Scene 1 - Breathe Deep, the Gathering Gloom
[Olive Garden Italian Restaurant,
You’re kidding me, right? Horseheads? How does a town get a name like Horseheads? Early settlers came and found a bunch of them without any horsebodies attached? Or perhaps in the town’s early history the dominant family (the local equivalent to the Kennedy’s) was noted for their hereditary long noses and audibly Neanderthal eating habits?
Regardless of the name and despite the weather, our intrepid cast of characters began gathering this
Of course, it’s always the people who are missing that are the major topic of conversation at dinner! That would be Nita (from
Or at least that’s the impression of this race that I got. I may have gotten the sledgehammer part wrong. It seems far more likely that the sledgehammer stage may actually have occurred prior to runners actually signing up for the event!
So during our wonderful dinner at Olive Garden ,
· Nita has finished! She apologizes for taking so long to text, but she had to borrow someone else’s phone because she broke her iPhone when the alligator bit her on the ass. She says the race was even more brutal than last year (yes, she actually came back for more!) Took nearly 9 hours to finish! Carl still on the course…
· Nearly 12 hours after the start, Carl is still out there! Somewhere. National Weather Service warns of a Category III hurricane on its way. Sweepers being sent out onto the course to save the lost souls before dark…
· Coast Guard rescues in progress. FEMA notified but a little slow to respond. Carl, apparently, had been trapped under a fallen boulder of white Tuscarora sandstone and was forced to gnaw off his right arm below the shoulder to escape!
So, it appears our friends would be running a little late to
Scene 2. Wakey! Wakey!
[Early Sunday morning, grey skies above, with rain pelting the shivering runners who gather amid the myriad port-a-potties near the start line of the Wineglass
“You made it!” Just arriving on the scene with my lovely wife, Andrea, I immediately heard my name and there was none other than the former BAM (Bad Ass Marine) herself, Nita! Holy crap, and here was Carl, too! Other than a small scar on his head from the tree falling on him after being struck by lightning, he amazingly looked none the worse for wear. Apparently, the overnight procedure to surgically re-attach his right arm was a success!
Jett and Ramesh were there, too, and we all said our quick hello’s. We might have had more time to socialize, but with recent course changes there was now a ¼-mile walk from the parking lot to the starting area. Right as an announcer started shoo-ing the runners to the start line, the rain started again. It would not stop for another, oh, 3 hours or so!
I reluctantly took of my fleece pullover and my long-sleeve shirt and handed them over to my Sherpa – er, I mean wife – but I retained possession of my trusty Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist rain poncho. So, with nothing but that to go with my shorts and t-shirt, I lined up at the start. No sign of my friend, Phillip, though. Damn! I planned on using him as my pacer. Now I felt orphaned.
Nearby was a little sign held up by one of the official race pacers. Like an orphaned baby duckling who imprints on the first human it sees, I imprinted on the pacer. I would run with my family. Mile after mile, through rain and wind, surrounded by my duckling siblings, I would run. Nothing would separate me from my family. Quack!
Ok, so maybe I was in over my head (my fastest marathon was a ), but I figured that I’d probably be going their pace anyway if I’d have found Phillip. It was about 42 degrees F and raining steadily at the race’s start. I pulled off my poncho, and we were off!
Scene 1. The Early Miles
[Wet, city streets of downtown
The decision to run with the 3:35’ers turned out to be a good one. The early miles went well, I warmed up quickly, and the roughly pace was not hard too maintain. I stayed tight with the group figuring that any sheltering from the wind that they gave me was good.
The course is point-to-point with a net downhill, but for the most part it’s flat. We start rattling off the miles. The slight hill in mile 5 was hardly noticeable. I focus on my mommy, I mean pacer, who was generally about 10 feet ahead of me in our flock. And we ran. [Mile splits from my GPS: 1 – 8:08, 2 – 8:02, 3 – 8:20, 4 – 8:13, 5 – 8:10, 6 – 8:08, 7 – 8:08, 8 – 8:08, 9 – 8:15; Average pace 8:10]
Scene 2. Mid-Race Delusions of Grandeur
[Mainly country roads, occasionally interrupted by the small towns
Ducks are supposed to like water, right? Well, despite that, and despite the fact that my webbed feet are already soaking wet, I still try to side-step the ubiquitous puddles whenever possible. Maybe it’s just some kind of moral victory. Unfortunately, for every 5 puddles you successfully get around or hop over, there’s one that you don’t see in time and land right smack-dab in the middle of! Funny how when one foot hits a puddle it’s often the other shoe that gets wettest!
As the miles go by I gain in cautious optimism. Every additional mile where I keep that pace means another 10 seconds of cushion that I may need later to get under . All the while I’m still feeling good enough that I feel like I could surge ahead if I needed to. I think back to a workout from 10 days ago in the streets of
Why ? Because for this race, for this season really, I have a small and quickly closing window of opportunity where a or faster would technically be a BQ. A Boston Qualifying time! Not that that would matter, really, because it would qualify me for the 2012 Boston Marathon only, and that race is already sold out. But it’s the principle that counts. When I turned 40 I set a major, pie-in-the-sky goal: to BQ while still in my age group. Not to run in
I’m a stupid duck. So I’m wet and cold, but maintaining a nice pace with my flock and pondering what might be. [Mile 10 – 8:06, 11 – 8:09, 12 – 8:13]
Meanwhile, my hands and forearms start freezing up pretty good. The cold itself doesn’t bother me really (perhaps I was numb?), but I was starting to lose that basic cup-grabbing motor skill. Fingers worked reluctantly and only in unison. Every 2 miles I come to another aid station and am challenged with grabbing another cup of Gatorade from the (absolutely wonderful!) race volunteers.
And then it happens. I approach an aid station and my fellow ducklings in front of me manage to get every last cup being held by the volunteers. I pass the volunteers and every one of them is empty-handed! But then comes the table where they’re getting all the cups from in the first place. And there are dozens of cups on the table, pre-filled. Great! While running by I reach down for my electrolyte-laced cup of liquid energy.
Ah, but my hand! Like an angry Godzilla walking the streets of
But the miles do pass! We go through the halfway point in 1:47 and then enter Campbell, where I find my family for the first time! Andrea, Lincoln, Raeann, Skylar, and Steve & Polly are a welcome sight indeed! I do some high-fiving and then I’m gone. We make a couple of turns and we’re running on a country road once again. [13 – 8:09, 14 – 8:15, 15 – 8:12, 16 – 8:12, 17 – 8:08, 18 – 8:11, 19 – 8:10; Average pace still 8:10]
Scene 3. End Game
[Wet roads approaching and entering
This is where I started to implode back in 2008 when I last ran Wineglass. But this time it’s mile 20 and I’m holding steady and still close to Mommy Duck! I see Andrea and the kids a few times over the last several miles as we pass throught the town of Painted Post (obviously the envy of the other local towns, where posts remain disgracefully unpainted!), and I’m happy to know that I probably don’t look as bad as I did in ’08 at this point. I am, however, losing that reserve I’d been saving for a surge. I hang with my flock for a little while longer, through about mile 22, but then I fall back maybe 10 yards. Aerobically I’m doing pretty well, but my muscles and joints are hitting that unresponsive stage; they are starting to refuse to do what I tell them to.
I fight as well as I can and manage to stay close behind the pacer for another couple of miles. But for miles 25 and 26, every step becomes more and more difficult. I’m grateful to finally get to the bridge over the River Chemung because I know at that point there’s only a half mile to go. I sort of pick up the pace a tiny bit as I turn the final corner onto Market Street, trying to look good for crowd of people near the finish.
Trying to look good at the finish! Ha! That’s a laugh! Who am I trying to kid? I’m staggering home, wet from sweat and rain, skin clammy and pale white. I appear to have a gunshot wound to the chest, where the blood from my rubbed-raw nipple has left a bright red streak all the way down to my waist. The neurons in my leg muscles are firing in strange ways, causing little spasms here and there which my aching joints are ill-equipped to counteract, leaving me jerking back and forth, stiff-limbed. I’m groaning and my eyes are probably rolling up inside my head. I swear I must have looked like an extra right off the set of Zombieland!
But, hey, I finished. And with a pretty damn good time, to boot! -- that’s a PR by over 8 minutes! I get my beautiful medal, reunite with my family, and then, “Hey, there’s Phillip!” Yeah, that figures. The race is over and now I’ve found him! As I expected, he nailed this race too and was down in the range! He was actually one of my fellow ducklings for a while at the start, but I never saw him. [Mile 20 – 8:14, 21 – 8:11, 22 – 8:20, 23 – 8:27, 24 – 8:22, 25 – 8:52, 26 – 9:00, final bit – 8:31 pace. Overall GPS pace = . 312th place overall out of 1447; 50th out of 129 in my age group.]
After some great chicken noodle soup and then some hot chocolate, we hit the road, with marathon #6 now under my belt!
[Um, there is no Act III. Sorry!]