Cold and Hilly.
Great race, beautiful setting, great experience, but if I were to sum up the 2012 Freedom’s Run marathon in two words they would be cold and hilly. I was expecting the hilly, but wasn’t expecting or prepared for the cold.
It's slightly misleading to call this a 'race' recap, since I didn't really race this one. My plan was to test out my 25-minute-run/5-minute-walk strategy that I’ll be using in a couple weeks in my ultra, and I mostly stuck to the plan. My only deviation was that I ran for the first hour rather than starting with the walking at the 25 minute mark because I was so cold I needed to keep running to try and get some warmth going. It wasn't exceptionally cold at the start, 33 degrees, but I didn't pack for the cold, and was at the start 1.5 hours early, so by the time things got going I was nice and chilly.
If you’re thinking of doing this race, it’s really two races. The first half of the race is primarily on the C&O canal, and feels like you’re running on a treadmill with trees on your right, and the Potomac River on your left. Scenic, but fairly redundant and not terribly interesting. The second half of the race, however, is where the scenery and the hills kick in. The run through Antietam battlefield is really amazing. They've obviously gone out of their way to keep the land looking much like it must have looked when the battles raged, and it’s very sobering. There’s not a great deal of spectator support for this one, but the few that were there were very enthusiastic, and much appreciated. I’d definitely recommend this race, and will consider possibly doing this one again in the future.
I basically stuck to my plan and made this a change-of-scenery training run, and a dress-rehearsal for the 50-miler that’s now less than 2 weeks away. I ran much faster than I wanted to, and faster than I should have, and ended up finishing in 4:04. My legs felt very good after the race, and even after getting in my car and making the 7-hour drive home my legs still felt pretty good. Good enough to go out for a 12-mile recovery run 10 hours after arriving home. Considering that my first 3 marathons landed me in physical therapy and caused weeks of downtime before I was running again, I’m very happy with a 17-hour turnaround for a return to training.
Saturday was my last 20+ mile training run, and now I taper for 2 weeks before heading to Nashville to see what the world beyond 31 miles holds for me. I feel well prepared and I’m really looking forward to giving it a go, but I’m definitely anxious to see what happens when I get out beyond 50K.
I’ll be sure to pack lots of warm clothes for this one.