Saturday, October 3, 2015

The New Hampshire Marathon (New Hampshire)

October 3, 2015
Marathon 53, State #46 (Age 47)
Bristol, New Hampshire

A third time is a charm will have to be my “theme” for this monumental marathon weekend get-a-way.   A year ago I decided to take on the states of CT & RI in a single weekend, but this wasn’t the first time I did this, many years ago I also took on DE & NJ in a single weekend.   This trip was no different in that the next two states on my list were NH & ME, both a long way from California and only made logistical sense to tackle in a single weekend.   

I learned about the CT & RI “double” in 2013 when a met a guy in NM at Duke City Marathon who had just done it the weekend prior.  I’m quite a bit older than my earlier “double”, but I figured he was much old than I was at the time and if he could do it I could probably as well.  I think I learned from “crazy Eddie” in a Facebook post that he had finished his 49th and 50 States a week before I was do attempt my own “double” in 2014.   Since 2014 worked out, when I learned there was another opportunity to do a “double” in NH & ME, the planning went into motion.  

My rule of thumb is not to register or buy a plane ticket until I complete my next scheduled marathon.   There of course had been a couple times I broke this rule of mine including this time when I registered all the way back in spring 2015.   This year I had also planned ahead and registered for my only 2nd “ultra-marathon” which took me to a raced called Big Horn Trail races in Wyoming which was a 50k.  This race required am early registration to guarantee an entry before selling out.  I supposed since this race wasn’t until June, even waiting till spring to register for this “double” would be fine.    As a bonus, I think the Wyoming 32 mile run could constitute as a training run for this early October’s double.

I tried to recruit a few of my running buddies to join me but once again, my only friend crazy enough to run two races in a single weekend was my new friend George.  In just the last 3 years we will have accumulated six races together and have found each other good travel companions.   George and I are both big fans of the outdoors, so we’ve not just been able to run marathons, we’ve also incorporated a few adventures into our races and this one would be no different!    Last fall we crammed 3 high points I’d never visited on top of two marathons in 3 days.   That was a little much so this time we scaled it back to 1 high point, two marathons, and then a day and a half to explore the coast line of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.   I had been to the high point of NH 15 years ago named Mt. Washington, but it was so close to my NH marathon combined with it's such an attraction so it was too hard to resist.   After the race I would have time to see a little of Maine, so since I’d never been to Maine before, I was greatly anticipating exploring it’s famous coastline.

Training wasn’t too much different than a year ago.  A pyramid of increasing my long runs up to about 12 miles.   If you know me then you know I’m a big fan of under training, or at least not over training thus staying injury free.   I like to incorporate cycling and usually get to ride 35-50 miles in the foothills which makes for a great compliment to my running.    For a “double” I do boost my shorter runs each night and add a couple of miles more to each run than I might for just a typical one marathon weekend.   The big difference in 2015 was that it was so bloody hot in California in August and September also never gave me a break.   I’m guessing record 80-90’s temperatures day in and day out.    The heat forced me to run late at night and even a few weekends where I might have had a longer run to cut in my run short.    To better simulate the 2nd day of the marathon I tried to do a couple back to back days of long runs of 8 or more miles which I think helps train my legs and body for day two’s marathon.   

I had two great training runs worth mentioning.   The first was in Ventura, CA when my girls and I had camped the night before along the beach.  I got up with plans of doing a long run and the logical route was up the coast 5-6 miles enjoying the view then of course turning around and making the return trip the exact same way.   The second run I remember was actually from home.   I have a few routes I run regularly, but when I need a longer run I do this big loop which doesn’t allow any short cuts back home.  It was a hot week but I knew I needed to get in my miles, so I wasn’t able to run until about 10pm.  I don’t make a lot of changes to my playlist on the iPod, but for this night I was in a Nirvana state of mind so downloaded the Nevermind album.   I put it on repeat and headed out the door loving every minute of it.   I got to mile 7-8 and was in my groove.  About 11pm I decided to sing out loud while jamming to the album.  I think there were even a few people outdoors that heard me coming and probably thought I was some kind of kook! 

A couple weeks out from NH, I get a message from another one of my running buddies who said he’s going to join me for day 1, but then head home and leave me to run day 2 by myself.    He apparently joked with his wife about the “double” and was laughed at!   The more the merrier, I love the company as well as catching up with old friends.    I would get into town a day early so George and I could take in Mt. Washington and then meet my friend John in Bristol, NH and go to the expo together.    
I’d love to take my girls along for the trip, but they are both in full swing for school, so unfortunately it doesn’t work out for all of us to go.   However, the same weekend, my wife plans a last minute trip to Ohio to see her parents, so it ends up we will actually all be traveling out of state this weekend!   I was off on Thursday with a direct flight to Boston and would meet George who flew in a day before me and had a chance to see some more of the city of Boston.   

Weekend Travel Plans
The big question mark of the weekend would be the weather.   As is goes, there was a huge hurricane called Joaquin that was lurking over the Bahamas and looked as if it was heading right up the east coast.    Checking onto my flight I see that already 3 days early, Ironman Maryland had cancelled the upcoming weekend's Ironman.  Yikes.   George claims to be pummeled by rain in Boston, and next I hear that even Portland, ME has flooding.   I thought what a disaster it would  be to train all summer and then fly out here and have to run 2 days in the rain or worse yet to have my race(s) cancelled.

Unlike last year when I surprised George with a six pack of his favorite Big Sky Brewery’s “Trout Slayer” which a bottle broke in my carry on, I mailed George a six pack, this time “Moose Drool”, to surprise him.   I find out later that our mutual friend Greg who introduced us in Missoula, MT was visiting George a week before the marathon so George graciously gave up the entire six pack to Greg!   Of course there was great email’s and text’s exchanged between the three of us throughout this  endeavor!
Late Start for Fall Colors, but White Mountains Didn't Disappoint

I would land and meet George at the car rental lot and we would make it all the way to our hotel outside Bristol, NH.   I didn’t have any dinner on the plane, so a Power Bar helped my hunger until we reached the capital city of Concord, NH, less than an hour from our first night’s destination.    We found a little taco bar called Boloco that hit the spot!   I think it’s a franchise, I hope it’s coming out west!   Checking into our hotel we were surprised to find only a single bed, whoa that wouldn’t be good, but then after turning on the lights, there was a whole separate room with two more beds.   This is great because now maybe even John will be able to join us and we can share a single room.   A few texts to John and looks like he’s all set for early morning departure from Ohio. 
Before waking, at 2:30 a.m. a stranger’s key open’s our door and busts in before realizing the office put him in our same room.   That was quite a shock!   Then, Friday morning we wake to a noisy hotel lobby (directly below us) of 75 retired people getting ready to board their tour bus.   After breakfast our room keys will not let us back into our room and we learn that the night reception put us into the wrong room, after all we weren’t supposed to have a big room of three beds.   Before surrendering, I checked with John and let him know we are getting moved across the hall, yes a bit of a pain, however he’s frightened by the weather and decides to cancel his trip.  Such a bummer!

Now it was time to figure out what we were going to do for the day.  We get in the car and drive towards the White Mountains of NH to see what would unfold.  It wasn’t 10 minutes from the hotel, and we spotted a moose along the right side of the road.   Saw him at the last minute so couldn’t easily slow down and never got a picture.   We were not too far from Mt. Washington (6,288 ft) which is the highest point on the eastern USA, so for two lovers of the outdoors it seemed like the natural choice.   Three options, either climb, drive, or take the famous COG railroad.  

Read Mt. Washington 2015 Blog 

Now time to head back to check out the town of Bristol, NH and visit to the marathon expo.   I ran into one other guy boarding my plane back at LAX who was also doing the “double”.   He mentioned to me that there were only 280 marathon participants registered, whoa, didn’t know this race was so small!  We make our way to the elementary school where the expo was and believe me it’s as basic as it gets.   No booths for vendors schlepping their goods, only a registration table to pick up race bib and swag bag which consisted of a simple orange (fitting for October & Halloween) long sleeve running jersey.   

My friends, especially the ones that are not marathon runners probably think I’m a little crazy to do what I do.   It’s probably not normal to run two marathons on back to back days.   I look at some of the crazies at the expo and realize there is a large percentage of them that are 50 staters like myself and they are also continuing to run the following day in Maine.   Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse because when I look at them they don’t look normal!  Sorry guys!   A little comical a few days later I’ll pass by a sign that reads, “Acting normal can be exhausting” and I suppose I can relate to that!

Also at the packet pickup we received an invitation to join the local Mason’s for $10 pasta dinner.   It hadn’t been that long since we just had a late lunch, but when in Rome so they say, we headed oover and picked up a plate to eat.   The pasta was known to be “very good” in the literature and while pre race pasta banquets are not usually my first choice for dinner, however Bristol is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there didn’t seem to be a much better option without traveling so this would be the place to be.   I’m glad we stayed because there were about 12 homemade crock pots filled with various homemade recipes of sauces.   Also dinner bread, garlic bread, soda or water, and even a cake which was decorated for the marathon!  Yum!

At dinner we sit down with a guy, also doing a “double” this weekend.  He’s not just doing a double this weekend but apparently he’s spending the week and also doing a double the following weekend.  Last year I did CT and the drove onto RI 100 miles away, but he said there is a race in VT which he is driving to for what will be his 4th marathon in 9 days.   I’m glad I never thought of that plan!   We also saw two really old runners (>80’s) that were rumored to have done each over 600-800 marathons!   Who knows, I may be done with this running stuff after I reach my 50 states!

Back to the room, a little hard to go to bed early, still on PST, but getting up is a different story, so lights off early.  I welcomed the late start time of 9 a.m, however, George who signed up for the 13.1 race had to load a bus by 8 a.m. to take him to the opposite side of the lake for a same time start, so much for sleeping in!   I would never see the runners doing the half, but would eventually run their same path on the second half of the full marathon course.   

It was a little brisk, only about 41 degrees.   Funny, I think that was nearly at least 40 degrees and nearly 50 degrees cooler than a single one of my training runs!   Still it seemed like shorts weather for me, however just for safety, I added an extra layer on top.     Soon I had to get out of the car and start preparation and there may have been port-o-john’s however I elected to go back into the school and there was a single slot which was backed up with long line.  I managed to get through the queue with just enough time to make it out to the start and even was able to listen to the national anthem performed by the high school band.   Moments later the gun was fired and we were off!

Game plan, as usual, start slow, then taper.   Today no reason to get crazy and push myself.    I looked at the course profile and wasn’t intimidated so thought it would be and easy track.   One loop half way around the lake, a 3 mile out and back, then continue around the lake back to the start.    There was a 10k that started with the marathoners so they took off like bats out of hell and before long they had reached their 3 mile turn around and were heading back towards the start.    Meanwhile I kept chugging onward.

With only 280 runners, while the crowds were very thin for the whole 1st half of the marathon I found several runners about my same pace and had a chance to talk with them.   First was a couple from Albuquerque who were also in for the “double”.   That’s right, everyone I’ve talked to up this point is running both days.   Cray Cray!    Finally, I meet a girl running by herself named Rachel who was running her very first marathon.   She was a bit shocked when I shared with her that I’m running again Sunday!   I gave her a few words of encouragement and as she slowed down I dropped her and marched forward getting to run with about a half dozen other runners.   

At the 13.1 mile mark I did a quick clock check and noticed even with all the hills I was running my usual pace and clocked a 2:02.    I didn’t mean to be running that fast so decided to back off just a bit, after all I was supposed to be saving my legs for Sunday’s marathon in Maine!    I usually try to run a negative split with a faster 2nd half, so I typically don’t get passed by too many runners on the 2nd half, however, after trying to back off the pace and keep my heart rate a little lower under the threshold I set for myself, a few runners did end up passing me.    I would eventually again pass them as they bonked!  

I really never got tired and was feeling good from start to finish, so other than a couple hills that I walked for a short stretch I was moving along right as planned and even ahead of my prediction.   I had one guy that had passed me with long pink socks so when I could see him slowing I thought it was only appropriate that he needed to be dropped.   I picked up my pace the last two miles and caught him and then he tried to keep up with me.    I just assumed like nearly every other runner I talked to that was doing a “double” that he was as well.   When I broke it to him I was running again on Sunday I think I broke him and he gave up and started walking.   

Nearing the last turn I see George, camera in hand, cheering me on and surprised to see me already.   I couldn’t remember what time I ran last year on day 1 of my “double”, but today I clocked in a 4:14:58 which was right on track with what I thought I could do.    The unnecessary push the last two miles I think I could feel a little in my legs, but after a lukewarm shower at the school I was ready to roll to the next state.   Like last year, the next day’s race was about 100 miles away or about 2 hours in the car.    We plugged the coordinates into the GPS and started our trek to Portland, ME.   There were no interstates, just old state routes.   

Recap:  Great really small town marathon.  Crowd support was pretty much nil.  Most races I’ve ran have been mostly closed to traffic, however, from start to finish, the roads were open to traffic.   That being said, there wasn’t more than a couple vehicles that passed by, mostly, crew of another runner on the course and looking for a good place to pull over to cheer again.    A warm summer had lead to a late fall change of the leaves, so while it was beautiful, on any other year it was probably even more remarkable.   The first half of the marathon, while running around the lake, there are very few clearings for a good view of the lake.   The 2nd half of the course puts you a little closer to the water’s edge and was even more beautiful than the 1st half.    After the race there was a table set up with some pizza, chocolate milk (so good, I had two), and some granola bars.     Cars are parked on the school grounds, so you could throw a football from the finish line to your car!   No doubt you’ll see many 50 staters at this venue!


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