As my last long training run for the Stone Cat 50 miler I decided to run the MTC 50k in Brunswick this morning, another one of Erik's races. Even though it's a road race I thought it would be a good opportunity to get in some relatively fast-paced miles and not have to worry about carrying my own aid or making long stops to refuel on my own.
I had the somewhat foolish notion that I might be able to break 4 hours on this course, which under "normal" circumstances I might be able to pull off, but since I ran my ass off last week at the Mtn Epic race, and then followed that up with a nasty cold I wasn't really at the top of my game. I should have adjusted my race plan accordingly but didn't, and still set off with the intention of averaging a 7:44 pace for the whole run. At 18 miles my average pace was 7:45, pretty much on target, but things went downhill from there and the last 13 miles I averaged a 9:01 pace. Ouch!
The format of this race is a 4 mile loop that you run too many times (especially if you choose to run the 50 miler). To get to 31 miles everyone starts the race with a 1 mile out-and-back, 50k runners do 7x four mile laps, cross the finish line and then have to do a half mile out-and-back. I decided that this race was more about mental training than physical, since my physical race fell apart it was a real test of my mental ability to keep going when things became unpleasant and my goal was slipping away. And it didn't help that every 4 miles I crossed the finish line and ran past my car which provided an easy opportunity to drop out. By 22 miles I had already thought about the title for today's blog post: "My First DNF"
Here are my stats from the race, unfortunately my Garmin crapped out just after 25 miles so I guessed at my final lap splits, and I'm not sure exactly what my official finishing time was:
First 2 - 15:54 - 7:57 pace
Lap 1 - 30:43 - 7:40 pace
Lap 2 - 30:26 - 7:36 pace
Lap 3 - 31:17 - 7:49 pace
Lap 4 - 31:26 - 7:51 pace
Lap 5 - 33:05 - 8:16 pace
Lap 6 - 36:00 - 9:00 pace - ESTIMATE dead watch
Lap 7 - 39:00 - 9:45 pace - ESTIMATE
Last 1 - 9:00 pace - ESTIMATE
Total - 4:17:xx - 8:17ish pace
For the first half of the race (I was told) that I had a comfortable lead. No offense to the other runners taking part today but this race is very small, low-key and doesn't attract a lot of really fast runners. And I think most participants choose to run the 50 miler, or at least they set off with that intention. I have no idea how many people ran the 50k today, but at last year's race there were 18 finishers and the winning time was 4:23.
On my 4th lap, around mile 16, I started to slow down. Not significantly at first, but I was definitely starting to feel less good. My watch stopped displaying my mile splits and I couldn't read my total time, which was probably a good thing because it meant I didn't stress about how much I was slowing down. I hoped it was just a passing low spot, but despite consistently drinking and snacking during the run my energy was fading and all the hard road miles were beating the crap out of me. I did try to run as much of the race as possible on the dirt shoulder, and probably managed 1/4-1/3 of the race in the dirt but it was still my longest road run in well over a year.
At the end of lap 5 (22 miles) I was pretty much ready to drop out, but after taking a few minutes at the aid station talking to Erik - "Your races are killing me!" - I thought I'd do one more lap and call it a marathon. Of course when I finished the next lap I knew that I only had 5 more miles to go and figured I could continue on for a bit longer. That last lap was really not fun. My calves were tight and felt on the verge of cramping, my right hip was sore from the camber, my lungs felt like they weren't fully inflating. There's no way a 9:45 pace should have me feeling out of breath.
With about 1.5 miles to go I felt so bad that I decided to walk for a few minutes. Even though I was so close to the finish I just didn't see the point in pushing myself too hard on what was supposed to be a training run. Unfortunately someone else did see the point in pushing it and the woman who right behind me (2nd place in the race) took the opportunity to pass me. I totally lacked the motivation to put up a fight but I did start running again. I stayed about 50' behind her hoping that she was doing the 50 miler, but it didn't make sense. When we got to the 50k turnaround point with 1/2 mile to go back to the finish she turned and it was confirmed which race she was doing. I still lacked the motivation to put up a fight.
With about 1/4 mile to go Ed from GAC who was running the 50 miler passed going the opposite direction and shouted to me: "Don't let her do it to you Ian." This was just the motivation I needed to put on as much of a sprint finish as I could muster. I'm sure it wasn't impressive to look at, but it was just enough to regain the lead that I had held for the first 29.5 miles of the race. With a little guilt I finished about 3 seconds ahead of the first place woman.
While I was pretty excited to win the race I was pretty dissapointed at how much I slowed down over the last 13 miles. I was definitely still recovering from last weekend's race and the nasty cold I had... still have. All good training.
RESULTS and PHOTOS by Don Penta (as well as those above)
distance: 31 miles
weather: uper 30's to mid 40's, overcast, windy
conditions: flat-ass roads
gear: Saucony Grid Sinister, SmartWool socks, 3/4 length tights, long sleeve shirt, sleeveless shirt, hat, handheld bottle