Ever have one of those days when everything was golden? Well, good for you. I just had FIVE of them, in a row. HA! Thinking my karma bank account may now be overdrawn.
If you're here to find out how I fared in the Rochester Marathon last Sunday, you'll likely know that it was #10 in my year-long effort to run the distance a dozen times in as many months. I finished, in 5:10, and in really fine fettle. Had there been dancing at our awesome after-race picnic, and someone had asked me to boogie, I would have been physically able...except that boogying is not something I even remotely know how to do. If you need more numbers or details on how I did in the event, click here..
Race weekend began with my flight from SFO to PHX, and the second leg from PHX to BUF. The journey was uneventful until its very end, when I caught sight of Laura, my friend from LeRoy, New York, who'd come to meet up with me for the first time since we started chatting online earlier this year. She was about to run her second marathon of the year. I happened upon her and her BFF, Karoline, when I started following their collaborative blog about their Paris Marathon adventure. For those of you suspect of online communication as a way of planting the seeds of friendship let me say...do it. I struck it royally-rich on this one.
Laura left me alone with her XM/Sirius radio-equipped Saturn Vue at the Park-and-Ride lot outside LeRoy, and clear instructions on how to get to my Super8 Motel in Henrietta. Problem was I didn't read them, and ended up spending an unneccesary extra 45 minutes or so driving around suburban Rochester before turning in for the night. The next morning I drove what I could of the marathon course. 15 miles of it was along the historic (duh!) Erie Canal. This would prove to be an issue, later.
Later that day I met up with Laura for a quick trip to the marathon expo, where she'd pick up her race packet. I had retrieved mine already, prior to my course tour earlier in the day. After Laura got her's she gave me a thumbnail tour of the Rochester sights/sites, including the Eastman House, the cemetary where Susan B. Anthony is buried and, last, but seriously NOT least, the flagship Wegman's grocery store. This was foodie heaven...and then some. Imagine The Food Network, Disneyland, Las Vegas...corraled under one giant, awe-inspiring, roof.
The only pre-jouney request I made of my new friend, who is apparently notorious for over-planning, was that I must, simply must, eat at the Dinosaur BBQ joint. Laura set that up for Friday evening, with a whole crew of sweet locals and out-of-towners who were involved somehow, running or not, with those running the half or full marathon on the coming Sunday. My Chicago-based-lawyer, soon-to-be-married step-daughter, highly recommended the place. She was not wrong. She seldom is, in her own mind, or mine.
The evening was full of great running stories, including two about encounters with Hungarian police, free-flowing beers, and PR predictions/dreams for the weekend's big events. Russ, 3rd from the left, was about to run the first marathon of his young life. Judi, to his right, was doing 13.1, as was Jennifer, who's 3rd from the right. Laura's across from her, with her husband, Justin, to her left. Mark's the guy with the baseball cap, who provided our RV support center. Across from him is Melissa, Russ' wife, who was along to provide moral support. I left Dinosaur with a full tummy, and a warmed soul, happy to be where I was, sharing this experience with these very people.
Pre-race Saturday was designed (by Laura) to be a full, but no-stress, day. She could not have done a better job. We visited the Jell-O Museum. Jell-O was invented in LeRoy, and Laura's mom is the local historian and expert on all-things pudding. We got top-notch commentary from museum guide, Doris. We even got some gossip about 30-year Jell-O frontman, Bill Cosby. I'd share it with you, but then, as you know, I'd have to kill you.
After that I got to visit a number of local landmarks, including Laura-designed "modern" art, forever-installed at a school she attended, and Letchfield State Park and the "Grand Canyon of New York". Laura's son, Evan, kept us entertained, from his car seat, with persistant requests for a new toy. Sadly, really, there were no toy stores along the route back to home base. Prior to that, though, I was introduced to Laura's pal, Beaman, a 19-year-old stallion, who lives to be driven, by Laura. They are both champions. Beaman hangs out in his barn at Laura's childhood home, that is tastefully jammed/adorned with her family history and travel memorabilia. It also includes a log cabin section that, if given the chance, I would never have left.
Moments after arriving back at the Williams estate, she was blessed by husband, Justin, with her very own Garmin 305. Knowing her penchant for planning and attention to detail, I'm guessing we will soon be blessed with easy access to her training numbers, whenever we need them.
Marathon morning started too early, as they are apt to do, since anticipation usually wakes me up way before the clock radio's alarm. I got to the event area at about 6:30, to find Mark and Judi already there, setting up their RV/Race Headquarters. Mark was offering his own version of personally-prepared breakfast muffins, with egg and cheese and ???? I wish I could have taken him up on the offer, but my earlier bagel and banana seemed much safer. Russ was there, too, decked out in resplendant yellow, with his nickname, Limaruss, displayed across his chest. No one was going to miss him on the course. Morning hugs/high fives were exchanged when Laura arrived. Turns out, Laura's had it going on running wise for some time. She ran track in school not that many years ago, with her pal, Derek. We met Derek in the parking lot before the start. He ended up getting to the finish faster than everyone else...and I mean, everyone! He won the event in 2:36.
The first 9 miles or so were a gradual downhill along East Avenue, heading toward the southward turn that would put us onto the pathway that parallels the Erie Canal. Yes, THAT Erie Canal. I held steady at 11 minute miles, 4:1 run/walk intervals, until a couple of long, gentle climbs. I then realized that this run was going to require some "management". From the 10 mile point onward I walked all inclines and blew-off walk-breaks on downhills. The latter tactic, about taking advantage of gravity.
This was the smallest marathon I have ever run. 600-some runners going the insane 26.2 mile distance. The smaller field meant a greater chance of being alone. I spent a long time alone out there, on the 15-or-s0 miles along the historic waterway. My suggestion for the race organizers, if they want this event to flourish, is to mix it up a little. A little less canal would be okay.
I hit the halfway point at 2:28, about 2 minutes faster than usual. It was here that I geared down to 3:1 run/walk intervals, thinking I needed to more efficiently portion out the energy I had left. I settled in to the new pacing here and stayed with it the rest of the way. Nothing much happened from here on, except for mile 17, where I inhaled my customary English Mars bar. I brought Mars to share with all of our running group, and it would appear they worked their magic. Everyone of us finished. At mile 22 I heard cheers that included my name. Couldn't tell who it was until I got closer to them, because I don't run in my prescription glasses. Turns out it was our little band's support group. Now THAT was awesome! After this there was nothing left to do but finish. Had hoped to break 5 hours again, but it was not to be. Laura was about 25 minutes ahead of me, allegedly scarfing every hot dog she could find. Limaruss was about a half hour behind, having cramped up at mile 21. Despite that, he brought it home, in high spirits, and with a newly-enhanced appreciation for "the distance".
After the race we all gathered at Limaruss' lovely home in Lima, for celebratory food and frolic. Okay, frolicking was not happening. It hurt to move. It was, despite the aches and pains, the perfect way to end the day.
THE DAY AFTER
One might think that rest would be the order of the day after running a marathon. Not this time, people. I could not visit this region and not take in Niagara Falls. I flew into and out of Buffalo International Airport, which is just about 15 minutes from the falls. Laura and I shuffled into the car again at about 9:30, after spending a half hour talking with Kari, in Trieste, via Skype. Skype blew me away, as did Kari's ability to make goofy faces that lent themselves to video capture. I'll be running Trieste AND Prague with K next May. Want to come along?
We arrived at the Falls, on the Canadian side, at 10:30. At about 10:45 we were ready to go. The Falls are awesome, as you no doubt already know. But, after you see them, there's not much more to do, unless you like wax museums, tacky gift shops and the like. We headed back into Buffalo...destination, the Anchor Bar. This, folks, is where Buffalo Wings were born. I ordered "hot". They weren't. But, dang, they were tasty. This was how this amazing weekend ended. Nothing better!
To everyone who welcomed me into the fold, I just have to say "thanks". There was not one moment that I felt like a stranger. To all who ran, half marathons or full, you are all stars. Here's to you....
Up next, Silicon Valley Marathon next month...and wrapping things up in Santa Barbara on December 6th.