A Race Report that went Old School (well not completely)
Everyone has asked me, “What is your favorite marathon?” and up until now I couldn’t say. Each and everyone had special moments. Now I can truly say my favorite marathon was the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon and here is the story on why.
Let’s start with a little history. As you know this was to be the marathon weekend that I spent with my daughter bonding. We planned on driving on Friday and returning late on Monday. A long drive to talk and reconnect!
First of all about 3 weeks ago John pulled out our passports. It was then that we found out that Sally’s (which was issued to her as a minor) had expired in early April. Okay we can still make this work. We can drive around Canada.
Yes we could have driven but without going through Canada it would add on 4 extra hours. Then to top things off, Sally could not get all of Memorial Day off and needed to be back at her job for the University at 5:30p Monday night. Driving was just not possible.
You would think getting air would not be that hard but the reality was that flights were not only hard to come by but very expensive. Things were not going as planned. After a day or two of searching for air I was seriously thinking of canceling the trip. John, being the smart and kind man that he is, told me to just bit the bullet and book the best possible air.
The best possible air just happened to get us in at midnight on Friday and left at 6a on Monday with not only a change of plane but also a change of air carrier in New York, yikes!
Fast forward to Thursday my day from hell. If you’ve ever had a day where everything you touched and everything you planned went wrong, well then you know how my Thursday went. Yes everything from having to cancel my charge card to Sally’s car breaking down on the way home. It was a tough day and I hadn’t even packed yet.
Friday started better but not by much. Things still were not clicking quite right. Our flight was scheduled to leave Detroit at 9:59p so we had plenty of time. Since we had to change planes on the way home we decided to pack super light with just a backpack each. Time just flew and but we were right on schedule. Here comes the Old School portion of my report. About half way to the airport I realized that I did not have my cell phone. What! Traveling with no connection to home, no way to contact Sally should we get separated, and worst of all no way to get the updates on my running and tri peeps who were also racing that weekend. I was so stressed that a beer at the airport sounded like a perfect idea.
Now the good news is that was the end of the bad and the beginning of the great.
Once we arrived in Burlington we called for our hotel’s shuttle. After checking in Sally decided that she was hungry so we called Papa John’s and ordered a pizza for delivery. Yes, we sat and ate pizza at 1:30a and it never tasted so good.
Unfortunately when you are used to getting up early it doesn’t matter what time you went to bed so Saturday started at my usual 6a. Sally was not as enthusiastic about the time so I let her sleep while I had coffee and went for a walk. There was this really cool store just down the road that had things made by local merchants. The only thing that kept me from buying a bunch of things was the non-existent space in my backpack.
After a quick breakfast we walked the half a mile to Sheraton where the expo was held. As expos go it was just about perfect and I say just about because due to an ordering error the t-shirts for women. I ended up taking a men’s extra small but hey it was just a t-shirt anyway. The Expo had a nice selection of things and Sally even found a great shirt and Bondi band. I also bumped into Keith, a Marathon Maniac and 50 State Club member that I talked to in Kentucky. He was with his son getting ready to run his 50th State! Wow, I was so thrilled for him. He took our picture and emailed it to me. What a kick to see people you have met at other races and be able to share in their excitement of completing a journey that you are just starting. I also met our Try Chip guy and what a coincidence that I was carrying my Try Chip water bottle that I used on the plane. Sally and I got our picture taken with them before heading out. My big purchase of the day: a small hand held water bottle and a new flavor of Roctane GU. We decided to walk back to the hotel to drop off our stuff before going to explore Burlington.
After looking at our options we decided to go to the Church Street. The area is called the Church Street Market Place because it is an area that is filled with wonderful local stores and restaurants. It was amazing. There were awesome street performers, fun different stores that were not your typical tourist traps and wonderful restaurants. We also lucked out because the farmers market was that day. There were so many cools things to look at and buy. My only regret was that we did not have a bag to check to bring back all the wonderful food and wine that we sampled. On top of all of that everywhere you look you have a spectacular view of the mountains. After walking in every single store (even a few questionable one’s that my daughter called Hash Shops) we chose a restaurant, ate outside while people watching. I had this amazing raspberry beer, well two actually, it was that good. Another regret was that I couldn’t bring that home either.
If you didn’t know it, Vermont is known as the Greenest State in the US. All the restaurants used local farms for everything from produce and cheese to humane raised, steroid free beef and poultry. Yes the food was fabulous!
After our late lunch we walked down to Waterfront Park, which would be the finish for the marathon. We got to the waterfront in time to see the finish line going up. Oh crap, I was having such a great time that I forgot that I was running a marathon the next day. After walking off lunch we made our way back to the hotel with a quick stop at a gas station to see if we could find that Raspberry beer. Wanting to just relax I bought a 6 pack of another local beer that was really great. Vermont, home of Magic Hat brewery!
Back at the hotel we ate left over pizza, drank our local beer and watched TV. A great way to end a wonderful day.
Marathon morning started with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s. Projections were for a hot day by mid race with clouds and storms in the afternoon. The plan was that I would board the shuttle with Sally coming later to at least see me at the finish. I really didn’t expect her to get up so early to only see me for 2 seconds. We were to meet up at either the Ben and Jerry’s trailer or family reunion spot K (don’t ask me why Sally chose for us to meet at K but it really didn’t matter to me).
Now if you know me, you know that some things are what I look for in a marathon. This race didn’t have them but read on you’ll see why this is to date my favorite marathon.
We started at 8:05 with a completely cloudless sky. I met some other marathon maniacs, wished everyone good luck and with a sore knee, projections for hot weather, and very little sleep in the past few days I was just hoping to finish in 5 hours.
The first mile I was questioning my ability. My calves were cramping so bad that I had to walk up a tiny incline (and I do mean tiny) to stretch them out. Each step was painful but I drew back on my training the past few weeks where the first 3 miles always were difficult. By mile 2 I was feeling better and then to my surprise there was Sally cheering me on. I couldn’t believe she came out! Now I was energized. Then came Church Street and it only got better. The crowds were great, they even had the most hilarious Transvestites dressed as cheerleaders. If they didn’t make you smile, well nothing would have. The course was a series of out and backs that crossed different areas so we got to run on Church twice.
Now in reading the reviews of this race I knew that there were 2 big hills with lots of rolling hills in between. I knew that we would be going through neighborhoods, bike paths and through parks. What I didn’t know was the sheer beauty that would greet me at every mile.
The neighborhoods were filled with homeowners that came out to cheer. They set up sprinklers to help with the heat; they put out water and even had popsicles. Enthusiastic volunteers manned every water stop.
The parks were so pretty. Shaded roads that offered the most beautiful views of the mountains. I also appreciated the beer that some wonderful spectators were handing out at the halfway point. It was getting pretty hot now but at least there was no humidity and a slight breeze to take the sting away.
The hills, well they were hills! I made it up the first long hill and didn’t really think it was that bad, the second was another story. Imagine a mile and a quarter hill, yes hill not and incline at mile 15 of your marathon. They had the Takeo Drummers at the base of the hill to help you up. They really were fantastic but about 1/3 of the way I couldn’t really hear them and with 10 miles to go I decided to walk up the rest of the way. Turns out I made the best decision by the time I crested the hill I was jogging and ready for a long down hill run. As a good down hill runner I passed just about everyone who passed me going up the hill. Mile 18 another wonderful spectator provided mini cans of Budweiser (just so you know running with a can of beer equals lots of foam).
By the time I was on the bike path at mile 20ish most runners were tiring but the sneak peaks of Lake Champlain with the mountains in the background made you want to get to the open area of the finish so you could really see it.
At mile 24 I met another 50 State Club member. Levi was running his 36th state but was struggling with the heat. We stayed together and chatted but after a walk break he sent me ahead. Even the most seasoned runner will tell you that heat can make any race brutal but never more so than in a distance race. You have to really listen to your body even if it means walking one of the last two miles like Levi did. My saving grace through the whole run was the small hand held water bottle that I bought at the Expo. I’ll never go without it again. The last mile was so beautiful. The sparkling lake with boats doting the horizon, the clear day that made the mountains so impressive, and the cooling breeze off the water that was more than just a breath of fresh air, you couldn’t have asked for better.
26.1 with just a 10th of a mile to go and there was Sally once again cheering me on. What a great finish. The medal was nice, nothing that spectacular but the person giving it to me made me feel like not only did I run the race but that I actually won.
Geer check picked up, beer check (they had a free beer for all runners) and I was off to find Sally. She wasn’t at Ben and Jerry’s so I headed over to the K reunite section and who do I run into? Remember my story about the running biking Swed that I met in Kansas, you guessed it! Best thing about runners is that we don’t mind a sweaty hug. We exchanged some stories and promised to look for each other at another race (he is doing the Sunburst in June just in case any of you want to take a road trip).
After meeting Sally we made our way back to the hotel for a shower, food and the tradition of a Lady Case in the hot tub. Well that was the plan anyway. After lunch and a quick trip to the gas station, the Lady case became Twisted Tea and the hot tub (which was indoors and way too hot) became the outdoor pool. A slight deviation from the tradition but fun nonetheless. We hung out with so many other runners swapping stories. There is nothing quite like sharing your battle with those who were on the same field.
Since our shuttle to the airport the next day was at 4a and storms were rolling in we opted for Quizno’s Subs to take back to the room. I really enjoyed just hanging with Sally!
The return trip that I dreaded actually went by without a hitch even though our plane to LaGuardia was a prop that sat about 20 passengers.
Now my Old School marathon with no cell phone was complete. I came home, colored in Vermont on my map, put a new charm on my bracelet and had a favorite marathon. Sally headed back to Kalamazoo happy that we had such a wonderful weekend together.
Now I know your wondering after all the worry about the hills and the heat how I finished. My time was 4:20! I was 27th out of 92 in my age group too. A complete success all the way around.
What’s on tap for me now? Well Leah and I are off to Salt Lake City next week to run the Bear Lake Double. Yes that’s not a typo it really is a double marathon. A marathon on Friday in Idaho (the first half of the lake) followed by another full marathon on Saturday in Utah (to complete the other side of the lake). Who can resist 2 marathons for the price of one airfare? Okay, I know what your thinking, “what crazy person would do that?” Since this is our first double marathon the jury is still out. Look for another report that will probably strain your eyes but hopefully hold your attention.
Wish Leah and me luck!
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