I went to bed last night around 11pm, but woke up at 7:30am naturally, feeling fresh and ready. while I had tentatively told my friend John that I’d run a few loops of the Easter Marathon with him, I wanted to sleep as long as I could and make it dependent on when I woke up. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself to sleep as late as I want and wake up sans alarm – and I’ve found that about 8-8.5 hours of sleep is what my body naturally requires. Good to know! (On that front, I’ve also been taking my temperature as soon as I get up every day, and I’ve found that it’s usually around 97.1-97.4. Possibility I have a thyroid problem? Going to ask my doc next time I go, but I would love a simple explanation like that for my slow metabolism!)
After getting up that early, I really had no excuse NOT to go to the race at 10am, so I had an English muffin for breakfast (carbs!), finished watching the movie I had started the night before, and then got ready for the race. While a 10am race start does kind of suck up your day, it was so nice to be able to wake up without an alarm and take a leisurely time getting ready – will certainly not be the same experience for next weekend’s New Jersey Marathon, when I need to be down at Penn Station at 5am to catch my train!
I was prepped for cold weather and rain, since that was the forecast. When I walked out the door, while it was cloudy, it was a balmy 65 degrees! I was way overdressed, but fortunately, I always dress for running in layers, so it was easy enough to shed my jacket and tights and be down to just a tank top and skirt. I just couldn’t believe how nice it was! Maybe this run would be better than I thought.
On the way up to the start, I perused the May issue of Shape Magazine, and found a neat feature on watching TV shows – that a new study showed that people who watched fitness commercials ate 22% fewer calories than those who watched ads for insurance, and that they believe that exposure to exercise makes viewers exercise more and realize how much effort it takes to burn off the calories they consume. I have long been an advocate of watching athletic/adventure shows like The Biggest Loser and Survivor while I work out, so I thought it was neat to get this reinforcement!
I arrived at the start about 30 minutes early, but now the sun was coming out, and it was such a gorgeous day that I really didn’t mind hanging out. However, I was surprised not to see a single person I knew – usually there would be a whole crowd of Whippets that I knew, or at least a Maniac or two that I could introduce myself to if I didn’t already know them. Today, though, it was just me… and I knew that my friend John who had talked me into the race was starting at 9am, so he wouldn’t be at the start area. Just me on my own!
But then, to my surprise, I saw my friend Larry coming around to the finish line. Larry is a 50 stater friend and true inspiration (he holds the record for most marathons run in a year – 106!), but he’s from San Antonio, Texas, so I couldn’t believe he had come all this way for such a low-key race. (And before, I had thought John was nuts for driving the 2.5 hours from Albany down for it!) I also met up with one of my blog readers, which was pretty neat – thanks for introducing yourself, Jen!
The race had become a lot more organized since the last time I had run it, though – there was a folding table with the stack of bibs and safety pins, and an actual organized line of people leading up to it (in sharp contrast with the lack of bibs at the first race and bibs in a pile on the ground with people randomly walking up to grab them at the other two Holiday Marathons I’ve done). Also, every participant got bunny ears to wear! I was glad I had opted for a white skirt and green tank – looked cute with my pink-and-white ears.
I soon saw John finishing up the loop he was on, and he joined me to await the official start of the race. The whole time, I was nervously looking at the sky – I wanted to get this show on the road before it started to rain! Accuweather had said it was going to start raining at 11am, but I was hoping to do 2 loops before the rain hit, which would take me about 2 hours… so I really wanted to get going. However, the race director said we were delaying the start for a bit… because ultramarathon superstar Scott Jurek was coming to run two loops! How cool. Scott has won Badwater twice, Western States seven times, and holds the American record for 24 hour distance (165.7 miles!). He is truly an amazing runner, so I was thrilled to get to meet him – which I soon did.
Once everyone had gotten their pics with Scott in, we started the race with the usual announcements and National Anthem. Today’s singer was the race director’s wife, and I thought she was excellent… I just wish the idiots behind me didn’t talk through half of it, and then decide to sing along for the second half, in terrible, joke-y voices. Have some respect, people! But soon, the crowd of bunny ears were off.
It was pretty packed at first, and I assured John that it usually cleared out a lot after the first loop. In the meantime, we caught up on running and life, and I got to hear about all the latest exploits up in my original hometown, while dodging the mud pits on the way as best as I could. In his first loop, John had accidentally taken a wrong turn and skipped this part of the course (he planned to go back later and remedy that, now that he knew where he was going), so this was all new ground for him.
As we approached the big hill of the course, I warned John in advance how tough it was… and then we came around the corner and saw that paople were taking the stairs next to the hill instead of scrambling up it. I was kind of annoyed, and good-naturedly called out “cheaters!” to those taking the stairs. This race is so low key that honestly, you can do whatever you want… but I would argue that you can’t say you’ve really done a Holiday Marathon until you’ve scrambled up that steep hill. To give you an idea of just how steep it is, in the winter, they tie a rope from top to bottom, so you have something to cling to and prevent slipping! Today, the hill was super muddy and I wished that I had that rope, as I fell a few times, catching myself with my hands to keep from sliding down to the bottom… but hey, that’s the fun of a trail race! 🙂
At the top, I was wiped out. The day was turning out to be even hotter and muggier than I thought, and I was feeling the effort of getting up that tough hill. Lucky for me, we had a nice downhill coming up, and I felt better as we did that. However, the next section had a slight uphill grade as we went back into the woods, and I felt it even more than I expected. Was I really that out of shape? I hoped not. I was pleased to see that Scott Jurek was running just a few paces ahead of me, though – that was pretty neat to be running so close to a legend. I love that running is a sport that allows you to be side by side with the greats (at least at the start of a race or when they’re taking it easy, as Scott was doing today).
The single track section was plenty muddy, and like a wuss, I tried to avoid the puddles instead of splashing through them as John did. Perhaps my white skirt was not the best choice for a trail marathon? I just hoped I wouldn’t fall, like I did in the Thanksgiving Marathon, or it was going to look like I pulled an Adam and pooped my pants.
Fortunately, I stayed upright, and we were soon on the straight dirt road/railroad tracks that take us out of the woods and back toward the main field. On the way, I pointed out to John the spot where there was actual cover if you needed to take a bathroom break… but while I actually needed to stop, I was lucky not to have to stop there – the actual bathrooms were open because it was almost summer! Wow, what a treat. I took a very quick detour/pitstop (John was nice enough to detour with me and wait), and then we were back on our way.
On my way back to the course, I finally took the time to turn on my music (I had my headphones on but hadn’t turned it on at that point), and popped on a generic Rascal Flatts playlist I hadn’t heard in a long time. I was rewarded for my trouble with a great song that I had never before realized was so perfect for running – “Long Slow Beautiful Dance.” The chorus goes, “It’s a deep breath / And baby steps / That’s how the whole thing starts / It’s a long, slow, beautiful dance / To the beat of a heart.” What a perfect way to describe a marathon! (Though yes, I realize that wasn’t the original intent of the song). The beat was fairly steady and smooth, too, making it perfect for the middle miles when you just need to catch your breath and keep going.
And boy, this part was definitely an area where I needed to catch my breath! The rollers as we headed back into the woods were taking their toll on me, and I was more than happy to take walk breaks when John suggested doing so (and later, when I begged him to do so!). The next mile was tiring, but passed fairly uneventfully, other than me being ridiculously tired. It was here that I decided I was quitting after just one loop – making this the third time I’e only done half of what I set out to do on this course. As John later pointed out, one of these days I need to attempt a “double marathon” (52.4 miles), so that I’ll actually be able to finish a regular marathon here!
As we continued along, we ran into Larry Macon and another Maniac walking ahead of us, and I slowed to a walk in order to catch up with him (and surreptitiously catch my breath). After a few minutes, though, I soldiered on – and felt great having taken that walk break. It didn’t hurt that the last mile of this course is gorgeous – slight downhill, double track and non-technical trail, and shaded so as not to be too hot (despite the sun disobeying Weather.com’s prediction and being a steady presence). Racing perfection!
We exited the woods an dcircled the field, now looping around back for another quarter mile to the finish. While I now felt much better and less out-of-shape thanks to that easy section, I still decided to call it quits – no point in tiring myself out with the New Jersey Marathon just a week away. I happily crossed the finish line, noted my time, and collected my special holiday themed medal – a pink stuffed rabbit with velcro arms that allowed me to wear it around my neck. Fun! While John continued on, I found someone to snap my picture as I proudly rang the finishers’ gong – no shame at all in a 10K!
After a post-race massage (they actually had a masseuse there for free massages and there was no line at all – this race is getting fancy!), I headed back down to the Upper West Side for coffee with my friend Sasha to celebrate. I had given up coffee for Lent, so it was such a treat to finally have a caramel macchiato – and it tasted all the better after the sweet success of the race 🙂 To round out the day, I spent the rest of the afternoon at my other favorite local coffee spot – Le Pain Quotidien – where I sipped a bowl of cafe au lait and basked in the sun as I got this race report written. Perfect day!
Happy Easter, everyone 🙂