Bet you’re glad the Black Cat 20-Miler is over, so I’ll deep-six the wicked wordplay and stop driving you batty. 😉 Here’s the final nail in the coffin:
A coven of 612 registered runners (224 in the 20-Mile version plus 388 in the 10-Mile race) descended upon the fabled city of the House of the Seven Gables yesterday. Conjuring up great weather didn’t require a Oujia board—New England delivered sans communication with the dead. The Salem sky was appropriately gray and overcast—easy on the runner’s eyes. The temperature was mild with just enough wind to give us something to fret over pre-race: were long-sleeves de rigueur? Would short suffice?
I was insanely excited to run my first 20-mile race ever. What a wild ride, or rather run, this has been. When Children’s Hospital agreed to have me on its Miles for Miracles / 115th Boston Marathon team this fall, the longest I’d run in adulthood was six, maybe eight miles (I thought it was six; my friend / massage therapist insists we ran eight together on multiple occasions some seven-odd years ago). Under the supervision of my most excellent coach I slowly but surely over the course of 17 weekly long runs built onto that meager base: 10, 10, 12, 13, 10, 14, 11, 12, 10, 14, 16, 11, 13, 17, 15.5, then down to an unplanned light 8 (it was supposed to be 18) due to my (also unplanned) plantar fasciitis. I remember the pain after that first 12-miler and the serious self-doubt that accompanied it—how could I possibly double that distance, then tack on an extra 5K to get me to marathon length? As I stretched in Salem, that worry seemed as far away as Transylvania. I felt ready for the big bump up to (bigdeepbreaths) 20. Isn’t human anatomy amazing, that it can take what we dish out, incrementally adapt and not just endure but thrive, build itself stronger and faster? Pretty cool stuff.
I got to the Bentley School early to pick up my race packet—Steve, the brand-new-friend-of-the-opposite-sex type I first mentioned in my last blog post, arrived soon after. He’s training for an Ironman in July and his coach wanted him to run the 10-miler as he has a 20-miler coming up at the end of the month. I couldn’t tease out where the excitement about one “first” ended and the excitement about the other “first” began—I was both running my very first 20-miler and also running my very first race with (or, rather, way behind) Steve. Combine the two = one beaming chick.
My coach wanted me to run as many 8:30s as possible and then do the rest of the race as LSD. He had concocted this plan of attack pre-plantar fasciitis, as a test to see how likely I am to be able to accomplish my sub-four-hour marathon goal; I had purposely not inquired as to whether we should revise the plan to take my injury (and last week’s resulting mileage downgrade) into account. Aggressive or just plain dumb, you be the judge 😉 I was excited to hear the day’s course was light on tricks and heavy on treats—according to Steve (who had driven the course the day before) it had a few “rolling hills” but was mostly flat. This was music to my ears as my primary goal was to boost my confidence that this 40-year-old body could power itself through 20 miles. While 20 would never be easy, 20 miles of flat terrain had to be easier than 20 miles of hills.
The race directors did not provide timing chips (I was so nervous that I didn’t even realize this until another runner inquired about it as we moved en masse to the start—Steve knew though and allayed our fears that we’d overlooked them in our race packets) so whether you were in the front of the pack or back of the pack actually mattered; your time would be calculated not based on when you crossed START but simply from the second the GO! command was given. Since we are both pretty competitive types, we naturally migrated to the front without asking the other; we just knew where we’d both want to be, no questions asked. And that was great. As the National Anthem played he put his arm around me and held me and I thought this has got to be the very best way ever to start a race. When I told him this in a quiet post-race moment, he said he had wanted to make sure I didn’t get cold. ‘Nuff said. 🙂
The anthem ended, the GO! command was given and Steve and I said our goodbyes. I smiled as I watched his neon yellow jersey disappear on the horizon. He was gone from my view once the fast pack hooked a left at the Hawthorne Hotel around the one-mile mark. I wouldn’t see him again until he was finishing his fifth mile and I was starting my fourth (the course is a lollipop—one time around for the 10-mile race and two times for the 20). I knew he was doing really well because I was sizing up his competition as they passed going the opposite direction. Only fifty runners were ahead of him (yes, I counted), none appeared to be in his age group and quite a few had bib numbers for the 20-mile race (yes I looked) so they weren’t even competing against him. I was so proud of him as we passed and cheered each other on, and he looked pretty darn proud of me, too, which was exceedingly cool. The final analysis proved my pride was not merely misguided adoration—with an overall time of 1:10:38, he ran 7:04s and finished first (first!) in his age group, and 27th overall—out of all 388 runners. 🙂
As for me, I definitely did some 8:30s and a few miles at an even faster pace, but exactly how many we may never know; the refurbished 310 XT Garmin sent out to replace my malfunctioning unit failed to record the day’s stats. (Ugh ugh ugh—yes in Salem I was cursed again Garmin-wise.) So all I know is that the final results say my average pace for the full 20 was 8:58. I’m pretty darn content with that, yes I am. I’ll definitely take 8:58s for my first 20-miler…but it won’t happen again—I’m going to get faster for next time 🙂 With a total time of 2:59:08, I finished 12th out of 26 in my age group and 130th out of 224 overall.
While I am counting my 8:58s as a wicked good day for me, the lead women possess much more powerful broomsticks: Lisa Kaplan of Charlestown Mass. and Beth Coughlin of Newton Mass. tied for first place in the women’s division, crossing the finish line at 2:18:16 for an average pace of 6:55. If you click through and study the results you’ll note that Lisa is in my same age group, 40-49, and Beth is in the 30-39 category. So neither of these ladies is a young doe right out of some incredible collegiate running program. I am so totally impressed. Lisa and Beth, ladies, you totally rock.
– My heel didn’t hurt—at all. 🙂 My coach says not to get too excited—this doesn’t mean the heel is healed, it just means it’s being “properly managed”. I’m OK with that.
– I desperately need to revise my nutrition-on-the-run plan. Yesterday proved something I had already suspected: GU and CJ don’t mix. The pasty stuff stored in squeeze-out-able mini-Capri-Sun-like tubes makes me gag. Once in my belly the gooey GU sloshes around; this is probably TMI but I can literally hear it slosh-slosh-sloshing away down there. Yesterday was the final straw: the GU and I mixed so badly that I ended up taking in fewer than 100 calories during the whole run, which is just plain dumb. A few weeks ago Steve introduced me to these Perpetuem Solids which I used on a 15.5 mile training run—they worked really well that day, much better than the Clif Blocks I like so much on the bike. So now all I need to do is practice with the Perpeteum a few more times and figure out how to store them during the marathon…and then I’ll be all set.
– I am actually getting faster, even over longer distances 🙂 At the BP-16, my average pace was 9:04 over the 16-mile course. At the Black Cat, my average pace was 8:58 over 20 miles. Well, OK, on second thought the BP course has insane hills and the Black Cat does not…so maybe this isn’t really something to crow about. What the heck—I like the first thought better so let’s go ahead and crow about it, shall we? 😉
– I also got to see “C-Squared”—this is what I’ve decided to call the “other Christine” on the Children’s Hospital charity team and her buddy Christine who is running for the Liver Foundation—several times yesterday which was a totally unexpected treat! It was fun to look for them and the loop course provided two opportunities for us to cheer each other on—that was really great 🙂
To “C-Squared” and the rest of the Black Cat coven: don’t be afraid to purr about your 10- or 20-mile accomplishment, feast like a vampire at midnight to replenish your depleted carb reserves and definitely be a zombie today…everyone who crossed that finish line earned the right to a little extra mummy-esque deep sleep! 🙂
PS: Look what “The Cat” dragged in! 🙂 Steve took this pic as I approached the finish line.