Yesterday a group of us traveled to Baltimore for the B&A Marathon & Half Marathon. I would definitely suggest this race to anyone, regardless of your goal. It was a nice, small race, and a great course (with a little too few water stops). It was a FAST course, and a good Boston qualifier for anyone in that league (which I am not!). We all met at 4:45am (and I came in on two
wheels because apparently I hit snooze one too many times). We made great time getting to the race, thanks to Tom Chaves & his stellar Map Quest & driving skills. When arrived about 45 minutes early, so there was plenty of time to prepare & relax a bit. We got a few group pix, got dressed & off to the start we went.
This race was different for me because there were maybe 500 runners, half of which were doing the full marathon, and the rest of us doing the half. It was very different than my experience in NYC, but I enjoyed it. No huge crowds, no long lines for the bathrooms, no weaving in & out of people for position or to set your pace. It was nice. The trail was flat & beautiful the whole way. Those of us running the half marathon started together, and stayed pretty close the whole way (with the exception of James, Rachael's boyfriend, who WON the half marathon). I was nowhere near him, obviously! I had a personal pacer in Elden Monday (thanks buddy), and around mile two Tom B. nicely reminded me to stop chatting & save my energy for the race. I was glad he had, as I needed all the energy I had for miles 11 & 12 (thanks Tom, you are the fa-shizzle). I think we ran our first mile in 8:50 something, and I was a little concerned with that pace as I knew it would be cutting it close in the end. We picked up the pace, thanks to Elden, and I believe at one point someone was even recruiting a "Team Tina" to help me break two hours! ha ha.
Honestly, the race was mostly really fun! I said less than 100 words the whole way (I know, hard to believe). There was one hill at the turn-around point, and after running Raymond Rock (thanks Janice!) last week, this hill was no big deal. We picked up the pace a bit, running mostly under 8:40, I think. Elden kept picking people for me to pass, like little goals through the race, then he
would tell me when it was "time" to pass them. I kept hearing people yelling "BALLARD", as we were conscious not to run into the little posts along the trail, much like those on the bike path. It really was more like a Sat. morning run than a race. Very enjoyable!
After the finish, I ran back for my friend Rhonda, then changed & got in place to get pictures of the group running the full. Elden & I headed outside when the clock read 3:20, even though Elden insisted we had 20 more minutes before anyone would be coming through the finish, but I knew better! :P (Sorry, Elden, but I must speak the truth) About 10 minutes later, low & behold, here
come Jerry Davis!! Elden & I began cheering, Jerry looked great, no winded at all, and finished in 3:31 cutting 20 minutes off his pervious time. A bit later, Tom Chaves came through, looking marvelously fresh! I was in awe! I was not worthy to drive home in the same vehicle as these two Kenyans! :) A few more minutes passed & Tom & Michelle B. came through, also looking mighty good! We got great pictures of everyone!
Congrats to Rachael in a great first half; to her boyfriend James for winning the half (we had a star among us!); congrats to Lori, Sarah & Mike for also finishing well under two hours. Congrats to Tom C. for another under 4hrs., and to Jerry for amazingly taking 20 minutes off his previous (and first) marathon. Congrats to Tom & Michelle B. for an awesome "training run" (faster than any marathon I have ever ran!). I had so much fun going with the group, and it was such an awesome time! And, of course, thanks to Elden for helping me break two hours, and being such an inspiration along the course! :)
What can I say about the most beautiful long distance run I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of...
Try this on for size: it is 40 degrees in the morning but you know it is going to warm up, you get up and the sky is as big as you can imagine, stars are everywhere and there is one hell of a full moon over your head. The traces of all the peaks around you is visible in the night sky; giving you a sense of excitement mixed in with trepidation of what lies ahead. As the sun comes up and starts to warm your bones, you look up and see not a cloud in the sky and know that this is going to be a glorious day. You get through a no fuss registration and packet pick up process, get your self ready for a long run and board a bus to get you to the start of the race. You drive up into the mountains until you get to the desired location and soon you are off running the foothills getting closer and closer to the mountain range ahead of you. The rise for the first 8 miles or so is quite gradual but steady and then it picks up a little to remind you that there are hills. After a short drop, you come face to face with the big one. A giant pass about a 1000 foot ahead of you with switchbacks and the heads of the runners ahead of you. You make it up the hill (no need to run just walking will do) and then you are at Red Pass at 5300 feet and the world of death valley is before you. Red rocks, red earth mixed with all the other colors of the desert all under an absolutely beautiful sky. You take a deep breath because elevation like this is hard to find back at home. The air is extra clean. Now the descent begins. For the next 14 miles you run all through the canyons with high walls, you run past Indian paintings, you run past a ghost town and you go where water has been the chief designer, the engineer, the destroyer and then the rebuilder. You emerge out of this canyon and the air is dry and warm and you see the finish but something inside is hoping that this run would go on for just a bit longer. Sure you are tired but, you have been running through a post card, you have been running through history and through geology, you have made friends along this journey and, part of you wishes to not wake up. Well, my friends, this was the 2007 Death Valley Marathon and it took place on Saturday 2/3. I had the pleasure of enjoying this adventure with two other Fasttrack friends, Bridget McFadden and Stacy Gelhaus.
The race was well supported and was packed with both hardcore runners and believe it or not, some folks running their first marathon. These folks had guts. They chose a trail marathon with a 7500 foot elevation gain/loss as their first attempt at the 26.2. There were smiles everywhere. The three of us were no exception. We each came away with an amazing sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Well, again it had seemed like a good idea at the time. The Tussey Mountainback, a combined relay race and 50 mile ultra, near State College, is usually held mid-late October in Rothrock State Forest, on mainly gravel roads. Since this is my daughter's senior year at State College, it seemed like a good year to give it a try. Once I had registered, I got an email advising me that they had moved it forward a month to fit in with the USATF calendar. There goes the nice crisp fall day with autumn colours on the trees, not to mention a month less in which to train.
The ultra runners, Keith and I among them, started at 7:00am, along with one relay team made up of 65 and older men (the eldest is 87). The other relay teams (about 100 in all) started in waves about 1 1/2 hours after us. As the relay teams passed (of course) they were very encouraging to all the ultra runners, but unfortunately the vans accompanying them kicked up huge clouds of dust on the gravel roads. It was also an unusually warm day for September. Although I knew from the web site that the course would be hilly, I had not appreciated how long the hills went up for! Needless to say, I walked a lot of the up-hill. My knee had been hurting at the start line but I was sure it would loosen up during the run :-) . However by about mile 35 I wasn't able to run on it at all, so walked the last 15 miles. By about mile 47 I was really fed-up with walking - it seemed to take forever - especially since the last 4 miles were basically a nice gentle downhill, and I LOVE running DOWN hill! And because I was walking, the bugs were tormenting me - my hands were moving as much as my legs trying to swat them away from my nose, mouth and ears!
In spite of my lack of speed though, I did finish before the cut-off and there was my husband, two daughters and Keith patiently waiting to cheer me in. (Keith had waited 3 1/2 hours from when he finished!) I thought the race was well-organized, there were plenty of aid stations (well-stocked with food and drink), and opportunities for drop bags for the ultra-runners, and I thought the volunteers were fantastic, but I came away feeling that I would have preferred trails!
What a privelege to cheer and watch 11 Fast Trackers tackle the humidity of the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA on Sunday.
The weather easily impacted goal times from 8 to 10 minutes and the group still managed 2 PRs (Elden and Marissa) and a first marathon (Brian).
The group was led by keith straw with an impressive 3:24 and was followed by Tom Burkholder, Marissa, Elden, Mike Reese, Gwen Goldberg, Ethel Cook, Sylvie Laquerre, Meghan Morris, Brian, and Suzanne Koup-Larsen.
As we enjoyed dinner together with some Bryn Mawr friends the night before at Carmella's - an Italian restaurant, everyone was excited about race day but was nervous about the pending heat.
Obviously not as hot or humid as our Chicago friends experienced, our runners still had to endure quite humid conditions in addition to some decent hills on the last few miles of the course.
Everyone altered their pre race goals to adjust for the day and looked strong in finishing the race.
Congratulations to all the Steamtown finishers ...0you should all feel proud of your accomplishment today!
On the same day as our friends battled the elements and the crowds in Chicago and Steamtown, a couple of us ran a slightly smaller (105 runners) and a bit longer race here in Reading PA. The annual Blues Cruise 50K trail race (thanks Ethel for telling us about it) is a must do for any local marathon runner. It was well organized, well marked and encompassed much of Blue Marsh Lake (a very pretty lake indeed). The trail was quite challenging and involved numerous small and moderate hills and one or two slightly bigger climbs ( e.g. Mount Misery on steroids). As was the case with our friends in Chicago and Steamtown, it was quite hot and humid all day with many sections of the race fully exposed to the sun. Fortunately we did have great race support and plenty of water and other replenishment at the aid stations. We were also blessed with having our other running friend, Bridget out there cheering us on at every aid station and running with us at the end. Thank you Bridget for making it possible for us to focus on the race that day and for the wonderful support.
The real story of the day, is about my running partner in this race. Sarah Floyd joined fasttracks about a year ago and since then has been a story onto herself. Having recently graduated from college, running a marathon was her goal last fall and then in less than one year, she has now completed her first Ultra marathon. An amazing feat all by itself. But wait, this young lady ran this tremendous race while battling an extremely bad cold all on a hot and humid day. She ran a smart race, preserved her strength where she could and just focused on the trail ahead in order to finish. Her strength and determination were a source of energy for me and an inspiration to all of us. She is a true athlete!
Last weekend's mishaps with the weather aside, I am confident we are going to have a great fall season of running. See you out there and happy running to all!