Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 New England Series, Day 1

This morning I ran the first race of the Mainly Marathons New England Series, which was in Sanford, ME.  I’m not doing the whole series.  I’m just doing the first two days.  Then I’m going to do a race from another series called the New England Challenge.  That series is sponsored by Savage Racing.

Each of these series has marathons and half marathons in all six New England states.  The Mainly Marathon series also includes New York.  The two series start just a day apart, so they’re going on at the same time.  That provided me with an opportunity.

I’m working on my third circuit of marathons in all 50 states.  I’m also starting to look ahead to a fourth circuit.  One of the states I need to complete my third circuit is New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire races of the two series fall on consecutive days.  As long as I’m doing one, I might as well do both of them.  I did today’s race in Maine, because I wanted to get my fourth marathon in Maine as well.

A lot of things went wrong before the race even started.  A few days ago, I came down with a cold.  My symptoms weren’t all that bad, but I tire easily.

I flew to Boston yesterday.  I was going to use my laptop during the flight, but I couldn’t find the power cord.  I was using the laptop at a restaurant in the Minneapolis airport, so I must have left it there.  My battery life isn’t that long, so not having a power cord meant I couldn’t use the laptop much.  When I got to Boston, I checked two electronics stores in the airport, but neither could sell me just a cord.  I’d have to buy a one-size-fits-all kit for $100.  I decided to try my luck at finding a cord somewhere else.

For this first race, I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Wells, which is about 17 miles from Sanford.  There was closer lodging, but I knew from experience that if you book a room at Hampton Inn at the AARP rate, you can usually get a 2 PM checkout.  When I got to the hotel, I found out they were fully booked this weekend, so they wouldn’t give me a checkout later than noon.

Packet pickup for the series was available yesterday, but I couldn’t make it to Sanford in time.  Race morning packet pickup is available every day, so I just waited until this morning.  They also had a pasta dinner yesterday, but I couldn’t get there in time for that either.  Instead, I went to a pizzeria in Ogunquit, where I had a lobster pizza.

The race started at 6:00, but they had an early start at 5:00.  I decided to take the early start so I would have an easier time getting back to the hotel in time for a noon checkout.  I wanted to have time to take a hot bath and change into dry clothes before getting on the road.

Packet pickup started at 4:30, but I had to drive 17 miles to get there.  According to Google Maps, it’s a 30 minute drive, but I wanted to allow an hour.  There was rain in the forecast, and I’d be driving unfamiliar roads in the dark.  If the weather caused my phone to lose the GPS signal, I could easily get lost.

To give myself plenty of time to get ready in the morning, I set my alarm for 2:45.  Knowing I had to get up that early made me worry about getting to sleep.  When you’re worried you won’t get enough sleep, it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.  It didn’t help that I was also a bit stressed about the missing power cord for my laptop.  When I went to bed, I was down to only 45 minutes of battery life.

I was still awake at 11:30.  Then my alarm went off.  I turned on the light and checked.  It was set for 2:45.  I have no idea why it went off.  Now I was WIDE awake.  I also no longer trusted my alarm clock.  I never got to sleep at all.  At 2:45, I was still awake, so I started getting ready.  I arrived early and waited in my car until it was time for packet pickup.

The weather was miserable.  The temperature was in the low 40s and never warmed up.  That wouldn’t be bad, but it was also rainy and windy.  The rain lasted all day.  The wind kept getting stronger.

Temperatures in the 40s, rain and wind are a bad combination.  It didn’t help that I was already sick and didn’t get any sleep.  I wore warm clothes with a raincoat on top.  I thought, if anything, I’d be overdressed.  I was wrong.

The course was multiple laps of an out-and-back course.  We started and finished each lap in a gravel parking lot next to the Sanford Springdale YMCA.  The parking lot was the only part of the course that wasn’t paved.

After leaving the parking lot, we turned onto a paved bike path that went through some woods.  Then we continued on residential streets that took us alongside a river.  It was a scenic course, but it wasn’t a good day for taking pictures.

To complete a marathon, we needed to finish 14 laps.  There was also a half marathon.  That was seven laps of the same course.

I ran at a pace that should have felt easy, but after a few laps, it still felt tiring.  That was because of my cold.  The real issue, however, was the weather.  As soon as we started running, I realized the wind would bother me more than the rain.

After a few laps, I realized my jacket wasn’t really a rain coat.  The fabric looks and feels like plastic, but the rain was gradually seeping through.  Before long, I was wearing three layers of soaking wet clothes.  Then the wind started to cut through me like a knife.

Besides Gatorade, I was able to get hot soup at the aid station.  That helped, but not enough.  I gradually got colder.  My hands were getting numb.

After five laps, I checked my watch.  So far, my time was 1:31 and change.  To run nine more laps would take nearly three more hours.  The worst part was that the wind was getting stronger, making every lap feel colder.  I couldn’t imagine how I could endure these conditions for that long if it got any worse.

After my sixth lap, I decided to do one more and then quit.  Seven laps would still give me a half marathon finish.  It wasn’t as satisfying, but I had to be realistic.  Even if I could finish, I risked getting really sick.  It just wasn’t worth it.

Halfway through my seventh lap, I started to pick up the pace in anticipation of finishing.  I was exciting about being done, but I was still second-guessing my decision to drop down to the half marathon.  Then the wind got stronger. Suddenly just finishing this lap got difficult.  I couldn’t take the cold any more.  I no longer second-guessed my decision to stop.

I finished seven laps in 2:09:30 and was credited with a half marathon finish.  It’s not the race I was hoping to run, but it was something.  Finishing a race – even if it’s not the one you entered – is better than a DNF.

After the race, I left quickly.  During the drive back to the hotel, I couldn’t stop shivering.  When I finally got out of the car, my legs were stiff.  It wasn’t from the wear and tear of running.  It was a reaction to the cold.  I was still wearing tights that were soaking wet.  As soon as the cold wind hit my legs, they tightened up.

After a soak in the whirlpool, my legs felt fine.  Only time will tell if running this race will make my cold worse.  For now, I’m feeling tired, but OK.

I no longer had to worry about having time to meet the noon checkout time.  I got back to the hotel by 8:00.  Even after spending time in the whirlpool, I was able to have a late breakfast at the hotel.

I’m staying at the same hotel in Nashua for both New Hampshire races, so today was the only day I needed to check out and get on the road right after the race.  The drive to Nashua took about 80 minutes.  It was a scary drive.  I was OK on the smaller roads, but I was experiencing road hypnosis when I was on the freeway.  Every mile, I had to fight to keep my eyes open.  Now that I’m here, however, I don’t even feel sleepy.

Another advantage of finishing earlier than expected is that I had time to go shopping for a new power cord for my laptop.  I had to buy it with a new power adapter, but I was able to get what I needed for under $30.  That made it possible for me to write this race report, among other things.

I still have two more races on this trip.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish marathons both days.  It’ll help if tomorrow’s weather isn’t as cold and rainy.  It’ll also help if I can get some sleep.

Race Statistics
Distance:  13.1 miles
Time:  2:09:30
Average Pace:  9:53
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  still 333
Marathons/Ultras in Maine: still 3

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