Sunday, January 25, 2009

DuEl Ferries

On Saturday I met the GRC crew for an easy (although we dipped to 6:0X pace at one point) 10 miles. Not much to report here, HOWEVER…

On Sunday, I met a cluster of GRCers (Alex, Melissa, Kelzie, Caroline, Patrick’s Reaves and Murphy, Bain, Ernst, Matias and someone else whose name escapes me) at Edwards Ferry. Edwards Ferry was an old ferry crossing in the late 18th and early 19 century; one of only a few crossings between Maryland and Virginia. Now it’s simply a “slam dunk” place to run. The intention was to run the “Dual Ferries” loop which I discovered few years ago when I was bored one day. It’s a near-perfect 10 mile loop entirely on natural terrain. The run heads north from Edwards Ferry along the quiet C&O Canal Towpath for about 5 miles. In the summer this section is 100% shaded and in the winter, with the canopy gone, the sun shines through. It also provides a nice relief from the wind. After 5 miles you hit Whites Ferry. This car ferry is still operational. From here we swing back south along River Road, a dirt road that rolls past bucolic pastures and farm homes. Eventually, 5+ miles later, we end up back at Edwards Ferry. Then we do it again!

Today we kept the pace fairly relaxed for the first 5 miles. The weather was colder than most of us anticipated (25 degs) but the bright sun warmed our bones on the backstretch. We began to pick the pace up a little and then got exponentially faster as we rounded our way back to Edwards Ferry. We stopped briefly to take a slurp of Gatorade® and check our clocks – 1:07:30. 6:41 pace for 10.1 (6:21s for the back 5+). Our pack for the past 7 miles or so consisted of Matias, PMurphy, PReaves, Bain and me. As we ran down the towpath for the second time, the pace began to quicken. I wanted to keep it easy since we still had 9 miles to go so I ducked in behind the rest of the guys. After about 10 minutes of 6:10 pace my stomach began to hurt. I tried to not think about it but soon I was hurting bad. I drifted further off the pack and wondered what I’d do. I remembered the porta-john just a mile away and thought to make it there, then make good use of it, before surging again to catch the pack (I told them to go ahead). I began to think how this exact same scenario could hit me next time I had a race longer than 10 miles (as if did at Philly this past September) so this was actually good practice. I was also encouraged by US marathoner Josh Cox’s performance last week in which is set the American 50k record…AFTER two trips to the bathroom. After a few minutes I emerged from the rest room and immediately turned on my engines. I hit 6:00 pace but soon saw the rest of my friends waiting at Whites Ferry (someone else was using the bathroom). The four of us regrouped (PMurphy had turned around earlier because he was running only 16) and headed down River Road. I shouted “20 minutes of pain and then we can rest” and with that the race for “Duel Ferries” was on. I turned the corner and surged ahead, but Reaves answered my move and surged himself. We were flying. Superfast. Bain and Matias were somewhere behind us. This is where things get tough in the marathon and I had to start getting tough. Both Bain and Reaves and dropped me at Boston so I needed to learn from them. Suddenly, Bain came storming up to my side…then kept going. I was already falling apart. Bain and Reaves ran stride for stride and I gradually fell back. “Get tough” I told myself and then threw in a couple of surges. I eventually walked the pair back down and together we raced across “Kansas” (the part of the loop which looks...well, like Kansas – think about the crop dusting scene in North by Northwest). There is nothing around but a turf farm. No trees, no shade, just a dusty dirt road with power lines. I looked up and saw Bain flying. He was running well under 5:30 pace. Reaves struggled to stay in contact and I waffled behind. I had never seen Bain run so strong. Again, I surged and caught Reaves, but he wouldn’t let me on his shoulder. So we fought tooth and nail like two prize fighters wailing on each other until we again caught Bain. By now we were running 5:15 pace. Together we hit the “shut-it-down-turn”. After 3.7 miles of beating each other up and literally running our legs into the ground, we eased up and jogged it in. We covered that 3.7 in 20:45…or 5:32 average.

I write as if this was a race. Well it was and it wasn’t. The Dual Ferries Loop has also been coined The “Duel” Ferries Loop since a race, for better or worse, in the last 10 miles, always ensues. It’s a place to gage your strength/speed over different parts of 20 miles. In retrospect today we kept it rather reserved (overall). Miraculously we’ve covered the entire loop faster two other times before.

I finished the week with 91 miles…the most since March of last year. It was a tough week with a good workout and a hard long run. My hip seems okay but I need to watch it.

I am unequivocally in the best shape of my life.

“Without suffering we know neither our limitations, nor ourselves"- Leo Tolstoy

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