Volume has been down around 30-35 MPW with a few decent tempos but very little speed and only 2 successful long runs above race distance. That won't do. My health is about as unstable as ever. On race day, I took 5 Thym-Adren pills and slightly less than half of a Vitamin C. If I had taken the 6 pills that had worked last weekend or a whole Vitamin C, I would have struggled just to finish. Still, if I hit the formula just right, I have the talent to run 1:33ish even though I've lost a step in terms of fitness. The more realistic goal was a pace between 7:15-7:30, which would bring me to the finish line in 1:35-1:37.
Huntington is just over 8 hours driving time from Birmingham via the interstate. I took the interstate up to Knoxville, roughly halfway there. Then in honor of John Denver, I took the country roads through the heart of Appalachia. That's some really beautiful country especially in the summer and early Fall. Even though the trees were mostly bare once I hit the Virginia border, it was still a pretty scenic and enjoyable drive. I took a more direct route on the way back so I could make it back to the Ham in one day. All told, I saw parts of 7 states (AL,GA,TN,VA,KY,OH,WV). Huntington has a small but vibrant downtown area, a nice Riverwalk and a pretty decent sized mall but no real tourist attractions. I was there solely to race and this was the only out of town Fall race on my list that fit my schedule. West Virginia was state #18 in my drive for 25.
Pre-race and course-
Aside from a long line at a no-frills expo and some minor parking issues, it was a well organized race and yes, I would recommend it if you are a 25 or 50 stater and need West Virginia. Ironically, in a state with almost no flat land, it's a fast course with only 2 or 3 noticeable hills that were only about a tenth of a mile each. It has a nice mix of downtown, riverside and trails. The course finished in the end zone of the Marshall Thundering Herd football stadium. The day dawned clear and cool with temps in the low 40s at the start, which rose to near 50 by the finish with light-moderate winds. I could not ask for much better conditions.
Woke up feeling decent after my pills and my legs had some power warming up. Still, given how sensitive I am, it's very hard to hit it perfectly and I merely hoped to to finish respectably and enjoy the race experience. I had aimed for a conservative start, just under 7:30 and then try to pick it up after Mile 3 if I felt good. It was a good clean start and I felt pretty good early. I was doing about 7:20 early and it felt very easy. The pace quickened after shallow downhill and I hit the first marker in 7:10. Too fast. I made a deliberate attempt to slow down but my speed remained fairly constant through the first 3 miles as the course looped through the Marshall campus. My calf was starting to get heavy in Mile 2 which was not a good sign but my wind was fine and my form was okay. I was on pace for a 1:34:xx through the first loop, which was fast but not unreasonable.
Mile 3 is often when I start to fade on my bad days and I still felt decent overall so I made a bit of a push in Mile 4 as the course went down to the Riverwalk before heading back on the roads in Mile 5. Mile 6 was probably the toughest of the race but I remained in control.
We turned onto a trail section just before the halfway point, which I passed in almost exactly 47:30 for a dead even 1:35 pace. The pace group passed me at this point but I managed to stay with them. The pace felt a bit easier running in a pack but I missed a key water stop because of the traffic. I tried to make a break in Mile 8 but it was short lived as the pace group slowly pulled away from me. I thought I could go maybe 15 seconds in the red and be able to make it up the last mile. I hit Mile 9.1 fading a bit at 66 flat. 4 miles to go but with a round number and an accurate GPS reading, I knew exactly what I had to do the rest of the way. 7:15 for a 1:35 and 7:30 for a sub-1:36. Even a brutal fade to 8:00 pace would still get me home in 1:38 flat, which would be an improvement over the disasters at Mercedes and St. Louis.
Not surprisingly, my low mileage would catch up to me in Mile 10 and Mile 11 would be worse. I was set to concede a 1:36:xx. However, after the hydration stop that I should have taken earlier, I managed to gain a bit of a second wind in Mile 12. With 1 mile to go the watch read 1:28:33. I need a 7:27 to get the 1:35:xx and it seemed to be doable. My pace quickened to the 7:20 range as we turned into the stadium. We went down a small ramp then after a sharp turn, we had the length of the football field to go. I knew I had it but left nothing to chance and delivered a strong closing kick, which brought me to a finish in 1:35:50 (7:18 overall pace). It was good enough for 4th in my age group out of 62 finishers.
:43 (last .12)
If this is as good as I can run due to talent limitations, I'd be okay with that and would still be able to enjoy these race experiences. If race day had been only 3 days earlier, I would have been awful. I managed to recognize the issues with the pills and adjust in time. I'm not always so lucky. What will work next week? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm quitting the Vitamin C and going back to Cal/Mag along with the Thym-Adren. If I get this squared away, I predict that I will be back in sub-90 form within a few months.