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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Clarence DeMar Marathon: Race Recap

Well, it was just what I thought it would be... a practice race! Not my best effort at all, but I learned some lessons.
The morning wake-up was way too early: I got up at 5 am for the third day in a row, meaning I was about 9 hours down on sleep. The trip up to New Hampshire had been annoying stressful. We'd planned on having Saturday afternoon in NH for a few activities, but due to mechanical issues on our first flight, we missed out second flight. The next flight we got on was then delayed due to another mechanical problem! We wasted the entire afternoon in the airport, barely made it to packet pick up, and I was left generally stressed, hungry, and dehydrated. I rolled out of bed Saturday wishing I could sleep a little more. Fueling mistake #1: Although the hotel had a breakfast buffet, I felt nauseated from my early wake up and threw my oatmeal out after one or two bites. David dropped me off at the finish area, and I took a bus to the start. Everyone on the bus was talkative and friendly, and I met plenty of Maniacs and 50-staters, including one gentleman who was running his 50th state that day! Fueling mistake #2: I was on one of the first buses, so I had a long wait until the start without any food.  The race started at a church in Gilsum, NH, and (charmingly) the pastor showed up, opened the church (which was the original 1772 building), and started us with prayer.
When 8 am finally rolled around, we lined the middle of a road. There was a clearly marked start on the pavement, but officials pushed us back to some arbitrary imaginary line. Now this did not surprise me, since race info clearly states things like, "The finish line is not marked" (I kid you not). I mentioned the start marked on the road, but no one really responded. we went.
This race is gently hilly with some sharp downhills and an overall elevation LOSS of about 300 feet. Not bad! I thought. Actually, I struggled! The downhills at the start are so sharp that I had trouble controlling myself! I am so unused to hills. But it was fun to fly down them, even knowing I'd be sorry later. I think that for a runner who runs hills regularly, this would be a fast course. And my first half WAS fast, about 1:36. Fueling mistake #3: I started out too fast.
In the mountains near Keene

The weather was, as expected, warm and muggy - even in the mountains. It was low 70's early on and later in the race I passed a school with a sign that put the temp at 81 F. Interestingly, there is no traffic control on the course except at major intersections, meaning we were actually running in the road - no cones, no signs, no road closures. This was a little nerve-wracking in winding, hilly areas.
My Garmin was well ahead of the course since mile one, which was partly due to a slight stray off-course (some of the arrows, it turns out, were for the electric company, not runners, who would have thought), but that should have accounted for only .05 miles...but despite my tangent running my Garmin read 26.67 at the finish! Because of the winding hills, I was having trouble at water stops. They popped up so unexpectedly that I didn't have time to prepare and take some Gu. Fueling mistake #4: I didn't take any Gu until the second half, too late for the pace I was keeping. When I finally did shove some Gu down, I instantly regretted it. And here comes the best part. I started throwing up. I started early on - like mile 14 - and from then on, it was a battle. I threw up every time I swallowed anything. Fueling mistake #5: Throwing up all nutrients is a bad idea. The result was a distinct drop in pace (although surprisingly not bad at first; I was running 8's or 8:10's), and the onset of muscle cramps. As expected, at mile 20 I hit the wall hard, struggling to maintain 10-min miles. Fuleing mistake #6: I only brought three Gu's, so by now I was out of fuel. There was no Gu on the course and only half the stops had Gatorade. I was passed by two women on the way in, and everyone was so encouraging we just cheered each other on. I'd led for the first twenty miles. I finally finished, and I'd never been so happy to be done with a race in my life. I was third female overall in a little under 3:35.
Heading for the and sweaty.
 Post-race I signed up for a massage right away, but the poor lady had trouble with my knotted calves and quads. I got some soup down and started to feel better, but the nausea stuck with me for a few hours. I realized I was starting to dehydrate. I'd sweated profusely (it was pretty warm for a marathon!) and thrown  up, too, and I was starting to feel kidney pain, headache, and anxiety coming on. Unfortunately I could only stomach water - the thought of Gatorade made me ill - so I took some electrolyte tabs from a medic and sipped water.
The race awarded first overall and age group awards. The age groups were a little odd - the first group was "up to 39" and then it was ten year increments from then on. I placed second in my age group, but when I got home I realized I'd been give the third place plaque! Hilarious. The third place lady had left already and they must have handed me hers. And also bizarre - my time was recorded off by fifteen seconds. I have no idea how this could occur. David took a picture of me as I crossed the line, and the clock reads, "3:34:52" clearly, yet my time is recorded as 3:35:09. What the?!
Later,when I got the hydration thing under control, it hit me that my quads were so sore I couldn't sit down or get up from a sitting position. My muscles took a beating from the downhills, and the soreness is lingering two days  later!
Overall, the race gave me lots of "Huh?!" moments (it's kind of crazy, wait for the race review) and lots of lessons (I need to work on pacing and fueling and I need a "wall" strategy - if I hit it again, I can't let myself fall apart like I did this time).  But I still enjoyed this for a small marathon. The organizers and volunteers were some of the nicest people I've run with, and the area of Keene, NH is adorable. I think in a cooler year and for hill-prepped legs this would be a fast course. As for my fitness, I knew I wasn't in fantastic shape, but this race gives me areas that need work. It's obvious that if I want to get faster I have to increase my mileage and actually do some speedwork. It wouldn't hurt to do some treadmill inclines, either.

Do you have any "wall" advice to share? And what lessons have you learned in a race?


  1. Bummer on the puking! I have never ran a marathon, but even for my long training runs for my half, like 10 miles etc, I found that I really need to make sure to eat a good meal the night before and a good meal before the run or I totally hit the wall.

    I also ran a couple of hilly races in the last couple of weeks and my butt gets the most sore out of everything! Hill training is a must next time!

  2. Whew! THat sounds like a tough race indeed. I would never survive a marathon if I didn't choke down some breakfast. Sorry to hear about the puking. No fun.

  3. The most important thing is you survived to the finish and you learned a few things.

  4. 3rd overall! And 2nd/3rd in the 0-39 age group! :) Bummer about the random messups (timing, awards) and of course for the fuel issues, but you ran a good time! Never knew anyone who could pinpoint kidney pain, and I've been there with the mid-race pukies. Hope you can figure out what caused it so that you can avoid it next time!

    Congrats on a great marathon time! (in my book, at least) now rest up!

  5. The only thing I've really managed to figure out in my own experiences is not to OVER hydrate. I've spent way too many sloshy miles wishing I hadn't given in to temptation to drink too much too fast. I'm still working on my nutrition, though.

  6. Awesome race! Bummer on throwing up during the race though, and running out of fuel.

    A 1:36 first half marathon is nuts, that is insanely fast compared to what time you finished in. I guess that's why you called it a practice marathon, you definitely learned a lot though. And I think that qualifies you for Boston again right?

  7. congrats!!! that is a great great time, and yep on the out too fast, the 1:36 is mybest time ever for a half and that was errr, about say 6-7 years ago.... and yes that looks lke a bq to me

  8. great race, gracie. my best tip and what's i've learned from my years of racing is to not over think the race ahead. i realize that's tough to do but worry can cut into your time. the weather sometimes has a mind of it's own and so do our tummy's.

  9. My husband's run Clarence Demar twice - I almost ran it this year, but another time.

    The 2nd time he ran, he was passed by an older guy dressed in a tutu. Not sure if that consitutes a "wall", but it was pretty funny.

    Great time for a practice race!

  10. Wow, that's amazing for a "practice race"! And as really not fun as all that was to go through, I guess it'll all be valuable lessons once you figure out the right strategies for you.