This race always makes me think of my buddy Michael. He, Tom, Jeff W. (GNRC club-mates) and a few others run Derry (as we call it) every year, without fail. When I first started running with them they would talk about this race with total reverence. Nothing was as hard as Derry. It was a beast, a killer, mountainous, freaking impossible. It was, in Michael's words, Derry, Baby!
This is the actual elevation profile of the course. It climbs and descends roughly 2500 feet in its 16 miles.
This was my third time running Derry. It gets better every time. My first year running I ran scared. I had been warned I would never run anything harder. (This is, in fact, untrue. Stu's 30K, among others, is harder.) ANYWAY. I took it out slowly, and then pounded the end, and I ended up doing relatively well. The next time I ran it I was supposed to only run it as a training run. I scoffed at that plan, and decided to race it anyway, until about mile 8 when I suddenly and desperately needed to take a crap. There was no place to do so--just fields of open snow--and so I suffered. I really suffered. The results of that race weren't spectacular, although I did successfully refrain from shitting myself. This year I came to redeem myself. I had a plan, too, although I didn't advertise it.
The plan: Run hard from the start. Be stupid. Make it hurt. Then finish strong anyway.
My theory here is that I need to learn how to race when I am so exhausted I'm going to collapse. If I took it out easy and finished strong, who cares? You leave fuel in the tank, of course you'll finish strong. You leave nothing in the tank--well, then what happens? You crash and burn OR you rail against it and push through and discover you can endure a new level of fatigue and pain.
So that was my plan. Crash and burn or beat the pain.
In a moment you will hear the results of my plan.
First I will say that, as you know, I am an extrovert. Big time. I really love knowing everyone at races, and I knew a ton of people at this race--club members, tri friends, blogger friends (I got to meet Ana-Maria -aka Running and Living! very fun. Kristina (or Marathon Mama) was there too. It was awesome. As a bonus, Andy came this year. This made me very, very happy. I've wanted him to run this race since I began running it. He's fast and I wanted to show him off.
Okay. Back to my plan and how it went down.
I started. I got stuck behind hoards of people. I HATE THAT. But I dealt. The first mile is half uphill and half downhill. Not bad. I clocked in at 7:59. My plan was to take it out in at least 7:30 (marathon pace), so I picked up the pace so I could make up for lost time.
At this point my heart rate was still sort of in control. Sure, I was in zone 4, but not zone 5. For me, that's in control. Next mile 7:24. Better, but I still had 24 seconds to make up. That only gave me six seconds. Next mile 7:07. Okay. I'm close now. 7:07 though... hmmm... I was getting close to my ten-mile racing pace, and this race was 16, and this race has some rather nasty hills.... Next mile 7:25. Check ! Time made up and I felt great.
I actually felt pretty fabulous until about mile 8. Then I wanted to stop.
Instead I reminded myself to go harder and make it hurt more. That was the point. So I did. I went harder.
Unfortunately, at about mile 9 the hills really come out to play. At mile 9.5 you go straight up, but not for long, maybe a 1/2 mile. Then at mile 10 you really go up--and you keep going up. and up. and up. You go up for about 1.5 miles. Then it flattens, and then SURPRISE, you go up for another mile or so.
That part of the race is just a pisser. I ran hard though, and only had two miles over 8 minute pace despite of the up and up. I passed a lot of people and every time I began to feel like my legs just couldn't take it any more I reminded myself--Mary, that's the point. Work harder now.
At mile 13 a race volunteer shouted to me, "You're the 16th woman!"
Sixteenth! Sixteenth! That is NOT acceptable. I will take nothing over 15.
(Actually, I don't think I've had even finished in the top twenty the last two times I did it, but whatever.)
I started looking for women. There was a clump of four about 1/4 mile in front of me. I sucked down a gel and started pounding. It was a weird sensation to try and pound because my legs felt a little like Jell-O.
I took the four girls out, and then began to run in fear. How close where they? I still had 2 miles left. Any one of those girls, all of whom looked fit and ready to rip it, could pass me back at any moment.
I pulled up to my friend Mike Ferrari (another Mike). We ran together a bit, and then I pushed on. I must be running well, I thought, if I am passing Mike F. Mike had pointed out that Tom, a club mate, was up ahead in yellow. Ohhhhhhh. I really wanted to get Tom. You probably don't remember, but at the New Bedford Half Marathon last year I passed him with a 1/2 mile to go. He looked at me nonchalantly and then passed me back. If you recall, I politely called him a fucker.
So I sprinted. I mean it. I sprinted. My Garmin read 5:55 minute pace. That's 30 seconds faster than my 5k pace. I could feel the gel making its way up my throat. My leg muscles were snapping all over the place like clown legs.
Must get Tom. Must get Tom. Must get Tom.
So I got Tom with about 1/2 mile to go. I passed two more women in the process of doing so, so that was nice.
As I passed, Tom looked at me and said coolly, "Oh! Hi Mary." Then he turned on the jets, passed me back and left me in the dust.
To make matters worse, that stealthy Mike Ferrari had stayed right behind me the whole time, unbeknown to me. As we made the final turn into the parking lot to finish (maybe 1/16 of a mile go) he said, "I'm right behind you, Mary!" And then passed me. I will not repeat the expletive I shouted at that point, and the name I called him.
So, I was 10th woman overall out of close to 300. Not bad for a triathlete.... ;)
Mike beat me by 2 seconds. Tom beat me by 10.
You wait, you two. You just wait.
After finishing I hobbled around a bit, and tried not to puke. Then I chatted with Mike and Tom, and I was very nice, although I should have stepped on their feet and called them names. As we chatted, Tom told me that Maria had finished ahead of all of us.
Finished ahead of us?
Maria is good. She is very good. And I have been coaching her, so now she is even better. (If I do say so myself....)
Her assignment for this race was to beat me, but honestly, I planned to make that very, very hard for her to do.
AND SHE DID BEAT ME!
She was ninth woman and placed 2nd AG. This race draws out all of the big dogs. She seriously ROCKED. I can't wait to see what she does at Boston.
My other athletes running (Andy and Rose) had good races too. Regrettably I had pummeled Rose with a bit too much in the week preceding Derry. Oops. Sorry! I'm still learning... :) But she triumphed, and ran sub 8 min. pace anyway. Andy ran a 6:43 pace and finished 27th overall out of over 400 guys. For a dude that hasn't done much in the way of competing for like--ummmm--15 years, he pretty much smoked it. Unfortunately he battled with some depletion issues. He's shed like 10 pounds in the last few weeks. He looks awesome, but yeah, that's too fast to lose 10 lbs. And he paid for it. The last three miles, I understand, were NOT pretty. The EMTs wouldn't let him go for quite a bit after he finished. But hey, he knows how to suffer, right? He's disappointed of course, because had he kept pace he would've been in the top twenty. But I am proud.
SOOOOO. That was the day.
My stats were:
4/94 AG, 10/279 for women, 126/705 overall. 7:35 pace. 2:01:12.
For that course? I'll take it.