Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Frederick Marathon During the Rain: Mile 7 to Finish

Even though I am taking the picture, I don't even attempt to make eye contact with the camera. And this is only about 3 miles into the rain. Little did I know I had 16 more miles of rain to go!

Oh yeah, and doesn't appearing to eat the poncho tie just add to the character of this picture???

On the outside I am smiling but on the inside I am enraged!!! But this gives a clearer picturer of my "Maid of the Mist" poncho, which got positive comments (I think I could have earned some serious $$ selling it and sneers from other "serious" runners). I think I am part cat because I really hate being rained on--in fact as the race progressed and I got colder and wetter, I regretted not taking and wearing my gortex jacket, pants, hat and sealskinz waterproof socks. But alas my Maid of the Mist Poncho worked reasonable well for a few miles and I definitely was a bit dryer and more protected than most of the runners (I think there was 1 other relay runner and one other marathoner I observed with a poncho).

You can notice this picture is taken under the a bridge. The gentleman who took it struggled with my camera and was apologetic when I leaped at him during this photo (because I did not want him to change settings not because I was in a hurry...I was under a bridge so there was no rain:-). My camera is really finicky and has about 15 different buttons that can be pressed in a variety of configurations. But I have no idea what any of them do except the de-giggler (it lets me take decent pictures while moving) and the forced flash. Occasionally people mess with me and my camera which actually creates some problems because I have no idea how to reset my camera back to the default!

Crossing the Monocacy River about mile 17. At this point I did not even attempt to smile or act happy. This was a REALLY long uphill on the out section and seemed to be only a small decline on the way back. And for some reason both ways on this section the wind was at runners face. What's up with that???

For just a few minutes by mile 24 the rain slowed a bit. I decided to try to get a better picture of me with a cow. But in my goal of having a decent picture, I forgot to take off my hat which might have made for a better picture or might have exposed a terrible case of hat head (which by the way in addition to a strong dislike of rain, I also hate wearing hats...but the only way to prevent my glasses from getting too foggy/murky I had to wear my old Frederick Marathon hat). When getting ready in the morning I thought about wearing my contacts but decided the 10-15 minute challenge of putting them in was just too much.

My experience at the Frederick Marathon this year was fine until the rains arrived between mile 7 and 8. The first few miles it was relatively warm and dry. But about mile 7/8 (between 7 and 8 not 7/8ths!) a few droplets fell on my head (and other runners). Initially the runners were a bit confused about the liquid falling on our head. When the rain first started I was in a chatty group that had a few people asking if it was raining or if someone was spitting. Someone fessed up to spitting which led to a few groans.

But soon it was apparent the rain had arrived. And within a few moments of the first few drops, a pretty steady and heavy rain started. Throughout the rest of the race, the rain was moderately hard with sporadic torrential downpours. I was glad I had chosen to bring my poncho and was also happy that I had grabbed a baseball cap. The combination of hat and poncho kept the rain off my head and away from my glasses for the most part. Or perhaps I should quantify this to say this combination was better than 99.99% of the other runners strategies because in reality even with my well in advance planning last June when partaking in the Maid of the Mist boat tour in Niagara Falls Canada, I still ended up pretty wet and my glasses did need to be wiped (unsuccessfully) numerous times throughout the course.

Throughout the race I was moving pretty quickly. I really wanted to beat the rain. But when that became clearly impossible, I decided I wanted to get out of the rain as fast as I could. As I moved quicker and quicker I eventually caught up to the 4:15 pace group. These runners were alot of fun and included several of my friends from JFK 50. In fact as I joined and then drifted on ahead of this group I heard the words "Remember VT100". This was a pretty surreal experience because I was wondering a) why "god" had a male voice b) how it was that VT100 was being brought up during this challenging race and c) if this bodes well or poorly for VT100. At last I realized it was some of my faster friends from JFK50 who I was catching up to in my quest for the finish line sooner rather than later (sorry in my rain/water induced confusion I have no idea of my friends names...can people start wearing their names on their shirts please!!!).

As I ran with my friends and the 4:15 pace group I chatted briefly with one of the pace leaders. Of course I come from the lazy school of running so my first question was, "I have never been this fast in a marathon before but I am curious, does the 4:15 pace group use walk breaks?" Well, I learned that they do not. In fact I think a bunch of the runners and pacers were laughing at my question. In fact and I am quoting directly here the pace leader exclaimed: "No, we do not take walk breaks, we in fact charge $20 for walk breaks". Eek, this was not good. This is a tough crowd. The kind my parents warned me about. But I was game, so I clarified, "Do you charge a one time fee of $20 or do you have to pay $20 per walking incident". Apparently it was per "incident". Of course I needed more information so I asked, "Do they take credit card or could I run up a tab and pay after the race?". Apparently it is a cash based operation (racket I would say) that must be paid up front. As this conversation continued a runner in this pack split off and headed to a safeway or walmart we passed. I commented to the pace leader, "That's going to cost her a bundle isn't it?" and continued with, "but it would be so worth it to have running water with a toilet, a starbucks and perhaps some yummy treats".

I continued to chat with the pace group for a bit, but I was feeling pretty good and figured I could continue moving forward at a slightly faster pace then this group (and have I mentioned how much I hate rain and I wanted to get out of it???) so I scampered on.
For the remainder of the race, I was moving forward passing people and occasionally getting passed. It seemed most of the folks that passed me were relay runners and although I dropped from 275th to 307 from mile 13 to mile 20, I certainly do not remember being passed by 30+ runners. By the same token, I also apparently improved from 307 to 238 from mile 20 to mile 26.2, but I surely would have remembered passing nearly 70 runners (trust me I did not...maybe I passed 15-20 tops).
From mile 7/8 to about mile 13 I remember being in crowds of people. But I knew once I hit the halfway point, it would be less crowded. But because of the moderate to heavy downpours, most runners were not talking. And in fact for me it became a little tedious to talk because my poncho made a fair amount of rustling. And of course the rain was fairly heavy. During this section I was able to keep relatively dry but I was starting to get chilled. I basically willed myself not to look at the finish line when we passed within 100 meters of it. It was kind of depressing to know I was so close to warmth, dryness, all my clothing and even my car. But alas what doesn't freeze us to death makes us stronger (or something like that).
During the second half of the marathon, the hills are really tough! You climb up a signficant hill that has all sorts of "false" summits. I recalled from last year how long the hill was (~1.5 miles) and how once you reach the top and turn into the neighborhoods you still have several more rolling hills just for kicks and giggles! Since I had sucessfully gotten away from the 4:15 pace group, I walked with wild abandon. During the hills I would jog, then walk, then jog then walk until I got to the top. Oddly enough I did not find the hills to be too bad. It must have been all my sugarloaf mountian training as well as our recent trip to Colorado. My ability to hit the hills nonchalantly bodes well for VT100 which essentially is pure hills!

As the rain become heavier, there were fewer spectators along the course. Sporadically on the roads that were open to cars, there would be enthusiastic people in the cars cheering, honking or clanging cowbells which I liked. In the residential areas I really liked and found highly amusing the residents cowering in their garage cheering enthusiastically. They were pretty funny and I appreciated their commitment to cheer on the runners.

Oddly enough, one of the bright spots of the second half of the race (for me) was the idling cars alongside the course. Many vehicles spewed out warm exhaust fumes that made me feel warm and dizzy. For a few moments I was warm and could pretend to forget my troubles. But soon enough my carbon monoxide/fume enduced fog would lift and I would remember I was slowly freezing to death. For the first time ever I also loved having the idling relay buses close to the course because their exhaust was warm and toasty! In fact a few times I changed my pace to be closer to cars that were spewing excessive warm exhaust.

During this race I found the miles went so much faster than some of my previous marathons. I guess 8-9-10 minute miles will do that. It actually became hard for me to remember where I was and how many miles I had to go. And this was not entirely due to the exhaust I so enjoyed!
Unfortunately this race did not have any clocks at any of the mile markers so realistically I had no idea of my pace, but I could sporadically look at my watch and figure out I was running 8:30-10:30 miles throughout the race. I kept my breathing constant (I was never out of breath and whenever given the opportunity to chat with another runner, spectator or to cheer on a runner facing in my direciton) I was able to easily talk. My legs never felt tired but they sure felt cold once the rain started. In fact I struggled bending my knee's effectively and had to keep rearranging my poncho to keep my knee's as warm and dry as possible. This was a fruitless effort on my part but I guess it kept me occupied.
Finally I passed the 25 mile marker. My watch suggested it was just about 11:33 ("real people" time...really my watch read 11:39, but that is because I have it set 9 minutes fast). At this time I realized I had a strong chance of breaking 4 hours 17 minutes (my previous PR) and likely could break 4 hours 10 minutes. I picked up the pace a little and started chatting with a runner who I was about to pass. I decided it would make the mile go faster if I was with someone, so I had decided that the first person who I passed who responded to my chattiness was going to accompany me to the finish. This nice young lady and I chatted and commented about the suckiness of the weather, how our feet were wet, how we wanted to be done with this stupid 26.2 mile race (why couldn't we have signed up for the half??) and other random comments. Pretty soon we were approaching mile 26. As we passed mile 26, we just had a little to go. She actually was able to speed up a bit more than I, but there were a few divets and potholes which I did not want to stumble on. After we finished she came up to me and suggested that while my pace may have challenged her a bit, I really made her last mile go super fast. I know she made my last mile go really fast. And it was nice to have some company to keep my mind off how tough the conditions for the race were.
After I finished I slowly made my way back to the gear check area. After about 15 minutes of trying to figure out how best to get warm and stay warm, I headed back out onto the course to cheer on fellow runners who had gutted it through the rain for longer than I. Initially I placed myself under the mile 13 signage (hey it was sort of under cover and blocked from the wind) but I got alot of weird looks and I think I scared the heebeejeebies out of a few runners. So I then placed myself at the corner right after the mile 26 sign. I knew my friends from JFK50 were going to come in and I was lucky enough to see them and wish them luck at Capon Valley 50 km this weekend. I saw some friends I made during the early part of the race (pre-rain). And about 5 hours into the marathon, I saw my friend Peter finish.
I stayed at my place at mile 26 until I started shivering profusely. Upon realizing I might be about to get pneumonia or swine flu, I decided I should go to my car and try to warm up. As I was pulling my car to closer to the mile 26 corner, I saw Peter. I was able to get my packet from him then parked my car at my "corner" and continued cheering on runners. In fact in the car I found several cow-bells so I could even cheer more effectively. When I spotted a runner I woudl get out of the car and cheer enthusiastically, then would return to the car awaiting the next runners. About 6 hours after the race started, the final runners completed the race (right in front of a long line of police and parks and recreation cars).
Overall, I had a great race. I definitely do not enjoy running in the rain. Nor do I enjoy hills. But through this experience I was challenged and made it through victoriously.
Unfortunately my streak of 64 marathon or greater distance events without rain was broken at this event. However, my new "statistic" is that out of 65 marathon or greater distance events all have started in relatively good weather (ie no rain) and at least I have made it 7 or 8 miles with no rain.
For those of you who disagree with this statistic, "Tough luck"! It's my statistic and if I want to morph it to show what I want, I can because I'm a professional statistician!


Jimbo said...

I love the report Tammy.

Wet and warm - I can just about handle. Cold and dry, yeah, I can manage that. Cold and wet, that's just evil.

Who needs Goretex when you have trash bags and a Maid of the Mist poncho?

Congratulations on the PR. I'm sensing a sub-4hr in the not too distant future :)


Heather said...

Congrats on a great race! I don't know how you could run with your glasses in the rain . . . that would have made me crazy. I probably would have ditched them and ran the rest of the way blind.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Hey! Professional statistician! You might want to check your math here:

My watch suggested it was just about 11:33 ("real people" time...really my watch read 11:39, but that is because I have it set 9 minutes fast)...


Man, good on you for staying at the end and cheering on your fellow runners in that freezing rain. I wouldn't have done it!

That whole $20-per-walk-break thing is exactly why I could never be a "serious" runner. (Well ... that and because I'm slow.) Because that just seemed needlessly d*ckish, if you ask me, and I'm always kinda surprised when constitutionally d*ckish-type runners go outta their way to pat themselves on the back about how "accepting" of others runners in the aggregate are. Possibly they ARE ... in the aggregate, d*ckish runner - but you're still a dick!

Last but not least ... Man, sister, I thought my posts were long!

Hahahahaha! I'm just being a d*ckish runner! Great report! Congrats!

nwgdc said...

I was wondering why you were trying to eat the tie of a Glad Bag.
Don't they have aid stations?

nwgdc said...

Anything Glaven is being or doing can be described as "dickish."

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Jimbo.

I sense a sub-4 hour in my future if I could just focus a little. In fact I forgot to mention my few minutes cowering in the porta potty in the second half of the the race....hey it was STINKY but it was DRY!!!

Hi Heather,

I considered abandoning the glasses but I am so blind that I would probably still be wandering aimlessly through Frederick, MD...or perhaps I would be in PA, NY or even in Canada. Luckily I am always prepared for a trip to Canada with some Canadian money in case this ever happens:-)

Glaven, Glaven, Glaven...

I don't critique your questionable use of footnotes, italics and irrational use of crazy literature terms you use as a research librarian. How can you challenge my math??? Oh yeah because my math stinks! Well, I'm a statistician, in reality it just means I have to be reasonable close within some random (or fixed) margin of error. Would you prefer I say the clock: 11:33, my watch 11:39 hence 9 minute difference +/- 3 minutes??? Now you made me actually have to do some math. I need a beer and a nap!

Oh yeah as for your long posts...yours are way longer, they just look shorter because you use footnotes which simply makes the font smaller!


Considering how everything was sopping wet and tasted like cardboard or road pizza by the middle of the marathon, I might as well have munched on my poncho. It would have been just as tasty and palatable.

RE: Glaven...his poor attitude is probably due to lack of endorphins. I bet if he got a marathon under his belt he would have a way sunnier personality:-)