Thursday, November 18, 2010

Marines and Masochists: RTETR's 8 and 9 (and 10, depending on how you count)....

By Matt Santo

Just had a great running week that has me wanting to go faster and farther! We hit up the Marine Corps Marathon on Halloween for a jaunt around the Nation's capital. The course was pancake flat and super fast, but what it lacked in hills it made up for in pavement. The hardest part of the race for me was just getting to the starting line and then getting a taxi to go home. With over 30,000 runners, heightened security, and spectators; it was a two hour slough just to the starting line. In fact, I didn’t even see Kate all day as we both arrived at the start from different locations. I wouldn’t find out how she did until I made it home and they posted the results!

After standing in the toilet line for another 30 minutes I started the race with my brother and we went out easy for the first mile, trying to weave our way around our 30,000 friends for the day. He wanted to go fast so I let him go after that figuring I would run a 3:30-3:40 so I would have some "fresh" legs for the 50-miler six days later. I hit the half at 1:43 and some change feeling fantastic, but still running reserved. The second half went even easier and cruised to the finish line with a negative split (by 3 minutes) for a time of 3:23 and change....and feeling like I only ran a ten miler. Legs felt great, no pain or soreness (other than sore feet from all the pavement), and the whole race just flew by. Part of me wished I didn't have to run the following weekend because it could have been a much faster day! My brother ended up going 3:09 in his first run over 20 miles. I would have loved to race him (by race I mean beat), but had to be smart and hold back for the next week. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Kate was having an equally fantastic day and enjoyed her 26.2 mile jaunt with only a small Achilles issue and a loathing for pavement.

Fast forward six days to November 6 at 5 AM. Three-hundred runners boarded five school buses and headed about an hour to the starting line in the rural Virginia mountains for the Mountain Masochist 50++ miler. It was cold, but pleasant at the start. After the traditional wait in the bathroom lines we were off for a long day at 6:30 AM. The first 6-ish miles were on the road and in the dark, so it was a nice way to warm up the legs before hitting the trails. I started out a little faster than Kate, but she soon caught up to me and we ran to the first aid station together at the turn into the trails. As soon as we turned onto the trails we started uphill. The hills weren't bad, but the numerous transitions from short uphill to quick downhill really took a toll on the quads. After a few miles I got a little ahead of Kate and tried to relax and get into a rhythm to carry me to the half way point at, hopefully still having some juice left in my legs. Wrong! I felt like crap for the first half of the race and came into the mid-way checkpoint questioning finishing.

The midway point is actually 26.9 miles and the race is actually 54 miles! It is a 50++ as they say, with long miles. Anyway, as I sat at my drop bag at the mid-way point, Kate came running in and had actually caught up to me! She was having a killer day and I was dying. I quickly grabbed my food and forged onward. The next 2.9 miles was all uphill and was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to regroup, focus, and get my nutrition back on track (which was why I was feeling depleted). After 3 Gels, a bag of pringles, some Milky Ways, two S!Caps and listening to the Rocky theme song playing on repeat from the Aid Station at the top of the climb, my body just snapped out of it. I felt like the race had just begun. I hit the top of the climb (roughly 30 miles) and crushed the next downhill to the 34 mile mark. Then we hit “The Loop” a 5 mile, super technical, single track loop that was hard but absolutely amazing. Still feeling good after the loop (mile 38-ish), I kept cruising on until the 43 mile mark on some easy two track roads. At 43 miles we hit another 4 miles of technical and hilly single-track until the 47.1 mile aid station. That section went well; I was getting a little tired, but still able to run all the flats and downhills. There was a crazy hill, more like a wall, thrown into this section at about mile 45. I say wall because it was short and steep and probably would turn anyone back if their mental focus was wavering. After getting over “the wall” we had a nice downhill to the final Aid Station at 47.1 miles. Then it was all downhill for the final "2.9" miles....which actually is 4 miles. What a deceiving and mental blow that mileage mistakes can make...but I knew I was going to finish and the "runner's high" carried me down the final decent without incident. I crossed the finish line in 10:12...and felt fairly good. Quads took a beating, but had a killer runner's high!!!! It was an awesome race, awesome course and just turned out to be a good day. Kate also had a fantastic day and came running in to the finish line at 10:52! She is slowly closing the gap on me and I was definitely looking over my shoulder all afternoon hoping she wouldn’t pass me!

Now I am ready for more. Legs are back to normal and I can't wait for the next race. We may try and head down to Vina del Mar, Chile the first week in December for another marathon. We would like to run a fast marathon time and the course there is fast and slightly downhill! Vamos a ver....

Mateo crosses the finish line looking strong (Courtesey of Clark Zealand)

Kate follows suit about half an hour later (Also courtesey of Clark Zealand)

No comments: