Monday, October 19, 2015

Rocking the Green Mountain Marathon

My wife is a city girl. She has no appreciation whatsoever for the olfactory experience of the rural world. So as we cruised slowly down West Shore Road in South Hero, Vermont, and I told her to watch for the sign for our Bed and Breakfast, the word "Farm" in its title caused an immediate reaction. "No, no, they just CALL it a farm," I said quickly. We approached a small muddy field full of sows, which I started to point out to her would NEVER be anywhere near a Bed and Breakfast... yup, you know it. The pigs were the (unprepped) breakfast.

The B&B turned out to be infinitely relaxing, roomy, and perfectly located for our purposes. A mere couple miles from the start and finish line, right on the course which was a 13 mile out and back along the western shore of the island.

As you can see, the weather on Friday and Saturday was sunny and cool, with a light breeze and perfect running conditions. But the marathon was set for Sunday, leaving plenty of time for the weather to deteriorate. In the meantime, though, we had a great time exploring the narrow back roads, the pretty town of Burlington, the local colour.

We met a couple at the local pub on Friday night who had organized the race for years. They were great folks, and we ended up meeting them on Saturday night at the pasta dinner as well where they introduced us to more locals and made us feel right at home. The pasta dinner was held at the local school and was put on by the Grade 7 and 8 kids as a fundraiser. Impressive job by the kids, great turnout by the entire town.

This being backwoods country, there weren't too many distractions after the pasta dinner, no street lights or rowdy nightclubs or any such craziness. So after meeting our fellow B&B guests, also marathoners, and chatting for a bit, we retired early.

I woke in the middle of the night to a howling wind that sounded like it would rattle the sturdy old farmhouse to an untimely end. This was worrying.

But the day dawned dark, drizzly, and windy. The temperature was around 45F, and the high humidity made it bearable. In fact, the wind wasn't all that bad, maybe 20 mph at times.

We parked about a mile from the start, in a field, and walked up. Once the race started I was able to focus and contend with the elements rationally.

There was a long, steep decline after the first mile, which meant that there would be a long, steep incline at mile 25. The wind was at our backs for most of the first half. In other words, restraint and strict adherence to pace were the name of the game.

The field thinned out appreciably after mile 6 or so when the half marathoners turned around. I referred to my Garmin more than I have done before, forcing myself to stick to a pace that would bring me in around four hours. It worked like a charm, right up to around the last 2 or 3 miles when I struggled to keep running. Another excellent boost was the Hammer gels that I took faithfully.

There weren't many spectators, but the couple who banged their pots and pans at the end of their farm lane, the group that yelled and screamed around mile 6/19, the water station volunteers who were all right on the top of their motivational game... all of them were incredible.

Some of the views along the route were beyond postcard perfect. The colourful trees, the rolling hills, the expanse of dark lake. You have to see it to appreciate it. Absolutely breathtaking.

When I saw how close i was to a PR by mile 20 (my PR was and remains 4:12), I pushed as hard as my cramping legs would go. the pain was becoming intense; various spasms and collapses racked my legs with no rhyme nor reason. But I pushed on, maintaining a steady focus on trying to get a bit of momentum, determined to either PR or come close. And yes, I came in 3 minutes short of my PR, one minute faster than my second fastest time. That worked for me!

These Green Mountain folk know how to celebrate, too. The chili they had for the runners after the race was seriously some of the best chili I've ever had, and that's no mean feat.

So do I recommend this race? Absolutely. Sign up early because it sold out this year. Here's the website link: Green Mountain Marathon

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