I dedicated my race to the children in Colorado who are dealing with a polio-like virus that is causing muscle weakness and paralysis following a severe respiratory infection. I was stunned when the story popped up in my Facebook news feed. I wanted them to know that even though they, and their parents are facing a terrifying time, that they will heal and recover and some day run a trail race. I carried Phil Lipoff in my heart with me through the trails of Spectacle Island sending him love and healing. He was loving and supportive after I PR'ed the Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer. He faced a life threatening illness and is slowly finding his strength again but it's a long road to recovery for him.
I am so blessed and grateful for J Alain Ferry of RaceMenu. After seeing the course maps with caution zones and cross overs and elevation and unpaved surfaces, I panicked.
He told me I'd be fine and that I would crush the course. I slept well and had a good breakfast. I'd been hydrating yesterday knowing that it was going to be hot out on the course with temperatures predicted in the 80's. I was hoping for a sea breeze being out in the harbor but there were no breezes to be had.
It was a festive atmosphere from the moment we arrived at the dock of the Provincetown II Ferry. Among the 800+ people, I managed to find my Facebook friend, Ilene Fabisch, to meet for the first time in real life. She started running 2 years ago at the age of 54 years old. She has logged over 250 miles in races this year and is a beautiful soul.
The ferry ride to the Island was spectacular:
There were bathrooms at the Visitor Center on the Island and the lines moved quickly. We saw the 5 milers take off for their race and I could feel my pre race anxiety begin to build. "What if the water stops are gone? What if the volunteers are gone by the time we get there and we get lost?" I could feel the wound of lugging my leg brace after contracting paralytic polio and being left behind alone and hurt fearing that my little body wouldn't be able to make it home by myself. Tom reminded me, "Mary ... this is an Alain Ferry race. You know you have nothing to worry about." I took a few deep breaths and told myself they put 600 flags to mark the course and there's really no way we could get lost on the Island. "Just go out there and do it girl," I told myself.
Alain came riding through on his bicycle after getting the 5 milers off and told us to make way so he could get us started:
The view at the start:
Right before we were about to start, the front of the pack for the 5 mile race were crossing the finish line. Their speed was amazing! We broke out into cheers for them.
There were no pace markers so we started in the middle of the pack. Tom asked me what my race strategy was. I told him I wanted to go out with the pack and then see how I feel. We started out running and I realized that given the heat of the day and the course I would fare better race walking. I was focused and running from the inside out. The volunteers were amazing cheering us on. The day was hot and the course was hilly with elevation going up to 130' at one point. There were very few patches of level ground. Fortunately, for a trail race, there were no obstacles, just different terrain surfaces.
The water stops were wonderful and the volunteers so encouraging. They stayed out on the course until every runner passed through. I dumped water on my head to stay cool. Throughout the course I enjoyed the magnificent vista that was before us:
Alain came riding up on his bike and said, "Oh there you are." He gave me a huge hug and started to take a selfie with us but his walkie talkie went off. He asked me how I was doing and told me that he knew I could do this course. He said we'd take photos later and to go "eat the rest of the course." I was fueled for the rest of the race.
As we were going up the final hill, I could feel that I was feeling a little dizzy and nauseous. I slowed my pace way down and Tom took my hand as we ascended that steep hill. One foot in front of the other. I looked below us and saw other runners coming up the trail. Before we began the race, Tom said to me that he didn't understand why I had the assumption that I was going to finish last. He was right. In fact, I finished 4/5 in my age group 60+ and 317/341 runners. There was no way I was going to PR for a 5K given the course and conditions but in essence I did PR because it was my first trail race. What a relief to have the downhill to the finish line. We sprinted together crossing the finish line with a feeling of triumph!
John Bingham said it best, ""Our running shoes are really erasers. Every step erases some past failure. Every mile brings us closer to a clean slate. Each foot strike rubs away a word, a look, or an event which led us to believe that success was beyond our grasp."
I found Alain on the boat during the apres race partay:
He hugged me so tightly and told me how proud he was of me. He said, "I will always have your back at a race." And with those words, and after conquering my first trail race, that wound that had been open for 55 years was healed. I told him how blessed I am to have him in my life and he told me he too is blessed.
As we rode the ferry back to Boston, I felt accomplished, blessed and grateful to have these wonderful opportunities to feel my strength, my determination and my courage with people who support me as I find higher and higher ground in my healing journey.
The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.
I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year: