CAPE ELIZABETH — I’ve always thought it might be kind of neat to run the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K. I mean, it seems like one of those defining Maine activities, as much as climbing Katahdin or making the loop through Acadia. And as a Midwestern transplant, those things seem that much cooler.
But there are good reasons I never signed up. The field fills up in about five minutes – and I seriously don’t have the time, energy or luck to be online at 11:59:59 to register the March before the race.
And I hate running.
But, as one of the most active and most in-shape employees at The Forecaster (and maybe the most gullible), I was the likely candidate for the job when a running bib was offered to a reporter three weeks before race day.
Did I mention I hate running?
Put on the spot, offered the chance to write a rare first-person story or to save my body from three weeks of torture, it was a tough choice. On the premise that it might be a good excuse to run with friends, and despite the fact that no pay was being offered for my training hours, I hesitantly agreed.
The deal was sealed when Randy Billings suggested I could seek workers compensation for any injuries sustained during the race (a good bet with just three weeks to train).
We joked about my run in the newsroom – Peggy Roberts wanted me to wear a helmet cam, while Steve Mistler suggested I might podcast my hea-hea-heavy breathing. Kate Bucklin, totally serious, suggested I borrow her Blackberry and tweet my progress. (Mile 2: @mmehlsak, I’m. dying. And you. Will. Too. If I survive. This. Race.)
But, as it turns out, the joke was on me. Unless it involved wheels in my sneakers and a jet-pack on my back, no technology was going to shorten those 6.2 miles.
Considering The Forecaster’s budget, I opted against expensing the jet-pack and sat down to think about actually training for the race.
Three weeks. According to a runningplanet.com series of 10K training programs, I needed at least eight weeks to train properly, whether I was a beginner or a seasoned competitor. The Maine Running Co., on Forest Avenue in Portland, runs an annual 16-18 week training program called Reach the Beacon.
I went out and bought new shoes, a good first step. The salesman recommended Asics, even though my wide little feet were set on my usual New Balances. They’d last longer, he said, and do better over long distances, since they’re made of gel instead of foam. They fit, and since 6.2 miles is a freakishly long distance to me, I sucked it up and laid down the necessary $79.99.
But the difference between buying equipment and using it is not insignificant: I got the shoes on a Thursday, figuring I’d start training Friday morning. But I went up to Moosehead with my boyfriend, Stephen, instead, and he forgot to bring his sneakers.
Monday morning, Stephen and I decided to go for our first run together around Deering Oaks Park. Halfway around the park, my adrenaline cut me off and I thought I was going to collapse. “It’s not too late to return these $*&#%$ shoes,” I thought. “I’m done. I’m telling Mo I’m done.”
Using MapMyRun.com, I later estimated our whole Deering Oaks loop at a mere 0.8 miles.
Tuesday morning, Stephen bailed on me – a stomach ache, he said. Somehow, I managed to get out of bed, put on my still-returnable sneakers, and make it all the way from my Atlantic Street apartment around the Eastern Prom to Loring Park overlooking Back Bay.
I stretched in the park, for the first time thinking that maybe I could do this. I walked most of the way back, but felt I’d made some progress. That afternoon, I made the same run, and ran the whole way. My inner college athlete was returning to me, probably helped by two years of once-a-week co-ed soccer.
I vowed to run at least five times a week until race day, but broke the promise as soon as I’d thought it – I didn’t run again until Monday, unless you count my Thursday soccer games. And then not again until this Monday morning.
People twice my age and half my fitness level run this race though, right? Some people run once a year – the Beach to Beacon – and then get on with their lives, right?
One of the guys on my soccer team is running with his 11-year-old daughter – she bragged last week that they were up to four-mile runs.
My Eastern Prom route is just under two miles. I’ve never in my life been able to make it all the way around Back Bay, which at a little over three miles is exactly half a 10K.
John Rogers at Maine Running Co. recommended that under my time frame, I set a goal of finishing via a run-walk routine, so as not to hurt myself. The runners he’s been training have spent the last few months building up to 20-minute runs, and then doing pace work (maintaining goal speeds over certain distances) in preparation for the race.
I have a couple more days to decide my strategy and attempt Back Bay.
Or maybe I’ll invest in the jet-pack.
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the lesser-known, but long-standing traditions of the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K road race may be that Mike Thompson will load up a rental van with paint and stencils and make the drive from Londonderry, N.H., to Cape Elizabeth to repaint the Route 77 start line on the weekend before the event. “If this is the 12th (race),” he said, “I’ve done 11.”
Usually, Mike Thompson has help painting the Beach to Beacon start line on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth, but this year found him racing the rain alone early Sunday morning, dodging early morning traffic and a flurry of runners getting ready for the Aug. 1 race.
When I tell veteran TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K runners I’ve only been able to train for three weeks, and have done so rather sparingly, they often roll their eyes and cut to the chase: the things I really need to know on race day.
Race founder and the first women’s olympic marathon gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson, was no different. Although she’s not running this year (she said she only runs every five years, so is due to run again in 2012), she’s as ready as anybody for the race, since she’s been a major part in planning it. Expect a warm day, she said, one most of us aren’t used to after the cool summer.
Because she expects heat, Samuelson said it’s especially important to “be aware of hydration issues,” staying hydrated and but also not drinking so much as to cause an imbalance the other way.
“If you feel like you’re overheating, slow your pace down and even walk,” she said. “Take water at the water stops, to drink or to cool down, pouring it over your head.”
As for first-time runners like me, other than making sure my shoes are broken in and the wrinkles are out of my socks, Samuelson said the best tip is just to “have faith in your training and what you did to get here. There’s a lot of adrenaline, so start out comfortably.”
John Rogers at Maine Running Co. in Portland said his best advice, other than staying hydrated and getting enough sleep the week before the race, is to “not get caught up” in the energy of the race. Surrounded by runners and spectators, the adrenaline will make me want to blast off at the start, even though my body’s not ready for it, he said.
“Manage to your fitness level,” he said, even if that means running for two minutes, and walking for three.
Cumberland Town Councilor Stephen Moriarty suggested that regardless of my fitness level, that same energy might actually carry me through the race.
“You’re surrounded by literally thousands of fans,” he said, and it’s easy to be carried through on that energy alone.
“Find a pace,” he said, “and take advantage of the water stops.”
But be ready for mile five, he added, where the course starts getting hilly. When you turn into Fort Williams for the finish, he said, there are “hair-pin turns and a hill right when you don’t want to see a hill,” but also hundreds of spectators crowded around the finish line.
Other tips, courtesy of Rogers at Maine Running Co:
• Be positive. Reflect on the hard work you’ve done and visualize yourself running strong.
• Don’t try anything new. Don’t wear racing flats if you’ve never worn them before, don’t try new energy drinks, bars, etc.
• Adjust your race plan as needed. Last-minute factors may hinder your goals, but the key to feeling good about your race is to accept you can’t control everything and let it go.
• Drink a high-carbohydrate beverage immediately after the race, before you start celebrating. You’ll feel elated at the end, but much better later if you start your body’s recovery immediately.
Maine Running Co.’s fall training programs start Aug. 6 and cost $100. Runners train for the Maine Marathon and half-marathon as well as shorter races like the Turkey Trot 5K, the Portland Trails 10K and the Pumpkin Run 10K. For more information, check their Web site, mainerunning.com.