Ahoy Mateys - Yarmouth Seaside Festival 10K is a rainsquall taper on the Cape
Posted Monday, 10 October, 2005
I almost missed the race. I was driving around in circles through Yarmouth and Dennis looking for it in the pouring rain. I finally called Yarmouth Police Dispatch on my cell phone and acted contrite. I had already pulled over and asked for directions from the convenience store guy. (See ladies? We do it when you’re not in the car with us.) I had figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to find the Festival. Wouldn’t there be signs? Wouldn’t I see other runners milling about in great nervous crowds at the starting line? No I wouldn’t. It seems the rain put a bit of a damper, literally, on the whole festival thing.
I finally found it and ran into the school building to register. It was 20 minutes before the gun and I was #62. Hmm. Looks like a small crowd. Plenty of T-shirts available. No lines at the toilets. Good for me, but I’m sure not so good for the 27th Yarmouth Seaside Road Race 10K. Anyone who’s been involved in a race knows what happens when you get the crappy, rainy weather. It was probably worst for these folks because the weather-people had been tracking this storm up the coast for a week.
It was also a 10K. Your casual runners have so many races to choose from in the fall, the longer races don’t get the pull that they used to 27 years ago. There are lots of family friendly 5K’s with kid runs to compete with.
I was looking for a 10K. I like 10Ks. I saw this one on Cool Running and knew I was going to be ‘on Cape’ this weekend. It seemed like good Karma. I also have a marathon next weekend and needed a long taper run at race pace. Luckily I’ve been doing this long enough to know that a hard run 10K is as good as a tempo 13 miler. I don’t keep a log and I’m pretty flexible about distance and time. I lived on Compulsive Lane for a couple years and I know it’s not a fun place. I just have a general training framework and fit opportunities into it as they com up. It’s easier on the head that way.
I looked around at the start. Not too many folks. I saw some fast looking kid speaking French. I saw a bunch of guys my age; old that is. They looked like veterans. Skinny, gnarly guys with club singlets. A 1999 Stus’ sweatshirt. A 2004 Martha’s Vineyard 20 miler shirt. A couple Boston ’05 hats, (like mine). Even in a small, rained out race, my age group is always overloaded with veterans. Quite a few of them were putting in long warm up runs, obviously turning the 10K into something longer as part of a fall marathon campaign. Me and the rest of the classic rock generation climbing out of a warm bed to run in the rain on a Sunday morning.
The start was a balmy 65 degrees with the remnants of tropical storm Tammy whipping around rain with petulant gusts. I lined up. It was sparse. There was no crowding or elbows needed here. Before you know it the race director said some words, one of which was “Go!” And we were off.
I used my excellent pacing skills (not) and tucked into the back of the lead pack of four, knowing full well that I could never hold that pace, but too amped up and too stupid, even after all these years, to hold back. I was surprised to find myself still hanging on after a ½ mile. The leaders were only running 6:15’s or so.
Soon enough I let them go and tried to settle into something more sustainable. Around 2 miles I was still all alone in 4th. I have never been that close to the lead in a race of any length before. I’m thinking to myself that the French guy was definitely in his 20’s, so worst case; I’m 3rd in my age class.
The police escort of the lead pack was out of sight by now. Then the first pursuer caught me. I asked him how old he was. 47. I told him I couldn’t let him pass me because he was in my age group. He didn’t think that was funny and passed me anyway.
Then another guy, definitely in my age group, sauntered by. Out by the 3rd mile two more guys, running together, grey haired, cruised past. Damn. Is everybody who races these days 40-49? Ok. It was a training run anyway, just relax and save it for after mile 5.
The weather was actually perfect for racing. 60-65 degrees with a light drizzle and not too much standing water. No problems with heat or dehydration today! I felt pretty good. I had run the Pisgah 23k, the long leg of the Fred Brown relay and a fast 22 mile training run in the weekends before. I had plenty of strength, but as usual, not too much speed.
I turned into a long straightaway by the ocean. The squall winds hit me head on and I heard foot steps closing from behind. Does it ever end? I looked over and it was the F1 catching me. Of course I said “You’re definitely not in my age group.”
The course continued right along the ocean front and we had those killer ocean gusts hammering us from the front. I told her she could draft me. The wind slowed us down. We ran together, or more accurately, I followed her for the next 2 miles. I could still see the guys up ahead on the straightaways and somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was calling me a wimp for not making a move to catch them.
The F1, Karen, and I were looking for the 5 mile mark when we turned a corner and the 4 guys who had passed me were running straight at us. Was this an out and back? No they took a wrong turn. We yelled and they turned around. We all ran through a deep puddle straddling the road. In the confusion I missed the 5 mile mark and lost Karen, but those 4 guys were now only 20-30 yards ahead.
At the next turn the Gods stepped in again and the 4 guys all turned left as the volunteer pointed straight. I yelled at them but kept going. All of a sudden I was in 4th place again. Looking at my watch I knew there was less than a mile left, but didn’t know the course.
First one, then a second runner re-took me. Then, like Sea Biscuit, I decided I was going to race. Some racing God was definitely trying to get me to place in this race. I might not be able to beat these guys behind me to the tape, but I could discourage them and might be able to put on a good enough show to dissuade the pursuit. If I looked strong they might decide it wasn’t worth the effort.
I don’t have a finish line sprint, I never have. I’m slow of foot in the 100, but I’ve raced hundreds of races and know a few wily-old-mid-pack-veteran tricks. I knew that if I was going to hold these guys it was going to have to be here where I had a chance, not with a 100 yard to go. I stretched out my stride. I pumped my arms. I used every pacing trick I had to make it look like I was going faster than I was and looking stronger than I was.
With about a ½ a mile to go we ran through a weird weather front. The barometric pressure plummeted and the air temperature dropped 10-15 degrees in one step. Another sign from the Gods?
I saw the turn-in for the school. The volunteers, miserable in their wet coats, pointed to the finish. I didn’t want to look back. It didn’t really matter if there was anyone there or not. This was one of those ‘moment of truth’ times and I was committed. I did my best impression of the 100 yard gasping-Clydesdale-fish-out-of-water sprint. I took a quick peak over the shoulder with 30 feet to go and I was all alone. I crashed across the finish, took my medal and doubled over with dry heaves for a few minutes. So much for the easy training run!
I waited around for the results. I finished 6th overall and 3rd in my age group. Go figure. Less than a month away from my 44th birthday and that is the highest I ever finished in any race in my life. Not the fastest by far, but the highest place. I’m going to have to hunt down more of these small, rained out 10K’s and see if I can win a toaster or something!
One comical moment was a woman who read the race flyer wrong and thought she was running a 5K until she got to the 3 mile mark and there was no finish line. She just kept going. Which is good advice for all of us. Just keep moving.
I would like to thank race director Deanna for putting on the 27th annual Yarmouth Seaside Festival Road Race. It may have gotten rained out, but it meant the world to me and I’ll put it on my calendar for next year!
Take my advice. Go find a small, local race and run the race of your life!
Look for me at BayState next week!