There’s nothing quite like the irritation of having to park roughly a bajillion miles away from the race to fire you up. Granted, I should have gotten to the race earlier to get closer parking. And granted, it wasn’t exactly a bajillion miles away, but it was far, and I was cold, and had to pick up my race packet, and I just wasn’t having it. Not. Having. It.
Despite the parking issues, I made it on time to the Black Cat 20 Miler start. This would be my third 20 mile race ever. The first two were both the Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler, and I approached both with a sense of dread, trepidation and fear – or at least 2 of the 3. Despite the fact that this would be my longest run since the Boston Marathon last April and that my longest run up until this point was 14 miles, I didn’t have that same fear when getting ready to run the race. Buoyed by a good performance the weekend prior, and the encouragement of runner friends such as Thor Kirleis, I toed the line knowing that I could make this happen if I wanted it to happen.
The Black Cat 20 Miler is described as a 2 loop course, which I’m not sure I’d say is…”accurate.” It’s more like a reverse lollipop course that you run twice. Out, back, loop. Out, back, loop. Here’s an elevation chart (and pace chart) of the course taken from my RunKeeper results. As you can see, it was a fairly rolling course. There weren’t really any major hills, just enough to keep things interesting and every now and then give a little downhill break. I tried to keep my pace fairly even though and not overdue it on the downhills.
You may notice a large spike at the 10 mile mark, that’s because I had to change out of my long sleeve shirt and take a call of nature break. Even though it added time to take care of all that, the break it provided probably ended up helping me in the end. I was much more comfortable after changing, which removed the mental distraction I’d been dealing with the first 10 miles.
After the halfway mark the race thinned considerably as the 10 mile racers finished. Apparently that meant that any idea of closing roads or “protecting runners from traffic” was now off the table. This meant having to cross traffic without anyone stopping cars at some points. I began to make my way through the field, enjoying the opportunity to see the lead runners on their way back along the way. Around mile 14, I saw a friend, Shannon, from the Marathon Sports Group Runs on the way back (the turnaround was around mile 4/14.5 mark), which gave me a target to shoot for on the long home stretch. There wasn’t a lot of scenery to speak of on the course, but we did pass a cool wooden ship and the House of Seven Gables, which was neat. Maybe around Mile 19.5, I could sight of Shannon and tried to put whatever hammer I had left down to catch her. I ended up falling just short, but it helped nonetheless to have a real target instead of just the finish line. Ironically I ended up one place ahead of her overall by a few seconds, but we were essentially even.
As I approached the finish line, I was just hoping to see a time starting with a 2, though I was pretty sure there would be a 3 because of the delay halfway through. The time was 2:58:xx, giving me the last jolt I needed to now get my PR down as low as possible, shaving however many seconds off that I could. My final official time was 2:57:34, a 4:18 PR over my best Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler result. To say I am pleased with the result would be a fairly significant understatement.
I feel somewhat compelled to share my secret weapon for this race and my previous race, other than my flashy Greater Lowell Road Runners singlet…the Joy The Baker Podcast. The podcast can only be described as super-duper, really ridiculously manly and masculine in that it is two female food bloggers who don’t really end up talking much about food and often talk about things like beauty products and how ladies should wear blazers when being business ladylike. It’s called “blazin.” In fact, it’s often noted by Joy and Tracy, the hosts, how few dudes listen to them. Well, thanks to Rebecca, I am one of those dudes, and I’ve found them to be the perfect running companions. The podcast is entertaining without being something I need to focus on every second to appreciate and it provides me with something else to think about when I don’t want to concentrate in the hill in front of me. It may not be conventional running accompaniment, but it works for me.
To wrap it up, Black Cat was a great result on a course I could take or leave. It was a great way to start my birthday weekend and a huge confidence boost as I continue my training for the ultra!