Woke up around 5:15, ate a bagel and a banana plus some of the honey water and a cup of apple juice. I was really hungry because I had such an early dinner last night, but still I didn't want to eat too much before the race. I got to the race and kind of zoned out, then waited for too long to use the restroom, found some port-o-potties outside and then met up with Darren, Mollie, Sophia, and my mom. Started walking over to the start, but realized it was far and the race was about to start so I jogged lightly over (about 1 mile). Got there with 30 seconds to spare. Opened up relaxed, but still a little quick (paved roads all uphill to the AT). I slowly worked past a few runners, keeping the lead in sight.
I started the AT section in 5th place, then quickly passed 4th. Trail turned to road again and I passed 3rd. I was probably going to fast at this point and I ran by the first aid station without taking anything. I was probably going to fast, and sped up when I started catching the 5am starters because of adrenaline. I moved past the 2nd place runner just after the first big check point (9 miles or so). I didn't have a watch so I'm not sure how fast I was at this point, I also only took a handful of mashed potatoes and kept going (mistake #1). I heard shortly thereafter that 1st had a 7 minute lead, which freaked me out. I was only about 13 miles in, but I thought that I had to start making up ground or else I would never have a chance. Past the second big check point (handful of potatoes and a couple sips of water) I started to pick it up. There was another little aid station just past this, before the tow path and luckily I got to grab some gatorade. I started dropping low 6s into the wind on the tow path (big mistake #2). I held this up for about 10 miles, but quickly started to feel exhausted.
This tells me something else was wrong on this day - whether my food or training or taper or something else. I go on 25 mile runs all the time with no food and no water after hard weeks with 75 miles under my belt and feel fine. Why on this day I should have already felt tired is not quite clear, but it definitely compounded over the next 15 miles. Around mile 27 I really start to feel it and realized that I couldn't keep up the pace, I slowed down dramatically and by mile 35 I was passed by both 3rd and 4th. I had been within 1:30 of the leader but these hopes faded. I struggled through miles 35 to 40 and had to walk a few times. My pace was probably between 8 and 9:30 for some of these miles. Very bad. At the aid stations I was drinking and eating more but still couldn't really get a pickup. I kept (barely) pressing on until about mile 41.5, at which point the course splits from the tow-path and begins to loop back towards the start on roads with rolling hills. There's a huge hill at first, which was a bear. But at the top I could feel my legs coming back and my stride opened a bit. There were hawks and vultures everywhere. With about 7 to go, my support crew yelled that 3rd was fading and I could catch him. This bouyed my spirits and I started running around 7s and feeling great. With 1.8 to go, I blew by him and could see 2nd way off in the distance. I kept moving and hit probably sub 6:30 for the last mile, finishing with a big smile.
To future self: Go out slower and take time at the first aid stations. Hydrate in the beginning and save time at the end!! Do this. Focus less on starting out at record pace - know what your early splits should be and go a little slower than this. Use the middle half to set the record. This crucial. For training, I definitely would have liked to have done less speed work and more back to back 20s and much longer tempo runs on the Saturday long runs.