We all know how difficult it is to taper before a main event. During intense training we fantasize about extra free time to nap, read or watch a movie. But once those delicious possibilities finally open up, we fret, finding it disconcerting to break ingrained routine. But before Thatcher Park 50K I experienced no such qualms. I did not stubbornly barrel straight on toward Neverland; I did not mathematically calculate a 30% weekly mileage reduction plan; I did not increase my pasta intake. Instead, I skidded to a complete stop. I had been on the lottery list for an apparently high-demand, aging population medical procedure and my number had been called – three days before my 50K. To add insult to injury the prep was the opposite of carbo-loading, or any kind of eating for that matter, demanding a totally empty stomach.
I did however, manage to fine tune some pre-event practice. After arriving at my last two races literally minutes before the starting gun, I was determined to do better. Sir Thomas, four wheels planted determinedly on the driveway, stood ready for escort service. We opened the door, turned the key and it remained frozen in place. So we piled into my daughter’s car. She had a flat. I ran back inside to call our family mechanic for EMS instructions while Jacky dealt with the tire.
Both vehicles once more operational, we chose Sir Thomas. Jacky drove while I consulted my pre-op instructions, only to discover that my surgeon, who double-dipped home bases had thoughtfully included boarding instructions for Burnt Hills and not Saratoga. Inside the complex, we followed the signs to the Saratoga Day Surgery Center only to be told we needed the side entrance. Once there, we were told that we were in the correct location but that we had to go back where we came from for registration. Hope these weren’t the folks marking our local trails! So, yet another last-minute entrance. But not to worry, the surgeon was late!
With these mishaps out of the way, I did make it to the Thatcher Park registration area with plenty of time to spare. Curiously, I had rabbit-holed into a playback of last year. My drop bag spot was waiting for me, along with the same folks who had staked out similar claims last year. After the crowd sorted themselves out, I found myself once again on the 10K loop with Barbara Sorrell and Phyllis Fox. After the 10K Phyllis went on to her volunteered duties while Barbara and I soldiered on.
But there was one crucial difference. Not having any idea how I would feel, I had decided that the half would be a doable goal. It was actually quite liberating, out for a day in the woods with a come-as-it-may attitude. Barbara and I blazed blithely through the forest, always in sight of the beckoning party streamers: orange for the 5K. yellow for the 10K, yellow/pink for the half and 10K overlapping sections, pink for the half and full and a tantalizing pink/blue for the 50K baby loop. We only took one wrong turn early on when Phyllis tucked in behind a high school boys’ cross-country team who were following their own agenda. We embraced the opportunity to practice our stop/drop & roll technique, affording me a double elbow which surprisingly never hurt.
Despite the 90 degree temperatures, it was a tiptoe through the tulips type day, one which encouraged me to continue on. I should have heeded the warning signs when, near the Hairy Gorilla finish, I stopped to pick up the bananas near the rest rooms, only to discover they were early-fall large yellow leaves. I totally lost it the second time up the 7/20 Mile Hill. My back hurt from my fall and I simply ran out of energy. Still, I could run the downhills just fine so I persisted. And there was no closure at 20 miles, only 13.1 or 26.2 or 50K. I reassured Barbara that I was just fine and sent her on her way and leapfrogged a 50K finisher on the blue/pink trail, Ray Lee guided me through the bell lap, and Barbara was there to carry my stuff back to the car – just as she did last year.
I was pleased as I had lasted longer than I had expected, but with my first half cutoff of slightly over three hours, it would have taken a fortuitous alignment of the planets to have gotten me up to baby loop cutoff even on a good day. Should I just admit defeat or register for the 50K next year? Still, after checking my race log, I realized that my time on a much hotter day, with a lack of pre-fueling, was 15 minutes faster than last year. On further investigation, I discovered that last year’s October Nipmuck Marathon was 4 minutes faster than last year’s August Thatcher. And Nipmuck plays out on trickier, hillier terrain. So perhaps there is hope after all for a 2017 50K!
By laura clark