I really felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I had been coming off 3 consecutive 50 mile weeks including the best long run of my life by far (18 @ 7:21 pace) and I was primed for a sub-1:30 attempt. Up until about a week ago, I fully expected to do it. Then the taper madness hit. I never felt in sync all week long and my dosage went down during the week then back up prior to the race. I really did not have a good feeling about this one at all.
This is state #12 in my 25 state quest and my first Arkansas race experience. The race is located in the small town of Cotter (pop 900) in the north central part of the state, just across the Missouri line. The only nearby town that you may have heard of is Mountain Home, about 10 miles away. In terms of nearby cities, it's about 3 hours due north of Little Rock and 2 hours south of Springfield, MO. I worked a whole day on Thursday, drove 4 hours to Memphis that night then it was all country roads for another 3.5 hours into town. Arkansas is an interesting state geographically. The eastern third is pancake flat and not a very exciting drive. If there's a race in West Memphis or Jonesboro, it would be a very fast course. The northwestern quadrant is very hilly with strikingly beautiful lakes. The race was located at the edge of the Ozarks and I'm sure it's nice in the Spring and Summer but in late November, there's not much to do. That's okay with me. I was there for a fast time and this course was all along a river and billed as one of the flattest in the country.
Once again, I did not feel right in the morning even with with normal dosage so I upped it and it was something that I would regret. The course went downhill for about 5/8 of a mile then leveled off or as I should say, became gently rolling. Indeed it was a fast course but the area down by the river was not perfectly flat. The first half had a bit more up than down, which made for a nice end. On the downhill, do I bank time or bank energy? Hopefully, a little of both. I would run about 6:50 effort, which I figured would equate to more like 6:30 with the downhill. I was out a little faster but it still felt pretty much effortless and I came through the Mile marker in 6:21, giving me a cushion of about 2.5 seconds/mile to the finish. I kept the effort even down by the river but my pace was still a little fast. By mile 3, I felt the first signs of trouble. I made the decision to deliberately slow to the mid 6:50s but I had to push just to maintain that. My calf muscles were as stiff as a board. Too many pills. Dumb. This could turn out to be a nightmare. I knew that there was no way that I could hold this pace another 10 miles and I feared that it could be a meltdown on the level of Nashville in which I had to walk some in the last 2 miles and saw my pace go over 9. Determined to avoid that, I punted early and settled into a fairly comfortable effort. Approximate splits:
6:21 (6:21) downhill
6:44 (13:05) plenty of time in the bank
6:53 (19:58) this does not feel right
7:02 (27:00) ready to punt
I expected that every subsequent mile would be another 15-20 seconds slower and by the end, my pace would be in the 9s and I'd have to walk some of it. I hit the portajohn in an attempt to clear some excess out of my system. It cost me about 30+ seconds but it seemed to be a good investment. Before too long, I was feeling better. I managed to re-pass 2 runners and decided to throw in a surge at the turnaround point. With less than 10K to go, the sub-1:30 was gone and probably the PR as well but I still had a chance at a "good time" (1:31:xx) if I could maintain it to the line. I heard a few encouraging comments such as : "Yeah. Push it." What a surprising turn of events. Perhaps the slow down earlier would allow me to do better in the last 5K this time.
7:50 (34:50) bathroom
7:15 (42:05) just get this over with
7:05 (49:10) what's happening. I'm feeling better.
6:48 (55:58) back under 7 pace, can still get a good time.
By the end of that mile, it was becoming clear that I could not hold it. I would run the best I could for the next 5 miles but it was not very good. However, if you had told me in Mile 4 that I could hold these paces late in the race, I would have been thrilled. Two other factors were holding me back. The winds were picking up (15 mph) right into my face and I was running in no mans land. It was quite a lonely last 5 miles. In the final tenth, I took a few steps in the wrong direction because I could not see the finish area. After that point, I did not kick it in because I no longer cared.
7:02 (63:00) looking like a 1:32:xx
7:15 (70:15) thankfully,this will be over soon
7:32 (77:47) stopped for a full cup of Gatorade and water.
7:18 (86:05) do I have enough pride to finish strong?
7:03 (1:32:08) still battling but the course will be measured a hair long.
1:26 - last .17 once it turned 1:33, I no longer cared.
Finish: 1:33:34 (7:09 pace)
My initial reaction was Ehh but this one is aging well. I was 17 seconds/mi off my goal on a fast course with good temps and moderate wind. That's not good by any stretch but it could have been a lot worse. In Mile 4, I feared a ghastly fade with a finish time over 1:40. That did not happen. If not for the 2 stops, it would have been in the 1:32s. That's still not close to the goal or even a PR but it's far from my worst also. I'll be lenient and give myself a "B." I've cheated on my sugar restrictions of late and I think that's what caused the minor instability with the pills. Still, there is no need for manganese or chromium. I had some soreness in my feet after the race. I think it's related to the pills but I'm leaning towards a few days off since I'm not racing for 2 months.