Remember that the little cold I had the week before last? Well I guess that took more out of me than I thought it did. I still had a little bit of a cough, I still had some stuffiness in my nose, but I felt OK. Anyway, I have a whole list of things it didn't quite go right in Vermont and I'll go through those for whatever they’re worth. Call it making excuses if you will, but when you have a decent training build up you sort of expect to do fairly well on race day. When that doesn't happen there should be a reason why. And in fact I think I have a few reasons excuses.
Excuse number one. The weather. Leading up to the race - as is mandatory for runners – I was stalking my weather app pretty religiously several times a day and it looked like it was going to be amazing on the 26th, with temps in the 50s and low 60s, a light breeze, some cloud cover or a lot of cloud cover. Not bad for a spring marathon. Except that all changed a couple of days before the race. Suddenly, it was lows in the 60s, highs in the upper 70s, chance of thunderstorms in the morning and sun by late morning. Lots and lots of sun. I don't know anybody who likes running marathons when it's in the upper 70s with lots of sun. And it turned out that Sunday was exactly as forecasted.
Excuse number two. Sub-optimal training. Yeah, I know in my last post I talked about how I had missed a few days here and there, a couple of long runs with the wedding and the funeral, but that I thought overall things had gone fairly well. And they did. In reality, though, that was more positive self talk than truth. I had one high mileage week that went really well, but the other high mileage weeks that I had planned turned out to be average or even below average. You can't fake marathon training.
Excuse number three. Ankle injury! I suppose this one gives me license to actually call it a reason as opposed to an excuse. This was completely not my fault. I'm not even sure how it happened. But I'll get to that during the race recap, when I talk about the later miles and what the storm did to a very small part of the course.
Excuse number four. Race day logistics. I think everybody knows how cheap I am. This shows up often in the lodging accommodations that I make for race weekends. On this particular weekend, I was at first shocked at the hotel prices in Burlington, VT. After I began looking and seeing what I considered outrageous rates, I was reminded that Burlington is on the shores of Lake Champlain and therefore sort of a tourist destination for many in upstate New York. I also remembered that race weekend was also Memorial Day weekend. And apparently Burlington – and the local hotels – is really popular on Memorial Day weekend. Ever resourceful, I looked for hotels in nearby towns, thinking I could find a much better deal. When I found a Fairfield Inn in Plattsburgh, NY, only 20 miles from Burlington, I jumped all over it. When we arrived at the hotel, and I talked to the desk clerk about getting to Burlington, she said, “Well, you can take the ferry or you can drive around the Lake.” Wait. What? Lake Champlain is a big lake, if you haven’t checked the map. It was not 30 minutes to get to Burlington like I had assumed when the Marriott app said it was 20.9 miles from the hotel. I was an hour and a half ferry ride or an hour and a half drive around the lake. After driving 10 hours from Detroit on Friday, we’d be driving three more hours (round trip) on Saturday, plus driving over the marathon route. The hotel was nice enough to give us a late checkout, and even said they’d extend it later if my race wasn’t going well.
Excuse number five. A 45 minute late start. I suppose this should actually be part of Excuse number one, since the delay was for a mandatory starting line evacuation fifteen minutes before the start time, due to a fast-moving thunderstorm. For a while it looked like it was going to miss us completely to the south, but just as the cell hit the New York side of the lake, a big blob of rain peeled off and headed straight for us. Just as we were walking up to the start area, they were announcing the delay. We sat under the awnings of a convenience store across the street, watched a little lightning, heard a little thunder, and tried to stay mostly dry until we were given the all clear. On the plus side, the delay gave me a second chance to use the POP. Finished up with five minutes to spare and had zero issues in the race. After so many Code Abbys on training runs this spring, that was huge. I was also inside during the national anthem, so I was able to stay sitting down. Mrs. Dave was not a fan of the wait.
Now, mind you, I’m not complaining. There has been little to no whining at the Schultz house about my monster positive split and 4 hour plus finish time. Sure, I wrote about BQ’ing again. But, seriously, it’s a spring marathon and I’ve learned many times that spring marathons and I don’t get along that well. I like my marathons cold. 30-40o cold. And, hey, since Rehoboth in 2017 I haven’t been able to run one at all, so getting to the starting line healthy and happy – even if I was a little low on mileage – was the real prize. I was already a winner. Flat Dave was ready.
Vermont City is billed as a marathon and relay. You can run the marathon, or you can be part of a relay team, with options for two to five runners. If you want to run the half, you have to buddy up. In the past, I’ve sort of hated the relay runners, but I’ve changed my tune on this. Despite having runners passing me from time to time throughout the 26.2 miles, it was nice having lots of folks around the whole way. It also kept the spectators more involved since there was a near constant stream of racers coming by. Normally, by mile 14, it starts to get sort of lonely out there.
I’m also a fan of their race course, even though it’s a tough one. It takes you out on three loops and an out-and-back section, all of which pass by the starting area, so your family and friends can see you multiple times without having to navigate street closures and unknown traffic patterns in an unfamiliar city. #1 is a 5K loop through some of the old city neighborhoods. Lots of trees and cool old houses. After that is a 10K out-and-back away from town on a winding parkway. There are three bridges that cross over the road, all with people on them, cheering. Section #3 is another 10K, this time a long loop through a more industrial area, a couple of nice newer neighborhoods to the half way point, and then some parks and rail trails back to downtown. Finally, there’s a ten mile loop that does a couple of pretty active neighborhoods and another park before the last four along a bike path next to the lake. It’s a net 100 foot drop from start to finish, with two ugly hills (each over 100’ in ½ mile) in Miles 9 and 16.
The expo is medium sized. Plenty of vendors and sponsor booths. And free pizza for lunch!
OK, so let’s race.
Mile 1. 9:22. I was running a marathon! I started behind the 4:00 pace group. Figuring for a 9:00+ start. The first mile actually climbed 120 feet, but it didn’t feel that steep. I was fresh, I was happy, it was still cool, I was running as slow as my normal warm up pace. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not so crazy that I missed seeing Mrs. Dave and T-Rex. Big waves because I was running a marathon! I followed the flow, trying not to get anxious and weave past anybody.
Mile 2. 8:40. Downhill to Mile 2, but those streets were pretty close quarters and often enough there was a truck or a car that hadn’t been cleared despite the signage that there was no parking that day, forcing us to bunch up to get past. Not as bad as Philly.
Mile 3. 8:38. I passed the 4:00 pace group at about two and a half. This mile was kind of fun. There’s a pedestrian mall through the center of town and we ran through it twice. The first time was here in Mile 3, people sitting on both sides, separated from the course by a strip of caution tape, eating breakfast and cheering for us.
Mile 4. 8:12. My cheering section was there, right on cue. Starting the out and back section was a steep drop (130’ in ½ mile), and then gentle rolling the rest of the way out. Here we saw the lead wheelchair racers coming back. The roadway tilted dramatically on the curves, which was sort of annoying, but since it wasn’t for long and it alternated from left to right, it wasn’t too bad. Pretty section.
Mile 5. 8:28. Out here I was just trying to find a solid rhythm, something I could hold onto for the rest of the first half, then see what I could do in the second. This is where the marathon leaders passed us. About ten guys and then the first woman. Always fun to watch people running fast.
Mile 6. 8:28. Same. The 3:45 pace group passed me coming back and I checked the time. I was just about two minutes behind them. Almost exactly where I’d hoped I would be by 10K.
Mile 7. 8:23. The turnaround was just after the 10K point. I went wide and took it easy. Sweaty. It was humid. If the sun would stay behind the clouds, it wouldn’t be terrible.
Mile 8. 8:32. Solid. Would have been nice to have someone to pace with, but you play the hand you’re dealt.
Mile 9. 8:59. What goes down must come up. 130’ in a half mile to get back up to town level. Took it easy and it didn’t hurt. I was just about on pace according to my plan, and Mrs. Dave had gotten the tracking update that had my predicted finish at 3:45. What she said was, “You’re going SO FAST!”
Mile 10. 8:18. This was the last time I’d be “going so fast.” This mile drops 120 feet in ¾ of a mile. I went with the slope and eased into the next section. A half mile later I was climbing again. Only 100 feet over the next mile, so there was that.
Mile 11. 8:55. And then the sun came out. The sun was not my friend that day. It was only a mile and a half on this one section, but it was a straight mile and a half, oriented north-south (we were running south) with the morning sun nearly directly overhead. And that big bright yellow ball of fire might as well have been Kryptonite and I was Superman. I tried to stay positive, hoping that maybe the clouds would come back or that once I got to the top of the next hill I could recover. Or was I just fooling myself?
Mile 12. 8:54. Made it to the top of the hill and kept the foot off the gas. Another mile to the half and then we’d see. At least the sun was behind me and would be for most of the next 10 miles. There was intermittent shade along the streets, too. Hopeful.
Mile 13. 8:42. This was a nice area with plenty of trees as we wound through the neighborhood. BTW, if you don’t like lots of turns in your marathon (Sara, I’m looking at you), Vermont City is not for you. I counted 54 significant turns – not during the race obviously – ten just in Mile 13.
Mile 14. 9:13. There was water right after the half mats and I took a quick walk break, gathering myself for the next nine miles. I passed the half in 1:54, still well on track for my 3:50 C goal. I had in my mind that if I could make it to Mile 22 where the final stretch on the bike path would be easy (haha!). Psychologically, this meant I only had nine miles to survive instead of 13.
Mile 15. 9:00. And it almost worked. We spent the next mile on a bike path, near the lake and through a couple of park areas, mostly sheltered by more trees. Surely at this easy pace I could make it to the end.
Mile 16. 11:15. Except I apparently forgot about the hill in the first half of Mile 16. It’s on Battery Street, the main thoroughfare between downtown and the lakefront parks. The locals call it Battery Hill. It’s almost exactly a half mile from top to bottom (or in this case, bottom to top). 94 feet. Mrs. Dave and T-Rex were there for me, and I stopped for a few seconds to shed my SPIbelt (now empty), and let them know that the next ten miles were going to be ugly. They were 100% positive. Easy when you aren’t the one dying of heat stroke at Mile 16, I guess. As I headed up the hill I felt my watch buzz, then realized that – like almost always – I’d forgotten to turn off the auto-pause. Oh well, the race was chip timed. Someone would have my accurate time. Not that it was going to be anything to brag about. I asked a guy about half way up the hill if he was responsible for putting that hill there. Not sure he understood what I was asking.
Mile 17. 10:32. 17 was one of the few straight miles. Rolling terrain. I started switching my watch to see my heart rate, walking until it dropped back down to 130, then running again. It never got crazy high – close to 180 just once – but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Something to keep my mind occupied anyway.
Mile 18. 9:34. 70 feet of down over this one. Half way through we started a couple of weird loops into and through some neighborhoods. The locals were OSOM. Beginning at the first corner, they had water, oranges, and ICE POPS! The sun had been out pretty much since about mile 14 and it was starting to bake. The yellow signs were out. I was soaked head to toe. Nothing I’ve even eaten in my whole life was as cold and refreshing. I had sucked down about two thirds of it (grape), when – BAM! – my ice pop popped out of its plastic wrap and dropped to the ground. I almost cried.
Mile 19. 10:16. Out of the neighborhood and then into a park. I was grabbing ice pops every chance I got, which was pretty often. But not often enough. My seat on the struggle bus was secure.
Mile 20. 14:47. Passing the Mile 19 flag, we exited a parking lot at the corner of the park into some woods. Remember that thunderstorm from before the start? Just inside those woods, the rain and the several runners ahead of us had turned the path into a black quagmire (I’ve always wanted to use the word “quagmire” in a bloop). Four feet wide, trees close on either side, caution tape designed to keep runners on the path. Except the path was more of a tough mudder obstacle. Most of us went to the left, but it was still rough and slow going. Single file, walking slow for the 50 yards until we spilled out into the next neighborhood on the other side. Such an adventure. I must have stepped wrong on something somewhere in there, because as soon as I started running again, I felt a serious pain in the front of my ankle. WTH? I stooped down and loosened the laces on my shoe, but it was to no effect. I hobbled and limped for several feet, then tried to run again. Nope. Now what do I do? Like always, one foot in front of the other. I loosened the shoe some more. Kept walking, testing a few jogging steps, walking some more. When I told the girls it was going to be ugly, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. More ice pops, lots of walking, some guy with a garden hose. I tried to turn off the auto-pause, since I had nothing else to concentrate on, but couldn’t remember how to do it while I was running. Pretty sure there’s a way. Finally gave up after 2-3 lap resets. This was my Mile 20, and the first half of 21.
Mile 21. 12:22. I stopped as I exited the neighborhood and asked a volunteer to borrow her phone so I could text Mrs. Dave to let her know how things were (weren’t) progressing, and suggested she call the hotel. I expected those last 5 miles to take a long, long time. Funny, though, as soon as I handed the phone back and started off again, the pain was gone. Like, really completely gone. Pinched nerve? Whatever, I wasn’t going to complain. At that point I could go back to worrying about the heat and my aching legs. That was also when the yellow signs that they’d been displaying at the water tables were replaced with red ones. Sweet.
Mile 22. 11:43. There was one steep little drop, to a sharp left, then another left onto the bike path for the last four miles. I flew down it pretty fast, figuring I had nothing to lose. If I can believe Garmin, my pace down the hill was 7:15. Of course, it was only a couple hundred yards, so it didn’t do me much good either in the grand scheme of things.
Mile 23. 10:33. My memory of the elevation for these last four miles was that it was mostly downhill. I expected to gain at least a little boost. It felt like it was uphill the whole way. And the path (and the trees lining it) was just wide enough that the sun had plenty of room to beat down on me. And there were no more ice pops.
Mile 24-26. 12:22, 11:35, 11:07. Things were sort of blurry through here. I remember the lake being close by and wondering what 50 degree water would feel like. There was a girl and a guy swapping places with me and I’d catch snippets of conversation. She was from NYC but going to school there. He was local. This was her first marathon.
Last .2. 2:08(8:31). This actually was downhill and I tried to come in at least looking strong. Mrs. Dave was trying to get a picture of me, but there were two people right in front of me, so I slowed down enough for the photo op, then sped past them and found the finish line. Not my best marathon. Not my worst.
Official time – 4:19:42. A 25 minute positive split. But a finish is a finish. I’ll get another one under four hours some nice, cool, fall morning.
Next came the painful walk back up Battery Hill. The same hill. That’s where we were parked. Then the 90 minute drive back to Plattsburgh, a slow shower, and – since T-Rex had work on Monday afternoon – we were on the road home. Yep. I ran a marathon, showered and started driving.
Actually, Mrs. Dave was driving. Since we were close to Montreal and I’ve never been to Montreal, it seemed a great idea if we took a little detour north (maybe 30 minutes’ worth) through Quebec. Pcubed has an office there and I thought it would be fun to take a pic of it to show my peeps at work. Except when we got to Montreal, our view was completely blocked by a new bridge being built across the St. Lawrence River. This is the best view I had. And with the related construction detour and an accident on the freeway, my little half hour excursion turned into two hours. We got as far as Toronto and had to call it. Stayed the night there and drove the rest of the way Monday morning.
Oh yeah, I drove for a few hours Sunday afternoon and when we stopped at the hotel in Toronto my ankle – the one that caused Mile 20 to be 15 minutes long – was painful and swollen. Guess it was a real thing, despite Miles 21-26 being pain free. It’s better today, finally, but I had to give it a regimen of ibuprofen and ice for a couple of days.
Race photos were free to download thanks to a local race sponsor, Kenney Drugs. These four didn’t look too bad, and the finish line photo may be the best race pic I’ve ever taken.
Hey, folks, I’ve run another marathon. Most of last year I spent wondering if that would ever happen again. Knee pain. Physical therapy. More PT. Surgery. Recovery. More PT. A painfully slow comeback through the late summer.
Next up, #20. Exactly when or where I haven’t decided yet. Due to finances, I may try to stay close to home. Air Force is in Ohio. I still need Ohio. It’s also in September and I don’t know if I want to be ready for a marathon in September. I’d basically need to start training tomorrow. Nope. Maryland, Iowa and Tennessee are the next three closest states.