RR: Drake Well Marathon

 

Pre-Race

 

I signed up for this race because it was two hours away, Dane, my friend and the RD, added a race day packet pick-up (thanks, Dane!), and I like taking advantage of being in shape to run marathons when I want. I’m noticing that as I write these blogs I’m never sure how a race is going to go- there are so many variables- but here’s what was stacked against me this time: 1) three hours of sleep the night before; 2) piriformis syndrome that put me out for the week leading up to the race; 3) an ultramarathon and an Olympic triathlon in the previous three weeks; 4) a lot of work stress that had me burning the candle on both ends; 5) a hilly course; and 6) 85 degrees and ridiculous humidity (although I shouldn’t be surprised. Even if it is NW PA, it is still August).

Race

Me and a half dozen other people (and the Vitamin Water truck) couldn’t find the packet pick-up/finish line. I call Dane who tells me very bluntly that I shouldn’t be where I was and that I should come to the finish where he and packet pick-up were. Thanks, Dane. Titusville isn’t the most urban of areas and the unmarked roads in pre-dawn darkness aren’t intuitive if you’re not a native. Signs would be helpful, but that’s an easy fix for next year. I get to the packet pick-up/finish line where I greet Dane and hear him say “Mom, that’s Kat, can you give her her packet?” His mom was helping! Cute!  Awwww, hometown race!

As usual, I make friends at the start line including a couple from Georgia who were running half marathons in half of the states and a Brit living in State College whose goal was to run every marathon in Pennsylvania. Runners were asked to move to the other side of a single lane bridge because no one knew where the start was. Seriously, Titusville is rural. It made me think of when our clinic director explained during our first year that Pittsburgh was near Appalachia and highlighted the point by putting up a PowerPoint slide of the movie poster from Deliverance.

One I get on the right side of the start line, I see Dan! I love Dan so I was thrilled to see him just because, but I was also excited because the night before the race I realized that for the first race ever, I wouldn’t know anyone (other than Dane) and I would have zero spectators. Dan re-introduced me to his wife, Leslie, and Justin and Justin’s wife (whose name I never got but is super sweet), who I assume are family friends.

We start the race and Dan and I run together for a half a mile until I realize he’s going to have a stronger day than I am and send him off with a high-five. I wore my Laurel Highlands shirt because it’s the only white tech shirt I have (?) and it was supposed to be hot. I regret that decision. I met lots of other Laurel runners which was really cool, but I also think it had the unintended effect of making me seem way more bad@ss than I am. Before Dan and I split up, we passed a girl who commented to someone “Whoa! Did you see that?! She’s an ultra runner!” (the shirt reads, “Laurel Highlands Ultra” on the back). I was probably 4 feet ahead of her and having her talk about me while I was right there made me wildly uncomfortable, especially since I have a complex about being a sham ultra runner until I get a 50 miler under my belt. I’m no different than any other runner- we all put one foot in front of the other.  In fact, as I spoke with runners along the course, I realized how much of a running newbie I still am.

The first mile is a hill on a dirt road. F*** you Dane. People are walking it. I refuse to. It’s not a bad hill, but at mile 1?! I befriend a guy who is training for his first ultra- a 24 hour relay. We have a sharp downhill in mile 2 and I remember that I overheard Dane saying there was a car accident the night before that took out the water stop! I will never be an RD!

Check out the red car on the left. There should be a water stop there!

We next head into a hill that lasts from mile 3-4. Hey Dane, F*** you, again. Everyone is walking this hill. I run it, and as I pass a guy he looks at me with exasperation and exclaims, “What is wrong with you?!” I continue up the hill and walk towards the top. Not because I couldn’t get to the top but because I’m worried about what this type of hill early on will mean for the rest of the race. Mile 4 water stop I take water from a guy in a Duke shirt. I hate Duke. I can’t hide my hatred for Duke and comment: “I can’t believe I’m taking water from a guy from Duke!” I know I should be nice to volunteers, but my Terrapin loyalty overrides my runner’s etiquette. My saving grace was that another guy at the same water stop yelled in response to my comment, “I’m from Maryland!” I do a little hop, skip and a jump and scream “Go Terps!” to which he responded, “Fear the Turtle!” Oh happy marathon moment! Yay Terps!!!! Fear THIS Turtle!

I want Testudo to be my boyfriend, he’s so handsome

At this point I pick up Rick who has run 212 marathons and this month visited Pittsburgh; he stayed at an inn a quarter mile away from my condo- remarkable considering he lives in Toronto! We chat about Pittsburgh, races and careers and I enjoy his company until I lose him when he sees his wife at mile 8.  I banter with a policeman who tells me I look great: I tell him to check back in 20ish miles. He groans at the thought!

At mile 10 we leave the streets of Titusville and head towards the bike trail. The bike trail is every bit as boring as it is beautiful.

There are no spectators. There are only water stops every two miles. Some observations of 18 miles that were difficult to differentiate:

  • I liked cheering for the runners who were coming back, particularly Dan who said he would wait for me at the end and we would finish together. He lied and finished a few minutes ahead of me, but it kept me going when I wanted to slow down.
  • A guy on a bike passed me and cheered for me by name. I was so confused. For miles I was trying to think of who this mystery man was and what sounds like “Kat” that he could have shouted at me. He passed me again and said my name again. What?! Am I hallucinating!? The fourth time he passed me and cheered for me I finally asked who he was. It was Justin, Dan’s friend! He had changed shirts and had a helmet and sunglasses on- oh!! YAY friendly face that I can place!
  • A guy in a white shirt kept leap frogging me and I HATED him for it. He wasn’t doing a run/walk, but every 5-10 minutes he would stop and walk, blow by me when he started again and then stop. It was annoying, distracting, and demoralizing. As I came up on him in the last mile, I was thinking about how much I hated him this entire race and he clapped for me as I passed him. Cr@p. I spent all race hating a decent guy who cheered for me as I outkicked him. I also spent all race hating Dane, but that’s a little different
  • One guy ran by with a headband to hold back his flowing hair. Note to self: get Lucas a headband
  • Mile 11 water stop there was a volunteer wearing a Vermont City Marathon relay shirt. I yelled “I ran Vermont this year” and he asked where I was from. When I responded Pittsburgh, he yelled “Wait! Come back!” and I instinctively started to run back towards the water station before I realized that it was in the wrong direction!
  • Water stations had tiny itty bitty little miniature cups the size of thimbles. I am only slightly exaggerating. It was VERY tough to stay hydrated with less than a gulp of fluid. This was compounded by volunteers who didn’t know how to man water stops, so they ended up being self-serve stations.
  • I thought of my mantra, “Relentless forward motion” which makes me giggle because it makes me feel like I’m a renegade on a mission (which is so far from anything I actually am)
  • A phrase that I read somewhere popped into my head: “(S)he who runs for pleasure never gets tired” It was so appropriate for a day like today. It was a beautiful day, I wasn’t shooting for a PR and I was running through the woods and making new friends. Running can bear great gifts and today was one of them.

I crossed the finish line and Dane gave me a hug. Anyone who knows me knows I have very expressive features (you always know exactly how I feel) and anyone who has studied with me knows that I grumble when I’m working through something, often unaware of my vocalizations (seriously, I wish I was making that up). I think about how bad I feel for Dane that he is hugging my sweaty post-marathon self and he asks if I was okay, looking concerned. Cr@p! I grumbled out loud and he thinks I’m injured. I tell him I’m fine, just that I feel bad for him that he needs to hug me when I’m so gross. I tell him that we need to have a talk about the hills and the cups. He told me he took out a hill. WTF?! I’m still convinced he’s a sadist which is the only reason anyone would host a hilly marathon in August. And that makes me a masochist because who in their right mind would run a hilly marathon in August?!

I finished at 4:37, 4th of my 7 marathons and 15 minutes slower than my PR in May. I’m neither happy nor disappointed; I’m truly ambivalent. Marathons have stopped being races for me and are now training runs to help maintain my fitness. I noticed that on this run when I was slowing down I wasn’t slowing down because of my cardiovascular fitness or pain in my legs. I felt good, I was just moving much more slowly; no juice. Not sure if it was a hydration issue, general fatigue, nutrition or something else, but it was interesting for me to note that it was different than what usually slows me down in a race.

All in all it was a great training run. 24 hours later I feel great, walked a few miles and spent some time on my new bike trainer (thank you, Craigslist!). What’s next? Run Around the Square 2009. As far as marathons, I’m not sure. I’m speaking with Raytomorrow about the camp in October which may influence my ability to run the Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathons. There is so much I want to do in October, but even if all the events are on separate weekends, I’m not sure if I’d be able to juggle three weekends away in the middle of what will be a crazy semester. I’m good at maintaining a work/play balance, but I’m nervous about what I might need to sacrifice come October. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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