Sunday, November 1, 2009

Manchester City Marathon

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 21st Edition
531.5 miles raced in 2009

Race: Manchester City Marathon
Place: Manchester, NH
Miles from home: 2396 miles
Weather: 50-60s; clear and windy

It is a rare occasion when you sit at a table with Kerri Strug and Bill Rodgers. Well, that is what you get at the Manchester City Marathon. Bill was here for obvious reasons but Kerri's involvement was based on Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the sponsor for this race here along the banks of the Merrimack River.

This pre-race luncheon was just the start of a wonderful weekend in Manchester which included time doing book signings, television interviews and so much more. Manchester reminded me a lot of my hometown and the Salt-of-the-Earth people from this town and surrounds areas helped even more. My perspective, upon moving to Salt Lake and the wide expanses of desert and long stretches of highway has definitely warped my sense of what is and is not "close-by". I would ask people if they were from Manchester and they would laugh as if they came from some far away land to be here for the race. then I would find out they were all of 45 minutes away. Heck, I drive that far for dinner sometimes in Utah.

Coupled with the rather late start at 8:50 AM and falling back from daylight savings time, I had plenty of rest and sleep the night before the race. I hope that this would allow me to get a nice little sub-3 hour time here in my first New Hampshire marathon. (But not first race. Back in 2007, my friend Kate and I competed as a team of two against other teams of 8 in the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay.)


With the start a convenient 2-3 block walk from the host hotel, I was able to get plenty of sleep and rest room breaks in before I even headed out to help usher in runners. Along with the Mayor of
Manchester and one of the spokesperson for Anthem, I got to greet runners prior to the race and then zip into the first few rows of runners for the start. With plenty of prize money one the line, numerous fast runners (far faster than me, even if I had not been running my 15th marathon of the year) were on hand (on foot?) to take a shot at the cash.

The gun was fired and the race was afoot (ahand? No, definitely have the right appendage this time.)

First 10k: 6:12, 6:53, 6:51, 6:28, 7:24, 6:07 (40:40)

I began the race running with a woman I had met back in January at the Blues Marathon in Jackson named Barbara. As we flew through the first mile I knew we were going way too fast. On this course with plenty of rolling hills I knew we had to take advantage of the downhills where we could but a 6:12 first mile was not to be expected.

I had heard a great deal about how hilly this course was and how it was not easy. Well, I have to agree. That said, New York and Boston are hilly and people do not mind running those. Was this course "hard"? Well, that is relative. Was it challenging? Yes, I think it was. Heck, the website comes right out and says the course is: "Hilly, challenging and scenic". And once again, I have to agree. For the hills and challenging portion, judge for yourself below.

To the Half: 7:17, 6:54 6:45, 6:59, 6:54, 6:58, 6:31 (1:28:45)

As we began the second half of the first half of the marathon, I began running with a young fellow named Jim Peters. Having done a 5k the day before, he was here to participate in the half-marathon, as well. Just one mile before, we were treated to a wonderful part of the course as we quickly left the neighborhood streets of Manchester and headed into Livingston Park. For a solid quarter of a mile we ran on a gorgeous trail right alongside a pond with the fall foliage painting quite a picture in the sunshine which was now shining bright above.

To mile 20: 7:43, 6:27, 6:29, 7:08, 7:10, 7:17, 6:39 (2:17:15)

After leaving the halfers behind, we began the sharpest climb of the second half. There were more marathoners in front of me than expected but as the miles ticked away, I would narrow the gap and then pass more than a handful. I was drinking at every aid station knowing that even though it was a brisk day, the sun shining down from above, and the swirling wind, would allow for heating and then evaporation of my sweat, making me think I wasn't as dehydrated as I really was.

In spite of a few miles that seemed a little subpar (and they usually coincided with some uphills we had to traverse) I was feeling pretty good. I spent a solid three miles in this section tracking down runners but not even knowing I was doing so. I knew that I had 14 sub-3 hour finishes in my previous 102 marathons and for the life of me could only come up with 13 in my head. So, as I tried to figure out the 14th, I just motored along. I can honestly say there is very little I specifically recall about a solid few miles in this section. Talk about zoning out.

I do recalling passing by a gas station I had taken a picture of one of the nights before with a price of $2.62. Move the decimal and you have the distance of the little ole race I love. That made me chuckle.

To the Finish: 7:16, 7:26, 7:44, 8:54, 9:21, 10:30, 2:02

When I hit mile 20, I was beginning to feel a little bit tired. I could see a 43 minutes last 10k could get me a sub-3 hour time but I wasn't sure I would get it. A great deal would depend on the split at 21. A 7:16 most assuredly did not help, nor did a 7:26 which was even aided by a downhill. Right before 23, I began to slow a little more and walked through the aid station there, as I was feeling a little thirsty.

Suddenly, it felt like someone stuck a syringe in me and removed every drop of my energy. It was so Fisher Cats minor league baseball stadium (whose team name etymology can be found here), it was all I could do to run for 400 meters and then stop and walk. All I cared now was bout still getting a Boston qualifying time.
sudden it was striking. I have gotten tired in marathons before and I have also had quick losses of energy but few if any times has it been this abrupt. As we headed onto a footbridge to pass by the

With a shuffle, shuffle here and an inch along, inch along there, I was finally able to overcome the last mile which cruelly contained an uphill and get some sort of momentum going for the last half of a mile. Composing myself, I headed down Elm street towards the finish. I would have labeled this race's finish for me a Nightmare on Elm Street if it had finished just one day prior on Halloween. Fortunately, I was able to get that 3:10, albeit not by much. (Full results not yet posted.)

After getting some much needed chili and hot chocolate in me (delicious post-race amenities, by the way) I meandered over to my hotel. In the mirror I saw nothing but streaks of salt running down my face and neck. I had been so dehydrated I was ashen.

Well, that explains the crash but man I had not been expecting that. I had thought I was drinking properly. Apparently not! Ironically, just the day before I had mentioned to more than one person that while the number of marathons completed obviously assists you to some extent in completing future marathons, it far from guarantees success. Nice that I could be an example to prove I was right. Ugh.

Regardless of this little snafu in the last 5k, I was extremely impressed by the race. The volunteers were extremely helpful and friendly, the course was run through very nice parts of town and while some of the roads were open to traffic, police and race volunteers were onhand to keep traffic slowed down and avoiding a collision. If you can't get into NY, or heck, even if you can and you want to experience a race which is growing exponentially and continues to offer so much of the great things which make a a good marathon, I would highly suggest you head up to Manchester. I know there were at least two people who chose this race to finish there 50 state quest in. That surely says a great deal about the race for sure.

Hope to be back here in the future and to see you there as well!


suzanne johnson said...

Hi Dane. My husband and I, along with our three kids, were among the lucky who got a chance to meet and talk with you during the expo Friday night. We both ran our first 1/2 marathon on Sunday and are pleased with our results. We are by no means record breaking runners, but new to the sport and are enjoying it so far. I appreciate your sharing the pictures of your ashen face. Both my husband and I had similar faces at the finish. I too thought I had hydrated well and for me I hit my slump at mile 9. I swear the first 9 mile markers were closer together than the last 4. It became a mental race from that point on.
Thank you for your time and advise. My kids have your picture hanging in their room and you are an inspiration to us all. We hope to see you at future Manchester races.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane--
Great race recap! It was nice to meet you and finally get your book on Saturday. My husband and I just did the half (we did the Hartford full 3 weeks ago and we can only muster 2 marathons a year...not like you).
After we finished the half, we hung out and cheered other finishers. My husband was getting cold, but I said "can we just stay for 1 more finisher?" He's a good guy and said "sure". Well--you were that next finisher!
Sorry to hear of those struggles the last few miles--you certainly fooled us with your finish and wave to the Manchester crowd.
I wish you good luck in all your adventures and thanks for sharing them with your book and blog.
Carol Myers (all the way from New London, CT :-))