Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wine Glass Marathon

The memories are fresh from my Wine Glass Marathon on Sunday and I want to put my fingers to my key board very quickly. I need to capture my impression from the race before my memories begin to fade and I am left with just the bright spots.

In this post, I will break my recap into four parts: the weather, the race as whole, the course, and then how my race went.

The Weather:

I had specifically chosen the Wine Glass Marathon because of the weather. Corning NY, in early October has an average temperature of 40 degrees Ferinheight. My last two marathons OBX and Wrightsville Beach have been saunas. Starting temperate around 60 and only getting warmer. As the days drew near, I was watching the weather forecast closely. On race morning, it would be 61 degrees with humidity of 96%. This would be one of the warmest Wine Glass Marathons on record, and this is just the kind of thing that makes me just want to hang my head. All the work, all the time, all the energy, I was still left running on another warm muggy day.

Several times during the race, I would wipe my head and sling my hand away. The sweat would just drip from my fingers.

One of the few times, I actually felt good during the race; we would turn into a 15 mph head wind. This certainly didn’t make me run any faster, but at least, the wind made me feel better.

The Race:

After 30 years of holding this marathon, I guess they have things figure out. I took the 30 minute school bus ride from the finish line to the starting line. Then, I hung out in the buildings. They had chairs and tables setup along with food and drinks. If there was one drawback, it was the smell. The aroma of diesel fuel was quite strong. There were plenty of porta johns – “they were called ‘jeffs’”.  Water and Gatorade stops were every two miles and near the finish, they were every mile. They had two Gel stations on the course. The Volunteers were awesome and at virtually every intersection. The course was marked with flags at every mile and in 5k increments. They had 3 chip tracking stations along the course to capture in race splits.

If there is one drawback to the race, it is fan support. 95% of the race was run along deserted country roads with only the occasional horse or two for company.

One note about the in race splits, they were not on the 10k, ½ marathon, and 20 mile locations. All of the timing mats were a minute or more past the marked mile split.

The Course:

When I looked at the Wine Glass elevation map, I saw there were a few rises at 4, 6, 14, and 21 along the course that is predominately downhill.

The one at 4 miles is no more than 300 meters and I was over it before I even started to breath hard. The one at 6 mile is a little different. This one is a long gradual climb. I actually felt pretty good during this section on the climb. It is a lot like a “rails to trail” hill – long and gentle. This is the kind of hill that just burns ever so slightly on the quads. The hill at 14 is not long, but it kicks up quick. Somewhere between miles 17 to 18, we crossed over a set of railroad tracks. It is like running over a giant speed bump.

The hill at mile 21 is maybe a quarter mile. It is a little more than a gradual climb. One hill that does not show on the course profile is around 24 miles and after the bike path section. It leads up to a water station so there is some inspiration to push up it.

About the bike path, this path is a little worn and barely two feet wide. There were a lot of ½ marathoners on this section and they were walking two or three abreast.

Honestly, for all that a downhill course brings to the table; I didn’t enjoy them all that much. I never really felt comfortable on them. In fact, some of my fastest miles were not on the downhill sections but on the uphill sections.

My race:

My overall assessment of my race was of disappointment. I was disappointed in my effort and my time. I felt I was in shape to run around 2:43. Publicly, I told everyone 2:46 because 2:46 was a safe time that I thought I could achieve even with the worse conditions.

Having run both OBX and Wrightsville Beach on warm days, I was well aware of the weather effects on me.

Knowing I was about to run 26 miles and would in all likelihood not have a great day was tough mentally.

However, I was in Corning, NY and I was at the starting line, and I was not about to back down.

After the bus ride to the start, I was hanging out in the buildings getting ready. This girl sets down next to me. I make conversation by asking her about her race and her plans. I guess she was just looking for a kind soul to listen because for the next 20 minutes, I got the full history from her.

When I asked where she was from, she said the “The City”. I took this to mean from Corning. But maybe the quizzical look on my face prompted her to explain. Thus, I learned something new; I learned that the “The City” refers to New York City. Who knew? When someone asked where I originate, I typically say either North Carolina or Charlotte.

Time passes quickly, and I was soon headed for the starting line.

As we awaited the final countdown, a steady drizzle started to fall. Maybe the heat and humidity were not enough. Let’s add some more.

They count down to zero and we are told to “run”.

The course drops in the opening mile and there are a lot of people flying by me. I settle in and check my Garmin to adjust my pace.

The drizzle continues to fall, but actually feels pretty good. However, it doesn’t last long and by 3 miles it is gone.

I settle in running with these two other guys. Both of them wanted to run around 2:45, we form into a small pack and work together. We slowly picked off people one or two at a time.

On the long gradual hill around 8 miles, they both suddenly drop off the pace. Thus far, I had not felt that great. Really, I am feeling very lethargic which pretty much goes hand in hand with the temperature. I only seem to feel good when we are climbing uphill. Do not ask me why? I have no idea. I would have thought that it would be the opposite. I took my only gel at 2 miles so the rest of the way; I will be consuming both water and Gatorade. Knowing the race would be warm, I had practically attached myself to a bottle of Nunn for the last 2 days.

We run through a couple of small towns. Outside of these rare occasions for a distraction, I focus on two things: the 4 or 5 guys running in front of me and the flags marking every mile and every 5k interval. For some reason, I really looked forward to spotting each of those flags.

About 2 tenths after passing the 10k mark, we run over a timing mat. The same thing happens at the ½ marathon point. Although, I do not hear it beep when I cross it and it is well past the ½ marathon point marked on the road. Between miles 15 and 20 I reel in a several guys. One of them was wearing a Brook ID singlet. We are in different age groups so we start working together. He leads for a bit and then I take my turn. We continue swapping the effort back and forth for the next several miles. I believe it was around 20 miles, we catch the led women. At first, we are catching her slowly and the start making huge gains. We pass 22 miles. I keep checking my Garmin and wondering if my 2:43 is slipping away. My last 3 miles were 6:20, 6:26, and 6:22. I try to make a deal with myself. I do not have to run any faster, but I do have to hold the same pace.

I reach up for the umpteenth time to wipe the sweat from my head. I sling my hand away to rid it of the sweating lather. I am feeling tired now, but I am really starting to feel hot.

The Brooks Id guy throws in a surge. I try to respond but I suddenly feel like my right hamstring is about to balk. I instinctively ease back and let him go. I focus on trying to run tall so I am not putting any undue stress on my hamstrings. I feel it again. I continue to run tall and I also focus on my relaxation techniques.

I enter the bike path which is the only part of the course that I couldn’t preview. The path is paved but not in recently. It is rough and barely 2 feet wide. I call ahead to the half marathoners – asking them to make room for me. Finally, I am off the bike path but the road is crappy. Really, it is not that bad, but being tired and hot, I am easily frustrated. I am careful running down the hill heading for mile 24. I am still focused on running tall and using my relaxation techniques. I decide to push down the hill and hope my hamstring does not balk altogether. I have run the last 4 miles between 6:34 and 6:36. Coming to 25 miles, this guy tells me that I am running 9th and I can catch the guy front of me. I do see him, and I have been watching him for while. The distance between us is not decreasing. May be it is the fatigue that is starting to set-in. My quads and hip flexors really tighten up.  I ran past my hotel and made the right on to Bridge Street. At this point, two guys go flying by me. I try to respond but my tank is empty. I make the left on to Market Street. They are pulling away from me. I see the huge Wine Glass Banner in the distance. I glance at my Garmin and the realization settles on me that I am not going to break 2:45. In fact, I will not even break 2:46.

Coming to the finish my eyes were locked on to the finish line clock. Each stride and each tick of the clock are equally agonizing. I stopped my Garmin at the finish with a time of 2:46:19. I finished 11 overall and 3rd in the Masters Awards.
After I crossed the finish line, this woman hand me a bottle of water. I open it and drank the entire bottle. I then ask her for two more bottles and drank them. I then picked up my drop back and headed back to the hotel to clean up and then back to Charlotte.

 A little self introspection is good for the soul. I set the bar high for myself which then makes it easier for me to get down on myself when I do not meet those expectations. I know that I should focus on the things that I can control and just accept the things that I cannot. There is a problem with this concept. The line between logic and emotion is blurred. I hate using an excuse to justify a race performance.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner





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