A while ago I got into a pissing match with someone who objected to my saying that if you’re “soft” going into a marathon, you’ll be in trouble if anything, such as the weather, goes wrong. (He thought it a pejorative.) You just can’t make it through on good looks and good form.

The same can be said for the run course in the Josh Billings RunAground. Having driven it on Thursday, I was not particularly concerned for the hills, especially the last one, and I said as much in my preview post.

Last night, I met two of my three teammates. Like Spinal Tap, they remain the same year after year but the runner changes regularly. Mark on the bike and Kevin in the canoe (to be joined by Bill, who’d I meet after the race). Our friend Bonnie — the go-between for getting me on the team — held a get together in Chatham, which was much fun. Although it got quite chilly when the sun went down.

I had given thought to heading down for the start of the bike, in Great Barrington, but elected to head directly to Tanglewood, where the run and row occur, which would give me more time to get ready. The bike leg is not a time trial. The riders form into packs, particularly on the first hill coming out of Great Barrington. Riding thusly is worlds apart from TTing, as is generally done in triathlons (except for the Olympic level races).

When my wife and I got to Tanglewood, we saw Mark’s wife, who told us Mark was with the big pack. As we watched, the first 10 riders came in in ones and twos and then there was a pack, some stragglers, another pack, the big pack, and Mark, who had been dropped near the finish.

I then ran down to the run start. Although there was a lowering sky and some quite dark clouds, there was no rain. Temperature was good. The canoes (there are also kayaks) do 1.75 laps of the Stockbridge Bowl. A wristband is tossed from the boat as it finishes. The picture shows the canoes after the start (not this year though).

The set-up is that as the canoes approach, their numbers are called out. I had no idea what place I was but my number was called. It was about 15th, thanks to our rowers having the 12th fastest time. They came in in a group of several.

Off I went. My knee was a little achy during warm-up but nothing big, and while I would feel it during the run itself, it was never an issue. When I got to the road, I met an incline. I went through (I wore my Garmin) mile 1 (they were well marked) at 6:19. I thought I was alone, but I heard applause behind me, so I knew there was someone there. It was not my concern. A bit of rolling terrain and through 2 with a 6:21.

I had scoped out the course on the map and there was a right-turn to come to get back out to a main road. Wait. The signs and the marshal pointed left. What I had thought was a 5.5 mile course was now going to be the full 6 miles advertised. The course map showed a quick turn to the left, not the much longer one of reality. And making that left hander led to a slight uphill and a decent downhill, and downhills are the Achilles heel of my knee. But we all run the same course. I steal a peek around, and I see a guy in orange not so far back. OK, finally on the main road, with an extra uphill, and pass a couple of women. 6:16. Then on the next uphill, I stop. Start up again, and stop again. It’s a bad habit, I know, but this is tougher than I expected, proving, perhaps, the utility of speedwork. Mile 4 sees me passed by a couple of guys, and a split of 7:21. A women passes in the next mile, but I’m moving pretty well (helped by some downhills) and come through with a 6:09. Mile to go. Boom, the final hill. I stop yet again, twice, but the runners ahead don’t open much distance. This is not as bad as I feared, but on my legs it’s worse than I expected. Having stopped already, it’s (sadly) easier to stop again. Crest the hill. I see my wife at the turn into Tanglewood. She shouts I’m in 14th (as I am) and then through the finish. Last mile — actually .95 by the Garmin — in a 6:54 pace. Final time, 5.95, of 39:05 (25th fastest time). (And looking pretty chunky at the finish.)

I am quite beaten up. I did as well as I could. Standings-wise, we win the Over 40 w/canoe category, and I get a big mug. I think we could have cracked the top ten had I run decently. It’s a course on which experience counts, so I hope to do better next time out.

Looking ahead, I’ve tired of this run-but-not-too-fast routine. So nothing running-wise for a week. See how the knee feels at that point. Do some drill/strength work in the meantime. This means no-go on Grete. The Marathon will be as relaxed and as long as I can make it. But I need to give things a rest.

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