Tag Archives: Marathon

Tapering for NYC

The NYC Marathon finish line bleachers being set up today, with some fall color in the trees finally.

I’ve made it through 19 weeks of training and now I’m tapering for the NYC Marathon that’s in a little over a week!

 

In those 19 weeks of training, I’ve gone on 54 runs for a total of 336 miles.  That sounds like a lot until you divide it up and realize my weekly volume was only 18 miles/week and I only went on 3 runs per week, on average.  However, I did totally skip two weeks while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (one of the best places to run, I know, ironic), and in the 10th week I ran only once because of travel to see the solar eclipse.  Also, while I’ve been plagued by knee pain since I’ve been running again (hello darkness my old friend), it’s gotten worse in the last two weeks, and has even cut short (and cancelled) a few of my runs.

The finish line pavilion is also coming along.

Encountering sharp knee pain during my taper has… not been great for my mental game.  After a successful 18 mile tune up and another 19 mile run on my own, I felt great.  My legs felt strong, I felt strong, heck, I even felt refreshed.  But then I started my taper, and suddenly I’m having this knee pain issue, and I can only shake my fist at the sky and shout, “why, God, why have you sent me knee pain when I’ve prudently built up a base and am resting even more now?”

A picture of the pavilion from October 19 (but with the carriages instead of the cars it looks like a few decades ago).

Of course, God doesn’t answer, either because he’s not real or he’s not a runner (do not try to tell me he ran in those sandals like a Tarahumara).  And so I look to a more trustworthy source, my PT.  He tells me to stretch and ice (and ice and ice) and he periodically inflicts searing pain works my knots out and tells me to rest and stretch and ice some more.  But even he doesn’t have the answer as to why my knees are hurting now more than ever.

 

So, I keep tapering.  I’m tapering hard.  So much taper.  And I’m still carbo-loading (since summer ’77)!  And I’m still dreaming of the expo and race morning prep and all the fun non-marathon things I’ll get to do after the race… But I’m not thinking much about the race itself anymore.  Maybe because it’s such an unknown again?  When training was going well, I was kicking myself for not signing up for another state and making progress on my 50 states goal.  I’ve never repeated a state!  But then I remember why I signed up for NYC – because if things go upside-down, I can easily pull the plug at any time with very little on the line.  No flight, no hotel, no missed state, no pressure.  And I might have to use that escape hatch after all.

The NYC Marathon app is now available for free in the app store, and lets you track runners and has helpful info like maps and more.

You can also use these amazingly cute NYC Marathon stickers in your texts (on updated iOS, for free in the app store).

My goals for this race are, in order of importance:  (1) to not injure myself (further), (2) to finish, (3) to get negative splits (even by sandbagging the first half), (4) to finish in 5:30 hours or less, and (5) to enjoy it?  I’ve already signed up for three more marathons next year, with plans to sign up for 5 more after that.  And then 18 more after that…  Plus I’d really like to run Tokyo… and Athens… and London… and Antartica…  I guess I’ll just have to keep praying to the PT Gods…

 

How much do you love/hate the taper?  What should my spending limit at the expo be?  Do you think the more frequently I check the weather forecast, the less likely there will be rain?  Share in the comments!

Expectations for the Delaware Marathon

My new Pop Tart case, balancing out becoming "Enlightened" and the "Inner Peas" I might get from the other foods.

My new Pop Tart case, balancing out becoming “Enlightened” and the “Inner Peas” I might get from the other foods.

The Discover Bank Delaware Marathon is this Sunday, and food is on my mind!  Most of my marathon preparation involves not so much running but rather the buying and packing of food.  I finally got a Pop Tart container so my Pop Tarts won’t get smashed in transit – I’m a little too excited to see if it works.  I also got a bunch of other new-ish snacks to take with me.  Since it’s a short visit and Wilmington is only a 2-hour train ride away, most of my luggage will be food for before and after the race.  I can even pack liquids!

 

The Delaware Marathon started 13 years ago because Delaware didn’t have a marathon.  (There were a few marathons before 1998, but nothing between 1998 and 2004.)  Now there are several marathons in the second smallest state, but it goes to show how much running has changed in the last 10 years, and how it might change in the future.

 

This year there are 459 full marathoners registered, 1101 halfers, and 938 people in the two relays – a 4-person relay and an 8-person relay.  Yes, an 8-person relay!!!  That’s less than 3.3 miles per person!  Man, I’m gonna be so jealous of them…

 

The course is two loops, so it’ll be my first looped marathon course.  They describe it as having some flats and some hills, so I’m anticipating it to be overall a little flatter than Central Park.  We’ve had over a week of rain along the East Coast, but it’s supposed to clear up a bit on Sunday, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s, so it should be pretty good weather for running.  I’m planning on wearing my yellow Marathon Maniac t-shirt for the first time, along with inappropriate hot pink gloves and rhinestones for fun.

 

Since Garmin Oz was less than 3 weeks ago, and I’m fighting off a sore throat that’s threatening to turn into something worse, I’ll also keep open the option of only running one lap.  Surprisingly, the organizers have said it’s ok to make that race-day decision!  They said you’d still get a time and even a half marathon medal, if available.  Crossing fingers I won’t have to do that, but if I do, it won’t be the end of the world, and luckily Delaware is so close that I can easily return next year.

 

But back to what’s most important:  The food!  The organizers said that “[b]efore the race, there will be coffee, rolls, spreads, bananas, water and Gatorade,” which is already a lot.  During the race they’ll have Gatorade and gels, but more importantly there’s “a Cookie Stop at Mile 8 & Mile 20.”  Awesome, right?  But check out what they’ll have after the race:

Please plan to visit the FranksWine Champagne Tent for a complementary post race glass of champagne!   Also, your hospitality wristband will entitle you to 4 beers from our Michelob Ultra / Shock Top Beer Garden.  Your post race meal will feature BBQ bourbon pulled pork, chicken, or burger sliders, pasta salad and fresh fruit from 2 Fat Guys Catering; Seasons Pizza; Bananas from Shop Rite; soft pretzels from the Pretzel Boys; Herrs Snacks, Hy Point Dairy Farms chocolate milk; Canada Dry beverages; Vitamin Water and Smart Water.  (emphasis added)

5 alcoholic beverages and enough food for several full meals?!  No wonder I signed up for this race…

 

My biggest (recurring) fear is that all the food will be gone by the time I finish, since I’ll be one of the last finishers on this 6-hour time limit course (and there are so many halfers and relay runners!).  If that happens, I will be sorely disappointed (and plain sore), but I’ll try to console myself with the full pantry of snacks I brought from home (not to mention the plethora of restaurants in the downtown and riverfront area).

 

The race also gives out a ton of swag:  For marathoners, “a gender specific  technical running shirt … a Headsweats running hat… and a special finisher’s medal from Crown Trophy.”  Everyone will get a personalized race bib, free online digital photos, and other goodies in the race bag (including a “Memo from a Delaware Marathoner” memo pad and a Delaware Marathon Pint Glass).  Expect all my memos to be from that pad from now on.

 

Delaware has only 1,982 square miles of territory (according to the race info packet – online sources have it range from 1,954 to 2,491, with many answers in-between).  I don’t know how they’ll fit all that food into less than 2,000 square miles, but I’ll help them get rid of a lot of it.

 

Have you ever visited Delaware?  Are you incorporated there?  What’s your favorite snack?  Share in the comments!

Marathon Recap – Wisconsin Marathon, May 2, 2015

Lighthouse near marathon start in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Lighthouse near the marathon start in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Marathon is in Kenosha, Wisconsin – a town of 100,000 residents located about 45 minutes south of downtown Milwaukee and 1.5 hours north of Chicago.  It’s a relatively quaint town with not a lot going on, but makes for a nice weekend visit especially if you’re a fan of ice cream.

 

The marathon itself was fine but, like much of the Midwest, bland (and I can only say this as someone from the Midwest).  I lucked out on the weather, with sunny skies and temps in the 50s to 70s, but if it had been raining it would have been pretty miserable.  All told, it was a perfectly pleasant weekend in a perfectly pleasant town, but I’d never put this race on a “must do” list.

 

I flew in on Friday morning, the day before the race, picked up my chintzy rental car, and drove down to Kenosha.  The lady at the rental counter told me to visit a place called Mars Cheese Castle on the way.  She didn’t have to tell me twice – I’d definitely visit anyplace that had both “cheese” and “castle” in the name.

It's right off Hwy 94 in Kenosha - you can't miss it.

It’s right off Hwy 94 in Kenosha – you can’t miss it.

While the building was somewhat castle-like and featured a suit of armor in the entrance to greet you, the interior was simply a fancy gourmet grocery store with a bakery, deli, huge beer section, and a separate bar that served food and drinks.  I wanted to get my race packet and have lunch somewhere downtown, so I didn’t take full advantage of the Cheese Castle, although I heard that they do have really good food.  I bought the first of many pounds of candy there and was on my way.

 

The drive from the castle to the packet pickup at the Best Western Harborside was about 15 minutes of non-highway driving, bringing you past farms and the Kenosha Velodrome before dumping you into downtown Kenosha.  Packet pickup was quick and easy, and I was pre-warned there was no expo so I made sure to bring all my own gels and whatnots for the race.  I did buy a cheese pin ($3) to add to my cheesy hat, but lost the pin somewhere between the finish line and my car, which was probably the saddest thing to happen to me all weekend.  (I replaced the pin for twice the price at the airport.)

The Wisconsin Marathon 2015 tech shirt, free bondi bands, free jelly bean sample, and (purchased) cheese pin.

The Wisconsin Marathon 2015 tech shirt, free bondi bands, free jelly bean sample, and (purchased) cheese pin.

I was pleasantly surprised to get two free bondi bands in my race packet!  The race shirt is also pretty nice – a short-sleeved tech v-neck with zero sponsor logos on it so it’s nice and low-key.  While black is not my favorite tech t-shirt color, at least it’s not see-thru white!

 

I drove a few blocks from the hotel into the “main” downtown, had a really tasty lunch at Frank’s Diner followed by ice cream at Scoops, then bought even more candy and popcorn at Sandy’s Popper, but then I felt not so good (still battling something I picked up in Ecuador) so I went straight to my hotel (Best Western Executive).  (I’ll admit now that I went to the doctor the day before my flight since whatever was ailing me from Ecuador wasn’t going away, so there was some question as to whether I’d be forced to quit the marathon in case I felt sick, but after my brief illness Friday afternoon I felt pretty good the rest of the weekend and am mostly recovered now.)

 

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting my cheese outfit ready and relaxing before my early morning wakeup at 4:45 am.  The race started at 7:00 am but they advised people to get there at about 6, and I was a little concerned about parking, so I left the hotel at about 5:40 am.  I arrived in plenty of time to park (there seemed to be ample parking but I did get there early), sit in my car eating bagels, bananas, and Bonk Breaker bars, and slowly walk to the start.

 

Race results say there were about 3,000 participants in both the half and the full, but it felt like more.  There were plenty of porta potties at the start but not a lot along the course itself, so I saw some long lines at the few I passed (I ended up jumping into a “real” park bathroom around mile 10 because there weren’t a lot of half marathoners using them at that point).

 

While sitting in my car that morning I looked over the course map and counted that it crossed itself 24 times over the 26 miles, and in the first few miles it felt like we had sharp right and left turns every few blocks.  My favorite section ended up being miles 5 through 7 (and back again about miles 9 through 11) which was along the lake and afforded a good view of the water and the beach (unlike some other sections along the lake that were blocked by a rock wall or very expensive houses).  I didn’t really need my music until about mile 12 when the halfers turned around and the field thinned considerably.  The only good thing about the course looping back on itself so much was that I got to see the leader twice (the second time he was heading to the finish, still about 3 miles away, with a big goofy smile on his face – the most average guy marathon winner I’ve ever seen).

 

But the second half was tough for me.  Even though the entire course was super-duper flat, there was little to no shade and it was getting to be a warm, sunny day.  My least favorite part were the sections along a dirt road a few blocks in from the lake, so there was no breeze and not enough water stations, in my opinion.  By the time I reached the water station at mile 18.5 I felt like an overheated dust monster.  I learned my lesson and took multiple cups of water after that, since the volunteers only filled them about 1/4 of the way full.  Also, besides the handful of other (back-of-the-pack) runners and the aid stations every two miles, the roads were deserted.

 

I promised myself that when I hit mile 23 I had permission to walk the last three miles, and boy did I take myself up on that offer!  Sometimes in a marathon I feel aerobically tired, or a full-body fatigue, but this time I could tell that my muscles and tendons just didn’t have any spring left in them.  I was undertrained and I knew it.  But it was also my birthday, and the sun was shining and I could see the boats on Lake Michigan, and I didn’t want to torture myself for the last 3 miles, so I walked.  I had no fear of the SAG wagon because of the generous 6.5 hour cutoff, although even if I were afraid I don’t know if my legs had it in them to run anymore.  I didn’t even pretend to jog until the final .1 mile (not even .2!) through the finishing chute.  They gave me a heat sheet, the medal, and I staggered off to a nearby tent for the food.

Beautiful flowers (not far from the marathon finish) with the Kenosha Public Museum in the background.

Beautiful flowers (not far from the marathon finish) with the Kenosha Public Museum in the background.

 

I was relieved to find that they still had brats and beer left for the late finishers, until I actually got the brat – a weird cut-up sausage stuffed into a thin, slightly stale, half pita pocket.  WTF?  Do they often serve brats in pita pockets?  If they do, I’d like to suggest that they stop doing this, because it’s not good.  I ate it anyway, because I had just run/walked 26 miles and I needed something to go with the beer.  And that was it!  No other finishing food except for maybe some half mini bagels I saw near the finish?  And bottles of water.  But the band playing at the end was really good and I would have stayed longer to listen but I think they were actually finishing up anyway because, let’s be honest, I was one of the last people across that finish line and the party was over.

The interior of the Jelly Belly warehouse (and the "train" you ride for the tour).

The interior of the Jelly Belly warehouse (and the “train” you ride for the tour).

The next day I went straight to the Jelly Belly warehouse for the free tour (with free package of beans!) and spent an ungodly sum on candy (mostly as gifts but some for myself, too).  Then I spent the next several hours wandering the Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets but was surprisingly disappointed.  I used to love outlet mall shopping because it was a special event with special deals, but I realized that in the era of internet shopping, I find amazing deals on the exact same stuff all the time.  I ended up getting some colorful running capris from Aeropostale, a softshell jacket, and a Salomon running vest I had been eyeing for months (which was legitimately an amazing deal – the cheapest price I had found on Amazon was $141 and I got it in-store for about $93).  So, even though I didn’t intend to buy only running stuff and candy on this trip, I actually only bought running stuff and candy.  For dinner that night I ended up at the Cracker Barrel because the German restaurant (House of Gerhard) was closed on Sundays.  Meine Fresse!

Various displays that you might see at the Kenosha Public Museum!

Various displays that you might see at the Kenosha Public Museum!

Part of the reason the weekend was a bit bland was because I was so worn out from all the traveling I had done in the weeks leading up to the race.  By the time I finished the marathon I was perfectly content to lay in my hotel bed eating cheese puffs instead of real food.  I should have explored Milwaukee the morning before my flight left on Monday, but I couldn’t muster any gumption, so I ended up wandering the two floors of the Kenosha Public Museum instead, which wasn’t a bad choice.  But then I was thwarted by everything being closed in town (apparently Monday is the new Sunday in Kenosha), so I ended up heading to the airport early and watching Veep on my tablet.  Till next time, Wisconsin!

 

Wisconsin Marathon Medal 2015Thinking of Running Wisconsin?

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note that this review is based on running as a “back of the packer” with a finish time approaching 6 hours (with a cutoff of 6:30).  Your experience may vary.

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 6/10 – The flight into Milwaukee (MKE) was super simple and while just a tiny bit more expensive than a flight into Chicago ($251 vs about $230 to ORD), the car rental was much cheaper (only $22/day).  Ultimately I’m very glad I flew MKE because it was a smaller airport and the drive down to Kenosha was really easy.  However, you do need to rent a car for this race, as there’s no easy way to get from the airport to the race, even if you do manage to snag a reservation at the host hotel (and if you don’t, you’ll have to drive to the start as there are no shuttles).
  • Staying There – 5/10 – The marathon offers a “VIP package” where you get to stay at the host hotel near the start (The Best Western Harborside) but that option was sold out when I registered in January, so I stayed at the Best Western Executive further inland (about a 20 minute drive away).  There aren’t any great hotel options in the area – just a bunch of low-level chains – so it’s purely utilitarian on that front.  If I had to stay there again I’d try the Holiday Inn Express.
  • Cost & Registration – 7/10 – I registered in late January so I paid $86 for registration, which got me a short sleeved tech shirt (with no logos on the back!), two random bondi bands, a decent medal with a bottle opener at the bottom, and a cup of beer and a weird pita with bratwurst in it at the finish.  The race never sold out so it was possible to register at the last minute (I think the final cutoff was the day before the race).
  • Organization – 7/10 – It was a relatively small race (about 3000 total participants, 760 doing the full marathon) so the packet pickup was simple.  There’s no expo, though, so make sure to pack your own gu.
  • Course – 6/10 – Very flat course with large portions along Lake Michigan, but there is some rough road (e.g. potholes, cracks) and portions along a dirt/unpaved road.  The worst part was that it looped and crossed itself a LOT (I counted 24 times it crossed itself), which I knew beforehand so I was mentally prepared but it still kinda sucked.  The benefit for a back-of-packer like me was I got to see the leaders twice as they headed back while I was going out.
  • Crowd – 2/10 – Very lacking in spectators, and don’t expect any spectators handing out candy or beer or anything like that.  Volunteers, as always, were great.
  • Other Factors – 7/10 – Kenosha was a very cute town and it was a pleasant trip, but easy to see and do everything in a day.  Visit the Jelly Belly Warehouse, the Premium Prairie Outlets, the free Kenosha Public Museum, and the multiple food options in Kenosha (Frank’s Diner, Scoops Ice Cream, Sandy’s Popper, House of Gerhard, the Scandinavian Bakery, etc.) – just be warned that many places are closed on Sunday or Monday!
  • Overall Rating – 6.5/10 – It was a totally fine marathon with beautiful weather, but if the weather had been bad it would have been rough.

16 down, 34 to go!

 

Have you ever run Wisconsin?  How do you serve brats?  What’s your favorite Jelly Belly flavor?  Share in the comments!

Expectations for the Wisconsin Marathon

Central park cherry blossoms 2015 April

A beautiful day for an ugly run.  (Pretty stranger lady for scale.)

I’m supposed to run the Wisconsin Marathon in 2.5 days, and in typical fashion I’m not ready.  Today I went for my final run before Saturday’s race and it was pretty terrible.  I hope it’ll be further evidence for my good run/bad run theory, but I think it’s just because I’m out of shape.

Wisconsin Marathon outfit and jelly belly coupon from Kenosha website

The only fashion in which I’m ready is my fashion.

I’m still very tired from Ecuador – tired like I’m ready to sleep at any given time of day – and part of me wonders if I’m sick.  Also, the elevation or something really worked my body hard since I’m 4 to 5 pounds lighter than I was when I left (and it’s not just water weight because I’ve been back for 3 days now and hydrating plenty).  I certainly wasn’t dieting – I ate copious amounts of chocolate (and ice cream and potatoes and cheese…) while I was there.  I’m a little worried it was muscle that I lost, and that’s the only weight I don’t have to spare.

Central Park tulips east side April 2015

One more picture of beautiful spring flowers because it’s freaking gorgeous outside and I want to share it.

Thus I expect another slow, partially (greatly?) walked marathon.  My longest training run was 14.5 miles a single time – not quite as bad as my training for Houston, but really lacking overall, partially because of the weather, partially because I was lazy, and partially because my knee pain started flaring up again.  Looking back at the dearth of my Garmin entries makes me question my status as a runner, but also makes me want to improve on my running frequency.

 

For the race itself, I expect a fairly boring, tedious course.  It loops back over and crosses itself many, many times, meaning I’ll be watching all the fast people and half-marathoners finish while I have another some-teen miles to go.  They don’t allow pace groups and they hint that there is zero on-course entertainment, so I’m strongly considering wearing headphones for the first time in years.  Since the relatively small race (about 850 full, 2000 halfers) isn’t sold out, I’m expecting to be pretty lonely at the back of the pack and might need some tunes for company.

 

So you might be wondering, “why the heck did you chose this race to begin with?”  Besides needing Wisconsin, and besides the beer and brat they promised at the finish, I wanted to do a race on my birthday, with the idea that running would help chase away the specter of death that haunts any birthday after 21.  I was really hoping for a medal with the day and date, but it looks like it’ll only have the date and I’ll have to rely on my increasingly faulty memory for the day.

 

Also, let’s not forget the fun that the Kenosha area promises – a Jelly Belly Factory, a Scandinavian bakerymultiple breweries, ice cream and popcorn stores, and outlet shopping!  And if nothing else, I have the Wisconsin Marathon to thank for bringing to my attention the Kenosha visitor’s website with this awesome list of things to do for foodies (they have TWO supper clubs and TWO drive-ins!).  I’ll be sure to pack on those 4-5 pounds I lost somewhere in South America, and treat myself to multiple birthday presents at outlet prices.

 

Have you ever run the Wisconsin Marathon?  Have you ever visited the “real” Jelly Belly Factory southwest of Sacramento?  How much ice cream and candy can I eat this weekend and justify eating because of my birthday?  Did you register for the Philadelphia Marathon today before the price goes up on Friday?  Share in the comments!

I finished the full!

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I finished the full Houston Marathon! Full recap tomorrow or Tuesday, whenever I’ll be able to move again. Actually, I don’t feel any worse than I normally do after a marathon. Which is to say, I spent the entire afternoon laying in bed and watching my tablet (finally saw 22 Jump Street).

Thanks for your support and goodnight!

What do you like to do after a long run? Have you ever seen 22 Jump Street? What do you think of Channing Tatum’s, um, running? Share in the comments!

On the Road in Houston (Pre-race Hubris)

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Lots of free stuff at the giant Houston Marathon Expo!

I woke up at 4 am today and arrived in Houston by 11 am (with the 1 hour time difference, huzzah!). Since it was too early to check into my hotel I dropped off my luggage and went straight to the expo where I encountered the longest line I’ve ever gotten into in my life – no exaggeration. Even though I got there at 11:10 and they said they opened at 11:00, the line wasn’t moving. Luckily I chatted with some other lady runners and the time passed quickly (and once the line did start moving it also moved quickly enough).

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I could not capture the enormity of this line with my cell phone camera. It was about 3 city blocks long when I got in it (and of course my route started at the front so I passed everyone in line while searching for the end).

Bib pickup was also a bit of a pain (a very long & slow line for 5k pickup) but I got all my materials (5k bib and cotton tshirt, marathon bib and cotton tshirt) and then wandered the expo for fun and profit. I was not the most aggressive collector, but even still I walked away with all the free stuff you see in the photo above. It’s probably the most I’ve ever gotten at any expo, and repeat runners said it was the stingiest one yet. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

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Front and back of both the 5K and full marathon tshirts – just boring cotton tshirts. Supposedly there are finishers shirts for the half and full on Sunday (no second shirt for 5K). And of course the medals – 3 total medals if you run the both the 5k and the half/full!

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Idyllic ice skating scene just outside the convention center – slightly less crowded than Rockefeller Center.

One of the runners I met in line told me to go to the Phoenicia grocery store for lunch. I headed there (only a few blocks away) and was immediately overwhelmed by their selection. It made Whole Foods look like a crummy bodega. I kinda chickened out and got a flatbread with feta and veggies instead of the hot schwarma, which I still don’t know what is (despite it being discussed in Iron Man or Avengers or something).

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I also got all this candy. So! Much! Candy! (Large bag of chocolate covered pretzels not pictured.) I limited myself to candy bars I hadn’t tried before (and I left some on the shelf) but it’s still a bit much even for me. When in Texas!

I chatted with another runner at lunch (a 76-year-old multiple marathoner from Boston) who also encouraged me to try finishing the whole thing (but also emphasized that there’s no shame in a DNF, nor does anyone care what time you get in any race). Chatting with all these runners, walking around the expo, visiting a new city, buying lots of snacks and getting my outfits ready — all this has once again gotten me all hyped up on marathoning. I love this part!

So this evening, two nights before the marathon, while I’m full of chocolate and happily resting in my hotel room, I feel more optimistic about going for the full than I was a few days ago. It will still be a game day decision, but I’m not going to sabotage myself by going out too fast or not carrying enough Gu (I stocked up on some fun salted caramel, caramel macchiato, and espresso flavors at the expo).

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This is it – the marathon course “circled” at the half/full split. Yes, the 5k is tomorrow morning, and it’ll be a good test to see how I feel after basically not running for a month, but my mind is on Sunday. Sunday. Sunday…

What are you doing this holiday weekend? Have you ever tried any of the candy bars pictured? At which expo have you scored the most stuff? Share in the comments!

Breakfast at Tiffany's run into yourself

Marathon Recap – Chicago Marathon, Oct 12, 2014

Chicago marathon porta potties

This pretty much sums up the Chicago Marathon 2014 (and, let’s be honest, every big marathon).

Yesterday I completed my 14th marathon in Chicago!  It went much, much better than expected and today I can still walk, so overall I’m counting it as a huge success.  The most exciting thing for me?  I ran it in negative splits (which means the second half of the race was faster than the first half)!  It’s the first time I’ve ever done negative splits in any race at any distance!  Super thrilled with that, since my #1 goal (besides not re-injuring myself) was to start out slow, and the fact that I stuck to that goal and that it actually paid off is amazing to me.

 

THE TRANSPORT

 

I’ve been to Chicago before, briefly as a kid and once when I was scoping out law schools, but basically I knew nothing about the city and it felt 100% new to me.  I arrived Friday morning, and after an interminable 40-minute wait to get a CTA Ventra card, rode the Blue Line into downtown (pro tip – order a card online so this doesn’t happen to you – the lines were insanely long because of arriving runners, none of whom had cards nor understood how to work the machines, including me).  It was $5 for the 40-minute train ride (vs about $55 for a taxi with tip), and since the train starts/ends at O’Hare you’ll have a seat for the ride out (although I heard it can be packed/standing room only the other way).  Besides the wait for the card, it was 100% easier than using the trains for the NYC airports, so already I was pro-Chicago.

 

THE EXPO

 

Chicago Marathon swag

All the free stuff I got at the expo. The bandana is by far my favorite.

I dropped off my luggage at my hotel (the Westin River North) and headed straight for a shuttle to the expo.  It was a relatively short walk to the Fairmont Chicago shuttle location, but the streets around the area seemed to randomly turn into underground parking garages or staircases or open arenas, so the walk was more exhausting than I expected.  The marathon shuttle (yellow school bus) was fast, however, and the expo check-in was even faster, so I was done in no time.  But of course I wasn’t done done.  I spent the next couple hours wandering up and down the expo aisles, snagging free stuff and eating samples and generally making my legs feel like rubber.  I only bought a bottle opener plus a hat and headband that said “Where’s the Finish,” so I exercised extreme restraint.  Then I got a $25 cotton t-shirt with a picture of pizza on it and felt like a spendthrift.

 

At the expo I signed up with the 5:45 Nike Pace team (which is kinda meaningless, as no one forces you to stick with a pace team, and you can join any pace team even without signing up, but if you signed up there you got a free pace tattoo for your forearm, a bib for your back with your goal time, and if you were a Nike Plus member you got an awesome bandana with a map of the course plus a matching iPhone case!).  I wanted to finish in under 6 hours and was worried 5:45 might ultimately be too fast for me because I always slow waaaay down near the end of a marathon, but I hoped that sticking with the 5:45 group (which was doing a run/walk combo at a 13-minute per mile pace) would help slow me down in the beginning when I almost always go out way too fast due to excitement.

 

I took the shuttle back to the Fairmont and walked a more direct route along the river back to my hotel, then rested a bit before catching a cab ($10) to see Second City for the 103rd Revue (great, funny show – Second City alums include Bob Odenkirk (aka “Better Call Saul”), Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and basically every famous person ever).  I missed out on seeing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, but am adding it to my list for next time.

 

ART & PIZZA

 

Art and pizzaSaturday morning I woke up early, made a CVS run for water and candy, then walked down to the marathon Corral K starting area to see how long it would take me.  It was a brisk 30-minute walk, so I decided I’d try to catch a cab from the hotel to the start the next morning.  I headed a few blocks north to visit what is now my favorite museum, the Art Institute of Chicago.  There was a long line of runners waiting to get in (since we got free admission over the weekend), but it moved quickly and in no time I was looking at so much amazing art that I quickly got overwhelmed.  My feet also started aching in a highly concerning manner (it felt like I had aggravated both my tendonitis and plantar fasciitis), so I pulled the plug on the museum early and went to Lou Malnati’s with another runner friend for some deep dish pizza.  The butter crust was appropriately named and delicious.

 

Where's the Finish as Holly Golightly Breakfast at Tiffany's marathon costumeI spent the rest of the afternoon lying in bed watching The Walking Dead marathon on AMC and arranging my costume for the race:  Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  No, it doesn’t make any sense for the race, and no, I don’t even like the movie or that character, but it was an easy costume and for some reason I went for it.  To top it off, not a single person recognized my costume (although with zero context why would they?).  But at least the pearls didn’t bug me as much as I feared.

 

 

THE MARATHON

 

Chicago Marathon 2014 back of the pack empty course

This is what The Walking Dead: Chicago would look like.

The weather for race day was absolutely perfect – low 50s and mostly sunny without much wind.  I woke up at 5 am, ate a banana, bagel, Kit Kat, and 1/2 of a Bonk Breaker bar, drank a bunch of water, fussed endlessly with my pearls, and left the hotel at about 6:30.  I shared a cab to the start with some other runners (and got dropped off almost exactly at the corral location, despite fear of road closures), went through security (intense when I went through, with metal detector wanding and guards making people open tiny pouches on their belts, but I heard that when it got busy later people were just waved through without any screening), and dropped off my bag at gear check all before the sunrise.  I should have worn even more clothing, however, because I got pretty chilly waiting around for the start.  They said they’d close the corrals at 7:45 for the 8:00 start, but when you’re in the last corral like I was, it didn’t matter.  Lesson learned – I could have arrived a lot later and been fine, but I was also one of the last 10 or so people to cross the starting line (I don’t know exactly how many people started after me since I can’t search the results by start time).  This late start probably contributed to the congestion I encountered on the course, so it’s not necessarily a recommended strategy.  It was kinda fun starting last, though, since the course looked like the zombie apocalypse had swept through, and the back-of-the-packers were rowdier and more costumed than the mid-packers.  They are my people!

 

 

I stuck with the 5:45 pace group for the first several miles, even though it meant taking a walk break .4 miles after the start (which, to be honest, I didn’t mind, since I’ve had so many bad training runs during which I’d walk every half mile).  I lost them after a couple miles, though, because of the water stops and the course occasionally splitting into two (with a median divider).  I didn’t time my walk breaks after that but I tried to jog slowly and take breaks when I saw other runners walking, aiming for about 12:30 minute miles.  I kept it pretty steady until about the halfway point when I started going closer to 12 minute miles.  I had completely lost my pace group at this point and saw people with wildly different times on their back – everything from 4:30 to 5:45, so I had no idea when I’d finish.  I still felt pretty good, though, much better than I had at the end of the Blerch Half or on my training runs, so I kept it up, taking walk breaks and generally trying to stay in a comfortable zone at a pace that never felt too difficult.

 

Mile 16 felt pretty good, mile 17 was ok, and the miles kept passing by without much struggle.  At around mile 22 I decided to really step it up and finally run in the “red” zone of difficulty, which basically meant running with some effort behind it and taking fewer, shorter walk breaks.  I still felt pretty good, but the main problem was the congestion.  There were so many runners on the course and they were almost all walking at this point.  The worst part was that they were walking all over the place – in the middle along the blue line,  along the sides, walking several abreast – and they didn’t seem to care that they were blocking the entire course.  I had to weave and dodge and stop so much that I was getting so annoyed it was almost funny.  I just re-read my Baltimore 2012 recap (coming soon, only 2 years late) and realized that me being annoyed in the last 10 miles of a marathon is a recurring theme and something I need to look into.  At any rate, I ran an extra mile trying to get around all those runners, but I still kept up my pace and finished the last 4 miles at around 11:30 pace, with the final mile at about 10:30 (!).

 

I know all these times sound incredibly slow to you, but for me right now they are great, and the fact that my last mile was my fastest mile is a minor miracle to me.  I’ve never really believed in negative splits before, always assuming it was for faster people or for people who have more endurance than I do, but this was amazing and truly a new lesson learned after 13 other marathons.  I finished in about 5:15, which is 40 minutes faster than I had hoped, but the real victory (besides finishing at all) was finishing strong.  And wearing pearls.

 

Thinking of Running Chicago?

 

Breakfast at Tiffany's run into yourself

Or full-on into a spectator.

It’s one of the World Marathon Majors (along with Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, & NYC), with the crowds and hoopla to match.  There were about 45,000 runners this year, so I found the course kinda crowded, but if you like running with other people you’ll love it.  Everyone seemed really chatty before and after the race, too, which was fun and definitely added to the spirit.

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note that this review is based on starting almost dead last and running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of over 5 hours.  Your experience may vary.

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – Pretty easy to fly there, since it’s a major hub in the middle of the US.  Tickets from NYC were about $300 and the marathon offers a small discount if you fly their partner airline American.  The train into downtown is $5 or a taxi is about $55 with tip.  The downtown is very walkable & taxis are also easy to get (and almost every cab ride I took was about $10), except right after the marathon when they are much more difficult, although not impossible, to get.
  • Staying There – 6/10 – There are a decent amount of hotels within easy walking distance of the race start in Grant Park (e.g. the “host” hotel Hilton Chicago, Club Quarters Central Loop, The W Chicago City Center, Congress Plaza, Hampton Inn Majestic, etc.), but they all seem to jack up race weekend prices to astronomical prices (like $300+/night for a nothing special hotel).  I stayed at the Westin River North, which was great – incredibly quiet, fairly clean rooms, and a good location just north of the river, within walking distance of just about everything, if you are inclined to walk.  Only downside was they cleaned the rooms around 3 or 4 pm when I was always in the room, so I never had my room serviced during my stay, plus it was a little too far from the marathon start/finish for me.  If I had to do it again, I’d consider staying at a hotel farther from downtown but close to public transport and just take the train in that morning, but then you miss out on staying downtown and walking around, too, so it just depends on your budget and preferences.
  • Cost & Registration – 7/10 – 2014 was the first time there was a lottery to enter Chicago, but rumor has it that almost everyone got a spot.  It’s also spendy – $185 to register, not to mention the pricey hotels and the many tempting restaurants and attractions in the city, but it’s also a fun city to visit during a beautiful time of year.  They did include free admission for you and a guest to the Art Institute of Chicago (located in Grant Park not far from the start/finish lines), a $46 value!  You also get a sad, underwhelming short-sleeved tech shirt, a decent medal, and a nice bag of food at the finish (which included bananas, Fig Newtons, turkey jerky, peanuts, Kashi cereal, dark chocolates, plus Power Bar Protein bars and Gatorade recovery protein drink).  Oh, and a free beer!  They didn’t even mess with the ticket, thank goodness, and had the beers laid out on tables just past the finish line.  You could even walk with the beer outside the finish chute (e.g. to the baggage claim area), just not outside Grant Park itself.
  • Organization – 10/10 – The shuttles to the expo were speedy, the expo itself was well-done, the bag check took mere seconds on both ends, and there were a decent number of potties at the start and along the course.  The water stations were well-run (except for one of the later stations that was breaking down kinda early, IMO), and the finish area was smooth.  There were plenty of emails leading up to the race, plus they actually mail you a hard-copy booklet with participant info.  Honestly, not sure what else they could have done to make it smoother besides let me ride in a pedicab the entire way.
  • Course – 8/10 – You’ve heard it a million times – it’s flat and it’s a pretty good tour of the city.  It is NOT, however, 100% flat – there are definitely a few very very very tiny inclines around the bridges and some other points, which actually helped with the cramping (although my left calf did cramp up a couple times, and there were more runners stretching their calves along the side of the course than usual).  That .2 mile hill at the end does seem steep after so much flat, but it’s also pretty short and not so steep that you won’t want to run up it.  And as you know I found it congested with walking runners, but I also ran in a crazy way so maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad had I started earlier.
  • Crowd – 6/10 (or -6/10) – Yes, there were a lot of people (although not as many as I expected, honestly – it’s got nothing on the NYC crowds), but there were too many idiots.  Case in point – three different times groups of spectators ran across the course directly in front of me, forcing me to stop to avoid them, and one time I full-on body slammed into someone and yelled at him, in my most angry New Yorker way, “really?!?  Jesus Christ!”  I’ve never had such a problem with crowds on the course before.  Chinatown was super bottlenecked because the spectators were lining the street instead of the sidewalk.  There were also a lot of spectators just sitting or standing looking unhappy, making me wonder why they were there at all.  Also, there were too many creepy religious signs, so it loses another point there.  Repent or burn, baby.
  • Other Factors – 8/10 – It’s a major race in a major city, which can be fun to do.  Plus lots of people you know have probably run Chicago, so you’ll have something to talk about when you’ve finished discussing the weather.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – Chicago, like other huge races, is what it is.  While I prefer smaller races for the actual running, I’m really glad I did Chicago and I loved the city itself.

 

 

Did you run Chicago?  What did you think?  See the site for more photos & share in the comments!

Chicago marathon handbook and costume

Expectations for the Chicago Marathon

Chicago marathon handbook and costume

My Chicago Marathon handbook with some of my costume…

My Race Participant booklet arrived in the mail, and I’m increasingly nervous/excited for Chicago this Sunday!

 

In mid-September, before the Blerch half, I spent too many hours reading other blogger recaps of the Chicago Marathon.  Besides noticing that almost all running bloggers are women, here are my expectations for Chicago:

 

  • The expo is huge but well-organized (and there is little to no chance I leave without buying something).
  • It sounds like a lot of people take public transport or even cabs to the start, so I will look into that option (although sounds like catching a cab at the finish is very difficult).
  • The weather can range anywhere from upper 40s to 90s – and this Sunday’s forecast is 50/50 on rain, temps ranging from 49 to 58.
  • Garmins will not work well for at least the first several miles due to all the tall buildings.
  • Congestion on the course is not so bad (although most were running around 4:00, so who knows what it’s like in the back of the pack where I will be).
  • The marathon route offers a good tour of the city.
  • There are nice, long fluid stations with almost a a full city block of Gatorade followed by a full block of water (the perfect arrangement).
  • There are lots and lots of spectators and they are very loud.  This will be an interesting change for me since most of my recent marathons have been relatively small and/or with sparse crowd support.  I’ve decided not to wear headphones and almost want to bring earplugs (sometimes noisemakers can be too loud), but I probably won’t.
  • The flat course causes cramping (something I’ve been anticipating since even considering Chicago, so I’ve been trying to train more on the flats than usual but still am probably going to suffer some new malady from the repetitive flats).
  • The slight hill at mile 26 seems shocking in comparison to the rest of the flat course.
  • I expect to finish in about 6 hours, give or take a little (hopefully take).  I will be walking a lot, but not quite as much as in Hatfield McCoy (crossing fingers!).
  • You get a fun box of packaged food at the finish (like at Disney).  You also get one free beer!
  • The finish party area is a long walk from the finish line (like .8 miles).
  • Kinda ugly medal but last year’s shirt looked good.
  • I won’t make it out of Chicago without eating deep dish at least once.

 

Check out Runner’s World Magazine’s Chicago Marathon Coverage for more info and tips, including a nice video overview of the course (caution: video will automatically start playing).  I had to do a separate Google search to determine if “360 Chicago” (formerly John Hancock Observatory) is actually different than “SkyDeck Chicago” (aka Willis (formerly Sears) Tower) and not just a different “experience” at the same location.  It is, in fact, a different building and view.  I might try to do one of those on Saturday, and/or the Art Institute.  Luckily I already have tickets to Second City for Friday night, so I’ll be doing at least one iconic Chicago attraction, besides the pizza.

 

What are your expectations for Chicago?  Have any advice about Chicago, running or otherwise?  Do you think that the woman on the cover of the 2014 Participant Guide knows she’s on the cover of the 2014 Participant Guide, and do you think she’s super psyched or embarrassed?  Are you excited The Walking Dead is also premiering this Sunday?  Share in the comments!

Downtown Huntington, WV

Marathon Recap – Marshall University Marathon

Marshall Marathon Finish line

The Marshall University Marathon finish line inside the football stadium, many hours before I actually crossed it.

Whelp, I knocked off state #11 last weekend in Huntington, West Virginia, with the Marshall University Marathon (I always called it the “Marshall Marathon” but saw so many spray-painted “MUM” signs on the course that now I can’t stop calling it the “Marshall University Marathon” so I can cringe giggle at the memory of those “MUMs.”)

 

Downtown Huntington, WV

Downtown Huntington, WV, at rush hour.

I flew into Huntington’s Tri-State Airport (HTS) on Saturday morning around 11 am, got my rental car, and headed to my hotel, the relatively new Hampton Inn.  My room wasn’t ready yet so I continued on into town to get some lunch, since the expo wasn’t open yet, either.  I went to Backyard Pizza, which supposedly has the best pizza in town, and ordered a large margarita pizza, with the thought that I’d have leftovers for Sunday after the race (since the Hampton Inn doesn’t have room service).  It was pretty good pizza, but had a rich, oily crust that most NY pizzas don’t have, so I was just barely able to stop myself from finishing the entire thing to save a couple slices for the next day.

 

I browsed a couple of stores to kill time, but overall the town was eerily deserted and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable walking around.  There was a big football game going on at that time, so I figured most people were there, but after the marathon I wonder if it’s just always semi-deserted.  Regardless, I drove to the expo to get my race packet and do some (totally-unnecessary-but-marathon-justified) shopping.

 

Long lines at the Marshall Marathon Expo

Long lines and not much else at the Marshall Marathon Expo

When I got to the expo it was already semi-chaotic.  There were huge lines and no signs or information on where runners should go, so there was overall confusion and sporadic line-hopping (the longer line was for the half marathon, the shorter line for the marathon, but I got a lot of dirty looks for switching to the end of the shorter line because people didn’t understand the difference).  There was also basically nothing to see or buy (one local store set up a small area with some t-shirts and gels, but that was it), so I left immediately after getting my race packet.  Shopping momentarily averted!

 

Shiny silver outfit for Marshall

Laying out my shiny silver outfit

To my delight, there was a CVS right next to the expo center so I shopped there for water and Pop Tarts (and nailpolish… did you know they make scented nailpolish now?  I can’t imagine that’s a good idea.).  I felt like there was nothing left to do but head back to the hotel, even if I still had to wait for my room.  Luckily, my room was ready early and I got settled in to a nice, clean room, where I spread out my supplies for the race and flipped through TV channels while carbo-loading (aka eating Kit Kats and Pop Tarts).

 

I wasn’t hungry for dinner but thought skipping it would set me up for problems the next day, so I walked across the parking lot to the Bob Evans for some chicken, potatoes, and dinner rolls bigger than my fist.  I noticed the Bob Evans’ brand butter packets were a mixture of butter and hydrogenated vegetable oil, so I saved them as future collectors’ items before heading back to my hotel for an early bedtime.

 

Marshall's football stadium open before the marathon

Marshall’s football stadium open before the marathon, huzzah!

I woke up screamingly early the next day so I could immediately pound some water to avoid my recent, consistent bathroom breaks during races (it worked!), and to give myself plenty of time to drive to the stadium and find parking.  I needn’t have worried, as it was a very simple drive back into town to the stadium, and parking was ample and obvious (at least it was until about 30 minutes before the race – after that it might have filled up).  The best part of the Marshall Marathon was the use of the facilities before the race.  They opened up the stadium so you could see the finish line on the field, and so you could wait in the covered hallways and use any of the bathrooms (there were at least three large bathrooms, so there were almost no lines and no need to use any of the porta potties – plus hot water at the sinks!).

 

The moderate weather at the start of the Marshall Marathon

The moderate weather at the start of the Marshall Marathon

The luxurious indoor bathroom facilities were quickly followed by the most insane start of a race I’ve ever seen.  They had spray painted a tiny little marker spot for the starting line, but there was no arch, no raised sign, nary a balloon – and NO TIMING MAT.  That’s right, when the gun went off your time started, no matter when you actually started running.  It wasn’t a overly large crowd, and it probably took no more than a couple of minutes to get to the start, but it was still very strange to have no chip time for the course (they even had free runner text alerts when you crossed certain timing mats, like at miles 10 and 20, but no starting mat?  Doesn’t make sense…).

 

So we were off!  It wasn’t a crowded course but there were always plenty of people around, right up until the halfway point when all the half marathoners peeled off to finish in the stadium and the full marathoners ran through the center of campus (tiny) and around the stadium to start our second loop.  Now, I knew it was a looped course, but what I didn’t fully appreciate was that there were long sections that we would be running a total of four times.  Four times is a lot for any race, but because those sections were neither scenic nor crowd-supported, it was just a slog all-around.

 

The other thing I was not expecting was how empty the course would get once it was only the full marathoners left.  There were points where I had to ask the volunteers where to run because I couldn’t see anyone else.  That coupled with the almost total lack of spectators made for an eerie ghost-town effect for most of the race.

 

I stuck to a steady 11-minute mile pace for the first 15 miles, when quite suddenly I felt tired and a little bored of running, and immediately slowed down to 12++.  While I did walk for several long stretches, I tried to limit my walking because I simply wanted to finish and be done with it.  It wasn’t miserable, it just wasn’t all that interesting after the fourth pass.  And while the weather was beautiful, low 50s and sunny, there was a fair amount of wind and I was very glad I wore my windblocking headband around my ears.

 

WTF finished with Marshall Marathon

Finished the Marshal Marathon! Still wearing most of my shiny silver (gloves not pictured).

Finishing in the stadium was a treat.  You run down the field, pick up a football, and run back down through the finishing shoot (at least they had a finish line, if not a start).  They had chocolate milk, water, hamburgers, and hot dogs as finishing food, and there was still plenty left even for a back-of-the-packer like me.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day, and a lot of people were hanging around the field, taking pictures and even posing with the mascot.  I had parked foolishly far from the entrance so I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to my car and back into the stadium again for photos, so I just drove myself back to the hotel (no worries there!  legs felt fine for the drive back, even with a lot of traffic caused by the marathon route), climbed into an ice bath (telling myself that it could not be as bad as what I had just done), ate my cold pizza and more Pop Tarts, iced my knees, and read Game of Thrones until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.  Ultimately, a great Sunday!

 

When I woke up on Monday I found my car covered in ice and I thanked my lucky stars we didn’t have such cold temps for the start of the race the day before.  I also realized there wasn’t much to do in the couple hours before my flight, so I went shopping at Target and Marshall’s (not because of the namesake as much as we don’t have those big box stores in NYC, and I loooove them, plus it allowed me to stretch my legs and finish my frustrated expo shopping) before catching my flight home.

 

Today, Thursday, I feel pretty good and all my soreness is gone (it was basically gone by Tuesday afternoon).  My knees feel ok but I haven’t run on them yet, and I’m still planning on taking some time off from running (anything over a few miles) to heal my body and rest my mind.  I’m vigorously planning 2014, however, and am mailing in my 50 States Club application this week, so the quest continues…

Thinking of running the Marshall University Marathon?

 

The re-usable bag, shirt, and jacket you get for the Marshall Marathon

The re-usable bag, short-sleeved shirt, and nice Asics jacket you get for the Marshall Marathon

I signed up for this marathon because I had heard of the movie (We Are Marshall), because it finished in the football stadium, because of the nice finisher jacket, because it was flat, and because I needed West Virginia.  It turned out to be was one of the less interesting races I’ve done yet, since it wasn’t very scenic (save for a few blocks along the Ohio River and the mile or two in Ritter Park), didn’t have any crowds (spectator or runner), didn’t have a fun expo, didn’t have a fun downtown, and didn’t have much to do in the immediate area.  There supposedly was a pasta dinner at the expo, but it was such chaos that I didn’t want to stick around to see.  All that’s not to say I hated the race, it just was a very flat race in an empty, small town.  There also were a ton of Marathon Maniacs and 50-Staters at the race, which was great, but also probably contributed to the low-key nature of the race (when everyone running is from out-of-town, maybe the town just doesn’t care?).

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – Getting there wasn’t too terrible – connecting flight through Charlotte, NC, into Huntington Airport ($330 roundtrip from NYC on US Air) – but once you were there you definitely needed a car.  Luckily, the rental car was only $20/day, so my total with taxes, fees, and $6 of gas was $66 for two days of car rental. There are no marathon shuttles or public transportation options, so you have to get to and from the start/finish on your own, although there was plenty of free parking there.  One runner said some stragglers and ultra-runners had the course taken down around them, making for dangerous conditions near the end of the race, and I ran into a lot of traffic leaving the race, so take that into consideration, too.
  • Staying There – 6/10 – The closest hotel was not all that close to the starting line (over a half mile away?), plus it got slammed online for having super-thin walls and generally being old and run-down, so I decided to stay at the Hampton Inn about 10 minutes away from campus.  The Hampton Inn opened in July 2013, so it was still pretty nice and new, and they always had coffee and tea in the lobby area, plus a free breakfast from 6 am to 10 am every day (and mini fridges and microwaves in every room).  The walls were pretty thin there, too, but they feature clean beds (they always wash the bright white duvet covers) and overall it was a pretty good hotel for $144 per night, all taxes included (hotel prices jacked up during the marathon).
  • Cost & Registration – 9/10 – Definitely easy online registration, and if you register early enough, for the $82 registration fee (including service fees) you get a nice Asics jacket (and a short sleeved technical t-shirt for $10 more).  The jacket is quality, but runs big, and even though I wear a women’s large, the unisex medium jacket swims on me.  The medal is also pretty nice – they call it “3D” because the bull is slightly raised from the surface on both the front and the back.  The short-sleeved technical shirt is only so-so, since it’s an impractical black plus has a ton of sponsor logos on the back (I think there are more sponsor logos than were spectators on the course).
  • Organization – 6/10 – The expo was ridiculous – held only from noon to 6 the Saturday before the race – it was somehow a madhouse despite being a relatively small race.  However, there did seem to be a packet pick up at the start of the race, which is a very nice option.  There wasn’t much to the expo except the packet pick up (with no pins for your bib!), and one small store selling some shirts and gels.  There was supposedly a pasta dinner at the expo, but I hightailed it out of there before all the annoyed people in line started a riot.  Also, the on-course volunteers were great, but every water station was different in terms of how they passed out water vs Gatorade (without marked cups – sometimes the it was first vs second, sometimes on the left vs right, sometimes on both sides, sometimes held by a volunteer in each hand, etc.), and you had to ask and veer around to get what you wanted.
  • Course – 4/10 – It is a flat course (with just a handful of very short, steep sections, but they are few and far between), and looped, but long sections double back on themselves four times.  They tried to make it as scenic as possible, but there just isn’t that much that is scenic in Huntington, and once the halfers left the course, it was like a ghost town.
  • Crowd – 2/10 – Besides the volunteers, there were almost no spectators for this event, which is really surprising considering it’s named after the University at which it takes place. If someone told me the school was shut down and no students actually went there anymore, I would have believed it.  It was deserted.
  • Other Factors – 5/10 – It’s supposedly the biggest race in West Virginia, and it was fun to finish in the stadium, but otherwise there’s not much else going for it.
  • Overall Rating – 5/10 – I’m glad to have finished another state.  I’m glad we had perfect weather.  The stadium was nice.  But if I had to run another loop of that course, I would scream.

 

Did you run the Marshall University Marathon?  Are you enjoying your jacket?  Share in the comments!

MDI marathon finish with medal

MDI Marathon Finished! – quick on the road post

Finished MDI Marathon 2013

I found the finish at the MDI Marathon!

Just a quick post to let you know I finished the MDI marathon and am enjoying my run-free time in Bar Harbor, being exceedingly lazy and eating Pop Tarts (almost) guilt free.

I’ll post a full recap later, but in a nutshell the race was less hilly and less scenic than it was built up to be. I still enjoyed the race, but I think I’ll have more fond memories of the town of Bar Harbor than the marathon itself. I ran faster than expected, finishing in around 5:10, and am sore today but not incapacitated like I was after Vermont in May. The weather turned out to be almost perfect, with the rain stopping just as the race started. The biggest downside to the race were all the open roads, which was great for drivers but not so great for runners. The last 6 miles of the course was basically on the shoulder of a highway open to traffic in both directions, so was neither scenic nor pleasant, and since it was the final 6 miles it sticks in my mind more than the first 20. Again, not a bad race, but not what I was expecting.

But Bar Harbor is even more charming than I expected, and I’m loving every minute here. Tomorrow I’m going to get up early to walk the sand bar to Bar Island during low tide, and hopefully see some whales on a boat tour that was cancelled today because of rough seas. If it’s cancelled again I’ll console myself with 99 cent scoops of amazing homemade ice cream. Or a bike ride on the carriage paths. Or both. But I won’t be running again. For a little while at least…