Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Camp Hyannis 2016 - Race Day - Redemption Weekend

I set my alarm for 7:00am but pre race jitters woke me up at 6:00am. I meditated as Tom slept soundly. I focused on creating a wonderful race day for Team McManus. Paul Collyer, Event Director called this weekend Redemption Weekend after needing to cancel the race last year due to over 100" of snow and a major storm right before the weekend. I let the words redemption weekend sink into my soul. I reminded myself that everything I needed would be provided for me and told myself to trust that the course will be well marked. I dismissed an image of Tom and me being at the back of the pack with everyone taking off and leaving us alone to find our way. I wanted to drive the course on Saturday and we ended up driving only half of it because we had trouble reading the map and following the roads in the car. Tom reassured me that he would bring the map with him and we would take a left instead of a right and complete the entire course!

The day began in quiet and then I heard footsteps in the hall and on the floor above us. It was like a beautiful symphony and the crescendo was building throughout the Resort and Conference Center until it was time to run!

I opened up the curtains and saw this beautiful scene:

Tom and I did our plank, crunches and clams and meditated.

I channeled my nervous energy into getting everything ready for race day - a day I waited for for the last 5 years and one I didn't know would ever happen again.

We went to the lobby and there was no line at the coffee shop in the lobby. We ate slowly and I learned my lesson from Bermuda that I needed to relax and take my time with breakfast allowing plenty of time for digestion before gun time. I was excited to meet up with one of my dear friends, Jane Lewis Brown who is training for her first full marathon in Sugarloaf. She inspires me with her faith, grit and determination. She asked me to get a Hyannis coffee cup souvenir for her at the Expo on Saturday. Bea D'Angelo and Caitlin Doherty, two of our dear L Street Running Club friends asked if we would register them for the half marathon on Saturday and we would meet up Sunday before the race. They arrived with two more members of our running club. We went to our room and everyone used the bathroom (a very short wait compared to the portapotties or the restrooms in the lobby).

As we were getting ready to head downstairs I took a moment to thank Bea, Caitlin, Carla and Kathleen and of course Tom, my partner on and off the roads for all of their love and support. I got emotional as I shared with them how incredible I felt to be running Hyannis again surrounded by my running family. Carla was so loving and tender as she made sure I had everything I needed for race day, hugged me and said God bless you. A little over a year ago at this time I was told that I would not and should not run over 5 miles and that I was looking at a total knee replacement in a couple of years. The physiatrist at Spaulding Rehab wanted me to go through the post polio clinic again to see where I might need additional support and services. But instead I had run the 2016 Bermuda Half Marathon and was now poised to toe the starting line of the 2016 Hyannis 10K.

They went off to drop things off in their car and we said we'd meet up at the start. We found out via Facebook that there was more of an L Street contingency at the Expo.

We took a selfie with our L Streeters:

One of my dear friends, Jennifer Falcone Kelly found me and we took this selfie:

While we were hanging out with the L Streeters, Tom yells out, "Hey Bermuda," and we saw one of the women who we met in Bermuda. We met her first at the Bermuda Race Expo and then again at the Bermuda Airport. She told us at the airport that she had seen us cross the finish line at the Bermuda Half Marathon hands held high and how inspired she was by our run. We are now friends on Facebook.

Team McManus also received a wonderful loving hug and send off by Dawn of Wag Your Tail where all the magic began for the 2016 Hyannis Weekend.

It was time to warm up at the start where Bill Rodgers was also warming up.

I asked him if I could get a picture with him at the start. He has this amazing way of speaking softly with such love and care about the sport of running and being supportive of me as a runner. While Tom was taking the picture he said, "Stay steady. And stay steady with those treatments of yours. They're working."

"Well I'm going to continue to move because it's cold out here."

Tom and I took our traditional Team McManus selfie at the start:

Caitlin and crew found us at the 12:00 minute/mile mark where Tom and I decided we would start our race. Caitlin snapped this starting line runfie:

How could you not take a moment to chat with these three about their bGood costumes:

They shared with us that they are running for the bGood Family Foundation.

We all started together at the 12:00 minute/mile pace - my dream pace. Everyone was cheering us as the music blared and one face stood out in the crowd. Jacqueline Hansen jumped up and down and screamed, "Go Mary and Tom!" The energy of Bill Rodgers and Jacqueline Hansen, Boston Marathon champions was with me.

The first mile marker came up really fast and I said to Tom, "Wow this feels really easy." He reminded me about what Boston Marathon Champion Jack Fultz said that you divide your race and the first third of the race, whatever the distance should always feel slow and easy. "If you feel as though you are going too slowly, you are running at the correct pace." I usually struggle at the beginning of a race but not this one!

I told Tom that I was not going to look back because I am not running that way. Instead I looked in front of me and there was a woman race walking. We caught up to her and started a conversation. I shared my journey with her and she told us about her health and fitness journey. We stayed together for the first two miles or so. No worries about their not being course monitors and signs pointing us along the course...or the water stop not being there. Everything was in place to support us on our way.

We were out on a beautiful stretch of the course and I could feel my pace picking up. Tom had his TomTom on and told me I was doing about a 15:30 pace. I was ecstatic and felt so good in my body. At one point, as had happened in Bermuda, my right knee tweaked and I wondered if I had to dial back my pace but I harnessed the power of my mind and the energy cleared. We were following Geoffrey Smith's advice of running from the inside out. It was rather daring of me to run as my body wanted to run rather than from some external dictates about our racing plan. Actually my racing plan was to take Geoffrey Smith's advice and have fun out there and take Bill Rodgers advice and celebrate.

And in the distance Jacqueline Hansen comes along the course. The expanse of ocean was to our left and this beautiful woman comes up on our right. She stopped me to give me a hug. She whispered in my ear," Run with all your heart."

I felt she was my fairy godmother and I was Cinderella being told, "You will go to the ball."

You see growing up as a survivor of paralytic polio I was always the outcast. When it came to gym I was "easy out Alper" (my maiden name). I was bullied and teased and even struggled with my identity as a runner when I first started running....

After Jacqueline's hug I felt something ignite within me. My pace picked up and a woman behind us said, "Excuse me...is this the right course for the 10K." We told her it was and laughed and shared with her my fear about losing our way on the course. She asked if she could run with us. She was supposed to run the half but had an injury and was running the 10K course but wouldn't cross the finish line. I had the opportunity to share my journey with her and she asked me when the book was coming out. Coincidentally she had run Bermuda several years earlier. We took in the beautiful views of the course and shared our memories of running Bermuda.

Suddenly mile 5 was upon us. I had not stopped for 5 miles. I slowed down to take water and have a half of a Luna bar at mile 2 (when our bodies told us we needed to refuel) but I was running non stop for 5 miles! I knew that I needed to take a brief pause remembering that our bodies can reset in as little as 30 seconds. I hydrated and knew I wanted to run the last 1.2 miles strong.

I had in my head that I wanted to break 1:40 for my 10K. Since my return to the roads I was running about a 16:33 pace on anything above a 5K. When we joined the marathoners and half marathoners on the course, something broke free within me. I was running with the pack! I had a lot left in the tank and I was leaving nothing out on the roads. Usually at this point in a race I can push hard but it's a struggle to push hard. I remembered how I felt going for a PR at the 2014 Tufts 10K. There was nothing in the tank and it was sheer will power to push for that PR. On Sunday there was pure joy in my running. I felt so different in my body. It was more than just finishing a race; I was racing this race competing against myself seeing just what I could do.

I cried as we came toward the finish and there was this huge crowd with cowbells -- oh I need to add here that the course monitors were amazing with cowbell and high fives to cheer us on - cheering everyone into the finish. Paul was there calling out my name saying just say to the left. He was there when I finished my first half marathon in 2009 in Hyannis and for my running comeback at the Charles River Run in June of 2010 and when I PR'ed his Jingle Bell Run in December of 2010. He has always been a cheerleader and champion of my journey.

Tom and I held hands high as we crossed the finish line. I knew it had taken us a good 4 minutes or so to cross the starting line and the finisher's clock said 1:43 but whatever our time would be the 2016 Hyannis 10K was my redemption race and it without a doubt my best time ever!

To be continued....
To your health and wellness,

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