A couple months back I had suggested to Ronnie that we get a hotel room in Hyannis for the half marathon. I thought this would be a great way to be able to enjoy the pre-race expo and pasta party, and not have to worry about the long drive to the Cape on the morning of the race. Ronnie vetoed the idea though, because he likes his own bed and his “morning routines”.
Yesterday morning I woke up very early to pack up the car and head out, and was greeted by several inches of snow on the ground. So, at 6 in the morning when I should have been finalizing the travel bag, I was out shoveling snow and cleaning off the car. I considered it my pre-race warm up. It snowed lightly all the way to Ronnie’s house and the roads were slick. Remind me why I’m doing this. The normally long drive to the Cape was even longer because of some poor road conditions, and my plan to get there early got tossed out the window. The Hyannis marathon is a great race, but the crowds are very thick and if you don’t get there early you’ll be facing a long walk to the start. I started panicking a little when we got stuck in traffic miles away from the race. Finally, we were directed into a parking lot about a half mile from the start. Because of this, we were faced with a dilemma. We still had to make some final wardrobe changes, pick up our bibs and our t-shirt, and use the toilets. We had planned on being able to go back to the car before the start of the race, but now we were going to be very short on time. We also had to find Chris, who was somewhere in the thick crowds and running the 10k for the first time. Ultimately we decided we had almost an hour, and that should be enough time to get up to the conference center, get our stuff, go back to the car, and then back to the starting line. Bonus: a nice mile and a half warm up!
It was raining/snowing in Hyannis and the roads were very wet. I’m thankful I wore my waterproof boots to run these pre-race errands, otherwise I would have been soaked before the race even started. Inside the conference center the crowds were extremely thick and Ronnie and I lost each other a couple times trying to make our way through the lines. Hint: Next year, enter the building through the side door near the finish line. It’s a straight shot into the building with no crowds to wade through! We grabbed our bibs, waited in the t-shirt line, then hurried out the side door towards the toilets. Once we met up with Chris, we had to hurry back to the car to drop stuff off and change into race gear. As we were leaving the car, we noticed the crowds were gone. No more runners were in sight. We walked quickly and then Chris finally checked his phone and realized it was 9:56. Not this again. Yes, for the second week in a row, I had to sprint to the starting line of the race. We were too late to get into line, so we waited on the side of the road until the gun went off, and then jumped into line. It ended up working out just fine, but it’s just a whole lot of stress for someone as structured and pre-meditated as me. About 100 yards into the race I realized in my haste I hadn’t lathered up in Vaseline like I had planned. I knew I’d pay the price later.
The race was not just a mere 13.1 mile run. It was an obstacle course of avoiding puddles, pot holes, slush, and people. Oh and to make it more interesting, I did this without my glasses. They were constantly getting wet and fogging up, so after just a mile I had to slip them into my pocket. Ronnie and I ran together for a while. Occasionally we’d analyze other runners and compare them to different horse breeds. We identified a Welsh pony, a few Anglo-Arabs, and a Missouri Fox Trotter. Eventually it took too much energy to think of other breeds and we ran in silence. I managed to keep my feet out of any puddles for the first half mile of the race, until I ran smack-dab through the middle of a deep one. I cringed, knowing the next 12.6 miles would be very squishy. I felt bad for one woman who fell right into a water-filled pothole in the middle of the road. Still, despite all of these obstacles it was relatively good weather for a half marathon. The temperature was in the 30’s, and the snow and rain kept us cool and entertained. The scenery on the Cape was beautiful with snow covered cranberry bogs, a white ocean, and quaint Cape Cod cottages that looked like they were sprinkled in sugar.
I lost track of Ronnie after about 5 miles, and ran the rest of the race solo. I had decided not to use an iPod for this run, and I didn’t regret that decision for a minute. I had thought maybe I’d need some musical motivation in the final few miles, but the thick crowds, music, and volunteers offered all the motivation I needed. Physically I felt good, and I ran a pretty consistent 8:30-9:00 pace. Apparently all that snowshoe cross training paid off! Coincidentally, right at the 10 mile mark I got passed by a guy wearing a t-shirt that said something like, “A half marathon is just a 5k race with a 10 mile warm up”. That was the final piece of inspiration I needed to finish strong. I had started off slow and I think it really helped me have enough energy left towards the end. I finished in 1:56:38, a full 4 minutes faster than my previous PR. The course itself helped too. It was mostly flat with only a few gradual hills, and mostly flat or downhill in the last few miles. Last year I had only done the 10k, so it was great to finally get to see the entire course.
At the end of the race Chris was waiting for me. He had a successful 10k debut and is already on the hunt for another one. My plan had been to stick around the finish line, try to find Ronnie, and watch some of the full marathon runners come in. Unfortunately, the scenic snowfall that was so pretty during the whole race was turning into a steady rainfall and I was soaked and freezing. I just couldn’t stand out there for one more minute, and decided to head back to the car to change. As we made our way through the crowds I observed some people that were clearly struggling, some with nasty blisters and bleeding feet. I was again grateful for all of the prep-work and dress rehearsals I conducted leading up to this race. One scenario I hadn’t tested was running 12.6 miles with soaking wet, squishy feet. But, I’d like to think my magical Asics shoes and super fancy running socks helped with that too. Chris and I headed back to our cars and a police officer stopped traffic to let us cross the street despite the fact that Chris was wearing a Yankee’s windbreaker. The cop said Chris was lucky the relay runners didn’t beat him with their baton. I couldn’t agree more! I was only at the car for a few minutes when Ronnie showed up, just as cold and wet as I was. We swapped stories and then headed to his friend’s hotel room where we had nice hot showers before heading home.
It was a great day and after all the hype leading up to it, I’m sad that Hyannis is over. My only regret is that we didn’t get to enjoy the other aspects of the race: The pre-race pasta party, the expo, the post-race party, the post-post-race party. We did treat ourselves to a nice post-race victory dinner, and Ronnie was nice enough to drive back from the Cape so I could ice my foot. It was a great race, a successful run, and proof that even in the worst winter weather conditions it’s still possible to train well enough to complete a half marathon. As for next year… Hyannis is only 364 days away. I’m booking my hotel now. J