Well the last race of the year is in the books.
The Stone Cat 50 and marathon in Ipswich, MA are beautiful races presented by Gil’s Athletic Club. For the past 5 years or so I’ve been interested in this race but failed to sign up quick enough. Last year I had the opportunity to pace Zak through his fantastic 50 finish. Getting a preview of the course definitely solidified the desire to experience these trails again, for a little longer.
There were five weeks after the Maine Marathon to get acclimated with technical trail running again after running mostly smooth trails and roads all Summer. With the Vermont 100 70% dirt/paved roads I spent the five weeks after the Peaks 100 focusing solely on roads smoother surfaced trails. For two months after the VT100 it was all roads and speed, no hills, in preparation for the marathon.
I thought this set me up real nice for Stone Cat and set a plan in place to ramp the mileage back up and hit some hills. However my body was just tired, and I was okay with it. Most attempts at a long run simply ended short and my average weekly mileage was about 35. I would say I took great comfort in not “pushing” myself for Stone Cat and just looking forward to going out and having fun. So the training became moot, and I rested and recovered whenever my body told me to taking solace in the fact that enough had been done this year to get me through it.
We started at 6:30, a bit later than anticipated, in relatively chilly 34 degree weather, but with comfortably high humidity. The Trail Monsters and friends were there in force with a bunch running and a healthy group supporting. Ian, Nathan, George, Ann, Rick, Bob, Julia, Danielle, Jeff and Kevin were all running the marathon, with Joe running the 50 as well. Alison, Francesca, Val, Mindy, David, and Ryan were crewing, cheering and cooking.
The first half mile was great catching up with Joe while moving steadily in the procession of headlamps. My thought process was to stay between 110 and 120 minutes each lap and either have something in the end to push, or have a cushion to make it under 8 hours. Part of me wanted to run 9 minute average throughout the race but I wasn’t real sure that was possible. For some reason the trail technicality seemed a bit trickier than I anticipated and a few of the inclines felt tough.
Dave Roberts was on the course cheering for Julia and graciously grabbed my jacket, headlamp, and hat after 5 or six miles. I didn’t bother stopping at the well-equipped aid stations and maintained a steady pace. Needless to say I was surprised when a few 50 milers passed me like I was walking. The first two were from Canada and it was their first 50. The next guy was working on a PR and moved fluidly through the course. The final gent was super nice and flew by me like I was taking a nap. More than happy with my pace and plan I gave no chase and settled in to enjoy the morning.
We all definitely lucked-out with the conditions this year and were able to mostly keep our feet dry with very little water and mud on the course. The first lap was over in around 1:51 and after a quick run through the aid station with Alison and the TM’s supporting it was back on the course.
The second lap consisted of staying in-the-groove, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and feeling the fun, rolling course. Pretty bogs with vibrant green lichen, a small pond visible just through a grove of trees, splashes of color around every corner, and smiling spectators made for a wonderful run. I was passed early on by a 50 miler and his pacer moving easily, and sounding fresh, but was still happy with my movement. My cousin Jeff, running the marathon, caught up to me giving us some time to chat and enjoy the woods together. He took off after a bit and cruised away with some healthy determination to finish strong. He ended up getting 5th!
Lap two ended after about 1:50 with a total time of 3:41 or so and the start of lap three began with some stiffening legs. At one point I noticed a few pebbles in my right shoe and focused on them. They danced around between my toes and rotated positions from front to back of foot. I briefly thought about removing them, but they didn’t seem to cause any harm, and were actually fun to visualize. Rolling around in the cozy, warm New Balance MT110′s, like taking a spin in a kids rock tumbler.
Somewhere in the middle of the third lap I ran in to the guy who was working on his PR and unfortunately he was having pain issues with his entire legs. I offered him a few S!Caps but he was just going to walk it in, and I think he ended up stopping after three. More potatoes, a refill of water and another high-five with the Stone Cat mascot and lap three was done. Not too sure but I think lap three ended after a total of 5:34, or somewhere around 1:52 for the lap. I sucked down a shot of Yerba Mate’ and hit the trail to finish it off.
Lap four was tough, of course. I was definitely feeling the mileage and not quite sure I’d get under 8 at this point. My heart rate was way up and running every hill was no longer an option. It was power hiking and working the flats as best I could, making up as much time on the downhill sections.
Luckily Dave had asked if I wanted a pacer and I graciously accepted his offer. He said he’d catch-up, and after missing me at a few of the trail intersections we finally ran together. He was fabulous, with high energy and a whooping call every time we came up on runners. Somewhere along the way we passed a few of the people who’d bested me in the first lap. Toward the end, with a mile or so left in the race, Dave and I both noticed a 50 miler a few hundred yards ahead of us. It was go time. We dropped the hammer and caught him with about a half mile to go. I definitely feared collapsing at this point and felt a couple “warning” twinges in my legs reminding me to keep it safe.
The end finally came, and Dave and I cruised in to the field with whoops and hollers all around. 7:37:xx, about 2:03 for the lap. It was a fabulous day with the sun finally out and a great course set by G.A.C. I really appreciate Alison and Francesca’s help the Trail Monsters support, Dave’s companionship, and my cousins camaraderie. It’s time to take a month off and let the body recuperate for next year.