Monday, September 21, 2015

Wicked 20 Miler

Over the last few weeks, I was looking at possibly running the Wicked 1/2 Marathon as something to race before the Baystate Marathon. I thought about it more and more and then decided I didn't feel like racing a 1/2 marathon, but trying to run marathon pace for 20 miles seemed like a good idea. I thought it would be a beneficial training session, if it went well I would have some confidence going into Baystate and it is definitely the type of run that is a lot easier with others around and having fuel on course. Training has been going pretty well, but having this long effort would be the best possibly indicator as to what I might be capable of in 4 weeks.

I decided I didn't feel like driving up to Salem at 4am on Sunday morning for the 7am start, so I left on Friday after work. I arrived around 8pm and grabbed some food and a beer at the British Beer Company. It was right around the corner from the hotel and a safe bet, since I have eaten there many times. I was in and out of there, back to the hotel and in bed by around 10pm.

Race morning, up at 5am and off to the race site around 20 mins away. I was a bit surprised to see the amount of cars when I got there, since I was just about an hour early and it seems people get to races later and later these days. However, all was well, there was plenty of parking and the bib pick-up was easy, leaving me time to check out the sites with the sun just rising. It was a cool morning, but it was humid.

Collins Cove

I did a short warm up of just over a mile...waking up the aches and pains that have been developing from training, everything seems to feel better after some running around, so I was good to go. I got over to the line and no one seemed to want to be on the line. This was a bit surprising, since there is a 10 miler and the 1/2, along with the 20 that I was running.

The nice part about the race was that they used different colored bib's so you could scope out your competition. There didn't look to be many "faster looking" people, but I did notice Erica Jesseman, whom has run under 2:39 for the marathon and I have battled with her in a couple races in the past. She was also standing with a runner that looked pretty quick. Other than that, it was anyone’s guess as to what would happen when the race started...and as it did a 1/2 marathoner was out like a rocket and I went out pretty easy and within the first 200 meters, it was pretty obvious there was not going to be too many people in front of me.

 As we headed out on the 2 “loop” course, I saw one 20 miler ahead of me, but that was short lived. Erica and her buddy were right behind me and within the first ½ mile there were only around 4 or 5 runners from the shorter distances ahead. A kid in a black singlet pulled up beside me before the mile, he had a 20 mile bib on and within a minute later Erica was with us too. We had gone through the first mile in 6:18, which was right where I wanted to be, not too fast, but not too far off the 6:05 goal pace. There was a lot of traffic to run though and a few small ups and downs as well. On the first longer downhill, Erica and black top dude gapped me and I let them go. I felt it was too early to be running that pace, if I was to stick to my plan. I did not know exactly what “that pace” was, as I decided not to hit any mile splits in the race and just go off feel like I have been in all my runs and just look at the overall pace here and there, but I just knew it was a tad faster than I wanted to go at 3+ miles in to a 20 miler. The way the course works, is the ½ marathoners did one big loop, the 10 milers did a slightly shorter loop, turning around 5 miles in and the 20 milers did the 10 mile loop twice. This information became important less than 2 miles after I was gapped. They had about 150 meters on me when we got to the 5 mile mark. I noticed others going straight, they went straight, but I also noticed an arrow to go around an island, where there was a water station and like 5 volunteers. I was almost by this island when one volunteer yelled, “half or 20?” in which I said 20 and then had to quickly make the turn that he didn’t make the other two take. I tried yelling at them, but they didn’t hear me. Erica’s friend/teammate was right behind me and he also yelled, but it became clear a little later, that they did not hear us. I am not sure how much further they ran, but they must have added on about a half mile.

So, now I was leading. Erica’s teammate Ryan pulls up next to me and him and I fall into a good rhythm together. It was good to have someone to run with (half the point of doing this race and not doing a solo long run). It got me into a nice race groove. We had some small talk, but I am not a big talker when racing. Turns out we are both running Fall marathons, he is running Hartford and was doing this race as a “tempo run” as he wanted to run 2:30 at Hartford. The middle miles, while running with Ryan seemed to be a bit quicker. I knew we had to be going just under 6 min pace at the slowest, it turns out we were, with splits of 557, 553, 558, 551, 556 from 6 to 10. We were together running through the start finish area, seeing the time on the clock at 1:00:12. Nice…even though I wanted to run 6:05 pace, which is my hopeful marathon pace, I also had an A+ goal of breaking 2 hours. If I could run strong though 15 and feel good, it looked like it was possible.

Ryan and I started out to do this loop again. We would see lots of runners coming from the other direction and would also pass lots of runner, between that and dodging cars, it kept things interesting. Ryan started pulling away a little bit around 13 miles. It was just enough to keep me going though. He had a tiny gap, but I was still able to work off him and now get into my own groove. This was good for me, because I will likely end up alone at some point at Baystate and will need to work through some rough patches etc. We came into the 15 mile spot, which would be our turnaround, this was good mentally, one more leg to run, 5 miles back to the finish.

On our return trip we finally saw Erica, and black singlet kid. She had a slight gap on him and we had a pretty good gap on them. At this point, I was just waiting for any slight downhill, my legs were pretty tired, but my energy level was high. I was pretty drenched from all the sweat, being such a humid day, but I had taken my two gels and had some water and Gatorade and felt like I was fueling pretty well. No cramps, no stomach issues, just some heavy legs. I never felt bad in the last 5 miles, but I was working a lot more now, counting down the miles, looking for mile markers. I tried to work the small downs, getting any momentum I could, especially knowing the last mile or so, was a gentle uphill back up to the finish. The hill is not steep, but it looks long, as the road is open with no tree cover and it was getting a bit warm too. I felt like I had a bit of an upswing in pace from 18 to 19 before hitting the uphill and I was just looking at the time on my watch assuming I would be right at 2 hours, counting down the mins to go. Eventually, I could hear people yelling and YAY, there is the finish area! I came around the corner with time to spare finishing in 1:59:52. I was about a minute behind 1st place. Full Results  I was pretty happy. I still felt pretty good, just tired. I grabbed some water, sat in the car for a few mins, trying to dry off and then I set out for a short cool down. My legs felt pretty good on the cool down.

Waiting for the awards took as long as the race did! But I came away with $200 bucks, a drawstring bag and a finisher’s medal.

The take home...

After the race, I had one thing in mind, Far From The Tree Cider. Any race I do, I look for a brewery or brewpub. In this search, I found a local cider mill. They were set up like any small brewery, tastings and growler fills. I had some time to kill before they opened at 12pm, so I grabbed a chocolate coconut iced latte from a coffee shop called Jaho Coffee & Tea, it was delicious. Then the walk to Far From The Tree began, it was about a mile away, I stopped at some of the Salem attractions, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and The Burying Point, which is the oldest graveyard in Salem (1637).

Eventually making my way to the cider mill, tasting were $3 for (5) 1oz pours. They had 8 ciders on tap and you could choose (5). They were all pretty damn good. I think my favorites were the traditional dry cider and a smoked pineapple and jalapeno cider. The jalapeno was very very subtle; I think that’s why I liked it.

Far From The Tree

Cide list

Goodness to come

After some samples, I made my way back to the car with a stop at Tavern in the Square to have a beer…in a BOOT! I then stopped one more time at Joha for another latte and then back to Warwick I went.

Spaten Oktoberfestbier

All and all it was a super successful race, now back to the grind for the next 4 weeks until Baystate.