Monday, February 15, 2010

Inaugural Snowmargedeon/Valentines Day Marathon in Columbia MD

Getting ready for a super cold marathon or getting ready to rob a bank (although perhaps the flowers and lei would make me to easy to identify).

It was pretty cold at the start and throughout the race. I think it was just above freezing for a high but occasionally the wind would pick up.

We were lucky there was no snow occurring during the race and for the most part the course did not have any snow, ice or other hazards.

The biggest issue was a bit of ice at the parking lot of the school where the race started. Initially they applied ice to this and subsequently it melted away.
A very kind competitor offered to take an action shot of me along the course.

This was pretty cool because while I have plenty of action shots of other runners along the course my self portraits tend to be of only my face and not me visible "running"

Here you can see me running a bit of the long downhill section (although on the other part of the out and back, it is an uphill section).

You also can see how deep the snow continues to be even nearly a week after the snows.

My friend Jean gave me my "hand made" finishers medal immediately after I finished this marathon in 5:17.

Jean made this medals on Fri & Sat for all the potential finishers (I think nearly 25 of us started but only 19 of us finished the full marathon).

The medal consisted of a cute ribbon, two popsicle sticks with "2010" and valentines stickers as well as a medal of Chocolate, YUM!!

I think this medal is one of my favorites because it is personalized and hand made.

To celebrate the completion of the marathon, all runners received a flute of champagne.

This is my kind of marathon!!

You also can see in my right hand a valentines day heart cookie.

This marathon, has multiple names including "The Inagurual 2010 Snowmargeddeon Marathon" or "2010 Inaugural Valentines Day Massacre Marathon"

I hope this marathon continues to be organized and implemented for many years because it was quite cute and well run.

After the finish of the marathon, several of us hung out waiting for the final finisher then had a bunch of pictures of finishers as well as finishers with volunteers.

This race was lots of fun and I would recommend it without hesitation.

Jean, Walt, Dwight, Greg and other Howard County Runners and volunteers are to be commended for a GREAT race!

It was great fun, everyone was super enthusiastic and the aid stations were super well stocked with all sorts of treats including home made cookies, donuts and other food.

I have been signed up for the George Washington Birthday Marathon since registration opened in Dec. 2009. My friend Pat Brown from the Reston Runners is the current race director and organizes a superb race. This was to be my 5th George Washington Birthday Marathon which is one of my favorites because of the pedestrian 10:30 a.m. start time, excellent post race vegetarian Chili and cookies and peanut butter that make excellent sandwiches!

But alas the 30+ inches of snow last weekend and the additional 8-10 inches of snow on Wednesday led to the race being cancelled for only the 2nd time in its 47 year history. Luckily because of this early cancellation some local athletes helped out runners traveling from afar (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio...) including a bunch of marathon maniacs and 50 states marathon club members have a marathon in MD this year.

There were so many runners who were instrumental in organizing and implementing this race including Walt, Jean and a bunch of Howard County Striders. The race was 5 loops in a cute neighborhood near Centennial Lake (home of the IronGirl Triathlon). It was very hilly and there were a bunch of turns looping around the neighborhood but with the cluster of flags indicating turns as well as written directions passed out to runners, this marathon was easy to run and very well organized!

There were volunteers at the start/finish as well as the turn around 2.65 miles out. The volunteers were enthusiastic, attended to runners every need and were just amazing!!! I hope this race occurs again in the future because it is definitely in my top 10 favorite marathons. Even better, the finishers medal was a hand made medal by my friend Jean which includes a ribbon indicating "Celebrate" and "Congratulations". Two popsicle sticks indicate the year and include a heart sticker showing it is valentines day and the medallion is a chocolate that for mines says "I'm Proud of You!". I really like personalized medals and this one takes the cake!

Of course knowing nearly all of the runners from various events. Three runners I knew from the Tails for Trails ultra, several folks I knew from the local MD Marathons, 2 or 3 of us were Virginia Happy Trails Club members-including 2 who ran Holiday Lake 50 km on Saturday, a few runners I knew from Umstead 100 over the past several years and somehow several of the other runners looked very familiar.

Getting to the race was pretty easy. The race start in Columbia, MD is less than 1 hour from my house and other than the small local roads near the start, I was traveling on major interstates. The 8:30 a.m. start meant I had to get up at 6:30 a.m. but this is way better than the 4 or 5 a.m. I have to get up for Marine Corps Marathon or 2 a.m. for the Vt100!

My drive to the start was uneventful. But I knew exactly where the start was because of doing the Columbia IronGirl so often. The race start was just past Centennial Lake.

Arriving at the race start I was delighted to see my friend Mama Jean. She was one of the supporters to arrange and implement this race. She is a 50 states club member who has done all 50 states marathons so knows the importance of having marathon races occur regardless of challenges. Since there are very few marathons in Feb, the George Washington marathon is a good marathon for folks to run in MD. Other marathons in March, April and November all conflict with many other marathons. But GWBirthday competes with only 1 or 2 other marathons.

After signing up for the marathon I chatted with other runners while waiting for the start. I also debated what layers I needed an ultimately decided I needed 4 shirts (including one thick shirt) as well as a jacket, two pairs of pants, a neck gaiter, hat, a pair of gloves and outer wind mitt. I knew I would be warm enough with all these layers but wondered if I might be too hot. I figured I could put gloves and such in my pockets and tie extra layers to my waist. After taking off my Rocky Raccoon bib # from my sparkeley fanny pack and attaching my new bib, I was ready for the race.

Soon enough, the race start was announced. Less than 5 minutes to go. I asked the RD if I would need YakTrax because the parking lot where we were parked had quite a bit of ice. It was suggested this was the worst of the ice and that the rest of the course was very manageable, which I would agree with. After a quick race briefing describing the course and ensuring we all knew what we were doing, it was time to start.

Jogging along after the "Go" I was a little worried. I slowed tremendously heading out of the parking lot where there was ice to make sure I got through it safely. I was a good 100-200 meters behind the entire field turning onto the main road. This race did not have an early start and I was not sure of the race time limit. I decided I wanted to aim for 5 hours to 5:30. This seemed like a decent but not too fast pace for a week after a 50 miler. As I ran along I was dead last for a bit. So inched my way up asking folks if they were doing the marathon (this event was also simply a regular running route of the Howard County Striders, so only bibs indicated a runner was signed up for the marathon), clearly coming up behind runners I could not tell what kind of runner I was approaching. As I moved through runners I found a bunch of runners who were undecided. Then I finally found a pack of marathoners and settled in for a bit.

Walt, one of the race organizers from Chicago was one of the runners in this group. We started talking about events and figured out we had run a bunch of events together including Umstead 100 a few years ago. I believe Walt is planning to run New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon which is when we may see each other again. The first out went very quickly. I tried to pay attention to the turns but was not entirely successful. Luckily a cluster of flags indicated turns and showed which way to turn which was VERY helpful!

Heading into the aid station I was very excited. 2.65 miles down (well after a little extra jiggle) and only 24+ miles to go. The aid station was well stocked with pretzels, water, M&M's and gatorade. This aid station was better than most of the megamarathons! And yet this marathon was only formalized on Friday. In addition to having lots of treats and drinks, the aid station volunteers were super enthusiastic and very energetic. I believe some of the volunteers were runners who were going to run a lap or 2 later and some of the later volunteers seemed to have run the course early on. I think it is cool when runners become volunteers and really respect those folks that immediately give back!

After turning around I ended up being well behind the other runners. I am not sure how this happened although I believe it was my loitering at the aid station chatting with the volunteers. Heading back onto the course I knew we had just run down a massive hill that was going to be brutal to run up. On a positive note, I decided to walk any of the uphills so I was looking forward to this break. In fact, I would say this course was predominantly rolling hills with sporadic flat sections.

Many of the neighborhood residents were out an about taking Sunday strolls, walking their dogs or even continuing to clear snow from the previous weeks storms. It was nice to have some pre-made spectators willing to cheer us on.

Pretty soon I was arriving at the start/finish. My time was 1:02. I was right on track for a bit over a 5 hour finish. After a brief stop at my car (which was right along the course...sweet!) to remove some layers and take out a gatorade, I headed to the aid station to socialize a bit.

My second lap was pretty uneventful. I was getting familiar with the various turns and started to have my favorite (and least favorite) sections. Because I was going a bit slow, I was second to last. The runners in front of me were just far enough so I couldn't catch them but close enough so frequently I could see them on long straight aways. The runner behind me, Tim (a fellow marathon maniac) was a good 400 meters behind me. But I was content to ponder my thoughts and appreciate a beautiful day with a bright blue sunny sky.

I was excited to get to the turnaround aid station and chatted with the volunteers for a bit, then headed back to the start. This course had a large hill approaching the two aid stations (turn around and start finish). The turn around aid station was at the base of a very large hill you went down approaching it then had to go up the hill leaving it. Then heading to the start/finish you had to head up a really long hill that you climbed immediately following a long hill you go down. Most of the course was in residential area's with some neighborhoods with lots of tree's and other sections that had large expanses of fields.

Throughout the day the wind would kick up pretty hard. It was nice when it was behind you, but all to often it seemed that the wind was at your face or alongside fierce enough to be quite chilly.

Heading back to the main aid station my time was 2:04. I was keeping a pretty constant pace and I was in good spirits. This would not last long. Although at the aid station I ended up with a dunkin donut triple chocolate donut that was really yummy. Unfortunately, although I was really happy about the donut, during this lap my knee started getting really painful. This lap I walked quite a bit.

Most of my impression of this lap was just trying to muddle through. I could barely move my leg because my knee was so stiff and refused to bend. And I was in alot of pain. I was quite worried and at one point considered having this be my final lap. But somehow by the end of the lap my leg was behaving better. Sometimes it is hard to figure out what is the right thing to do but as I write this 24 hours after the race, my knee is doing fine.

This race was quite fun because during each lap you could see all the marathon competitors as well as other runners. Each runner was so encouraging and it was lots of run to see and sort of form a relationships with other competitors. Many runners knew my name, while others just called me flower girl, which was cool. For the most part I would not be alone more than a few minutes before I would see another runner approaching me. And early in this lap, the front runner, Kasten lapped me. I felt a bit better when I asked him if he had run Holiday Lake the day before and he said, "No". I believe he has come in first at some marathons I have run a day after another marathon or 50 km. He is a running machine but yet very nice and supportive of all the runners.

This lap finally ended and my knee was bending again. Odd but I would take it.

Going out for my 4th lap I was getting excited. Although my 3rd lap was not my best with a time of about 1:12 (total time 3:14), I was happy to be able to continue on. Because I did not want to stress my leg out, I tried to run a bit more conservatively during this lap to ensure I could finish the full marathon. I tended to walk a few more of the hills and walked longer.

During this lap I started feeling a bit more time. I started to think about the fact that I had run a 50 miler only the week before. I also realized during this lap that last year Rocky Raccoon was the weekend of Feb 5th, while the GWBirthday was Feb 19th. This meant I had a week off between RR50 and a marathon last year. Now wonder why I was fatigued and my knee was revolting.

As I headed to the turn around I was excited to see my friends at the turn around aid station. They always were so excited and encouraging during each lap. Because of the set up of the race, you would see this aid station then pass it for about 300 meters, get to the turn around then head back. This meant I could take a cup of gatorade then have a refill by the time I returned. They were so helpful and so much fun!

Slowly walking back up the massive hill, I noticed my friend Karsten who was heading to the turn around. He was about to lap me a second time. I suggested I would see him in a few minutes. As I resumed jogging after getting to the top of the hill, Karsten passed me indicating he would not miss doing that hill again. I suggested it is alot easier if you walk up it. But I guess you don't come in 1rst if you walk the hills.

The rest of this lap passed uneventfully. There were lots of runners on the course and everyone was looking so strong. A final long downhilll followed by a super long uphill and I was approaching the start/finish line. The time was 4:17. I was doing pretty good and had resumed a decent running pace. I was optimistic that I could break 5:30, but would be satisfied with any finish.

At the start line aid station, I chatted with my friends briefly while munching on some pretzels. Upon learning they were running low on gatorade, I drank some of my own cool blue gatorade. I had one bottle in the snow so it was nicely chilled.

Then it was time for my victory lap. At this time I was feeling pretty good and was ready to continue on. Heading out, there were lots of runners who were completing their final lap so were so happy and many had lots of pep in their step. I could relate because I was starting to pick up the pace in my excitement of finishing.

At the turn around aid station I acquired a pacer. But not before I did the extra little bit and a brief drink of gatorade. Then it was time for my final 2.65 mile jog. Kenny was a local runner looking for a small workout. I warned him that I would be walking the hills and that I was not going to be exceptionally fast but he was agreeable to whatever I ran. As we jogged along he mentioned he was looking to potentially buy a house. I mentioned that there were several houses for sale along the course but at least one was huge! We chatted about running (he ran the North Central Trail last year as well as the Cherry Blossom 10 miler). But he enjoys the shorter distances because he has a very active young family with a daughter and son 5 and 7 years old.

Pretty soon we were getting the large hill right before the start/finish line and I was ready to walk again. I mentioned that in my opinion a run walk strategy definitely makes running molre manageable and makes for an easier recovery. I tend to do this strategy in all of my races although how, when and for how long I walk varies depending on the terrain, how I am feeling and just what I feel like at the time.

Rounding the bend I was back on the main road, then it was simply a quick right turn and I was back in the parking lot. I passed my car, then got to the finish. I was shocked when I saw the time of 5:17. I realized that my last lap was run in exactly 1 hour and it was my fastest lap of the day. Go me!!

After finishing I was handed my personalized finisher medal by my friend Jean. Then I was handed a flute of champaign to celebrate my victory. I then relaxed a bit and chatted with the other runners. At some point I got chilly so put on some extra layers and continued chatting. We were all waiting for my friend Marathon Maniac Tim to finish. I got cold again and then decided to head back on the course to jog him in. This would add some distance to my day and hopefully keep him entertained. I know like me, he had spent most of the marathon alone.

Getting to the base of the huge hill I was bummed not to see Tim. But I knew he was at least a mile or 2 behind me. I started walking up the next hill and spotted his bright green jacket. When he caught up to me, I turned around and we walked/jogged to the finish line. He was recovering from an injury and even worse at some point along the course had inavertantly added some mileage. Based on the written directions I almost made the same mistake (because every street seems to have the same name but is street, court, road, lane...), my only saving grace was the cluster of flags.

As we got close to the finish line I pulled off to the side and watched him finish.

After Tim finished a handful of runners chatted, reminisced and hung out for a bit. It was great to hang out with a bunch of runners from all over the country. We took a bunch of pictures then helped clean up a bit. Then it was time for me to head home.

I had a great day and was thrilled to have completed this race. Oddly enough this marathon (which was a week after my 50 mile) was nearly the same time as my first marathon time the Marine Corps Marathon in 2004. I was really excited. After this marathon, I am feeling really good about my ability to run Umstead 100 in sub-27 hours.


joyRuN said...

Sounds like a great intimate run with good friends. How awesome of Jean et al to support you guys out there!

Runner Tammy said...


It was great should have come down here for it--you have plenty of residual fitness from Richmond:-)

By the way, are you running Richmond again this year (either the full or the half)?

CTmarathoner said...

Tammy ---what a great write p --so volunteers decided to put on their own marathon?, despite the snow? very cool -with the good aid stations and the homemade medals and champagne -sounds like my kind of race as well!!! you are going to rock Umstead...

Brian said...

Nice run! Yeah, it's been wicked cold and snowy here in MD this year, hasn't it? You wouldn't believe the crazy looks I get every time I run. Well, actually, you probably would believe it. I like reading about all of the cool places you get to visit and events you participate in. Cheers!