Well the day started off nice and crisp with frost all over and never seemed to warm up much. I felt tight and anxious as I jogged to the starting line in boonsboro, MD yesterday. I chatted with some folks in my VHTRC club and then ran on up to the line with Ultra studs and Montrail teammates Ian Torrence and Mark Godale. My thoughts went back to 2001 when I last raced this event and was on a totally different level. I hoped I would run close to what I did that day and knew I was in 6:45-7:10 shape based on my recent workouts and races.
A pretty well accepted conversion is to take your marathon time, double it, then add an hour to get a 50 mile time. Having run 3:01 three weeks ago, having had experience on this course, and knowing that a 7:00 time will place top 20 in this 1200 runner field I confidently started the race off in the front pack.
After the first two road miles passed in 15:08 I found myself in the top 20 with all the expected contenders ahead or next to me including fellow blogger Greg Crowther, MMTR 1st & 2nd placers (Eric Grossman), USA 50 mile road champ (Mark Lundblad), course record holder and legend Eric Clifton who at age 49 can still really move, and Montrail teammate Sean Meissner. And just besides me talking about trying to see if he could run top three and earn an entry into next June's Western States 100 via the Montrail Ultracup was none-other-than Mike Wardian. This guy is full of surprises and fresh of a 2:24:16 win in the OBX marathon (Nov 11th) here he was a "speedy road specialist" taking his time getting in to the racing apparently unconcerned with what Godale and the others were doing off the front. I thought hhmmmm he is probably going to win this thing. My previous thought to seeing this behavior was that he'd rip off the front.... lead for 30 miles and fade/drop out. Nope! Mike went on to run 5:50 which is the 2nd fastest time in the races 40+ year history! Wow!
Feeling great 9 miles in
After getting to the trail head I relaxed, kept my breathing in check and began to real off the rolling rocky miles of the AT with Leo Lutz with occasional passes back and forth with Clifton, Sean, and the western states course record holder Mike Morton who has just been getting back into the running this last year.
Although I had a plan of eating cliff shots and blocks every 30 minutes this didn't happen and hindsight says this played a role in the total muscular give out I started going through at mile 23.
At Weaverton Sean, Leo and I
I came off the AT with Eric, Sean and Leo and managed to set foot on the towpath at the 2:12 mark feeling ready to roll. This was 12 minutes of my split from the 2001 race, but certainly good enough to get me the sub 7:00 I wanted. I began eating up the miles with Eric running splits in the 7:30-7:45 range. This was exactly what I had planned to do, but, around the 3 hour mark my left hip-flexor pretty much went out and this pace was no longer possible. With a slow degrade by mile 26 I had been passed by a number of individuals including women's race winner Anne Lundblad. I was then forced into a run 5 minutes walk one minute pattern. I tried to stretch it out as much as I could and mess with my stride so I was not flexing as much, but it still sucked.
At 38 Miles, nutrition was very important. Note my Pup Oskar
I maintained this pattern doing 10-12 minute miles from mile 27-40. UGH!!! Not what I wanted and mentally I had to battle a lot with the desire to just give in an drop out where my crew awaited me at mile 38. I started focusing only on getting to the next aid station and that helped. By mile 38 ( 5:56 into the race) I was starting to feel better (as I had been really forcing the calories) and decided to press on. Soon enough I could see the damn and knew the towpath would end soon. Striding over the "9 miles to go" sign I was now able to run steady for more than 5 minutes at a stretch and refocused on breaking the 8 hour barrier. If I did 10 minute miles I would finsih in 8:00:28. I thought I could do it. Leaving the towpath at 6:35 into the race I realized my 26.3 towpath marathon split was a 4:23. Wow that is a full 68 minutes slower than the last time I raced here! WOW.
I put my head down and began to cover most of the remaining miles at under 9:00 pace with stops for aid and walking some of the bigger hills adding in. The miles rolled by and with my Wife and Dad cheering me on at the 4 miles to go point I knew I had it. Only on the road section did I reverse the trend of being passed and actually begin to reel in some other runners. As I approached the finish I was happy to have gotten myself back in the game, but a bit disappointed my body let me down. With all the training you just want it all to be super and feel great the whole time, but that happens very infrequently.
Happy at the Finish!!!
Others say I have too high of expectations for myself and that at 33 my glory days may be passed but I am certain this is not so. I just need to realize I can't recover like I used to and should have known that the MCM effort I put out 3 weeks ago was going to affect me more. I trained very hard in the time between that race and this one and should not have. My hip flexor and hamstring were bothering me almost every day.
It has been an odd pattern since 1999-2001 when I was racing well. I still go to as many races but I put out a higher effort level now than I did then in the majority of the races when you look at percentage of maximum capacity. In those peek years I did not race all out in 80% of the races I ran in. I was just in good enough shape that I could take it relatively easy and still place well. I often would just relax and run with the lead women rather than battling for the win. Since that time with fitness declines due to work/life/injuries/deployments/ect. I have wanted to be racing up front so badly that when I do enter a race I tend to put out a much higher effort level in each and every one. This obviously makes it harder to come back and race hard again. If I had run MCM at a reduced effort I am sure JFK would have gone better. I need to pick and choose better and realize I can't give a full bore race effort in such a shortened time span.
So I will continue to run ultra races and marathons frequently as I enjoy them, but will cut down on the ones I really go after it in. Next up for enjoyment- Hell gate 100k.
The story of the day though, was definately my puppy Oskar and his entertaining of all the crews