October 9, 2009

Race Report: Maine Marathon

I woke up on race day and immediately checked my shoes. Thanks to the muddy finish at New Hampshire, they were disgusting (and they had been brand new!). Since they were already wet, I had decided that wetting them further wouldn’t hurt, so I rinsed them to get the mud out. Steph and I both left our shoes on the heater overnight, hoping to dry that out, but unfortunately, now Steph’s shoes were dry (she hadn’t rinsed hers) and mine were still damp. Darn me and my fashion sense! I flipped them around on the heater to get a few last moments of drying time before we left, and they actually managed to dry out pretty well, so by the time I put them on, they were just the teeniest bit damp but not really wet. They’d do!

We headed over to the start and almost immediately, I ran into a group of Maniacs and 50 Staters who were congregating. When two marathons are being run on consecutive days with such a short drive in between, it’s like mecca for the Maniacs and 50 Staters! By the time the race started, we probably had a group of about 20 people crossing the start together.

I settled into a nice pace with Dave Bell, board member in the 50 states club. He usually runs at about my speed, and we were on even playing field having both run New Hampshire the day before. We discussed the various muscles that were sore, and I noticed something odd – for me it was the very tippy top of my butt. Not my hamstrings, which have been sore in the past, but almost between my lower back and butt. What on earth? I just kept running through it and within a mile or so, my body was back into the rhythm of running and the soreness was gone.

There were a lot of Maniacs and 50 staters in my vicinity, and it was fun to go along and introduce/get introduced to new friends as we all ran together. I soon met Dave, a 50 stater who was doing a Galloway run-walk method to hit about a 4:45, and I decided it would probably be easy on the muscles if I stuck with him. Besides, he was a good conversationalist, and the pace we were keeping made it easy to chat! Our conversations about various marathons attracted the attention of several runners around us, and it was fun to feel like minor celebrities for our marathon accomplishments 🙂

After circling a beautiful bay for a while, we turned onto a causeway that was a bit windy… but short enough to not really be a problem. From there, we headed into some residential neighborhoods, where it was fun to see people out on their porches cheering. Next, the homes stopped giving the feel of the typical suburban neighborhood – we were right on the coast, and it was beautiful to look out over the water and see the city on the other side. What a nice view to have from your front lawn! There were a lot of supporters out, some even with their own rogue water stations, and it was really appreciated. Dave and I both made it a point to thank the spectators for coming out – it certainly made for a nicer race.

Back onto the main roads we went, and soon we were seeing the frontrunners in the half-marathon pass us going the other direction. A few runners near us were dismayed to be lapped so quickly, so I tried to cheer them up with, “don’t worry – they’re probably only doing the half.” The response? “So are we!” Oops.

With the frontrunners gone and the pack of “ordinary mortals” starting to follow, I figured that the turnaround for the half would be coming soon. I knew that Marcy (of the retired blog “I Signed Up For This?!”) was running the half, so I started eyeing every single dark haired woman coming by in the other direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of her and be able to (briefly) meet and say hi. My time was pretty occupied with this search, so I was grateful that we caught up with another Maniac – my friend Jackie, with whom I had run in New Hampshire the day before. Jackie decided to join Dave and I in our run-walk endeavor, and I felt better now that it was three of us so I didn’t have to try to keep up with the conversation while searching for Marcy. Unfortunately, the half turnaround came and went with no sign of her. Darn it! I didn’t know if she had passed me by and I missed her, or if she was still behind me, but either way, I wasn’t getting to meet her, and I was bummed.

Luckily, the turnaround for the half was right at the top of a big hill, so I got cheered up by the lovely downhill after. Nice! As we approached mile 8, I noticed a street that had the same name as my old manager Rob’s last name. Rob runs the NYC Marathon every year, and it was while cheering him on in 2007 that I decided to try to run a half marathon (and then later a full). Rob went to college in Maine, and he was really excited that I was running the Maine Marathon, so it was neat to see his last name on a sign and get reminded of that.

I had been drinking Gatorade at pretty much every water station (as well as some of the impromptu ones), and now I was starting to pay for it. Where was a porta potty when you needed one? The road we were on was a residential road, with beautiful homes set back but no foliage in between, so I couldn’t even duck off to the side somewhere. However, I soon saw my salvation: a home with a stone wall rimming the perimeter of the property, with a nice little nook that was hidden from view of the house and the road. Several others had this same idea, and a two person line actually formed for the privilege of using this spot! Fortunately, I saw this line from afar, and it was gone by the time I got to it. Apologies to the people whose property we peed on!

I felt much better after my little break, and quickly resumed drinking Gatorade. I’d like to pretend it was because I was really thirsty and in need of hydration, but in truth, I just like the taste of lemon lime Gatorade, and I’ll take any excuse to drink it. Fie on the race organizers who choose a different flavor, particularly if it’s nasty grape!

We started traversing some pretty decently-sized hills, though mostly going down them at this point. It was in this section that we finally started seeing the full marathon leaders on their way back, and our group of three led the other runners around us in a big cheer as they went by. We were surprised to see that Chuck Engel was not leading the charge, as he had done New Hampshire the day before and we all assumed he was doing Maine as well. The leaders were instead people we didn’t know, but they were keeping up a really impressive pace and looking strong. Go, leaders!

Soon after seeing the leaders, we started seeing some walkers who had taken the (1.5 hour) early start. A lot of 50 staters were included in this contingent, partly because the 50 State Club tends to have a lot of walkers, and partly because a lot of 50 Staters were doing the double with New Hampshire and were now taking it really easy. It was really fun to get to see some of my favorite walkers instead of missing them because they were behind me on the course – I wish more races would offer this much of an early start!

We started climbing an uphill, and my bladder was suddenly bursting again. Not seeing any other walled gardens nearby, I didn’t have many options. Fortunately, at the top of the hill and just before a turn onto a downhill, I spotted a bank of portapotties – sweet. I told Jackie and David that I’d catch up to them in a bit, and headed over to do my thing. I had to wait a bit, but it was well worth it. Just after the porta potties was a rest stop offering more Gatorade, so I drank up. Gotta refill the coffers right?

Heading down the hill at mile 11, I got to say hi to Steph on her return trip. I started picking up speed on the downhill, and even got Jackie and David in my sights, but then decided to take a walk break to chat with Boyfriend on the phone for a minute. Hanging up, I found myself on a very short (maybe a tenth of a mile) out and back, where I saw my friend Tim coming back while I headed out, and my friend Diane heading out as I headed back. It was Maniac land for sure! Finally, I sucked it up and gave up on the walking – it was time to run, so I turned my iPod on (first time all race – I had been talking till now) and popped on a pop playlist I hadn’t listened to in a very long time. To the tunes of 2gether, I bopped my way along at a pretty good clip, making up for time as I went.

Going up the big hill on which I had seen Steph earlier, I decided it would be a good opportunity to take a quick walk break, dig through my fuel belt, and eat my Sports Beans. I knew that right after the hill was a water station, so it would work out perfectly to be able to eat the beans and then wash them down with a drink. Out and back courses can be really nice for planning purposes like that!

Now I was on the way back, so I knew exactly what lay ahead of me. There were definitely some rolling hills, but nothing too brutal, and I still felt pretty good. Double weekends have nothing on me! Within another mile or two, I had almost caught back up with David and Jackie… and then I started chatting with a runner as I passed them and ended up hanging back with them. Finally saying my goodbyes, I picked up the pace in order to catch up with Jackie’s yellow Maniac singlet in the distance.

At long last, I had caught up to my friends, and it happened to be right at the gorgeous mansion we had seen and raved over on the outbound leg. They were still doing the walk-run program, and I gladly settled into their pace… for a good minute or two, until I had to go to the bathroom again. Boy, was I playing a game of cat and mouse! It seemed like every time I caught up or got close to them, something would distract me. Not to mention, I think I was setting a record for “most pee breaks in a race.”

We were near that same walled house, so I took advantage of the nook one more time, but lost Jackie and David in the process. I kept a nice steady pace to my iPod beat, chugging along until my cell phone alarm went off. It was time to call Boyfriend, and remind him to check me in online for my flight. I quickly dialed his number, made the very brief call (“Hey babe, it’s time. Thanks! Talk to you after the race.”), and returned to reality onlly to find the woman next to me thoroughly pissed off that I had been “showing off” by chatting on my cell phone during the race. I really wanted to respond with something like “actually, if I were showing off, I’d be shouting that this is my second marathon of the weekend!”, but I kept my cool and politely apologized. I was kind of surprised that she was so upset though. We were on a pace for a 4:45/5:00 marathon – it was hardly a competitive time, so I didn’t understand why she was so mad that I wasn’t killing myself to finish faster.

After passing her, I came up to a friendly 50 stater, Dennis, who engaged me in some more chatter. We weren’t walking as we talked, but we were still going at a slower pace than when it was just me and my iPod, and I could no longer see Jackie and David in the distance. Coming around a turn, I decided to pick it up and really make every effort to catch up with Jackie and David, and I finally did so about 4 miles before the finish. This time, I wasn’t losing them!

The pace felt comfortable, and I fell back into the conversation easily as well. Despite the erratic nature of the run-walk method, we were mostly overtaking those around us, who seemed to be mainly first timers unaccustomed to “The Wall” and the way your body feels after 20-some miles.

We started wondering if we were going to see Larry Macon before finishing, or if he’d finish just ahead of us. We had no idea, but we knew it would be close. I declared that if we managed to catch him anywhere in the last mile, I wanted to drop back and finish with him. After the skit the night before, sentencing Larry to “finish with all his friends,” I thought it would be a really cool way to complete my first true double.

I started trying to predict my finish time, and as we crossed over the windy bridge back to the main part of town, I realized there were only 3 miles left. Time to call Mary and warn her of my impending finish! When I spoke to her, she said she was still looking for Steph, and I was able to tell her that Steph was about 2 miles ahead of me at the halfway point, so she should be finishing anytime now. I later found out that Steph finished just a few minutes after I called Mary and told her to be watching – perfect timing!

This time, I didn’t allow my phone break to pull me off pace, and I caught back up with David and Jackie just a minute or two after dropping back. They joked that they didn’t know if they might lose me again, and I said that this time I was here to stay. My legs felt good, and I know I could have gone faster, but now that it had become such a strong theme in this race, I wanted to cross the finish line side by side with them.

Just after deciding this, we ran into Larry Macon and Paula Boone in the very last mile. We slowed to their walking pace, and told them of our intentions to finish with them, but Larry insisted that we go on ahead, and said that the best thing we could do was just be waiting at the finish for him. Reluctantly, we went on, though we knew it wouldn’t be long until we were reunited. Less than a mile to go!

I had kept my iPod on from before, though it was at a low enough level where I could still keep chatting, and now I switched to my Marathon Power Songs playlist. David and Jackie asked what I was listening to, and I explained how I usually put on my most inspirational songs at the end of the race. To further elaborate, I shared some of my favorite lyrics with them: “When push comes to shove/You taste what you’re made of/You might bend till you break/Cause it’s all you can take/On your knees, you look up/Decide you’ve had enough/You get mad, you get strong/Wipe your hands, shake it off/Then you stand.” I felt stupid saying the lyrics aloud, but Jackie and David really liked them, and it was nice to get to share that little bit of my personal motivation 🙂

Finally, we were coming into the home stretch and could see the finish line ahead. We lined up so that Jackie and I were in our yellow Maniac singlets and flanking David in the middle with his white 50 State shirt. You all know I usually sprint it in, but for this race, there was no way I was abandoning them. At a nice, easy pace, we held hands and crossed the finish line together. Two marathons in two days, and with stronger friendships than when we started!

I kept my promise and waited right at the finish line for Larry and Paula, snapping more pics with them before hightailing it to the food tent. My recovery food of choice? Organic Greek yogurt and chocolate chip cookies to dunk in it – the perfect mix of healthy and slightly indulgent 🙂 I was jonesing for a good Maine beer, but there was no time, and I instead headed off to the hotel with Mary and Steph and then onto the airport. After running 52.4 miles, it was time to fly the last 200 home and get to see Boyfriend. After all, only another 6 days till my next 26.2!

Race stats:
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 4:53:35
Pace: 11:12
Overall place: 703/958
Gender place: 266/402
Age group place: 24/31

1 thought on “Race Report: Maine Marathon”

  1. Unbelievable. You amaze me. I met Marcy at the ARizona Rock N Roll marathon, but only briefly. The popparattzi wouldn’t let me get closer.

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