Eastern States 20 Mile
March 30, 2014
Portsmouth High School to Hampton Beach
Preface: Eastern States 20 Mile was a bit of a breakout run for me mentally. Almost all of my training is conducted on very hilly courses, and I had no idea what to expect going into the race. I’ve decided to write this recap in a slightly different style from my typical race reports.
It is supposed to be a training run. Nothing more, nothing less. 20 steady state miles.
Mentally I’m in somewhat of a funk. Coming off a week of travel, I am tired and far from tapered. My head feels foggy. My heart isn’t in it. In a flash of brilliance I’d forgotten my pre-mixed UCAN drink on the kitchen counter. Nice one, Larisa. To make matters worse, I only have two gels with me, as I’d planned to rely heavily on that UCAN drink for fuel.
Driving down route 1A, the ocean and the sky seem to blur into one indistinguishable shape: a solid, ominous wall of grey. Rain pelts down relentlessly, hammering the truck. Boy, it’s rough out. I sure hope I’m dressed appropriately.
At packet pickup, more conversation about the cold and the wind. Apparently it was so blustery out that they were unable to set up the finish chute at Hampton Beach. But at least it’s a NNE wind. The race director calls for quiet. It is announced that the half marathon race will be shortened to 10 miles. 20 milers will still run the full distance.
Outside, the rain subsides. I crank up the heat in my truck. One jacket, or two? Two gels, or maybe I can bum a third off Rob? Decisions, decisions. Inclement weather makes race preparations immensely difficult.
Five minutes to eleven. There is confusion over where the race starts. We follow the crowd en masse up a small hill, only to be directed back behind the school.
Eleven comes and goes. So cold. Of course you underdressed, Larisa. Flash of brilliance #2 for the day.
I see my friend Sam Jurek and recall how fast he’s run this race in prior years. I wonder how far I’ll finish behind him today.
Five past eleven. Almost too casually, the race begins. I take off hard in a desperate effort to warm up.
New Castle. Beautiful, but deceptively hilly. I thought this was supposed to be entirely flat. Stress. I don’t feel quite right. There is a man in a white singlet ahead of me. I lock in and zone out. Relax.
1A Traffic Circle. Maddy is there. Seeing a familiar face raises my spirits. I know we are nearing route 1A. Steady and strong.
Odiorne Point. We hit the seacoast. I love this route and run it often. So flat, so fast. And a tailwind. Something changes. A small spark lights up inside of me. It flickers briefly, but then burns brightly into a flame. In the midst of a washed out, punishing world of grey, I suddenly feel very much alive. My turnover quickens.
Wallis Sands. The volunteers are so remarkably friendly. They tell me I am the first female, and I thank them deeply for supporting my run, once again amazed and inspired by the selflessness of others.
I never run by pace in any race. Only by feel. The screen of my GPS watch presents one single metric: my heart rate. I take such comfort in that number. I trust it to guide me, and am always content with whatever finish it brings me.
Rye Beach. Maddy kindly takes my jacket. Dare I say I might have overdressed?
We reach the outskirts of Hampton proper. I tear open a VFuel and slowly sip the gel.
Final Aid Station. Mile 18. I recall this from the race sheet. Why am I not fading? Emotions scream inside me. Never before have I felt so strong so late in a race. A voice from deep within encourages me to go harder. To reach towards that boundary that separates the safe from the uncontrollable.
I accept the challenge and I push. Hard.
The final 2 miles zip by in a blur. I see the finish chute. I expect 2:10, but the red neon clock reads 2:04. That can’t be right.
I stop my watch. Check the data, this can’t be real.
The screen flashes back at me. 20.02 miles. 2:04:42. 6:14 pace.
That can’t be right. But it is.
It’s those unexpected, breakout moments in life that keep us motivated and pushing hard towards goals that sometimes seem impossibly out of reach. My run at Eastern States this past Sunday represented such a moment for me.
When I set a personal goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials back in October, I knew there was a good chance that the goal was too aggressive. My strength as a runner lies in my endurance, not in my raw speed. A sub-2:43 marathon requires mastery of both.
Eastern States was supposed to be a training run. A cog in the intricate machine of an endurance runner’s training that slowly keeps her moving forward. Instead, it served as a catalyst. The fire that was already burning steadily inside of me now blazes more intensely than ever.
Some fun facts…
- Pre-race – Several bananas + PocketFuel (vanilla haze) and 1 VFuel gel (chocolate – thanks, Rob)
- Gels consumed – 1.5 VFuel (peach cobbler)
- Water consumed – 3 inelegant sips from tiny cups
- Calories burned – 1,710
- Average HR – 163
- Max HR – 171
- Polar RCX5 heart rate monitor
- Voler Artico Thermo arm warmers
- Pearl Izumi Ultra jacket
- INKnBURN Lust tank top
- CW-X 3/4 length Stabilyx tights
- Altra Olympus (best shoes ever)
- Drymax socks
- Mountain Hardwear beanie
- Marmot Connect Active gloves
- RooSport running pouch