Short Version: I broke (almost) every race week rule and still managed to pull out a win and decent run on a course that a) wasn't marked b) was more like 14 miles and c) had some um, interesting timing (As of writing this, our times are all about 20 minutes slower than we actually ran). I managed to do the last 3 something miles at around a 6:00 mile pace, which was a huge success and feel that overall, I ran my first truly smart race. It isn't a course I'd recommend to a runner who needs more than a start/finish line and a wristwatch, but for me, it was as good a comeback race as I could ask for.
Distance: 13.8 (we think)
Race Week: I was an epic disaster. I went out Thursday night for an event and had too much wine, so I didn't sleep well and was dehydrated going into Friday. Early Friday morning, we had McDonald's breakfast (I did oatmeal, but still) and headed to CT. Upon arriving at the hotel, I realized that I had no Body Glide and two pair of socks, both with significant holes. We went out to the course to check it out, then attempted to find a place to eat dinner and settled on Don Julio's Italian. Despite having strong reading comprehension skills, I managed to end up with a battered chicken on a bed of arugula instead of the chicken parm I thought I was getting. So much for eating some carbohydrates. I slept well from about 10 until 2 on Friday night, then fitfully until the alarm rang at 6:15. I attempted some French Toast at breakfast but was anxious, so only got in a couple of bites and some water.
Course: The course was beautiful and also one of the hilliest that I have ever run. About 60/40 dirt to pavement, it was kind on the legs. There were a set of screaming downhills, followed by grinding uphills and there wasn't much flat to be found. Markings proved to be the biggest issue. Despite the RD telling us that the pavement was marked, almost no runner ran the same course. The group I was with ended up doing about 13.8 miles after a missed turnaround on the first leg.
Race: After a ten minute warm up, I stripped down to my race outfit. It was only about 20, so I opted to keep my jacket on, despite knowing I would need to shed it later. It made it until mile 4. We herded over to the start line a little before 8:30. Unfortunately, the start didn't go off until about 8:50, giving us plenty of time to get cold and grumpy. Somehow, during this wait, my nerves subsided. When the start went off, I was relaxed and ready to run my own race.
Mile 1: I used the first mile to settle into a pace and warm-up and came through the first mile in about 7:30.
Miles 2 through 7: For the first time ever, I ran with a pack. A group of men joined me right around 1 mile and instead of letting them pass me, I worked with them over the next 5 miles. We talked a little and one of the local runners told me more about the area, which was a great distraction. I took a Gu as I was starting to feel the week of terrible eating.
Miles 7 through 10: After a mix-up at the turnaround, we were back on the loop, where no more course mistakes could be made. I decided to break free of the pack because the pace felt too comfortable. I came through the 10 mile at 1:16, about a 7:36 pace, and decided it was time to work. From here until the end, I was alone.
Miles 10 through Finish: This section started with a grinding uphill section and I was definitely feeling the earlier hills. I worked on maintaining good posture and turnover and just kept telling myself to leave it out on the course. My work paid off and I came through the finish just after 1:37, meaning that I geared down to somewhere around 6 minutes per mile.
For the first time ever, I was happy with a race performance. I couldn't have given much more than I did and I ran a patient, smart race. I started to trust the benefit of working in a pack and it is something I hope to explore more in Boston and beyond.
Grumpy Me at the Start Line, rocking some Carolina blue tights.
Run On. ~S