After every race I make myself notes of what went well and what I should have done differently. Sometimes the should-have-done-differentlys are on the ridiculous side ("don't, on a whim, triple the amount of coffee in your sports drink") and sometimes they're more substantial ("I needed more hill training for this course"). After the Coastal Trail Series Sussex 55km, I am, for the first time, completely at a loss for what I could write in the errors section of the notes. I've spent the better part of the plane ride home thinking about it and the best I could come up with is that I should have taken only half a water bottle instead of a full one at mile 15, since it was only three miles from there to my next support stop. Not exactly a disastrous mistake!!
|prerace sightseeing along the course|
Most of my prerace concerns had to do with weather. The race is over exposed ground right on the coastal cliffs, and it was supposed to be around 30mph winds with gusts up to 50mph. It was freezing cold at packet pickup just before the race start. The guy manning the t-shirt desk wordlessly handed me a size medium. When I asked for a small instead, he gave me an incredulous look and asked if I had seen what the small size was like. I was confused for a second, then realized I was wearing 8 layers of clothing and was not looking particularly small at that moment.
Actually I guess I spent most of the prerace period looking ridiculous. While every other runner wandered around stretching and jogging and generally looking professional and prepared, I was the one wearing overly short pink children's sweatpants and scraping hard caked mud out of my shoe treads with a hotel room key card. One day I will nail the not-looking-ridiculous part of racing, but that day was not yesterday.
After the world's longest briefing, we finally started running. The first section of the race is straight into the wind, over the Seven Sisters hills on the coast. It's beautiful but it was like trying to run into a giant hair dryer--there were a lot of runners chasing after lost hats! Fortunately I had been out here for a training run so I knew what I was in for. I took it pretty easy on this section, then sped up to race effort after 5km when we turned inland and briefly got a bit of shelter. And the reward for surviving each headwind section was an amazing tailwind section, or at least amazing until a sudden tailwind gust nearly blew me off a cliff.
|we ran past the Long Man. it was very long.|
People were friendly at this race, and getting to talk to a few people made the first third go by quickly. Divesh, my support crew extraordinare, met me at several places for water bottle exchanges, and never being far from one of those also made the miles fly by. I also had a nice half mile or so with Alice, who won the accompanying half marathon.
My first 25 miles were basically spent in suspense, wondering if and when I was going to hit a wall or bonk or possibly go insane from the uncomfortably loud roaring of the wind in my ears. But by mile 25, none of those things had happened. I felt oddly... good. Like really good. I was running up hills I would have thought I would have had to walk. I never got nauseated. The math changed from wondering if I had a shot at the course record to knowing that, absent some sudden injury, I was going to get it by a decent margin.
And that was it really! Nothing dramatic to report, just a nice steady race with possibly my most even splits ever. I feel like a completely different runner from my pre-injury year. So what's different than in the past? First, I've sorted out better training through coaching from David Roche. Second, I've put in hundreds of hours of nutrition research and have finally reached what seems like the right answers. Conclusion: it's definitely still possible to get faster when you're old and missing foot parts!