Short Version: Felt horrible, had a meltdown (inside), 1:02:55, 19th place.
The farther away I get from Sunday, the less upset about this race I get. Reading race reports from Laurel and Dan helped, especially since they had similar reactions to the humid, miserable conditions. Seeing similar pace trajectories from the New Haven 20K where there were also similar conditions helped as well. I came out of the race on Sunday feeling like maybe I needed to scrap my cycle and take some time off. By this morning, I’m feeling fine and ready to finish up this cycle.
I went into Sunday on very tired legs, with a 13 mile workout earlier in the week and 60 something miles on my legs already. Even without tired legs, however, the humidity (upper 80s), temperature (78 by the end) and dew point (70) conspired to make for a tough environment. Starting from the warmup, I felt sluggish and exhausted.
One of the nice things about a USATF Championship Race is that women and men have separate starting chutes. In this case, we just split the road in half. This is nice, however, for those of us who don’t enjoy steeplechasing over-eager men who can’t believe a woman could be faster. I ended up having to dodge and weave some women anyway, but it was still a pretty smooth start.
Having learned from my experience in the wind and rain at VCM, I was determined not to get left behind the back and ran a far more aggressive first mile than I usually do to hang on to the top women. I wasn’t wearing a watch and have no idea what my pace was, but I didn’t “ease” into anything. I settled into a little clump and tried to tuck in for a few miles but the head of our line was grumpy about being a wind block and instead of trading every mile like most normal people, kept sprinting ahead of us. We would all beat him eventually. (Race Lesson: Take turns, it’s way easier than going it alone). Throughout the whole first 5K, I kept encouraging myself to be patient and to let the race play out in front of me.
Given my familiarity with the course, the hills were probably my favorite part. I eased up and just got through them. My only challenge was that there was mud on the road from construction and rain had made it really slippery. It was right around mile 4 where I started to feel really, really hot, conveniently just after an aid station where I could have dumped water on my head.
As we got onto Dorset Street again, the cramp that had been threatening since about a half mile in the race just took over. It felt like a band across my entire abdomen and nothing seemed to resolve it. I’ve had about two cramps in my whole life, so I didn’t know how to deal with it. I tried poking at it, changing my form, altering my pace and as many breathing patterns as I could think of but I couldn’t shake it. Anytime I tried to run faster than about marathon pace, my stomach just seized up and I couldn’t breath. Perfect.
When I was previewing the course, I was super excited for the last 5K that starts after the hill up to the golf course. When I got there on race day, however, I was anything but pleased. My stomach hurt and I felt like I was jogging through what was one of my goal races for the summer. Quitting crossed my mind. When I went through the 10K at 41 plus, I really started to meltdown. Prior to that, with no watch, I’d retained a hope that I was running fine and just feeling the humidity. That 10K split brought me back to Earth.
The last 5K was just misery. I worked at passing the few people in worse shape than me, but my cramp had reached a point where I couldn’t even pretend to kick it in. I jogged to the finish in just under 1:03 and it took all of my grown up powers of control not to burst into tears of frustration. Thankfully, my friend Jill was the Volunteer Coordinator and is maybe the best post-bad race friend ever. Instead of offering “good job,” she admitted that I didn’t look great and just let me be grumpy. We decided to start making a new bumper sticker that says “I Don’t Train This Hard to Cross the Finish Line.” I love that girl.
The good news is that I felt entirely fine yesterday with no more soreness than I would normally have from a workout and my mood has lifted. All our races can’t be good and I’d rather have the Labor Day 15K be miserable than the marathon.
6:45 pace is really becoming comfortable for me, for better or for worse.
I need to be better about adjusting for performance in humidity.
Age is just a number and if the people I raced on Sunday were any indication, I have plenty of running years left.
GMAA put on a heck of a race; the volunteer support was outrageous, the course really is a great one in good weather and every detail was attended to, impressive for a race in only its second year. If you find yourself in Vermont on Labor Day next year, it’s highly recommended.
The Olde Bones Girls had their first complete team at a USATF event, impressive since there were only 3 of us running against teams with a bazillion more members.