This was a last minute decision -- since I've decided to do the Bull Run 50 miler in April (assuming I get in...) I think I need to do some trail racing. This was a good introduction -- the C&O Towpath that runs along the Potomac River. So no roots and branches to trip over (and I need to register for one of those knottier races now.) Anyhow I'm in between mega-long-run weekends right now so it seemed like a good time, and the race was free to DC Road Runners members... so why the heck not?
I didn't do a taper or anything this past week but I did make my Wednesday mid-long run a slower pace than normal and did lighter weights on Thursday. Of course, work decides to have their first Happy Hour of the year, at On The Border where Sam Adams are $2. I love me some Sam Adams. But I was a good not-wanting-to-be-dehydrated girl and only drank half of it. I gorged myself on chips and chicken at the free taco bar and followed that up with an AMAZING homemade veal pasta dinner, compliments of my husband. I got the kids in bed, crashed out around 10:30 p.m. and slept all the way until 7 a.m. (granted there were a couple feeding sessions somewhere in the middle of the night but I think I fell asleep in the rocker both times) so I felt very rested in the morning.
Did I mention we also got our first real snowfall? Enough to cancel all Fairfax County Public School events for Saturday ...which doesn't mean much. I'm a midwest girl and they are defintely weather wimps around here in the DC metro. I was worried they would cancel the race, but at 8 a.m. they posted on the website that it was a go. I grabbed my YakTrax -- strap on traction for ice and snow that got me through my 2009-2010 Snowmageddon marathon training season - and headed out the door.
I managed to get lost on the way to the race. Packet pickup was at 9:30 a.m. and I left my house at 9:15... all I had to do was cross the bridge into Maryland and take the first exit. I started daydreaming and ended up on the GW Parkway (still in Virginia), which has no place possible for a U-turn. If you know me well, this will not suprise you. So rather than arriving with time to spare I rushed to grab my chronotag, get my Nike+ GPS set up, and ran to the start line just before the gun went off (or someone yelled "start" -- I'm not really sure.)
The path was a gradual decline in elevation following the Potomac downstream. It was beautiful -- snow covered branches framing the river -- and the trail's surface was no challenge with my YakTrax. My Nike+ shouted out my splits every half mile. At 2 I was still under an 8 minute pace per mile, which I knew was probably starting out too fast but I was feeling good. I had no idea what pace I should shoot for. I averaged 8:31 at my December half marathon, but my pace at last week's Wednesday mid-long run (8 miles) was 8:21 and that was just me and my thoughts -- no finish line to fuel the adreneline. Sadly I couldn't keep up the sub-8s and my third mile was a good 30 second slower.
Then the phone rang. I checked the caller ID and saw it was Jamie, who knew I was racing, so I figured I better answer it.
"Yes? You know I'm running a race, right?" -Me
"I think Susanna needs stitches." -Jamie
"Okay... did you take her to the doctor?" -Me
"Should I?" -Jamie
"YES! I have to go!" -Me
I put the phone back in my front pocket and tried to settle back into a pace. I was starting to feel tired -- boo. Where was that water stop?? I was ready for my double caffeine power mocha Clif shot. Yeah, this was only a 20K but due to my history of serious instestinal issues during marathons, I want to test out the race nutrition in these shorter races. When I got there I sucked down the gooey mess and downed my dixie cup of water, walking through it and hoping to gain a little more energy as I was slowing down a bit.
About a half mile past the hydration station my phone rang again. Seriously??
"Good news! We're at the Urgent Care and Susanna doesn't need stitches!" -Jamie
"Great. I'm running a race. Can you please call me later?" -Me
Okay, maybe I was being a terrible wife and mother, but what am I supposed to do about my daughter needing stitches when I'm close to the turn around of an out and back race on a trail? Just sayin'...
A few minutes later I saw the fasties start to head the other direction. The halfway point was at least now in the forseeable future. I managed to pick up the pace by about ten seconds for the next couple miles, knowing that once I headed back the other direction is was all uphill, which was going to make negative splits difficult.
When I got to the 10K, I hadn't seen anyone behind me for quite some time, but I noticed a couple of girls in the distance as I turned around. There were a couple of guys I'd been following for a few miles that I couldn't seem to catch so I made it my goal to pass them. The course was pretty flat from the 10K to the water stop and I managed to pull off an 8:10 pace for the 8th mile. I hadn't quite caught up to them, and then those girls "in the distance" pulled ahead of me. I started to feel like I was running out of gas. I walked through the water stop sucked down another Clif Shot. When I hit mile 10 my Nike+ kindly let me know that I was back to an 8:23 pace.
Remember those sub-8 miles at the beginning? I think they were sub-8 because of the nice steep elevation drop... because the last couple miles seemed like they were straight UPhill. Right then I got a serious sidestitch that wouldn't quit. Ugh. I started thinking about the hot tub. Less than 20 minutes and I could hop in the car, head to the gym where I'd be meeting my husband and kids, and soak in the hot tub. Hot tub, hot tub, hot tub. I just kept chanting that until my Nike+ told me I had reached mile 11. And that my pace was 8:58, my slowest so far.
So now my thoughts turned to "Why am I training for a marathon? How can I break four hours if I'm this exhausted now and I'm only doing 12.4? People who do marathons are crazy. I'm dropping out -- I can't run for 26.2 miles. What was I thinking?" and "Where is the finish line? Come on. It has to be coming up soon" and "Well at least this is a beautiful run. I mean, the sun is out, it's not too cold, and the river is really picturesque." Those girls who passed me were long gone. The guys I tried to pass were still in front of me. The sidestitch was intensifying. I decided to walk for ten seconds, hoping it would give me some newfound energy. I started running again and then I saw it -- the FINISH! My Nike+ dictated to me that I had gotten a bit faster (though not much) in the 12th mile. Time to pick up the pace. I started booking it -- only .4 to go!
And right before the finish I PASSED ONE OF THE GUYS I'D BEEN TRYING TO PASS FOR THE PAST 12.2 OR SO MILES! That was enough to get me to sprint to the finish line.
I'm still waiting on race results -- I didn't even look at the clock I was so tired. I didn't turn off the Nike+ immediately and it said 1:44:41 so somewhere around there... I'll update this when they get the results on the website.
And yes... after enjoying the post race food (DCRR always has a nice spread! Even Starbucks coffee!) I headed straight to the gym where I had lunch with Jamie (kids were in the daycare) and hit the HOT TUB while he ran on the 'mill. (Sidenote --poor Susie had missed her swimming lesson after running headfirst into a concrete block right at the gym's entrance -- her front tooth had gone through her lip -- sounds like Jamie had a rough morning. We took them both swimming at 2 p.m.... all in all a great day minus the face bang up for Susie.)
UPDATE: In my haste to get to the starting line I apparently put my chronotag on wrong and it didn't register. I figured out where I crossed the finish line from the Nike+ website and it was 1:44:06 - an 8:22 pace. Looking at the results I think I would have been 4th in my Age Group. If I would have been 3rd I'd be more annoyed.
Click here for splits, elevation and route: http://nikerunning.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikeplus/en_US/mapping/#/runs/1966809003?sitesrc=PLiAPP_fbk_map