The weather was moderate; the runners were ready; the course was brutal. For a late June race, the temperature never got over 75 while we were running. The clouds helped keep the heat monster at bay, as did the abundant tree coverage. The small-time race invited mainly locals to run (1871 of the 2597 finishers were from the unnecessary small state of Connecticut). It was all set up to be a quaint fun-run to contrast the behemoth races like in Nashville, Orlando, and DC. All but for one small detail. The gremlins hills.
Not like “wheelchair-accessible-ramp” hills. More like “get-out-your-rock-climbing-gear” hills. Let’s take a step back. Going into this race neither Colin nor I were expecting fast times. We knew it was a difficult course from last year (where I imploded and luckily didn’t have a blog to record it for all five of you to read). As such, we had no real finish time goal. Finally, upon Colin’s insistance, we agreed on a 7:30 min/mile pace. For the record, I thought it would be a little too fast. The race started off smoothly, mainly because the first two miles were completely flat.
Mile 1: 7: 39 min/mile
Mile 2: 7:19 min/mile
The course (aka Course) does you no favors by starting flat. It lulls you into a deceiving comfort zone and slowly builds your confidence. Where once you felt apprehensive of what laid ahead, by the two-mile marker you’re feeling confident. Nay! Arrogant. You say “I can beat you, Course. You are but a series of roads and I am a runner!” HA! How quickly the tables turn. The enigmatic great Jason Statham said it best in Revolver “in every game and con there’s always an opponent, and there’s always a victim. The trick is to know when you’re the latter, so you can become the former”. Well, I was the victim and the course was the opponent. Before I knew it, I was climbing a treacherously vertical cliff steep incline. I know, that doesn’t sound like a big deal. The problem is that it was only the first of many, each one longer and steeper than the last. The real tragedy is that the downhill offered zero relief. After reaching the summit with legs burning and breathing labored, you were out of luck if you forgot your parachute. The descent seemed to be twice as steep as the uphill, virtually ripping my quads right out of my legs. It was not as fun as it sounds. Such hills led to mile splits all over the map. Only twice (at the very end) did two consecutive miles fall within 16 seconds of one another.
Mile 3: 7:53 min/mile
Mile 4: 7:05 min/mile
When we finally reached Mile 4 I thought that the race was taking awhile… not good when there’s still 9 miles to go. After tackling more rolling hills Colin mentioned that the worst of the hills would be during this stretch and end around Mile 6. At this point I was beginning to worry that Colin would pull away and leave me to implode again like last year. Mile 5 was by far the slowest thanks to Mount Runnerhater. We struggled up the best we could, but after a quick 7:05 fourth mile, we added over a minute to the fifth. That’s unheard of (unless you’re reading this for a second time).
Mile 5: 8:10 min/mile
Mile 6: 7:22 min/mile
After finishing the “hardest stretch” of miles 4 thru 6 I rewarded myself with a Roctane (for the uninitiated, it’s an energy gel). We faced some resistance from Mile 7, but we could tell the course was beginning to succumb to our foolhardy spectacular determination. To lay the proverbial smack down on the course, we unleashed a sub-seven minute mile. Don’t bring that weak sauce up in here, Course! Course did not like this and had a final treat for us at the end of the race.
Mile 7: 7:45 min/mile
Mile 8: 6:58 min/mile
Coming off a speedy downhill Mile 8 we cruised through Mile 9. The remainder of the race focused on counting down the distance and time until the finish. The brain isn’t running on all cylinders when the body is exhausted and dehydrated. I found myself rationalizing the rest of the race in terms of random, unrelated comparisons, like TV shows (try to follow this: I would think “OK, 4 miles to go, that should take about 30 minutes. I could watch an episode of 30 Rock in 30 minutes. But on Tivo I could watch it in like 20 minutes. That’s 1.5 episodes of 30 Rock until I finish the race!”) Apparently I thought it would help… Maybe I need help. Mile 10 was the last real hilly part of the course (as it backtracked over the beginning part of the race when Mile 3 presented the beginning of steepery).
Mile 9: 7:24 min/mile
Mile 10: 7:40 min/mile
Finally reaching the end of the hills we coasted Mile 11 trying to regain some energy for the last push. At this point it was still a race between Colin and me. Neither wanted to lose, but neither could gather enough reserve energy to muster a final push. It was here that we agreed on finishing together, becoming allies in a battle against Course. We pushed on into Mile 12, expending as much energy as possible without falling apart. It’s a funny thing that Mile 12 is. Once you complete it, there’s only a smidge more than a mile to go. You can taste the finish, and yet there’s still a mile to go. More hallucinations rationalizations creep in, like “only 10 more minutes, that’s how long a whale can hold its breath. Certainly I can keep this up for 10 more minutes”. It doesn’t cross my mind that there is absolutely no correlation between a whale’s lung capacity and my voluntary discomfort.
Mile 11: 7:41 min/mile
Mile 12: 7:21 min/mile
The final mile-&-change required that we dig deep and turn this into a mind over body affair. Well, that didn’t bode well considering my state of mind. The pain in my legs matched the pain of imagining W reading the Russian National Soccer team line-up, followed with his little smirk after each one. Well, as mentioned above, Course had one more surprise in store for us. With the finish line in sight, we were directed over a 50 yard stretch of gravel. Running on gravel is like running while pulling a cinder block through tar. You work twice as hard to go half as fast. We crossed that boobytrap and finished in a world of pain in the exact same time: 1:38:40. I came in 228th out of 2597 – top 9%!
Mile 13: 7:18 min/mile
I am pleased to report (much in the theme of this blog (race medals, not stream-of-consciousness rambling, jerk.)) that we received medals! They’re not bad either! We refueled with some watermelon on the beach and stretched our drained and victorious muscles for a bit. As a reward (other than the medal, of course.. duh) we headed out for some real recovery food.
For the full food report (definitely not as long as this), check it out over here.
||173 bpm (184 bpm max)