"Up Up Up"...those are words my 15 month old daughter says to me to be picked up. Those are words that one could also use to describe the Breakneck Marathon & 25k race held on 4/18 in Beacon New York. The course was a combination of monster climbs followed by brutal descents. When you weren’t slowed down going up, you were slowed by the technical, rocky trails. Sometimes the 2 combined to give you a double whammy. The only thing you could do was keep moving. And that was my mantra for the race: Just keep moving forward.
When April 18th finally arrived, I drove myself to my first race of the season. It was also the first race of the year for Red Newt Racing, one of many great races being put on this year. It would also be the first team race for the new Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing trail team. I was excited to meet all my new teammates. We were meet with gorgeous weather (if not a little too warm) and readied for a hard day of racing.
With a blow of a ram’s horn at 7am, the race was off. Marathoners and 25kers started together. I was hoping for a good day of racing but you never know how your legs will respond once you start. The race started immediately into its first ascent. I was near the front of the race, watching the leaders pull away. My legs were feeling really good and for a moment I considered lifting my pace to keep up. I did not. I knew the key for me having a successful race today was pacing. I needed to keep an even pace throughout the race. It would be important that I run no section too hard. The uphill or the downhill. This is a harder thing to do than it sounds. It is so easy to get caught up in the excited of the day and pound away. It has taken me many races to learn this lesson of how to hold back when you want to fly (and I am still learning).
Soon after the long beginning climb the race headed down to the 1st aid station. Here again I held back on the downhill. Your legs can get beat up just as bad on the downs as the ups. After about 5 miles we crossed the road to the aid station and the start of the signature climb: Breakneck Ridge. It is better suited for mountain goats then people. The climb is steep and consisted mostly of large rocks. It is literally climbing hand over foot. This is where my mantra came in to play. Just keep moving forward. And that I did. Sure I was passed by a few people but I just kept my steady pace, working my way up the climb. Runners were treated to a spectacular view from the top. I tried to keep that view in my mind as I negotiated the rocky path down to the next aid station. Keeping any type of rhythm was near impossible. But I kept moving forward.
Following the aid station 2, we were treated to a long decent on smooth carriage roads. Though it was an opportunity to let loose and pick up the pace really hard, I stuck to my plan and held back. I was happy I did. The next climb, though not technical like Breakneck, was long and steep. It felt like it went on forever. I did what? Just kept moving footstep after footstep until I reached the top. The trail took us back to the previous aid station where we left to go tackle some more hills. This is when some fatigue hit me and was forced to slow down some.
The day was getting hot and my water was getting low and began rationing my remaining water. I was a little worried I would run out before the finish. My stomach was also growling and was down to my last gel. In the interest of being light, I had not packed as many gels or filled my hydration bladder as I should have. Lesson learned for next race. Luckily this feeling soon passed. The whole time I kept moving. It can be so hard to get started again once you stop. A few more tough climbs followed until the course met up with the section we ran up to begin the race. We would follow this down to the finish. The entire race I had been conservative, staying at a steady pace. Now there was only a few downhill miles to the finish. Now was the time to let loose and wring every last ounce of spring from my step. I flew down to the finish (except for one missed turn), giving everything I had. I happily crossed the line in a time of 3:46 for 12th place (race results).
It was an epic day of racing. Red Newt racing pieced together a truly hard core course that left no one wanting for more. MPF RNR race team had a great day, taking the first 4 spots in the marathon and all the members finishing strong. I personally felt I had a great day. I had a plan for the day and I stuck to it. That can sometimes be the hardest part of the race.