The Pine Tree Marathon is the first day in the New England Challenge, a series of five races that cover five of the six New England States. Vermont can’t get any love except on the race t-shirt (why is it there?). But the Shires of Vermont Marathon is on Sunday, so this week I’ll run more miles than I have in any other week.
After running the Japan Run and the UAE Kidney Run 10k in the past two days, I’m a little bit tired.
My tallest hurdle was just getting there. In planning a series that starts at the bottom of Maine and ends up in central Massachusetts, I want to minimize driving, find hotels close to the start, and avoid Boston. Instead of flying into Logan, which the race organizer suggests, I’ll fly into Portland. That’s not a popular route, so a 10pm flight getting in around 11:30pm, a half hour before the rental counter closes, leaves no room for error. If I miss that flight or the flight is delayed, I have few options to fix it.
But it all works out. I have about six hours until race time. When I did the Dust Bowl Series, I had the same flight arrangement to Denver but I spent that time driving to Texas for the first race. I debated sleeping a couple of hours in the car, but I went for the cheap Motel 6 room. I barely used the room. I laid on the bed, still in my clothes, and was out. I woke up five hours later, got dressed, and went to the race.
This is the first problem I run into with the organization (and there will be many) of this series. The direction on the website are text driving directions and very low resolution images, neither of which are helpful in the Garmin Age. There are no addresses or GPS coordinates. There’s no mention of landmarks, such as “Across for the Shaw’s”.
But, I got to the start at Back Cove Park just fine. There was a parking lot full of runners; that must be it. I got my packet and went back to sit in my car for a bit. I’ll listen to Morning Edition until the start.
That was my first mistake. I thought the race started at 6:30am, mostly because I can’t read. Although it was completely my fault, I don’t know why they’d start the half later than the full. It’s the same course, there aren’t that many runners, and there’s plenty of room for everyone.
I looked in the rear view mirror around 6:15am and saw the runners getting their marathon on. Oops. But, I know more than to panic. I walked over to the start, told the organizer I started late, and got the initial directions. There’s a short out-and-back before you start the loops. The directions were a bit ambiguous though. He told me to go out to the light pole by the path, and I would know it because it was right by the path. That is, it’s not marked. I think I did that, and I came back to start the loop.
But, I was running by myself, which was the theme for the day. I was out of sync with the other runners. I wasn’t going to catch the people going my pace. My Garmin was missing too, which I didn’t notice until I’d run a lap. I stopped by my car briefly to go through my things, but it wasn’t there. After the marathon I went back to the Motel 6 to see if I had left it in the room, with no luck. I’d end up without a watch for the entire week. This wasn’t a good thing.
The course itself isn’t the sort that I like. It was a circle around a city park, mostly surrounded by streets and city traffic. It’s a warm, sunny day and there’s practically no shade. On the far side of the cove, away from the inlet, there’s no breeze.
It gets warm enough that I take my shirt off. That might have been a mistake, but I needed to cool down a bit more. I hadn’t thought to bring sunscreen though. If I get a bad sunburn here, I have to run with it for the rest of week. I went for the short term gain of cooling off. The only relief was the breeze near the 295 bridge.
But, I didn’t suffer like I normally do in hot marathons. I’ve been drinking coconut water this year. With it’s high potassium, it keeps me away from dehydration and heat injuries. But it’s not dehydration that’s really the problem; it’s hyponatremia. If you keep drinking without replenishing your electrolytes, you dilute yourself to the point where your body shuts down. This is the problem with Gatorade, Powerade, and other things. They have sugers and some sodium, but almost no potassium or other salts. Using coconut water replenished everything and I wasn’t desperately thirsty for the last part of the race.
Somehow I make it through the marathon and finish in just over five hours gun time. I got my medal and walked a hundred feet off the course to the only shade I could find for a short nap.
And that was it for the day. There was no organized social event for the evening like I’ve come to expect from the Mainly Marathon series. I probably would have skipped it for a couple extra hours of sleep anyway.
When I recovered, I drove to New Hampshire for tomorrow’s race. No big whoop. The New England Challenge is a bit different in that the area is so thickly settled compared to the Western states where I’ve done other five day series. The drives are about the same distance but take much longer since the roads are twisty and narrow and there are other people driving on them. I can’t drive like a bat out of hell like I could across Oklahoma.
Although the results came out a week later (what’s up with that?), the list is in alphabetical order by first name instead of finishing time. Really? There’s not age groups or gender result, or even overall rankings. Some of the results are highlighted in blue, but for a reason I haven’t been able to discern. It looks like it came from an ugly Excel spreadsheet made by someone who can’t sort columns. It’s not that I think that everyone should know how to use Excel, but I think everyone should know someone who does.
My place in the overall results doesn’t really matter to me, but I like to judge my performance based on where I was in the pack. I’m almost exactly a mid-packer. I’m the median runner, so if there are the same people ahead of and behind me, I’m okay. If there are a little more behind me, I’m doing a bit better. If there are more people ahead of me, I should have done better.
The unsorted PDF results that I can’t properly copy and paste aren’t a big deal. I send it through Free OCR to get it back as proper text. I brought that into Excel and fixed it up a bit to add the overall and gender rankings to make a PDF file for proper results.