The thrill of victory, the agony of misdirection.
This weekend, I headed up to Newport Rhode Island for the Breakers Marathon to get in a good last training race and some bonus miles before my goal race, the 100k World Championships in 3 weeks. I decided to do Breakers because the race offered elite race entry which included a $250 travel stipend, paid race entry and paid hotel. I flew into Boston friday, hightailed it up to Newport and was in bed and asleep before midnight. I slept really well, got up around 6:30 and tosssed on my gear. Howard had me running more miles for the day than just the marathon, so I decided instead of trying to drive to the start and park, I would just run to the race start which was 2.5 miles from my hotel.
The morning was very chilly in the low 40s and it felt good to get out in the air before the start gun. My game plan for the race was to run hard enough to get a good gauge of fitness, but hold back enough to not tax my legs too much since this is not my focus race. Instead of letting pace dictate that, I let my legs do the talking and was going to listen to them through the race to achieve my goals. For some, it is really easy to get caught up in a training race and do more harm than good in regards to their goal race and that is the last thing I wanted to do. I hadn't tapered for this race, though Coach Howard had instructed me to cut down/out my second runs of the day and start reducing mileage to begin the resting up for the WC100k and so I figured my not fresh legs would definitely let me know what they were feeling.
I made it to the start, milled around a bit, hit the porta-potties and headed out to America's Cup Blvd where the start was. I ran into a Marathon Maniac, the "Rev" and we chatted a bit before everyone lined up for the start. I was at the front of the pack, a few feet away from last years female overall winner. I had decided to pace myself for a 2:50 marathon and then back off when and if my legs became unhappy. Yes this was a PR goal, but I was feeling like I could comfortably run a 2:50 without pushing too hard or having a long recovery. The gun went off and we took off at a fast but comfortable pace.
I found myself running stride for stride with Emmily Chelanga, last years winner (well not stride for stride since my legs are 2x as long). The pace felt comfortable and I settled in, trying to warm up again. It was still quite chilly and as we zoomed along and made our way along course, we ran into some strong headwinds out along the water and I quickly realized that "warming up" was not going to happen. We past the first few miles in 6:30, 6:20, 6:18, 6:20, 6:30 in silence. It was myself, Emmily and her training partner running together. Finally, I piped up and said something about how wonderful the headwind was and Dave, Emmily's training partner and I started chatting. It was fun to chat with him and turns out he was crewing a friend at Vermont this year. We kept pushing a good, but (surprisingly) comfortable pace and I had no trouble talking and keeping that pace. Numerous times we nearly were sent running off in the wrong direction because traffic cops were not directing us until we nearly went the wrong way. The course was not marked at all so we were at the mercy of those directing us. I made a joke that I was use to getting lost because I was an ultrarunner but didn't think it was something I wanted to do in a marathon. I felt good, my legs were comfortable and my fueling/hydration was good. I had taken a Vespa before the race and felt well fueled. I didn't have to worry about dehyrdation much so I downed a few sips of water at each aid station.
We came down to Easton Beach which is the finish area as well as the halfway point and crossed the mat in 1:24:50 for our first half. We turned down Purgatory Avenue and headed up yet another forminiable hill. In my head, I went back and forth of whether or not I would be able to maintain this pace or if I would crash later in the race and worse, tax my legs too much. I decided to continue to listen to my legs which were feeling great and not be alarmist. For the first time this year, while running at this pace, I didn't feel like from the waist up I was about to die. The hypo-thyroidism has caused my VO2max to lower and when I did my performance testing 2 months ago, my VO2max was such that indicated I could NOT run faster than a 2:55 marathon and I definitely felt that way. Everytime I got up to speed, my internal organs would start straining, my blood flowed funny and my lungs were working double time. It was not a nice feeling, but the meds were suppose to combat all of this. Having found out a week ago, that my original dosage of meds had not affected my TSH number, I was worried that I hadn't improved at all and thus would not be able to run better than a 2:55. I got on a higher dosage of the meds a week ago friday and was hoping that I would be able to have at least a little improvement from a better dosage. I was feeling comfortable at the pace we were running, even pushing up a long, decently steep hill. We had crested the hill and were heading down the other side when a truck came speeding up behind us and skid to a stop before us. The driver jumped out and started yelling, "turn around, turn around, you've gone the wrong way!" Damn! Apparently we were suppose to take a non-obvious right had turn off the main road. We turned around and quickly indicated to the rest of the people behind us that we were off the course. By the time we got back on course, the top 3 women all had now gone 9 minutes out of the way. We had lost the lead as the 4th woman had been turned in the right direction, when the course marshalls had decided to return to their crucial post at that corner. Emmily and I worked hard together to keep the pace up and hunt down the woman, we averaged around 6:15 pace to track the woman. Her training partner, Dave decided to drop off the pace as he knew he wasn't trained to maintain it. We caught her along Sachuest Point Wildlife and Surfer's Beach, though both Emmily and I were disappointed to see our potential sub 2:50 slip away to potentially not even running a sub 3. I quickly calculated that we would have to run a 1:04 for our last 10 miles in order to sub 3, which was our split for our first 10. That would mean no slowing down, even on the slowest, hardest part of the course.
Around mile 18, I started to feel in need of some calories and more importantly electrolytes as I was feeling a bit crampy in my hamstrings. I was feeling a bit lightheaded and figured it was the affects of not eating anything before the race, since food has been not sitting well in my stomach/feeling really heavy on my long runs. I was adequately fueled from the night before and I had Vespa on my side. We hit another hill and I started moving backwards. Momentarily I thought I was cracking, but I quickly realized it was purely a need for a calorie boost. I grabbed my Roctaine out of my secret pocket on my New Balance race Skirt, downed that and then took a Hyper-Vespa which is super concentrated vespa, the result was instantaneous and the ground I had lost to Emmily was quickly regained without effort. We continued up the rolling hills and headed through mile 21 together. After passing through an aid station just before 21 I got a few steps ahead of Emmily as we got in single file to grab water, and heading out of the aid station she stayed behind me. I felt complelte regenerated and fresh, but I soon realized that Emmily's footsteps were fading off behind me. I dared not look back though. I keep pushing the pace, and decided that my legs were completely under me and ok. For the last 5 miles, I took it up a notch and aimmed on getting under 3 hrs despite the 9 minute loss. That would be 27.5+ miles plus at sub 3 hrs. I came around to mile 25 and headed up the last big hill and down the road towards the finish (ironically down the road we had run the wrong way on), I asked a few spectators to tell me if Emmily was close behind me but was told there was no one in sight. I zoomed down the hill, racing the clock, pushing myself and feeling phenomenal. I still felt relaxed and easy, completel comfortable. I had to smile to myself that I was able to push along at a sub 6:20 (which I had done the last 5 miles in) and not even be breathing hard. I hit the flat and came around the corner towards the finish. Just as I was passing the club where the pasta dinner had been held the night before, a large truck driven by a race marshall decided to nearly run me over pulling out of the parking lot without even looking my direction. I gave him a big yell and said, "geez dude, I am trying to win a race here!!!" It was apparently that kind of day. I hit the mile 26 sign and zoomed down the road towards the finish line, savoring the victory and crossed the finish line in 2:58:50. That means I ran a PR of 2:49:4o! The victory was so sweet, but I was sad that I wasn't going to be able to claim officially the PR I had just run. Emmily came in 5 minutes later, meaning I had put 5 minutes on her in just 5 miles. I knew that my ultrarunning background had come in handy on this day as it is routine to do more than 26.2. I chatted with race director and former UR magazine editor, Don Allison and then headed off to run a bit more. I decided that since I was already at 30 miles for the day with the before extra and during extra, that I would just run back to the hotel, so I could make it back to the start area for the 12:30 award ceremony. I was suppose to do 36 miles for the day, but figured that with the speedier pace, I could be satisfied with 31 miles. I still felt good running up to the inn and I hoped into my minivan (it was the only thing they had available at the time to go immediately and was cheaper than the car I was going to rent!) and changed my clothing, ate a banana and Clif Builder bar.
All in all, the day went awesome. I ran a PR (2:49:40), got in some great mileage, won $1,000 and more importantly gained a level of confidence in my fitness and training that will serve me really well at WC100k. Also it showed me that I am on the road to recovery from the hypo-thyroidism. For the next 3 weeks, I will be balancing quality workouts and less mileage. Then off to Italy to hunt down a 7:50 and help get the US women on the podium. I am feeling like this is quite possible, as last years team leader Kami Semick is in top form, as she just ran and won the Portland Marathon in 2:45. After the WC100k, I am also excited to go after my own 2:45 at California International Marathon. I am quite confident that this will be possible after yesterday, as I 1) held back and 2) that is not a PR course. Such exciting times and an exciting victory. The race, despite the course marking (or lack there for), was a fun, well organized race and I am so happy I got to be a part of it! Now...off for a recovery run!
And just for fun, some new pictures of frog in her new fleece/costume....a frog suit...