Well, it’s over. Months and months of training finally culminated in Sunday’s 2015 Vermont City Marathon. Other than really having to pee and freaking out while standing on the port-o-potty line when the announcer said that all runners needed to be in the starting corral, the day started really well. I felt very strong over the first few miles. I don’t know if it was race day adrenaline or proper training, but I felt great. I started the race hoping for a four hour finish, and started the first few miles at the proper pace to finish in this time, but I was also intent on building up enough of a cushion to walk a bit towards the end of the race. The first loop around the southern section passed without incident. Other than trying not to collide with any of the thousands of other runners, my day could not have started any better. Coming back up Church Street was great. The crowds were cheering and I was feeling strong. Then, as we started out on the belt-line, the clouds moved in for a welcome break from the direct sunshine. Still feeling fine… Seeing the elite runners coming back towards town, after their 6-mile turn-around was great. Rounding the bend and turning towards town was even better. Realizing that I was ahead of so many runners made me feel very confident. I came off the belt-line still feeling good and began the stretch back into town. I was supposed to meet my wife just before mile 9 for a resupply of GU and liquids. Unfortunately, we didn’t see each other and I was worried about not having enough nutrition. However, the number of water stations on the course, as well as the GU handouts easily made up for this slight setback. The run down Pine St. was great. I ran into some friends along the way (both runners and in the crowd) and the whole home-town atmosphere of this event really began to set in. I was still feeling fine through South Cove Road and back into Oakledge Park (the ½ way point). The lake views were great as I headed back into town. I guess that it was somewhere in this vicinity that I began to mentally fade out. I recall seeing my wife at the bottom of Battery Hill, but realized that I was halfway up the hill before I heard the Taiko drummers. I was really looking forward to seeing, and hearing them, and couldn’t believe that I had passed them without even realizing it! Somewhere in this general vicinity is also where I was passed by the 4:00 pace group. I couldn’t figure out how this was possible, if my mile splits were where I thought they were, but either way, I was not able to catch the pace group. I recall thinking- that’s OK, I’ll just do my best to stay ahead of the 4:15 pace group. By the time I got to Burlington High School, I was really beginning to fade. It was at this point that I knew that the 4:00 finish time was truly beyond my reach. The urge to start walking really hit me at around mile 18, when I first entered the North End neighborhoods. I was beyond excitement when I was offered a freeze-pop as I turned onto Oakcrest Drive. On my training runs these neighborhoods were difficult for me, because they come at a point in the mileage where my energy level is low, and it is mentally difficult to come back out to North Ave exactly where you entered- giving the feeling of much work completed for no overall mileage gain. With that said, I want to give a huge shout out to all of the neighborhood crowds. The cheering, freeze pops, orange slices, and chunks of watermelon were all greatly appreciated. Additionally, the sprinklers provided welcome relief to my heated body. I could have been easily convinced to stop running and have a seat with the guy handing out beer on Oakland Terrace! After exiting the neighborhoods, I was pretty excited to reach the bike path for my return to the waterfront. However, it was at this point (around mile 22) that I was truly out of it. I had to start interjecting walk breaks more and more frequently, and for longer periods of time. I was really bummed out to be passed by so many runners while walking. The real blow to my psyche came when the 4:15 pace group passed me and I couldn’t muster enough energy to even think about sticking with them. So, I continued my run/walk (more like crawl/walk) technique until mile 25. At this point a friend caught up to me and basically dragged me to the finish line. In a previous blog post, I had said that I would truly enjoy the last 385 yards of the race (remember that a marathon is 26.2 miles (those last 0.2 miles equal 385 yards). Well, this was wishful thinking… As I was coming down those last 385 yards all I was thinking was “I WANT TO WALK, I NEED TO WALK, I NEED TO STOP RUNNING!” So, there it was, I had completed my first marathon. It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but I had done it! However, the story doesn’t end quite yet. I had mentioned, again in previous blog posts that I didn’t want to end up in the medical tent. But the thought of dropping by just to say hello to my medical friends and colleagues was appealing, so I went inside… and minutes later ended up as a patient. I made the mistake of sitting down on a cot, with my legs dangling… I guess the blood pooled in my legs and without much cardiac effort to bring it back up, I got more and more lightheaded and dizzy. The next thing I knew, I was basically unable to speak and ended up getting carried to a cot. A few minutes of lying flat was all I needed and then I was good-to-go. Other than some leg soreness, 24 hours later, I am fine. I finished my first marathon, and am proud of that. Despite the fact that my desire to finish in four hours was an arbitrary number and only a best guess at my ability level, the competitive side of me is somewhat disappointed in my overall result.
As crazy as it sounds, I am already planning my second marathon, to try for a better result. I love the camaraderie of running events. I see it when I coach my middle school Cross Country meets and I saw it on Sunday. The cheering crowds and the general atmosphere at the VCM were great. Although I had a difficult time on my run, I don’t believe that running 26.2 miles should be easy. If it were easy, more people would do it. I loved every minute of the day and of the race. It was hard, and that is good. Besides, after burning 3000+ calories, I can eat anything I want!
My Rookie Blogger experience has drawn to an end. I guess I’m not a rookie anymore. I’m going to continue running, struggling, and getting better. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line sometime… firstname.lastname@example.org See you on the road, Greg