Sunday, July 08, 2012

Mad Marathon, Waitsfield, VT

If you want a “challenging” marathon, try this one.  I haven’t done Pike’s Peak, and I’m sure there are other very-hilly marathons, but in my 65 marathons this is easily the most-hilly road marathon I've run.  This is not a complaint - I signed up for this and, now that it’s over, I’m very glad that I did.  It really is beautiful, with views of hills on one side of the road and the Mad River Valley on the other side and, from time to time, views of each of the three major ski hills in the Sugarbush area across the valley.  Lots of mountains.  Add plenty of milk cows, horses, and even a few chickens.  The sign said “Free Range Eggs,” and sure enough, there were the chickens right out on the gravel road.  I enjoyed myself as much as I ever have in a marathon.

My Race:

I finished in 5:51:26, fifth in my age group of 70+.  I think there were more who finished behind me, but the results are not on the internet as this is written.  This is state number 46, marathon number 65 since my diagnosis of myeloma.

Before the race I was quite concerned about cramping up, because I had that problem just two weeks ago in Anchorage, in a marathon that was hilly but nothing compared with this one.  But no cramps have appeared, during the race or since.  The calves mentioned the problem a couple of times in the later miles, but I stretched ‘em out and they settled down.

Because I was concerned, though, I had adjusted my pace a little slower than Anchorage, run/walk 15/45 seconds, which I thought would bring me to the finish in about 6 hours.  But that programmed run/walk actually didn’t happen much, because there were few flat parts of the race and I basically walked up hills and ran/walked down them at whatever ratio felt good.  I did wear a wristband calibrated to the 13:44 pace that makes a 6-hour marathon, and at one point found myself behind schedule by a couple of minutes, but evidently made up some time later in the race.  The last three miles of the race are mostly downhill, and that helped a lot.  Even at the finish I could still easily do my 15/45 run/walk.  Every muscle hurts now - calves and quads especially, and I really, really need a nap, but that’s how it’s supposed to be after a marathon and life is great!

If I can do this marathon, I can do ANYTHING!

I rarely wear a hydration belt in a marathon that has regular aid stations, like this one, but I wore one this time and I’m glad.  I was able to take a gulp or two any time I felt like I might get thirsty, and that may have helped hold off the cramps.  Maybe a lot.  And I took salt, for the cramps and to ward off hyponatremia.  Also I took six Clif Shot Mocha gels (with caffeine) along the way.

We stayed three nights at Woods Cottage, a cute little house with a kitchen and an upstairs private bedroom, in Warren, not far from Waitsfield.  It has a flat-screen TV with digital cable, WiFi, a king bed upstairs, a double bed downstairs, and much more.  Matt and Ashley Woods, the proprietors, took very good care of us.


1. The hernia repair bothered just a little, only on the pounding downhills, starting about mile 17.  It actually got better, though, and was not a concern in the last six miles.  Is it better than it was before the surgery in April?  I’m not sure, but healing is still happening.
2. The right knee with PFS didn’t bother much.  We ran on the left side of the road, facing traffic (thank you Dori), and that knee apparently doesn’t make trouble on surfaces slanted to the left.  Yay!
3. Otherwise nothing!  In other words, I have very little to whine about.  Gosh, I’ll just have to run another marathon.

The Mad Marathon:

1. It’s on rural roads with no shoulder, some paved and others not.  This was also advertised on the web site.  Many of the roads are shaded.  Automobile traffic was light, and was undoubtedly even lighter for runners who finished an hour or two sooner than I did.  Every driver was courteous.  I did step off the road surface onto the grass a couple of times when cars met, but I needn’t have.
2. The start was great - running right down Main Street Waitsfield, automobile traffic banned for the moment.  The finish was equally great, in a huge lawn just a few yards from the start.  We went through two different covered bridges, both ways each.  These bridges are not for show - the residents of the Mad River Valley use them every day.  Single lane for cars (take turns), but easily wide enough for runners to pass in both directions.
3. The race is mostly, though not entirely, a set of out-and-back segments.  If you just can’t stand out-and-back, do a different race.  I liked it though, because I saw the race leaders for both the half marathon and the full go whizzing by, male and female, each escorted by a bicycle, and I enjoyed seeing the other runners too.  Lots of attaboys and attagirls with the runners passing in the opposite direction.
4. I finished quite late, compared with most runners, yet there were still oranges, bananas, and other food at the finish.
5. Volunteers were plentiful and very helpful.  There was no chance of taking a wrong turn.  One guy even drove by and asked me if I had gels.  When I said yes, he said “Well, are you actually taking them?” That’s slightly beyond helpful, but of course he didn’t know I was on my 65th marathon.
6. All aid stations had water and Gatorade, and volunteers were wonderful about ensuring that the runner got what s/he wanted.  I usually wanted my water flask refilled, and they happily complied.
7. The race was warm today, 61 at the start, 77 at my finish, and mostly sunny, probably typical for a Sugarbush day in July.  A nice breeze helped a lot.
8. Dori Ingalls is the race director (organizer?), she’s wonderful, and she was especially good to us, so even if I did have a negative or two to say about the marathon I would just drop her a note with suggestions for next year.
9. This part of Vermont is recovering from the body-blow delivered by last year’s Hurricane Irene.  You can see where some of the damage was done, but it’s all fixed.  There is no reason to stay away.

Splits.  These vary a lot, because of the hills and because I had to take several “natural breaks” in the first half of the race: 12:03, 15:54, 11:23, 11:37, 11:19, 12:08, 12:04, 21:55 (2 mi), 14:41, 15:22, 15:52, 12:11, 12:47, 12:10, 26:17 (2 mi), 13:27, 13:19, 12:12, 13:45, 11:48, 14:05, 15:09, 11:37, 13:38, 2:29, total 5:51:26, pace 13:24.

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