02 10 2016.

race report: cape elizabeth mid-winter classic 10-miler 2016

Last year I ran the Cape Elizabeth Mid Winter Classic for the first time and surprised myself by coming in almost a minute under my “reach” goal time. It was quite a race – and I look back on it with really fond memories because it was the first time that I gave a race my all from the moment that I started until the moment I crossed the finish line. Of course I remember the race being difficult (with quite a few hills – two of which are within the last mile and a half) but what I took away from it was how much I surprised myself.

This year, things were a little bit different. For almost a month, I had been “out of the game” due to a respiratory illness, so I hadn’t run more than 3.5 miles since early January. I had no goal pace in mind, I just wanted to have fun. In fact, I needed to have fun.

Last year, I PRd every single distance – every single race was my “A” race, whether I realized it at the time or not. Here’s something that you may not know about me (and really, I didn’t know about myself until recently) – I’m an extremely competitive runner. I’m always trying to PR, to beat my previous time. I don’t care so much about placing, or “age-grouping”, but I always feel the need to improve my race somehow in every single race. So when I talked to Kelsey on the phone about my expectations, I told her that I needed to “let it go” – yes, words of advice from a Disney movie. I wanted to have a good time – to learn how to have fun again – to do it out of love. I wasn’t expecting to go fast – just go. I needed to get the part of me that pressures me to winwinwin to stop talking. (That’s harder than it sounds.) (In response, I particularly remember Kelsey saying that I can have fun and fly at the same time.)

So February 7 started much like any other race Sunday. I woke up, drank some coffee, and had an English Muffin with almond butter and a banana. Classic. I wasn’t feeling nervous – there was no pressure on me. I was planning on running with my mom and Mike – to let them set the pace, and I’d tag along, smile, and join in on the conversation. It was going to be a great day. Aside from not being properly trained at all and wondering if I’d even be able to run the whole 10 miles, I was ready to go!

The Cape Elizabeth High School was packed when we entered. I went to use the restroom right off (since long lines and all) and stood around with Mike and my mom for a while, waiting until the start time was just a little bit closer so that we could go stand outside at the starting mat.

While we were waiting by the doors, I was approached by someone who asked me, “Hey, did you run Sugarloaf?” Yeah, I did! And it clicked – all the sudden I recognized him, right as he responded, “I’m Darren!” Darren (aka Green Shirt Guy aka D2) ran with me for the last 6 (most painful) miles at Sugarloaf and helped me stretch and walk out my Charley horses. In the confusion and craziness after crossing the finish line at Sugarloaf, I never had a chance to thank him for his guidance and coaching during my first marathon! I was so excited to see him again!

Saying our good lucks, we all went out to the parking lot to prep for the 10 miles to come. I was starting to get antsy, starting to feel that competitive spirit coming alive. I was wanting so badly to – using Kelsey’s words – “fly” – but I knew that I had to be smart because I wasn’t nearly as in shape as I was the year before.

Finally, the cannon fired and we were free to run. Like last year, it was kind of a bottlenecked start, but I stuck with Mike and mom, and we chatted for a few. Thing is, I was feeling good. Maybe it’s because I’ve been tapering for the past month (haha), or maybe it’s because we had only been running for 30 seconds at that point, but I kind of made my decision up.

(Yes. All of this does go through my head before a race.)

In order to have fun, I needed to just run. No matter how fast or how far, I needed to go at my own pace. Not a PR pace, just the pace that felt right. So I told my mom this, and broke off from the two. I wasn’t paying much attention to how fast I was going, and I kept it that way for a while. I know that I was going fast because I started to weave in and out of the crowd, making my way to those running at the same pace as me.

About 2.5 miles in, I came across Darren. Actually, I had passed him without realizing it and he ran to catch up to me. He asked me what my goal pace was, and I responded that I was just there to have a good time and to do my best. He liked that response, said he was running with his wife and they were doing the same. We wished each other a good race, and he ran back to his wife (yeah this guy is like a pace chameleon). I shouted back to him, “You know, bad things happen when I pass you!” referring to my not-so-strong marathon performance when he caught up to me eventually.

Before I knew it, I had reached mile 5. I was starting to get uncomfortably warm, but I hadn’t dressed for removing layers. It was only 35F but man did that sun feel hot. Other than the heat, my legs and butt felt fine. I kept on moving.


photo © Maine Running Photos

After mile 5, my mind started racing. I started running numbers through my head – thinking of possible pace scenarios and overall time goal updates. This is such typical race behavior for me – which is great for an “A” race, since I will think on the fly and up my expectations of myself mid-run. I had to tear my mind away from the numbers game and focus on just having a good time – but I did allow myself to add the goal of trying as hard as I could – since I had been doing that up until that point. No matter the time at the end, I wanted to walk away feeling like I gave the race my respect and attention and effort. I knew that regardless of the result, the biggest disappointment at the end would be to not put in the work – to walk away feeling like nothing had just happened.

I ended up having such a good time running along Sawyer Road. The fields and woods surrounding the road were coated in a beautiful new layer of snow. We passed a Christmas Tree farm and some small trails off to the side. I knew that I was smiling and that I probably looked ridiculous but smiling was giving me such a boost in excitement and speed.

So I continued on my (merry) way. I remember last year that around mile 8, I was feeling pretty sick, and I was expecting to feel the same way. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t. Aside from feeling a bit too warm, I actually still felt great. I was starting to lose momentum, though, also similarly to last year. My pace, which had been in the high 7:00s, was starting to crawl to the mid 8:00s. I had to let that be okay. I wasn’t aiming for a PR.

And finally, the final hill. Though it’s technically not the steepest or the longest hill of the race, it’s probably the most dreaded due to its convenient location at the very end of the race. It’s also dreaded because it’s at the end of a very straight road so you can see it long before you get to it, looming.

The hill nearly killed me last year, but I think I was stronger mentally (certainly not in the legs) this year, so I kept my eyes on the ground and ran – I’d reach the top when I reached the top, and I’d run my heart out until then.

At long last, the course veers left into the high school parking lot again and steers us around the right side of the building. (This always feels like such a long ending, since we pass the starting area right away, and you’d expect to end there as well!)


photo © Maine Running Photos

I picked up my pace to have a strong finish and crossed the finish line feeling a million times better and more accomplished than last year! My time: a surprising 1:22:01

I’m incredibly proud of that number. I’m proud that I pulled that seemingly out of nowhere. I’m proud because that number represents having a really awesome time, smiling, and “flying.”

Splits: (from my Garmin)
1 | 8:44
2 | 8:02
3 | 8:03
4 | 7:54
5 | 7:53
6 | 8:14
7 | 8:09
8 | 8:14
9 | 8:20
10 | 8:04
WATCH TIME | 1:22:02
OFFICIAL TIME | 1:22:01


2 Comments

  1. Yay, K2! This is so awesome! I love how you committed to yourself, to fun, to challenging yourself and to being curious. Way to fly!!!!

  2. Awesome!

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