Monday, September 8, 2014

Via Lehigh Marathon Recap

Yesterday morning, I was finishing up the last 2 tenths of the Via Lehigh Marathon when out the corner of my eye something hugely orange caught my attention. The race announcer was calling out my name and I was getting my five seconds of fame on the jumbo TV screen. People were cheering me onward.

For the first time ever in a marathon, I reacted to their cheers and started pumping my arms skyward. To my surprise, the people reacted and the cheers roared ever higher. For those last 2 tenths, I felt like I was floating to the finish. This memory is firmly planted in my mind that will last forever.  

Okay, let's get to m recap.

Megan and I headed for the start at 5:15 AM. Yes, this is a little early but last year, there was some traffic congestion getting to the start. Megan was a good sport about it and indulged me. Besides, the last thing that I wanted was to get parked and hear them counting down to the start. I would much rather be setting and waiting. I will have enough stress from the race; I don’t need any stress getting to the start.

After a bathroom break and change out to racing gear, I headed to the starting line for some easy jogging/strides.

With 5 minutes left, I moved to the starting line. To my surprise, the starting line wasn’t that crowded. I had plenty of room to be right up front.

They gave us a final 30 seconds count down and sounded the horn.

Caleb and I ran together for the first mile. Then, we hit a sharp downhill. He pushed head while I held it back. There was no need to pound the quads this early when running 26 miles.

This was followed by a long gradual climb. This is something that became the norm over the entire course. Short downhills followed by long gradual uphills. There were places were the pavement was broken and uneven so I had to be careful where I stepped. We ran through a covered bridge at one point – maybe 30 yards long. We crossed a grated slippery bridge.

About 5 miles or so, we were going through one of the many transitions from sun to shade when I stepped on a rock. My ankle rolled and hurt like you would not believe. Fortunately, the two guys that I was running with kept telling me to shake it off. It was still “smarting” pretty well, but I pushed on.

 Through about 10 miles, I could still see Caleb but he was slowly getting out of sight. Between 6 and 11 we were hitting the trails. There was a short break around 12 and 13 miles for some asphalt miles. 

Up to this point, we had been hitting 6:18 to 6:20 miles. Suddenly my two running buddies dropped the pace down for a 6:05 and 6:08. No wonder I was felling effort.

I decided to ease back and let them go. There was no point running so much faster than what I could maintain for the entire race.

Soon I was back to clicking off 6:20s along the tow path through 20 miles.

Before the race, I made the decision to wear my sunglasses. Much of the marathon course is in the shade which is really nice, but there are a ton of spots where you transition into the sun for a few seconds and then back into the shade. During these many transitions, I couldn’t see anything. These blind spots left me hoping and praying that I didn’t step on a hidden root or rock. After a while, I was so annoyed with these transitions that I pushed my sunglass on top of my head. Removing them was the right move because at least now I could see well.

At 20 miles, we hit a steep short hill on a gravel road. I remember from the course description that between 20 and 21, the course continued along the D&L path but it was paved.

Just before the 21st mile, we picked up the trail again. I also started to notice that we were running ever so slightly up hill. My hope, I could pick up the pace once I was back on the pavement. But this gradual upgrade just never seemed to end. Megan didn’t think so but I am pretty sure it lasted until about 23 miles. At least my legs were pretty sure of it. I looked at my Garmin. All things given, I was looking at a 2:50 to 2:51.

My legs didn’t have much drive in them and I was making deals with myself to keep going. I kept telling myself “you don’t have to work harder”, “Just hold what you have”. Miles 23 and 24 passed and each was run around 7:05 pace. At mile 25 I could hear the noise from the finish. In fact, we ran parallel to the finish for quite a ways.

Somewhere I around 25ish miles, another master guy passed me. I so wanted to go with him but my legs were lying on empty and I was in the "get to the finish mode". He slowly pulled ahead of me. It was hard to watch him go but there was nothing that I could do about it.

We finally make the turn and head back to the bridge. Over the bridge we go. I have just 2 tenths to run. I am going to make it before my body decides to stop.

The crowd roars and I cross the finish line. I finished 12 overall and 2nd Male Masters with a time of 2:51:34.

My goal had been between 2:45 and 2:50 so I am pretty happy with my 2:51.

I was pretty thankful that this course had so much shade. The temperature was around 63 to 64 degrees at the start, but I could tell by half way that it was heating up. When I hit the sunny sections, I could feel the burning on my shoulders.  

Going into this marathon, a lot of runners labeled this as a fast course. Yes, there is a net drop in elevation from start to finish. There are also a number of rolling hills in the beginning. These downhills tend to be short and steep. While the climbs back were rather long and gradual. Later in the race, there are a few hills which they were short but steep. There is a long gradual climb between 20ish and 23 miles. The crushed gravel along the tow path had plenty of rocks, roots, and mud puddle in places. There was nothing extensive which could not be stepped around but runners had to be on a constant vigil.  Any other time, I would love to run mile after mile along the crushed gravel of the tow path in the shade. These sections were absolutely perfect for doing a sunday long run. Racing is another thing. The miles just tend to be slower than asphalt miles.

I have now run both Wine Glass and Via marathon. Both are considered fast courses, but in my personal opinion, Wine Glasses is a faster course. Just throwing out information to anyone wanting a BQ time.
I also want to give a shout out to all of the Salisbury (Rowan Area Marathoners i.e. RAM). I hung out them them Saturday night at the hotel and then at the air port. They are fun bunch. Congrats to each of you on your races Sunday. You guys are awesome.

Lastly, big shout out to Megan. With limited training and long runs due to an injury, she put in an awesome effort and easily got her BQ time with a 3:11 and 1st age group.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner 



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