18.12 Challenge 2016 By Tristan Time for this years 1812 Challenge, paying homage to the War of 1812. The race starts in Watertown and finishes along the shore of Lake Ontario on the battlefield of Sackets Harbor. It was a key Navy shipyard and headquarters for all of the Great Lakes. According to wikipidea by the fall of 1814, this was the third-largest population center in the entire state, after Albany and New York City. Which blows my mind considering it's a quaint small village of 1,450 at the last census. I ran this one last year for the first time, my first out of state race, though this is actually my stompin' grounds and I make it into a trip visiting my folks. And now for the second time my folks got to see me race like they would do when I ran cross country back in high school. They got a few pics of me I can share as well, without paying the high fees from the race photos. I've been having a pretty good year this year, every race has shown improvement and set new PRs each time. Even still I consider my training sub par, barely getting in a few long enough long runs (maybe ~3 runs 14+ miles all summer) and only 2 or 3 speed workout all summer. It was so hot, I just couldn't push myself to do any hard workouts. Even still I felt better than I ever have. I tapered the final 2 weeks starting after my last long run of 16 miles which was 14 days from the race. Traveled up there a week prior and that finally week mostly did 2 mile very easy runs each day. I did a ~10 mile hike in the Adirondack Mountains on Tuesday, bagging 2 more of the 46 high peaks, hoping that wasn't going to be too much for the feet and legs. Weather forecast was fantastic, clear skies, starting out low 50's. Would be a beautiful day. I ate a bunch of fruit early that morning, and dropped off at the start about 45 minutes to gun time. Got about a mile warmup in, at a couple more medjool dates and did some stretching. 15-20 minutes from gun time I downed a cup off coffee and just walked around a bit. Ready as I'll ever be. It was dark when I was dropped off, around dawn, but things starting to look like morning now, and I put the shades on ready to go. I took a position towards the front but around 1/4 the way back. Last year I set the bar pretty high, beating my fastest 1/2 marathon pace in the full 18.12 miler, but still was a few minutes shy of placing in my age division. I was hoping I might get a division placing this year but was unsure if I could even match last years time. The half marathon and 18.12 both start together so there were at least 631 runners there, a lot for a small town race! I didn't get hardly any comments about the bare feet but a few stares and a couple asking me if I was running that way. A couple people remembered me from last year. About 7:05 am the gun fires and we're off! At first I just hang with the crowd I started with to get a bit of a warmup for about a 1/4 mile, in the 8-9 minute pace range. I remembered there were a few downhills near the start and I usually let loose on the downhills so after the first one I came to I sped up and then settled after the hill in the upper 6 min pace range. I didn't check the garmin too often, but did glance now and then. I wasn't wearing my pack so I needed to stop at a few water stations but many of them I skipped along the way, only stopping at maybe every third one. For the most part this course is flat, the hills are very minor and graceful. And the overall course has a negative elevation gain, one reason I think I did so well last year. Probably the fastest course of this size you'll ever run! Things were going well, I passed quite a many runners in the first few miles. The aid stations were great and lots of fun themes. I think the very first aid station features several Pokemons lol. The halfers split off around the 4 mile mark to take a short cut, and things started looking really sparse ahead of me! On the straight stretches I could see maybe 2 dozen runners scattered for a good half mile or more. I crossed 5 miles at 35:38 at 7:10 pace which was a bit faster than the 7:20 goal I had decided on but I knew I'd slow down later so figured I was barely on target at that point. I forgot to hit my lap button at 5k and 10k just for reference, but from 5 to 7 miles my pace had picked up a bit as I caught some of the faster runners and tried to hang with them. 7:00 pace for that stretch. At 10 miles I was holding at 7:10 again, getting hot and sweaty now even though it wasn't even 60 degrees. I had a lung cramp earlier on but things were going smooth now, though at this middle section it seemed to just drag on and was a bit of a struggle hangin' in there. The roads were rural after about the 4th mile, mostly open farm fields or woods. There was a stretch of road that was being repaved, I just about gasped when I saw it coming up. It turned out to be ok but still a bit rough. It was like a base layer or something, pressed relatively flat but really coarse and chunky jet black pavement. I'm not sure how long it was, perhaps around a mile. Was glad when it was over. I was having a feeling of sore toes on my left foot, not sure if it was around that time or before, but I recall having to consciously tell myself to relax the toes. From around 4 miles to about 13 miles we were on nice country roads. Half way through that the halfers rejoined us and things got a lot more crowded. But it was a bit of a boost to be passing people again as at that point it was the tail end of the halfers. Around 13 or so miles we were heading into Sackets Harbor which was a nice change of scenery from the miles and miles of open roads. Plus many spectators were out and cheering which gave me a bit of a boost when I needed it. I hit my lap button around the half-marathon mark and was right on track with my record 1/2 I set earlier in the year, perhaps slightly ahead as my Garmin spit out 1:33:54. I passed my mom around this point as well and she got a pic with her cell phone (forgot her real camera). I remember that fella passing me earlier on, way back maybe around the 5-7 mile range. I was surprised as he was one of just a couple that passed me, and at a good clip. I tried to keep him in my sights but at one point he was out of my vision, probably well over a 1/4 mile ahead. I didn't expect to catch him again. Pretty soon we hit the turn where the halfers get to go straight to the finish but we have a loop that goes back out of town and back in. It's a bit of a mental strain being so close to the finish and having to head back out again. I don't know how those ultra runners do it when you have those multiple loops that all come back to the finish, I think the temptation to drop out would be so great! After the split things were sparse once again. In fact I didn't even think I'd be able to reel anyone in, the next person was over a hundred yards ahead and then a couple more maybe 1/4 mile or so. But after a few minutes I noticed I was closing the gap with the next runner and as we came within tossing distance I decided to make my move. I know it was early still but I wanted to finish strong and at least get ahead of this next runner. He looked to be about my age so I figured we might be competing in age division as well. I picked up the pace and passed him. It didn't take to long though and I was burning out. I just kept at it but was back to my average pace and slowing down. All the sudden though I noticed I was getting close to the next runner that had been just barely in sight... he had stopped and walked! And the other runner that was with him must have been feeling the burn to as he appeared to have slowed. It took another 5" minutes but eventually caught and passed these two. I had put some distance between us, but the lung cramps were coming back. And my legs were feeling the burn. My calves were literally feeling like mush. I was slowing up, had to ease a bit to avoid those lung cramps from getting worse. The final few miles my average had dropped into mid/upper 7's but I just kept at it best I could. I never looked back to see if anyone was catching me again, just focused on ahead and tried to enjoy a bit of the scenery around town. There was no one else I could catch even if I wanted to, no one in sight before the next turns until we rejoined the halfers again a short distance from the finish line. We ran through the old barracks which I remembered from last time was pretty close to the end. I forgot about the hill there, well it wasn't much of a hill maybe 20-30 feet tall but that just about did me in! Airborne! My final two miles averaged 7:34 and 7:33, my calves were toast, and I had no one in sight to catch. This is one race I didn't try to sprint at the end. Well on the final short stretch there was one half marathoner after the merge area and I did speed up just the last couple hundred yards but not crazy, garmin showed I peaked out just for a short bit at 6:07 pace at the finish. About a second after I crossed the line another racer zoomed by me. I hadn't looked back so I didn't realize but I was almost caught by one I had passed a few miles ago, the fella that looked to be about my age. After seeing the results, I narrowly beat him for 3rd place in our division by less than a second! Maybe I should have looked back! He mentioned he tried to catch me but just no way he could have. Well, at the speed he was going at the finish line I think he certainly could have caught me if he had just mustered up that sprint a second or two sooner. But I was very glad, first time placing (though just division) in a race this size. I've had a few division and even overall placings/wins but all those races were well under 100. Interesting too that in my 35-39 division the first 4 of us placed in a row (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th). After the finish line was some well earned relief. My legs felt worse than the marathon I think. I walked for a bit and then was going to jog for a cool down but I couldn't get my legs to take flight. I tried 3 times unsuccessfully to start running until the 4th where I got the motion going and did what one could barely call a slow jog for about a half mile. Met up with my family and watched the board for my stats and was very excited when they posted a 3rd place division and 11th overall! I hung around for the awards and received my medal up on the stage. This is one of my favorite races, well organized, and makes a great vacation trip for me. I hope to do it every year if my schedule allows. It's such a great distance - a bit more challenging than a half marathon but fills the big gap between half and full. The full is just a bit much for me and my work schedule, I just can't seem to get enough training in. Well I barely get enough for this but 18 miles is much more doable for me than 26. Unfortunately this hit my schedule such that I had to work the next day - nightshifts start Monday (Labor Day, ironically) so I didn't have a lot of time to linger and celebrate. We went out to a restaurant and I had some steak n eggs, after that it was packing up and heading back to Ohio. 8 hours sitting in the car! Then flipping to night shift the next day. Neither is good for recovery I am sure! And I am one who needs the recovery, I get terribly sore after races. I get full on DOMS that usually doesn't even peak until 2-3 days after. I was hobbling around after this race for sure, this time I had the idea of using my hiking poles and even bringing them to work (one good thing about being on nightshifts, hardly anyone there to see me hobbling around with hiking poles embarrassing myself lol!). Things are loosening back up now and I am walking around just fine, and will likely start back running tomorrow. Doesn't seem like I did any damage, just the usual soreness. I did get a couple blisters, on my right foots middle two toes. They felt like sensitive spots right after the race, by end of day they had bubbled up just a little. I hadn't got blisters in years! They seemed to have reabsorbed themselves though, after a couple days they were gone so no biggie. I probably should of held back this race if I wanted to do well at my October marathon, but I've decided to not try and 'race' the marathon and just do it casually, hopefully I'll be up to that at least. Next year I have my goal set on top 10 finish!