Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 Merrimack River Trail Race

Or alternately titled The Year of Expected Disappointments. Seems contradictory because I'm going into every race with the right expectations, but I'm leaving every race still disappointed. This shouldn't be happening; there should be no disappointments. I know where I am right now, and it's not where I was a year ago. Not even close. But I cannot help but be disappointed. (The only exception to this would be my 5K PR at An Ras Mor; that must have been a fluke.) Merrimack was no exception. I went into it knowing I wouldn't run it as fast as last year, but seeing as I got off course and lost time last year, I thought my time would be closer than it was. But then I have to remember that I was faster last year, and Merrimack was one of my best efforts of 2015.

I arrived pretty early to the race and caught up with my CMS teammates, Jenn Brooks and Regina Loiacano, for an easy 2-mile warm up on the course. The temps weren't too bad, but for some reason, we all felt cold. 2015 was run in May in much warmer temps, but the course was pretty much the same. A little muddy the first (and last) 100 yards with the rest of the course basically bone dry. Once we were done, I went back out for a short 1/2 mile run to avoid the porta potty line, came back to the car to finish getting ready and made sure John was all set. Then I headed to the start line. It was a stacked field for both men and women, so I knew there would be no podium for me today, but that wasn't my main focus anyway. My goal was finishing with a race I was happy with. Looking around as the RD gave out race instructions, I could see SO many familiar faces in the crowd; I couldn't believe how many people I've gotten to know in the last year who were lined up there. And so many impressive people, too!! I felt honored to be racing amongst all of them.

It was time to line up and at, "Cayuga!" we were off. The course immediately goes into a narrow, muddy path that kind of forces you to be stuck wherever you are, but it doesn't last long as the field opened up fast. Jenn and Regina shot out ahead, and I would only come within a few steps of them very briefly over the course. Kim Nedeau, who would go on to win for the women, and break the CR, ended up in front of me. She's a bit tentative on technical footing, so I passed for a very short time before the course smoothed out and she was gone, only to be seen again when she was on her way back to the finish as I was on my way to the turnaround. I ended up right behind Kehr Davis, whom I have never beaten, and Ginger Reiner, who schooled me twice in the 3000m on the indoor track this year. Kehr was running the perfect pace, and it reminded me of 2014 Roaring Falls when I ran the entire race the exact same distance behind, with her never gaining much distance on me and me never catching up. Both Kehr and I passed Ginger on the first downhill, and our positions pretty much stayed set from this point on for the entire race. Kehr briefly got in front of Jenn at one point, but she then fell back to running in front of me, never gaining, never losing for the entire rest of the race. She was good to have there, for sure, because she was pulling me along, and I never felt like I was slacking once. I truly gave 100% of what I have right now, and for that I should be satisfied, but it hurt so much more. When we reached the power lines, I couldn't believe how much extra effort I had to put into it to get up that steep hill. I ended up power hiking all of it.

Along the course- Photo by Christian Wiley

Along the course- Photo by Christian Wiley
After we crossed the power lines, I started to get nervous as we neared wherever it was I went off-course last year. I had felt like a total moron for going off-course (I wasn't alone, but still)...until I saw where we went off-course. Where the race course turns a sharp left, the wrong trail continues straight! It really wasn't that dumb of a mistake after all! Fortunately, though, there was no questioning the course this year. They had taped off this intersection, and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I was headed the right direction. It was right around this point where we started to see the lead runners coming at us. I felt like a cheering squad and didn't even have the breath for it. I stayed out of their way the best I could and hoped those behind me would do the same thing. I got to the turn around still really close to Jenn and Regina and directly behind Kehr. I felt good. Ginger and Heather Mahoney weren't too far back from there. Most of the oncoming runners were very courteous and stepped aside, but almost in the same place as last year, I ended up shoulder-checking some woman. I felt bad, since this year it was unintentional, but I had no breath left to apologize and just kept going. I was 7th woman at this point and did not want to lose it. I gave everything I had to keep up with Kehr. Jenn and Regina disappeared quickly, and it pretty much just ended up being Kehr and me for the last 4 miles. The closest runner was a guy maybe 30 seconds back for that entire time. This would be the finish order. Kehr finishing 8 seconds ahead of me in 6th woman, and, me, finishing in 1:10:47 as 7th woman. When I saw the time, I was crushed. I shouldn't have been, but I was! I finished in 1:09:33 in 2015 AFTER going off course, and I still finished 1:14 slower!! I couldn't contain my disappointment, but I quickly let it fade and talked to a few people before heading to the car to check on John.

Coming into the finish. I look weird. Photo by Mike Giberti

I was going to cool down with Spot and Chill, but John said he wanted to join me for a walk. If my kid ever says he WANTS to walk with me, I'll choose that any day over a cool down. We walked Spot and Chill around the buildings and then walked part of the River Trail that wasn't part of the course. No one was on this section, so I was able to let them off leash. When we got back, I changed clothes then headed over for the awards and raffle. Second year in a row to win nothing in the fun raffle!! haha.

I was heading back to my car when all of a sudden to my right in the parking lot were Mike Giberti, Dave Giberti, Heather Mahoney and Scott Mindel all holding up Heady Toppers! I did a quick 90 degree turn and before I knew it, a Heady Topper was placed in my hand. Eric Narcisi must have smelled the Heady from across the lot because he all of a sudden appeared and started drinking with us. My kind of way to end a race. All that disappointment was gone with those brain cells.

Drinking in parking lot

Eric, me, Mike, Heather and Scott
John and I had a gift certificate to redeem from the Snowflake Shuffle, so we stopped at Cactus Jack's in Manchester on the way home. I was starving, but ate way too much food. I could only eat one small thing later on at 10pm. My second burger taco made a second dinner for Sunday night! We had a good time, though.
That mocktail sure resembles a milkshake. Haha

Burger Tacos

When we got home, I took the big dogs up Heavenly Hill. It was so nice out that I hung out on the ledge for awhile. All disappointment from the day's race was gone, and I felt content. It was time to focus on the Boston Marathon, just over a week away. I'm not holding out much hope for a decent performance. I'm in too much pain still, stressed out from my life in general, and I'm just not there yet. If you feel inclined to follow me, though, my bib# is 2634. Athlete Alerts. I'll do the best I have in me now, but I fully expect an expected disappointment.
Heavenly Hill

1 comment:

  1. "Seems contradictory because I'm going into every race with the right expectations, but I'm leaving every race still disappointed."

    It doesn't work that way, as I have discovered in my dotage. After returning from a layoff for whatever reason, you can consciously and appropriately recalibrate your expectations based on realistic self-assessments of fitness and so on, but you can't shake the competitive subconscious imp that continually mutters, "Yeah, but screw realism, you can still run 38:00 for this 10K if you pace it right and bear down and..." You won't usually even be aware of having given this imp's quiet ranting any real acknowledgement, much less credibility, until after you fail to pull of the miracle it's been convincing you that you're capable of.

    Shorter version: Being realistic is advisable for any competitive runner, but reality itself can suck! That's why they have more than one or two races a year, though. :D