After I raced the Jacksonville Marathon and came up with my 3rd fastest marathon on December 16th and the hurt-but-still-BQ'd Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 2nd, I was definitely in recovery mode. I didn't even crack 20 miles the week before Christmas mostly because I was sore and tired. So I plodded along a few miles here and there, but it was all just slow and short. The top of my left foot felt bruised from JAX so I was also trying to be smart (ish).
The week of Christmas, I felt sluggish from all the cookies, steak, and wine. I asked Laurie & Jen on the 26th if they were doing the Resolution Run and they both were traveling. I did a 10 miler at MP +30 on the treadmill that evening and woke up the next day with a return of the sore foot and a head cold. Ugh. I took the 27th off running and decided to do an easy 5 mile progression Thursday.
On Friday, I woke up thinking I was just going to tell Matt I would skip the Resolution Run. But then he texted me a screenshot of his registration. Crap. I seriously wavered back and forth for hours about it all day when it popped into my mind. My sniffles were mostly subsided, but my stupid foot was still sore. I taped it up and told myself I would just wait until after work to decide.
It did actually feel much better with the tape and decided I would just sign up. The race fee was only $10 so even if I woke up feeling horrible, I could just either not go or hang out and volunteer.
With a 1:00 p.m. start in Greenville, SC, I had plenty of time to sleep in and pack up my gear in the morning. I made the 2 hour drive easily and ate some avocado wraps and granola I had packed about an hour before the race. It was definitely chilly just sitting around and I waited until about T-minus 15 to toss off my warm-ups before we got going. I popped a couple of ibuprofen, ate my traditional mini Snickers, and popped in my ear buds.
Matt got caught up at work and so I would be starting the race without really knowing anyone. Cool with a marathon, but kind of lonely in an ultra. The race director ran the first 1 mile lap with us so I just stuck to the front of the pack when we started. It was just under a 10:00 minute mile and while I was grateful for an easy start and conversation, it was nice to get moving after that first lap.
There was a teenager who leapt out in front and I watched his galloping, light strides as he slowly separated from me. He was built like a typical fast high school runner and immediately wondered how long he would hold that pace. I knew I was being a bit reckless with my own pace, but it felt comfortable and all my body parts seemed to actually being feeling good.
Each lap we ran, we had to grab a pebble from a 5 gallon bucket and place it into a cup. The first few times, it was kind of fun to stop and watch the pile grow. Admittedly, I got a bit annoyed with this system later in the race as other runners would take their time to choose a rock from the communal pile and drop it in their cup. Silly in retrospect as those few extra seconds didn't mean anything, but it was just one of the things breaking my rhythm every mile.
The course this year was less hilly than the prior year, but I still ended up with over 2,000' of gain for 40 miles. It was a mixture of paved sidewalk, concrete sidewalk, a smidgen of dirt, and a grassy soccer field. All of that in a mile. So just when I'd find my groove on the pavement, it would switch. And when I started to feel happy that the grass would be absorbing some shock, it would switch. So it really kind of was like an urban trail run in that you had to pay attention to your footing a good portion of the time.
I started blasting my music after the first mile, content to just put my head down and run until Matt got there. I was about 7 miles in when he arrived and we continued seeing each other in the same out-and-back section for many, many miles. It was kind of funny that we were running nearly the identical pace for about 15 miles or so. He stopped at the aid station at one point long enough that I was able to finally reach him when I was in my 20-something mile.
Somewhere in the late teens, I felt a twinge in the hamstring and started to panic. It wasn't acute like when it first happened, but rather the same residual soreness I had afterwards. Strangely enough, it dissipated after about 5 minutes and I never felt it again through the race. It kind of put me in a funk through those middle miles though as I was worried I was going to have to cut my run short.
When I did catch up to Matt, I was still in that funk. And really wasn't in any mood to talk. I kind of mumbled some words at him for about a mile and a half and then pushed him to go on ahead. Though I wasn't inherently feeling anything physically bad (wahoo!), I wanted to do quiet work by myself.
There was a 3 hour race that started at 4:00 p.m. and it was good to get some faster moving legs out on the course. The 12 hour runners were definitely into the zombie zone and the teenager who led the 6 hour for awhile had begun walking. About an hour into their race, I passed one of the 3 hour women and she must've thought I was in contention in her race because she immediately came blowing past me with a whole new gusto. Though I knew we weren't competing in the same race, it was good to kind of have someone be the pacemaker for at least a short while.
I had been pretty on top of my calories all day and was proud that side of the race was going really well. After I got into the double digits, I put my handheld on and kept hydrating until the final hour. I started with gels and then guzzled Tailwind in the middle miles. At some point, I grabbed a coconut bar and a handful of rosemary potatoes from the aid station and felt like a new person.
I drank an entire Coke from my stash as I was actually feeling sleepy in the second half. It seemed to be helping so I sought out another one from the aid station. I found one on the table, opened it, drank a quarter of it, and came back about 45 minutes later and drank the last quarter of it. Apparently I was sharing with someone, but these things somehow seem less gross when you've been running for 4 hours?
My marathon split was somewhere in the 3:40s and I was relieved when I hit that mark. Somewhere before I actually hit 50K, Matt and I were running together again and he asked if I had ever gone under 4:30 for a 50K. My 50K prior to this race was 4:47, but happy crossed over the line around 4:30 and Garmin beeped at 4:32:21. My GPS was losing about 2/100ths of a mile each lap so no official chip PR - just a Garmin one. But hey, a PR is a PR!
As it got close to 6:00 p.m. and the 5 hour mark, I noticed the waning sun and decreasing temperature. When I stopped to get my headlamp, I also tossed my gloves back on. I actually felt very comfortable temperature-wise the last hour so the gloves were a great choice!
Runner math was not really on the table until I had about 45 minutes left in the race. I was content to just get to a marathon, a 50K, then 35 miles. Once I got to 35 miles, I realized that I could hit 40 if I stayed within a reasonable pace. It was definitely getting harder and the miles were wearing on me. But with the finish nearing, I kept going. Just 3 more laps, just 2 more laps, just 1 more lap.
I knew I'd have 39.5ish on my Garmin when I stopped and really wanted it to say 40. But when I stopped after my 40th lap - the lap time became good enough. I was pooped. Happy, but pooped. I counted all my rocks, recorded my laps, and waited for Matt to come through on his final lap. He ended up with 33 laps - we basically did the same pace for 5 of the 6 hours - and he came in second!
40 miles in the 6 hour is a PR for me. Coming off 2 marathons and on a less-than-ideal course makes me feel good about where my fitness is even if my body parts are randomly uncooperative. There is always the what if factor of an ideal course and a rested body, but a couple of extra miles in the 6 hour is one I'm okay to leave on the table for now.