YJP & I drove up from Balitmore, arriving in New Jersey on Saturday for the expo, which was located at horse race track (Monmouth Park). Saturday was coincidentally the same day as the Kentucky Derby. I didn’t place any bets, and we also decided against waiting around three hours for the race to go off.
Dinner was had at some rando Italian place that was packed with seniors at 6pm. I lost my headphones in Bethesda earlier in the week so we stopped by Target to grab a pair – they didn’t have exactly the right kind of cheapo Sonys but the ones I got are close enough.
This week’s race started a bit later than last week’s, so I slept until 4am. Up with coffee, trying not to step on either YJP or Turtle, both of whom were condemned to sleep on the floor of an otherwise fairly nice hotel room.
YJP dropped me at Monmouth at 6:30, just in time to see the half marathon start at 6:45. It’s not exactly clear to me why the half went 75 minutes before the full buy the upside was all the massive lines at the porta-potties cleared out immediately leaving plenty of access for nervous peeing. I snagged a discarded sweatshirt from the side of the road as it was a good it colder than I had realized.
At 8am, we were off. I was supposed to be in corral B but think I started in C as my group was the third to go. Somehow I was behind the 3:50 pace group, it was not my intention to start this far back.
The first seven Miles were winding around neighborhoods, pretty zig-zaggy. I worked my way up to the 3:30 pace group, faster than I intended to run for the day.
I saw YJP at mile 5.5, a good thing. No signs this week, but this one crossed my mind. I couldn’t see Turtle at first but realized she was staked out in a median grass strip.
For miles 7 to 11 were spent slaloming around the slower half runners/walkers. Mostly this was fine, less so at some water stops. So yeah, definitely unsure about the logic of sending them first. At 11 the full course split off and headed south.
At 12 I saw YJP again. Again, a good thing.
At the half mark I was at 1:43:34. This is pretty quick for me for the first half of a full, 40+ seconds faster than I was last week in Nashville where I set a new marathon PR.
At mile 15 I see the lead male runner (and eventual winner) coming back the other way. Not exactly sure what mile he’s at but I guesstimate he’s six miles ahead of me. Dude is ripped, later I find out that that was Oz Pearlman, magician & marathoner. I knew of him earlier because a while back I watched this video about him running the Athens to Sparta “Spartathlon” race in 2012.
The bottom of the course did a bit if weaving around various water obstacles, Deal lake, Wesley Lake (which was really more of a canal). Some parts of the course was on small footbridges, they had volunteers specifically in place to warn of footing issues, step down, etc.
At mile 17 I made eye contact with someone along the course – he says, “You look fanTAStic Nathanael!” There’s no way this is true but it’s appreciated, really nice to have direct support coming straight to you at a moment of weakness. I like having my name on my number.
Somewhere around here in Asbury Park the course passes what looks like a couple of interesting venues. There’s the Wonder Bar (presumably unrelated to the Allston dance club), and also the Stone Pony, where I learn that Limp Bizkit still exists, and is playing Monday night. A band on some porch is covering Michael Jackson, Billie Jean. I like these informal spontaneous bands a lot.
The turn around is at mile 19. I’ve been slowly losing speed, but things start to come apart a mile later at 20 (this is where I first calculate how slow I’d be if I walked the last six miles). Someone handed me a half-banana here (my emergency rescue food of choice) and I was so happy to have it, before it dropped out of my hand uneaten. There’s no bending over and picking things up at this point, like your keys in a lava flow, let ‘em go, because man, they’re gone.
I see YJP again at 22, she’s all supportive but I’m really hurting here. My splits for the last four miles are all in the 8:30-9:00 range, and I decide not to push. Christine had sent me a text the night before asking me not to kill myself and I agreed, telling her my goal was sub-3:40, so I try to stick with that number and recalibrate my math. The last few miles are head down focus & finish. The sun has coming out and I’m losing a steady stream of water off the brim of my hat. These miles are along the waterfront, to my right I can see where the boardwalk used to be – for all the “Boston Strong” stuff I’ve heard down here (which, don’t get me wrong, is appreciated) it’s easy to forget that Hurricane Sandy really hit this area quite hard only six months ago, killing 37. The marathon shirts here say Run * Restore * Rebuild for a reason.
There’s another band and a good amount of positive atmosphere at mile 25 that makes it feel like this should be the finish area – unfortunately it was not. At 25.5 someone yells something at me about Austin because of the shirt I’m wearing – I try to throw them horns but there’s a good chance I screwed it up and said ‘I love you’ in sign language instead. Either way I’m hurting and barely making it. The photos from the finish line photographers are not flattering this time around (other than these).
I see YJP one last time in the crush of people at the finish (no idea how she got there so fast) then pull through to the end. Sweet medal. My finish time is 3:39:38, an 8:23 split, almost six minutes slower than last week. The sun is out in full force and is really too bright for me at this point – I’m sick, nauseous for a solid 45 minutes or so before we stumble back to the car to find a Mexican place for Cinco de Mayo & the long ride back to Baltimore. I’m so very glad I don’t have to drive.
So, not my fastest race, but for sure my fastest marathon on one week’s rest. And while going out too quick is usually my archnemesis, today I felt happy to have tried it – if I could have hung the last six miles I would have PR’d, and also I think these crash & burns can teach a bit about the boundaries of possibility we’re working with.
Thanks one last time to superfans YJP & Turtle for coming out to cheer for me, for driving up from Balto & for tolerating the hotel floor so that I could sleep. That was really above and beyond.
This was my third marathon of the year – I’ll be taking a break from this distance for a while to work on some different things. Next up for me race wise, a Reach the Beach ultra relay in two weeks. I’ve really been looking forward to this race.
Song of the week, Wagon Wheel, the Old Crow Medicine Show version from a 2010 Mixcorp mix. I only learned just prior to this race there’s another version of this song by Darius Rucker – who I further just learned is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Those two facts are officially TMI about Darius Rucker. For exhaustiveness sake, here’s the original Bob Dylan version as well.
Unlike most of the races I do, the Country Music Marathon in Nashville was on a Saturday. Maybe it’s a Southern church thing, I don’t know. Its cetainly not to help coordinate with other regional races as the nearest two others this weekend (Louisville and Champaign/Urbana) were both on the same Saturday as well. Regardless, I took the day off Friday to head down to Nashville for expo & some top-secret poking around town business.
Also unlike most of the races I do, part of my family came with to cheer – I was really psyched about this. My mom has wanted to see a race for some time but the Sunday thing has been a problem for them. We scored fairly cheap nonstop flights ($160?!) so were able to grab a third for Christine, who brought the free-ridin’ Tate along for the trip. This is his second marathon (he came to Newport last year) which is pretty good for someone who isn’t even one yet.
The original idea to run Nashville came from YJP, as part of an extension of our Austin plan. Timing being fortuitous, we met up at the airport and headed to the expo. This is a Rock ‘n’ Roll event which for better or worse leads you to expect a certain consistency. Which was what we had. No surprised. Shirts were white and IMO boring, which seems to be a trend in this race series. I haven’t worn the New Orleans or St. Louis shirts since those races, and don’t see myself wearing this one either. The hat Christine bought me, however, is pretty sweet.
My family has a few relatives living south of Nashville so Friday afternoon was spent down there. Our Louisiana cousins drove up as well, a sort of semi-impromptu family reunion. I was glad to see everyone but at the same time happy to be able to call it an early night, heading to bed at my hotel around 7pm.
3am, up and at it. My hotel was freezing. I checked out the window, rain seemed to be gentle. Ok maybe this won’t be bad.
5am, YJP showed up at my hotel. We met a third friend who ran Ragnar Florida Keys with us last January, and walked down to the finish line for a shuttle to the start. By now it was raining heavily. As I got on the bus I realized that I had left the clear gear check bag required by post-boston security upgrades back at the hotel. This was a problem. I ended up checking my jacket, the only warm item I brought with me to Tennessee, in yjp’s bag.
The start was near a scale model of the Parthenon just west of downtown. I was in corral 2 as I had been a bit over optimistic with my finish time back when I registered. Start was delayed five minutes or so for last minute car towings. This is fairly common and I try to roll but the pouring rain makes it hard to be easy going about the wait.
Mile 4: I see Christine & my mom on the left side, I’m over toward the right if a fairly wide course that’s still fairly dense so can’t make my way over. Not thinking much about pace at this point.
Mile 9: I see them again here – this time I get a high five. I tell Christine I’m feeling awesome, which is surprising given the rain. Which remains heavy. There’s a mat at 9.9 miles for some reason, later I’ll see I’m under 8:00 splits.
At half I’m at 1:44:21, a 7:58 split. This is pretty decent for me – I didn’t realize at the time this is some 80 seconds faster than my half time in Austin, my standing marathon PR. Just past the half mark we’re heading down a steep hill that’s being bisected by what’s basically a little ankle-deep river and some dude cruising past me says “this is totally the log flume of marathons”. Yeah.
Mile 17: we cross over the river into East Nashville. I look for the cheer squad here but no luck. The Titans stadium is right across the river, this part of the course gave pretty good views of it. I’m talking to some guy here about Boston qualifying times – he’s running with his son who is 19.
The course from 17-20 winds up through a quite nice neighborhood. I know there’s a chance mom & Christine will be at 20 when I get there but they’re not – this is fine, actually the thinking about it serves a purpose of occupying the brain whether I see them or not. Mile 21-25 is a loop around a big park with a lake in the center – it’s raining quite heavily here and most of the paths are flooded, it’s hard to say where the lake ends and the park begins. YJP told me later she saw ducks padding on the grass, I completely believe that.
The race starts to get difficult for me at mile 23 which is later than usual. I know there’s a cheering squad at 25, so I break the remainder up into 2 & 1.2 mile segments. At 25 these kids are going nuts (enthusiasm was high all along the course today but here particularly). This last 1.2 I’m really pressing – I think I’m just shy of a PR but am not really sure. At 26, just prior to the left turn into the stadium I see Christine on the far right side of the course screaming at me. I can’t really put it together mentally why or how she’s there but she is. Three seconds later YJP is also in the same peripheral view, coming the other direction heading out towards 20. Having not seen anyone since mile 9 – this is really pretty remarkably awesome coincidence right before the finish & gives a boost – you can see from the GPS map above in the last half mile I go from 8:30 splits to a finish of 7:09 – that’s all the cheer squad’s doing.
Across the line, final time of 3:33:46, an 8:09 split – this is a new marathon PR for me by 24 seconds! Though I don’t realize this for almost an hour. I’m 244 of 2705 overall, top 10%, and top 15% by sex & age division. I score some chocolate milk and a mushy banana and trip over to the family meeting area. It’s hard to make it there – the rain is more obvious & painful once I stop running, it reminds me a lot of the Maine Marathon & that post-race desire to GTFO. I sit in the meeting area for a few minutes trying to get it together before realizing I should motivate before I start to freeze. It’s another mile walk from there to the hotel & I’m frozen solid shaking by the time I make it there. Tennessee was supposed to be warm but this is NOT.
The one downside of getting so cold from sitting in the rain is I didn’t get to wait at the finish line for YJP. I think she forgives me, kinda, but it’s not 100% certainty. I’ll have to figure out a way to make it up to her.
We took a bonus day in Nashville the day after & visited the Grand Ole Opry, bought some new boots, went line dancing, the works. I liked this, hanging out a bit instead of flying home immediately, legs cramping. A small luxury. And Nashville totally is an interesting place that deserves future exploration.
Song of the week & a reliable member of my long run mix, An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman.
I came up to Portsmouth for the Eastern States 20, another Boston prep race. I haven’t done this particular race before, but in years past it’s been run from Kittery Maine down to Salisbury Mass. Since Memorial Bridge between the two is under repair, we ran a revised course that only hit NH & MA.
The race had a late start at 11am, but the weather was perfect, light breeze off the water. We wound around Portsmouth for a few miles before finding 1A along the coast. The coast itself is gorgeous in parts, rocky outcroppings. At one point someone next to me said there was a guy with a goat on a rock offshore, but I couldn’t say for sure if that was true or not. Let’s assume so for idiosyncrasy’s sake.
I felt strong through the first 13.1 but things started to go poorly after that. In the last few miles I find myself checking my watch far too frequently. I happen to glance down right as it hits 17.76 miles, which beyond being a nice historic number is in a curious coincidence the length of a Marine Corps Marathon qualifier event held just recently [actually, 17.75km -ed]. As I think that, I’m also aware that the Marine Corps Marathon itself has its registration next Tuesday but at this moment I’m starting to bonk and the absolute last thing I want is to register for anothe race.
The last two miles of this race were fairly difficult, coming across the Hampton Harbor Inlet and then across the state line into Massachusetts. I was actively looking for Team HB who was somewhere around the finish but I didn’t actually find them until a few minutes after I finished. There wasn’t much in the way of food at the end, just muscle milk samples (blurgh) but hondo gave me a handful of wheat thins which pretty much saved my life.
My final time was 2:41:14, an 8:04 pace. This is faster than my marathon PR pace (8:10 in Austin) but quite a bit slower than my best half (7:18 in Chicago). I was fairly sick at the finish – I don’t think I used the best pacing strategy here, going out too fast and fading fairly strongly at the end (last two miles were by far the worst, averaging 9:01 min/mile).
I didn’t run with headphones today, my longest ever run without. So no song of the week (I’ll spare you the unfortunate Meatloaf tune I had stuck in my head for the last 10 miles). A few more photos here.
Texas was colder than I thought it would be. I did not bring a long sleeve shirt with me – clearly this was a mistake. I’m down here to run the Austin Marathon – following, a brief recap.
Woke at 2am. Too early. Woke at 3am. Much better. I do not want for sleep the morning of a race. I can sleep later. YJP does not share this worldview, a fact I learn at 3:30am when she tells me to go away.
We have a rough plan to leave at 5am & be at the race site at 5:30. Stepping outside, I’m sure I can see my breath. I cannot get independent verification of this fact. I’m guessing she wouldn’t humor me just because she’s grumpy in the morning.
We park right off the interstate in downtown Austin, maybe four blocks from the capitol building. The start is north of the structure, the gear check to the south, by the finish. The problem here is without sleeves, dropping my thin jacket at gear check leaves me exposed. I compromise and retain my gloves.
There aren’t starting corrals for Austin. YJP & I have decided to start together, as we did for Baltimore. She humors me by moving up – we find a spot a dozen yards behind the 3:40 pace group. I briefly contemplate hiding my gloves in the bushes here but eye contact with a state trooper makes me change my mind. They’ll come along.
The star spangled banner, a press forward, and we’re off. The timing of the start is perfect, with early sunlight starting to hit the tips of the taller downtown structures.
The first few miles are spent winding around downtown. At mile 2 we cross the Congress St bridge (aka Bat Bridge) and begin a two mile climb south. This street is fascinating – keep Austin weird is a city motto and the businesses here fully embrace this ethic. I have no idea what any of them sell but I’m guessing retro lava lamps.
I’m running the hill with the 3:35 pace group. The leaders all are wearing cat in the hat headgear and are exhorting the crowd to cheer for them (the crowds obliges, which is actually kinda nice). I hadn’t planned to run this fast and wonder if I could run the whole distance with these guys.
At 5.5 we make a turn over and begin the descent back to the river. Here I pick up speed and leave the 3:35s behind. My GPS shows I was running in the 7:30s for this part of the course – this is closer to my half-marathon speed, not something I can sustain for the full.
At the half-marathon mark I’m across at 1:45:41, a decent pace, 8:04 per mile. I don’t calculate this average until later – had I I would have most certainly thougt it was too fast. For the next few miles after the half mark I follow behind a group of four people that I eventually learn are with Gilbert’s Gazelles, an Austin running group. The oldest dude here knows everyone along the course, random people along both sides of the course shout out to him from behind fences and BBQs. It’s pretty cool.
YJP and I had talked through the second half of the course the night before, which was far more helpful than me reading it solo. Maybe it’s auditory recall that helps. Regardless, I know two facts. At mile 18.5 I’ll be as far away from downtown as we’ll get, and at 19 it’s all downhill from that. The former turns out to be true, the latter not so much.
I’m struggling a bit at 18 and am worried about fuel. I take a half banana from a lady on the right of the course and a twizzler from two girls on the right. I pass up oranges everywhere – the acid of citrus holds no appeal to me. I’ve finished two of my three Gu’s and no more are forthcoming on the course which makes me nervous.
The hills beyond 19 are not large, but they are dispiriting. Since I dropped the 3:35s at mile six I’ve been telling myself I just need to build enough cushion between myself and them so that if I struggle later, the downhill will be my saving grace. Unfortunately this plan doesn’t work – I can hear them coming before they steamroll me at 21.5. I’m running 8:20 miles here, eight seconds off their pace, and won’t be able to regain them.
At 23 though, I turn a corner, taking my last gu. It really is almost all downhill from here, and by some magic I’m able to keep the 3:35s in sight. I know I started behind them at the beginning, so on some level am aware I can finish behind them and still be under their pace time.
The last mile is surprisingly desolate. I drop my headphones and focus on not breaking myself. On cue I have left calf & thigh twinges, threats of muscles that are contemplating seizure. This had happened a couple times before (the threat, not the follow through), and luckily enough that eventuality can wait for another day.
Crowds started to build around 25.5. I’m aware that YJP & her friends are likely here somewhere but I can’t see them, can’t focus on the crowd when I hear someone shouting at me. An unofficial pacer who ha been running nearby for the last mile exhorts his runner enthusiastically – at the second to last bend a race official escorts him off the course. We needed him, dude!
But there it is. Last hill, corner, corner, finish. Final time, 3:34:10, an 8:10 split and new marathon PR for me. I’m paces behind the 3:35 group and hear one of the girls in that group tell the pacer that she qualified for Boston with his help, this almost makes me cry in the moment. I’m still a long way from that myself, I’ll have to knock almost a minute per mile off my pace to get down to 3:10 that men my age need to run, but there’s such an odd feeling of possibility – this goal is simultaneously unfathomable and completely achievable. Two years ago I could not have thought I could run a marathon through with strength, one year ago I had never broken 4 hours or run a marathon under 9:00 minute splits yet here I am. I can’t run a 7:15 pace for a marathon yet, but in the bigger sense I know I can do it, it is possible, I am on a trajectory that will take me there. It’s an achieveable goal.
Post race is blur. I stumble through grinning deliriously and find my people. Reclaim bag & phone and drink some water. The finish line band is The Derailers playing to mostly empty tables in the middle of an empty street. We rest a while and progress onward for beers and other less important calories.
One day shy of the one year anniversary of my run at the Baltimore Running Festival, I found myself in the state of my birth running the Amica Newport Marathon. I’ve been looking forward to this since last December, Newport has been my primary focus for a fall marathon. My expectations have been tempered of late as I’m not done dealing with my birthday ankle sprain, and to boot I’m not quite over this dumb cold.
I drove down to Newport arriving at 5pm the Saturday before the race. The expo was at the Newport Yachting Center, which really just meant it was in a big tent in the parking lot outside. It was surprisingly cold here! The weather channel said race day would be 60+ but the afternoon before feels more like 40. I am underdressed.
Race day! I got up at 4:30am, hyper hydrated per usual, breakfast of two bagel halves + extra crunchy Jif. I brought iced coffee with me – maybe a bit too much as my anxiety was running high. I could hear the wind roaring outside and for whatever reason really managed to psych myself out about the conditions. Inside the house I was staying at it was quite cold, and it wasn’t until I went out to the car at 6:30am that I realized the wind itself wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be.
In addition to my cough & congestion problems I’ve been feeling fairly nauseous lately, pretty much ever since the finish of the BAA Half (I wasted the entire Columbus Day holiday sick in bed). Some of this morning’s sickness may have been normal nerves but overall it was worse than usual, I seriously felt like barfing, before/during/after. The series of texts I sent Christine before she was even up was particularly pitiful but fortunately she was able to snap me out of it somewhat with breathing exercises.
I headed down to the start, arriving at 7am. There was a schoolbus shuttle to the start from the parking lot at Second Beach – I stood in line for the bus for about 60 seconds before I made the executive decision that today would be a two-shirt + long sleeve kind of day.
Bus to the start. Part of the reason I have been so excited about this race is it started right on the spit of land where I stayed for Nate & Lucy’s wedding a few years ago. In fact, the start line is exactly where I sprained my ankle the day morning of the wedding, stepping off a curb and almost into a oncoming car. This pavement, it has long been reasoned, owed me.
So. The race. I was late to the chute and couldn’t figure out how to get in – there were no gaps anywhere on the side I was on. Eventually I limbo’d through the fence somewhere behind the 9:00 split sign. The start was delayed for 10-15 minutes for reasons unexplained – I never heard an anthem, an announcement or even a go. This is a sign of poor organization. But eventually, we went.
The course starts up a small hill into Newport proper. At mile two we were just south of downtown Newport, mile four a small loop through the parking lot of Fort Adams State Park (I had never been there before). Mile 6 was a bit more interesting – this passed by Castle Hill, the area I explored earlier this summer during a wedding I was filming.
Miles 6 to 7.5 was to my mind the most difficult stretch of road I can recall running. The course here was along Ocean Ave, wrapping around the southwestern-most bit of Aquidneck Island. The wind off the ocean was absolutely brutal. I know this area is breathtakingly beautiful – when I was here in July I hung out on these rocks for hours. Today, it was miserable, only way to run was with head down. I thought I was going to lose my glasses, and kept a hand to my number lest that tear off.
Miles 8 through 10 were more sheltered, winding through some cool ponds and houses. At 10 the course turned north on Bellevue, alongside the mansions of Newport. We passed Breakers at 11, and the crowd began to build here. This was one of the more exciting parts of the race, the buildup to the finish of the first half. People around me were picking up their pace and people were screaming that we were almost finished – I actually would have been happy to have been done at this point. I think in general I prefer if there’s a split earlier in the race where the half & full diverge so we don’t have to get all excited about a false ending. Anyway, we turned east past the entrance to the Cliff Walk and the halfers finished roughly where we started.
Mile 15 was the next notable point for me – coming into this downhill I started looking for my people and eventually found them at 15 3/4ths along Second Beach. I tried to high-five Ebs but missed again – this bothered me because the same thing happened at Quincy earlier this year and I learned later he was upset.
The 16-17 stretch was pretty miserable. This out & back was so windy, similar to 6-7.5, but now with the bonus of blowing sand. Steven told me later that sand gets airborne at 25mph wind – if so the gusts were well above this. Sandblast to the face – I was picking it out of my ears nose and mouth for the next 24 hours. Some guys on the leeward side of the dune were parasailing – this is a smarter choice for an entertainment option than running on a day like today.
At mile 17.5 I saw my peeps again – Steven on the right and Christine & Tate on the left (Eben hiding from the wind in the car). I wasn’t too familiar with the course (I hadn’t looked at the map in some months) so didn’t realize until here that pretty much the rest of the course was one long out & back along the eastern coast. Rolling hills here, fairly reasonably sized but not horrible. More depressing was just how long this backtrack was. I was feeling fairly sick by this point. I saw Nate & Lucy at 20 & again at 22 – those two miles felt like they were 40 minutes apart. I was ignoring my GPS completely by this point but in retrospect it looks like I was above 10:00 splits when I saw them both times. Soon after mile 22 I let myself walk for two minutes, something I’m loathe to do. The urge to vomit was strong, in retrospect I should have done it and gotten it over with.
At mile 24 I saw Team HB again – they had recruited some random old people to scream & shout for me which my brain wasn’t really able to process. Why are these strangers so excited to see me?! I finally got my high five with Ebs, and turned for home. I made it past 25 and the wheels really started to come off. As you can see from the red in the heat map I ended up walking half of the last mile – the entire uphill bit, trying to get my nausea under control. I was vaguely aware that I was giving up what would have been my third sub-4hr marathon but it was the decision I choose to make. Or had to make? I’m not sure. Eventually I picked up to a trot for a looping finish back by the starting beach.
This marathon was my 9th overall and 8th in the past year. It wasn’t my strongest, wasn’t my fastest, wasn’t the prettiest. But it was important to me nonetheless, both in terms of overcoming my adversity-de-jour (wind/sickness/ankle) and in that my people came to cheer for me. And finally doing one in Rhode Island was personally very satisfying. My final time was 4:04:17, 11 minutes faster than Maine, 40 seconds faster than Vermont but well slower than New Orleans and 30 minutes off my PR in Traverse City in May.
After a slightly longer than normal requisite recovery time at the finish, my crew & I packed up & headed over to a Wendy’s for some empty celebratory calories. I felt so lucky that we ended up at this random fast food place that happened to have a large flatscreen TV turned to CNN so that we could watch Felix Baumgartner’s record setting leap into the stratosphere. Utterly amazing. I’m so glad we didn’t miss this.
So that’s Newport. My next marathon is in Philadelphia, five weeks from today.
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 1: A covered bridge. I like this course already!
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 16.3: Right turn here, the very nice lady who is volunteering at this spot tells us we’re at the highest point on the course. I couldn’t be happier.
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.
I think I’ll just lightly modify what I put over on daily mile about tonight’s race, the Squantum 5.
Just to put it out there, I’m a little disappointed with the outcome tonight. This was a shorter race than last Sunday’s BAA 10K, yet I finished a few seconds slower on my mile split. Overall I was 14 seconds off my 5mi PR, set at the Ring Around the Neck in Marblehead last April. The weather was warm but not too warm. I dunno what happened, just… not a great effort by me tonight. Maybe it’s an afternoon vs morning thing.
This course in Squantum is gorgeous. Love love the neighborhood. One really big hill, couple of smaller ones – much of this really pretty part was on the course of the Half of Quincy back in March, but this time in the opposite direction. As usual I’m passing people on the uphill and getting smoked left & right on the down-side, one girl and I swapped places 6 times. The finish (last quarter mile) was on trails with some minor flooding, nothing severe. There was free beer, food & music and a harborside seat at sunset to finish the evening. No reason to be down really, other than my standard numerical obsessiveness. Just 14 seconds too slow. 25th overall, 14 of 54 for age/sex. Official results are here.
Anyway, ok, I’m done with the self-indulgences. I’ll get it next time.
I entered into Traverse City the day prior to Bayshore with a bit more anxiety and trepidation than I would have liked to have had, entirely thanks to the debacle that was Green Bay. Here’s a rough timeline of how things went down for my Michigan marathon.
Friday, 3pm: Arrive at Traverse City State Park. There’s a massive backlog of people checking in for the long weekend – I explain to the lady that I’m only staying one day even though I booked two nights so only and she looks at me like I have two heads. I’ve been getting a lot of awkwardness lately and am not sure why. Put my tent up – I can see the water from here, the beach is over a little pedestrian overpass over the highway.
4:20pm: Head to the local high school a bit early for registration. I decide to drop $15 on the pasta dinner as it’s a fundraiser and I’d rather just eat early and be done with it, skip the whole driving around trying to find a decent restaurant options. The shirt is really cool, and they give us special Bayshore Marathon socks! I splurge and buy another few pairs of whatever the guy has that are most expensive – I’ve been dealing with blisters on my left big toe all week from Green Bay and like a moron haven’t brought any non-cotton running socks with me on the trip.
6pm: Driving though downtown Traverse City, just to poke around. My primary goal is to find coffee as I haven’t had enough for my GI health in the last several days. I find a coffee place at 6:03 – they of course are just closed but let me sneak in anyway. I get two cups, one for now, one to go on ice for the morning. Bringing a cooler from Mikey’s house was the smartest logistical move of the trip.
7pm: Back to the campsite, chillin’ and reading my book. It’s super stupid early but I’m trying to hydrate, stay off my feet and do mental prep for a few hours.
9pm: Crash out for a few hours.
11pm: Wake up to party camp USA. The kids that were running around screaming earlier have gone to bed to be replaced by the campfire drinkers. I listen to them talk til almost 1am when I finally get the idea to put my headphones in and let Sufjan Stevens put me to sleep.
Saturday, 3:15am: Awake before my alarm at 3:30. Dressed and water and coffee and a last minute fashion life-crisis regarding my shades of orange.
4:40am: I head to the high school & start. I had heard someone at the expo say the local parking lot would be full by 4:45am – this is wildly inaccurate. I am one of the first five people there. Fortunately the gym is open as they have a morning of packet pickup. Numbers start to build and we chill inside until the sun starts to come up.
6am: Outside. Temps are good, not cold, not hot. The DJ is playing obnoxiously upbeat music for the hour. The half marathoners have all be bused to the far end of the course so there are more than enough port-a-potties for last minute needs. I obsess a bit about why I’m one of only a very few with a camelbak – regardless, I’m wearing it for the race.
7am: Race start! I spend the first mile convinced the tape job I did on my toe blister is causing my foot to slide inside my shoe. Eventually I’m able to stop thinking about it – it never became a problem (thanks expensive socks!). First four miles are through residential neighborhoods – people are at the end of their drives in chairs even though it’s Saturday and stupid early. Good support.
Mile 10 I take my sports beans. This is a recent change to my strategy and I’m not completely sold on them, but I did buy a 24 pack through Amazon so into the body furnace they go.
8:47:11am: I hit the midway point. I’ve been purposely trying to go slower than I did in Green Bay but my time is faster at half. It’s clear that the lack of heat is good news – there’s honestly no difference in my fitness between last week and this week but here I feel strong, no need to slow. From this point on it’s overcast – no sun is good sun on marathon day. The water of Grand Traverse Bay is omnipresent in this course – from the turn around it stays comfortably on our left.
I decide at 16 that if I’m feeling good at 22 I’ll let myself drop my splits there. This is really just a stalling strategy – I know I’m 100% fine through 16, 90% fine through 20, but 20+ is a mystery, can go either way. Once I actually get to 22 I feel good, but my times have started to slip a bit. Support is high – I take my headphones off for each group of supporters. I’ve found acknowledging them is a good way to get a response back, particularly if they’re waiting for one person instead of cheering in general. Drinking twice at every station by now, up to Gu #4, which is more than usual for me. People keep handing them to me, I keep taking them.
At mile 25 I’ve furtively checked my “average pace” setting on my watch enough to know I’m within striking distance of 3:35 time. I kick the last mile and finish without any sort of asthma episode (unlike in New Orleans, and Baltimore, and St. Louis). My time comes in just over, officially my chip time is 3:35:34 – I neglected to compensate for the +0.1 mile differential my GPS had built up over the course of the race. Still, a massive PR for me, 19+ minutes faster than New Orleans.
11am: Post-party. Ice cream for free and I’m stupid happy. I chill for a hour trying to get on top of things leg-wise then go cheer for the rest of the field.
1pm: Back to the campground to shower and knock down camp & then a long drive back to Chicago. The take home lesson here – it is technically possible to drive for six hours after a marathon, but I really shouldn’t do that again. But no harm no foul, Chicago is waiting and beautiful when I get there. Honestly, it feels like home. I really would not mind living here someday.
I should have known it was a bad omen when I saw the freshly dead deer on Interstate 43 twenty miles outside Green Bay. A second warning sign in retrospect could have been when the race director told us that the course was mismeasured last year, 0.15 miles over.
Anyway, so as to not bury the lede, despite some six months of planning & training, I didn’t finish the Green Bay Marathon today. At mile 18 we were told to stop – at 19.8 I finally did.
As far as the part of the race I was able to run – the first half went pretty well. It wasn’t hot at the start, I ran with the 3:35 pace group for the first 10 miles (I was 1:22:23 through 10, an 8:14 split). It was about at the split from the half marathoners at 12 that I started noticing the heat. Much of the first 12 was on shaded residential streets – the miles after the split were more exposed & the sun was brutal. I haven’t trained much in the heat – we simply haven’t had any weather like this.
By 13.1, I was running an 8:18 split and had lost my 3:35 pace group. By 15 I was passed by the 3:40 group and my splits had soared over 9:00. I don’t remember much between 15 & 18. The course here was beautiful along the Fox River Trail – more shade but not enough. Really what we needed was cloud cover.
So, canceled, black-flagged, whatever, the call was made by the medical director. Probably for the best. But I’m still somewhat irritated with the ass-covering posturing by the race director in the news today. You didn’t run out of water? Fantastic, glad to see you getting those liability talking points squared away. You want a pat on the back for not running out of water?? Tone-deafness to the disappointment of so many who could have finished but were blocked from doing so, and complaining in the press about those who chose to continue? That’s tacky.
I can’t help but contrast this to what I saw last month when volunteering at the Boston Marathon. That day was hotter, that race started later, and runners adapted as needed, run/ walking as needed. Not that this should be our metric but no one died in Boston, and no one pulled the plug two and a half hours in.
I guess I’m just irritated with the whole situation whether or not it was the right call. Worse, I was highly annoyed to finally get to the finish and find that I couldn’t work my way into the runner’s chute to get bananas, etc. And on finding the food tent – water for $1?? With all due respect, fuck whoever made that decision. It should not be easier to get cold beer than to get cold water, yet there we were. And insult to injury, the band was also canceled, so after listening to 30 minutes of droned race results, there was no entertainment. Upon trying to leave I waited another hour for a hotel shuttle.
Despite my disappointment, I’d like to end this on somewhat of a positive note. Every volunteer on the course was noticeably helpful & supportive. And the rest of the people I’ve met in Wisconsin so far could not have been nicer. The race shirt is quite nice, and I was thankfully able to get a medal (that obviously I don’t deserve). And lastly, since I didn’t finish & can’t check Wisconsin off my list, I’ll happily come back for another race. Just, next time, it’ll be Madison.
Song of the week from an early mile (~3), Foster the People, Pumped up Kicks.
The rest of Team HB & I rolled down to Quincy this morning for my first crack at the Half of Quincy. Interesting course, starts out along the water, runs up through a gorgeous neighborhood in Squantum, around Marina Bay a bit before winding it’s way through under the interstate back to the start. I felt pretty pent up at the start and ran much of the first mile on the sidewalk to dodge the crowd. My goal had been 8:00 splits but after the first few miles I decided to stick with 7:30, a pace I’ve been using for my Wednesday hour runs. I managed to hang with that number for the majority of the race (mile 10 clocked in a 8:00 but the final mile was back down to 7:19) to finish with a 1:36:50, a PR for me. My previous best at this distance was many years ago in the 2003 BAA Half, running for Team DFCI long before I worked there or started doing cancer research.
One thing SMHB & I noticed about this time – if you double it you get 3:13:40, less than the 3:15:00 qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in my age range. So one (generous) way of looking at it is to say I’m halfway there.
Anyway, many thanks to my support squad who came down and saw me on the course twice. They definitely make me run faster. Hopefully this time won’t stand for another 9 years.
Also of note, today marks the halfway point (week 9 of 18) in my preparation for the Green Bay Marathon. I’m not planning to run a 3:15 there, but say a 3:50, that could be doable.
A not-so-brief recap of the New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Roll, my first marathon of 2012.
Start: The start line could literally not have been closer to my hotel. This is a really fantastic arrangement for me, no need to wait in the port-a-potty lines for the overly hydrated.
Mile 1: Friggin cold out here, many people are running in long sleeves but I have none. The start is slow due to the crowd – I’m much closer to the front than I was in St. Louis but I want to be further up in my next Rock ‘N’ Roll race. There’s no mile 1 marker though so not sure how behind pace I am. I really want a Garmin.
Miles 2-3: After looping around a bit we’re running west along St. Charles St. They’ve stopped the street cars for the race so I follow other’s lead and hop up on the trolley right-of-way to run a dirt path along the tracks. The advantage here is softer ground and more room to maneuver but I miss a water table this way. The trees on this road are freaking huge and beautiful.
Mile 4-5: We turn back to overlap ourselves & run east along St. Charles. I read an article saying the organizers had rejiggered the course to increase the amount of there & backs to cut down on the number of cops needed to block intersections. Typically this kind of thing is irritating but this is such a gorgeous road full of massive oaks so I don’t really mind. One interesting difference – the trees on the south side of the road we are on now are draped in beads. Are these permanent or leftovers from the recent Mardi Gras parade? Unclear.
Mile 9: Running through this dude’s legs, and into the French Quarter. Some drinkers on the fringes here – not sure if they’re up early for a morning beverage or still up from last night. I heard bars here close at six am but it’s almost 8:30 now, kind of a no-man’s-land for any non-gatorade drinker.
Mile 11-12: Straight shot up Esplanade to the park. This road is fairly torn up, footing is tricky but fortunately no twisted ankles. The half-marathoners split off around, including the cute girl I had been pacing myself on. Most of the (many) folks running in tutus exit here.
Mile 13.1: My watch time at the half is 1:54:45. This is 42 seconds behind my time at last year’s BAA half, but I’ve got another half to go. Feeling solid. My mental plan from the beginning was to not be stressed by anything before mile 16, then worry about the last ten when the time came.
Mile 15: Long boring stretch up the west side of City Park. My eyes keep wandering off to the right looking for gators in the waterway but sadly there are none. To the left is a levy of some sort blocking the view west – afterward I learn the Orleans Canal is hidden behind there.
Mile 16: There have been opportunities for free beer in several places along the course but here some people have trays of martinis, olives & all. I pass on the drink but am starting to feel fatigued. This is my first mile with a split above 9:00 – at 9:06 I’m still under my goal of 9:09 (for a 4 hour finish), but just barely.
Mile 17: There’s a table handing out Gu – I’ve been carrying some but had forgotten to take my second and this gives a much needed boost. The high school guys handing them out are excited and dynamic – “look at your face, you definitely need one of these”. You have no idea how right you are dude. Some girl screams “you’re sexy and you know it” in my general direction – this makes my day.
Mile 18-19: Running along the lakeshore. Lake Pontchartrain is HUGE. Once we turn east the wind is more at our backs, thankfully. This part of the course reminds me of my 20 mile training run in Chicago prior to Baltimore last year.
Mile 20: Horrible mile for me, 9:39 split, slowest of the race. Ready for the last turn at the University of New Orleans. I see no interesting buildings or landmarks here, just a police cruiser blocking the road telling us to head back the other way.
Mile 21: There’s no much in the way of hills in the whole course (the elevation map is here), but this mile marker is at a relative high point, at the top of a bridge over the Bayou St John. Despite the hill, my split at mile 21 is back down to 8:57. I’m definitely going to make my 4:00 goal.
Mile 23: The doldrums of the long miles home. I can’t even be bothered to look for gators on the way back south. My splits around here are fluctuating from 8:50 to 9:10, I’m trying and failing to do any math but keep trying and failing anyway. Since the course is doubled back here I’m watching the slower runners coming north – with the last ones I see I estimate I’m 10 full miles ahead of them. I cannot express how glad I am that I don’t have 10 miles yet to go.
Mile 25: I ditch my headphones. Crowds starting to build as we cut into the park, lots of finished people cheering us on.
Finish: Brilliant. I actually really like this last mile, winding around in the park. I still have enough gas in the tank to push past a few people, watch time 3:54:57, a PR for me (!!) and nearly 15 minutes ahead of my previous best. Asthma kicks in as I cross the line but the medical tent doesn’t have any albuterol – this is becoming a recurrent problem for me at the end of marathons. I stumble off to find my breath, some liquids & listen to blues on the grass with my new friends.
I was in the South End last night watching the Cardinals win the World Series (!) when it came out that my oldest friend Nate hadn’t realized that I was in St. Louis last weekend. Or that I had run a marathon there. Both of these things are true. So for posterity, a recap.
Saturday 10/22: I took an early Saturday flight from Logan to Lambert on Southwest. There’s a very new looking & shiny metrolink train from the airport that runs you straight downtown. I wandered around a bit, finding America’s Center & the race expo. This was the inaugural year of the race being Rock ‘n’ Roll series event which means loud radio-style rock blasting everywhere. It was crowded and I had all my luggage with me so people kept asking if I was from out of town. Yes, I am.
I decide to wait for Monica at the expo, but that means I have to kill a few hours. The arch is not far from the convention center and the sun is shining so I go hang out with the rest of the STL tourists for a while. I’ve been to this place so many times – I went up with my family as a kid, stopped here with Jill after a post-college road trip, came here to get dizzy with AZ. Lots of strange mashed-up memories of love & loss.
I find Monica, we get her number but frustratingly they won’t let us have Lydia’s. After that a long drive out to O’Fallon where we meet up with the rest of the cousins & kids and dogs and husbands of cousins. We chat about life & the race and then I’m off to my hotel for an early bedtime, despite the Cardinals/Rangers game. I get to see Pujols hit two of his three home runs, one of the best personal performances in World Series history. FORESHADOWING.
Sunday 10/23: Up at 3:20am. I didn’t really sleep much after 1am, waking up every few minutes to check my clock, eventually getting up well before the first alarm went off. Natalie & a friend of hers picked me up and we drove the 40 minutes down to the start, luckily finding a free meter within a block of the action. It’s still dark out still but there are runners massing everywhere. There’s a stage set up and inappropriately loud music being blasted for the hour – presumably Rock ‘n’ Roll people can only have events where there aren’t residential neighbors. All the cousins met up for one last photo.
I decide for one last cycle through the bathroom lines after we split for our respective corrals – this turns out to be a mistake because the line takes more than 30 minutes, pushing me past the 7:30am start time. It takes a long while to get this many people started (half & full marathoners all start together here) but still I’m on the wrong side of the start line when the gun goes off for the wheelchairs. I work my way back to corral #11 which is really too slow for me – my pace group is two ahead in #9. Lydia is supposedly in #11 with me but it’s too packed, I can’t find her. I’m actually in the overflow off the course at the very back of the pack.
We get rolling maybe twenty minutes later, in my mind I’m estimating two minute gaps between corrals. By this math, if I can catch & hang with my pace group (4:10) I’ll finish well under that. The first few miles are downtown, near but not quite to the arch, tall buildings. I find and pass both 4:20 and 4:10 pace groups, trying to put some distance between myself and them. A bigger problem is the half pace groups – I get stuck behind 2:05 for a while as these guys cork up the entire width of the course.
The biggest difference between St. Louis and Baltimore the week prior is I don’t really have anyone to look for on this course. So it’s much more focused on distance, my splits and breathing properly. I’m definitely more tired in this race than last week – I notice myself dragging by the half mark, but my time is still good, under two hours. I’m more or less successfully trying to keep all my splits between 9:00 and 9:30 – each mile in this range means I’m moving incrementally ahead of my pace group. It’s a bit like the swimming events in the Olympics where they have the colored bar in the pool trailing the swimmers with the record time – I know there’s a invisible line sweeping along behind me and I know that I’ll drop off near the end so need to be as far ahead of that as possible before that time comes.
Anyway – race highlights. Mile 5 we pass through SLU, I recognize this from my previous visit and realize I’m not far from AZ’s house. Mile 8 we dump the half marathoners, which turns out to be the vast bulk of the field. From here on we’re a straggly group running through residential neighborhoods. Somewhere around Mile 11 I see some fat guy on the front porch who has set up a bunch of angry signs in his yard (“26.2 Miles – No One Cares”, “You’re Wasting Your Sunday And Mine”, etc). Mile 15 is the start of the loop-back part of the course in Carondelet Park. At Mile 18 right before the overlap ends I see Monica (actually, she sees me) – she’s about 3 miles behind at this point which is about what we thought would happen. I’m about 100 meters from the Mile 22 marker when I realize I’m running even with the 4:10 guys – I had hoped to put them off for at least one more mile. I push ahead of them past that marker and keep them off for another half mile, but I’m fading and not able to run with them anymore. Just after this we meet up with the tail end of the “half marathoners”, quotes necessary as these are all overweight walkers. It’s tricky to maneuver through this slow field. The last few miles are mostly downhill, I’m constantly doing the calculations on the shrinking gap between my projected finish and my goal. This is much, much harder without SMHB to double check my math. I had almost 13 minutes to spare at mile 25 which even I can tell is more than an easy 10:00 split – I kick that home with minimal trauma. Final chip time, 4:09:21, 136th of 339 in my M35-39 division. I could not be happier than I am, solidly under my goal of 4:10 and with considerably less sickness than I did the week prior in Baltimore.
Post race – I find Natalie almost immediately in the finish chute, she’s beat her goal of 4:00, by 10 seconds. I see a few moments of the “rock ‘n’ roll” headliners, Sugar Ray. There’s some requisite stumbling around before we find Monica and Lyds. Some celebratory photos later – and that’s it. I bummed a ride to AZ’s place where there was celebratory pizza and beer and watching the Cardinals lose and embarrassingly falling asleep on the floor in front of her friends.
So, there’s the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll. Marathon #2 in two weeks. Tomorrow will be my third and final of the month, if the pre-Halloween snow storms and coastal flooding and 55mph(!!) expected wind gusts will lighten up a bit. I definitely don’t expect to set another PR and will be happy to finish strong in non-frozen form. We shall see.
My rough recollections of yesterday’s Baltimore Marathon with highly inaccurate mile marker estimations.
Mile 0: The 8am start was cool but not quite chilly, a beautiful day to run. YJP, VK & I start together, but I lose them within the first few hundred yards.
Mile 2: Without a lot of forethought I had decide to try to run with the 4:15 pace group. I lose them ahead when the leader puts his sign down. I catch & pass them, and decide to run & time my own splits rather than worry about hanging with them.
Mile 3: The first three miles have been great, negative splits as the crowd thins. Into the zoo – the entry gate is flanked by two ravens. No Orioles in sight.
Mile 5: Team HB is there cheering, for me! I am lucky. There’s an absolutely gorgeous lake here, particularly given the early morning light (Druid Lake). I’m giving back a lot of the early elevation gain which makes these miles fast.
Mile 6: Johns Hopkins. The neighborhood here is not nice, lots of boarded up townhouse but the locals are out and cheering for us. There are several stretches throughout the race like this, obvious pockets of poverty. Somewhere around here I notice the Federal Land Bank of Baltimore building which makes me wonder how many of these empty buildings will be condemned or taken via eminent domain. Across the street from the land bank building is a large empty fenced lot, no urban farming here. Later I find out that particular building is actually luxury condos now, go figure.
Mile 9: Back to the inner harbor to find CNHB & Ebs! Chrissy told me later she had been in that spot for only one minute before I came by. Lots of energy in the air here, the half-marathon is getting ready to start. It was around here I realize the field for the half is bigger than full – the area is packed.
Mile 10: Federal Hill is a gorgeous neighborhood. This is one of the areas we had been considering living in had LZ & I moved here back when Johns Hopkins was on the table.
Mile 11: We loop around the Under Armour headquarters. There’s a DJ here, far too loud, painful to the ears. Regardless, a good sponsor, the shirt is cool.
Mile 12.5: I see YJP across the way, heading the other direction. I shout but she doesn’t hear me.
Mile 13.1: I reach the half-way mark in under two hours, about 4 minutes slower than last week’s half. I’m fairly sure I’m running too fast, lessons from NYC unlearned. I see all of Team HB for a happy high-five.
Mile 16: Here we merge with the half-marathon field. There are tons of them. Given how stretched out the marathon field is by now, it feels like they outnumber us 20:1. In reality the numbers are more like 5000 full, 11,000 half.
Mile 17.5: I pick up my pace runner. This is against the rules and turns out to be absolutely necessary. I feel no guilt.
Mile 19-20: This is where things start to fall apart. I have 19 in my head as a goal since that’s where the NYC meltdown happened, but passing this mark does not help as it’s been mostly uphill since mile 16. There’s another lake here (Montebelo) and it’s beautiful, but suddenly very windy, challenging. Our mile splits are plummeting to the 10:30 range, I’m forced to give up my fleeting delusions of sub-4 hour grandeur.
Miles 21-24: These miles are mostly a blur. I’m having a hard time breathing, I can hear an audible wheeze that should not be there. Rolling hills, feels like more up than down. I have a vague memory about two furries in tiger suits standing on top of a station wagon. These neighborhoods are all out for the marathon with swedish fish and bands but I’m not in mental shape to appreciate any of it. SMB helps me fill my water bottle whenever possible – I’m drinking twice per station and as much as I can in between and can tell I’m still dehydrated.
Mile 24: We cross a bridge (in retrospect, the pretty cool looking Howard Street Bridge) and even that little incline kills me. SMB tells me later about the cool views of the city coming in but I’m only watching the ground.
Mile 25: I know it’s all downhill from here, but it’s not easy. Feeling really, really sick, hard to catch my breath.
Mile 26: The finish is just beyond Camden Yards. I touch Cal Ripken’s #8 on the way through. I remember seeing Christine shout but am having a hard time not crying, emotions & body chemistry are way out of whack. There are two instances when I think I’m having an asthma attack, my lungs grasping for air and not able to take any in. My right calf has a sharp cramp at 25.8, the left at 26. I think I might fall but don’t. Then, just like that, we’re under the last bridge and it’s all over.
After some time passed out on the concrete behind the bagel tent we recover enough to cheer for the others. Later we saw a mysterious dumpster fire behind my hotel (a metaphor for something), had a very many bananas and somewhat fewer celebratory beers and tried not to fall asleep at dinner. Ain’t no party like a post-marathon party!