There are times in life when you know you’re making a questionable decision. Usually my wife has the common sense to talk me out of these stupid decisions and make me do something more sensible. Sadly, living 1000 miles apart means that’s not always possible.
Anyway, I was sitting in my office over lunch on Thursday wondering what I should do for my Saturday run to try and figure out this annoying hiccup problem that messed me up during the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. Somehow I start poking around on the MarathonGuide and see that there is a marathon in Hartford, CT on Saturday morning. That’s kinda close, only about two hours from here. They even allowed registration at the expo. After a call to the marathon to confirm that you could register for the marathon the day before the race I was ready to have my wife talk some sense into me. Sadly, she had a lot to do and there was no talk of “You just ran a marathon” or “Are you sure that’s a good idea with New York in three weeks?”.
Well, maybe the hotel situation would figure everything out. Grandma’s Marathon can be prohibitive because it is so expensive to get a hotel room. Maybe Hartford was going to be $200/nt for a hotel room? Nope, rooms by the airport for $70/nt. Crap. Guess I had talked myself into another marathon, just a week after Chicago.
My goals for this marathon were much more mild:
- Treat it like a long training run
- Don’t get the hiccups
- Experiment with alternatives for aid stations
After a drive that took way too long for the 100 miles between here and Hartford (note to readers: never take I-95) I arrived in Hartford around 4pm. I had managed to find a simply awesome place through Airbnb that was within walking distance of everything in Hartford for only about $60, so I parked by the place I was staying for the night. I proceeded to explore downtown Hartford, which took about 15 minutes, and wandered into the XL Center and quickly registered for the marathon. Surprisingly there was another person next to me who was also registering for the marathon only 16 hours before the start of the race. I also signed up for the pasta party, because, let’s face it, eating at Olive Garden is a sign of desperation, eating at Olive Garden alone might as well come with a free forever alone forehead tattoo.
The pasta party, also known as “Run Fasta, Eat Fasta!” was well done, but a little messy. The part was held in a tent in the park and it had been raining the entire day. Everything was mud. But, the pasta was good and it’s always good to meet other marathoners. After the race a good number of us walked over to the historic Wadsworth Atheneum for a showing of “Hood to Coast“.Because of the close proximity to the starting line I didn’t need to wake up too terribly early. Also, I didn’t need to wait in line for porta potties. I threw my Chicago Marathon shirt on, but made sure to cover most of the shirt with my bib so I wasn’t “That guy”. The day had changed from windy and rainy the night before to beautiful and cool in the morning. A few degrees cooler might have been better, but after the heat of Chicago six days before, I wasn’t going to complain. The start and finish of the race were around the Connecticut State Capitol. Like most state capitols it is well manicured and quite pretty to look at. While it didn’t have the pizzazz of starting in Grant Park in Chicago, it was one of the nicer places to start a marathon. There were three races that all started at the same time, the marathon, half marathon, and a 5k. The Marathon was capped at 3000 runners. The half marathon was capped at 7000 runners and I have no idea how many runners were in the 5k. The marathon and half marathon shared the same starting line. The start went off quite well considering there were 10000 runners and not much of a seeding system. However, the pacers got to starting line very late. Therefore, the 3:30 pace team lined up behind the signs for 9min/mi runners. Yeah, that’s not going to cause problems. I made friends with a lawyer named Bob who was running his first, and probably only marathon at the age of 41. We spent most of the first couple of miles saying “We really need to slow down”, however, we no idea how much. Most mile markers didn’t have clocks with them and both of us had conveniently forgotten our watches.
About mile 2 the 3:30 pace team finally passed us. Somewhere around mile 5 the 3:45 pace team caught up with us. Then we ran in front of the 3:50 pace team for quite a while. We kept on trying to slow down, but always failed, it just seemed like the 3:50 pace team slowed down an equal amount. Around mile seven Bob had to take off to use the facilities, and I decided I would stick around with the 3:50 team, something I did until mile 20.
The big experiments here were in how I handled aid stations. I would usually walk through most of the aid station, chomping some tums or pepto-bismol tablets at the start of each aid station and then grabbing some water at the end of the station. One in a while I’d eat some Clif Shot Blocks. I usually had no problem catching back up to the 3:50 pace group.
Miles 10-23 of the race were rather uneventful. This was largely an out and back portion of the course. We had good support from fans and at aid stations. Running with the pace group was helpful as the leader would call out for their pace at each mile. They were doing a little under a 8:30min/mi. The pace leader seemed rather unaware that this put them on a 3:43 marathon pace. At mile 20 I peeled off to use a restroom and start to take it easy. My stomach was feeling okay but not super. I still had quite a bit of energy left in me, but I didn’t want to kill myself because I had accomplished my goal of a good training run and I needed to drive myself 100 miles back to New York after the race.
The final six miles were done as runs with longer walks around the aid stations. Usually about 10 minute miles there. I kept track of how much time I had in my head and by the time I reached 25 miles it was 3:46 into the race. Unless I really strolled I had it made.
I absolutely can’t describe how good it felt to bolt through that finish line with a clock time that read under 4:00. Official time was 3:58:17. Somehow I had managed to PR and get my first marathon under hours. For the second time ever I was completely happy with my race (the first being Grandma’s this last June). It was a truly good day.
Now, I’m not certain if this fixed all of my problems. My hiccups could still be related to something that I didn’t change, like ulcerative colitis. While I didn’t hiccup during the race, my stomach didn’t feel great during the race. In the recovery area after the race it took me 45 minutes to eat two small fruit cups and a small portion of yogurt. My muscles also cramped heavily in the recovery area — a sure sign of being low on electrolytes. If I’m going to nix Gatorade Endurance then I’ll need to find a better way to get electrolytes into my system. I’ve got some hammer Endurolytes and Perpetuem that I’ll try out on my next run. Also, I’m going to try some Zantac to see if that helps out at all.
In any case, it should be an interesting couple of weeks of body experimentation. With luck in another three weeks I’ll have a race report of a successful NYC Marathon. For now, I’m just going to relish two marathons in a week, culminating with my best marathon ever.