- 8th of 167 starters
After thirteen weeks of the most consistent training I've ever done (same length as basic training 32 years ago!), I felt pretty confident going into this race. Thanks Coach Steve
for pushing me to do some stuff outside of my comfort zone, keeping me honest, and making it fun! It's awesome having a coach (my 18-year-old self is groaning and saying "what is wrong
with you, old man?!?"). I unhesitantly recommend at least sitting down with someone a few days before a race / competition and talking things over ... it's amazing how it helped me avoid a few mistakes, and really bumped my confidence level.
This was my first time racing in Eastern Shore, MD. It's sandy, flat, and wet, with big puddles of standing water. The woods are mixed pine and oak woods, reminiscent of the Pine Barrens, but more fertile ... beautiful, and pleasant under foot when it isn't a muddy, sandy mess. The people are friendly, funny, gregarious, and put on a super race, with great course markings, aid stations, street crossing guards, signage, food, beer (really good beer!), swag, and atmosphere. Huzzah! Thanks, Pemberton Running Club (PRC)
I was lucky to have a quiet, secluded place to stay within 1.5 hours drive (instead of 3), so got to sleep in till 4:45, which was excellent. Thanks to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Jack for letting me use their house while they were away. So kind!
Race day dawned warm and dry, which was a relief after showing rain, rain, rain all week. I had a nice time on the pre-race drive watching the sunrise, and listening to the Spotify race playlist that anniemac made for me: awesome! Thanks so much, it got me into just the right mindset for the race.
I was waffling about gear up until the gun: going 'heavy' (Camelbak, full water, 'self-sufficient') or 'light' (hand bottle & aid station stops). At some point I remembered that this was a training race, and I'm training for SRT (Shawangunk Ridge Trail)
70 mile unsupported race, so decided to see how I could do 'fully-loaded', with 70oz of water, 7 gels, phone, drug pack, and a partridge in a pear tree. ;) I'm glad I did! It was a surprising psychological boost to keep scooting through the aid stations, passing other stopped runners, knowing I was stealing minutes from them while they filled their bottles, did whiskey shots (!) and such. I only stopped four times:
- to try and (unsuccessfully) pee, take off and stow my shirt, and move my pill bag from the pack to my back pocket (and scarf a caffeine pill and vitamin I)
- at the second to last aid station for a cup of coke and to grab a gel (faster than getting the last one from my pack)
- at the last aid station for another cup of coke (soo delicious!)
- when I tripped on a root and smacked into the thankfully-pine-needle-covered dirt with my face and right shoulder (oof!)
The race starts off with about 0.3mi of road, and the pace was fast, as usual. I managed to not get sucked along too much by all the rabbits for the first few miles, and stuck to the 8:40s plan, licking my chops at the number of folks I would have as bait to help keep me hungry later in the race. Mwa-ha-ha!
I knew that there was water on the course (I ran the first and last 2mi of the course the evening before), but didn't realize how huge
(20m long), deep
(knee), and freezing cold a lot of the 'puddles' would be. As the race progressed, I got more-and-more exhausted by the effort required to get through them at speed, and in hindsight I probably should have just walked through them, as the effort to 'run' through, while cool looking for spectators (yes, I'm a HAM), was not worth the speed gained: I was probably still only going at 13s or something, at a high 'cost'. Lesson learned?
At mile 13 or so I caught the #1 woman, who was running strong, but was hesitant getting into the puddles. We dueled / ran together for a bit through mile 19 or so, when she stopped for aid for a minute. She is a well known and popular local athlete, so I could hear people cheering her behind me for the next 5 miles, which made me nervous for a while, and then relieved when it faded out. We had also caught another couple of guys at the 14.5mi aid station who I hadn't expected to catch. I was happy to get them in my sights. They passed us again before the 17mi turnaround, and shortly after, one of the two took off! I thought there was no way I was going to catch him, and he must have been holding back to run with his friend. But with about 9 miles to go I saw him far in the distance again! I slllooowly
reeled him in over the course of the next 2 miles, as his pace began to falter. Of course once I passed him it felt like he was breathing down my neck! He was not, but it kept me going strong for a couple more miles.
I was hoping for a 4:30 (8:40s), at flat or slightly negative splits, and my stretch goal was a top 10 finish. I didn't quite get the time (about 10s/mi off of that pace), or flat splits, but 8th place overall has me pretty darned happy with the whole thing, and I think I paced it about as well as anyone else in the race, other than maybe #2 woman who I'm pretty sure did negative splits, and maybe some of the men faster than me.
If I'd realized I would be only 31 seconds behind 7th place, I would have likely shaved the 30s off to make it an exciting finish ... at ~5 miles to go on the long (0.8mi!!) straightaway I didn't see anyone ahead (or behind) at all, so didn't think there was an opportunity. Lesson learned: leave it out there, you never know how slowly folks will be finishing (he must have been crawling!), and don't dilly dally at that last aid station. ;)
Thanks again to Coach Steve for all the help, and I'm looking forward to more fun this year! Great job all you ALQ racers ... it was a surprisingly tough, physical race.
I crushed my 50k PR by (I believe) more than 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure it was also a marathon PR (3:50:30)!