|Photo by Jan Leja|
So with the biggest story being the weather... which, with the right clothing adjustments and a few thousand trash bags, didn't seem to dampen (pun intended) spirits -- the race began.
It was a day on which spectating must have been more difficult than running. And there were definitely fewer spectators than normal. But the 2013 VCM crowd report is an A-plus; it was one of the most enthusiastic, active, and boisterous VCM crowds I've experienced.
The race itself boiled down to two directions: south (i.e. with the wind) and north (against the wind). I wore a contractor-weight trash bag for 2.5 miles, then realizing that it would serve as a wind-catch on the Beltline section, ditched it at the Church Street water station. Still wearing a light jacket, I ran north on the Beltline behind two 6-foot relay runners who ran consistent 7:10-minute miles -- a perfect wind-break. I felt that this was a little quick; although I have run the Beltline faster, this year, I tried to dial back my early race pace in order to run a more consistent marathon than in the recent past (also, Alison said she wouldn't give me a post-race hug if I didn't do this). And I succeeded (and got my hug): my total race time this year, despite being a minute slower than last year's personal best 3h11m, included a 1:36 back half (versus 1:39 in 2012). This year's VCM was my most consistent marathon in years.
I ran the Beltline with Marty Courcelle, who shattered his previous PR by 17 minutes (no surprise given his recent training patterns). For anyone looking for crowd support, don't run with Marty in Burlington. Everyone we passed (except my parents and wife) saw the two of us and said, "Go Marty!" This was a big help to a runner from Boston who ran behind me the entire race and finished next to me; his name was also Marty.
My personal spectators were awesome. Alison walked all over the course... carrying Baby Gunnar on her chest, his diaper bag on her back, and an umbrella to keep him dry. Gunnar, meanwhile, let her get away with it. Meanwhile, my dad (wearing similar rain gear to that Bill Belichick wears in similar conditions) and Jill navigated the course so that I passed them no fewer than four times -- and they managed a visit to Bahrenburg's Bagel Shop. Impressive. I should also mention the Pink Panthers -- Jess Cover, Angie DeFilippi, and Kristen Courcelle who provided me with a good laugh biking around the course wearing pink sweatsuits.
I stopped on the Beltline return trip to use the bathroom (aka the bushes) and spent the next few miles slowly catching up to Marty (the one getting all the cheers) -- finally doing so just before the halfway point at Oakledge Park. From there on, it was more or less into the wind for the next 7 or 8 miles. We ran together up Battery, exchanging a high-five at Mile 15.
The turning point in the race for me happened on North Avenue next to the Lakeside Cemetery, where my mother is buried. I always give a wave as I pass, and I try to handle the hill in front of Burlington High School as respectably as possible (don't want mom to disapprove of my effort). This year, for Mother's Day (Alison's & Gunnar's first), we had gone down to her grave site to plant a few flowers. I couldn't see how they're doing (they experienced a week of dryness then a week of downpours), but I got a real lift there after the annual wave. I bounded up the hill and kept a very even pace on North Avenue, Leddy, and the neighborhoods.
By the time I reached the bike path and the home stretch at mile 22, I felt good enough to pick it up, passing 25 marathoners while getting passed by 7. On the bike path, I experienced some angry chafing in my right arm pit -- probably the worst I've ever had. At the finish, I also noticed blood spots over each nipple, although these didn't hurt. I was pretty grossed out by this, and what's worse, Ali had recommended I wear my blue USA singlet instead of white for this reason. As usual, I should have listened.
All in all, it was a good race -- probably the fastest I could have run on this particular day. Positives for me were the fact that I had nearly even splits (front half to back half -- less than two minutes difference) plus a strong kick at the end. More importantly to me, however, was seeing that one can become a parent, still fit in training, and still run a strong marathon. Finally, it was my 9th consecutive Vermont City -- a streak that I am very excited about. Thanks to my training partners, the Run With Jan Sunday group, Sarah Pibram's Thursday morning track workouts, my two dogs (also training partners), and, most of all, Alison and Gunnar (also training partners) without whom I would not be able to run marathons.