Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Trip Report - NH & ME

10/01 – 10/04/04

The planning for this marathon trip originated when my running mates from the UK visited me in Colorado this summer. They were planning to run three marathons in three states including back-to-back or double marathons in New England in the fall in their quest to complete the 50 states. Since I needed to run two of the states myself to complete my 2nd loop around the 50 states I agreed to run New Hampshire and Maine with them. My only concern was that the two marathons were scheduled for the same weekend i.e. back-to-back and I hadn’t done that in over 15 years!

But I signed on for the trip and on Oct 1 I woke at 4am and drove through another snowstorm over the Continental Divide to get to the Denver airport. I later learned that my UK mates had also left their house at the same time in London to arrive in Boston one hour before me. That doesn’t seem fair?

I was the last of the team to arrive at the airport in Boston: Roger and Jack from the UK and Cliff from Waco, TX. We left the rental car agency at 4 pm and immediately ran into the infamous Boston traffic congestion. We naively thought that the traffic would get better after we left the city? Wrong! It took over 2 hours to drive 40 miles on the I-93 freeway to Manchester, NH. Since we had already missed the pre-race pasta dinner in Bristol we stopped in Concord, NH for our pasta dinner. We asked the locals if this was normal traffic congestion? Yes! I would move, change jobs or retire before I would put up with that crap every day!!! However it did afford us more time to enjoy the fall colors during the drive and that was also a disappointment. The color change is late this year and 75% of the foliage is still green? There were pockets of vivid colors but I was hoping/looking forward to a huge canopy of brilliant fall colors?

We arrived in Bristol after dark, found our B&B and everyone went straight to bed since it had been a long tiring day. Sat was M-Day and the marathon started at 9am. The race started at the middle school in Bristol, ran north out of town to complete a loop around Newfound Lake and return to the school. The course profile indicated some rolling hills with a total elevation change of 300 ft. Yeah – right! It was 47 F at the 9am start and 100% humidity (fog). There were 120 runners in the marathon. As we waited for the start I met several friends/runners from the 50 States Club that I had not seen for a long time: Steve and Paula Boone, Don Lang and my bud from NYC – Edson Sanches. Edson is one of the ‘tres amigos’ which meant that I would have to defend my ‘tres amigos’ championship.

The first four miles of the course were uphill. I reached mile 1 in 8:01 and Jack blew by me. I tried to stay with him and we reached mile 2 in 7:18. Whoaaaa again and throw out an anchor. I quickly slowed the pace down to 8:15s and let Jack leave me in the dust. Two cute young fillies (female runners - 2nd and 3rd place) caught me around 4 miles and I ran with them until about 12 miles when the hills got very steep and nasty and they dropped back. Some of the hills were so steep that you could not run down them without braking which killed the quads and shins.

I passed the Half in 1:48:19. I didn’t really have a set race strategy other than win my age group, beat Edson and hopefully try to beat my teammates (friendly competition and bragging rights). I figured that I needed to run around 3:40 to accomplish all these goals and I was on target. The course looped back on itself at 14 miles and I discovered that Jack had about a 5-minute lead on me and there weren’t any runners in my age group in front of me. The hills were still very steep and nasty at that point so I decided to stick with the 8:30 pace I was running. The 2nd place female caught me again around 16 miles. Since she was running so smooth and easy I decided to stay with her. At mile 17 I determined she was running an 8-minute pace and I figured if I stayed with her I wouldn’t have much left for the race on Sunday so I reluctantly let her go. She was half my age and half my weight and offered a great view and company vs. running all by myself. However I decided to slow back down to an 8:30 pace and cruise to 20 miles and then re-evaluate my strategy for the last 10K. I reached 20 miles in 2:47:13. I could still see the 2nd place female but no Jack? I felt good so I decided to drop the pace to 8:15s for the next 5k and re-evaluate again. As I approached 23 miles I could no longer see the female runner but – lo and behold – there was Jack about ¼ mile ahead and he looked like he was fading? I dropped the pace to 8 min/mile and caught Jack as he was walking up the last big hill at 24 miles.

As I crested that last BAH (Big Ass Hill) at 24 miles I decided I needed to put a nail in Jack’s coffin and dropped the pace to sub-8s. The last 2 miles were downhill and although I was hurting I figured that it would only take 16 minutes to get to the finish line and any ole fool can hurt for a measly 16 minutes! I crossed the finish line in 3:38:26 and then cheered Jack in as he finished two minutes later. I finished 20th overall and had won 1st place in my age group and Jack had won 3rd place in his group (50+).

Since our teammates would take another 45 to 60 minutes to finish Jack and I had time to get a nice massage, shower and change clothes before we cheered them across the finish line. Roger finished in 4:29 and Cliff in 5:19. Then we had to rush them through their showers, etc so we could get on the road again and drive to Portland, ME to pick up our race packets for the Sun marathon and attend the pasta dinner.

We arrived in Portland at 6pm – starving since we had not eaten anything (maybe a banana at the finish) all day. We went directly to the pasta dinner and pigged out. I needed to replace the carbos and glycogen that had been used up in NH marathon. My legs felt OK but I was very concerned about the delayed toll/effect those hills would have on my legs the next day? When we finally checked into our hotel in downtown Portland I immediately filled the tub with the hottest water I could stand and soaked my legs for about 30 minutes. Then I went to bed to get as much sleep/rest as possible.

The Maine Marathon starts at the University of Southern Maine and runs along the Back Cove of Portland. It is an out and back course with a 2-mile loop in a rural neighborhood before turning back into the city. The first and last four miles are flat – the remainder of the course is rolling hills. There are 2500 runners in the Marathon and Half – about 800 in the marathon. The race started at 7:45am on Sun. The weather was 48F and sunny as all 2500 runners lined up to start the race. I jumped on to the start line even though I planned to start slow to let the legs warm up. I reached mile 1 in 8:24 and the legs felt OK so I dropped the pace to 8 min for the next 4 miles while the course was still flat. As we got into the hills and a head wind about 10/15 mph I slowed to 8:15s. I passed the Half in 1:47:30 – about 1 minute faster than the NH race! My legs felt OK so I decided that I should be able to run a sub 3:40 again. I figured that a sub 3:40 would place me in my age group but would probably not win it?

The 2-mile loop through the neighborhood stretched through miles 12 to 14 so I couldn’t tell during that section if there was anyone in my age group in front of me but I had to assume there was because it is a big race with stiff competition. When I reached mile 16 in 2:11 I was still one minute ahead of yesterday’s pace but my legs were beginning to tire. So I told myself to relax and cruise to 20 miles and then make a push over the last 10K! I reached 20 miles in 2:45 – 2 minutes ahead of yesterday’s pace. That was the good news! The bad news was that when I went to ‘push’ there was no push left in the legs? I decided to ‘hang on’ till mile 23 and then sheer willpower would take me the last 5K? At mile 23 there was nothing left – absolutely nothing left in the legs! Time – 3:10:32! I had 29 minutes to run/walk/crawl the last 5K! It just became a matter of willpower and mind games. “One more mile – just get me to mile 24!” Then “one more mile –just get me to mile 25!” Then I missed the mile marker at mile 25! That really psyched me out because I couldn’t determine how slow/fast I had run the last mile and how much I needed to pick up the pace (I was so tired/confused/out of it - that I couldn’t even do the math to figure out how much time I had left to get to the finish line – my mind could not work on those terms?). Instead I simply focused on a new goal – I had to finish under 3:38:26 – my time from yesterday! And the only way to do that was to push the old bod beyond its limits – ignore any pain – Hurt like Hell – and get to the finish line asap! I got some incentive and small bursts of adrenaline each time I passed a runner in that last mile and they looked at me and cheered. I am sure I looked like shit and I was loudly crying out in pain with each step – but I was not going to quit until I crossed that friggin finish line. I finally struggled across the finish line in 3:38:11!

I had actually beaten my finish time from yesterday – the first time I had ever run the 2nd race of a double faster than the 1st race! Later when I checked the results I was actually surprised to discover that I had placed 2nd in my age group. I had missed 1st place by less than one minute and beaten 3rd place by only 30 seconds. I must have passed the 3rd place runner in the last mile and I don’t even remember? And even if I knew the first place runner had been that close I don’t think I could have done anything about it – I had nothing left to give when I crossed that finish line! So I am happy with my performance, time and award.

I did wait to for Roger and Jack to finish – Roger in 4:15 for his 300th marathon and Jack in 4:18 - but then my legs started to cramp and I decided to walk back to the hotel before Cliff finished (4:57). I soaked the old legs in almost-boiling water for about an hour to soothe the muscles and prevent cramps.
We later went to dinner and we all walked kind of funny down the street – the marathon walk! My legs felt just like they do after a very hard Boston Marathon. On Monday our UK mates dropped Cliff and I off at Logan airport in Boston. They will tour MA for a few days before heading to Hartford, CT to run the Hartford Marathon next weekend. I have to close up the house and drive to Durango to run the Durango Marathon. And if you think we are crazy then you don’t want to hear about Cliff. He is flying to Tahoe to run a triple marathon starting on Thursday that runs a complete loop around Lake Tahoe. Three marathons in three days! Good Luck you bloody fool!

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