Tuesday, March 9, 2010
What is happiness? The feeling that power increases - that resistance is being overcome. - Nietzsche
Ever come across a challenge and think "never". Never could I do that. Never would I attempt that. Never should an otherwise rational, sane human being, subject himself to the physical and mental abuse of said challenge. I woke up with nervous excitement on Sunday morning to head out and tackle such a challenge - Stu's 30k road race.
Every runner in Central Massachusetts should know about Stu's. It has a long, storied 31-year history. Each year, in weather conditions ranging from snow squalls to downpours to wind gusts of over 20 mph, this race is run over the "rolling hills" around Wachusett Reservoir, starting and ending in Clinton, MA. It's a perfect training race for Boston, as it usually occurs in the first week of March.
This year, we were blessed with fantastic weather for the race. It was mid-40s and mostly sunny, with some wind gusts coming off the water that were pretty strong but manageable. The weather, however, is only one aspect of this race. This course is tough. With a total climb of 1150ft and elevation change of of close to 2300ft, you could say there are some hills.
My main goal was simply to finish. This race represents the longest distance that I have run to date, since getting back into running last year. For the metrically challenged, 30k == 18.64 miles. My previous long distance effort was last week's 15.25 mile effort. So I headed out somewhat slow.
I recall that when I looked at the elevation profile before the race, I was worried a bit about the third mile. In actuality, this wasn't so bad. I ran into Jenni and the kids between miles 4 and 5. It was the first of a handful of great morale boosters. They were the best cheerleaders, yelling "Go Daddy!" whenever they saw me. It brought a boost to my step and a smile to all the runners around me.
From mile 5 to 7 I ran with a couple of women that had recently run the Half at Hampton. We chatted about the upcoming races for the season, and I got some great suggestions on some summer races. I let them go ahead as I was starting to feel like I needed to save some gas.
Boy was I right. Miles 7-10 were killer. I thought the hill on Route 140 was never going to end. By the time we got to the little switch-back road, I was never so ready to stop climbing. Unfortunately, the rolling hills just kept coming, and coming, and coming. At about mile 12, I realized I was tracking at a sub-10 minute mile. This was was faster than my target (of say between 10:30-10:45), so I decided to just reign it in a bit. I stopped whenever I saw my cheering squad. It was great to get to say hi, have some water or a GU, and just take a bit of a break. I walked through the rest of the water stations.
Luckily, the hills started to let up after the 20k mark, and the course began a descent around the eastern side of the reservoir. The last two hills were killers, especially after 17 miles, but I'm happy to report that my strategy worked - I had enough gas left to run up both, passing some runners turned walkers.
As I made it toward the finish, I felt pretty strong. I could have turned it on a bit, but decided to just cruise in. I finished in 3:17, right around what I guesstimated I would do.
When I first decided to run this race, I wasn't sure how I would handle it. After my success at Hampton, I was very confident. In the two weeks in between, I started to get a bit nervous, as I read race reports and starting looking at the course in more detail. I was nervous up until the start. After miles 7-12, I felt sort of defeated, but slowing down when I saw the kids and at each water station replenished my body, mind, and spirit, and allowed me to overcome resistance. As I ran up the final ascent, I felt strong. Empowered.
Another goal met. Another challenge tackled. I felt stronger while overcoming resistance. Seems like happiness to me.
I'll leave you with a collage of pics from the race, including the best cheerleaders ever.
Until next time: run, run, run.