Still deciding which was harder.
Didn't do the Baconator Awards last winter. I suppose they'd run their course and it was time to move on. As for myself, I wasn't anxious to repeat the previous winter's torn meniscus so I skipped doing any runs that might have been bacon-worthy. I'll probably do the same this year. Since I bought that dreadmill for Mrs. Dave, she hasn't used it, despite getting all the way through a Couch-to-5-K program over the summer. Not that there was any "anti-D" pressure from me. Really.
With the New Hampshire Marathon on Saturday, our travel plans had us leaving Thursday afternoon, as soon as I could get home from a half day at work. So, Wednesday's intervals would be my last before race day. It was wet. Rain. Cool. Not "almost snowing and totally miserable" rain and cool, but you know what? I don't have anything to prove. I can run whenever, wherever and however I want. I've run in all kinds of conditions and will do so again, when I feel like it. This week, I didn't.
That's how Wednesday's intervals also became my very first treadmill intervals. As part of the family room decor, it sits in a corner facing a blank wall. Not much of a view. But I can mount an iPad if I want to watch something. I've been listening to a Daniel Silva book, so I blue toothed my phone to a speaker and listened while I ran. Not sure I trust this thing 100%, either, but I used the numbers that were there. Easy jog for 1.5, then 2 x 1.5 @ 7:30 pace. The run was good. The book (House of Spies) is excellent.
We drove through Ontario and stopped for the night in Syracuse at a Tru hotel. I'd only seen a couple of things about this place, but they're by Hilton, and new, so we figured it'd at least be clean. I walked in the front door and my first thought was, "Disney!" They were missing Mickey and all the other characters, but the layout and color scheme was exactly what I'd expect to see in the Magic Kingdom. Mrs. Dave had gone ahead while I parked the car, and when I opened the door to the room, she said, "Disney!" But, it was new, clean, nice and had the normal sort of hotel breakfast in the morning. We'd stay there again.
It was five and a half more hours to our hotel for the next night, in Tilton, NH, about 20 miles south of Bristol. Once you get to Albany, you leave the interstate and it's smaller roads most of the rest of the way. Driving through the Green Mountain National Forest was fun. The colors at the higher altitude were amazing. I'd have taken pictures but I was driving. We listened to the new Malcolm Gladwell book, Talking to Strangers. Highly recommend all of his stuff. Makes you think differently about your whole life and the world we live in.
After we checked into the hotel (Super 8 - quite a bit older than the Tru, but good enough and the most reasonable place within 50 miles) we drove the 20 miles to check out the course, pick up my bib and eat. If you're into big city marathons, this isn't for you. There were 160 finishers this year. The "expo" is in the basement of the local middle school and isn't an expo at all. They have registration tables, shirts and generic bibs from RoadID (not even the name of the race on them). That's it. But the volunteers are all friendly and know what they're doing. There were some travel mugs fr swag, but I don't need a travel mug.
We drove the course, which reminded me of how tough things were going to be. This is not an easy marathon (if any of them are easy). The elevation change from the start to the highest point is only 286 feet, but almost none of it is flat. 1,100 feet total, some of it really steep.
I'd looked at a pacing plan from findmymarathon.com, but it was too complicated. On top of that, I've made no secret of the fact that this summer has really messed with my head as far as training goes. The early October race date meant no 3-4 weeks of cooler fall weather to give me confidence at then end of all the miles. Race day weather was going to be perfect - 40o at the 9:00 AM start and 60o at the finish, with lots of shade. I had no idea what kind of effort I could sustain over 26 miles. I'd 2, maybe 3 runs in decent conditions. So, I decided to run on effort - I've done a few marathons before, so I think I know what "too fast" is by now, since I most often start out exactly like that - and see what happened when I got to the top of the hill at the half. A good plan if I could execute it.
I will also say that if you're looking for a beautiful time and place to run a marathon, Bristol, NH in early October should be near the top of your list.
We paid the $8 each for the pasta dinner, sponsored by the local Masons. I'm not one myself, but despite all the conspiracy theory based books I've read and History Channel specials, I have no issues with them. This group seemed pretty harmless and they put together a nice spread of spaghetti and 15-20 different sauces, plus bread and salad, with cookies and cake for dessert. We talked to a few of the other runners and then went back to Tilton for the night.
Tried to go to bed early, but couldn't sleep. So I did an extra crossword and finally turned off the lights at 11:00. Then I spent the next four hours tossing and turning - I assume from nerves, no matter how I tried to convinced myself that I've done this too many times to be anxious about running a marathon, I couldn't get more than a few minutes of dozing at a time. Seriously, what was wrong with me? I did manage to stay in bed until 6:30, so even though it wasn't a good night's sleep, I was at least physically rested. I hoped, anyway.
Bagel with PB and a banana for breakfast, then off to Bristol.
As forecast, the sky was clear, there was a gentle breeze and it was just under 40 degrees. Cool. With Mrs. Dave as my private gear checker, I stripped down to just my shorts and t-shirt and waited for the nation anthem to finish. There was one guy in a catsup bottle costume. I hate costumed runners because they always seem to beat me. There was a banana guy at New York and for the first 8 miles all I heard was, "Go, Banana!" Then he dropped me and I felt annoyed for 18 miles.
They had B-tags for timing, but no starting map, so timing was based on the starting gun. Not really an issue with 160 marathoners. There was also a 10K that started with us, but there was no crowding and I never had to weave around anyone. And the 10Kers turned around at 3.1, so things got really spread out after that.
Mile by mile:
Mile 1. 76 feet of climb. 8:48. Running through a small New England town for a half mile and then you're pretty much in the country. No pressure. Easy to start. Don't get excited. Don't work. Also, no cheering crowds except for the few volunteers at the two intersections we passed.
Mile 2. 87 feet of climb. 8:44. What looked like a 10 year old brother and sister pair about 30-40 yards ahead made me think for a second I should be going faster, but then I remembered my normal crash and burn marathons and stayed with the easy effort. We hadn't gotten to the hard part yet. The first few miles are supposed to be easy.
Mile 3. 51 feet down followed by 81 up, then 50 more down. 9:00. This was a pattern I'd see a lot. 7:30 pace on the down, but close to 10:00 going up. Newfound Lake to my left was beautiful in the morning sun. The wind from it was pretty chilly, but not enough to make me regret leaving the gloves with Mrs. Dave. The 10K leaders were heading back our way. They were pretty spread out, too (only 99 runners). The first woman was in 3rd place overall (she ended up 5th OA). Impressive.
Mile 4. 89 feet up. 9:15. I was pretty glad to see the end of that first 4 mile long sustained climb. I had my eye on a couple of guys in front of me, but it was too hard and way too early to try catching them. Maybe I'd have something left in the tank for the second half.
Mile 5. 90 feet down. 8:24. Hammer Gel #1. There must have been someone behind me also named Dave, because there was a SUV with 3-4 people all shouting, "Go, Dave!" I didn't have my name on my bib or my shirt and I didn't recognize any of them. They leap-frogged around the whole course, yelling for Dave. Eventually, I'd still see them but they were waiting instead of cheering, so I must have left the other Dave behind.
Mile 6. 8 up, zero down. 8:51. I think I was a little disappointed with that. I knew I hadn't done nearly enough hill work over the summer, since hills are sort of hard to come by in L-town, but I had hoped to get farther than Mile 5 before I felt it in my quads this much. But I also remembered that my plan was ultra conservative on the front end, so this mile was really still a recovery from the first 4. I've learned that this is WAY too early for me to push the pace, even if I don't like it.
Mile 7. Up 12 and down 9. 8:40. Did I mention that the road was open? Not much traffic and not many runners. No need, really. One of the two guys I'd been following had come back to me. He walked through the water table at Mile 6 and stayed with me for just the next half mile or so.
Mile 8. Up 21, no down. 9:08. The other guy I'd been following made a pit stop in Mile 8 and I went past him. I knew there was a big hill coming near the end of this mile.
Mile 9. 110 feet climbing, 122 feet falling. 9:23. The hill at the end of Mile 8 and the beginning of 9 was pretty nasty, but Mrs. Dave had driven around and was cheering there. She'd also apparently recruited the course volunteers to cheer with her, because the whole group was yelling for me. One of those downs that doesn't feel good, either. One where you have to spend more energy trying to slow down and not fall flat on your face. Pit stop guy caught back up to me as we made a sharp left and fell off the edge of the cliff. We ran together for just a little bit. Enough to find out he was there with his wife and they were from Florida. He was having as much trouble with the hills as I was. He thought maybe he'd have to drop back and run with his wife later. I lost him on the next big hill, which came immediately after reached the bottom of that one. He was about 6'3-4" with really long legs. When I slowed to maintain my effort level (that turned out to be barely a fast walk by the top), I lost him.
Mile 10. 129 up and 119 down. 10:27. I've run 10 and a half minutes miles in marathons before, usually most of the last 6-10 miles because I've gone out faster than I should have. Mile 10 was a new thing. Made me reconsider my life choices. There's always some point in a race where I wonder if I'm really cut out for this marathon thing. At least this time I had a legitimate outside reason for it. This was the steepest and highest climb of the day. I ran until it didn't seem wise to do that, then I speed walked until that was too much, then had a final stretch of power walking to the crest. Holy moly, I was so happy to have that done.
Mile 11. 25 up, 31 down. 8:45. This restored my self esteem. 8:45 was pretty close to what I had wanted to do for the first half of the race anyway, and being able to do this after the first 10 was reassuring. If we thought Bristol was small, Mile 11 ended in the town of Hebron (pop. 602 if you include East Hebron). Mrs. Dave had made it there and I got another little boost. She's an incredibly enthusiastic cheerleader.
Mile 12. Up 46, down 49. 8:47. With a pair of reasonably flat miles together, it seemed like I might finally get into a little groove. Mile 11 started a 6 mile out and back section that included the half way point. Saw the leaders start coming back, so they were about 5 miles ahead of me. There were a few quiet shouts of encouragement back and forth along this part, but most people seemed to be feeling like I was - not much energy to make any noise. A slight nod, a barely audible, "Good job," was the most we could manage.
Mile 13. Up 30, down 12. 8:43. Groove gotten into. I mis-remembered where the turnaround was, though. I thought it was right after the half (no mat or sign or anything, btw), but it wasn't. This was good news and bad news. Good news in that after I got to the final climb at the turnaround, there would only be 12 miles to go instead of 13 and also that I had 3 solid miles of not climbing very much. The bad news was that I had another 100+ foot climb before I could turn around for those last 12.
Mile 14. 19 feet descending, 112 feet ascending. 9:41. With no marker for the half, I glanced at my watch (I really need a name for this thing) and saw I was at just a few seconds over 1:58. Not exactly on target, but if I could make it through this last pull, I had an outside chance at my A goal (BQ of course), and a solid shot at B (sub-4). So I worked a little more than on some of the others, although there was a short section near the top where I had to go to the speed walk. I was still feeling pretty good, and figured if the worst I did was 9:41 the rest of the way, it would be a good day. I was not going to do the math, though.
Mile 15. 18 up and 107 down. 8:08. If only I could do that for the next 12 miles. Sadly, while the bulk of the ups were over, there were still a few nasty little climbs to go, and no more triple digit descents. Maybe one day I'll do one of those Revel runs that drop a few thousand feet from start to finish. It was also nice to see that there were people behind me. I wasn't DFL! Just kidding. I was working hard enough, but really felt pretty good for 15 miles into a marathon. And I was running downhill mostly and that was awesome.
Mile 16. 13 up and 42 down. 8:34. I will admit I was a little disappointed that this mile wasn't closer to 8:00, but that was just the mileage talking. While the weather was perfect for a marathon (still sunny and beautiful and in the 40's at that point) and I'd had a good summer of work, I wasn't ready for all those hills. Even if it was downhill the rest of the way, the next 10 miles were going to take all I had.
Mile 17. 58 feet climbing, 46 falling. 9:00. Those 58 feet came all in a really, really short distance and took all the wind I'd gathered in the previous 2 miles out of my sails. Still, it could have been worse. And 9:00 miles were certain to keep me under 4 hours. Came back through Hebron and got more cheers from Mrs. Dave, et. al. I'd been thinking about making a pit stop for a few miles, but it hadn't reached the point of urgency (all gas), so I kept skipping the POPs, including this one. But I did have to think about where the next one might be, and that was distracting.
Mile 18. 74 feet climbing, 49 going down. 10:02. This was a stretch of 2 miles with the hardest hills since the half. And Mile 18 is a terrible time for a serious climb. I seem to remember the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon having it's most serious climb at about Mile 18. That was an awful race. I hadn't planned on needing to drop to the walk strategy up this one, but it was a lot steeper than I'd expected. A woman who'd been in my running neighborhood for a fair amount of the race came up behind me going up one of the hills. I'd catcher her going down, but when I slowed on the next one, she'd power up and pass me again.
Mile 19. 51 feet up, 36 down. 9:32. One. More. Hill. That wasn't entirely the case but there was a drop down to the lake shore and things were pretty flat for the next four miles. Running right next to the lake I spent most of my time looking at the water - so clear and clean - and wondering if it was too cold for me to swim. At least, plunge my head in it fr a few seconds. It wasn't hot at all, but who's brain is coherent at Mile 19? Not this guy. Interesting about this small race, the water/Gatorade cups weren't all the same. Some of them were styrofoam, which you don't see a lot anymore. Of course the problem with styrofoam cups is that they don't smash like you need them to in order to drink while running without it all going up your nose and over your face. So I walked for a few steps to get some G into me and dowse my head with water.
Mile 20. 11 up, 61 down. 9:11. This was also about where the Wall was. I didn't hit it too hard, but things were becoming a real struggle and would be for the next few miles. Normal. Mrs. Dave had started passing me on the road and stopping to give me some more cheer and takes pics. It was more than awesome to have her there every few miles with a smile and a yell. I'd brought my phone in my SPIBelt since they didn't have tracking and we weren't sure about vehicle access to the course, and here I decided it was bothering me, so I tossed it in the car.
Mile 21. 2 up, 10 down. 9:53. Those are Marshall elevation numbers. This would have been a sub-9, but the urge pee I'd had for most of the race had finally reached the don't-ignore-me-anymore stage, so I grabbed the water/Gatorade combo like at the last table then ducked into the genteelly labeled "Marathon Restroom." LOL. So I lost a minute there, and when I came out I found my long legged pit stop friend from Miles 8-9. He was solo, so I guess he was still feeling OK. I pulled up even with him but he dropped off again pretty quickly. I saw my other friend from Mile 18 ahead, but I couldn't close the gap on her.
Mile 22. 0 and 4! 😯 9:04. This may have been the toughest mile of the day. Totally flat for once and I just couldn't make my legs go any faster. They let runners who didn't think they could meet the 5-1/2 hour cutoff start early and there was a girl with two guys I'd seen coming back ahead of me on the out and back section who were obviously part of that crowd. They were having a great time, though - walking and running whenever they felt like one or the other. Who knows what they had in their "hydration flasks".
Mile 23. 41 up and 29 down. 9:31. Another stupid hill. Passed another guy from earlier in the race with about 5K to go. I offered to have home come in with me but he was hurting too much. There were a few more ahead of me and if I could stay with it, I thought I had a chance to catch a couple. That's always good motivation when your legs are dead and everything hurts. The watch had me at 3:29. Not enough time for that BQ (unless I could run 3 miles at 7:00 pace - ha!), but sub-4 was pretty secure.
Mile 24. No climbs and 10 feet of drop. 8:40. The drop came right at the end of the mile and just before the start of the (finally!) last hill.
Mile 25. 39 for the final climb and 73 down into town. 8:48. This thing was pretty mild compared to the rest of the day's work, but it was another of those short and steep ones that had me speed walking the last bit. This time, though it wasn't as part of my strategy. I just couldn't keep a running pace. But I did manage to pass a woman with pigtails right at the top of it. There were two more ahead I could see. One was the woman who dropped me up the hills earlier (I recognized her red backpack in the distance) and another in black who'd passed me up one of the steep hills in Mile 9 or 10. Maybe. Remember the first few miles that were all uphill? We were back on that same road going the other way, so the course really gave it back when we needed it.
Mile 26. No up. 88 down. 8:10. That "no up" is according to the Garmin numbers, but I'll tell you the truth that there was a little bump right at 26 - maybe 30 feet? We went up a cross street to finish in the school's athletic field. That final little insult let me pass that one more woman.
Mile 26.2. 20 feet, all down, including a crazyass drop from the street into the parking lot. 7:02 pace. I could hear Mrs. Dave well before I could see her. Have I mentioned how awesome she is? The clock still had "3" at the beginning. Forgot about pictures and was totally looking down at my watch (need a name!) when I crossed the line in 3:56:40.
Mrs. Dave reminded me that I haven't broken 4 hours since Marshall. FIVE YEARS AGO! And there's no comparison between the two courses. If I'd chosen a different course, the 2021 BQ ticket would have no doubt been punched. So I'll take the sub-4 and the moral victory, and plan another assault for next autumn.
This was a fine marathon. Small of course, and all the things that come (and don't come) with that. Lots of elevation changes, so don't come here if you're looking for an easy race. Accommodations might be an issue, but that can be worked around with a little creativity and flexibility. It's a summer tourist area just a couple of hours north of Boston, so there are plenty of options, especially since the summer is over.
Now for some pics.
Flat Dave ready.
There's pigtail woman. Didn't know I'd be seeing her again at the end.
There's tall pitstop guy.
Did I mention my 2nd Place in the 60-69 AG? Guy in the yellow hat was 1st in 3:42.