I had a good trip to Northeast PA this time. The race went off as planned, with Saturday definitely being the better of the two weekend days to have registered for. More on the weather in a bit…
Five of us traveled to this race. Maureen, Kim, and Judy were on the original list from last year’s event. Nicole joined us for this year’s event. Here we were again, wondering what the adjusted course would be like and how the end of winter would deliver weather for our event.
Nicole flew separately, having booked her ticket earlier than us on United Airlines. The rest of us used American Airline credits that would have expired had we not chosen an itinerary within a year. Our flights arrived close to each other time-wise in the early afternoon. We rented a 5 person SUV, but all that was available upon arrival was a crew cab pickup truck. We put the luggage in the bed of the truck, fit all 5 of us in the extended cab, and drove to Hawley and the Hotel Belvidere.
The hotel was right in the middle of town and has been there since the early 1900’s. We didn’t spend much time in the rooms, we dropped our bags and drove to the race site for the packet pickup. It was a 30 minute drive on winding roads. The last 6+ miles of the drive was the new course we’d be running on. It was along the river for most of the way, then over the bridge we had seen in all the previous year race photos, and into a park for the finish. This is where the packet pickup was set up. We each received bibs, a jacket for registering early, and bluetooth speakers. It was very windy during the packet pickup. We hoped for the predicted calming of the winds from 25 mph to a forecasted 10-15 mph for the race. All set with the race prep, we drove back on the course to see again where tomorrow’s 2 laps would be occurring. We got out of the car to feel how the wind may affect us in the morning. There wasn’t much we could do about the weather, besides make sure we had warm enough clothes if the temps were low with a chilly wind.
While driving to and from we noticed branches in the road from the winds, choppy water in the river, and this carcass on the side of the road that we each would pass 4x in tomorrow’s race…
We had dinner on Lake Wallenpaupack at The Boathouse Restaurant. I ate a good teriyaki salmon and rice for dinner, all before 7:00 pm, which was my hope. They earlier that begins digesting and clearing through my system, the better! It was an early night spent filling yellow belt bottles with Right Stuff, laying out my clothing options for tomorrow, and getting off my feet. I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 9:30 pm, but I was relaxed and not nervous or anxious for the race.
On Saturday, we left our hotel at 6 am for the race. It was 44 degrees and from walking around outside to get the truck, (which I had to park around the block) it was crisp but not too windy. Our group came down from their rooms and we made the drive. The furthest water stop at Mile 6 wasn’t in place yet, so we continued and set up our drinks at the middle water stop near Mile 4. It is a neat thing to be able to do, drop things for yourself on the course before the race. We saw a few runners that started early already coming at us on the road. We continued and put more supplies at table #1 which was near Mile 2. The volunteers were nice and helpful, offering to take our things for Table 3 at Mile 6 with them for set up. We drove to the start area and parked in the lot just on the other side of the elevated railroad tracks. It was just before 7 am, we had plenty of time before the scheduled 8 am start most of us were looking at using.
I went to the porta potties and got situated with my nutrition belt and hydration. Once back at the car, Nicole and Maureen were discussing starting earlier since conditions were good and the course was open. Judy also went along with this idea. I was still committed to starting with the “elite” wave of a stated group of 20 runners. The finishing times of runners in this group were expected to be 2:40-3:15. Good by me, especially if I could get to run with a few people. It wasn’t too windy yet, but it was expected to get cooler and windier. I am good at drafting behind taller people! I would if I could…
Kim took longer than the others to get her gear set and decide whether to wear shorts or long pants. Everyone else went to begin their races. I stayed in the car, heater on, waiting and warming. It was only after Kim left to start that I felt the weight of “the race is starting in 20 minutes.” I was focused but not anxious, perhaps because I wasn’t near the action and excitement of the start. I left the car at 7:40 am and walked over with my things. I ran in a visor, sunglasses, lululemon shorts, a PBRR singlet over a thin long sleeve shirt, and lululemon lightweight gloves.
I went to the restroom one more time – I never pass up those opportunities! I didn’t see the others, nor did I know when they started. The announcer said we would be gathering all of the runners looking to start in the 8 am elite group in 5 minutes. I was ready, I had nothing else to do or others to talk to, so I went by the start line and announcer. A local pastor gave a prayer and almost out of nowhere many CPTC runners, dressed in orange & black Tracksmith gear came up, removed warm up pants, and were ready to go. Mark Hughes, the race director, joked that he had about 20 people in this start group, but I saw 30-35 CPTC runners and a few regulars waiting for the countdown and start.
Immediately after the start, I found myself already behind the group of CPTC runners. I was running well with two guys that seemed to be at my pace. About a half mile down the road, I saw a photographer in his car snapping away from behind a big lens. Had I been in the big group, I would have been obscured completely from view. I ran with these two for the first “stripe” of the course, the beginning 6.55 miles out to the turnaround cone. At approximately 4 miles, I realized I didn’t need the gloves on. I ran holding them in my hand and alternating between left side and right side. I took a Maurten gel at Mile 4, and was drinking from the bottle I had on my belt which was filled with Right Stuff liquid. It was becoming more sunny as the first hour passed, the temps were slowly rising.
On the way back, the two guys I was running with decided to hop off the course and use the forest as a restroom. I never saw them running together after that 7th mile. They did mention they were looking to qualify for Boston, and they were good at running the course’s tangents. This was the last time I ran with anyone. I passed people, but didn’t spend any time running with others for the rest of the race.
The other miles in Lap #1 were all between 6:45 – 6:50 pace. I wasn’t exerting too much effort breathing. I attribute that to the 50-something percent humidity and cool temps. I tossed my gloves to Maureen’s sister, Teresa, who was waiting and cheering for us from near the driveway entrance to the park. A quick touch on the timing mat at the start/finish line and I was heading back out for Lap #2.
The first segment had a slight uphill, which was fine. I felt my legs getting heavier but I addressed this by occasionally altering my stride by doing butt-kicker drills. I passed by aid station #1, which I didn’t need. I remember seeing the Mile 14 sign, thinking that when I get back here, I’d be within a mile of finishing. I saw faster runners heading back already – no telling when they started but they were moving well. The weather was changing again, clouds covered the sky and a breeze from the northwest was evident now. I found myself thinking that I had made the right decision in NOT taking off my long sleeve shirt when the sun was out.
At mile 15/16 I passed the middle aid station and took a full bottle of my Right Stuff fluid. When I did, the door to the porta potty popped open and Maureen walked out saying, “Hi Dave.” I continued down the curvy road, trying to keep mindful of the straightest line I could run. I also had to watch the side of the road where the crowned surface made it longer for my right foot to strike, heel strike that is! At Mile 17, I felt some tingles in my right calf muscle. I wanted to head off any problems, so I stopped for 10-12 seconds to stretch it out. I felt better after that and my next mile was below 6:50. My legs on top (quads) were feeling tighter now, equal on both sides. The turnaround was at Mile 19.5 and coming up. I passed Kim who was moving well but working hard to do so. I saw Nicole heading back already, she waved and gave me the “thumbs down” symbol. She was moving but the no smile back told me her leg issues were probably acting up late in the miles.
It seemed like it took longer to get around the long curve that leads to the turnaround cone and timing mat. It looked closer than it was! Running back the final 6.55 miles would determine how well today’s race would go. At Mile 17 when I stopped to stretch my calf, it made me run well for awhile. I began feeling the same in both lower legs now. I tried drinking the fluid in my bottle as I saw my times per mile fluctuating between high 6:40s/6:50s and the low 7 min miles. I stopped again in the 22nd mile to do a stretch on both sides. I was aware that my time at the half had me scheduled to arrive maybe a minute or two earlier than 3 hours if I was able to run an even split. I was giving time back now with each “stop & stretch.” I knew I was close to having no time left to give, but I deemed it important enough to stretch so as not to cramp and walk the rest of the way home.
Running back with 3 miles remaining, I thought I was still able to get a sub 3 finishing time. I knew that if I stopped again to stretch or do anything else, I would lose that. I saw Maureen and Kim, both working hard to get to the turnaround. I felt the electric shock-like tremors on both calf muscles as a precursor to the seize up cramping. By Mile 24, I stopped for the final time to lean hard against a guardrail and stretch both calves and hamstrings for what hopefully was the last time. Thinking that this would have me out of range for the sub 3 hour finish, I focused in on keeping my pace as rapid as possible but still under where my calves would pucker or begin to seize. These paces were above 7 minutes per mile. I figured to myself I could be a 3:01 marathoner at the end of all of this if I could hold this pace and not stop running. At the last aid station, I saw one of my empty water bottles and decided to carry that back. I ran behind another guy until I had less than a mile to go, where he stopped and I passed him. I saw the bright colors of Nicole’s PBRR jersey ahead, now with less than 1/2 mile to go. I wanted to know exactly where the 3 hour mark would hit and note how far that was from the finish line. I watched it count up and hit 2:59:59 then 3:00:00 as I rounded the corner that led to the final bridge across the river.
That would be the difference for me in this race. I could see the park and the finish line, a mere 400-500 meters away. But at a flat 6 minute mile, which I couldn’t run now, that’s still a full minute and thirty seconds away. I came across the bridge, with Nicole very close in front of me, and entered the last little street and road that leads to the park. Maureen’s sister and Judy were on the side cheering for Nicole and I. Into the park and up the dirt hill, I heard the announcer, Mark, say my name and that “this guy with the Palm Coast Runners is here with four women!” I crossed the line and was happy to be done. With no cramps and a new PR of 3:01:50.
Recovery has been good so far, i had no distinct areas of pain upon finishing. Looking back I perhaps did not drink enough of the fluid I chose to carry, that is designed to minimize cramping. The cooler weather may have had my in a false sense of belief that I had drank enough along the route.
I wrote down reasons why I should be positive about the race before I left Florida. This is my list:
- I was ready to be a sub 3 hour marathoner
- I had a genuine belief I belong in that group
- I had done all of the training distances and paces
- It is a lululemon “BHAG” of mine (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
- It helps to validate my writing of The Marathon Puzzle book
- I came to the event in a healthy state
- I added miles to my weekly total, a good amount of the additional miles were on softer surfaces like trails
- The conditions were favorable (vs FL) for a good finishing time
- I have the right gear for these races
- I believe my training prepared me for the last 16 miles of the race
- I had done swimming to increase my lung capacity
- I ran a 1:26 half marathon in non-ideal conditions leading into this attempt
- I wanted this to be a stepping stone to running a sub 3 marathon in Boston
- In prep for this event, I trained alongside some of the best runners I know
We had great meals on our Poconos visit. The Belvidere Hotel was a good place, even with a long flight of stairs to negotiate after having run the marathon.
I’ll lay off hard training and restart again in July with the intent of getting a better finishing time in the Boston Marathon on October 11th.