Bucks County Marathon – Race Report part 2: Now what?
If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here.
After learning of the NYC marathon cancellation we finished our meal at the restaurant and headed home. Once we got home we dumped our bags in the hallway and exhaled. It was a relief to not have to get ready for a race that had suddenly become the center of frustration and anger for several million New Yorkers. For my kids this meant firing up the computer and PS3 for some video game time and for the wife it meant updating Facebook and seeing what she missed in the last hour and a half on Pinterest (just kidding sweetie). For me it meant finding another marathon… and fast!
I realized once word of the cancellation began to spread there would be 47,000 or so other runners looking to hop into a marathon in the next few weeks. Any races that had space available would fill up fast. Philly’s marathon was already closed to registration so that wasn’t an option (though they would later open up 3,000 slots for NYC refugees for the bargain price of $200). As luck would have it, the race director for the Bucks County marathon (and my new best friend) was able to get me into his race which is about 45 minutes north of my house. I was already planning on attending the race in a Gatorade capacity to support the event, the only difference now would be I’d be running in it as well. Even better I had two more weeks to recover and heal, giving myself an even better shot at breaking 3 hrs. All was right in the world.
I showed up early race day morning to deliver a few things for the race then spent the remaining time in the car with my race day photographer trying to stay warm. There was a good amount of frost throughout the park and the temp was about 30 degrees with a forecast high in the upper 40′s. With a good amount of cloud cover that morning, gun time approached and the car thermostat hadn’t budged so I stuck to my original wardrobe selection (siglet, shorts, gloves and arm-sleeves). I just planned on being chilly until the start.
Race start to mile 2
As silly as this might sound, we had wave starts even with a field size of less than 450 runners. The initial pavement section and the very narrow towpath just wasn’t conducive to a mass start. We went out in groups of 50 and being in wave one I didn’t have much traffic to deal with until..
Mile 2 thru 13.1
After the first mile and change we left the park area and hit the towpath. This was also the last time I would see pavement for another 23 miles. A point I want to make at this point is that I had prepared for a full pavement, large scale marathon while Bucks is a great small town, trail race. Every marathon I’ve ever run (and practically every training run) has been on pavement. So while Bucks is an outstanding race, it wasn’t what I had prepared for physically or mentally.
Racing this course was a challenge, to say that parts of the towpath were narrow would be an understatement. There was just barely enough room for two runners to run side-by-side in many sections of the course. In fact when running on the river side of the towpath I could easily see how a misstep would put you in the drink.
Between miles 2 and 5 a pack of about 10 runners formed around the lead woman and by the splits we were hitting we all seemed to have the same sub-3 hour goal in mind. Running with the pack, along with the challenges of an unfamiliar trail course, made me have to focus on my footfalls and surroundings more than I’ve ever had to before. There wasn’t more than a step or two of maneuver room within the group I was around so I tried to hang toward the back. It was a bit nerve wracking to be honest. While there were good stretches of packed dirt and cinder there was also sections of gravel, some post Sandy rocks and branches and the occasional cleared (but too close for comfort) downed tree. Adding in some Horse droppings and the occasional dog-walker made the first 13 miles mentally taxing. The first 13 is when I’m usually holding back and conserving my energy, here I was clocking good splits but it was taking more effort than it should have, and I knew it. There wasn’t going to be as much in the tank as expected during the second half.
Mile 14 to 19
After the turn around I spent a mile or two running with the lead female Justyna Wilson who was coming off a first place women’s finish in the inaugural Trenton Double Cross Half-Marathon the weekend prior. We talked for a bit, both of us looking for a 3 hour finish time that neither of us were able to achieve (she got a bit closer than I did on her way to a solid women’s 1st place finish).
As you can see from the splits on the left, Mile 17 was when the course was starting to take it’s toll on me. My Inov-8 150′s which are stellar on pavement were “less than optimum” on the course. I could feel some hotspots developing on the bottom of my feet and my left hamstring was starting to tighten up. I kept leaning hard on the pedal for mile 18 but when the mile 19 split came in at 7:15, with my hamstring beginning to prevent me from maintaining pace, I knew getting in under three hours was most likely out of reach. It now became a matter of holding on to that PR and managing my left side.
Mile 20 to Finish
I had passed the 20 mile marker and a few minutes went by without hearing the familiar “beep”. I looked down and my watch was dead. After looking at the data post-race it was apparent that the tree cover made connectivity to the GPS satellites sporadic. The additional searching drained my 4+ year old Garmin to zero. On the positive side, I didn’t have a constant reminder of missing my sub-3 hour goal. The down side was there weren’t any clocks on the course so I was flying blind and going purely by feel. I basically ran as hard as I could while not allowing my hammy to affect my form.
The final mile was a circular trip around the park so with about 8/10 of a mile to go you past close enough to the finish to see the clock. A solid PR was still there so I finished strong, taking 18th overall and 3rd in my age group. In checking the results recently, I noticed that everyone who finished in front of me was younger than I was. Granted the two guys in my age group were only a year younger but it still counts
Post Race details coming soon in part 3.