Sunday, March 23, 2014

Merge 25K

The Merge 25K was announced in the fall, and is a unique race that runs from Chapel Hill to Durham, in celebration of Merge Records' 25th anniversary.  The course is pretty hilly and I knew I'd be in the midst of Boston training, so I figured it would be a great supported training run, hopefully at marathon goal pace, and I knew it would be good for me to get off of the ATT and work on my hill running.

We did a test run a few weeks ago, and it really didn't go well for me at all.  The hills killed me and I decided to stop at mile 10.  Thankfully Nancy was willing to come back for me with the car, and it all worked out in the end, but I struggled to run at 8:30 pace and dropped 2/3 of the way in, so I was pretty skeptical about my ability to actually run the whole thing at or faster than MGP.  Plus my legs were feeling pretty heavy after a decent training week (the last 7 days included over 30 miles of running and 60+ miles on the bike).  On top of that, I spent the entire day before the race at the NCAA tournament in Raleigh and the last game finished around midnight, so I finally got to bed around 1am before waking up at 4 to take my dad to the airport.  So between the miserable test run, tired legs, and lack of sleep, I was extremely apprehensive going into the race.

Pre race RUN DRM tattoo modeling with Jennifer and Karen
Photo credit: Bull City Running Company
Originally my plan was to try to run at marathon goal pace (7:45), but my coach suggested running in the low 7:30s, so I figured I would shoot for something in the 7:30-7:45 range.  Sara had a similar plan, so we started out together.   We failed to get in a warm up, other than jogging off to find a bathroom spot (apparently it's not a race unless I pee in the woods), so we took the first couple miles pretty easy (7:50-7:48) before picking it up a little (miles 3-8 just under 7:35 pace).  Around halfway, Sara picked up the pace a little and I decided to keep steady in the 7:30s, so I was then running solo.  My legs didn't feel awesome, but I felt much better than I'd expected and was pleasantly surprised to be holding pace through the hills.

I've been struggling with race nutrition lately, as my last few attempts at mid-race gels have led to an upset stomach.  It's not a big deal for half marathons or anything shorter, which I can get through without taking anything, but I know that I will need to eat something at Boston and need to get this figured out.  Honey stinger chews (which size and texture-wise are comparable to gummy bears) have worked well for me on the bike, so I took some of those along for this run.  I ate one at miles 8, 9, and 10 and planned to eat one per mile for the rest of the race.  I was also drinking a few sips of water at all of the aid stations, which were about 2-3 miles apart.  Around mile 11, my stomach started acting up and the last chew and bit of water came back to haunt me.  With that out of the way, I felt a little better, and got back to the business of running 7:30s.  Unfortunately that was short-lived, and I got sick again at mile 13.3 (I remember checking my watch and thinking if only it was a half marathon, I'd be done).  I could tell there was a lot more to come, and my focus shifted to just getting through the last 2 miles so I could get off of the course and avoid massive public vomiting (no one wants to see that).  Through the last miles, I found that the fastest pace I could run without jostling my stomach too much was around 8:10.  My legs were feeling ok and cardio-wise I felt great, so it was hard to just watch the people around me pick up their paces to finish strong and not be able to go any faster.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I ran out of the finisher area and found a secluded spot to get everything out that wanted to come out.  I'll spare you the further details, but I did finally feel a little better...  And my official time was under 2 hours, averaging 7:43 despite the slower miles at the end, so overall I'm pretty happy with the run.

One of the things I'd been most looking forward to about this race was the post-race party (I do love a good post-race party!), but unfortunately I couldn't stand the thought of eating or drinking anything.  I did my best to at least get through a beer, but two sips in I had to give it to Sara.  So disappointing!  It was a great race though - the course was pretty (despite the hills), it was well organized (of course, Bull City Running Co is the best), the weather was perfect, and the post-race festivities were great.  I just wish I could have enjoyed it more.

Despite the plan to stick around and enjoy the afternoon, we left right after the awards ceremony because I was still feeling pretty bad.  It was a ginger ale and crackers kind of day, I was running a slight fever, and had a few dizzy spells.  I was feeling a bit better the next morning and was scheduled to run an easy hour, but called it a day after two miles when I felt like I might throw up again.  I guess the good news is that the issues during yesterday's race might not have been due to the race nutrition.  I think this is the first time I've ever been happy to have a stomach bug, but it at least it means there's still hope for my marathon nutrition plan!

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