ALBANY – “OK, let’s go, c’mon!”
“Don’t you wanna look at the Grand Canyon?”
Clark Griswold puts his arm around his wife Ellen, looks at the Grand Canyon for a moment, then hustles his family out of there in a classic quick scene from “Vacation.”
Cara Udvadia will have a similar frame of mind on Oct. 30, and the venue will be the vast panoply of monuments and landmarks around Washington, D.C.
Presumably, she won’t be on the run from the law like Clark Griswold was. But she won’t be dawdling to soak in the gravitas of Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol, either.
The 25-year-old former star distance runner at Mohonasen High School and UAlbany is making the big jump to the marathon distance for the first time, and has given herself an ambitious but attainable finish goal of 2:50 at the 47th Marine Corps Marathon.
The UAlbany record holder in the 10,000 meters who won the MVP Health Care Stockade-athon 15k last year and in 2019 has visited D.C. just once, on a family vacation when she was in middle school. She’s looking forward to a marathon debut in which her wristwatch won’t be the only source of engagement.
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“It’s a pretty cool spot. I think it’ll hopefully help take my mind off the pain at some point,” she said with a laugh during a phone interview last Thursday.
Udvadia, who married former UAlbany teammate Ryan Udvadia this year and works as a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, has been training for the Marine Corps Marathon for four months while coached by her father, Mohonasen cross country coach Bill Sherman.
Cara believes she’s well-equipped for Oct. 30 based on how her overall training has progressed, which has included a long run of 22 miles five weeks ago and another 22-miler the second week of October.
The first one was a valuable revelation; the recent one went much better.
“That’s probably the first time throughout this training block that really opened my eyes to how challenging the marathon can be,” she said. “And I wasn’t having a great day. I knew from the start of that run, I don’t know what it was, but I was feeling a little bit tired.
“It was a huge mental challenge from about 15 miles on. I was really struggling. I had Ryan on the bike with me. He was super-supportive, and that helped, for sure. I don’t know if I could’ve made it through without him.”
“I told her, I remember when I was preparing for my first marathon, they always say the halfway point of that 26-mile race is the 20-mile mark,” said Bill Sherman, who has run nine marathons. “And it’s true. I was like, that’s a bunch of baloney, and I ran it and was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’
“She had a 20-miler a few weeks before and she said Dad I felt great, I’m ready, I think I could’ve done 26.’ She went to 22 and was like, ‘I think I understand what you were talking about at the halfway point.’”
To hit her target time, Udvadia will have to maintain a 6:29 mile pace.
She posted the same time, 54:24, in her two Stockade-athon victories, which is a 5:51 pace for 9.3 miles, and in some shorter races this year, she has run sub-6:00 pace in the Firecracker 4 (23:33 for four miles) and Malta 10k (36:28) on Sept. 10.
To get a taste of a race longer than the Stockade-athon, Udvadia ran the Helderberg-to-Hudson Half Marathon in April, and won it in 1:17:01, a 5:53 pace, before she had begun her serious training block for the Marine Corps.
“I always knew that I would eventually move up [in distance],” she said. “After I finished running competitively in college last year, I felt like I needed some time to catch my breath and took a little down time and then spent some time road racing. This year, I felt like I was ready to make the jump.
“I decided to take it kind of slow and started with a half marathon with the mindset that that would be setting me up for a fall marathon. It was a good experience. It was tough, jumping up in distance.”
The popular Capital Region 26.2-miler, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon on Oct. 9, was a logical spot for her debut, but Udvadia chose to get out of town, and there is some family history at the D.C. race, too.
Ryan, who is also in good shape and will race Marine Corps, had run it with his grandfather.
“I really wanted to do one that was not in the area for my first one,” Cara said. “A marathon’s a long distance, and doing it in a familiar area, I didn’t want to get bored, if that makes sense.
“I wanted to also race some new people and challenge myself with that. Ryan told me good things about it. I wanted to look for something that would definitely push me, and other women to run with was really important to me. Looking at the past results, it definitely fit the bill. It looked like I would be in the mix, but definitely by no means the fastest. I felt like that would be a good way to push myself.”
The women’s winner at Marine Corps typically runs in the 2:40s, and former Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake star Sam Roecker won the MHR Marathon in 2:52:17.
The Marine Corps Marathon starts and finishes in Arlington, Virginia, crosses two bridges over the Potomac River and passes many of the iconic tourist sights in Washington.
The course is mostly flat, but has some uphill in the early miles and another hill that begins a gentle ascent at the Mile 21 mark and gets steeper in Mile 23.
The learning process is two-fold for Udvadia this year, how to train for a marathon, and how to race one.
“That’s funny,” she said, when told that her father described her target time as “aggressive.” “It’s hard for me to say. Obviously, I never ran a marathon before, and I don’t want to underestimate it, because I know it’s going to be extremely challenging.
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“But I think it’s very do-able if I run smart in the beginning and don’t go out too fast. I know he thinks it’s more aggressive than I probably do, but he’s also more experienced with marathoning than I am, so I definitely learned some lessons during training, doing long runs past where I’ve gone before. It made me realize that it’ll be harder than I expect, probably, so it’s good to go in prepared for that.”
“Her training has been going really well, and she seems really strong,” Bill Sherman said. “I think it’s a lot to manage when you’re all of a sudden working full-time.
“She’s got a pretty aggressive goal for this first one. I think it’s aggressive, and if she can do it, it’s going to be amazing. I have her at certain pacing for her tempo runs, and she says, ‘Dad, it feels so slow,’ but you’re doing 12 miles of tempo. All the pacing is based on her goal time. And it’s going well, but you don’t know until you step on the line and cross the finish line.”
Balancing time-consuming marathon training with a full-time job is also part of the challenge for Udvadia.
She and Ryan live in Clifton Park, and her work with the USGS occasionally requires travel to all corners of the state to collect water samples for lab analysis.
“It’s also held me accountable to take a day off every week, which I usually follow that type of plan,” Cara said. “This has forced me to do that. When you work a 12-plus-hour day, it’s hard to find time to run, so if that happens once a week, it’s not a bad thing for my training, to be honest.”
Udvadia said she’ll run the Stockade-athon again on Nov. 13 as long as it doesn’t present a risk of injury while she recovers from Marine Corps.
She’s committed to her new distance, though, and, based on her training and affinity for longer distances, the Oct. 30 race will be anything but a sight-seeing opportunity.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve been able to hit the pace, no problem, in training, so I think when race day comes around, I’ll have been resting up a little bit the week before and my legs will probably feel better than they do on an average day, with the race atmosphere,” she said..
“I find that the first time I do a new workout or distance or a new race, it’s a lot more challenging the first time. I’m trying to keep that in mind for the first time I race the marathon, knowing it’s probably not going to go smoothly.
“But I’ll have plenty more tries after this.”
CATCHING UP WITH …
… The Evans family.
Shaun, Nichole, Shamus and Simon Evans had a book signing at The Open Door in Schenectady on Sept. 25, so I swung down there to pick up a copy of Shaun’s account of their cross-country adventure in 2015 in which he pushed Shamus in his jogging stroller 3,205 miles from Seattle to Pelham Bay in the Bronx.
“Better Together” was a fun, inspiring read, not just for the remarkable feat by Shaun and Shamus, but the logistical challenges the entire family faced to not only make it happen, but to make it an impactful exercise in charity, awareness and inclusion.
Along the way, they donated wheelchairs to disabled kids in 15 states as representatives of Ainsley’s Angels.
Registration is open for the wide range of Nov. 24 Thanksgiving Day races, including the Troy Turkey Trot, Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot in Saratoga Springs and Ellis Medicine Cardiac Classic in Schenectady.
The 75th Troy Turkey Trot includes races at 5k and 10k. You can sign up at TroyTurkeyTrot.com.
The fee is $35 until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, at which point it increases.
The Christopher Dailey Run is a 5k, and you can sign up for $27 at christopherdaileyfoundation.com.
Online registration closes at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22. There is last-chance in-person registration at the Saratoga Hilton from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23.
Registration for the Cardiac Classic is available at www.ellismedicine.org/cardiac-classic/ and is $25 through Monday, after which the fee goes up to $30.
For non-Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club members, you have until Oct. 31 to sign up for the Nov. 13 Stockade-athon for $45, after which the registration fee is $50.
Last-chance online registration runs from Non. 1-11, and there will be last-chance-walk-up registration at the Schenectady YMCA from 4-7 p.m. on Nov. 11.
To follow up on the subject of September’s “You Better Run,” Ramon Dominguez, the 45-year-old Hall of Fame jockey who has taken up running in his retirement from riding Thoroughbreds, won the Greenwich Fit for Duty 5k in 16:16 (5:15 mile pace) on Oct. 1. …
Two recent men’s marathon records occurred locally and world-wide.
Joseph Whelan of Webster ran 2:14:14 at Mohawk Hudson River, smashing the 2:15:52 set by Tyler Andrews in 2016.
When Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:01:09 on Sept. 25 at the Berlin Marathon, it represented the ninth men’s WR set at that race since 1998. Kipchoge set the previous mark (2:01:39) in 2018.
The women’s WR has been set at Berlin three times, most recently in 2001, by Naoko Takahashi of Japan in 2:19:46.
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