Pre-Race Preparations – I shouldn’t have had the Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy the night before the Wineglass Marathon; but, hey, I never was a wine drinker, and the PBR looked inviting through the clear glass door of the beer cooler. The Better Half and I had stumbled upon a little bar during our walking tour of the great old town of Bath, NY. We were spending the night at the 100+ year-old Old National Hotel prior to the Wineglass, so that I could rest up before the 26.2 mile jaunt through the NY Finger Lakes region. That PBR, along with a cheese and mushroom pizza from a little shop next to the hotel, sounded like a great idea during our evening adventure. What could go wrong? Well, by 3 AM, it felt like Jason and his chainsaw had been set loose inside my stomach. How was I suppose to rise to the challenge of a marathon under these abdominal conditions?
At 6 AM race day, I took a long, boiling shower, and I carefully shaved. My rationale: If I’m extra clean, I’ll feel better. I suited up for the race, opting for my long-sleeved Empire State Marathon race shirt, charcoal colored Nike shorts, black Sehgahunda bandana, the Mission Vaporactive crew socks that I won from the Montezuma Half Marathon earlier in the year (third in age group), and my new black ASICS running shoes. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. After final planning with The Better Half I was ready to roll.
The Old National Hotel is such an interesting place it could easily be the topic of a separate blog entry. It cost us about $50.00 cash for the night, was perfectly quiet, and reasonably clean. Oh, and about as quirky as one might expect from the picture. During my morning prep, I bought a black coffee in a plain styrofoam cup at the hotel restaurant. It was so strong, Jason and his chainsaw went silent from caffeine overdose. I enjoyed that high-octane brew so much I asked for a refill on my way out the door to the bus. For this refill, I was charged an additional $1.50. I didn’t have a penny on me, as I had left it all with The Better Half when I changed into my running gear. But, no worries. The hostess at the hotel carefully filled out an IOU, complete with “$1.50” circled in black ink. The Better Half paid up when she checked out later in the morning. Now I owe her, but what else is new?
One advantage of the Old National is that it is located about 150 feet from where the buses pulled up to take us runners to the start line (about where I took the picture of the hotel above). So, it was just a matter of walking out the door, strolling across the street, and jumping aboard a yellow school bus with a crowd of excited, fellow runners. Off to the start line! Despite last night’s PBR and pizza transgression, I felt great!
At the Start Line – The start line was on a country lane a short distance outside of Bath. In the minutes prior to the race, it was about 50 degrees with a mild breeze, cool enough to be slightly uncomfortable standing around waiting. There was speculation of rain, though it held off until it came down in torrents hours later, during the drive back to Fairport. One of the race organizers gave a wonderful, brief speech about the history of the area, including a reminder that our race would cover portions of the Underground Railroad and that the surrounding acres were home to men and women who joined the ranks of the military at crucial times in our nation’s history. To this organizer: Thank you! These reminders are valuable and put something like a race into necessary perspective. Following a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, we were off!
The Race – The first mile of a marathon is exciting! After planning and anticipation, one gets to feel how the impact of the road is going to affect the joints and muscles, and how the respiratory system is going to react to the call to action. I established my race form, inventoried my surroundings – space, geography, fellows runners – and felt very, very alive – all systems are “Go!” I established a 10 minute per mile pace, taking care not to push too hard in the early going. Hey, I’m not training for the Olympics – that’s someone else’s blog!
First, we cruised back into Bath and past the Old National. A spirited, positive crowd was gathered up and down the street – terrific fun! Unless I’m fatigued, I am not a silent runner; rather, I enjoy greeting people, waving, high-fiving kids and thanking police for their service. Running is a very psychological and spiritual exercise, and a very communal one. What a blessing to do this!
We left Bath and rolled out into the beautiful, rolling country. Autumn filled my senses – the sound of trees breezing in the wind, smell of wet leaves, and, of course, the colors. It was overcast with breaks of sun – perfect, really, for running. All I can do is write this goofy blog; imagine what John Denver could do with this experience! Brief, positive conversations with fellow runners were followed by periods of silent admiration for the beauty of the region. I maintained about a 9 minute pace for about the first 9 miles. I wanted to pour it on because I felt great, but I know my limits, and I’ll need something in the gas tank at the end.
When entering Savona, there was a nice crowd of upbeat well-wishers. Many were holding funny signs and cheering. It’s easy to feel like a “conquering hero” at those moments, though, of course, I’m just a simple, middle-aged guy doing my thing. Brief, positive exchanges with the crowd are fun, energizing and, well, uplifting. What a great country!
As a psychologist who does a little regional travel for my job, I have been to Savona to meet with clients. It’s fun to run down a street where, on another morning, I drove down for work. I’m writing a new personal history in relation to a location. This new history includes an extra dose of endorphins, and, for some odd reason, feels a bit like cheating on my previous life – “I’m back, but this time I’m running it!”
Between miles 10 and 14, I maintain my 9 minute pace. The course is by-and-large flat. My Nike app claims that I gained 992 feet of elevation, but this must have been very evenly distributed across the route. The stretch of grade between miles 18 and 22 (“Victory Highway” on the race map) is as flat as a pancake but long, causing one to reflect on the word “endurance” in the phrase “endurance sports.” But, no problem. The aid stations were superb and plentiful, and the volunteers were outstanding – Thank you!
The Big Finish – As I ran through Painted Post, my speed gradually diminished, and by mile 22 I was running 10 minute miles, now due to raw fatigue, not discretion. By the time I exited Painted Post and set my sites on Corning, I was really feeling it. My goal was to establish a new PR (personal record) and run the entire route (no walking), and I knew this was going to require some focus. But, as has happened in my other races, I felt a surge of power during that final mile, and poured it on like a teenager. I extended my arms Rocky style, and I celebrated through the final quarter mile without a trace of pain or fatigue. It felt great to cross the finish line!
The Better Half was there. She was concerned that I was going to faint, as the lights did get a little dim for a few moments immediately after I stopped running. But, 10 minutes later I was already in recovery mode, and, I walked around, I suppose, like a very sore peacock. I am a vegetarian, but I cheat…and Wegmans supplied a terrific chicken noodle soup. I love the medal from this event, made of some type of glass composite (we are in Corning, NY, after all!) Strangely, in the picture below, it looks like the street behind me is deserted. Actually, there was a great party atmosphere, and tons of celebrating folks. My time was 04:13:11.65, and I came in 56 out of 111 in my age group (about the 50th percentile). This is a new PR, and I did run the whole thing! Thank you, Wineglass Marathon planners and volunteers for a terrific race. I raise an ice cold PBR in your honor 🙂