Some things are somewhat predictable. One of them is that if I don't get enough miles in, I'll do poorly when I run a marathon. Winner takes all. And I had a tough day.
Over the summer and into the fall, I was plagued by various ailments and these kept me from getting the training done. By the time we headed to Harrisburg, I had managed only a couple of LLSDs (18+ miles) and they were ugly. So I got there with very low expectations. And I wasn't disappointed :-)
I drove from Annapolis to Harrisburg with another runner/sailing friend and we did the usual packet pickup deal. There was no expo that I could see and that was probably a good thing - saved me a few bucks. Then we went out and drove the course, tryng to get a feel for the lay of the land, so to speak. And it looked good - a few hills, but nothing to write home about. We couldn't drive back into the lakewood area because it's all park trails, but from the road, it didn't look too rough. So back to the hotel, met up with my regular RB and his wife, dinner and hit they sack by about 10pm.
Sunday morning, up and dressed about 7. 8:30 start is late which was kind of nice - I wasn't the groggy-eyed slob I usually am on race mornings. Got a bagel and banana at the Hampton Inn buffet and then headed over to the starting area. Question of the morning was "how do I dress"? It was chilly, but no wind to speak of. So I opted for my race-ready shorts, a green T (from the 07 B&A marathon, my first - and more on that later!), and a running vest. Parking was easy and we had time to queue up at the porta-pot for some last-minute.weight-loss. I put gels, electrolyte caps, my mini-first-aid kit and my camera in my pockets and then wandered around taking pictures and staying warm. Hooked up with Spencer and wandered up to the starting area on the bridge.
There were a lot of folks at the starting area - more than I expected! Last I had looked at the registrations, there were only a few hundred runners, but the starting area was pretty filled up! The picture shows that we were all a bit conflivted about clothes - it was chilly prior to the start - the car thermo read 37 degrees.
Soon enough, the starting gun fired and we were off, turtles that we are. Spencer was hoping to get his time under 4:39:13 and since I didn't expect to do particularly well, I planned to help him keep the pace through the early miles and we would do our own thing whenever that happened. The start took us over the market street bridge and into the south-east area of Harrisburg. Old industry and houses in want of TLC, mostly flat. We saw these signs all over the place that there were runners ahead of us, but being tutles, that's always a given!
Then a nice return to the waterfront of the Susquehanna river via a railroad park trail. Great running, warmed up and moving well. Starting to get warm.
Coming back into the river area was just beautiful! It was so pretty running along there, with parks and the river and the fall foliage. It was just fantastic. One of the prettier 'thons I've run.
The houses were all old victorians, many keptbeautifully, others in need of repair. The day was definately warming up! We were warned by the race management at a couple of points to drink lots - that the day was going to be a warm one. Spencer changed his short (nice to have spectator support!) to a light-white one. We ran along the waterfront for quite a ways, finally turning off toward the lake park area. At first, this was still residential, and then we turned out towards the industrial section. Not so pretty, though not too long either so it was easy to just ignore and keep running. Shortly after, we came to the Harrisburg community college campus and things got nice again. Well, except for me! I started to seriously fade. I crossed the 15 mile mark and had to stop and walk for a while.I walked to about Mile 16 and then shuffled along until in the park area. Now that's a very pretty running area.
But I was seriously tired. I was trying to continue a run-walk but it was more of a run/shuffle. And it was getting warmer. Oh - and it turns out, there are real hills in that park! One long and quite steep one leading up to mile 18 - and I just walked it. But as I was heading p that hill, I heard my name and saw Ed Peters, a 50-stater whom I met a year earlier at the Rehoboth marathon coming back down towards me! What a surprise to see him again.
After that monster hill, we were rolling up and down hills that would have seemeed normal and okay if I was doing better, but I wasn't going to push - I knew I wasn't going to finish well, so I decided to just enjoy the scenery and the other runners around me and chat and push forward, walking whenever I felt the need.
The above doesn't quite convey they steepness of the hills!
We finally had to leave the park. As you can see from the clock, I was waaaay off pace - I'm usually able to get to this point in under 3:30. But not this day. So we headed out and back to the riverfront, staying in the very pretty scenery, which was getting harder to see. I ran for a few miles with Lou, (in the picture above) - a very nice gentleman.
From, there on to the end was numbing, but flat. Until the very end, when we had to ascend up onto the railroad bridge and cross that to the finish area.
At the very end, I was neck-and-neck with another runner to the gate. A fun way to sprint into the finish, even though we were all suffering out on the course! At the finish area, I met up with Bruce, Spencer and Ed Peters to drink and eat some and chat about the course. None of us did as well as we'd hoped though perhaps Spencer had the biggest disappointment of us all - he missed a PR by about 30 seconds. Bruce was about 30 minutes off (at around 4:30) and I had a dismal 5:13 (second worst time ever for me). But, I now have 9 in the books.
Below are a couple of shots taken by my RB's wife - my neck-and-neck sprint to the finish, and Spence, Bruce, Me and Ed Peters after finishing.
I liked this marathon a lot even though I did very poorly. It seemed very well run. Also, it seemed like the the race officials added more water stops in the last miles that weren't there when were heading out - I'm guessing they knew it was getting hot out. And that was both very welcome and very smart on their part. It also seemed like there were lots of volunteers on the course - more than on any other I can remember running. And, the crowd support was better than I expected for a small marathon - there were folks cheering us on, even late in the race in most of the neighborhoods. It was great.
In retrospect, I got bitten by three things. I didn't get enough miles, and especially enough hills in before the race. I was surprised by the challenge of the hills. And it was warmer than I was ready for. After the finish, we read 74 degrees on the car thrmometer. That's pretty warm for a marathon, especially in bright sun. I was hot for the entire second half, and perhaps dehydrated too (though I made a point of drinking a lot). I'm guessing that my green T was too warm - should have opted for a white one (which I had in my bag, but didn't wear). Looking back, my two hardest marathons were run in that same green T - maybe I should retire it :-)
But, no complaints - and a special thanks to the race volunteers and the town of Harrisburg for hosting this great event. Thanks also to my running partner Spencer who puts up with my inconsistent training patterns. And especially to my wife for not only putting up with, but encouraging my foibles.
On to number 10!