this is one of my earliest race reports. long before the days of runners world forum, coolrunning (then kickrunners), rundangerously, and then facebook - i'd write up the occasional race report and it would find its way into my club's newsletter. this one may have been published in the westchester track club newsletter (i can't remember!).
but i dug it out because after 8 years, i'm heading back to the sugarloaf marathon this weekend. this race has a very special meaning for me - it was my very first boston qualifier. i think it was my sixth marathon at the time and i had become fixated (what runner doesn't ultimately) on getting a bq time. i had come very close a couple of times - but no cigar.
but the sixth one was the charm - a 3:17:47 and i went on to run my first boston marathon the following year (2004). this year i need another bq if i hope to get into the 2012 boston marathon. i crashed and burned at boston last month, so this is trip is another bite at the apple. there is little chance of a sub 3:20 this time around. but, with some luck, i'll try for a 3:30 :D
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Sunday, May 18, 2003
May 19, 2003: 12:47 PM. Well my quads are really sore - but I qualified for Boston yesterday!! Hurray. Still hasn't sunk in yet. My time was 3:17:47 - and could have been faster if I hadn't felt the effects of the heat in the last few miles. But don't care, don't care that a girl snuck by me in the last two seconds to finish #40 and push me back to 41 out of 272 finishers. It was all excellent. In fact, I missed 3rd in my age group by just over 1 minute! Was technically 5th in my age group - but the first place guy was the first master - so he gets a different award. And 2,3,4 get 1st, 2nd, 3rd. . . oh well.
Anyhow, back to the report. Took the bus to the start like all the other runners. It was 34 degrees - yes that's correct, 34 degrees at the 7 AM start. The forecast was for the temp to rise 10 degrees per hour . . . which it did: 40's at 8; 50's at 9, 60's at 10. Thank God the race began at 7 AM. That "extra" two hours of "cooler" temperatures really made the difference because there was literally no shade on the course. A straight run down route 27 with bright sun overhead!! Still, wore a throwaway tee shirt (which was handed off to Katie at mile 11.5 in front of Sugarloaf) and seriously considered wearing my gloves as well. But skipped the gloves and didn't regret that decision beyond the first mile. In fact, only the first 3 miles, in the "forest," were cold because the treeline was too high for the sun to penetrate. After that we had sun overhead all the way.
The first 4-5 miles were pretty flat - nothing special (except that I went out at 6:58:19 for the first mile - and it didn't seem fast for me at the time). Settled in for a stretch of 7:15/ 7:23/ 7:33/ 7:40/ 7:32 for the first 7 miles. Trying to keep it easy and not burn too much energy in the early miles. Then at mile 8 started working the hills 7:27/ 7:53/ 7:42 - those 3 miles were the biggest elevation gain in the course and cresting the top of mile 10 was pretty amazing b/c of the immense downhill. I was in a pack of runners and pretty much "took it easy" - again that's relative - by 7:07/ 7:06 coming down the hill (the 7:06 included seeing Pat & Katie cheering on the course). Then I hit a dull patch between miles 13-15, 7:21/ 7:22/ 7:16, and felt my attention really starting to wander.
One runner was kept pace with me at this point. When I saw the huge figure 8 downhills, decided to make up some ground (catch up to the pack of runners that had gained serious ground on me over the last few miles). I did a 6:28 mile 16, and a 7:00 mile 17 to catch up with that pack of runners - and also dropped the runner who had been keeping pace with me (but he'd catch up with me later). I had run 17 miles in 2:04:33 and was now 3 minutes ahead of the pace chart I had worked out the night before (targeted 17 miles in 2:07:30). Had to work the next few miles - 7:25/ 7:19/ 7:31 which gave me 2:26:50 - now 31/2 minutes ahead of my pace at 20 miles (by way of comparison, this winter NYRRC 20 miler was 2:25:57). I came within a minute of my best time for 20 miles. Pretty decent performance.
Also forced myself to eat a powergel around mile 18 - with a plan to have a second after mile 20. But once again couldn't manage to get another one down for the rest of the race. I was also starting to feel the effects of the heat now. Probably more dehydrated than I imagined. Mile 21 was 7:34. Mile 22 was 7:43. Definitely up against the wall at this point, exhaustion was starting to creep in. Mile 23 was 8:03. Mile 24, which now included some walking, was 8:49 (amazingly, despite breaking down, I was still under my targeted 7:30 pace at 2:59:01). At this point I was trying hard to just keep it together. Having the sun overhead and rising temperature added insult to injury. It was at this point that I began grousing to myself that they should have water stops at every mile (if not every half mile - ha).
There were two other people, M & F, in my condition and we kept trading off the "lead" with each other. Funny how at any given point two of us were shuffling along while the other had to walk a few steps. For me this was all I could do to push thru mile 25 (in 9:13). Kept wondering where Pat & Katie were because I was positive they hadn't passed me on the way to the finish line. Then, as if by magic, they drove by as I finished mile 25 (my lowest point in the race). They shouted from the car that I'm going to do it! That was at 3:08:15 (now 45 seconds off pace). I had 12 minutes to do 1.2 miles. Really pushed that last mile (all running, amazingly) and was rewarded with a 7:53:06 - my fastest mile since #22 (7:43). I hit mile 26 at 3:16:08 (only 1:08 off the pace) and was in painful shape despite only 2/10s of a mile left! But kept pushing myself to cross the line running and managed the final stretch in 1:39:30. It was in the last 50 yards that the woman runner managed to surge ahead (i hadn't been aware of her - or anyone else - at that point) and crossed the finish line 2 seconds ahead of me.
Phew. What an effort it took to bring home those last 3-4 miles (especially miles 24 and 25). But it was all worth it. Pat and Katie were at the finish line. I think Pat got a picture of me finishing the race. Katie was waiting with some watermelon - the best post-marathon food you can get. I was covered in dirt and dust, and had brought in a pretty lousy smell as well when it all mixed in with the sweat and sun block I had used. Thankfully, however, I was not sunburned. Couldn't bear to repeat the consequences of the NJ marathon roasting.