I don’t remember which order we signed up for our spring marathons, but JP and I found ourselves doing 3 marathons in the span of 7 weeks. That’s no big deal for him, but since the most I’ve done is 2 in one YEAR, and that was last year, I was hesitant about running all 3 full distances. I figured I could always drop to a shorter distance or DNF if it came down to it. VCM was to be the third of the three marathons. I have heard rave reviews from everyone that I know who’s done the race, so I was excited as we embarked on race weekend.
We got to Burlington, VT, Friday night. I couldn’t sleep so I thought a lot about the race. I knew I wasn’t in sub-4 shape, but I thought 4:15 would be reasonable. Yes, that would be close to my PR, but I thought I could do it. But then I started questioning myself (since it was the middle of the night) and decided I should go out with the 4:30 pace group since that would be easily achievable for me and it wouldn’t be a death march in the end if I found the 4:15 pace too aggressive.
JP and I did a 2-mile shakeout run Saturday morning. It was upper 50s and humid, the same conditions predicted for race day. I made a mental note to drink lots of water on the course even if I didn’t feel hot since the humidity was so high. We showered and dressed and hit this cute little place in Winooski for brunch. The breakfast burrito was delicious but in hindsight probably wasn’t the best choice. After breakfast we headed to the expo to pick up our bibs and do some expo-ing. We both bought some hideous Hoka recovery sandals. They are super ugly but feel really good on our feet! We then chilled out for about 45 minutes waiting to go meet Meb. He was running in the relay the next day and was signing autographs in a booth at the expo. I was really excited because I am a huge Meb fan. We got in line and waited maybe a half hour before it was our turn. Meb introduced himself and shook our hands, and then he took pictures with us. My phone case says, “Run all the miles. Eat all the tacos” and Meb read that and laughed and we talked about tacos for a minute. I told him I was a huge fan and that I was also from San Diego so then we talked about where I lived and where he lives. Then he told me his best friend’s name is Martha! I am BFF with Meb! Then he signed my bib and a postcard for JP and he told us good luck and we were on our way. “To Martha, Best wishes & run to win, Meb” is what he put on my bib. I was so stoked. It was at that point when I said fuck it, I will go for it in the race and signed up for the 4:15 pace group.
After the expo, we drove down to the lake to see the start/finish area. Then since it was raining we decided to drive out to the Ben and Jerry’s plant about 30 min away. Our plan was to do a plant tour and then eat some ice cream. By the time we got there, there was an hour long wait for a tour and an hour long wait for ice cream. We opted for the ice cream line. 45 minutes later, I was enjoying some triple caramel crunch. Holy yum! We finished our ice cream and headed back to Burlington. We found an Olive Garden for dinner. Turns out it was not only marathon weekend, it was prom weekend! Lots of high schoolers dressed up in fancy dresses and suits. Plus a bunch of hungry marathoners. The chick who sat us was going to be at an aid station the next day. After dinner we went to CVS for water and snacks, then back to the hotel for the ceremonial laying out of flat Martha. We chilled out the rest of the night watching HGTV and then finally went to bed.
I got up at 5:15, and my stomach was not happy. I sunscreened everywhere, then bodyglided everywhere, then got dressed. I grabbed a banana on the way out the door, thinking it would help settle my stomach. It didn’t. We picked up the shuttle to the start area at the hotel next door. I hit the portos twice, and by the time I was done there was nothing left in my body. I again reminded myself to hydrate at every aid station and took a pre-race gel. I lined up with 4:15 pacers and made a start line friend who bent down to adjust his shoelaces at the same time I did. We chatted about the race and our goals to stay between the 4:15 and 4:30 pacers, and finally the race started. The 4:15 pacers went out at 4:00 pace for mile 1. I thought they would reel it in, but they got even faster in mile 2. I tried to put some distance between myself and the pacers, but to keep them in sight. On the “out” part of the out and back between miles 4-8, I met 2 nice ladies, who were also trying to figure out of the 4:15 pacers were on pace. I informed them about how fast they were actually going. Lady #2 was running her first marathon, so she was trying to slow us all down. I saw and cheered for Meb on his way back from the turn-around. I saw JP as well, and he looked strong. Then we saw how close we were to the 4:00 pace group when we passed them really close to the turn-around. On the way back, we saw how far out in front of the 4:30 pace group we were because they were pretty far from the turn-around. At that point I knew I’d be seeing them later in the day since we were still going too fast despite our best efforts to slow down. I decided let the two ladies go out ahead of me because they weren’t slowing enough for me. I got water at each stop and took a gel every 5 miles, and my stomach finally settled about 10 miles into the race. I caught back up to the ladies at about halfway when they stopped to walk to combat the too-fast pace of the first several miles. They split up, with lady #1 leaving lady #2 and me in her dust. I knew it was going to be a rough day for lady #2 as she immediately started walking again. I crossed the half in 2:07 so I was right on pace for a 4:15, but I knew I was still slowing down.
The crowd support for this race was great. From the people brunching on the main street through Burlington to the families that set up their own aid stations complete with live entertainment, you could tell the locals really love this race. There was one moment of hilarity where this little boy, probably around 4 years old, was trying to give runners half of a banana. He spotted one guy who was walking up the hill towards him, and the boy says very earnestly (and loudly), “YOU look like you need a BANANA!” All of the runners, except for that guy, dissolved into laughter. Other funny moments include the woman holding a sign reading “MeAW! I am happy to be here” meowing at all the runners and all of the spectators and aid station volunteers telling me that they loved tacos too (my bib was personalized with “TACO LOVER”).
In the second half of the race I took to walking through the water stops. There was a baby hill right before mile 15, which I thought was THE HILL that I had heard about, but then I turned a corner and saw the real hill. It was very big and it hurt. I made it 3/4 of the way up but had to stop to walk. I was TIRED now. I wondered if anyone was still with the 4:15 pacers or if everyone else had burned out from the too fast pace too. After the hill at mile 15, my start line buddy caught up to me and chatted me up. He was lamenting his lack of long runs, and I was lamenting my excess of long runs, ha. We had picked up the pace while we were chatting, and I wanted to slow down, so he said he’d see me later. I hit the block party at miles 17-18, which was awesome. Again, lots of people who set up aid stations and were giving out ice pops, fruit, and beer. I ran through the screaming downhill at mile 21 which really really hurt and then caught back up to my start line buddy at mile 23. I ran with him for a while, then he dropped back. I got passed by the 4:30 pacers at mile 24. I tried to stay with them for a half second, but it just didn’t happen. I looked for Champ on the lake ( the Loch Ness monster of Lake Champlain) and just took in the beautiful view knowing I was near the finish. I could hear the finish line 3/4 mile before I got there. It was at this point that I started fighting leg and foot cramps, so I played off the crowd support in the last 1/4 mile, while keeping my eyes focused on the finish line. They announced my name as I came across the finish line, and when I stopped, my right calf immediately seized. I was happy it held off until I was finished at least! 4:33:17 chip time, good enough for my 3rd best marathon overall out of the 9 I’ve run. Medical helped me until I saw JP, who had finished in 4:05. I got my medal, space blanket, disappointing snacks, and then hobbled back to shuttle while trying not to cramp anymore.
We got cleaned up and spent the afternoon in Burlington. We had delicious flatbreads at a flatbread place, then we went for round 2 at the Ben and Jerry’s in Burlington. There was Ben and Jerry’s at the finish line, but they were only samples and we weren’t about to wait around for that. We relaxed a bit, hit another local place for dinner, and then back to the hotel for an early night since we had an early departure time Monday morning.
Overall a great race, excellent course, well organized, with the best crowd support. 5/5 would definitely do again! Again, I am struck by how much I enjoyed the marathon while not having a time goal for myself. That said, sub-4 (and hopefully an eventual BQ) are still my big goals. My next race is in the fall, where I will re-engage in the sub-4 quest. Thanks for reading! 🙂