My fifth 50K of the year brought me to the scenic surroundings of First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Va. Unlike other races where we would know many of the other participants, this would just be me and my training partner Mo representing our area of NC. The course was mainly hard packed trail, with some rollers here and there, and some nice sandy spots to work the calves! It would be two loops, starting and ending with a 1 mile stretch along a paved road.
I had no real goal for this race, the last official race of my 2013 season, so I was quite relaxed as we took off and headed down the paved road and made our way to the trail. Mo and I had scored an awesome parking spot right at the start/finish line, so all we had to do was literally get out of the car and we were ready to go! I felt good early, so I picked up the pace a little and was running up the rolling hills. The course was not overly technical and rather wide, with only some small stretches of double track. My splits were consistent for the first 10 miles, then paranoia set in and I backed it down a little. The more I race, the more I marvel at how mental running is. For me it is always a constant battle of positive and negative. Trying to stay positive when you are positive and trying to be positive when you have all these negative thoughts swirling around your head and you are not feeling well is always the challenge for me. Trail lesson #1: A battery works off both positive and negative. So can you.
The weather was ideal for running. A little chilly at the start, with a temp of 36 degrees, but it started to warm up nicely. Coming back through the 64th street aid station on the back half of loop one, I took advantage of our drop bag and lost the gloves and beanie, changed shirts and put on my ProCompression visor. I was keeping up with my fluid and fuel intake, taking a gel every 5 miles and refilling my Ultimate Direction hand held at every AS.
The shirt I had changed into had special meaning. I had recently received it from my friend Donald. It was honoring a friend of his, SSG Justin C. Marquez, 1st BN SF, 3rd Group (Special Forces), killed in action Wardak Province, Afghanistan, October 6th, 2012. The loss of this young man's life, combined with the horrific news we were hearing out of Newton, Connecticut, weighed heavily on me throughout the run.
I now found myself finishing up loop one, running along the "spur" trail that lead you back to the starting area. I was really struggling at this point, cursing myself for going out hard. I felt tired. I was now power walking the rolling hills I so confidently ran up on the first loop. I grabbed a PB&J at one of the aid stations and hunkered down for the rest loop two. Trail lesson #2: Be patient. I have been here numerous times. The low spot. Just keep moving and work your way through it. This race would be no exception. After feeling crappy for 5 miles, around mile 20 I was feeling better and picking up the pace. There were several people I was playing "cat & mouse" with for much of the race, and I was now slowly starting to drop them.
I crossed the line in 5:56:59
It was not a PR, but I was very happy with the result. Trail Lesson #3: If you are going to go hard and try for a PR, get the car keys from your partner. Turns out Mo had an off day, so the nice warm, dry clothes I had waiting for me were locked up in her car. Thank goodness they handed out finishers shirts so at least I could changed into something!
I would like to thank Donald for allowing me to honor the memory of his friend. It puts into perspective that the pain and suffering that we experience as ultra runners pales in comparison to the pain, suffering and loss experienced by the friends, family and loved ones of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.