[Ed note: This is looong… You may want to get some water and maybe a Gu to keep your energy up as you wade through it. Sorry, as you can see 2 posts below this is my recap of last years race so I guess I have been bottling up my words, I’ll try not to let it happen again.]
The 2014 Mid-Winter Classic 10 miler rolled around once again this weekend, once again signaling the start(-ish) of the race season. It really serves as a long painful warning to keep up some semblance of run fitness throughout the winter so you can survive its notorious hills. It didn’t quite do its job this year, as you can tell from my staggering total of 96 miles for December and January combined. But I was signed up for it and all the cool kids would be there so there was no backing out.
The race was filled to capacity 1000 not so bright people planning a long hilly race in the middle of a Maine winter. I had no one to car pool with this year as Danielle was running the race as a training run so would actually be running /to/ the race, so I decided to get there stupid early to get a good parking spot and get all set up. I was all prepared for a nice arctic race but as I exited the car I noticed that it wasn’t all that cold, and as people started to filter in I saw a number of t-shirts and shorts in the mix. Unfortunately I had no warm(-ish) weather clothes with me I did luck out that I had a running hat in my bag so I could ditch my super warm winter hat, and I don’t mind being warm so it turned out OK.
As race time approached the usual suspects filtered in, Eric, his angry little soon to be wife Sara, the newly stupid fast Danielle, The Gardiner Girls soon followed with their crazy fast husbands in tow.
The plan was my tried and true long distance race plan, relax for the first 5-6 miles then ratchet up the speed as towards the end. This plan has given me several PRs and is my go to race plan for anything of distance. This year wasn’t going to be a PR year, last year was to quick and I was in much better running shape, so I estimated I should be cruising at around 8:15 miles and hopefully approaching the 8 min barrier as we got towards the end. I had heard rumors of Eric’s training and that his run was doing quite well, so I had resigned myself to yet another defeat added to the disturbing number of them that have come on recently, especially when he showed up in shorts declaring that he was going to “go hard”. I’d get him come tri season when it really counted. I informed him this would be pretty much a training run for me and I just hoped that I could hold off Jen for at least most of the race. Jen was gunning for me after last year when I motored by hear near the end of the race humiliating her and causing shame to her family. I had heard her training was going well too… This had the makings for an ego pounding race.
Once again I lined up with Jen and Carrie, hoping to get them to drag me up the hills again if I could hang on. Again the downhill first mile passed to quickly, deciding discretion is the better part of valor, I let Jen and Carrie slowly slip ahead. Mile 2 is where things start going uphill, then crazily enough I slowly reeled in Jen and Carrie up the hills, I paused to stick with them for a moment before deciding that I felt OK going this pace and passed them… Carrie, having done this dance last year, swore at me as I went by and left them behind.
I continued to roll going at a too fast barely sub 8 pace, when I glanced up and there was Eric 20 feet in front of me. Just then Sara comes motoring by greets us both stays with Eric for a second and then is gone on her speedy way. I rolled up beside Eric and it was on.
Not that either of us would acknowledge that it was on, but it was in fact, on.
“What are you doing back here with the slow kids?” I queried, knowing that I was well above my predicted slow pace.
“I’m just not feeling it today…” He stated as he motored on at exactly his goal pace.
And we continued on like this, shoulder to shoulder, as the next few miles ticked by, still to fast, but I was committed now. I was surprisingly still feeling pretty good and relaxed as we crossed mile 6, which is kind of an ugly mile and also the point in the race where I wanted to ratchet up the speed. I was having a good race, but there was no way I was going to be able to motor the last 1/2 of the race like last year, but I decided to push the pace a bit and see if Eric was still “not feeling it”. I heard Eric’s loud-ass Newtons slowly fall back a bit. But they soon returned and he was at my shoulder again, apparently he was “feeling it” enough not to get dropped. We slowed to an almost sustainable sub 8 pace and continued on as if nothing had happened. We cruised through mile 7 accelerating up the long slight incline neither of us acknowledging the change of pace.
Miles 9 and 10 are tough, with long steep climbs and some pretty steep downhills that don’t let you relax much. The road opened up and we were in a gap in traffic so we had to deal with a nice headwind as we approached the last big climb. We started to push the pace and my wheels began to come off as we began the climb. Eric got his shoulder in front, then a step, then two, then 10 and soon he was 200 feet up the road. My brain started to rationalize, “Meh, you knew he was going to beat you and you were only expecting 8:15s so you’re fine…” My pace slowed even more.
Then two women went by me on either side. My brain woke up, “This is not gonna be a race where people storm by me at the very end as I limp in! And there’s no way you are going to start this year like you finished last year with Eric disappearing into the distance!” it decided. I pulled a Jens, told my legs to shut up, and picked up the pace re-passing the women, and drawing a bead on Eric’s back. I slowly, agonizingly slowly started to reel him in as we climbed that last hill, which according to my calculations is 9.8 miles long. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough time to catch him, the turn into the parking lot was coming and then it was a deceptively long downhill to the finish, and if he hammered I wasn’t going to catch him. We turned into the parking lot, I was still 10 steps behind and closing. Now I knew I could catch him but had to be careful as I was just about fresh out of kick and if I went to early or if he turned around and saw me I didn’t think I could make it stick.
We approached the final two real corners, a 90 degree right followed by a 90 degree left, after that is was a gently sweeping left all the way to the finish. I was only 2 steps behind now, he swept wide at the entrance to the right, taking it like he was driving a race car, I wanted to do the same but was kamikaze-ing into the corner to fast to change my line at this point. This ended up being fortunate, as we weren’t going at race car speeds so I made the corner still holding my speed and had the inside line for the final left.
I’m not sure if Eric just went wide or if he heard someone coming up the inside and made room, but he left a gap and I made the pass up the inside and just let it all hang out. Chugging with everything I had left, I heard his Newtons close behind me. The finish refused to come, I guessed that I had gaped him, but I couldn’t be sure that I just couldn’t hear his shoes over heart exploding or if he had actually fallen back, and I didn’t dare look back or ease up. I also didn’t know if I could keep going to the nonexistent finish line. Finally the finish line showed itself and I stormed across, doubling over and sucking wind victorious! Err, I mean, I finished my training run satisfied with my current run fitness going into this year.
Then it was time to greet all my friends as they came in and those that had already finished, because they are now or already were super speedy jerk faces (Danielle, Sara, I’m looking at you…). I also met a new internet friend, or I met a friend who I now know on the internet, I’m not sure which way it went, Michelle who I believe had her self a nice PR! w00t! We moseyed on over to where we had stashed our stuff, drinking Gatoraid and eating some food before going our separate ways and heading home.