Today I raced the Green Jewel, a 50k through Cleveland's Metroparks, mainly following the all-purpose trail (AKA bike path) from Rocky River to Brecksville. I had run this race in 2010 (my first 50k) in 5:01, and I knew my training was better so I was primed for a big PR!
My brother in law Ken was kind enough to let me park my car at his house and drive me to the start at the Marina in Rocky River. I got my number, pinned it on my shorts, and waited in the car with Ken until the last possible minute. The weather was chilly & rainy, and more rain was forecast (100% chance) all day long.
We lined up, Vince started giving detailed instructions, until someone just shouted "Can we just start?" and shortly we were off. A pack of 5 started out as if this were a race, leaving the rest of us in the dust. Two more followed in a chase pack and I was somewhere around 8th for the first little bit. I ran with Dan H for the first couple miles, (8:05 & 7:52) and we were briefly passed by 2010 WRTR Race Series Champ Mark C.
Aid stations were roughly every 5 miles, and I had a loose plan going into the race that I would pick up the pace for the middle mile of every 5-mile set. The path is mostly flat (for the first 24 miles) and I wanted to vary my pace so I didn't fall into a rut of slow and slower. So on the 3rd mile, I picked up the pace (7:22) and caught Mark. This would be my fastest mile of the day.
Mark and I ran together for a couple miles (#4 7:56), discussed blogs, I entertained him (I hope) with a story about pizza delivery, and then he skipped the 4.9 mile aid station, I stopped for a Hammer Gel and some Gatorade. Leaving the aid station we had to cut through the grass as there was about 2 feet of water covering the trail at this point. My 5th mile was 8:32, and Mark was gone, never to be seen again.
Miles 6 & 7 were steady, 7:52 & 8:08. I was trying to simultaneously run the tangents and dodge the puddles. Mile 8 was my pick-up, and I ran 7:39. Mile 9 was 8:00 and shortly after that I was at the 10 mile aid station (closer to 9.3 on my Garmin). This time I remembered to split my watch on the way in and out so I knew I spent 54 seconds there, another Gel and some Gatorade and Endurolyte capsules.
Leaving the aid station, my next 3 miles were 7:56, 8:00, and 7:56. Mile 13 was my pick-up but it was also uphill so another 7:58 was all I could manage. Sometime around here Victoria drove past for the first time with Luke and George. My own personal cheering section, what a bright spot in a dreary day! They would leapfrog me on the course, stopping to cheer every couple miles for the rest of the day!
At this point, a group of 3 runners (Sean P, Mike, and Lee) had been gaining on me and then falling back during my pick-ups. Miles 14 & 15 were 8:17 & 8:22, the latter including another brief aid-station stop. After the aid station, the group caught me and I ran with them for a bit, running 7:53 & 7:46. Only Lee stayed close during my 18th mile pickup which I ran in 7:32 (my 2nd fastest mile of the day).
The 19th mile was 8:43 and included another aid station. I tossed my gloves into Victoria's van, and Luke joined me to help pace me in. Which was fantastic except he liked to run beside me, which interfered with my tangents, and he didn't have any amusing stories to take my mind off the pain. Actually my legs were kind of tingly cold and almost numb at that point!
Luke and I caught and briefly ran with Mike G, out for a training run on the course. He let us go and I instructed him that whoever caught him next, he should have a long conversation (to keep them from continuing on to catch me!)
I decided to forego any more pick-up miles until I was safely through the major hills which started around mile 22.5. My 20th - 22nd miles were 8:05-8:21-8:11. Then the first major uphill mile was 8:43. The final aid station was in the 24th mile. Between the uphill, stopping for Gatorade, Endurolytes, & Coke (no Gel) and stepping off the side of the road to pee, that .58 of a mile took me 8:08 (14:04 pace).
Coming out of that aid station, after the hill, I had been hoping to make another pick-up and finish the race strong, but my legs did not agree. I knew in my head that it would not hurt any more to run fast than to run slow, it would just take more time. But I could not generate any legspeed. Miles 25 & 26 were 9:04 & 9:01.
The 8:00 per mile pace that I had kept for the first 22 miles had me at a projected time of around 4:08. But now that I was around 9 from mile 23 on, I reset my goal to 4:20. I was still running with Luke, and I looked down as my watch hit 26.2 miles in 3:37, which would be my 2nd fastest marathon ever (out of 7 tries)!
Miles 27-28-29 were slower, 9:26-9:49-10:44. Even though 28 & 29 were mostly downhill! In the 29th mile as we crossed a highway overpass (over the turnpike?) and I suddenly had an upset stomach. I walked about 100 yards, then got going again slowly, still feeling a little queasy. Somewhere in here Mike G caught us again and he and Luke ran ahead. Some pacer that kid turned out to be!
Mike eventually doubled back, meeting me with about 1.5 miles to go and encouraging me the rest of the way. I picked up the pace slightly for mile 30 in 10:16, another downhill mile. Unfortunately at this point the downhills hurt worse than the uphills. I got passed by the 2nd woman, Terri L. Also in the last mile, despite picking the pace up again (to 8:59) I got passed again by Josh (who was absolutely flying) and then I got passed yet again by an unnamed guy in bright green as we turned in the driveway to the finish.
(Update: Results are up and I was 14th overall, 7th Master)
I sat in the back and got into some dry clothes, but in the process my calves cramped up badly and I cried out in pain! I doubt Victoria had any sympathy as I brought this on myself!
This is likely my last ultramarathon for a while, as I am trying to focus on the WRTR Short Race Series this year. But it is a fun race on a beautiful course and I will likely continue to make it an annual event!