Vermont in the Fall: it conjures up vision of cider donuts, maple everything, mountains, brightly colored leaves. Doesn’t that sound lovely? We lived there as newlyweds 30 years ago. I decided when I ran a half in VT, it should be in the fall, even though Vermont City Marathon, which is a very big deal (and technically doesn’t have a half, but you can run it as a 2 person relay) is in the spring.
Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes
I’ve lived in 4 different states (and 3 different cities in NY); trust me, you can say this about any place.
Saturday we drove the course, which was simply described as “flat to rolling and about half dirt road (hard packed and well maintained)” on the website. Not so much flat, although thankfully a little,, rolling hills? Absolutely.
Saturday was a beautiful day: bright, sunny, and Lake Champlain, which can be seen multiple times throughout the course, was clear as glass. Although seeing those hills was scary, I’m glad we drove it because we got to take some photos on a nice day.
Race day? Cloudy. Gray. Insanely windy. Pretty much what they predicted, actually, except it was supposed to be partly cloudy (NOT!!!). There was no question of stopping to take photos because nothing looked terribly photogenic — except maybe the whitecaps on Lake Champlain.
My USAFit Albany coach had suggested that I start out at 13-13:30 mm.
I tried that out in my 11 mile long run, and it worked well. I decided I would divide the race into basically four 5ks (even though it’s longer than that). And I would use my run 4 minutes/walk 30 seconds intervals. Since it was such a chilly day, I decided to nix carrying water and rely on the water stops.
- Run 13 mm (miles 1-3)
- Run 12:30 mm (miles 4-6ish)
- Run between 12 – 12:15 mm (miles 7 to 10)
- Try to stay under 12 mm (miles 10-13)
So how’d that work for me?
- I tried to keep it at 13 mm; I really did. Unfortunately the race starts out flat and then there’s a nice, big downhill (and you know what that means for an out and back). The course reminded me a great deal of the Heartbreak Hill Half (starts downhill, lots of hills, big hill mile 11-12). I wouldn’t say it was an epic failure, I did keep it slow. I never did run any 13 mm the entire race. A first!
- Nope, ran more like an average of 12:20 mm here. Probably wasn’t the greatest idea.
- Nope, except for mile 7, I was more running the plan for #2. Oops. See above; probably ran that second segment too fast.
- So close, so close. If it weren’t for that darn huge hill around mile 11 1/2 (remember that big downhill in the beginning?). That is where my run/walk flew out the window. I walked . . . and walked . . . and walked. And it killed my pace for mile 12, almost the slowest of the race. But I’m proud to say I dug deep, thanked the RD for the flat last mile, and made it my fastest: 11:23.
What I Saw/Felt
The oddest thing had to be the guy in a running skirt and lacy tights. I’m sure there was a story there, I just don’t know what it was.
I have to come up with a better plan for electrolyte replenishment. I’ve tried Nuun, but sometimes I don’t like the sweetness in the last miles and of course if you’re relying on water stops you can’t do it.
I used Hammer Electrolyte capsules. 2 before the race, 2 after the first hour — I probably should have taken another 2 after the second hour but I didn’t (and didn’t have that many with me). And I had to stop to take the darn capsules so that cost me some time.
At times it felt like my hamstrings were going to cramp up, but thankfully they didn’t. At times my toes felt like they were going to cramp up, too — I do suffer with occasional toe cramps, but never while running.
After the race? Yeah, there was some cramping. For a while.
At times I felt like I was being literally blown off course. I spent too many miles running, holding onto my hat – which finally did almost blow off around mile 10. Thankfully my pony tail kept it from ending up in Lake Champlain and when I got it back on I’d twisted it somehow and it never budged again.
Note the to self: on a chilly, insanely windy day, go with a beanie.
I started out near a couple of women doing their first half. I’m not sure if they finished ahead or behind me, but I did see them at the end and congratulated them. And someone came up to me and said they used me to keep going (I seem to get that — maybe because of my sparkleskirt — yes, I totally dressed for the photographers). Well, I don’t actually dress for them; but I do try to pick an outfit that will stand out. I saw lots of colorful tights/capris though!
One woman wanted to use me as her pacer, only she was doing the full. She started running marathons at the same age I started to do halfs, 50: but she’s done far more fulls than I’ve done halfs & she’s 60 (and trying to do a full in every state). Linda from FL, you are awesome! I gave her some encouragement when I saw her as I was headed back.
And in that last mile I heard someone say to me “Judy”? I yelled yes. I thought maybe she read this blog? Wouldn’t that be a cool story? Nope, she said I was a doppleganger for a Judy from Essex (and oddly enough we’d lived in Essex Junction all those years ago) when she caught up to me at the end.
Was the race well run?
I would definitely recommend this race. I wouldn’t it say it was the best organized race I’ve ever run — I’d say it was the second best. It’s a small race: 750 runners marathon & half marathon combined. Which means as a slower runner you have plenty of space, but I was never alone.
Packet pickup went smoothly and you can do it on Friday, Saturday (in 2 different locations), or day of race. Volunteers directed you to the parking well. The portapotties had toilet paper and hand sanitizer and I never had to wait in a long line.
The volunteers were fantastic: they held up both Gatorade and water and if you shouted out which you wanted they held that out for you. There was always plenty of both, too, at least for the half — the full and half start together, so I can’t speak to how well they were stocked for returning back of the pack marathoners.
The cutoff for the half was 4 hours & the full 6 hours, which is a nice time for the course to be open. And open it is — it’s not a closed course, and the start is near a couple of apple orchards, so there were quite a few cars and people around as you come in for the finish.
There were 2 hand cyclists, which was cool except for the one that was coming directly toward me at one point with a bicyclist by him and I had to really go out of my way to get out of his way because they were both smack dab in the middle of the road. It was very annoying, but I suppose being in a chair is much more annoying, after all.
They get dinged because the water stops stopped at mile 9/10. What were they thinking especially with that monster hill to get up? In fact, as I was walking up it some guy (not one of the runners) was also walking up it and encouraging me that after that hill, it was just a flat mile to the finish (true).
Except all I could think about was ripping his water bottle out of his hand! I didn’t, but man, it was a close thing. Not carrying a water bottle was still the right decision for me, for that day, for that race.
They also get dinged because the race shirts are cotton. Are tech shirts really that much more expensive? And your medal and the shirt are the only swag from the race. Which is ok, but seriously, why not a tech tee? Please see my letter to race directors (and note the part about monster hills at the end!).
They do have a nice spread at the end — nothing truly spectacular, but still nice: bananas, donuts, chili (including vegetarian), crackers, tortilla chips, water, gatorade. I chowed down on the chips and drank some Gatorade because of the cramping, but I didn’t have anything else. I tend to lose my appetite after a long run/race and this race was no different.
They earn points and get dinged because they have unofficial results on a screen at the end. Which is very nice, but it cut off at 2:40 (and I was 2:43) — talk about frustrating! They regained that point because unofficial results were up the same day as the race. They earned points again because photos were up the next day.
As they say on their Website, “The Green Mountain Marathon is held for runners by runners. Our goal is to offer you offer a quality marathon at an affordable price in a relaxed setting.” Their goal – and mine – accomplished.
2:43:08 (a 3 minute PR)