KeyBank Vermont City Marathon Race Report
I’ve now finished my first marathon and it was everything I hoped for. But I had many doubts leading up to the race. A few weeks ago I hurt my foot and I’m still not sure when or how it happened. So I had been cautious with my workouts during my last 3 weeks and icing in between. Of course I also started feeling many phantom pains, but the foot pain was real. I also noticed as the days went on, a pain at the front of my ankle developing, probably related to my foot. But it wasn’t going to stop me from running my race. No way.
I left Saturday morning with my family up to Burlington, VT (our first time there) for the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. We took a break at The Baker’s Store & Café to have some tasty treats and do a little shopping. The air in the parking lot even smelled good, bread and cinnamon rolls. I loved it. I was overwhelmed by all the flour options and ended up settling on a 25 lb bag of white flour, new spatulas, really fun birthday cake candles, and Cinnamon Flav-R-Bites. I’ll let you know if they’re any good or not.
We got into Burlington shortly after noon and went straight to the expo to pick up my race packet. I was thrilled to discover my number was 111. Ella quickly made up the chant “Run, run, run, 111.” In addition to my bib #, I picked up my race tech T and race bag which had all sorts of goodies in it: maple syrup, Lake Champlain chocolate, a cookie, Clif Bloks, lip balm, udder cream, laundry detergent, most things I’ll probably use. After picking up my stuff, we had lunch at Tiny Thai in Winooski where I had a big noodle bowl. Next up was driving the course, or most of the parts that were drivable since large portions of the course are on bike trails. It was a nice driving tour of Burlington. What I remember most was that there sure seemed like there were an awfully lot of turns on the course, and Battery Hill didn’t appear to be as bad as the stories I had heard. Half of the time I would mention to folks that I was running this race, they would ask if I new about the hills. It started to freak me out a little. I didn’t do hill training, but we do have some hills where I live that were often a part of my regular runs.
It was late enough in the day that we could finally check into the hotel. I left my family in the room (for a little down time) while I made my way back to the expo. I actually ended up not buying anything there even though I had a few things in mind that I wanted to pick up. I guess I wasn’t in the buying mood. They had a video loop of the course playing that I watched. It was nice to see the parts of the course we couldn’t drive. At 4:00 I got to meet several folks from Daily Mile: Brendan, Kristen, Ernesto, Chris, JB, Doug, Jen, and Sandra. It was particularly nice to finally meet Chris who I’ve been interacting with online for well over a year now thanks to Daily Mile, Twitter, and Buckeye Outdoors. Chris has been incredible with his motivation, inspiration, and kind words throughout my training.
When I got back to the hotel room with my family, my husband informed me that he had a friend in town staying at his parents. We went there and hung out awhile. We walked downtown; got caught in a rainstorm, and made a dash for the closest restaurant, Manhattan Pizza. It wasn’t spectacular food, but it was cheap, dry, and close. It fit the bill. A couple of slices and I was ready for bed. Back at the hotel we met up with my friend Johanna and her daughter at the pool. I relaxed and chatted with her while the kids were in the pool. It was getting close to 9:00, so everyone headed off for ice cream while I did some yoga, set out my stuff for the race, and went to bed before 10:00, falling asleep quickly.
I slept well and woke up before my alarm went off at 5:30. I had my regular breakfast, flax cereal with two cups of chai and a banana. I got dressed and considered one more time, fuel belt or no fuel belt. I decided to leave it behind. What I ended up wearing head to toe: Marathon & Beyond Headsweats cap, sunglasses (some day I’ll actually get subscription sunglasses I can wear running/biking so I can see), Moving Comfort Alexis bra (the girls never look better), Nuu Muu Exercise Dress, Garmin 405, Dual-Pocket SpiBelt, Gu Chomps, iPhone, Aveda Lip Saver, Under Armor 4″ Compression Shorts, lots of sunblock, my favorite socks, and Mizuno Wave Inspire 5 shoes. I was ready to go, and waited outside for the shuttle to show up. I talked to the cutest couple in their 60s who run a marathon together every month. The crowd waiting for the shuttle was growing quickly, but still no shuttle. Bill and the kids showed up and asked if I wanted a ride. Perfect. They dropped me off at the bottom of Battery Hill and I walked up to the race start. It was cloudy and low 60s. I couldn’t ask for better weather for a late May race.
I didn’t check my phone at all during the race, but there were a lot of encouraging text messages from Bill. The first was a video from the kids, Yoda inspired. They had recently watched Return of the Jedi. ”Do or do not. There is no try.”
Then Bill continued the theme often from there. He was able to track where I was by locating my iPhone. Technology!
- 8:00 ”We felt a tremor in the force. As if a young Jedi named Dena will be kicking ass all across the galaxy.”
- 8:25 ”[Gold Two is slain by Darth Vader and his wingmen; Gold Leader starts to panic] Gold Leader: It’s no good, I can’t maneuver! Gold Fiver: Stay on target. Gold Leader: We’re too close! Gold Five: Stay on target!”
- 9:54 ”You’re going fast! Missed you at point 3 but will see you at the hill.” ”Also, I am your father. Oh wait, that’s not right. Go!” ”Have fun going through the park! We are about halfway up the hill by the Marriott on your right.”
- 10:28 ”Run run run One one one!” ”You’re almost to the hill. You can do it!”
- 11:39 ”6 more miles! Whoo-hoo!
- 12:09 ”Just doing a 5K now. No problem.” ”We are just past the massage tent as you enter battery park.”
Around 7:15, I met Sandra and Chris at the flagpole in the park. I’m primarily a solo runner. But the plan was that we would start the race together since we were planning to run similar paces at the start. I know they say nothing new on race day. But running with them and getting to know them sounded like fun. Even though I used the porta potty right when I got to the park, as the start time approached, I needed to use it again. 7:45 we really needed to get to the start, but I persuaded Sandra and Chris to make one more stop at the porta potties before the start. But by that time, the lines were LONG. Tick, tick, tick. We were cutting it very close. Sandra was actually still in a porta potty when the countdown for the beginning started. It was a quick jog (we’ll call that our warmup) to the start, and we found our way into the crowd right around the 4:15 pacer, pretty much where we would have wanted to be anyway. And now that I took care of business I could relax and just run. I was so excited and happy to begin my first marathon.
Miles 1-4 (10:08, 9:52, 9:56, 9:41) The beginning of the race began in the heart of Burlington. I knew I was running a little faster than I had planned (wanted to be closer to a 10:10 pace). But it was tough to slow down. The crowd was amazing. I felt so good. It was exciting seeing friends and family along the way. This is where the crowds were the thickest. I saw my family and friends twice in this section, at 1.4 miles and 2.1 miles. They captured a photo and I’m still smiling at this point. Chris looks pretty happy too. He’s to my left, yellow hat, blue shirt.
Miles 5-8 (10:05, 10:01, 9:58, 10:07) This portion was an out and back on 127, also know as “the frying pan”. And if the sun had come out any more, it would have been much tougher to run. It was almost nice to get away from the crowds for a bit so I could focus a little more. I was able to slow my pace down which was a good thing. For each mile of the race, Sandra had written on her arms a name of a family member or friend that was important to her. During each mile she talked about each person. I loved listening to her stories of these people and her relationship to each of them. It made the time fly by. I also really enjoyed talking to Chris and getting to know him better too.
Miles 9-14 (10:07, 9:56, 10:17, 10:12, 10:06, 9:58) Back into crowds again as we passed Battery Park. Around mile 9, Chris pulled ahead, and Sandra and I continued at a slightly slower pace. I was expecting to see my family around the 10 mile mark, but my pace was a little faster than they had expected and missed me by a couple of minutes. After mile 10 we headed to the south end of Burlington down to Oakledge Park where the halfway point and 2-person relay exchange was. I was still feeling really good. I was ready for the hill
Miles 15-16 (10:25, 10:31) This was the “Assault on Battery Hill”, but really it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounded. It was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. For starters there were the Taiko Drummers at the base of the hill which you could hear a good 1/2 mile before you could see them.
Then 2/3 of the way up the hill I saw my family and gave them salty kisses. Thanks for taking the video Liam!
Miles 17-20 (10:14, 10:21, 10:27, 10:38) I think it was sometime during mile 17 that I said I wanted to keep the rest of the miles between 10:00-10:15, but shortly after that, my pace started to drop. Around 17 miles we saw Chris and he looked like he was fading. Shortly after we passed him I realized he was behind his goal pace and was hoping to see him surge ahead soon, but he never did. Around 18 miles I started having some nausea. I’m not exactly sure why. I had been alternating drinking water and Gatorade at every water stop. But I was definitely slowing down.
Miles 21-26.2 (10:18, 10:35, 10:32, 10:31, 10:40, 10:41, 10:03) Yes it’s true. The first 20 miles is sort of like the warm up and then the real race begins. And that is where I really started fading. When we got to the last relay exchange point at 20.7, Sandra’s friend Nancy joined her to the finish. I kept up a bit, but then fell back to my slower pace. I stopped counting how many miles I had run and started counting how many I had left. I had less than an hour to go. Around 22 miles we moved onto the bike path and I tried listening to some music for the first time, but it just annoyed me and I stopped after a couple of songs. At some point I could hear the 4:30 pace leader behind me. I really wanted to finish somewhere between 4:20-4:30. I just needed to stay ahead of her. I kept focusing on the mile at hand. One mile at a time. Around mile 25 I started to get goose bumps, but not the good kind. I really wanted to quit or the very least just stop running. That would feel so much better. Forward motion.
When I started to hear the crowds from Waterfront Park I knew it was almost over. I saw my family right before entering the park, and apparently I was still smiling. How was that possible? I was so close now. I had checked my time at 25.2 miles so I new I was really close to getting in my goal range. I tried picking up the pace as much as I could…and then there I was crossing the finish line…finally. There were no tears of joy, just relief that I could stop running.
I got my medal (which was surprisingly heavy). And then I searched for water but couldn’t find any. I really wanted some water. I overheard others saying that they ran out. That was sort of a problem. I saw the food tent, but there was a long line and decided to pick up my bag as I knew I had some food in there. Bill called while I was getting my bag and said that Johanna had water for me and they were close. Once I reached them I really wasn’t feeling good at that point. The sun had come out during the last couple miles of the race and it was hot and loud and crowded in the park. I tried drinking some water but it wasn’t helping. I only had sweet food in my bag and I was so sick of sweet things at that point, nothing sounded good. I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up or both. Johanna and Bill guided me to the med tent. It was warm in there, but quieter and darker. My BP was 82/50. And they kept me there until they were happier with my BP numbers and I could walk around on my own. I drank more water and Gatorade. Bill offered a number of food items, but the only thing that sounded appealing were Doritos.
It wasn’t until we were heading out of the park that Bill noticed they were posting results and I got to see my finish time of 4:29:50. I couldn’t believe I had actually met my goal pace. I finished 1772 out of 2885 people who started. 109/217 in my age group. 10 mile time 1:40:52, 13.1 mile time 2:12:33, 20 mile time 3:24:18. And according to their website, in the last 6 miles I passed 116 people and was only passed by 19.
This was the best first marathon I could have imagined. I enjoyed the training and look forward to doing many more marathons. Just no more this year. For now I’ll focus on triathlons over the summer and then some fun races in the fall, maybe try my first trail race. Who knows what I’ll end up doing. I can’t believe how far my running has come. Two years ago, I was still working on the couch to 5K program, trying to get past running 5 minutes straight. My only goal at the time was to run the local 5K in December. I had no idea the journey I had begun.