2014 Big River 1/2 Marathon Recap
Guest blog by Muddy Puddin’
However, since I had so much fun, I’ll try and be a little bit more verbose and descriptive than the above synopsis.After getting there a little on the “too early” side and chatting with Mike G, trying to get some tips on the course and racing strategy, I helped Gazelle and his fawn (?), set up the two water stop/aid stations. When we returned, back to the start I changed up into some racing attire and then ran a short warm up of approximately 1.25 miles with Seth. We stuck to New London Turnpike with just a bit of the single track on the west side and then returned. I felt loose, limber, and excited-ready to roll.At the start I settled in behind the usual suspects with a couple of unknown runners that haven’t partaken in the SC4S series fun yet. About a half mile in (?) I moved past Seth solely so that I could see the footing. Man, I loooooovvveee racing trails but I go crazy when I cannot see upcoming footing and associated rocks, roots, divots, etc. I’m not a pansy but I like to rely on visuals to aid me in my idiotic bumbling around courses. At that point, I was just behind Jonny and about 10-15 seconds ahead were Greg Hammett, Bob Jackman, and Steve Brightman (no pun intended with that Block Island Sports Shop singlet), in that order. And that is how the race would stay for quite a while apparently.
|Way more fun and challenging than it looks.|
After moving around to the southeast side of Carr Pond, I began getting really antsy. I was just off Jonny’s shoulder and began wondering if we should run a bit harder. We couldn’t see any of the three runners ahead of us, barring the occasional glimpse through the trees of Burning Brightman. I didn’t figure we’d see Greg or Jackman as the two of them were problem ripping it up, beating each other into submission. I inquired whether or not “Brightman would blow up” and “Is there anyway we could catch him”. I knew he was right around our fitness level and racing ability as we’ve run against him before (he doesn’t have my beer belly though). Jonny calmly replied: “Don’t worry. We’ll catch him.” With the virtual pat on my back to assuage my race nerves, we settled in and continued grinding along. Jonny set the perfect pace and effort and although I found myself tiring, it was still the optimal pace at that point for us to be at. The other benefit of running, probably annoyingly, right off Jonny’s backside was that he knew the course like the back of his hand. The need to have a tour guide became evident at several spots where, although clearly marked, I may have charged right past flags/marked turns. In Jonny We Trust……
The climb up to the approximate mile 4 mark and the first water stop along Hopkins Hill Road had a few too many contour lines a little too close together for my liking. It tired me out but I tried to run smart. I knew that as we turned through the aid station, and I took a water (no fuel), we would then plunge back down through technical footing and a lot of stream crossings and the “real race” would begin. From here about 4.5 miles up to around 7.5 miles or so is just relentless. Up and down, over glacial till and granite ledges we ran. There was a whole heck of a lot of mud and super fun water crossings, some of which were almost 20″ deep or so. Scott Mason was there to forever document my poor stream crossing form and fatigued egghead running form. Thanks, Scott (I think).
We managed to catch Brightman in this section on a downhill but he stuck with us. Jonny expertly threw in uphill surges on every ascent no matter how long or short here. Not sure if it was in an attempt to break me or to break/gap Brightman. I struggled and really had to work hard on the ups to stay with him. I knew I was starting to tire when we reached the second aid station near Tarbox Pond and I felt like it was mile 10 but yet it was only about 7.5. Gulp. Now the real fun started as it was here where I began to get “Big River Delirium” (where are we? what mile is this? where is that vacuum cleaner? where is the mannequin head?).
We crossed over New London Turnpike to get onto the northwestern portion of the course into what is perhaps the most fun, softest, and twistiest part of the course. Much to my chagrin, I glanced over along one of the seemingly infinite numbers of switchbacks and saw that Brightman had gobbled up the gap and was back on us again. I mumbled “Here he comes again” to Jonny. Damn it! It was discouraging. Jonny didn’t appear to worry as he threw down another surge up a significant rise that nearly crippled me. I reached down and managed to stay with him but it cost me dearly. Looking back, that was the point at which I began falling apart. Fortunately, that allowed us to pull back away a bit from Brightman.
At this point, I glanced at my watch and given the time, I surmised we probably had about 2 miles or so left. I breathlessly mumbled to Jonny this guess and he concurred with a grunt. Immediately I began making plans for the final push and my “winning” race strategy. A glimpse inside my race weary mind:
“Ok….look for a decent short straightaway or a brief downhill and try to bomb past him. Then, as much as it hurts, push it home to stay in front. There’s no way you can catch or overtake him on an uphill. Be smart. Look for your spot. Maybe around 1 mile or 1.25 miles to go? Make sure you keep pushing through the surge and try and break his spirit. Don’t do it at the incor……”
Oops…I tripped and fell at this point. I wish it were on film as it was probably a textbook headfirst slide into home plate. It was not at all painful as I was able to immediately hop to my feet, grunt and push it so I caught back up to Jonny again.
“Ok….got lucky there. Pay attention. Pick your feet up. You can still do this. I know your legs are tired. Just dig down and do it. Any time now should work. Just go for it. Make sure that….”
Boom! I fell again. This time, although not hurt, it was tougher to get back up. When I did rise and start running (only a second later), I saw that Jonny had pulled away. As we crossed over a tiny plank bridge I knew there would be no catching him. He was just too strong.
I knew Brightman was too far back so I simply kept running as hard as I possibly could at that point (not saying much), and finished in 4th place in 1:29:53 (results here). No cool down for me-I was SPENT. Instead, it was more enjoyable munching bananas and pizza, (even drank a soda-EWWW!) and watching all of the finishers. We all had war stories and it was a blast.
Great fun and thanks to Mike Galoob, race director extraordinaire for making my “fourth season” so much fun (minus Old Mountain Field 5K and Belleville Pond 10K-they were brutal and I “hated” them).
Quick Summary Notes-
Things I Did Correctly (a.k.a. “Positives”)
1. Thanks to Jonny’s tutelage, I didn’t go out too hard. This helped me prolong my race and not run out of steam until about mile 12 or so.
2. Ran the course the weekend before with WTAC guys. This helped me a little bit in knowing what was ahead and how rugged and fun the course was.
3. Drank a lot of beer later that afternoon and evening. I probably came in first in this “endurance race”
4. Ran the Chariho 5K the next day (at T pace) with Jonny. Felt tired but pretty decent/no soreness. Mason ran a big PR by 1:30!
Things I Screwed Up (a.k.a. “Negatives”)
1. No fuel. I skipped taking a Gu at mile 4 aid station (mile 7-8 aid station probably too late to matter?). In hindsight, this was probably a mistake and helped lead to my demise at the end, although it certainly was not the sole cause. I blame that on course designer Galoob.
2. Ran the Chariho 5K the next day (at T pace) with Jonny.