This was a long, challenging race. It was something I had set my mind on last year: I had been contemplating doing the full race, but friend of mine had said he wasn’t ready to do the whole thing and I did a 2-man relay with him. As it happened, he was far more prepared for the 15k distance than was I and I’m quite sure I never would have finished or at least wouldn’t have finished in anything approximating a respectable time.
This year, I was sure I was ready for the challenge. This would be my longest street race, and as it turns out my longest street run too, something which even the most uninitiated among us should recognize as an issue: you really can’t properly train for a race when the race itself is longer than the preparation you’ve put into it. I’ve been averaging 35-or-so miles a week, but my long runs have been about 10 miles a piece and a luck would have it, my first 10 miles or so have been pretty good: my 5k times have been really good…my half marathon times alright. This one? Adequate. While anticipated, the cramps that hit me just after mile 18 (an official 30k would be 18.6 – this registered on my Garmin as 18.8) were not anticipated. I’d made it this far, what could go wrong?
The course itself loops around the Wachusett Reservoir. Built in the late 1800’s- early 1900’s, it was the largest body of water in Massachusetts until the Quabbin Reservoir was built. Beginning in Clinton, through Sterling, into West Boylston, then Boylston, returning back to Clinton. The elevation gain is just under 1100′ according to my watch, but the gain/loss isn’t really the story. It’s HOW the gain/loss is distributed. There’s few flat stretches: you’re either going up or you’re going down. It’s not easy.
I was generally keeping my pace pretty well through about mile 9, when I began to get markedly slower. At mile 17, I got markedly slower still. Mile 18 and beyond was my slowest stretch, a good portion of which was uphill and with my poorly planned training it’s not at all surprising. What was surprising was about 0.4 miles from the end, I got hammered with a cramp in my calf. Down I went. Then my gut. It took a bit to get back up and moving.
There was never a point when I was feeling good or comfortable, it seemed like it was a personal struggle from mile 4 on. I consider that to be a personal victory: staying well out of your comfort zone for a long period of time is growth. I could have done better: I could have trained harder, I could have run harder, I could have been better prepared over and above what I had already done to prepare. But I didn’t. What I DID do, though, was gut it out. I wasn’t comfortable up through mile 10. I was downright uncomfortable from at least mile 14. Physically in pain at Mile 18.
BUT it got done. I stuck with it when it would have been easier to quit. Then again, had I been willing to quit under these circumstances, I likely wouldn’t have come to this point: I wouldn’t have been in position to run this race in the first place.
M 40-49: 35/47