Saturday morning marked the 20th running of the Trailbreaker Marathon. I signed up for this race to use it as a training run, but as it grew near, I was itching to see what I could do. A little speed work never hurt anyone, right? This is a pretty small race, with only 143 runners taking on the full marathon. There is also a half marathon and 5k, which both drew record numbers this year.
The marathon is mostly on a paved bike path, but for about 6 miles it veers into the Ice Age trail, and the turnaround point is at the top of Lapham Peak tower.
(photos from when Steve and I did our trail run together back in January)
I have been running this section of the Ice Age Trail all winter, so I knew exactly what to expect during the race. Start time was 8am and the race was only about a 15 minute drive from home, so I slept in until 6am. I did the usual coffee and toast with peanut butter, banana, honey and cinnamon. I gathered all of my stuff and left the house around 7:10. Parking was easy right by the recreation center where packet pickup was. I got my stuff in no time, dropped my bag back at the car, and waited inside for the start.With about five minutes to go, I headed outside with a few friends. We lined up, listened to the national anthem, and it was time to go.
I settled into a comfortable pace pretty quickly, and was really pleased with averaging around 8:10 per mile over the first twelve miles. I had taken Thursday and Friday as total rest days, and was hoping that was enough to put a little spring in my step after last week’s 50k. The first eleven miles are flat and paved, and I was plugging along. Around mile seven:
I did something for this race that I have never done before, and that is listen to music. I do in training about half of the time, but never in a race. I knew that this course was going to be really boring though, and that there would not be a lot of people around. I was really glad to have the distraction. For the first eleven miles I listed to the Bon Iver album on repeat. It is really mellow and sort of soothing, perfect for the surroundings.
Once I got onto the Ice Age Trail, I turned it off. I have never run on trails with music because I have never felt the need. It is also narrow and rocky, and I wanted to be able to hear other people coming up behind me. I was able to take off a little bit on this section because I knew the trail and what was coming. I wanted to hold some speed on the flat section before I started climbing. When the hills came, I slowed considerably, especially on the staircase leading up to the base of the tower. I was beat by the time I got up there. Can you tell?
I took my time climbing the tower, rang the bell at the top, and started back down. On the way back the trail was a little more congested with cross traffic, but I settled in behind a couple of guys and moved right along. I think the toughest part of the race was the transition off of the Ice Age Trail and back onto the paved bike path. It felt jarring, and I immediately missed the soft trail under my feet. I knew that the last ten miles were going to be long and boring, so I turned my music back on and set it to shuffle. Around mile 17 and 18 I was getting worried, because 8:30 pace was starting to feel like quite an effort. I made it a point in this race to take in a lot of gel, which I am normally really bad at. I brought six with me with the goal of eating all of them. I ate five, which is still a lot for me. I should have taken one more towards the end, but I just didn’t feel like it.
Just when I thought it was going to be a slog to the finish, I somehow kicked it into gear. It must have been either the music or an energy gel that led to mile 19 clocking in at 7:34. I had my eyes on a woman who had passed me a while back. She was quite a ways in front of me, and I was pretty sure there was no way I could catch her, but I didn’t let her out of my sight. From there, the miles ticked by and I was shocked to be running well under 8:00 pace this late in the race. The last six miles were fun because the marathoners caught up to the half marathoners on the way to the finish. I was able to start picking off a lot of people, which gave me a little boost. With about 1.5 miles to go, I passed the woman I had been chasing and decided I would give it my all to the finish. A couple minutes later I saw another woman that I knew was running the full and snuck by her as well. I finished in 3:36:44, and ended up 4th female overall and 1st in my age group.
That’s only about 7 minutes off of my marathon PR in Boston last year, and that’s with an 11:47 mile climbing up to the tower and running a 50k last weekend. I think I might have to sign up for a fall marathon and see if I can break my PR.
The race helped me finish off the month of March with 271 miles, which is a new record for me. Over the next three weeks I plan to maintain high mileage, which will be capped off with a 35 mile training run on April 21st. From there we are headed on vacation to North Carolina where I will start tapering down for the 50 miler on May 12th. I can’t wait!