November 22, 2010

Clarksburg Country 20 Miler (Race Report)

It's taken me a while to write this, and truthfully, I just didn't want to. Obviously, this race did not go well. And so, mainly because I don't want to relive my misery, I'm going to make this race report as brief as possible.

Some quick background info first. Clarksburg is a race put on by my store, meaning I could get a comped entry. This year it was offering a 5k, half marathon, and 20 miler. The timing of the race (just 3 weeks before CIM) made the 20 mile race a perfect peak long run substitute. Seeing as I've had to do most of my long runs solo lately, I thought it sounded great to run this one in a race atmosphere with lots of other runners and in a new place on an unfamiliar course. Plus, it was free! Well, in case you've forgotten (I certainly seemed to), I had also run the Marine Corps Marathon just 2 weeks previously. I'd run a couple times since, though, and seemed to feel fine, so I figured 20 would be fine, too. Wrong, oh so wrong I was.
 Clarksburg - cute town, ugly race

We had a late start (9am) so I was able to sleep a little more than usual. I got ready quickly and made my way out to Clarksburg. I actually had never been to, or even heard of, this little farming town before this race, even though it was just a short 20 minutes away, across the Sacramento River. I made it just in time, hopped into a port-o-potty, and just as I got to the start line the gun went off! I had no time to get my bearings or stretch before I was off and running. With the frazzled start I started out way too fast, clocking a couple sub 9:30 miles. The course started out on a nice tree-lined road before spitting us out onto an uncovered straightaway with fields on either side (there would be many more of these over the 20 miles). There wasn't a whole lot to look at so I distracted myself by watching other runners. About 3 miles in we started getting passed by uber fast runners, with a mix of half and 20 mile bibs - spent the next several miles extremely confused by this. I still don't know why they passed us.
 early on when i was still surrounded by other runners
 i made sure to start running when I saw a camera : )

I got to mile 5 and I was done. Toast. I had nothing left energy-wise, and no desire to run the rest of the race. This was definitely a first for me. Not the crash and burn thing, but the lack of motivation to finish a race. For the rest of the race, had there been an official race vehicle patrolling the course I would have hitched a ride back to the start. From mile 5 things only got more miserable. I started to add in walk breaks, but the remaining mileage was overwhelming. I watched my goal time slide away from me, and did not care - I only cared about how the hell I was going to finish this thing. Around mile 7 we headed out on a loop and eventually I made it to the half way turnaround. At this point I just could not wrap my head around the fact that I had to do all that again. My legs also got really bad at this point and continued to get worse with each mile. 
 only halfway. kill me.
 finally, some shade!
this was the most green i saw the entire race

My walk breaks were now far more frequent and my walking looked more like hobbling. My hips ached like never before and I had a new pain in the back of my left knee (guessing an unhappy hamstring). For the rest of the race I leap frogged the same runners, all of us struggling, many limping, but all moving forward, albeit slowly. Even in the worst of times, running still has that element of camaraderie : ) The next few miles wound through a shady road alongside a creek and were mostly downhill (mercifully). The road was also pretty cambered, though, which really sucked for my legs. I somehow made it to mile 15 and was back on the first part of the course which we would follow back to the start/finish. Those last 5 miles were painful and ugly. The long straight stretches between farm fields made them that much more brutal. I would not wish them on anyone. Thankfully at mile 18.5 I spotted my coworker, Jeff, who walked a bit with me and offered me some words of encouragement before sending me on my way for the final miles. Seeing a friendly face gave me a little boost and I actually picked up my pace a bit.
 miserable and just focused on finishing
 the scenery for most of 20 miles
the final miles

I've never wanted to finish a race more than I did at Clarksburg. My time of 3:53:12 was no where near my goal, but I was so over the race I barely cared. I collected my medal unenthusiastically before collapsing on the grass for a few minutes while my legs throbbed. I finally dragged myself up and hobbled back to my car. I just wanted to get out of Clarksburg and be done with it completely.
coming into the finish. thank god.
finally done

Although I've tried to put this race behind me, I have reflected on why I crashed and burned so badly. Probably the biggest (and most obvious) factor was MCM. I just wasn't as recovered, mentally or physically, as I thought I was. Plus, I've raced a lot this past year, especially the longer distances, and I think I may finally be experiencing a little burn out. Some other things that I think played a role, too,  were my nagging hip pain and warmer than usual weather (mad worse by the late start). In the days after I talked to a couple other people who did the 20 miler and had a rough day so at least I wasn't alone. I know we've all had those horrible runs and/or races, and I've been trying to put it behind me, but it's been easier said than done. 

I took an entire week off from running. My legs really needed the break and mentally I just couldn't get out there. This would be perfectly fine and expected except that I'm supposed to be running CIM in a couple weeks : / I did a little hot yoga to try and stretch my muscles out, which felt great, and today I finally got out and ran. More on that tomorrow. Clarksburg, consider yourself done and done.


  1. When you run as many marathons as you do it becomes more and more difficult to have back-to-back good races and your body was just reminding you to take it easy. The good news, you logged the miles and more importantly the time and because you took walk breaks I believe you’ll realize more of a benefit from this run than you realize.

    Happy Thanksgiving.


  2. ahhh sounds terrible! I wouldn't have had the motivation once the pain set in. you know i tihnk you're crazy but proud none the less :)