Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two Rivers Marathon, Lackawaxen, PA. 3/16/14

Had I been in good marathon shape, this race would have been on my radar for a PR attempt.  But I am not in good marathon shape right now. This year the RD offered two marathons (one on Saturday and one on Sunday). I decided to head out on Sunday to register and run it as long training run the day after running with my TNT marathon training group on Saturday.  I offered to bring John P with me, if he was interested in doing his long run at a marathon.  Once he agreed to come with me, I knew I couldn't change my mind… even after seeing how freakin' cold it was going to be.  Ahhhh, the joys of "Race Chicken"… :)

So I hoped to run about a 3:30 or better since my marathon split at the 50k two weeks ago was a 3:39.  This is a newer race.  I ran it two years ago, in it's first year when only 16 others were there.  I don't recall the course being off that year, but we finished in a different place (just across the street). I suspect we may have deviated from the original course at some point between 8-12 miles.

Brrrr!  :)
Despite Saturday being a beautiful day. I knew Sunday was going to be rough as the weather dipped back into Winter rather than feeling more like Spring.  It was 20 degrees w/ wind making it "feel like 8".  It was damp and chilly and I hate racing in tons of layers.  

It was not going to get much warmer during the entire run, so I planned to race in my fleece lined tights, a long sleeve tech shirt with a sleeveless tech shell and a light jacket. I had a hat, cotton throw away gloves and a fleece neck warmer.

In the windy sections I was cold.  In the windless areas when the sun was shining I was hot.  I could have gotten away with less on my legs.  

During the 2 hour drive over, I ate a banana, drank some Gatorade/Mt. Dew, and took a gel before the start.  I fueled with two gels at 8 and 17.  Drank about 4 oz of gatorade on the course and the rest water.  I believe gatorade was out there, but if I didn't see it right away I just grabbed whatever I saw first, mostly water.   Some Aid Stations were unmanned.  Some had volunteers that looked like they were freezing their butts off.  The first cup of water I was handed had ice chunks in it and it reminded me of the Albany Winter Marathon.

Net down hill doesn't mean No hills, but this is a FAST course. 
The course is a net downhill.  It does have hills in the first half that can be a surprise to those who expect "Net Downhill" to mean "we run down the entire way." No, we don't.  It also measured short… significantly short this year.  I don't recall it being short two years ago. 

It is a fast course, even if it was lengthened to reach 26.2 miles, primarily because it is a net downhill race.  We are bussed 10 miles from the finish to the start, which is at the highest point of the race. We run a slightly rolling but primarily super-fast descent for about 1.7 miles until we level off a bit. Then we spend the next 9+ miles meandering along on narrow roads with minimal traffic. We tackle some hills in this section, two of which felt significant to me, with the larger one around mile 8-9.  Some people, from hillier terrain, may not find these hills as significant as I did.  However, I am not in great shape right now and they were noticeable to me, slowing my pace and requiring me to focus on getting up them, but not so significant that walking crossed my mind as a real option, although I am sure some people did. 

Just before mile 8, my nose felt runny so like any good marathon runner, I blew a snot rocket. That is where I discover my nose is not running, it is bleeding. Again. And A Lot.  Awesome.

Top of course is first half.  Red area is the finish
after out and back along the river.
After we crest the last hill, we cruise in towards the finish area before starting the second half of the course. Up until this point, the mileage on my Garmin was about .2 off. It was slowly creeping to the short side during the rolling hills.  However, this is not unusual and may not mean the course is off. It could simply mean the distance from the ascents and descents hills are not being accounted for since the Garmin is known to calculate distance as if measuring across a flat map.

My white gloves help me keep track of my nose bleed and whether it is slowing down. By the time we get to the point where I would have the option of turning in early, my nose bleed has slowed down enough for me to not stop.

We pass the finish area and turn right to head out to where the half marathoner hit their turn around. The marathoner do the long out and and back. Here is where my watch starting dropping its signal, showing no pace data or paces such as 10+ minute pace then bouncing back to a more true pace.  When I hit mile marker 12, my reading was almost 0.6 short, showing me 11.4x. 

The next section of this course involved a gradual inclined climb against the flow of the river, along a windy, curvy, quiet road.  Picture gentle S curves that follow the river's course.  On the way up, the miles remained the .6 off, showing no increase in its shortness besides that huge error at mile 12.  

After Caumsett 50k two weeks ago I had damaged a pinky toe nail.  I had suspected it would become irritated again during this race so I tried using a blister pack latex band-aid.  This is truly a great product.  The rubber band-aid adheres strongly and molds around the shape of the toes creating a soft rubbery layer of protections.  I have various versions of these bandages and use them on other places too, where ever chafing will be an issue. (For example. I alway placed a rectangle shaped latex bandaid where the band of my sports bra rubs and severely chafes my skin during marathons and ultras and it completely resolves that issue).

Today, I also made a decision to wear my thickest socks because 8 degrees and thin shoes equals numb painful toes.  I have been wearing the Brooks T7 (or some version of them) sine 2007 and rarely have trouble with the shoes. But, I never wear thick socks with them. 

When I hit the turn around and turned back, I still hit mile 19 at 18.4, showing no increase in distance lost during the entire out section of this part of the course. However on my way back, the same way I came up (and I used the entire road, hugging tangents as best I could), I then started to drop my signal again and started loosing mileage when it would pick up.  I can only imagine the curvy turns along the river may have caused the signal to cut off turns when it picked back up.  It just makes little sense to me to have the miles be correct on the out and then short on the way back.   

The combination of the extra thick socks, plus the added thickness from the bandage in a shoe that was already snug, was horrible.  For the first half of the race, I could feel my toes felt extra tight, but that passed so I wasn't concerned.  But as I was cruising up the out and back along the river, at about the 16-17 miles mark, suddenly felt a sharp searing pain to my little toe.  I looked down and saw a dime sized area of blood and knew the toenail had lifted up off the nail bed.  I tried a few more steps and it was not happening.  Each step was excruciating.  I could walk on it, but not run.  I could turn back and walk it in and DNF, but the turn around was only about 1.5-2 miles away.  I came this far and I didn't want a DNF!

I was holding 2nd place.  There were no ladies in sight.  So I stopped running, pulled off my shoe and peeled off my sock.  This is where I discovered the bandage had bunched up after adhering to the lose nail, lifting it off the nail bed.  I ripped the bandage off, pulling off the dangling nail from where it attached to the nail bed.  From the time I stopped running it took less than 2 minutes total for me get the shoe, sock, and nail off and then put the sock and shoe back on.  

My bloody toe at the end of the race. 
As I ran, I watch the blood stain grow but the pain was a million times less.  I knew I could finish.  But the question was, could I hold 2nd.  If I was challenged to race it in, I felt that I couldn't.  Not really because of the toe, but mostly because I was tired and not in marathon shape right now.  I am heavier than I should be. My training has not been ON and my purpose for being out here was to use the race as training to get me back on track. 

I was looking forward to hitting the turn around because we had been running slightly up hill the entire time and I hoped to feel some gravity assist on the way back.  Unfortunately, the return trip was not as refreshing as I hoped it would feel.  I had a head wind on the way back down that simply made running down feel like I was running up.  

I noticed two ladies about a mile behind me, so I knew if I could just keep running, I should be able to hold 2nd. 

I was watching my splits, wondering if the mile markers were off and I would end up making up that .6 or more, I lost earlier or if the course would be short completely.  At this point, I just wanted to stop running and take my shoe off and a short course would be a blessing for me.  I truly just wanted this to be over. 

By the time I got to the finish I was less than a mile off. 25.3x.  So to be fair I am adding about 8 minutes to my time, even though I don't really believe it was a entire mile off.  I will call this a sub-3:30 and that feels about right and inline with what I expected.

The RD did report the course was reported to be short the day before and to correct this he added .8 to the marathon course by moving the turn around cone.  This just tells me that the course was very very short on day one and by day two we got a little closer.

The race only gave awards for First Overall and Age Group awards to others.  The RD handed out awards immediately upon runners finishing.  This made me happy because all I wanted to do was get in my car and pull off my shoes.  The Awards were definitely unique.

photo of awards from Fast-Finishes FB page

Time 3:22 (really sub-3:30) due to short course
Place: 2nd Female

1 comment:

  1. I lucked out running the half on Saturday: the weather was just right-though it got a little hot towards the end when the sun shone through the threes-and I only got a black toenail and a blister :)

    The hill at about mile eight commanded respect, but what got me was the downhills. The constant "slamming on the breaks" did a number on the bottom of my feet, my ankles and quads. I was pretty much done by mile eight and spent the last five miles "tiptoeing" to the finish line.

    It is a beautiful area to run. But between the steep downhills, the rough road surface in some areas, the camber and slant of the road, made this one of the toughest courses I've ever ran.