I planned two big races this year, a 50k in July and the Wineglass half.
I ran the 50k to get tons of time on the trails during training and to see how good I am at enduring several hours of suffering. It didn’t disappoint, with almost 8 hours of mind-numbing sloshing through the mud. I discovered shortly after that the many long runs and weekend doubles I used to train for the 50k increased my speed. In the weeks that followed, my speed workouts were MUCH faster than ever before, making me reconsider my goals for Wineglass.
I ran this half to focus on a race for speed, the only time I’d do that this year. Maybe not the wisest thing to do, putting all the eggs in one basket and relying on everything to work out right for that one moment, but what the hell. I ran this half previously in 2015 with a PR of 1:43:33, so my initial goal was to PR, with a number of 1:40 secretly in the back of my mind. When a couple really fast tempo runs happened, the goal changed to 1:40 with a secret goal of 1:38. I’m too big of a weenie to announce any goal that is remotely stretchy. Everything was going really smoothly.
Until I stepped in a pothole. (had to try it out)
As is chronicled in a lost episode of the Loop, the wonky ankle and strained quad went from barely walking to no pain faster than expected, and I still had 5 weeks to prepare. Once again, all was well. I just had to hurry up and get back up to speed.
Race morning started at 2:30 getting dressed and anti-chafing items in place. I was on the road by 3:00 with cup of coffee and doughy bagel for the in-car breakfast. In the days leading up to a race my focus on everything is razor sharp. I'm not sure if it's game day nerves or what. This was intensified even more on the drive to Corning going through some dense fog. I’ve never been more awake at 3:00.
I was able to park, pick up my bib and get to the bus to the start before the masses. Yes- I realize 3,500 is a small race, but I prefer the 150 runner trail race where you have more than 2 ft² to do some final butt-kicks and high-knees at the start. I generally like people, but not that close.
Weather was perfect. 38F with a fog that stayed until my finish. Slight breeze at our backs.
I probably started too far back. I didn’t want to start with the 1:40 pacer, since my starts are always sucky, and the space between him and the 1:45 pace lady seemed way too close. So got in front of Mr 1:50. The first miles didn’t feel like any of my typical runs, where my feet, ankles and achilles are cranky for at least two miles. Everything was smooth. Still slow navigating the traffic, but smooth. Maybe that’s the difference between rolling out of bed to run and 5 hours of walking around and driving before a race.
First two miles: 8:19, 7:37
Then I created my pacing plan. Excellent time to do that, huh? I thought if I could catch the 1:40 group by the midway point, I’d hang with them for a while, then empty the tank after mile 8 or 9. I bumped my pace up to an comfortably uncomfortable level, and everything still was feeling good. I surprised myself when I saw I was running these catch up miles at a stupid fast pace for me. I was even with the 1:40 pacer before mile 6.
Mile three 7:11
My next decision was when to start being stupid again.
I have to mention how well organized and supported this race is. I got there super early which made it quick, but the race day bib pickup was right at the base of the parking garage filled with cheery volunteers, and the busses were lined up within blocks of that. There were plenty of water stops and tons of people supporting you going through the neighborhoods. One high school was especially raucous and gave a good energy boost around mile 7 or 8 where I had my gel and washed my face with their water. I was amazed that high school kids were even awake at 9:00.
I gave myself a couple miles to figure out when I was going to leave the 1:40 group. The 7:35 pace seemed too comfortable, but pushing too soon meant dying sooner, and I didn’t know when that would be. I had never seen these paces before. I pretended to do math, and came to the conclusion that a 4 mile gasser would get me close to my secret goal.
Mile six 7:30
The struggle started in mile 11. Just a 5k to go, and they’re supposed to be painful. It was time to summon the mental toughness acquired at the 8 hour mud slog in July. Through a few more neighborhood streets and a couple more high 5’s with kids before scaling a little bridge that felt like Everest before the finish.
1:37:41. A 5:52 PR. And 6th out of 100 for M45-49. I may be catching up with the fast geezers.
Times are trending down since my first 3 years ago:
Here are my mile splits compared to 2015. Eerily similar shapes to the lines.
Then I got to meet some really cool Loopsters, all with amazing stories to tell. Each finish more amazing than the last. My first taste of Loop magic was pretty sweet, being witness to that many epic finishes. This was the first time I’ve been able to talk to people after a race about the race and they understood what I was talking about.
Maybe all Loopsters are this awesome, but HPS, KRG, J-Zee, Slow_Running and Peg turned a good race into a great day.