Sunday, September 14, 2014

I'm now off the sidelines...Race Report: Ogunquit Beach Lobster Dash

The last two couplets of "Running the Race," the poem I wrote in February of 2007 in the dark night of my soul, mind and body were:

Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
while in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.

I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
so much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.

I love how the unconscious prepares the way for the future over and over and over again.

It's been a rough road back to regain my speed and endurance after taking a running hiatus from September 2011 until April 2013, but it has been filled with glorious moments to treasure.

We set the alarm for 5:30 am yesterday morning and woke up to a chilly morning. We had checked the forecast for Oqunquit Beach and knew it was time to forego shorts and tank tops for layers as we dressed for success at the Ogunquit Beach Lobster Dash.

We arrived with plenty of time to get our race tees, put on our numbers and share hugs, love and laughter with our Merrimack Valley Striders running family, have photo ops and for me to meet up with Bonnie, Joanne and Charmaine my fellow race walkers.

Charmaine said that as race walkers, we'd get an early start. My kind of race for sure. The Lobster Dash is an out and back route on the beach at low tide. There was a stiff head wind and a mixture of sun and clouds. The beautiful surf provided the soundtrack for our run. It was a very Chariots of Fire kind of moment -- only we weren't running barefoot or in the ocean or maybe not quite that fast but it was majestic, magical and mystical to be running by the expansiveness of the ocean as the waves broke near the shore.

We got to know one another as we set out ahead of the other runners. We expressed a similar concern that we would be holding the other ladies back with our pace. I had set an intention that we would all find a pace that would be both comfortable yet challenging for each of us. This was my training run for Tufts and my first 5 mile race since my return to the roads in April of 2013. I wanted it to be at a relatively comfortable pace for me.

It was the first time since my return to the roads that I did not stop. I had water with me and also took water from the water stop but we kept moving forward. We also did negative splits. We had to run through puddles and run on the uneven surface of the sand when we first went out. I felt this was my most fuel efficient run to date. I had an early breakfast and a banana right before gun time. Water kept me hydrated and fueled until we crossed the finish line. This bodes well for my performance at Tufts four weeks from tomorrow.

Having the lead runners pass us reminded me of Marathon Monday 2009 when, after our early start for mobility impaired runners, we shared the course with all of the elite runners. I told Tom that I wanted him to run his own race. He came up from behind and gave me a high five. I pushed him forward and said, "Go!" Our Strider friends passed and cheered us along letting us know how strong we looked. As they returned, they cheered us on. Tom Licciardiello in true Tom form said, "Don't go beyond the rocks." We joked that if you made it to Canada you went too far on the course.

A tailwind helped us on the return 2.5 miles. My Tom came out and met us to run us in and to document our journey with photos and videos. He showed us the bling.

We kept encouraging each other along as we picked up the pace to the finish. Mile 5 was our fastest pace. We couldn't see the Finish Line. They had taken down the sign that signified Start/Finish. Charmaine kept reminding us that it didn't matter. They did however keep up the clock and the finish cute. It didn't matter that they kept up the clock because we had an early start and went by our personal timing devices to determine our pace. Our overall pace was 16'25" which is what my pace has been during my Tufts 10K training runs. That pace puts me within 4 minutes of my PR goal. I have run within 2 minutes of my PR goal while out on the Tufts course. I have one more 5K race on 9/28, where I will push speed and then taper. I'll also be on 4 days rest for Tufts. This past week I challenged myself with bike intervals and we incorporated new core strengthening exercises in Aquatics Therapy class.

As we finished strong, I saw Tom Licciardiello at the chute. He hugged me and asked me how it felt to be out there. I cried tears of joy. "It was my first 5 miler since my return to the roads." He will be at the finish line of the Tufts 10K along with my Tom and many other Striders. While I have the time of 1:36 net time in my mind's eye and in my heart, and am training my body creating optimal conditions to make that happen, ultimately it doesn't matter. What does matter and what mattered today is that we were off of the sidelines! Joanne said that the 16'25" pace was a personal best for her and today's race was the longest distance she had ever run. She had only run 5K's since she began running in recent years. She's 62 years old.

I could have opted to be my Tom's cheerleader as was the original plan, and done my own training run today but I decided that there was no need to be on the sidelines. The Ogunquit Beach Lobster Dash is ideal for me where, I can set my pace and be a part of the running community. It's a far cry from the days when I was left behind lugging my leg brace desperately trying to catch up with my brother and his friends. We checked in with each other throughout the race making sure everyone was doing okay. We'd back off the pace to accommodate each other when necessary and chase after each other when someone took the lead to set a brisk pace. There was harmony and ease among us. We vowed to cross the finish line together!

We named ourselves the fierce foursome having the courage to run our race in our own way at our own pace being a part of the loving human race - a community of runners where unconditional love and support abound whether you finish first, last or somewhere in between. We celebrated with lobster rolls, photo ops, an awards ceremony and then off to a Strider's members magnificent house set in the Ogunquit woods for the after race party.

The day captured in photos and videos:

A Strider stopped to capture us during the first 2.5 miles:

Coming down the final mile:

Crossing the finish line:

Showing off the bling with Bonnie and Joanne:

A dear Strider friend Donna and me:

How we fuel post race - garden fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil and a whole spread of delicious appetizers. The highlight of the post race feast was a heaping cup of home made fish chowda prepared by a Strider Dave Leonard whose mother handed down the recipe to him:

And on our way to our car, we saw a clever idea from a runner to air out their shoes after having run through the water:

"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.

I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales at Amazon to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.

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