their full marathon (or maybe even their Clam Chowder Challenge :D )

I picked up a pretty purple medal (my first medal for running a half, and only my second medal for a race) along with my long-sleeved t-shirt at the marathon expo, and then went out to brunch with my parents and one of my college friends that lived in the area. Don't those pumpkin pancakes look amazing? Unfortunately, our drive back wasn't so pleasant, but we eventually made it back through the snowstorm (even if the trip took 3 hours longer than it was supposed to).

In the end, I had a great experience, and I'm very happy with the results of my training. If anyone is interested in seeing all of the pictures, they can find them here. I'd also like to give a shout out to all of my running buddies, and thank them for having the patience to listen to me constantly talk about it for the past several months. Hopefully I'll be able to get a sub-2 hour time in my next NYRR half as well. Next up? I aim to smash my four mile PR at the Race to Deliver later this month so that I can lower my NYRR bib time. My one year running anniversary is also exactly a week from today, so I intend on posting about that as well.


  1. Dahlia, what an awesome race you ran! Congratulations on your huge PR and best wishes for many more happy miles in the years ahead.
    -Jeanne (AKA miss_demeanor)

  2. Thanks Jeanne! Good luck tomorrow! I'm sure you'll do great!