I think I’ve tried to start this post numerous times and each time the first line just doesn’t seem to lead into describing last weekend accurately. Fun. Memorable. Confidence-boosting. All true, but not completely accurate.
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The last time I ran the Eastern States 20 Mile race it was a breakthrough race for me, breakthrough in the sense that I had never felt so strong in a race before. I doubted that I could repeat that feeling. I figured that those zen-like moments in running where everything fades away and you feel like your effort is effortless were only a one time deal. But it happened again: paces that I didn’t think I had any business running felt easy. And that blissful, zen feeling was mine again for the last half of Saturday’s 20 miler.
But even before the race the weekend got off to a great start. My Stonyfield teammate and friend, Sandra from Organic Runner Mom joined me in Maine at our family’s beach house. I’d been looking forward to our girls weekend and was more focused on that than the race. We grabbed Italian food for dinner and then spent the evening chatting about running and kids and motherhood and what to the heck we were going to wear in the morning.
The forecasted temps kept changing from highs in the 50’s to highs in the low 50’s, one thing didn’t change and that was the sun and the wind. After the race I felt both: sun and wind-burned my face was chapped. I settled on my Saucony Bullet Tight Shorts, my Six03 Endurance Team tank, lululemon armsleeves, Pro Compression calf sleeves (which were a last minute addition) and my Dr. Cool Headband. It proved to be the perfect combo although I did ditch the arm sleeves at mile 10 and threw them at a friend who was volunteering on the course.
Sandra and I arrived at the start with hours to spare before the start. With an 11am start, it was good prep for Boston. We waited around and had a chance to chat with Team Hoyt who was there to run the race. I also saw fellow Dr. Cool Ambassador and badass runner, Becca Pizzi who just completed the World Marathon Challenge running seven marathons, on seven continents in seven day.
We headed to the start together and since we both had different instructions from our coaches so we wished each other ‘good luck’ and waited for the start. Here’s how the miles went once the race started:
Mile 1: Mile 1 was a mix of running slow, then speeding up to much, then trying to reel it in. We ran out of Maine and crossed the bridge into New Hampshire. 7:58
Mile 2-5: Most of these miles went by quickly. My mantra was be patient. It is sooo tempting to run this as a “race.” I know it is a race, but I didn’t want to race it. I wanted to practice pacing for Boston. That was the plan. So I kept telling myself that if I can do it here I can do it in Boston. I felt like I wanted to run so much faster, but I held back. When the five mile marker ticked by I was happy knowing I only had five more miles until I could start to kick it up a bit. 7:38, 7:49, 7:57, 7:49
Mile 6-9: These miles are run along the coast the wind changes and swirls a bit, but mostly it was a tailwind. At this point I knew that despite wearing sunscreen I would most definitely be sunburned. I also noticed that I was thirsty. I took my first GU between 6-7. The course never has enough water stops (they are every 3-3.5 miles) and I knew that despite taking in as much water as I might be a little dehydrated. At one point I ran along side a gal from New Jersey who recognized me from social media. It was so nice to have someone to talk to for those miles since it helped me keep the pace in check. 7:55, 7:49, 7:44, 7:43
Mile 10-13: Just before mile ten I started to drop the pace a bit and rolled through those three miles feeling good. At one point there was a plodder behind me, then running next to me, then behind me again. Finally I decided to ditch “Mr. Ploddy Pants,” and picked up the pace. I took a second GU through here and at this point the race became a bit of a mental battle. I knew that I still had 7 miles to go and that felt like a lot. 7:29, 7:34, 7:37, 7:36
Mile 14-15: I focused on these miles one at a time. I put my energy into trying to have good form and when I did my legs seemed to roll and the miles went by quickly. When I passed the 15 miler marker I knew I just had five miles to go and I felt a little pep in my stride. 7:34, 7:30
Mile 16: I’m not really sure what happened during this mile, but I kept glancing down at my watch and seeing 7:10 and thinking “I have no business running this. I’ll pay for this later.” But I figured if this felt OK then I should roll with it. At this point I started passing quite a few runners, some were finishing up the half marathon others were 20 mile runners. The pace felt good and it was a confidence boost. 7:09
Mile 17-18: I took another GU through these miles and gulped down my final water. I knew the finish line was coming and I focused on the remaining miles, counting them down. Mile 18 Takes you up and over another bridge and is a bit of a hill. I slowed a little but then regained some momentum as I came off the bridge. 7:25, 7:14
Mile 19-20: The The final mile is always a little brutal in this race. I knew it was coming, but the flat stretch of road rises slightly and seems to take forever. I wanted to run strong into the finish, but I didn’t want to all out race the finish. I could see a couple other runners up ahead who I wanted to catch, but I decided not to push it and save that “dig deep” push for Boston. 7:18, 7:29
I crossed the line in 2:33:15 averaging 7:40 for 20 miles. That’s the fastest I’ve ever run 20 miles and four minutes faster than the last time I ran the race in 2014. Running faster paced miles in the final five was a huge confidence boost for me. Some of my long runs have been a real slog and so to run these paces after a regular week of training is really helpful, mentally.
Sandra (who had a great race too! Read her recap HERE.) and I met up after the race and rode the bus back to the post race party where we warmed up and refueled with hot soup, pizza and just about anything we could get our hands on. On the way home we took our salty, sweaty, sunburned selves shopping at the outlet stores. I love a girl who can run 20 miles, wipe the salt off her face and head out for some shopping! Sandra and I make good teammates and I can’t wait to experience the Boston Marathon with her!
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