Yesterday, I ran the Larry Noel 15K (9.3 mi.) Race in Greenbelt, MD. The race was part of the 60th Annual Greenbelt Labor Day Festival.
The challenges coming into this week’s long run:
1) Training this week was not that great; I made my 4 and 5 mile runs, but skipped two of my circuit sessions at the gym (to include the Thursday fartlek).
2) The race start time was at 5:00 p.m. I usually run the Sunday runs between 0500-0600. The last two races started at 0800 and 0900.
3) The diet wasn’t that great either (since Reno).
4) Still bummed about the DNF from last Sunday. I ran out of gas near the 12 mile mark, and got lost 1/2 mile from the finish.
The day started at 0730, and I had breakfast about 0900. I had three scrambled eggs and four slices of pork jowl bacon, plus two cups of coffee. The rest of the day was spent alternating two 20-oz bottles of Shakeology with three 20-oz bottles of water. That was the biggest challenge of the day-trying to balance keeping fueled without starving or bloating myself before the run.
I left Lexington Park for my hotel in Laurel, MD at 2:15 p.m., about 45 minutes later than I planned. I still got to the hotel and changed over into my running gear (including Skin-So-Soft and Body Glide) and got to the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival with an hour to go before the run. I lucked into a parking space, and had a short walk to the festival. There was no “front gate” and no entry fee, but there were no clear directions to the run site either. It took myself and a female runner asking a couple of people where the registration and run course was. First we headed to the Greenbelt Aquatic Center, where we were directed to the Greenbelt Rec Center. There we found the registration area. We got our bibs and souvenir shirts (I wanted an XXL, but the L long sleeved tech shirt fit me nicely) and meandered over to the starting line. Well, the female did; I had to power walk back to the car to stash the shirt and get my Marine running ballcap.
The run field was the smallest I had seen, compared to the other two runs I did. Not that it mattered to me since I had no plans on competing for any prizes. At the race introductions, I learned that the race was named after one of the area’s local runners; the starting line was located in the very neighborhood where he lived. This was also the 55th running of this race.
Chutes and Ladders:
The course started and finished in the Grenbelt neighborhoods that bordered the Greenbelt Recreation Center and Park, and the bulk of the race took place near the US Agricultural Labs where pesticides were being field tested.
This course was mostly hills, uphills and downhills. The first kilometer (of 15) started with a steady uphill. AS the race began, I let most of the pack go. My goal was to concentrate on my fourteen-mile pace and maintain a steady rhythm; I had hoped to catch up to any stragglers later on in the race. As I headed up the incline towards the first incline I had two epiphanies: 1) there were going to be a lot of climbs during this run, and 2) no way was I going to catch anybody today. That fourteen mile pace? Not today.
The first loop was were I dubbed the race “Chutes and Ladders.” The “ladders” were all the climbs/uphills (more than a few) and the chutes were the downhills. At the 7K and 8K were two long stretches of uphill. During those stretches I was passed by a few old people, including a woman who I had to guess was in her seventies. Not a real morale boost, I can tell you. Just before the 9K point, at the crossroads of the T, I headed for the portajohn.
Conversation I had with a female runner:
“Don’t give up, we don’t have long to go!”
“Who is ‘we?'”
“Hey, I’m French!”
…or something like that.
AS I reached the back half of the T, the course flattened out a bit. At the 10K, as I sucked down the chocolate power gel, I noticed the sky had darkened, and I saw the lightning and heard the thunder. I figured the rain was coming, I just hoped to not be struck by lightning. About a klick after the turnaround, the heavens finally opened up.
After hitting the T and heading on the last 3K of the race, there was going to be one last “ladder”, a 2K stretch of hill up Ridge Road. Fortunately, the chocolate gel had kicked in and I had hit my second wind. As the rain poured down and my legs found their drive, I found myself more willing and able than I thought I was to take the hill. I reminded myself that this was never about beating anybody or showing off; I reminded myself that I took the “out of the box” runs like these because I didn’t want any easy training for the marathon. At that point, the rain didn’t matter, the fourteen minute pace didn’t mater, and the other runners didn’t mater. It was all about working the course and learning to fight through the tough times in every race.
The final klick was flat, but it was full of twists and turns. I took the final mile at full speed because I finally had something for a “final kick”, keeping wary of my traction because of the now-wet course. I wanted to finish strong, but I was getting annoyed by all the turns in the final leg of the route. I finally crossed the line, but there was no timer’s clock, only a device that recorded the time on the chip in out race bibs. I had no pedometer or stopwatch on me, so I would have to get my time later; I had to settle to for the satisfaction of completing the race.
As I made my way through Greenbelt Park on my way back to the car, I noticed that the rain had driven off Festival hosts, guests, and vendors alike. The drive back to the hotel was short, but more hazardous than it should have been. I hadn’t cooled down enough, so the windows and windshields were all fogged up (no help from my car’s defogger). The rain and the darkness of the hour added to the difficulty of the trip, but I managed to make it back to Hampton Inn without any incidents or run-ins with the police.
There was a Joe’s Crab Shack in the area, but my fatigue and the driving conditions forbade any more driving for the night. I took an Epsom salt bath, chowed down on reheated Olive Garden from the night before, and settled in for the night.
1) In-race hydration and fueling (power gels, orange slices, etc) really makes a difference
2) Don’t worry about being passed by senior citizen runners. They’ve probably been running longer than you have (I only restarted running in April)
3) Course conditions and elevations don’t matter, how you handle them does.
4) A steady pace at the start will help you get that “final push” near the end.
This wasn’t a “fun” Labor Day weekend, but I think it will be beneficial in a couple of months…