So let’s see. A bit of a 2012 Mad Marathon recap before it fades.
I woke at 3:30am after minimal sleep for ceremonial pre-race rituals. PB&J + iced coffee from my new travel cooler (love it). At 4:45 I checked out of my hotel in Montpelier (shitty, shitty) along with a few other runner-types and hit the road for the last 30 miles into Waitsfield, VT, in the Mad River Valley.
Arrived at the race HQ at 5:25 – morning of pickup was 5:30-6:30. I told the people there I didn’t have a number and I was able to get one with only mild complaining – apparently the lady in charge had just told the other dudes she wasn’t doing any new registrations immediately before I asked. Ok, but if you don’t want to do day-of stuff (which I completely understand), then don’t say it’s ok on your Facebook wall, no reason to make me feel like the jerk. Hour+ to kill until race start. I wandered and watched the sun fill the valley.
I find out later there’s less than 300 people in the marathon, making it by far the smallest I’ve done. The crowd at the start is bigger though, mixed with the half runners.
Mile 2: I hate this course already. Less than 20 minutes in and we’re doing a massive climb that has demolished any hopes I had of running a fast time. From reading online I kinda already knew this, but now I KNOW this.
Mile 4ish: We pass an unmarked turn-around marker – apparently this is for the half-marathoners but there’s no sign. Carry on.
Miles 5-7: Couple little dead end jags here, not terribly interesting and I kind of feel like they’re killing time with us just to lengthen the course out.
Mile 8: This is the start of the biggest uphill on the course. From here (elevation 670ft) we gain ~900 feet over the next 8 miles, mostly gradual. Except, for…
Mile 13: Holy crap we give all the elevation back and the regain it immediately. When I see this dip for the first time I laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it – I had read about this so knew it was coming, but still. GPS says my pace dropped to it’s worst point of the race here, 10:53. I miss my half-marathon time and the pace has been too sporadic for me to bother looking it up from the GPS data – it just wouldn’t be meaningful.
Mile 18.1: I try to high-five the course marshall on her bike but mostly whiff. I’d be more embarrassed but I’m too happy about a downhill slope here. I pass a dude I saw before the race who said he had driven over from Syracuse. People are pretty spaced out at this point – there’s not a whole lot of passing or being passed (except for the occasional relay team runner flying by, who I can identify d/t overly fresh attitudes).
Mile 19: I’ve started to hate that lady back at 16 who said we were at the peak because we’re still climbing. Looking back at the map now I realize 16 & 19 are really very close to each other, and that most of the next few miles of the course will be tracking back into town. I was so mixed up on my orientation here though – I thought we were going to double back on this road and that the people coming my way were all ahead of me, but they’re not, they’re behind. Seven miles behind, I finally realize at mile 21 (14 coming back).
Mile 22: A butterfly! Brain is short circuiting and I’m easily amused. No time for photos because I’ll drop the phone. I drop a gel I had been carrying, stop, run back a few paces & bend to pick it up. Major mistake, legs take this as prime opportunity to seize up.
Mile 23: Back at this big f’ing hill. This is way too big for this late in a race, this course is officially ridiculous. Trudged up the first 1/3rd before deciding to walk, hands over head to try to get some air in. Near the crest of the hill this pony-tailed course marshall on a bike was very encouraging, and walked me through the remaining topography. This guy was so helpful, I wish I could have thanked him more coherently but honestly I was losing it at this point.
Mile 25: The first covered bridge is also the last covered bridge, then we turned onto VT100 for the finish stretch. This is my least favorite part of the run, as I’m somewhat unstable on my feet and now running on a broken road shoulder into oncoming traffic. Lots of people are honking & cheering from their cars but it’s all I can do not to do a header into traffic.
Finish: 400 meters out some guy is telling us projected finishes, tells me I can hit 4:05. Back where I started the morning I run through a faux-covered bridge they have set up for the finish, the crowd is relatively big here and supportive. The Lady at the finish who gave me my medal also offered me a seat in her folding chair because I look, and was, off-balance. I stumbled instead to gatorade and bananas and local apple cider. My car is parked super close to the finish so I was able to dump my shoes & compression gear for flip flops & just crash out in the grass for an hour. Final time, 4:04:59, a 9:21 split, my slowest marathon of the year but still very satisfying. One of the more difficult races I’ve ever run.
I’m not sure if this is The World’s Most Beautiful Marathon – that’s obviously a subjective assessment and though I’d say both San Francisco and Cape Cod were more beautiful, there’s something aspirational about that tagline that I really like. If you love where you are, and you’re happy and rooted in that place then sure, it’s more beautiful than what anyone else has, regardless of reality. I dig that vibe, and I dug this race.
Week 6 of 18 of training for my New England Double, done. Only three months to go.