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It was Hell. Literally.

Dave

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When I laid out the plan for a fall marathon, I of course penciled in a Saturday for a half on the 17th of August, the end of week 10. Despite the fact that with an early October race, this would make it a half marathon in the middle of August. What kind of idiot runs a half marathon in August?

This kind, of course.

Then, to complicate matters, Big Mac and the new SIL planned a visit to the mitten state. Although he's a well-traveled young man, he's never been to Michigan. Why they thought the middle of August was a good time to do it, I haven't had a chance to ask yet, but whatever. They're coming. And they're coming next weekend. August 17.

Since I couldn't move their date, I did the only thing a man who's been married for 37 years can. I moved my race. The week after turns out to be the only weekend we have to visit the granddaughters in Kentucky ... FOREVER, since they're moving to Texas next month! (Promotion for DS1, so yay for them, but Dallas is a long ways.)  Move it another week? That would certainly be an option, but it so happens that the 40th annual Run Thru Hell was scheduled for August 10 this year. A week earlier than I'd prefer, but "only" ten miles. Seemed like a reasonable substitute to assess where training is about half way through.

The Hell Creek Campground (next to Hell Creek Ranch, just outside of Hell, Michigan) is about an hour from the house, far enough from the city to make you wonder why you'd ever live around all those people. It's a nice drive, too.

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They announced about 500 runners between the 10 mile Run Thru Hell and the 4.8 mile "weinie run". I got up at 5:30 (my normal weekday alarm time), had a leisurely breakfast and collected my gear, forgetting nipple bandaids, and extra shirt and a towel. You'd think one day I'd make a list so I wouldn't forget things. But I always forget to do that. Arrived in Hell with 45 minutes to spare, walked over and got my bib. While I'd just looked up my number to be sure I wouldn't ask for the wrong one, I still switched the last two digits and asked for 368 instead of 386. So, small moment of panic when they couldn't find me.

Took a little 2 mile warm up. My plan was to so a couple before the race and a few after, giving me a 15 mile total for the day. It's been a few years since I ran here and I'm always surprised by the hills. I determined to go slow and even walk if the effort became less than comfortable. I'd only missed three days of training with the pulled muscle, but almost three weeks of less than planned mileage and no speedwork made me wary. I was not where I'd hoped to be nine weeks in. And since this was my first week back at full training miles, my legs were feeling it already.

Arrived back with just enough time to stop at the POPs. This would be my only chance, too, since they didn't have any on the course and requested the runners not to stink up the neighboring farmland.

image.thumb.png.cf04f4415f1ffc08716c37588c1eb48a.pngThere were no clouds, but the temps were low enough to be encouraging at least. Lots of trees for most of the route as well. I didn't need to check the humidity. I could tell it was pretty high. Not as bad as most of the summer, but no joke after a few miles.

I lined up in the middle of the pack, given my low expectations. 9:00 miles? I'd hope to average about that and maybe push it on the second half. That was what my brain said anyway.

Turns out my legs had a different plan. The first two miles were in agreement with my head. Easy on the early first mile (9:05) and a half climb, then an smooth cruise down through mile 2 (8:18). Most of the runners around me were at or near the same pace, so I was happy to have chosen my starting spot wisely. Plenty of shade. I remember there was more sun in the second half, including a stretch with it in my face, so there was that to look forward to. Mile 3 was mostly flat, 8:38. 8:24 for mile 4, which had more drop than climb and would turn out to be my last good mile of the morning. Oops.

Mile 5 starts out with a significant drop, but it's just a tease, because then it follows that up immediately with the steepest and longest climb of the race. 90 feet in about a third of a mile. I expected my legs to protest about here, but I wasn't quite ready for how loudly they'd be screaming. No worries, though. I'd just walk up the worst part of it and recover on the way down. Mile 5 - 9:24. Not bad.

That sort of worked for the next mile, from 4-1/2 to 5-1/2. which happened to be a gift back from 90% of the previous climb, except then then next hill was right there and I was toast. I don't have to get all the way to the end of a run to tell things are going to be ugly, and I knew the second half of this one was going to be the kind that makes me wonder if I should just give up running altogether. I'm obviously no good at it anymore. Mile 6 was 9:14, and the last of the serious hills, but the damage was done and it was fatal. My race was over. My Garmin pace chart looks more like an EKG, with shorter and shorter high points.

And the sun! Don't even get me started on the sun. In my face and it seemed there was no place to hide. What happened to the trees?

I struggled through as best I could. Water at every stop. Down my throat and over my head. I'd forgotten my 5 mile gel until 6-1/2. Not that it would have done any good.

Final 3 miles - 9:37, 10:42, 10:10, 10:18.

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Drank another gallon of water at the finish, choked down a couple of cookies, stumbled to my car for the Gatorade I'd brought with me. The race only had water, btw. Then went to check my official time. 1:33:50, just like I had on my watch. And - surprise - 5th in my AG. Normally this would not be a cause for celebration, and after this awful of a run, I didn't care a whole lot. But one thing this race does different than any others I can think of is pass out a boat load of hardware. No finishers medals, but 6 deep trophies for all age groups. So, I got a trophy. 🤣

image.thumb.png.8c0b52ac0a09955c9a693988c51402c3.pngAnyway, back home for a long nap and cutting the grass while I licked my wounds. As far as having an idea of where I am with training, I have a long, long way to go. And some serious thinking about my pacing plan for New Hampshire. Maybe I'll feel differently in a few more weeks then the summer starts to wind down, but today I'll admit I'm a little discouraged.

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I checked your Strava. Looks like you ran a bunch of miles in the days previous to the race. Why not taper a day or 2 if you really want to know where you are? 

Another 10 training miles in the bank. 

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Live to fight another day! Every day is different with running so try not to stress about an off one. Keep putting in the work and you’ll progress. Maybe do a time trial for a pace gauge and confidence boost closer to your marathon?

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12 hours ago, ocrunnergirl said:

I checked your Strava. Looks like you ran a bunch of miles in the days previous to the race. Why not taper a day or 2 if you really want to know where you are? 

Another 10 training miles in the bank. 

Because that would cut down the miles on my training plan. Had a pretty good tempo yesterday in higher heat and humidity, which tells me what I really need is to work on hills - since New Hampshire is going to have plenty of those.

11 hours ago, SIbbetson said:

Live to fight another day! Every day is different with running so try not to stress about an off one. Keep putting in the work and you’ll progress. Maybe do a time trial for a pace gauge and confidence boost closer to your marathon?

I'll have at least one good long pace run between now and October for sure.

10 hours ago, DrWhiskers said:

Is your marathon also hilly? 

That's a sweet trophy! 

Pretty much, especially in the first half. Kind of has me worried now.

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I wouldn't give much credence to any race time during August - especially in a place called Hell. 

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It's an odd feeling when you personally have a crap race but still wind up with an AG award. 
Hopefully September brings cooler temps and a better gauge for pacing in October.

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Is it better to have a less than optimal race in a place called Hell than one called Nirvana or Bliss or Wonderfultown?  Who knows.  Trophies are nice so congrats on that! 👍 

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