Wednesday, September 13, 2006

RR Stowe Marathon

Race Report
Stowe Marathon
Stowe, VT
Sun, Sept 10/06
#270 – State # 44 (2nd loop)
3:39:29 14 OA - 1 AG

The main purpose of this race/trip was to complete a marathon in State # 44 in my quest to complete all 50 states for a 2nd time. The 50 State Club rules require that you run a different marathon each time so I selected Stowe since I had never been there.
I also decided that since my sister Carole Anne lived in NY State I would make a long weekend of it and visit her and her family in Burnt Hills, NY.

Thus I flew into Albany, NY on Fri where my brother-in-law Joe picked me up at the airport and we spent the night at their home. On Sat we left early for Stowe traveling the back roads of Vermont. It took much longer but we saw parts of VT that they had never seen in the 36 years they lived there. We crossed the Green Mountains and approached Stowe from the south just in time for lunch. After lunch I picked up my race packet and then we explored Stowe and the area. Stowe is a typical ski village but smaller than I expected. We toured Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory (not being a B & J’s fan I didn’t even know it was located in VT?) visited the Trapp Family Lodge (the Von Trapps from ‘Sound of Music’) and stopped at a Maple farm to buy some delicious maple syrup directly from the farmer! During our touring we drove about 75% of the marathon course which provided a good look at the course – especially the nasty BAH (Bad Ass Hill) in the middle of the course.

The course started at the Topnotch Resort near the base of Stowe Ski Resort on Mount Mansfield – VT’s highest mountain (4393 ft). The course started at 840 ft elevation and dropped 130 ft over the first 4 miles and then climbed gently to the base of the BAH on Trapp Hill Rd at mile 9.5. Then the nightmare began as the BAH climbed relentlessly for 600 ft at a 10% grade for 2 miles to top out at 1360 ft in front of the Trapp Lodge. It then dropped 700 ft over 2 miles of dirt road before climbing another 100 ft over the next 2 miles. The course then looped back (and declined) over that 2-mile hill before climbing 200 ft over the final 8 miles back to the finish line at the Topnotch Resort! Sounds like fun huh? Actually the course was relatively easy except for that BAH! But I was glad I had seen that BAH because I knew what to expect on race day!

After our tour it was time to enjoy a great pasta dinner and then watch Ohio State whomp Texas. What a great day!

Sun was M- Day! I had two goals for this race:
1) I had researched the results and discovered that a friend who is a very good runner had won our age group last year in a 3:43. I wanted to run sub 3:40 or at least beat his time for bragging rights
2) Win my Age Group

The race started at 8:15 am. The skies were cloudy/overcast with a temp of 46 F and no wind. The sun later broke through the clouds but the temps never rose above the low 60s – great race weather! There were about 110 runners at the start. I knew that the BAH was going to add several minutes to the race and if I wanted to achieve my time goal I figured I needed to start out fast and deposit some time in the bank. I followed a lead pack of young female runners and let them pull me down the mountain on a paved bike path at a sub 8-min pace. We passed an old fart at 3 miles and another old fart at 7 miles. He responded by passing me back but I wasn’t ready to play any games so early in the race and especially before we got to the BAH! So I stayed behind my bevy of young beauties and let them pull me through mile 9 in 1:11:19.
I decided to slow the pace for the next ½ mile to let my legs rest before assaulting the BAH. Smart move because the pain/agony soon began and continued relentlessly for 2 miles!

I climbed the first mile of the BAH in 9:30 and passed the old fart. The 2nd mile was really tough and many runners were forced to walk. I was determined to run the entire BAH and kept my legs churning by reminding myself that this BAH was no worse than my ‘favorite’ hill loop in the High Country and in fact should be easier because it was 8,000 ft lower in altitude! I passed many runners including two of my female pacers. I got close enough to the 3rd female to joke with her. I told her that I had been chasing her for 11 miles and now that I was close to catching her I didn’t know what to do with her?
She laughed and quickly left my tired old ass in the dust! (She was half my age –31- and finished 3rd overall for females!) I climbed that 2nd mile of the BAH in a painfully slow 10:30 but finally I was at the Trapp Lodge and began the steep descent on the dirt road.
I stretched my stride to let gravity pull me down the BAH at a 7:30 pace with my quads screaming at me because they had to ‘brake’ all the way down that steep 10% grade to control my speed and momentum!

As I passed the Half in 1:47:03 I commented to a fellow runner “Our quads are not going to be happy with us tomorrow”! It didn’t take that long! When I reached the bottom of the BAH and turned on to a paved road to begin a 2-mile loop up a gentle hill my quads were already tight and sore and my legs felt like they had been beaten with a 2 X 4 instead of a 4-mile BAH! Out of necessity (but I would like to convince you it was smart strategy) I decided to slow the pace for the next 2 miles to let my wasted old legs rest and recover. Whatever – the strategy worked as the soreness disappeared and some ‘zip’ even returned to the old legs and I was able to lower the pace back to sub 8s for the next few miles. However that fast pace didn’t last long.

When I passed mile 18 in 2:28:55 near Moscow, VT I recognized that I was starting to labor/struggle to hold an 8-min pace and I knew that I couldn’t hold that pace for the final 8 miles – uphill! And I had another problem. My pretty female pacer had increased her lead to about ¼ mile and I could only see her on straight sections. There was nobody in sight behind me – I was running alone! I had noted and counted runners on the 2-mile loop. I was 1st in my Age Group and about 15th Overall – thus there was not much motivation to continue pushing the pace – and hurting! But then I remembered my GOALS – I really wanted to finish under 3:43 and win those bragging rights! A quick calculation determined that an 8:30 pace would get me across the finish line under 3:40! That became my sole focus/purpose in life for the next 8 miles! I decided the best/easiest way to accomplish this task was to do it in chunks. The 1st chunk was to get to 20 miles. I reached 20 miles in 2:46:01. I was still on target. But as most marathoners know/understand the race was now just starting – and the final 10K was uphill – and I was hurting! I needed to play mind games!

The 1st mind game was to block everything out – the entire outside world and all distractions! Then I used every ounce of will power to conjure up a dense fog in my mind and a monster named ‘Mr. Pain’ who was hiding in the fog and trying to find a way out of the fog to destroy me. I ran the next 4 miles in the fog trying to evade Mr. Pain and clicking off 8:30s! I reached mile 24 in 3:20:32 - less that 20 minutes left to achieve my goal. Time to change mind games! I let Mr. Pain through the fog because now Pain was GOOD! The worse the PAIN the better because it was motivation to push harder/faster – the faster I ran the sooner I would get to the finish line and the sooner the PAIN would stop. I just needed to get to mile 25! When I reached mile 25 in 3:29:17 I knew my goal was in the bag! The sweet smell of success/victory provided the necessary excitement/exhilaration for the old bod to produce one final jolt of adrenaline and endorphins! And what a jolt! The self-induced drugs created a euphoric bubble that ‘floated’ me through the final mile!

When I approached the finish line and saw the finish clock reading “3:38 + change” I had to dig deep and sprint the final few hundred yards to cross the finish line in 3:39:29! The instant - measured in nano-seconds- that I crossed the finish line the euphoric bubble burst and I was left with a wasted old bod drained of all drugs and energy. There wasn’t enough energy left to move – if breathing weren’t involuntary that would have stopped too! But just as quickly the excitement/exhilaration of sweet success/victory got the ‘juices’ flowing again and I was able to stumble through the finish chute to the arms of my support team. And what a wonderful support team! They had driven me to the start line and waited to take my warm-up clothes just before the start so I wouldn’t get cold. Then they drove to several locations along the course to cheer me on and take pictures and there they were cheering me at the finish line. Should I dare mention to my ‘regular’ sports manager that this is the way it is supposed to be done – and the way she used to do it - 250 marathons ago? Nahhhhhhhh – I don’t think that would be a wise move!

After some finish line photos we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and late check out and then returned to the finish area to check the results. I confirmed that my official finish time was 3:39:29 – good enough for 14th place Overall and 1st in my Age Group! Since I had achieved both of my goals I was quite pleased/happy with my time and performance. The awards were not very nice or worthwhile waiting around for so we left immediately. We decided to drive back through Burlington. I ran the Burlington Marathon 11 years ago but couldn’t remember the race or the city so we stopped to visit the downtown area and eat lunch. Burlington is a pretty city with the Green Mountains to the East and Lake Champlain to the West. We took a ferry across Lake Champlain to NY State but alas – no sightings of Champy – the legendary lake monster (a kin of Nessie?).
Once we reached NY it was a pleasant 2-hr drive back home. Although some trees were beginning to change color I unfortunately missed the autumn Technicolor show by a few weeks.

But it was a good trip. I achieved my race goals and got to spend a lot of ‘Q’ time with my sister and her family. And strangely my quads and legs were not as sore as expected on Mon morning? Thus I have decided to sneak another (unplanned) marathon into my schedule this weekend. It will be my last high altitude marathon of the season – the Mountain Air Marathon in Crested Butte, CO.

Stay tuned for the race report!

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