Well, I was right to worry about going four weeks with no races. That sort of long interval is clearly not good for me, particularly my emotional health. June was a wasteland of nothing after Newport and even with all the extra time to train I didn't seem to make that much progress. Without the focus of another marathon or ultra within the next week or two, my life loses its anchor - its metronome. I haven't gone more than 3 weeks without since Boston '06 and after this past month I'll do my best to avoid this nightmare ever again. My self-absorbed mental funk really spilled over into the rest of my life too, leaving me disorganized and introverted.
Almost everyone who ran the Foot Traffic Flat on July 4th complained about the heat and race organization. I'll skip that and just complain about my own mental and emotional failings: I was not ready to race (see "too much time off" above.) Even with the heat, all the ingredients were there for me to run a 3:20 or 3:25, I just couldn't put the focus together and let the inevitable little things that come up in a race get me down.
I planned to run at 7:30 to 7:40 pace for the first 10 and then make my usual call to push for a good time or ride the fade down. This had me starting out at a pace just barely slower than fast maniacs Annie and Chris. I'm sure everyone else thought I was going out too fast again. I had a nasty gastric emergency at mile 2 that had me off the course for about 3 minutes, then forced me to pass about a third of the field to get back to pace. This was followed by a bout of pain and cramping in my medial tibialis (like shin splint muscle) that forced me to shift my gait a little to take the pressure off. At this point it seemed like real work to hold even a 7:45 pace.
What I should have done is to focus, even out my gait and make the best of things. What I actually did was to wallow in all sorts of negative conversations with myself and spend a whole lot of energy trying to make myself miserable. Well, I succeeded. By mile 6 or 7 I was spending a lot of time planning to drop out at the halfway point when the course goes past the start/finish. I almost never think about dropping! My 10 mile time was about 78 minutes, which including the 3 minutes off the course meant I had held the 7:30 pace but by then the race was over for me. I downshifted and just decided to jog it in from that point.
Fortunately, that put an end to all my thoughts of dropping and I was in a slightly better mood as I went through the halfway point. My time here was a little over 1:45 so I had already slowed to about 9:00 pace, which I pretty much held through to the finish. This is "fast ultra" pace for me, so I slipped into that mindset. That not only made my run more enjoyable but it made me stop at each of the poorly organized water stops and make sure that I drank enough even when I had to grab a water jug and hold it over my head to get a drink (they ran out of cups.)
Other people probably have stories about how grueling the last sunbaked miles of the race were. I passed a number of people, including maniac founder (and very fast runner) Chris, who were struggling badly or in a deathmarch. For me, this part of the race wasn't so bad; I'd already checked out mentally, and I was just hanging out in my "fast ultra" place and trying not to beat up my tibialis too badly.
My final time was a little under 3:44. My shin is extremely sore (hopefully not a stress fracture) afterwards but of course nothing else really got much of a workout. Hopefully I can patch things up by SOB on the 14th.