Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Hambletonian Marathon Race Report

I pulled into the parking lot at 7:20 AM and quickly realized how unprepared I was for this marathon.

The sun had just come up and the thermometer in my car said 52 degrees, the overcast-clouds were grey (with even darker bottoms) and the flags was blown straight out from their poles.

I looked around the car and didn't see my "race bag".

I had just realized that under my fleece I was only wearing a short sleeve shirt, the first pules of panic began to circulate through my chest. This could be a very long, cold day.

My race bag, which for some reason I left at home is usually stuffed with couple of different shirt options, arm-warmers, hats, maybe another pair of shoes, nipple bandages, food, gloves, powdered drink-mix, extra socks, you name it, it's ALL in that bag.

I was, however, lucky enough to have put a couple of energy bars and my favorite pair of painter's gloves into a small bag I usually just put my phone and wallet in.

Today, the painter's gloves were going to have to do.

I zipped up my fleece got out of the car and walked a few hundred yards over to the starting area to use the porta-potties. As I crossed main street, which was now closed to traffic, the  leaves were blowing across my path like tumbleweeds in an old western.

My stomach felt nervous and very unsettled and seemed to be draining the energy from me. It took me and uncomfortably long time to emerge from the blue plastic bathroom, and when I did i felt weaker than when I went in like it was some energy-sucking, phantom  toll booth.

I tried to compose myself and started to head-back to the car to try to stay warm till it was race time, which fortunately wouldn't be long.

As I was approaching the parking lot I saw a colleague from work. We spoke a few minutes and he accompanied me back to my car where I ditched the fleece and we headed to the starting area where we huddled between the buildings and other runners shielding ourselves from the wind.

I chatted with a few people I know, and before too long the winds seemed to have calmed and we  shared a moment of silence for Carlos Santory, held our hands over our hearts for the National Anthem and we were off.

26.2 here we come!

Times Herald Record
The Hambletonian Marathon is a small town race only in its second year. The course features picturesque farmland, scenic vistas, hard-packed trails, fall foliage, a bike trail and The Historic Trotter Track in Goshen, NY.

Being local and living only 20 minutes from the race start I was regretting having never trained on the course -- there would be many places I would be familiar with, but for the most part I never did any real preparation on this course. -- Even more shameful, is that the race organizers hold weekly training runs right here on the actual course -- I did not attend a single one.

Heading down main street I was pretty happy to be warming up, there was a slight head-wind, but nothing as serious as it looked earlier.

We found our respective spots in the pack as we headed down main street onto the first 11.5 mile loop of the figure eight course.

The first loop was beautiful, within a mile we had crested the 1st hill and at just over 8 miles we entered onto the unpaved portion of The Heritage Trail. I had never been here before and really enjoyed the beauty of the woodland trail running alongside a nature preserve.

Emerging from the trail and back into Goshen, I figure that I had been running at just under 9:00 minute miles for the first 10.5 miles and was feeling that I was going to need something more than just water and gels to support that effort. I normally don't like to drink Gatorade, but it is what was available so I decided I was going to have to go for it.

My colleague caught up with me at just about 10.5 miles and we ran together through the town of Goshen and left town together for the second loop of the figure eight course.

As we passed through town, we saw the race director Kathleen Rifkin who shouted a few words of encouragement to us and almost under hear breath said "Now for the hills", with a smile.

So here we go, the second loop with the majority of the hills. We climb up and over the Victoria Street hill to get out of town again and continued onto the roller-coaster of hills that is Sarah Wells Trail.

As hilly as Sarah Wells is, the vistas are spectacular. The clouds were lifting, it was not nearly as dark, the winds were strong but didn't seem to be really impacting forward progress and the fall foliage was beautiful.

At 14.5 miles we take a right onto the aptly named Purgatory Road, home of the dreaded Purgatory Hill. The base of the hill resides at just over mile 15 and climbs about 200 feet in a half mile. -- Brutal stuff, and yes, it would have been nice to have run this once or twice, but whatever... I pushed my way to the top.

Following Purgatory there's about 3 miles of recovery in which I felt like I was running pretty well along the beautiful Ridge Road and onto Craigville Road. Occasionally a relay runner would pass me, but I was pretty solid into my pace and fairly well distanced from any other runners for the moment.

Turning onto Johnson Road at about mile 19 was another moment to collect myself and prepare for Cow Bell Hill. I stopped at the aid station, had a gel and some water and psyched myself up to take on this final beast.

About 3/4 of the way up I stopped to walk a bit, remembering the trail runner mantra of "If you can't see the top, you should be walking".

I reached Rt 94, crossed over, passed the 20 mile marker and headed on the Meadow Rd which runs
along side the black dirt fields. A tough stretch of road that seems to go on for quite some time while your totally exposed to the winds coming off the fields -- Remarkably, this is one of the few places that I actually felt cold.

I reached 20 miles at just over 3 hours and was hoping I could do the final 10k in under an hour. That would get me in around 4:05 for the marathon.

At mile 21.5, I rounded the final relay transition and onto the paved portion of The Heritage Trail for the final leg back into Goshen. Just over 4.5 miles to go.

My legs waved in and out through the final leg, at times they felt strong and able to hold onto the pace and then like a lapse in concentration they were shuffling along, unable to pick up the pace.

I passed mile marker 24, seeing my friends Todd and Catherine, who cheered my name and encouraged me that there was only 2 and a quarter to go -- I departed with "You got it!" ringing in my head.

I was struggling more mentally than physically, I wasn't going to do that last 10k in an hour and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be off this bike path and get into town!

And finally there it was... a right-hand turn, up a hill and around a left corner and I would be finishing on the track in Goshen.

I entered the track and was flabbergasted at how big this final loop was. It seemed to take forever to make the final turn and push to the finish.

I looked up and saw 4:13 and pushed hard enough not to see the clock flip to 4:14

I crossed the line, got my medal, wrapped myself in a foil blanket and found my wife.
It so cold and windy on the track, all I wanted to was go home and warm up.

So yeah, although I didn't really prepare too well for this day, I didn't do too badly.

Distance: 26.2 Miles
Time: 4:13:52
Elevation Gain: 1,411 ft

Finish line Video:

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