I recently completed the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont — my 13th overall marathon in my 8th state. Some of my friends are impressed and/or think I’m crazy — mostly a little of each. And I am a 4-star Marathon Maniac having completed 9 marathons between March, 2013, and this past January including a double in August (a marathon in New York on a Friday and a 50K ultra the next day in Connecticut). But I would like to put things in perspective, and my finish in Burlington provides context.
I had the great fortune to cover the last couple of miles and finish the Vermont marathon with the legendary Larry Macon. For those that may not have heard of Larry, he holds the current Guinness World Record for most marathons completed in a single year. Last year he completed 255! And lifetime, he has run over 1300 marathons — fully two orders of magnitude greater than my 13 marathons. See? My 13 are neither crazy or all that impressive. Oh, yea, Larry is four years older than I am, too! Perspective.
As amazing as Larry’s accomplishments are, he is very gracious and humble. It was a real delight to share some miles and conversation with him on the course. I had “run into” Larry at previous marathons — the first time at the Delaware Marathon in Wilmington in May 2013 where I qualified to become a Marathon Maniac (with 3 marathons in less than 90 days). However, I’d only had occasion to wave or call out in passing until Vermont. Here is a photo of Larry and me with Barb, another Maniac that crossed the finish line with us.
Joining the Marathon Maniacs last year was a great accomplishment and thrill for me, but I didn’t realize how many friendships I would develop as a result. At this point, I don’t think I could find a marathon in the US where I would not find another Maniac running. We try to gather for pre-race photos and we greet each other along the course as we pass each other — usually with a hearty, “Maniac!” We become friends on Facebook and keep up with each other’s travels and races, and meet up at pre-race expos, before races, and in the finish areas. Some Maniacs are running marathons almost every week (although no one can keep up with Larry). Others are running monthly, and some have qualified and settled back into doing a few a year. It doesn’t matter. I have found the Maniac community to be very supportive regardless — much like the running community at large. Larry is a great example. He was just as interested in my story as I was in hearing about his experiences.
As much as I value my membership in Marathon Maniacs, though, I continue to depend upon my local club — Fast Tracks — for ongoing support and running fellowship week in and week out. I’ve even talked a Maniac friend, Ashley, into joining us for long distance training runs when she isn’t traveling to new states for marathons. But it is extra special to travel to a distant marathon and catch up with another Fast Tracker. Michele met me at the starting area in Battery Park before the race. I did manage to see her once more on the first long out-and-back part of the course, but she is much faster than me. We did connect by phone after the race to compare notes.
I enjoyed the course in spite of my slow finish time. It begins in Battery Park overlooking Lake Champlain and the Waterfront Park below where the finish line is located. The first 3-mile loop takes runners into the city away from the Lake, then onto the Church Street pedestrian mall before passing through Battery Park again on the way to the 6-mile out-and-back along Route 127 and the Winooski River. Returning to the city, we again pass through Battery Park and Church Street to another 6-mile loop south to Oakledge Park, along the lake before climbing Battery Street back through Battery Park for the last time. Then we head north along North Avenue with a couple of loops into neighborhoods and the Bernard J. Leddy Park before finally turning onto the Bike Path along the lake for the final four miles.
Spectators were out in full force and voice throughout the course — even along the highway stretch between mile 4 and 8. I even managed to see my wife Marie between mile 9 and 10 while I was still running fast enough that she could only get a photo of my from the back!
Here’s a closer view of my back. I get a lot of comments about my shirts. It definitely helps keep me motivated, and I enjoy giving others something else to think about, too.
Here are some photos when I was still running strong:
In the neighborhoods, in addition to the well-stocked aid stations with great volunteers, spectators offered food and beverages all along the way — especially appreciated were the several spots with watermelon! That is the absolute best in my opinion — more so because the day was already humid and getting hotter as I slowed down on the second half!
And, boy, did I slow down. I clearly started out faster than I should have. I guess I was seduced by my faster training runs in the two weeks leading up to the marathon. I started out using a run/walk ratio of 2:45/25, but I cut most of my walk breaks a little short and my run intervals were very comfortable but obviously too fast to sustain.
The day was humid with a thick fog hovering over Lake Champlain, and the sky was clear with temperatures in the mid to upper 50s at the start — quite comfortable but too warm to be ideal. I really felt pretty good through the first half of the marathon and thought I had a shot at finishing around 5 hours. I should have known better. I had only been training since March 1st after being shut down for 7 weeks with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. Initially I figured I would probably finish in the neighborhood of 5:30 based on the amount of training I had done. In retrospect, I should have stuck with that goal and run the first half accordingly.
As it was I gradually slowed down starting right about mile 13. I could feel it, but I kept hoping and expecting to get a second wind. There wasn’t much of a breeze — even off the lake — and the second wind never materialized. I maintained my run/walk intervals up the Battery Street climb and the last pass through Battery Park, but I was clearly struggling as I hit the mile 17 mark on North Street. About that time I felt a strange and sudden pain in my right inside ankle. I quickly stopped to take stock of my situation. Fortunately, I was unable to replicate any pain after flexing and stretching my foot and ankle and testing it with some walking then running strides. I continued running with no further pain. After the marathon I noticed a little bruising but no residual pain or tenderness. It was a little scary at the time since I’ve never yet had a DNF.
Shortly after that stop I changed my run/walk intervals to 3:00/1:00 and used every bit of each walk break. I was no longer power-walking; I was “rest-walking!” I no longer had an hope of a second wind — I was holding on to finish. One of the great things about the Vermont City Marathon is how well organized it is. They even had signs a half mile ahead of each aid station so you knew how close you were. And although I was near the back of the pack, the volunteers were still out in force at the last aid station before the finish, still cheering us along. Each aid station had a table set aside for elite runners with their personal hydration preparations, and the last station still had the elite table set up with several bottles still waiting — at that point, even if the elites had taken a second turn on the course, they would have been ahead of me!
By the time I hit that last turn onto the Bike Path I decided to switch the intervals. I was now walking (probably closer to “strolling”) 3 minutes then running (closer to “shuffling”) for 1 minute. Even so, I appreciated the pretty views along the lake, and I stopped at one point to exchange photos with Bonnie, another Maniac friend.
With just about 2 miles to go, I saw Larry power walking and catching up to me. I decided to ditch the intervals altogether and try to keep up with his walking pace. Fortunately that worked — or, at least, our conversation distracted me from the final effort. Very close to the end Barb caught up to us and we finished together. Time: 6:06:24 — I never did get that second wind, but I did get a Maniac boost!
It was a great trip overall. My wife and I arrived on Thursday and stayed with our friends Chuck and Sharon in Williamstown except for Saturday night when we stayed over in Burlington the night before the race. Naturally, I had a pre-race car bomb at McKee’s Pub.
Post-race, of course, I had a maple creamee, and we stayed a few extra days to hang out with our friends. Chuck is also a great massage therapist — VERY convenient! THANKS, Chuck! I also used the local trail in Graniteville that passes by the Rock of Ages Memorial Design Studio near the quarry. I decided it wouldn’t be prudent to stop there…
This tortoise appears to be getting a hare faster! My pace is picking up. My splits are improving. I’m not sure what has gotten after me, but my training runs are getting speedier. This week I’ve been tapering for the Vermont City Marathon. I haven’t really been trying to run faster, but all four runs have been hovering around a 10:00 minute average pace. I know that’s not very fast among runners in general, but I haven’t been running consistent times this fast for almost a year — since I started doing monthly marathons last spring.
Mon – 6.03 miles – 9:59 pace
Tue – 5.02 miles – 10:02 pace
Wed – 4.05 miles – 10:08 pace
Fri – 3.02 miles – 10:01 pace
After completing the Dopey Challenge this past January in spite of a bad case of plantar faciitis, I took seven weeks off to recover. I started training again on March 1st so I basically had to build up again from scratch. My focus has been on building up endurance to get ready for the marathon so I haven’t worked on speed. Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve had a day here or there with some faster splits or better average pace. But this week has been different. Four days in a row I’ve maintained an average pace very close to 10:00 minutes per mile. To put it in perspective, I ran my marathon PR in 2012 at an average pace of 10:30. Now I’m not expecting to get anywhere near a PR finish in Sunday’s race. I’m still planning to use run/walk intervals through mile 15, at least, and these faster training runs have been end-to-end running without walk breaks. But who knows? If I’m feeling frisky after climbing the big hill on Battery Street at Mile 15, maybe I’ll shed my tortoise shell and make like a hare…
Now, just to assure my readers that I am not on the cusp of any major running break-through, I have to confess a major preparation faux pas for this marathon. We arrived in Vermont yesterday to stay with friends about an hour south of Burlington before and after the race. As I began to unpack my bags I suddenly realized — I was missing one bag. The one with ALL my running gear (except my shoes in a separate bag)! What an idiot! I had packed that bag first making certain that I had everything I needed, then set it aside — apparently too far aside.
Fortunately, a very kind neighbor agreed to retrieve the bag from our house and over-night it to the hotel where we are staying tomorrow night. I was lucky to have arrived early enough for the bag to catch up with me, and lucky my neighbor was not traveling for the holiday weekend.
So disaster averted, although over-night shipping on a holiday weekend turns out to be extra pricey! Make that extra, extra, extra pricey! I am hoping that’s the only horror story I’ll have from this trip!
If you want to track my progress this Sunday as I run the Vermont City Marathon, my Bib Number is 2893, and you can click on the link below to sign up for live tracking:
If you are interested in viewing the course, a video of the entire 26 miles is online here:
Don’t worry, though, the video is sped up and split into first and second half clips (11 and 16 minutes each) — a LOT faster than I’ll be running it! :-)
One more 3-mile shake out run left on Friday, but I’m feeling really well-prepared. All my short runs this week have been fast, too. I’m hoping that bodes well…
Another heavy rainstorm, and the banks of the Perkiomen Creek spilled over. The top photo was taken this morning on my training run showing water in che channel next to the Perkiomen Trail that is usually dry or damp. The second photo shows a crayfish that was washed onto the trail itself through the night before the waters receded. This little fellow was not very lucky and didn’t survive the ride. So Roadkill met roadkill.
But my run was great. In fact, this has been a very good week for training — my last week of normal runs before really tapering before the Vermont City Marathon. I started off the week on Monday thinking I’d just do an easy recovery run since it was hot and I had done my last 20+ training run just two days before. I don’t know what got into me, but I ran some of my fastest splits, ending up with 9:53, 9:32, and 9:16 for my last three miles — much faster than I’ve been running this year and most of last year. On Wednesday I put in a good 12-mile run with hills and still felt really strong before and after. I backed off a little on Thursday but still felt great.
Today I started out easy using run/walk intervals, but after I finished 10 miles I stopped taking walk breaks and ran negative splits finishing with a 10:08-minute mile. I know those aren’t really fast times in general, but for me at this point, it marks a big improvement on my time. And best yet, I felt really good after my run. No aches or pains or exhaustion (knocking on wood is starting to give me a headache)!
So bring on Vermont! In the meantime, I really will taper…
Training Week: (37.5 total miles)
Mon – 5.00 miles – 9:59 pace
Wed – 12.22 miles – 11:14 pace
Thu – 5.02 miles – 10:38 pace
Sat – 15.24 miles (includes a warm up mile on treadmill) – 11:16 pace
The rain held off this morning, but I was definitely drenched in sweat by the time I finished my 21 mile run down Forbidden Drive along the Wissahickon, then down the Schuylkill River Trail past St. Joe’s Boathouse to the Dad Vail Regatta finish line and back. Fortunately, I got in several extra miles early with my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac Ashley before meeting the rest of the Fast Tracks Running Club for our group run. As it was, it was already 80 degrees when I did finish. The run felt good, but I was really dehydrated and depleted of electrolytes when I finished. Plenty of Gatorade and some wet wipes restored me pretty quickly, but I should have taken some electrolyte caps with me on the run. Lesson learned — it’s hot and humid enough to need them.
The photo above was taken near Falls Bridge and shows how sediment washed well up the banks of the river during the storm and flooding a week and a half ago when Kelly Drive and MLK Drive were both closed.
Today was my second 20-miler in preparation for the Vermont City Marathon on May 25. I feel I’m ready in spite of just having three months to ramp up after a 7-week shut down for my plantar faciitis — which is not bothering me at all now (knocking on wood while typing). I know I won’t have a great finish time, but my goal is to finish and feel good. For that I’m ready. Now all I have to do is taper smart and stay healthy!
Weekly Runs (44.4 total miles)
Mon – 12.12 miles (hills) – 11:06 pace
Tue – 6.27 miles – 11:17 pace
Thu – 4.00 miles – 11:32 pace
Sat – 22.01 miles (includes 1 mile treadmill warm up) – 12:28 pace
I’ve been piling up the mileage lately — 124 miles in the last 3 weeks including long runs of 18, 21, and 16 miles. I’ll probably do another 18-20 mile long run next weekend before tapering for the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT, on May 25. I’m also including one or two runs with hills each week, and yet my pace has been improving little by little. Although I’m not in the best of shape yet, I am more and more confident that I’ll do OK on the marathon. I don’t expect a great finish time, but I’m no longer concerned about completing the race within the 6-hour limit, and I’m pretty sure I’ll handle the hills OK, too.
Last Saturday was my first 20-miler since starting running again — and probably my only 20-miler before the marathon, but I also got to run a few miles with my friend, Nilesh. It was great to catch up with him after many months.
The weather has been great lately — perfect temperatures — but yesterday was a deluge of rain all day forcing me to hit the treadmill for 4-miles of intervals. Today was a nicer day, but the flood waters remained. I had a 16-miler on my schedule and headed to Betzwood. When I arrived, the picnic area and parking lots were closed due to severe flooding. I parked nearby and checked out the parking area on foot. Here’s what I saw:
It’s no wonder they had to postpone the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sullivan Bridge and close the Betzwood Picnic Area. I’ve never seen the river that swollen before.
I ran over the 422 bridge footpath and did the outer loop at Valley Forge. When I got to Valley Creek behind the farm buildings on the way to Yellow Spring Road, it was very soggy on the other side of the little wooden bridge over the creek, but it was still passable. I proceeded to the trail along Valley Creek beyond the covered bridge and came to one spot where about half the width of the trail had caved into the creek. The section was only about 6 to 10 feet long and I ran as lightly as possible on the remaining section of trail — a bit dicey but I made it. The rest of the loop was uneventful although Valley Creek was way over its banks on the other side of Route 23 where it joins the Schuylkill River.
When I got back over to the Betzwood side, I had another 7 miles left to run so I headed toward Norristown on the Schuylkill River Trail. I felt so sorry for the home owners along the banks of the river from Betzwood toward Norristown. They were severely flooded. The photos below only give a hint of how bad it was:
I could see the high water mark on some of the homes — almost to the tops of garage doors at ground level. Even if they were prepared for flooding, I’m sure it will be a mess of mud left behind in those ground levels.
Recent Training Runs:
Sun, Apr 20 – 3.8 miles – 10:51 pace (day after 18 miler — felt so good I added a short unscheduled run)
Mon, Apr 21 – 5.0 miles – 10:20 pace
Wed, Apr 23 – 12.14 miles – 11:37 pace
Thu, Apr 24 – 4.5 miles – 10:13 pace
Sat, Apr 26 – 21.07 miles – 12:26 pace (includes 1 mile treadmill warm up)
Mon, Apr 28 – 12.01 miles – 11:13 pace
Tue, Apr 29 – 6.04 miles – 11:31 pace
Wed, Apr 30 – 4.00 miles – 11:00 pace
Thu, May 1 – 16.09 miles – 12:06 pace
I am now officially registered for the Marine Corps Marathon in October! And I didn’t have to play the lottery waiting game. Instead, I had to run the Marine Corps 17.75K on Saturday, April 12, in Prince William County Forest to earn the token above and the coveted Access Granted pass (see column 4 to the right) allowing me to register even though the general registration lottery had already been completed.
So this was the easy way into the Marine Corps Marathon. Well, maybe not so easy.
Online registration for the 17.75K race (11.03 miles) went fast. Really fast. The available spots were filled in 9 minutes! They only allowed 1775 registrations and some number of them were reserved for those in the armed forces. So I was very fortunate to get into this event. But that wasn’t the hard part.
The course was advertised as “challenging,” and it was quite hilly. The first and last two miles was on a gravel, stone, and dirt road with the remaining 7-mile loop on asphalt within the park. Some of the hills were, indeed, steep but, thankfully, not too long. But that wasn’t the hard part, either.
Because the course was in the park, there were no spectators to speak of other than the volunteers at the water stops and the marines at each intersection. Except for the start and finish there was really no cheering. But that wasn’t the hard part.
No, the hard part was driving to the race and driving home again. I really don’t know how local residents put up with the I-95 traffic above and below Washington, DC. I even tried Route 1, but it was just as bad. You have to know the back roads and be prepared to drive out of your way to get around. I left home (outside Philadelphia) at 11:00 am and didn’t get to the packet pickup location near Dumfries, VA, until after 4:00 PM! Granted, this was on a Friday, but I thought I was leaving at a good time — well after morning rush hour. Driving home on Saturday was almost as bad — another 4 and a half hours on the road. I was exhausted from the driving — not from the running.
The event itself went pretty well for me. I initially ran with a Marathon Maniac friend, Ashley, but we parted around the time I had to stop at a portapot. Another 4-minutes lost on the clock! In spite of my run/walk intervals, I was able to catch up to her later in the race, and it was great to share some miles. I didn’t think to get a photo of the two of us, but I’m pretty sure we will have other opportunities to run together — for sure, at the Marine Corps Marathon — so I’ll make up for it then!
Some runners dressed for the occasion, including the four women below. Of course, when I came up on them from behind, they weren’t in the right order. I told them I’d take a photo if they would arrange themselves correctly which they did. We ended up passing each other repeatedly for most of the second half of the race.
My overall time was 2:21:09 — a 12:36 pace — but I had only done hill work a couple times before this race and it was still just over a month since I had started running again. Of course, since this was a new distance for me, it is technically a PR! My main goal was to finish feeling good and I did.
After the race, I went back to my hotel, showered and dressed and checked out, then met another Maniac, Ralph, with his father and we sat and talked awhile and shared a beer. It was great to get to know Ralph and his father. I hope we catch up with one another again before October. It might be hard to find one another in Washington DC!