For 7 of the last 8 years, I’ve run the Uhwarrie 40 miler. See last year’s post here, which has a good synopsis of past results.
This year, with the Run Across Haiti just two weeks out from race day, my coach David had the good sense of talking me out of the 40 and into the 20, though I was really tempted since the Uhwarrie 40 is my favorite race.
Race day came and I went out pretty hard, dropping in behind the lead 6 or 7 guys on the 1st climb but happily settling in there – about where I wanted to be. But within the first 60-90 seconds, I felt really off. My legs ached – the kind of leg ache I often get right before a serious illness such as the flu or the time I got Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. Uh-oh. Within 120 seconds, my stomach turned. Oh man. This was not good at all!
Getting up that climb over the 1st 1.5 miles was tough, and I few people passed me. Once we hit the top and started down, I tried to settle in, but still didn’t feel comfortable. I tried to maintain, but it was a struggle. Between miles 3-8 I estimate at least 20 people went by, I just couldn’t do anything. This was a mental blow and I was really beating myself up. With all the miles I’ve put in for Haiti, why wasn’t I running better? Was I getting sick? Or too old? Or what?
Sometime after mile 9, I finally managed to settle myself down. It took me that long to just let the day be what it was going to be. And then I started passing other runners. Some were the 40 milers who had started an hour earlier, but I also recognized a couple from those 20 people in the 20 miler that had passed me early on. I started being able to run some of the hills without achy legs. I thought my original goals of sub 3:20 and top 10 were gone, but I felt better and better and was happy with that. That continued all the way to the finish, as I ran stronger and stronger, and came in at 3:25. I didn’t know how I had placed since there is a big mix of 20 and 40 milers, but eventually learned I had come in 11th (out of 190 finishers!). So only 5 minutes off my goal and one place out of top 10!
Here’s what I wrote on Facebook later that day:
Uncle Uhwarrie still teaching me lessons after all these years. Today was about running with set expectations vs running with the cards you’ve been dealt on that day. After solid finishes the last two years in the 40, I went in to today’s 20 with high expectations. When I wasn’t meeting them, I didn’t alter plans for far too long. I struggled against what I thought I should be running vs what I was. Finally around mile 9, I settled myself down and went with what I had. Amazingly, or perhaps not so amazingly, I started feeling better. And stronger and stronger. I finished very strong, and not that far off my expected time. As always Uhwarrie was beautiful. And humbling.
I also came to realize I needed to put Uhwarrie in my larger context. It was never an A race, I didn’t do much of a taper (prior weeks of 70, my peek training week, and 50+ miles), and I had not trained for tough single track trails. Haiti is all roads, and I spent almost all of my long runs on roads or the American Tobacco Trail (greenway). Only last weekend did I hit New Hope for 15 miles of single track on Saturday and 5 more on Sunday (as part of a 10 miler with the other 5 on roads).
So… I’m happier than I was. But still wonder what I could do with the right training in the 20! I’ve hit the turn in the 40 in 3:28 (too fast, suffered on the 2nd half big time) and 3:31 (had an ok 2nd half) the last two years when Ive run 7:43and 7:31 respectively.
Here’s the Strava race analysis… This seems to show I ran 55 min the last quarter vs 49 in the 1st, but I think that is a touch off. I forgot to turn off my watch and had to crop the Strava entry, and this also shows half way as past 10 miles, while the Strava distance came in at 19.2. I’m not sure I understand that! Oh well, I’m hoping there’s enough evidence to show I didn’t have a bad positive split, but there’s not enough to say I had an even split either!
And the results:
Now I have a couple of days to recover and then about 10 days to taper for Haiti! And then it’s off to run 230 miles and climb/descent 15k feet in 8 days! So excited!