WEEK OF APRIL 24th
Monday: 22 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles (AM)
6 miles (PM)
Wednesday: 11 mile tempo run
Thursday: 10 miles (AM)
6 miles (PM)
Friday: 8 miles
Total: 88 miles (w/ 71 of them before the race)
My knee-jerk reaction? Holy. SHITE. How the hell could I possibly run a solid race after churning out this much mileage? So, I emailed the sensei himself and posed the question:
Just curious....do you think it's possible to run 22 miles on Monday, do 2 doubles and do a tempo workout and then PR in the half?? I realize my eyes are on the prize (Sugarloaf), so I understand the logic. But, I was hoping to bust out a good time for that race. If it's not feasible, I want to set my expectations accordingly!
To which he responded:
If you take all the miles except the tempo slow and don't cross the line and run too hard in the tempo, you can run a solid half. We can't have you 100% for both the half and the marathon, but a 95-98% you should be good enough to PR in the half.
So, that was that. New goal...95-98%. I guess we'll see what that is for me at the moment, I thought to myself. Then I put my head down and cranked out the miles leading up to Sunday. And I did my best to trust my training and my coach, as I hoped (prayed) that I still had enough in the tank for a decent time on race day.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I woke up to a beautiful, clear, crisp, sunny day; which was a huge relief because it had been humid and in the 80s the day before. One of my race day rituals is to get up a little earlier than I need to, make a (large) cup of coffee and, weather permitting, chill out with Clover on the front porch. I've come to look forward to this little window of time as I attempt to do a little visualization and relaxation while Clover sits next to me on squirrel patrol. The race start was 9:00am and it was taking place up in Amesbury, MA so around 7:15 I drove over to grab Kirsten, who was racing with me again, and together we headed North. Kirsten had a similar agenda to mine for this one. She, too, has been training for Sugarloaf and was planning to use this race a final hard push before the marathon. I'll go ahead and say how grateful I am to have a friend and training partner who shares my passion for running and racing and is always up for the next adventure. To have a wingman to share stories with, freak out with, commiserate with and laugh my ass off with is invaluable. She keeps me honest and helps me stay motivated, which lately has been no easy task. Bottom line, I'm very, very lucky.
We arrived without incident around 8:00am. One of Eli's goals as a race director is to create a fun, easygoing atmosphere for runners, while keeping the logistics quick and easy to navigate and with the added bonus of providing killer race swag. To date, he has never let us down and this race was no different. We picked up our numbers, grabbed our race shirts and hoodies (that's right, every runner gets a hoodie) and made our way back to the car to drop our stuff and shed some layers before taking off for our warm up. We chatted strategy and goals as we ran and after a couple of miles we were ready to rock.
When we got back to the car we could hear the familiar raspy, surfer-drawl of Michael Bernier, the race announcer, calling us all over to the start so we knew it was time.
The race was in a different location this year and the course was substantially more challenging with several rolling hills, none of them terribly steep but most of them notably long. I did not know the extent of it when I lined up and that was probably a good thing. I'd reached out to Lowell the night before to discuss pacing and he told me to aim for a range of 6:35-6:40. He also reminded me that my legs would be tired from the marathon training and warned me not to dip under 6:30 as this wasn't my goal race and I need to stay relatively fresh if I could. Whatever you say, Boss. As you can see from the profile above, the first mile was uphill and from where we stood we couldn't see the top. Awesome. I tend to have a hard time adjusting to the pace I'm shooting for in the beginning and this didn't help. I see-sawed between goal pace for the first few miles (6:43, 6:29, 6:44) until I landed at 6:35 for mile 4. Then I told myself to settle in, focus on my breathing and chill the hell out. I ran with one other gentleman for a few miles as he seemed to be running my pace and it was nice to have someone doing the work with me. Miles 5-7 went smoothly (6:36, 6:36, 6:37) and by the time I hit mile 8 I was solo again. Not good. It's always tough for me to hold on to my target pace when I have no one near me and my body wants to slow down. I was pretty off for these next few miles (6:22, 6:45, 6:41, 6:43) likely due to this and to a section of rollers that I was now dealing with on tired legs. But, my watch shows average pace and I was holding steady at 6:37, so I knew I was still within range. With two miles to go, my time was 1:10. Fortunately, I had the mental capacity to do the math and realized that if I ran 2 more miles at 6:30, I had a shot at a PR (sub 1:27:24). So, I bucked up and went for it. I gave it everything I had for miles 11-13.1 (6:43, 6:30, 6:22). Unfortunately, we had a couple more hills to duke it out with, so everything I had wasn't that much faster at first. But, once I was in the home stretch, I knew I had a shot. I continuously looked at my watch, something I never do during most races at the end, but knowing how close I was, I was going to be ticked off if I didn't check and then came in a couple seconds after my best time. The last .1 was on a downhill so I just opened up and flew. I saw the clock and a sense of relief washed over me as I knew I'd finally broken through and snagged the PR. Not by a lot. And that's okay. Because it was just enough to remind me that the work is paying off and that, despite my doubts, it is definitely still worth it.
I was the first female to cross the line. And that was awesome. I was also the first master (40+), and on top of that, of the 8 men who came in before me, only one of them was in his forties. I was incredibly proud to have been competitive with those young chickens at age 42. Just last year I'd reached out to my coach after my 3rd, unsuccessful attempt at a marathon PR and asked him if he thought I had peaked in my ability and whether I should change my goals because of this. His response? Absolutely not. I won't deny the fact that I had to work a lot harder to see these results, but just knowing that I'm capable of it is enough to keep me going.
Shortly after I came in, Kirsten followed, also with a fantastic time. We found Eli, thanked him for another great race, and let him know that we'd undoubtedly be back again. Then we headed out for our cool down followed by our hard-earned coffees. Which, in the end, aside from the challenge, the adventure and the love of the sport, is really what we do it for. Kidding. Sort of.
Listen to this:
Ultralife by Oh Wonder