Marathon #13 was a last minute decision. I started looking for races after a few weeks of solid streaking and found a lovely little trail marathon within driving distance. Boston is still the bigger goal and I wanted to find a marathon that could serve as a supportive long run. Because if I was going to run 22 this weekend, why not just run an extra 4.2 and get a medal for it? Runner math...
After racing 26.2 in the woods, I still have mixed feelings about trails.
Pros: Scenery, snacks, chillaxed atmosphere, and the BA feeling of running through the forest like some kind of primate.
Cons: Paying attention to every step, always up (lungs burning) or down (quads burning), and running a 9:00 m/m feels extraordinarily fast.
There were quite a number of DO's and DON'Ts I encountered over the past 72 hours. They might tell a story better than a proper RR. Partially because Penelope went all batshit on the switchbacks and clocked me at 23.79 miles. And partially because the trail miles blurred together without major scenery changes.
DO make sure to incorporate speed work, no matter how tiny, on marathon week. I did two lil' mile repeats on Wednesday (6:58, 6:40) and I felt really, really good about releasing some pent up taper energy.
In retrospect, I really should have worn my hydration pack. Though there were 7 hydration stops and I took double cups at each, I was cramping hard once I finished. It was bad enough that I was nearly in tears for about 30 minutes post-race. Once I got some water/Gatorade/protein drink in me, I felt much better. Lesson learned.
I really had no clue what to expect out there pace-wise, but I was hoping to be close to 4 hours. There were no major hills, but it rolled the entire time. Little 6 foot roller coasters climbing up and down 100-200 feet. Much, much different than the tiny percentage gradients in road races. It was fun during some parts of the race, but I'll be the first to admit that I was relieved to push off of flat pavement for 1/10th of a mile before starting the second loop.
It didn't occur to me much while I was on the course, but when I started looking at the up-to-the-minute results posted on the picnic table I was perched next to post-race, I realized the lack of women in this race. Then I realized I was cheesing off the paces of dudes then entire race. And passed only 4 other women out there without 1 passing me. What's up with that?
Second-to-lastly, I want to make sure I am not breaking any trail racing protocols as a newb. The race was mostly on single-track sections and I got into a few packs where I was one or two people behind the front runner. If we were keeping a comfortable pace, I just stayed a stride behind the person in front of me. It actually reminded me a lot of track racing. I kept hoping I wasn't annoying anyone by running so close, but I didn't really want to pass, I just wanted to hold on.
Lastly, I ended up running right behind this German guy for the last 8ish miles who had been behind me from about mile 15. We chatted a bit though our exchanges were limited due to the task at hand, a slight language/accent barrier, and the difficult nature of trying to converse while behind/in front of another person. However, without just being able to mindlessly follow him, I am sure I would have slowed down tremendously in the final miles. My legs felt like they were on fire (but hey, my mind and gut were doing great!) and I just tried to pretend like I had to follow him to get out of the woods. I thanked him around mile 24 because I knew I might be too zombie-esque to remember at the finish line. We were about 2/10ths from the finish when he slowed down and stepped to the side and ushered me to push hard to the finish. Like it was my race to "win". Geez, if I didn't already know how bodacious runners were already.... I probably looked like an old basset hound trying to push hard to the finish, but I shuffled as hard as I could muster. We shook hands after he finished and then I lost him in the small crowd. Wherever you are out there, thanks runner dude.
Marathon #13: 22nd overall (of 102), 5th female (of 26), 2nd AG (of 4! lol), 4:07:41.