After four months of long runs and speed work, I finally had my shot at a new PR at the Wineglass Marathon last weekend. This is probably the hardest training I’ve ever put in for a race, and I’m happy to say that it paid off! I met my goal, shaving more than six minutes off my previous best.
However, it didn’t come without A LOT of struggles, and as I’m writing this today, I’m feeling the effects of that effort. Not only can I barely move, but I’m now under the weather. They’re not kidding when they say that running a marathon lowers your immune system.
Jen and I had been wanting to do this race for a while, and earlier this year, we decided to put it on our fall racing calendar. A few weeks after we signed up, though, she decided to register for Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City (recap here), held two weeks before Wineglass. Because she devoted all her time and energy to the triathlon, her goal here was simply to survive, while mine was to run as fast as possible.
We actually started our trip by driving south to Philadelphia to check out some of the historic sites we hadn’t seen before—including the Mint and the National Constitution Center—and also to see her all-time favorite band, Hanson, who was performing that night in the city.
From Philly, we made the four-hour drive to Corning, NY, which was actually pretty easy. Our first stop was the Corning Museum of Glass, where the Wineglass expo was being held. It wasn’t a very large expo, but they had the usual booths like Bondi Band and BeeCause Charms. And they had a decent selection of merchandise for a race of only a few thousand. As usual, we spent way too much on shirts and doodads—what can I say, my wife is a we’re suckers. 😉
We bought tickets to see the rest of the museum, which allowed for two-day entry. On Friday, we made our own glass picture frames. And on Saturday, we customized a sandblasted wineglass specifically for the race.
Also on Saturday, we explored the lovely Finger Lakes region by visiting a few local wineries.
Jen, who was basically still in recovery from her half-Ironman, was a little scared about what would happen in the marathon, so I’m sure getting her drink on at 10:00 in the morning eased her nerves a little bit!
That day, though, is when I started to feel a little off. My throat was scratchy, and I was lethargic from lack of sleep. (I usually don’t sleep so well in hotel rooms.) I was just hoping it would hold off for one more day.
We stayed in a hotel near the start line in Bath, NY; although we were in Corning for most of the trip, we thought staying here would be the more convenient option. All runners, no matter if they are doing the half or full, have to take a bus to their respective start line, and since we were so close to ours, we only had to drive a mile to our bus and ride the bus for ten minutes.
We were at the start line with about 45 minutes before the 8:15 kickoff. It was pretty cold—we bought some throwaway blankets from Walmart the day before—but in all honesty, it was refreshing since we practically spent the last 16 weeks training in brutally HOT temperatures. My throat was still scratchy, but I had managed to get at least some sleep the night before.
Within about a half-mile into the race, Jen urged me to leave her—we had agreed long before that we’d run this race separately. So we said our goodbyes, and I focused on keeping a steady 9:30 pace. The first few miles went through Bath before heading toward some busier roads.
Let me first say that this race is extremely organized. Support crew were watching us from their bikes the entire time, and there were ample volunteers and aid stations. (I noted down where all the water stops and port-a-potties would be on the course, so I knew there were plenty ahead of time.) It’s always nice to know that you don’t have to worry about these things, and you can just focus on your race.
However, the course itself wasn’t the most scenic. (Maybe it would’ve been better had the fall foliage come in already.) For the most part, we were running on highways, alongside the busy I-86. Because of this, the only spectators were in the few small towns we passed through before heading back on the main roads.
Although the race lacked crowd support and memorable sites, it was indeed pretty flat (aside from a few rolling hills)—exactly as I’d heard. The first half went pretty well, although I experienced a side and back stitch within the first two miles. (I was hoping it would just subside, but it didn’t really go away until my first fuel break after mile 5.). And the mild ankle pain I had been experiencing over the last two weeks wasn’t bothering me at all—good thing I iced it in the hotel!
At mile 10, I stopped for another round of Clif Bloks and made the impromptu decision to hit the bathroom. I only mildly had to go, but there was no line, and I knew that the next port-a-potty wouldn’t be until after the halfway point. (If I had to wait at the next stop, I knew I’d be mad.) Because the fuel break and pit stop together cost me some time, I foolishly tried to make up for it over the next mile or so, running at under a 9:00 pace.
This probably wasn’t the best idea. At around mile 14, I started feeling the usual lower back pain that I’ve had in pretty much every marathon to date. To combat this over my training cycle, I focused a lot on strengthening my glutes and hip flexors. I thought all those exercises had helped, but on race day, I guess you never know. (It wasn’t nearly as bad as before, which I suppose is a plus.)
It was also at this point that I started to get a mysterious stabbing pain in my right quadriceps. Now, this was something I had never experienced in a race, so I really didn’t know what to make of it. As you can imagine, it wasn’t comfortable, and it never really went away. Soon both quads were screaming.
To add to my list of woes, around mile 18, I started to feel a bit of light nausea. Jen has experienced this in marathons before, specifically in the 2015 New York City Marathon, and believes the culprit is often too much electrolyte intake. I was planning to fuel for a fourth time around the 20-mile mark, but I didn’t want to take the chance that I couldn’t keep it down.
All in all, the last eight miles weren’t pleasant. I tried to keep myself occupied by giving names to the other runners I had been with the whole time, including Blue High Socks and the Camelback Couple. I had also been keeping a close watch of the 4:10 pacer, hoping I could possibly finish in that range. But after getting ahead of him in the first half, he and his crew left me in their dust for good.
I knew I had to rethink my goals. For this race, I followed the Runner’s World Break 4:15 Marathon Plan, so by this time, I just wanted to finish under that mark. I knew, though, I’d have to maintain at least a 10:00 pace over the next few miles. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that, especially because I needed to walk a bunch of times and stop and stretch.
I tried to summon the strength to push the pace, while hoping I could keep my breakfast down and my quads from buckling under me. I must’ve REALLY wanted to beat 4:15 because I was not in the best shape.
I managed to cross the finish line with an official time of 4:13. The race finished in Corning on the famous Market Street, with a pretty lively crowd and even Bart Yasso announcing the names of all finishers.
After receiving my cool glass medal, I walked hobbled over to the food tent, where I received a shopping bag to collect some goodies, including chocolate milk, bagels, bananas, apples, and cookies. For hot food, there was even soup and pizza. I was still feeling a bit queasy, but the soup actually helped.
Within an hour or so, Jen was crossing the line.
And as usual with us, we proceeded to take a whole bunch of photographs before taking a bus back to our car in Bath.
Including photos of our chicken soup…which might just be our new favorite post-race treat (for cold-weather races, anyway).
I’m so proud of my wife for tackling this race just two weeks after Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City, where she competed for more than seven-and-a-half hours. I didn’t think this marathon would be easy for her, but I was confident she would finish.
The good news is that she was in pretty good shape afterward, except for her back, which bothered her for much of the race.
We started our long, five-hour car ride back to New Jersey, and at this point, my throat was killing me, and I had no appetite (which is VERY unusual for me). Jen insisted that I needed to eat, preferably something salty since I’m such a salty sweater. We enjoyed a rare yet delicious Chicken McNugget dinner from McDonald’s, and although I was clearly coming down with something, I was able to make it through the rest of the car ride.
Another race in the books for the Lesser-Known Runners…although this one could’ve gone a lot smoother. I’m glad I got my PR, but maybe next time any sicknesses can wait until the off-season. 🙂
How have you dealt with nausea during a race?
How much do you focus on scenery in a race?