Note to self--faking it for 50K is no fun at all.
Here's an important principle: you can't get any more out of a taper than you put into the training preceding it. So although my legs felt pretty great this morning after a week of taking it easy (or easier than usual), I knew that I was in for a long, rough day. But to keep a positive outlook, things did go much better than I probably had a right to expect.
Going into the race, I knew that the goals I had set last year--sub 4:00 being chief among them--were completely out the window. When I set them I didn't know I would be in law school and I didn't know I would spend so much time dealing with knee injuries (I did have an idea that a baby would be on the way). So, I went into the race with a much more modest set of goals: 1) finish, 2) sub 5:00, 3) beat last years time (4:32:37). And really, two out of three isn't bad.
Catherine had volunteered to help out at the race, so we made it to the island at 7:00. While Catherine tried to find out what they needed her to do (not much, as it turned out), I went to sign in and pin my number on. We ran into Lily at the start tent, since she was also volunteering. I hate to think how early she must have had to get up to get there from Spanish Fark.
When the race started, I got busy ignoring everyone around me. I knew that my only way to survive out there was to completely ignore the other runners and focus on running my own race with out getting drawn into any sort of competition. (I mean, it's not like we're racing out there, right?) As I said I would do yesterday, I had loaded my ipod with law school material, so as everyone else chatted and settled into their pace, I was busy reviewing the differences between civil law and criminal law. I soon found myself in no man's land, just behind a rapidly disappearing group of about six very fast runners and out ahead of just about everyone else besides two guys who would end up yo-yoing with me for most of the first lap.
The first lap went surprisingly well. I kept the effort steady, running all the hills with no problem at all, and I was back at the start in just under two hours, faster than I was last year. Unfortunately, I also knew that the second lap was going to be a completely different animal. I think my longest run of the year before today was about 16 miles, so every step after the turnaround took me deeper into uncharted waters. I held together on the first climb, passing a runner who had caught up to me at the turnaround and left while I was eating, talking to Catherine, and stalling in general, but after a couple of miles my legs were trashed. And by trashed I mean destroyed.
I walked the hill into the aid station, and I as I was hobbling down the hill away from it the runner I had passed passed me, and so began the rest of my race. Hobbling down hills, walking up them, and shuffling across the flats. A runner with a serious Geoff Roes lookalike thing caught me at the top of Elephant Head (I think he was Bryon Powell, the irunfar guy), and as I was hobbling down a hill after my second pass through the aid station, I got chicked by a woman who was absolutely bombing the thing. (I'm pretty sure she would have beat me last year, too.) By my count, that made me the tenth place 50K runner.
The rest of the run was a death march. I walked a bit, but I was able to keep running most of the time, which was an improvement over last year (when, although I blew up later, I blew up harder). By the time I had gotten to the last mile and a half, I had had enough of Professor Dressler's crim law lectures, so when he finished with unintentional manslaughter and moved on to forcible rape I yanked the ear buds out and called it quits. At least the rest of the run was educational.
As I descended that stupid, miserable last hill to the finish line, I just focused on getting to the end so I could sit down and temporarily retire from running forever (you know, until I forget all the pain a few days later). But as I came into the final half mile or so, I looked back and saw another 50K runner less than 10 feet behind me. Seriously? I mean, seriously, we have to race now? After nearly 32 miles and a pretty thorough butt-kicking, I had no desire to put forth any kind of effort. But I also knew that if I let him pass me I wouldn't be able to salvage the day by saying I had finished in the top 10 (although I still need to confirm that on the official results). So I decided to at least make him work for it. I hit the afterburners, he didn't respond (I don't think he even knew I was a 50K runner), and I sailed across the line at about 6:00 per mile. It makes me think that maybe I wasn't as physically trashed as I had thought, and that maybe my problem was largely mental. Lesson learned.
(Here I am. And there he is in the white shirt.)
Anyways, based on last year's run at Sapper Joe, I know I'm capable of running this course much faster, but I haven't put in the miles. With that in mind, though, I think I acquitted myself nicely. I only hope my knee can forgive me.
Update: The unofficial results are on the website. It looks like I was actually 11th overall and 4th in my age group (and there were some very fast people in my age group). Also, it looks like they think I'm 25. Also also, the chick who chicked me was North Face runner Nikki Kimball (http://www2.thenorthface.com/na/athletes/athletes-NK.html).