On Saturday November 8th I had the pleasure of taking part in the Stonecat Trail Marathon in Ipswich, MA. I decided back in early July to throw my name into the lottery, and I was happy to find out that I had “won the lottery” and was in! I had never run a marathon before (ridiculous, I know) so this would be my first crack at the distance.
I had heard it was a fun and pretty runnable course, so I figured my VT 50k buildup would be solid training for this too. With a nice base built up, plenty of recovery time, and cooler temps this race seemed like the perfect choice as a last big race of the year. I knew I could cover the distance without a problem, but had no idea how it would go if I tried to go faster. I set what I thought was a reasonable goal for myself given my fitness level, with really no clue how I could do. I randomly decided on a goal of under 4:30, and as close to 4 hours as I could get.
|Gear pile ready to go for the morning!|
The race starts at 6:30 AM (oof. I am NOT a morning person. At all. Not even a little bit.
But I will stumble blindly out of bed in the dark for a race…. and an early vacation flight. that’s about it Black Friday go eff yourself). Given the early start we headed up Friday evening and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Danvers, MA. They had a special rate for racers, were a short drive to the start (15ish mins?) and got up extra early to have their breakfast out at 4:30 AM for us. Thank you for the amazing support!
Check in the morning of the race (in an elementary school gym, with the start in back of the school) was smooth and uneventful. Very nice of them to allow access to the building, especially to warm up indoors and have inside bathrooms! It was awesome to be able to hang with other Shenipsit Striders at the start… always nice to have the support and camaraderie of the club!
|Jen, Brad, Matt, and Rod running the 50 mile; Nicole, Jordan, and Sean for support! (and Anthony behind the camera)|
The 50 mile race went off at 6:15 am, and marathon start was 6:30. Everything was on time and went smoothly. This year the race date was after the time change, so we didn’t start in the dark, which was nice… one less thing to worry about, no headlamps!
The race course is two 12.5 mile trail loops (4 for the 50 miler). To get our extra “1.2”, the marathon started with a loop around the school. I started off at what felt like a fairly conservative pace and was surprised to see I was toward the front-ish of the pack. Maybe it was the cold… I love cold weather running!
My frozen numb fingers and toes might disagree with me though… I could feel them again 45 minutes later, it’s fine.
After a flat mile around the school we hit the woods. The course was great! A mix of single and double track, all completely runnable. There were some rooty sections but no major technical or rocky sections. The trails were pretty leaf-covered so footing was a little tricky and that definitely slowed me a little, but it’s November in New England so that’s to be expected. No huge climbs to contend with, just some rolling hills mixed in. The course was extremely well marked (this coming from someone who gets lost in several races a year. I was all good here.) 3 aid stations out there (two on the loop and one at the start-finish) which were very well stocked (soup, potatoes, usual spread of snacks… and pumpkin pie? pizza? bacon? grilled cheese? Wowzer. Sadly, I passed on these and stuck to my Vfuel and Clif Shot gels with water). Overall, I really enjoyed the course and the run! Easy to pass pretty much the entire time, which was important since we mixed in with the 50 mile runners as well.
|Silly photobombing husband/support crew|
|High five to Jen! First 50 mile!|
I felt pretty good the entire time, with the exception of a little GI upset. My stomach just never really felt right for the entire run :(. I lost a little time dashing for a porta-potty break coming through the start-finish on my first lap… damn. And it didn’t even help.
I kept the first lap at a pace just shy of “comfortable”. I didn’t want to go out too fast and completely blow up for the second half. I pushed myself to maintain the second lap and felt like I did a decent job. I ran my own race and had no concept of any other racers around me. I really pushed myself for the last 5 miles or so, trying to come in close to my goal time. Running ultras has really prepped me for suffering… I’ve been miserable for hours before, come on! Less than an hour of misery and I’m done! I just kept repeating that mantra (as well as “Shut Up Legs!” – thank you Jens Voigt for that one!).
|The home stretch!|
I was very happy with the way the day went. I pushed myself to do the best I could, and don’t think there was much I could have changed.
I crossed the line in 4:19:47 (which I didn’t know at the time… I guessed I was around 4:20 based on my watch which I forgot to stop). Hooray! I beat my randomly selected goal time of under 4:30.
As I went through the finish chute I was given my finisher’s bag, and then.
“oh, you were in the top 10 women. you get a hat too”
WHOOOOA, SAY WHAT? I skipped on outta there with my hat, completely thrilled. Top 10 in my first marathon attempt? Wahoooooo!
We headed on home, and I was on cloud 9. I felt good and had a great day! We refueled with a little stop at Night Shift Brewing Company for a taste too 🙂 Hops speed recovery from trail races. It’s a fact. Google it.
Sunday night I looked at the race website to see if there were any pictures or results. I knew I was top 10 because of my *super awesome, fabulous, amazing, best hat ever* hat but I didn’t know what place I actually was. I opened up the results and….
I was FIFTH! FIFTH! fuckinFIFTH!!!! TOP FIIIIIIIIIVE!?!
I ran my very first marathon. And I was top FIVE. I usually could care less about race results but this??? Quick, pass me my horn. It needs another toot.
I will stop celebrating eventually. I am so happy with every aspect of Stonecat. It was a well organized and well put on event. Huge thank you to the race organizers and volunteers for a top notch race!! This is a great race to try for a first trail marathon, and even 50 if you can handle the 4-lap thing (not my favorite… I have a 3 lap limit… but logistically it makes it way easy).
And some major Thank You’s to the Shenipsit Strider contingent who braved the cold and made the drive to cheer us on and pace the 50 mile runners. And of course thank you to my husband and devoted (only) crew member, who spent his weekend chauffeuring me to the race and running around in the cold woods to snap pictures and videos, and make sure I had what I needed. I couldn’t do this nonsense without your support!!
Hooray for trying new races, new distances, and automatic PR’s! Cheers!