Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A delayed post...Vermont City Marathon from Memorial Day weekend

At the start of the race during a brief lull in the rain. I am about 400 meters away from the actual starting line fairly close to the mid/back of the starters.
With racing kittie along the course. I will try to post a picture of the cat with runners later this week, but kitty seemed to up and decide she/he wanted to be a part of the race. It was really sweet and cute (and waylaid me for about 3 or 4 minutes for a heavy petting session:-).

At the start line about 15 miles into the race. This was just after we got to the top of Battery Hill where drummers pounded out a very inspirational beat to get the runners to the top. It is a beautiful view from this cliff top park.

Along the cute recreation path. This surface is only about 400 meters long but gives a refreshing break to runners legs.

At the finish line just before 4:30 gun time. You can see the crowds all around the finish line, it is a really well supported race in which the townspeople heartily support the marathon and relay runners.
You will notice that in this picture other runners are blowing by me to finish. Of course I have to get a finishers picture just prior to the finish line.

Memorial Day weekend started on Thursday night when I arrived home from visiting my mom in the hospital in Texas. It was so sad to see her and to know her time was limited. Sadly Doctors do not seem to have any concept as to how long any person can/will live so the guestimate was days to weeks. My sister and I were able to say our last goodbyes but unfortunately upon leaving we realized there were going to be more struggles with Hospice/Rehabilitation Care. The sad reality is that if my mom was in MD, we would have simply housed her in our spare bedroom and let her peacefully pass on with her cat, our cats, and our dog as company.

A few hours after flying back via Southwest from Texas to Dulles, I heading to board a different Southwest flight from BWI heading to Manchester NH with my friend Ann (who did the IronGirl Tri with me last August) for a trip to VT. We arrived in NH a few minutes late thus had to deal with about 5 cars for the rush hour traffic at NH. Pretty soon we were at Queechee Gorge in VT. We hiked both up and down the gorge which was very pretty and smelled of lilacs and pine. At the base of the gorge we both took off our shoes and immersed our feet in the rather chilly water. The last time I had been to Queechee Gorge was the day before VT100 last year and recall it reminded me a great deal of the VT100 (which was one of my goals of this trip...I need to remember how hillly VT100 is so I keep up my training and break through 29 hours this year).

Continuing up to Burlington VT (site of the Vermont City Marathon), Ann and I took a side tri to Stowe VT for 1) Pie in the Sky Pizza (which had an amazing buffet lunch), 2) Von Trapp Family Lodge (which as usual was very lovely), 3) Cold Hollow Farm for some Cider Donuts (yum!) and Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour. This was lots of fun and a very tasty diversion. We then drove up to Burlington to the Marathon host hotel to pick up my packet and some goodies. Finally we headed to our hotel and went to bed.

Saturday we woke up late (my excuse is that I had not been sleeping well and essentially for 4 days straight had woken up at 4 a.m. for various reasons) We headed to a Food Co-op for breakfast food then ate our tasty breakfast by the lake. After our breakfast, Ann and I walked along the recreation trail a bit to look at the lake. On our way back we were fortunate enough to see running legend Bill Rodgers. I have met him several times at a variety of races including last year at the Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa when my mom and I were at the Marathon packet pick up/EXPO. Just seeing him was a real treat.

On our drive to Shelburne Farms we stopped briefly at the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory for hot chocolate and free chocolate samples. We then went to Shelburne Farms which we walked around and explored for several hours. The farm is a working farm with lots of animals, so I got to pet and feed lots of small and large critters which made me happy. We also got to sample lots of cheese, jams, and other VT made products. After finishing hiking and seeing many of the exhibits at Shelburne Farms (including about 5 miles of hiking) we continued our journey and went to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Of course we took a factory tour and I purchased a Teddy bear bib/shirt combination. I already have several bears, so all I needed was the 2009 bib to dress my bear.

On the drive back to Burlington, we stopped by the Magic Hat Brewery where Ann sampled several beers while I had to make a big decision as to which growler I should bring back to Tristan. Ultimately I asked the bartender which brews were unavailable in bottles and then had to pick between Hocus Pocus (*), Chair Lift and some Red Irish (?) IPA. I chose Hocus Pocus because I know Tristan likes wheat beer with essence of fruit (well except when provided by my sister who had totally scammed us and given us Sam Adams vintage 1990's beer that is completely skunky!). We ended the day by returning to the Co-op for a nice dinner of a variety of organic and healthy foods which we ate at the Lake.

Sunday morning I woke up pretty early to ensure I was ready to take the ~6 a.m. shuttle to the race start. Getting ready was pretty easy and the only challenge was my contacts as usual. I also struggled with what outfit I should wear, the weather was predicted to improve over the course of the day but was grey and a bit chilly. Ultimately I stuck with my usual tank and marathon girl skirt as well as a long sleeve shirt all covered by a Southwest plastic bag (aquired by having a large backpack with lots of straps--which I asked for a large bag to ensure the straps did not get ripped of). On the bus I ran into my friend Larry H. a former co-race director of the Frederick Marathon. We chatted during the 20 minute ride to the course start. An observation that he made and many others continued to point out was my lack of boa/lei. Unfortunately in my terrible and rushed packing job, I forgot a few essentials and yet had about 80% of items I never used.

Larry and I slowly strolled up the hill to the start and continued chatting. Along the way we ran into Paula and Steve B, Cowboy Jeff, Larry M. (from 50 states club) and a bunch of others. Ultimately I decided to take one final bathroom break and lost everyone. The start of the race was relatively uneventful although I believe it might have been a bit late. Since my watch is off and I just move foward when everyone else does, I was not as concerned as some runners who were near me. At some point I approached the start line and it was time to run the marathon. Unfortunately it had been drizzling for about 30 minutes prior to the race and continued to do so. The rain really did not let up until I was about 15 miles into the race. I really do not like running in the rain and this was my 3rd marathon in a row with yucky weather. Ugh! In fact during the first 15 miles it would go from drizzle to rain to downpour. It really was no fun.
As I jogged along the course I reminsced how in 2008 the weather was delightful and the course was beautiful. The course was just as scenic and spectators just as enthusiastic but the course is definitely is alot more fun to run in bright sunshine!

As I weaved through the city of Burlington I caught up to the 4:30 pacer. I had a vague recollection that Laura from the blog "Absolut(ly) Fit" was the pace leader. I asked her if she was Laura and upon hearing this mentioned I was a follower of her blog. For the remainder of most of the race (until about mile 20), I was relatively close to her. Because of my propensity to get distracted with photographs, giving kids high fives and my love of bathroom breaks with running water, I did not spend the entire 20 miles with her and her pacee's but ended up leap frogging a bit. She and the other runners were all very nice and realistically I spent enough time with the runners in this group to feel like I bonded a bit:-)

The course was identical to last year (well except for the rain), and I started recognizing many landmarks. It is a bit of a hilly course (although let me just tell you VT100 makes this marathon look like a walk in the park for both difficulty, distance and hills). But as compared to some marathons this one does have some hills. The killer is about mile 14 of 15 and is known as Battery Hill. The race organizers nicely have a drumming organization that pounds out a nice cadence to get you up the hill. And the spectators are second to none with their energy and enthusiasm.

While the course starts in downtown Burlington, heads south towards Lake Champlain Chocolate, comes back to Burlington then head to an out and back on a divided highway up a long and gradual hill. You then head back through the city of burlington and then loop back by way of the recreation trail along the lake. Then it's time to head north of the city through some nice residential neighborhoods then its back to Burlington by way of the recreation path. I guess I would describe the course as a shamrock/figure 8 type loop.

Throughout the run, I ran with Laura and the other 4:30 runners (Hannah, John and some others whose names I never caught). Some runners were new to marathoning and others had done 5, 10 or 15 marathons. In the 4:30 marathon pack, my 52 marathons may have made me an outlier. But I did learn of some marathons to consider (Catalina, Prince Georges and Hatfield McCoy) and some to not do (Seafair apparently ran out of water and had busing irregularities last year). Like Las Vegas, Seattle/Seafair is now under CGI, and it is now a Rock and Roll Marathon and should be well organized and run.

At about mile 16, the weather improved as did my spirits and about mile 20 I realized was on pace to run a 4:30 marathon. Unfortunately I had no idea of what my chip time was, so I decided to get a little speed work in. I picked up the pace a little and ran it in with a sub hour 10 km, which I was very pleased with. Since I want to test and improve my lactic acid threshold I have been recently trying to work on my speed at the end of races. While I do not sprint, I simply pick up the pace to a 9 or 10 minute mile. This worked out well and my time was just under 4:30 gun and 4:27+ chip.

After finishing the race I ran the course backwards to cheer on my friends. I ran about a mile with Larry M and Paula B which was nice. They are such great friends and so nice. Larry asked about my mom and I was saddened to tell him that she was not doing well but I had gotten to see her. After running with Larry and Paula, I headed back out on the course and ran about another mile and cheered on more runners. I really enjoy seeing the runners and am always so impressed by how hard some runners are really working to finish the marathon. I saw my friend Erik from last year (we had run many miles together) as well as many others who I know from a variety of races.

Finally the 7 hour time limit passed and I slowly headed up to the city of Burlington to meet up with Ann. We of course met at the Lake Champlain Chocolate store, yum! Then we drove to the Crepe place near the lake for dinner. A salad followed by a Banana/Nutella Crepe for me and Strawberry Shortcake for Ann seemed an acceptable and tasty meal. A short walk by the lake and then we headed back to the hotel room.

Overall the Vermont City Marathon was a great race which I will look forward to in 2010.


CTmarathoner said...

wow --Tammy --congrats!! I loved the photos of racing kitty!! So what if you lost about 3 or 4 minutes petting him!!! I can't wait to go back next year...it's been a few years for me but i LOVE that race...see you soon?
Hope your mom is stabilized..

Runner Tammy said...

VT City is such a nice marathon.

Sadly my mom passed away Memorial Day morning. I will really miss her.