Merge Records 25k Race Recap

Back on March 22, I raced the Merge Records 25k, a one-time race to mark Merge Records's 25th anniversary. I was excited to run a point-to-point course from Chapel Hill to Durham, and took advantage of the unusual race distance to get in a supported long run without feeling pressure to "RACE race" it.

We got on shuttles in Durham, which drove us to the start. Once there, we had more than enough time for coffee, talking with strangers, and sitting around. Instead of the typical, horrible Jock Jams fare, a DJ was playing music from Merge artists. Maybe because of that, or because the race was small and chill, I felt really relaxed and happy. I hadn't worked out a goal pace or time for this race, so I decided to treat it as a GMP long run. The problem, of course, is that I don't really have a "goal marathon pace, so I further abstracted my race plan to "just running sort of hard-ish, but consistent splits."

I also hadn't paid much attention to the course. I looked at it just once when it first came out, curious about which roads we'd be running on, and checked the elevation the week before. I was very happy to see that it looked like a net downhill, but it didn't really register just how few flat parts there were. At the start, someone told me that they heard the course was "really tough," which made me a bit nervous but excited. After all, I wanted to get in a tough long run before Kentucky. 

I laughed when I checked the elevation chart later: the actual hills felt like nothing compared to that last little hill before the finish.

I laughed when I checked the elevation chart later: the actual hills felt like nothing compared to that last little hill before the finish.

The start was wonderful: No fanfare, no songs, just a quick "Go!" and we were off. I started with James and Jamie. James and I parted in the first mile, and I lost Jamie around mile 4 or so during one of the steep downhills. She's a machine up the uphills but I'm reckless down the downhills, and there were lots of downhills. At a few points, especially that long downhill in mile 6, I thought I would lose control of my legs and tumble over myself. 

I never really made the decision to not use my Garmin, but after running a half dozen or so miles and realizing I hadn't checked it at all, I decided that not looking at was working for me and continued running by feel for the rest of the race. I'm glad I did, because I slowed a lot on the uphills and, had I known, I might have gotten discouraged. My Garmin shows I struggled up some of the hills, but my experience of the race was that I was running really comfortably, just chilling, even up the steepest parts.

Around the 15k, the crowd started to thin out. And in the last 6 miles or so, I started passing what felt like a lot of people. I wish I could say I'm motivated by something cool and zen-like, like the pursuit of runner's high, but the truth is that nothing in the world motivates me more than passing people in the back half of a race. 

It was a small race with only about 800 runners, so I thought I might have a chance of breaking the top 10 in my AG (spoiler alert: nope!), so I zeroed in on whomever was in front of me and did my best to go after them.

I absolutely loved running down Duke and looping around to Motorco. I finished as strong as I could, then ran back along the side of the course to cheer James up the last hill (I had missed Jamie's finish when I was getting finisher's food/pint glass). The sun came out and it was great to see so many neighbors cheering everyone on. We (and everyone else, seemingly) stuck around afterward for food truck brunch and music. 

I loved this race and I'm bummed that it probably won't happen again (though there was joking about putting on a marathon next year, for their 26 (.2) anniversary.

I'm so happy with my race and so glad the course forced me to run up and down all of those hills. (I have gotten pretty good at finding hill-free routes.) I stuck to a medium-ish effort and was pleasantly surprised by my time and my splits, on what was, despite the net downhill, still a pretty challenging course.

I had been playing with the idea of ~8:40 as my "marathon goal pace," so it was a dream to see that I had, without any Garmin-checking, run a strong 8:40-ish pace 25k four or five weeks out from race day in a race setting. Here's to hoping I see ten or so more of those on April 19!


KDF Marathon Training Weeks 14 & 15 (3 weeks to go)

My "marathon panic" takes the form of picking one tiny detail to obsess over until I JUST CAN'T WITH IT anymore. Last time I zeroed in on worrying about my throwaway clothes (of all things). I was worried I'd be cold, but I see now that I should have just indulged myself by getting the hugest, warmest thing I could think of (an old sleeping bag, maybe) and been done with it. 

This time I spent like 6 weeks worrying about my shoes. I rambled about this in my last post and I've been similarly ramble-y and nervous IRL.

I interrupted perfectly normal conversations to force my nervousness on other people. 

And sought the wisdom of other runner friends.

Finally I caved and bought them. such relief! I've stopped bothering everyone about it. 

About the past two weeks: These were the last two weeks before taper and my plans to get in high mileage just fizzled out. I flew to DC for work this past Tuesday morning and had to fly home the same night. I ate two meals at the airport and spent the time in between trudging around in the sleet. James's parents visited, and there was a crisis in my family that used a lot of my emotional bandwidth. Overall these past two weeks were emotional and exhausting. A few times I didn't run because I needed to do work; other times I was just drained and skipped it.

It's been too wet to get in much riding. The weather means that the footing is bad, and also that Hudson has had a hard time keeping shoes on. Last Thursday it was dry and beautiful; I saw over a dozen deer emerging from the woods to graze near the horses. He had shoe that seemed loose, so I decided to just work at the walk and trot. Still, he managed to throw a different shoe while I was on him. 

Week 14

Week 14

Week 15

Week 15

Looking at those two weeks makes me feel pretty disappointed in myself. 33 miles in my "peak week?" I don't know. I generally hate when people make a bunch of excuses about why their training isn't going well when they're just not putting in the work. I know I'm not putting in the work, but does saying, "Running isn't my priority right now," count as an excuse? 

Look at how responsible I am.

Look at how responsible I am.

  • Best running-related thing that happened: A tie between getting to race both weekends, and hitting my highest-ever mileage month (148 miles!).
  • Worst running-related thing that happened: My running partner found out she has a stress fracture. Kentucky was going to be her first marathon. Her MRI is tomorrow and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's anything but a stress fracture.

KDF Marathon Training Weeks 12 & 13 (5 weeks to go)

Blogging was the first thing to fall by the wayside over the past two weeks. Work was busy, I was in Texas bridesmaid-ing part of last week, and competing goals took their toll. But the training must go on...

I don't remember many details about the past two weeks of running, so rather than tediously trying to reconstruct, I'll just leave these here:

Week 12

Week 12

Week 13

Week 13

The main takeaways are 1) I had an absolutely awesome 20-miler (my first of two); and 2) I felt kind of awful the rest of the time.

Re: #2: Nearly every week this cycle, I've had nagging twinges in my calves, Achilles, shins, hips, and ankles (hm, that sounds worse when I list them). And the weather, while in no way "bad" on the scale of what people are trudging around in up North, is sloppy enough that it's provided plenty of convenient excuses for me to skip the track most weeks. But mostly, I'm just tired. I don't really understand why because I'm not even training "that hard." Things just aren't clicking...and there are only two more weeks until taper. I begin speculating: Maybe things aren't clicking because I'm not training "hard." Should I, even though I feel like total garbage, push through and train harder/better/faster/stronger? Or is that crazy?

But then, something magical happened that broke me out of my guessing & second-guessing. On Thursday before I had to get on a plane, I cranked out one 8:55-9:05-minute mile after another on my first 20-miler of this cycle. It was easy. I felt wonderful. (Well, at the end I felt pretty bad, but that's okay.)

That 20-miler was the first real thing I can point to as evidence that I might actually be getting better/faster/stronger. Maybe a PR in Louisvile on 4/19 will really happen.  

After Thursday I entered a happy post-run haze that only an exceptional 20-miler can bring. I feel so much more confident than I did before. 

The only thing I have to compare to is NYCM training. Last fall, I dutifully did my speedwork and tempo runs, and I got a new 10K PR (47:33). However, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that, if I can do only one hard workout a week, I'd be better served by forgetting about speedwork and getting in as many GMP miles as I can. I mean, this is about as marathon-specific training as things can get.

Coming up this week: The Merge 25k this weekend, which I was hoping to race-race before I realized it's way too close to marathon day for a 15ish mile race. Fun run it is!

Other miscellaneous marathon. thoughts: I simply CAN'T DECIDE what to do about my shoes. I have a pair of Brooks Adrenalines (my NYCM shoe) with 300 miles, my Brooks Ravennas with 400 miles (not a real option; they feel pretty done to me), and my Saucony Guides, which I love, but have 200 miles on them now. I will probably put another 150+ miles on them before marathon day, and I really don't want to race in a shoe with 350 miles on them. I guess I should just buckle down and get a new pair of Guides.

So, is there anyone else out there who votes that one good 20-miler trumps 13 whole weeks of mediocre running?