Vermont City Marathon VCM RelayHey hey runners welcome to another edition of Connelly’s Corner. Our blog-master, Amanda, asked me to drop a few words about the VCM course. I bet she thought I would start at the start line, but here’s the curve ball: we’re going to start in the south end of Burlington, miles 9.5-15.5 of the VCM course. I’ll write about other parts of the course in future installments. I’m going to start with the south end because we have a course change for 2020 that brings the course back to Pine Street on the way back to downtown. That means 2-way runner traffic on Pine Street between Maple Street and Lakeside Ave. That was the course in 2016-2018, but in 2019 we got back to returning to downtown after the halfway point on the bikepath. Unfortunately, the city is in the middle of rebuilding that part of the bikepath and the project didn’t get finished this fall. It is planned to finish the construction in fall 2020, so for spring 2020 we’re back on Pine Street to get back to downtown after mile 13.

Personally, I like BOTH courses. I love that section of the bikepath, right next to the lake. It’s quite raw running so close to the water. I even love it on windy days when the waves are splashing all the way up to the path. I love it when it’s 30° and icicles form on the chain link fence (wish I had a picture of that it’s hella cool). I’m not crazy about all the bumps and lumps in that section, and that’s a big part of what the city is trying to fix. During the race, I bet if I were mid-pack, instead of well behind that, that part of the bikepath would seem crowded. But it’s short, only about ¾ of a mile, so strategically seems like a good time to just run steady pace and hold your position.

But I also like when the course has been on Pine Street in both directions. Anybody racing at 7:30-8:30 pace gets to see the leaders coming back through that section as they’re still heading out. When I was racing, I always liked those brief glances us mid-packers occasionally get of the leaders. Inspirational to see how the front lives. I’m also a big fan of the improved road surface on Pine Street. A+ for Public Works for the outcome of that project. I know they got a lot of grief from city residents about how that project was done, but you cannot argue with the results.

The south end is the majority of Leg 3 of the 3-5 Person Relay. That’s the longest leg, a little longer than 10k. For both marathoners and 3-5 Relay runners, I think the same race strategy is wise. (2-Person Relay runners, your optimal strategy is below.) I think the best way to race this part of the course is to be patient running south on Pine Street (miles 9.5-11.1 for marathoners, and the early miles for a 3-5 Relay runner). In that direction, Pine Street starts off with a decent downhill, and that’s coming off Main Street which is a significant downhill. Momentum is your friend, but don’t get carried away! Mile 10.0 through mile 12.3 is mostly flat with a couple subtle ups and downs. Cruise mode! At around mile 12.1 you’re in South Cove for a climb that is a small test then a gradual downhill, then a sharp uphill in to Oakledge Park. That up is short but kinda steep. It’s not worth pushing this section, more important miles lie ahead.

For 2-Person Relay first leg runners, this part of the course is your last ¼ of your race. When you get to Pine Street it’s time for you to think about getting a little more aggressive. Make some moves! A good landmark is the left turn onto South Cove, just past the 12-mile mark. If I’m running the first half on a 2-Person Relay, that’s my “go” spot and I work that uphill/downhill/uphill with everything I’ve got.

Once you enter Oakledge Park get ready for the aid station if you’re a Marathoner or 3-5 Relay runner. If you’re a 2-Person Relay runner start moving right and change focus to find your teammate. If you’re a Gatorade user this is a place to make sure you get what you need – halfway through the race you gotta make sure your tank isn’t depleted from here out. Oakledge Park all the way down on to Pine St is mostly flat. If you’re a 3-5 Relay runner you’re past halfway done with your leg so time to start making some moves. Pick a target ahead and focus on moving up to that runner. But maintain control because your leg finishes with a big climb.

Making the left onto Maple Street near the end of this section you’ll get a fast & fun downhill. 2 blocks long, it’s a good place to stretch out your legs. Then right onto Battery Street, 2 blocks of flat running which goes by really really fast because you’re staring at Battery Street hill. If you’re a 3-5 Relay runner this is it so step up and crush this climb! If you’re a 2-Person Relay runner you’ve got 10 miles to go, so cruise mode wins. For most marathoners I’d recommend running up Battery Street fairly hard, but with a lot in reserve. It’s a fine line. Strongly in your favor is that over the top of the hill you have over a mile of flat running – and over the last 11 miles of the course no significant uphills. But you still have 11 miles to go.

Good luck with your training today!