August isn’t supposed to be a marathon month in the northeast. It’s a time for training and preparing for the fall marathon season, right?
Not this year. Not for me:
- My First Double (2 marathons or longer in 2 days)
- My First Ultra (50K or 31+ miles) — and an easy PR to beat when I do it again
- 57.29 miles in less than 32 hours; my first 70-mile week
- Two New Marathon States — NY & CT
- Two Marathon Maniac Stars (Silver Level — 6 in 6 months) — achieved on Friday
- Four Stars (Iridium Level — 2 in 2 days) — achieved on Saturday
Reader Alert: This is a rather long post since it covers two races. But there are pictures and headings for those preferring skim to whole.
Friday, August 23, at the Rockland Lake State Park, New York
I really enjoyed this marathon. It has a very different vibe that comes from the sponsoring organization — the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. It made for a very mellow race even though it was very well organized and provided maximum support. There were less than 400 finishers.
Three aid stations were set up along the 3-mile loop featuring abundant varieties of food as well as water and electrolyte drinks. The best thing was the watermelon at EVERY station with lots still available for those finishing at 6 hours or longer. The only downside for me was that they provided Cytomax instead of Gatorade. I cannot drink Cytomax (shudder)! There were also some unique offerings like flat coke, seaweed, and sea salt along with bananas, pretzels, M&Ms, etc.
At the end of the marathon, they served a full lunch. I had some pasta and garlic bread — very tasty! Again, there was plenty even for the late finishers (like me).
It was humid to start, but the temperatures didn’t climb too high and the humidity dropped as a breeze picked up. Generally a very nice day for late August.
A very flat loop around the lake just under 3 miles long. Most of it was shaded, but there was one open stretch that made the shade all the more welcome. The path was macadam, but you could run much of it alongside on the dirt/grass/cinders. I did this for a bit, then stopped after I picked up one or two of those cinders in my shoe.
This was not your children’s rock’n’roll marathon! Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything like that, and I certainly didn’t miss the RnR “experience.” But there was a lot of music along the course — something I wasn’t expecting. And an eclectic mix it was — which I greatly enjoyed. I took photos of almost all the musicians, but some are a bit blurry since I was trying not to waste too much time stopping and composing shots — plus, my polarized sun glasses makes it difficult to see my dimmed phone screen to tell if the image is in focus when I snap the shot.
This was my 9th overall marathon, and there has always been at least one member of my running club — Fast Tracks — at each of my marathons. This was no exception. I had seen George listed as a registrant so I wasn’t surprised to meet up with him before the start. We shared some miles at various times throughout the race, too.
However, this was the first marathon I ran this year where “tutu” Keith wasn’t also running. I know he has done this race before so I wasn’t sure if he would show up at the last minute, but no Keith this time!
On the other hand, now that I am a Marathon Maniac, I invariably meet other Maniacs at each marathon I run along with some I have met at previous races. This is becoming one of my favorite parts of running multiple marathons. The running community in general is really supportive, friendly, and accepting. But there is a special bond among Maniacs running races together.
I made friends with Maniacs Melissa and Peter — first in the entrance parking lot, then we both moved to the parking area at the start/finish line. Peter and Melissa finished a few minutes ahead of me so we caught up again after the race and ate lunch together. I wish I had thought to take a picture with them, but I hurried off to get a massage before they closed up shop.
I also got to know Sandy and Scot. Scot is a 10-Star Maniac and Sandy earned her 10th start as she finished this race! They both did it by completing marathons in 30 different states within a year. This is quite an achievement, and Sandy and Scot are one of only 8 married couples in the 7500+ member organization to have both achieved the 10-start Titanium Level. Amazing dedication!
Wrap Up Day One
I managed this race as I intended. I used a 4/1 run/walk ratio through the first 18 miles, then gradually backed it down to 2/1 ratio for the last couple of miles. I figured I would be in good shape for the second marathon if I finished around 6 hours — between a 13 and 14 minute per mile pace. My official finish time was 5:52:20 at a 13:26 pace. And it seemed to work well for me. I wasn’t sore. My post-race massage felt good and I didn’t have any nasty trigger points. It was time to re-focus on the next day.
Saturday, August 24, at Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT
So I had this crazy notion to try a double — back-to-back marathons — since I wasn’t planning to do a marathon in September, and I wanted to see if I could finish 12 in 12 months by next February. I heard about Cove Island and realized that it would be easy logistically to pair it with the Self-Transcendence Marathon the day before.
Then I noticed the 8-Hour Race aspect. If I could manage just 5 more miles, I could finish my first ultra distance (anything over 26.2, but the 50K is the next generally established distance beyond the marathon). Why not?
This was a low-key, self-supported small race with about 50 registrants. Self-supported meant we had to bring our own hydration and food although we would be sharing freely. The course was a small, .8 mile loop around the park — again, totally flat and an all-asphalt path.
But it turned into a much more special event than I could have anticipated.
Maniacs often gather the night before a marathon for a pre-race dinner, and Sandy kindly organized this one — a perfect time to toast her Titanium success! She and Scot were also sticking around for the Cove Island Marathon. Sandy decided ahead of time to volunteer to help with timing, lap counting, and watching everyone’s belongings, food, and hydration stores.
I had a great time catching up with Maniacs I had met before — like Wil and Laura who I met at the PA Grand Canyon Marathon the previous month — and get to know new friends like Trent Morrow — Marathon Man. Trent is on a quest in 2013 to complete over 160 marathons and claim a new Guiness record. You can follow Trent/Marathon Man on Facebook or on the web at http://marathonman.com.au. I first saw Trent at the 1/2 Sour 1/2 Kraut Marathon in June but didn’t get a chance to talk to him there. He is a great guy with a wonderful story. Please read more about him.
The dinner turned into a strategy session, however, because we weren’t sure if this race was going to even happen. Just days prior, the original RD and volunteers bailed on the race and had to be replaced. Then there was much consternation about permits and parking, but it all worked out in the end. Maniacs are not easily deterred, and this event was almost all-Manaic. It was certainly manic at times!
It was a little cooler than the day before, but very little shade on the .8 mile loop on a very sunny day. Again, an exceptionally nice day for August. We got lucky, for sure!
My goal was simply to finish. Since I had eight hours, I wanted to try for the 31 miles if I could. I started off easy with a 2/1 run/walk ratio — where I had left off the day before. I had been told to expect the first five miles to be a little rough until I loosened up, but I felt amazingly good. No early stiffness. I think my back-to-back long distance training days paid off, and the volume of mileage this year has probably also increased my overall endurance. Besides, I’m just plain stubborn when I get a notion in my head.
I planned on holding that ratio as long as I could. As it turned out, I finished the marathon distance before I shifted to a 1/1 ratio for the remaining five miles.
Since this was a very short loop of just .8 of a mile, I knew I was facing nearly 40 laps. I didn’t trust my Garmin to last (although it did), and I certainly didn’t trust myself to keep track of the number of laps in my head over that length of time and amount of physical exertion so I devised a backup method.
I took a shoe lace from another pair of running shoes (not the ones I had on!) and tied a knot in one end every time I finished a lap (a “lace-aculus”?) Once I got to ten knots, I tied a single knot at the other end to represent sets of 10, untied the initial knots and started over. I ended up with 3 knots representing 3 sets of 10 and 9 individual knots at the other end — 39 knots. On the water that would be the equivalent to approximately 45 MPH, and in wind speed it would be roughly between a Moderate and Fresh Gale. Hmmm…
Fueling and Hydration
I brought a large, wheeled cooler with me, filled it with bottles of my favorite Gatorade — lemonade flavor — and small, 8-oz bottles of water. The night before I filled the cooler with ice. I also brought a large barrel of pretzels and a large jar of mixed nuts to share. There were only a couple other coolers with ice so I was happy to share space in mine.
The small bottles worked out well for me. Because the loop was so short, I could grab a small bottle on my way past, drink it, and dispose of it in one of the many, many trash cans along the path. That way I didn’t have to wear my hydration belt with the bulky bottles at my sides.
I figured I would simply use GU just like I always do for marathons — one gel pack every eight miles. I actually like the Vanilla Bean flavor and haven’t tired of it for a couple of years. However, by the time I got to mile 20 or so ( which, as the second day running, meant over 45 miles total) I could no longer tolerate one more packet of GU. For most of the last 10 miles I just had Gatorade, pretzels, an extra Endurolyte tablet, and a couple slices of watermelon.
I am going to have to do a better job of planning refueling for any future doubles or ultras.
Thanks to Ed for organizing, Diane for stepping up as RD and volunteers Sandy, Scot, and Mike for helping out at the last minute. And special thanks to Joe’s wife and Ian’s mom for bringing watermelon to share! What a delightful surprise!
This is, by far, the smallest event I have participated in, but I really loved it. The loops didn’t bother me as I had feared (although I still don’t think I could do a marathon on a standard 400-meter track or, worse, a treadmill). And the companionship was absolutely delightful with everyone supporting one another. I actually think the dust-up with the local officials made the event even more special. Certainly one I’ll remember!
The photo at the top of this post is me finishing this race. I was really that thrilled with the event.
Recovery and Reflection
The day after, I feel pretty good — just a little minor stiffness until I get moving, but no major muscle soreness. I did get my first blister on the right toe of my left foot and the calluses on the ball of my right foot hurt a bit, but I drained the blister last night and my feet feel fine today. I’m ready to run this coming week. In fact, if I had to (or wanted to) I could have run another marathon today.
Not sure if the blister had anything to do with running in my Hokas for my first long distance. I did go up a half size with this pair, but I may need to consider going up another half size for a future pair. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’d appreciate any advice for avoiding future blisters in this pair since I expect to put a lot more miles on them. Should I pre-tape that spot? What kind of tape should I use? Inquiring minds are a terrible things when wasted (isn’t that how that quote goes?)…
As for the sore ball of my right foot, I think I probably need to change socks and put a fresh pair of air pillow insoles in my shoes at least once during a run longer than marathon distance. Using a fresh pair of shoes might also be a good idea, too. #lessonslearned
I am now quite confident that I’m more than ready for the Dopey Challenge in January. Maybe I should just go ahead and taper between now and then! No, I have more than 30 miles to do this week. See you on the trail!
Strong Week (69.91 total miles — and I’m calling that 70!)
Mon – 6.06 miles – 11:38 pace
Tue – 6.04 miles – 11:42 pace
Fri – 26.72 (per Garmin) – 13:26 pace (official)
Sat – 31.09 miles – 15:05 pace