Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 Independence Series: Pennsylvania

Today, I ran the third race of the Independence Series.  This one was held at the Daniel Boone Homestead in Birdsboro, PA.  I didn’t know that much about it, but this was my favorite venue of all the Mainly Marathons races I’ve done.

My goal for this series has been to run all five marathons with times under four hours.  Obviously, that gets more difficult each day as soreness and fatigue accumulate.  I worried about this race for a few other reasons as well.

First, after two relatively flat courses, this one was rumored to be hilly.  Yesterday morning, Clint told us today’s course would be the hilliest of the series.  The first two courses were fairly flat.  We haven’t seen the last two courses yet.  We all assumed the worst.  As it turns out, it wasn’t too bad.

My next concern was the weather.  It was cooler today, there was a 40% chance of rain, and it was supposed to be moderately windy.  When I left the hotel, it was windy, but by the time I got to the Daniel Boone Homestead, there was little or no wind.  The wind came back later, but not until it had warmed up enough that it only felt cool – not cold.  As for the rain, there were some sprinkles, but it didn’t rain hard, and it didn’t rain for very long.

After yesterday’s race, I had sore muscles almost immediately.  I felt like I was hit by a truck.  I took an ice bath, but I didn’t know if it would help enough.  It did!  When I woke up this morning, I had a little soreness, but after stretching, I felt OK.  I fully expected to notice soreness when I started running, but I didn’t.  Even running downhill, I had no soreness.  Apparently, yesterday’s post-race recovery went well.

My final concern was sleep.  I haven’t been getting much.  Last night was no exception.  I slept only intermittently.  Then I woke up at 2:30 and didn’t get back to sleep.  For the last three nights, I’ve averaged four hours of sleep.  On Wednesday, I was able to shake it off.  On Thursday, I was able to shake it off.  Today, I couldn’t.  Where’s Taylor Swift when you need her?

I never had time to visit the race venue yesterday.  I was unsure of the drive time, because I had to go through a few construction zones.  To be on the safe side, I left a little early.  The drive was no problem.  Finding the race venue was no problem.  I was one of the first people there, and was rewarded with a spot in the closest parking lot.  Most people had to park farther away and walk.

The Daniel Boone Homestead is on a large property with forest, at least one pond, a creek, several historic buildings, picnic areas and even a herd of sheep.  When I arrived, it was still dark.  The sun rose just a few minutes before the start of the race.

The course was an out-and-back that we ran 16 times.  The beginning was paved, but most of it was on gravel roads.

Unlike yesterday’s course, we didn’t have to worry about tripping on roots.  The closest thing to a trip hazard was the small step up to this footbridge.

Every lap, we ran past this stone house with a white picket fence.  This was Daniel Boone’s home when he was growing up.

We also ran past other historic buildings.

The start and finish was on a hill overlooking this pond.

To run a four hour marathon, I needed to average 15 minutes per lap.  Unlike the first two races, I didn’t start too fast today.  I was tired, and I realized I would only break four with good pacing.  My first two laps were 14:30 each, but the next one was 15 minutes even.

In my fourth and fifth laps, I was just a few seconds slow.  That’s not a big deal, but I felt like I was working awfully hard to hold the pace.  The lack of sleep was taking a toll.  I felt sluggish today.

It occurred to me that if I fell off the pace, I would eventually have to make a decision.  I might be able to break four hours, but it would probably take an effort that would destroy me for the last two races in the series.  The alternative was to accept being slow today, and hope that if I got a good night’s sleep that I could bounce back tomorrow.

I had to make that decision sooner than I expected.  My sixth lap took over 16 minutes.  If I continued at that pace, I’d finish in roughly 4:11.  Worse yet, even at the slower pace, I still felt like I was working too hard.

I decided to accept being slow today and hope for a better race tomorrow.  After my next lap, I stopped to get my camera.  Then I had one exceptionally slow lap.  I stopped several times to take pictures.  As long as I wasn’t going to break four, I might as well stop and smell the roses.  After that lap, I stopped again to bring my camera to my car.  For the time being, it was sunny, but I still worried that it might rain later.

The course had a slight downhill trend going out and a slight uphill trend coming back.  None of the hills were steep.  The only one that ever seemed tiring was a long gradual climb at the end of each lap.  Overall, it wasn’t a tough course, which was a relief.  If this was the hilliest, I can look forward to fairly easy courses the last two days.

I reached the halfway mark in 2:07:50.  Knowing the second half would be slower, I expected to finish the race in a time of 4:20 to 4:30.  I slowed down more than I thought.

In the second half, I eased up until I found a pace that didn’t feel tiring.  It was much slower than I expected.  My average lap time in the second half was roughly 19 minutes.  That’s roughly 11:30 per mile.

I don’t know if it was my fatigue or the slow pace, but those last eight laps seemed to drag on forever.  It was only in the last two miles that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Just when I thought we had been spared from rain, I started feeling sprinkles.  I was in my last lap, with just over a mile to go.  It didn’t rain hard, so I was able to finish without getting too cold.

The last time I passed Daniel Boone’s childhood home, I saw a group of students getting a tour.  They seemed to be wearing period costumes.  Regrettably, I didn’t have my camera with me, and I wouldn’t be going by there again.  It was an unexpected sight.

I finished in 4:38:34.  That’s among my slowest marathons ever, even though it wasn’t a particularly tough course.  I just didn’t have it today.  It was still raining lightly, so I didn’t linger in the finish area.  I did, however, remember to get my Pennsylvania medal.

Fortunately, I had a 2:00 checkout.  Despite my slower than expected time, I still had time to take an ice bath.  I’m still hopeful that I can have a better race tomorrow if I get more sleep.

After checking out, I drove to Clinton, NJ for tomorrow’s race.  My drive through eastern Pennsylvania was mostly on two-lane roads, going through lots of small towns.  Many of the towns looked like they might be hundreds of years old.  It was a scenic drive.  I drove past numerous hills and valleys, and I saw apple and cherry trees in bloom.

Tonight, I’ll try to get to bed early.  Tomorrow’s race is only a few miles away, so I won’t have to get up as early.  Let’s hope that I can actually sleep until my alarm goes off.

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