Going into last week I had no intentions of racing and no real goals for the weekend other than getting in a long overdue long run. Jay, my consummate running partner, came to me on Thursday and said he may have a number for the Worcester Half Marathon. I quickly agreed to fill the shoes and began scheming.
I first thought I would drive down to Worcester early Sunday morning and get loop of the half marathon in before the race started, then run the race and drive home afterwards. Then I thought, I only live 5 miles from downtown Worcester, why not just run down. And run down I did.
With a 3:45 am wake-up call, a gel consumed and morning necessities taken care of, I was hitting the pavement (my favorite...) at 4:10 am. I decided on my Tecnica Diablo M's, which are by far my most comfortable shoes for the long haul even though they are considered trail shoes. I thought about my Saucony Mirage or Kinvara but knew that both would not provided me with the cushion I needed for 30+ miles.
The run down 122A, Forest and Salisbury Streets went by uneventfully and I made good time getting to the start line by 4:50 am. The race organizers were already setting up water stations and I politely asked where the start was. They asked me what time it was like I was some kind of fool and replied, "4:50". They then said that I'm early and the race didn't start till 7:30 am. Thanks fellas, but where is the start. They pointed me in the right direction and I was off. Some folks just don't understand the mind of an ultra runner.
From the start, a quick right was made on the Chandler st. Or at least I thought it was a quick right. I kept heading down main street until I got to Webster square when I realized I missed the turn and added three miles onto my route. So, I back tracked, took a few side roads and finally met up with chandler a little after the one mile mark. There were three main hills over the 13.1 mile course. Two were short steep ones and the third around mile 10 was long slog with no shade to hide from the sun.
During my first loop, I mainly stayed on the sidewalks and even took advantage of some dirt trail next to the road shoulder. My pace was average, not pushing too hard, knowing that I still had a ways to go. Jay and I had arranged a 7:00 am meeting time near the race start and I knew it would be close due to my off route debacle. Turns out I was about 8 minutes early, enough time to refuel (banana) and to refill my Nathan water pack.
Now prior to Sunday morning, Jay and I spoke about getting him a PR in this race. His previous best at that distance was a 1:51 on a flat course. With this race being considered "hilly" by many I knew we had our work cut out for us. So, the race didn't start till 7:30 and it was now 7:00 and I knew just standing around would get me tight and cold. At one point I didn't think I could manage to help Jay out much because my legs were feeling pretty run down. As the three of us started (Tim, Jay's college buddy, would join us for the race as well), I quickly began to warm-up and by mile 2 I was ready to run hard.
I figured if I just stayed ahead of Jay (10-15 feet) and gave him someone to chase down, that it would work. I have not really paced anyone before and to be honest it's somewhat of an art. I continually looked back to see if he was there and asked him how he was feeling. My pace was a bit faster at times and I would have to reel myself back in to keep him close. I knew he was running on all cylinders when we were hitting 7:30/miles for the first three miles. Then the hills came up and we slowed a bit but was able to keep Tim in sight (a previous 1/2 marathon PR of 1:48).
I think Jay secretly wanted to beat Tim, as he has been training hard on our early morning runs and has been progressing rapidly. I think back to a battle with one of my college buddies where we would keep "one upping" each other. I started hiking the white mountain 4000 footers, he finished all of them in winter. He whooped me in mountain biking and I whooped him in trail running. I started ultra running and he started ice climbing. A crazy battle to say the least.
So with that in mind, I told Jay mile 11 was "go time". This was around mile 6 and he still looked strong. With mile 10 looming and the long uphill in the sun, I knew my strategy could falter. However, with all the uphill training we did in the winter and the numerous ups and downs we've been hitting on the trails, Jay hung tough and we caught up to Tim and ran together as a trio up the mile 10 hill.
After two quick lefts, we found ourselves on Shrewsbury st. and a slight downhill ahead of us. With mile 11 marker in sight, I told the guys that if it hurts like hell now, we must be doing something right (sort of stole from D. Karnezes). We all picked up the pace and pushed ahead towards the finish. A slight uphill, then downhill lead us past the common outlet parking garage and onto our straight away finish. It was at this point that Tim was maybe 20 feet up on us and Jay put the hammer down and cruised past him for the finish. We all finished in 1:46 and change. PR's for both of them.
So with the race done, my legs tired (34 miles on 'em) and my three year nephew's birthday party to get to, I chowed a bagel, coffee, water and a beer (?, I never drink but thought it would help the pain!) and off I went. The going was slow and I began to get some stomach pains (lets see...bagel, coffee, beer...yeah that's probably why...idiot!!!) but pushed ahead through downtown Worcester, past WPI and up Salisbury st. I knew the hardest part of this long run was to be the last climb from Indian Lake to my house. Its roughly a two mile stretch all uphill. I slowly plodded along, stomach somehow better by this point, where I made it to my house and lay in my front yard.
All in all a great long training run with a bit racing thrown in. Jay and Tim both got their PR's which was one of my goals and I had a blast doin it. Although I'm not a fan of the road, the Diablo's took care of my feet and joints and I feel little to no soreness today. Can't say that I love the road running but an epic long run like this made it enjoyable.