20 people ?
I started hauling ass up through the ranks. My 'don't look back' rule had not served me well as far as a bathroom break went. I still had the guy in orange and the guy in blue and white in my sights, but they were pretty far off, and my immediate goal was to undo the damage my bladder had caused.
I caught the first fifteen, and I have to be honest, I was a little demoralised that there were so many more people hanging off my back. Worse, I had to work pretty damn hard to move back up and my whole plan was to not work particularly hard, but as I had in recent races, simply hang on, wait, then move up as people wore out.
I caught the last four guys. They were all post-college guys in their twenties, nine plus miles into the race and chatting it up, which was funny to me, but probably normal for them. One of the guys said that he'd run at UNH (New Haven). I otherwise would not have interjected myself into the conversation, as that would have been rude (and I had no desire to talk, another theme that would re-occur yet again). We talked about UNH's desire to move up to D one among other things. We ran as a group to the turn-around, and then started picking people off. At the same time, by the time we got to fourteen, the four-man group had split, with two in front, one in no man's land, and the other off the back. I tried to tuck in with the front two but they were setting a nice pace that was more than I had left in me.
We were all picking other people off. My left quad, or whatever that muscle on the front of your thigh is, was starting to hurt. With a long run of 90 minutes going into the race, I expected some things to ache a little. My left calf hurt, and my right knee hurts. But there were no bio-mechanical shortcomings in my stride, my breathing was good, the cliff blocks were helping me. I was dumping at least half a cup of water on my head at every stop, which I'd starting doing at mile 2- that's right, I went front to back pouring cold water on my head. At fourteen, I broke the race down into three mile segments and felt I ran 14-17 very well, and was running a good 17-20
But people were coming back to me. I took advantage of every 5-10 foot rise in the terrain and I felt really good- until some guy in yellow and black went breezing by me past 19. I thought he was going to simply bury me, and although he'd built up about 10 seconds at 20 miles, he never really pulled away.
I passed twenty, and except for this guy, I was feeling good. Here I was, untrained, cruising. No meltdown, no breakdown, no sick stomach or light-headedness or just plain feeling like shit. The course got as hilly as it was going to get and there was a little wind, but I could have cared less. People were coming back to me. I started using the guy who'd passed me as a barometer of my own pace, just as a check.
The older guy in the headband came back to us. The guy in blue and white, eventually even the guy in orange, who'd been out of site. Down by the field they use for Capital City, we went by a guy running in memory of an Iraq war soldier who'd been killed and he was doubled over. I'd just completed a pass of the guy in yellow and black and I clapped the guy that was struggling on the back and said 'You can do. you're doing great.' He started to run again, although it might not have lasted long.
I kept pulling away or closing ground on the short little hills.
My last pass was a woman just after the railroad tracks at mile 25. Someone was running with her and we exchanged 'you're doing greats' and then it was the long haul over that last mile, around the park, up the hill as you're doing it. I felt like I was blasting my way to the chute and who was there in the chute ? Marty Schiavone, with nothing but happy things to say and Margit and Ian were there as well.
I ran 1:27 and change going out, and 1:29 and change coming back, and wow, I was actually happy with that. Now if you'd told me I'd be running (and winning) a 5K the next day, I'd have laughed out loud