I headed over to Derry on Sunday for the 14th annual Boston Prep 16 miler. It was my 4th time running the race so I was familiar with the course but as always, I had a tough time (I thought) figuring out what pace to run. I mean, how many 16 mile races are there to compare to? Of course it would also be my longest run of the year (long runs are overrated).
Based on nothing but gut feel I decided I'd try to run between 6:30 and 6:40 pace. If if worked great, if not I'd death march in the last couple of miles. A plan was in place.
Although cold, with temps hovering around the low teens, there was practically no wind so I went with a 2-layer approach. For the most part I was comfortable throughout the race.
After a VERY conservative start (the 1st mile is mostly uphill) I settled into a comfortable pace and was feeling pretty good. Not long after mile 4 I remember getting a little cold and I started to feel some tightening in my lower back. I reached back a few times, trying to massage it as I ran but it didn't seem to help much. About 2/3 up the first significant hill on Kilrea Rd (mile 5 was at the top of the hill) my back went into full spasm which brought me to a screeching halt, bent over in pain, grabbing my back. It was one of those 'take your breath away' spasms, and it was hard to even breath. A group of 4 runners ran by and one asked if I was ok. I could not answer, I was in pain.....and then they kept on running. It was the thought that counts :-)
At the time I really thought I was done for the day. I was seriously looking for a volunteer, someone who could bring me back to the start. Ah but it was not to be. I was in between water stops and there were no volunteers stationed near mile 5. So I did what any runner would do, I started running again. As I would later tell my wife, I have a very high tolerance for pain (or a very small brain).
I tried to relax as best I could and focus on running (and catching the 4 guys who passed me), but it was a challenge. I obviously knew I had 11 miles to go PLUS the biggest hills were yet to come. Did the hill trigger the spasm? Was it the cold? Would the pounding downhills trigger another one? OK, I said I 'tried' to relax. In theory I spent the next 11 miles wondering when my back would spasm again.
I stopped looking at my splits and tried to keep pace with the group in front of me. I wasn't really gaining but I wasn't losing any ground either. The hills were brutal, first just after mile 9 and then a set of them between mile 10 and 12. I couldn't believe how slow I felt going up those *&*^! hills, but I knew once I hit mile 12 it would be mostly downhill all the way to the finish. Shortly after mile 12 I saw Scott Mason (photo credit) and of course picked up the pace for the photo op. Timing worked out well since I had gained on and then passed the group of 3-4 runners I'd been trailing since mile 5. One runner came back and stayed on my shoulder, pushing the pace pretty hard. I was in no mood to race anyone to the finish, especially for 4 miles so I finally asked him his age. Thankfully he wasn't in my age group. If I beat him great, if not, no big deal. He stayed with until the last mile and finally dropped back a bit. The last mile was my fastest of the day at 5:43 pace.
Except for my damn back, I had a great day. I placed 14th overall out of 655 finishers, I was 1st in the 40-49 age group (winning a nice 32oz jug of pure NH maple surup) and I beat my PR by more than 2 minutes.
Yesterday I ran 16 miles (20 if you include the warmup and cooldown runs with JJ)....today I can barely sit because my freakin back hurts so much. The good news is my legs feel great!
Splits for the day:
Mile 1: 6:54 (all up hill)
Mile 2: 6:20
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:21
Mile 5: 6:46 (back spasm)
Mile 6: 6:20
Mile 7: 6:28
Mile 8: 6:01
Mile 9: 6:34
Mile 10: 6:48 (hill)
Mile 11: 6:55 (hill)
Mile 12: 7:16 (hill)
Mile 13: 6:20
Mile 14: 6:08
Mile 15: 6:19
Mile 16: 5:43
Finish Time: 1: 43:35 (6:29 pace)
Complete results can be found here.
Fellow blogger Scott Mason made the trip up from RI to take some incredible photos of the race. Check out his work here.