The Black Cat 20 mile road race was a change of pace and temperature. In came the cold and wind on Saturday. Single digits with the wind chill? Nick Taormina and I talked about the approach and expectations. He was going to take 6:30 pace out for the first 10 mile and pick it up. I was looking for anything south of seven minute pace and some confidence. We had a few 20 mile runs so far in the past month at 7:24 and 7:21 pace. I would not say those gave me any confidence other than I can cover 20 miles.
As last year, I broke it down into quarters. The first quarter was feeling out the legs without concern for pace as I ran to Devereaux Beach in Marblehead and turned around to hit a head wind. Splits were 6:42, 6:40, 6:47, 6:34, 6:44. I got on the heels of a decent pack of six that included Brian Tinger and Mike Paulin into the wind. This contingent had a mission but it did not include Tinger and I as the pace quickened down Derby Street in Salem. I took my first gel from my pocket and got a bottle of water from the water stop after 8 miles. I would carry that bottle through 11 miles.
It looks like I ran 1:07:34 as I passed the half way point and headed out for the second 10 mile loop. The second quarter of the race had mile splits of 6:38, 6:43, 6:38, 6:57, 6:52. Brian Tinger and I were still keeping company. I took my two Hammer Endurolytes capsules before 11 miles with the water bottle I kept from 8 miles. A few minutes later, I tossed the water to the opposite side of the road next to Salem State. The bottle cap popped off on impact but the bottle settled nicely on the sidewalk in case I needed it on the way back before mile 16.
Back into Marblehead, I got a chance to see the front of the race coming at us on the approach of Devereaux Beach. Nick was running very well in 4th place. Tinger and I took turns fighting the wind going back into Salem as we passed mile 15. The splits for the third quarter of the race were 7:05, 6:52, 6:54, 6:45, 7:06. Mile 16 took us past Salem State. I did not want to reach for the water on the sidewalk for fear of cramping up. It was a mile later on Lafeyette Street last year where I started to have leg cramps.
So far all was good for me with Tinger and another runner headed toward the Salem Willows on Derby Street. I could sense that they wanted to pick it up and they did at 18 miles. Then we turned toward Dead Horse Beach. I faced a few gusts of wind that pushed me back. No wonder why the volunteers at the water stop were hunkering down in the SUV. I do not blame them. It was a tough day.
The last two miles had me slowing down and losing pace to Tinger and the other runner. Then the inevitable, calf cramps just before 19 miles. First the left and then the right triggered. I crossed the finish line in 16th place with a time of 2:17:28 (about five full minutes slower than last year, 6:39 pace vs 6:52 pace this year).
The last five mile splits were 7:01, 7:10, 6:53, 7:12, 7:13. I grabbed the medal and ran back to see if I could find Nick who was yelling for me 400m before the finish. I could not find him so I jogged slowly back to the car and got out of dodge. The run did not fill me with much confidence with the calves blowing up. It was reminiscent of how my last three marathons have gone; calf cramps coming at some point, then shuffle to the finish. Thankfully, today was not a day that required another 10K after 20 miles. Looking forward to Boston…….