I was really excited about this race, but did not feel like I was prepared for it. On a whim, I’d registered for the marathon instead of the 25K and was seriously questioning that decision. My longest run since the Zion 100K on April 7th was 14 miles.
I did the 25K two years ago and loved it. If I were to describe my ideal race, I would basically be describing Conquer the Cove. The course is beautiful and challenging, but almost completely runnable (if you’ve trained adequately…) There’s a lake at the start/finish that you can jump in after you cross the finish line and the post-race food is pretty much a full-blown cookout: grilled burgers (meat and vegetarian), salty snacks, fresh veggies and homemade sides and desserts.
The forecast was calling for another warm and sunny day which made me very happy. This is one race that I actually don’t mind running in the heat. That just makes the post-run lake plunge that much better.
Considering that 26.48 miles was almost twice as far as my longest run in the last two months, my plan was to run very conservatively for the first half. I knew from doing the 25K two years ago that the biggest climb of the day was waiting for me late in the run (actually even later in the run than this profile shows). The course was a little over 26.2 miles long.
When I got to the first aid station at mile 8-ish, my legs were a little tired from the climbing, but energy-wise I felt really good. This is where the marathon course cut off from the 25K and I was looking forward to seeing some new trail. We went through grassy areas with daisies lining the trail, pine-needle covered trails filled with tall, skinny pines, and along a lake framed by green mountains. The terrain was rolling with mostly good footing. There were only a few hills steep enough to justify walking.
Three other runners came up behind me and we talked for a while. Chatting was a nice distraction and helped the miles go by quicker. After a while, the guy directly behind me asked if I was aware that I had sped up. He said I could do what I wanted, but he was concerned that I’d gotten distracted talking and wasn’t aware of my pace (not his exact words, but the gist.) I couldn’t help but think he wouldn’t be offering this helpful advice if I was male.
He seemed like a nice enough guy, I just found the whole conversation amusing.
I was moving quickly through aid stations, so at the next one I pulled ahead of that little pack and was on my own for the first time all day. I passed mile 13 and realized that I was almost halfway finished. It occurred to me that I was feeling much better with 13 miles left to run than I had felt at Zion with more than a marathon to go. If I could run 26+ miles feeling much worse than I was feeling now, 13 shouldn’t be too bad. Ultras may not be helping my speed any, but they have made me realize just how long you can run feeling like crap!
It was starting to get hot and I could feel the salt crusting on my face. A liter of water supplemented with a cup of Skratch at each aid station wasn’t going to be enough. At the next aid station, I filled my bladder about halfway with Skratch.
By the time I started the big climb at mile 18, I was feeling pretty hot and tired. A half mile later, at the aid station, a volunteer handed me an icy wash cloth. I don’t think there’s anything that would have made me happier at that moment (well, other than being finished and jumping in the lake).
The mountain was even longer than I remembered. When I did the 25K I’d been able to run almost all the way to the top. That was not the case this time. I walked almost all of it. Speed-walking is one of my talents though, so even though I was mostly walking, I passed more than a half-dozen people by the time I made it to the top.
I grabbed another cold washcloth at the aid station just before the descent. The long stretch of downhill was a nice treat. The 2+ miles to the finish after that were a bit of a grind. At this point, I probably could’ve dug deeper and pushed a little more. But I was tired and not willing to inflict any more pain on myself than I was already feeling. Two people passed me within the last half mile. All I could think about was how good it was going to feel to jump in the lake after crossing the finish line.