Monday, May 31, 2010

22nd Keybank Vermont City Marathon

     Photo Credit: RYAN MERCER, Burlington Free Press

Marathon Trifecta Completed: 3 marathons in 6 weeks

It’s been 5+ years since the return after a near decade long hiatus from the weekend warrior/athlete I once was. I was never much involved in the weekly running or cycling racing scene but still managed to keep myself in good shape. A frequent at local bike rides I could hold my own against the B+/A- level guys. Those were the good old days - few responsibilities and ample free time.

My first marathon was back in Sept 2005. It was a successful marathon debut by all accounts: a 10th place 2:53:45 at the Clarence DeMar in Keene, NH. The primary goal was to qualify for Boston which I did with time to spare. Boston was just as rewarding experience as I hoped it would be – a 2:43:45. It wasn’t totally unexpected after a couple good early season results but it was still a breakthrough race for me.

Little did I know then, how good a time that 2:43 was for a marathon rookie, for it took 5 more attempts over 3 years with nearly another 10,000 training miles before I would best that mark. Much has changed since then. Now that I’m in my forties I find no longer can I drop three or four hard runs a week to get into top shape. I have to more careful on the how often’s and how much’s in my marathon preparation. In the past my recovery from hard days seemed almost instant. I ran easy days not because I needed to, but because I knew it was the smart thing to do. Now those hard workouts sometimes stay in my legs a day or two after. The easy days between workouts are less an option and more of a mandate.

Conversely the consistent training and accumulation of mileage each week, month and year has meant my overall strength and what I can take has steadily increased, as has my ability to quickly resume training after a hard training cycle, big race or marathon. I’ve done this Boston-Holyoke double a couple times with success, but this is the first time trying to run three marathons in the span of six weeks. The necessary taper and recovery  over the past two months means I’ve haven’t done any taxing speed work for quite a while. While I was my endurance was right on, I wasn’t feeling as confident about my speed and aerobic capacity.

Still I felt as ready to run a good marathon the weeks after Holyoke and leading into Vermont as I have since that great 2:36 at Boston in 2009. I was feeling pretty darn optimistic about going sub 2:40. Maybe, just maybe, a sub 2:38. Perhaps even better.

I emailed the race director soon after the Boston Marathon to see if I could get in the Vermont City Marathon (VCM) at the last moment if it was sold out. While I didn't have that sweet 2:36 time from last year's Boston to put atop this year's resume. Zeke Zucker, a trail and ultra-man himself, appreciated my Boston - Holyoke marathon double and thought my times were solid enough to warrant a master invite number. I’m a top local distance runner at best, so the thought of being considered - in any context - a runner worthy of invite status gave me goose bumps and it got harder and harder to keep my emotions in check as the race grew closer.

I told myself if I was going to make the travel all the way up to Lake Champlain on Memorial Day weekend, I wasn't going to play it safe - not necessarily a reckless pace in the first half, but a pace fast enough to give myself a chance to be in the hunt for a top three spot in the masters age group.

It's early in the morning on race day. I head over to the host hotel to meet up with Zeke and the other runners for a shuttle over to a sport facility situatued nearby the start area. We will hang for the better part of an hour; plenty of time to stretch and chill. But I was having trouble staying calm and relaxed. Perhaps it was the heightened anxiety and high expectations I placed on myself as an invited runner. All the pre race rituals were of no help. I couldn't find that frame of mind I wanted to be in. Eventually we head over to the start area. Some more stretches, easy jogging and strides; nervously awaiting the moment of truth. Finally, we're just minutes away. As we roll out to the start line U2's 'When the Streets Have No Name' is cranking out the 'PA' speakers. It was really cool and my adrenaline starts to kick in. It's go time soon.

The gun goes off. I tell myself 'be smart', 'Don't let your emotions get the best of you and go out too fast like a rookie'. I listen. A select few runners I feel within my ability all seem to be flying compared to my somewhat deliberate, pedestrian pace. What's wrong with me? How can all these guys being going that much faster than me? I'm not sure of my exact pace only a few minutes into the race. One thing I know for sure is I won't be holding this pace for 26 more miles. Three plus minutes into the race and already I have to let them go. Have I grossly miscalculated my fitness? Have I done something terribly wrong? Try to be confident and trust my fitness. Be patient.

I finally reach the 1 mile mark in 6:15. Yikes. Even with a more conservative start, a low 6 number would have felt much much better than to hear that calling out of 6-1-5. The runners in packs ahead are already a good 15 to 30 seconds ahead. As much I have gone a bit too conservatively, I suspect they have gone at that much more aggressively.
Using the downhill as a springboard to quicken my pace, I work on closing down on some runners sooner rather than later. By the time we hit the first turn around that returns the runners to the downtown Burlington area, I'm within a pack of runners on pace at or below 2:36 for the day. 10 miles is reached in 59:51. Considering my first slow mile this is a early indication that I could have a good day.

Things continue clicking nicely thru miles 11 and 12, but at 13 an indication that perhaps I'm pressing too much; too soon. I hit the halfway point on target in 1:18:15 but I'm losing ground on two runners that I've been running with for a couple miles. The one hill of mention in this course is coming soon so I hold steady, opting not to press for contact with them.

I run the hill with ease passing a couple of different runners. One stays with me for a couple of miles. My pace has dropped off since the hill but I'm running a pace I can hold till the end. Hopefully I will have the reserves to pick up the pace once I get beyond mile 20.
While I'm not able to pick up the pace during the last 10k, I manage to pick off about three or four runners that went out way too fast. They were way ahead of me by mile ten. I try to pick it up again on the remaining 5k over the flat and easy paved bike path. The extra perceived effort only seems to result in maintaining pace, not increasing it.
But it seems my overall position and placing in the Master's age group is secure. I don't see any more runners to pick off in the last couple miles - especially any possible master runners so best I play it smart and run steady. I reach the final part of the bike path looking onto to the gorgeous Lake Champlain in downtown Burlington. The crowd noise is picking up and the finish is minutes away. Dreams of another sub 2:36 clocking washed away at the halfway point. The sub 2:40 goal, that disappeared too - somewhere around mile twenty-one. Not the 2nd half I was hoping for. But not bad considering the milage, or lack thereof, I put in this season after the IT Band issue in January.
All in all, I have little to complain about and plenty to be thankful for.

I won $400 dollars for 2nd Master.

A couple months later, in the mail arrives a ceranmic plaque for 2nd Place Master and Vermont Grade-A Dark Amber Maple Syrup from the people at Dragonfly Sugar Works in Huntington, Vermont in a really cool custom 1 litre glass bottle. I'm talking top shelf, like $25 bottle of sugar-sweetness, literally.

But the proverbial icing on the cake was a hand written 'Thank You for running VCM' and with a 'come back anytime' type closing. I'm a decent local runner; far from the elite class but Zeke Zucker, Jen Savas, Joe Connely and the people of VCM made me feel that way when they didn't have to. Class acts. I love it when it's runners that put on running events. You can tell they take pride in their event - every aspect of it. They really want to make sure the runners have the best possible experience and come back year after year. You can count on me being back next year.

My Splits:
6:19, 5:51 , 5:57, 5:57, 11:38, 6:04, 6:06, 11:49 : 59:41 @ 10 miles,
6:04, 6:09, 6:03, 34 : 1:18:31 @ Half
6:23 up battery hill , 6:29 , 12:27, 6:06, 6:19 : 2:01:44 @ 20 miles,
12:46, 6:26, 6:19, 6:25, 6:20, 1:21 2:41:21 : 1:22:50 2nd half

22nd KeyBank Vermont City Marathon
May 30, 2010 Marathon (USATF Certified VT02001WN) Burlington, VTPlace Div/Tot Div 10mile Halfmar 20mile * Nettime Pace Guntime Name Age G Bib# City/state
===== ======== ===== ======= ======= ======= === =======

1 1/185 M2529 51:44 1:07:39 1:44:04 2:17:51 5:16 2:17:51# John Crews 25 M 1 Raleigh NC
2 1/133 M1624 51:53 1:08:14 1:45:53 2:22:05 5:26 2:22:05 Gavin Coombs 24 M 19 Clayton NC
3 1/202 M3034 53:57 1:10:46 1:48:04 2:22:16 5:26 2:22:16 Justin Fyffe 30 M 10 E. Dummrston VT
4 2/133 M1624 1:10:45 1:48:18 2:23:46 5:29 2:23:46 Curtis Wheeler 24 M 4 Buxton ME
5 2/185 M2529 54:00 1:10:50 1:49:19 2:25:43 5:34 2:25:44 Mark Miller 29 M 8 Keene NH
6 3/185 M2529 53:25 1:10:09 1:48:39 2:26:42 5:36 2:26:43 Jon Fasulo 29 M 3 Ardmore PA
7 2/202 M3034 52:09 1:10:01 1:50:38 2:26:52 5:37 2:26:52 Juan Carlos Hernandez 30 M 5 Chia
8 4/185 M2529 55:22 1:12:41 1:51:47 2:27:35 5:38 2:27:36 Patrick MacAdie 26 M 9 Acton MA
9 5/185 M2529 54:15 1:11:40 1:52:02 2:31:14 5:47 2:31:14 Mike Fisher 26 M 12 Brookline MA
10 3/133 M1624 57:28 1:14:43 1:53:34 2:31:25 5:47 2:31:25 Jacob Edwards 23 M 16 N Stonington CT
11 3/202 M3034 51:53 1:08:44 1:50:38 2:32:33 5:50 2:32:33 Trent Briney 31 M 2 New York NY
12 6/185 M2529 54:29 1:12:08 1:53:41 2:33:07 5:51 2:33:07 Thomas Rhodes 26 M 14 Arlington VA
13 4/133 M1624 58:02 1:16:17 1:56:53 2:34:16 5:54 2:34:16 Thomas O'Grady 24 M 17 Latham NY
14 5/133 M1624 59:43 1:18:27 1:58:45 2:34:56 5:55 2:34:58 Hari Iyer 22 M 2304 Cambridge MA
15 7/185 M2529 58:04 1:57:50 2:35:48 5:57 2:35:50 Christopher Hamel 26 M 2664 Methuen MA
16 1/254 M4044 58:06 1:58:50 2:36:47 5:59 2:36:48* Jason Porter 40 M 27 Bedford NH
17 6/133 M1624 1:54:54 2:37:49 6:02 2:37:49 Josh Henry 23 M 11 Truxton NY
18 8/185 M2529 59:39 1:17:56 1:59:08 2:39:37 6:06 2:39:37 James Sweeney 28 M 21 Albany NY
19 1/235 F2529 58:07 2:40:03 6:07 2:40:04# Heidi Westover 29 F 31 Acworth NH
20 7/133 M1624 1:59:13 2:40:42 6:08 2:41:06 Shawn Duffy 24 M 819 Bryn Mawr PA
21 2/254 M4044 59:40 2:01:42 2:41:21 6:10 2:41:22 Robert Landry 41 M 26 Ludlow MA
22 4/202 M3034 1:18:28 2:41:49 6:11 2:41:50 Trent Kirk 34 M 20 Charlotte NC
23 8/133 M1624 57:24 1:16:19 2:00:04 2:42:07 6:11 2:42:07 Logan Franks 22 M 1553 Plattsburgh NY
24 9/133 M1624 57:51 1:16:56 2:01:20 2:43:34 6:15 2:43:34 Jason Dedonato 24 M 3164 Nashua NH
25 10/133 M1624 1:02:44 2:05:31 2:44:15 6:16 2:44:18 George Heeschen 23 M 2492 Newport News VA

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