Lake Placid Marathon
Lake Placid, NY
Sunday, June 15 2008
Marathon-A-Month #22 (#42 in all)
Finish: 3:02:57 (6:59 pace)
4th Place Overall (of 300)
1st Half: 1:34:00
2nd Half: 1:28:57 (5 minute Negative Split!)
*Splits at end.
As soon as I learned the Lake Placid Marathon was in June, I knew right away it would serve as month number twenty-two in my quest at Marathon-A-Month for two years.
With Ironman Lake Placid just over a month later, a trip to upstate New York to the bygone Olympic village and training center was even more fitting for the training exercises it would allow.
Although the marathon course is not identical to that of Ironman, the course does cover nearly the entire route and, more importantly, chugs up and over the same challenging hills, giving a great first-hand experience for the real show of mettle a month later.
The weekend would also allow me to swim in Mirror Lake, the body of water staging the Ironman swim, and cycle a loop of the bike course.
Fitting it was, indeed.
Lake Placid is a tiny town situated in upstate New York in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. The town is so small that you can walk from the ice cream stand on the north side of Main Street all the way to the Olympic Oval on the other within 10 leisurely minutes.
The host hotel, where I secured a room, was in the center of town, closer to the Oval. Site of packet pickup the day before the race, the hotel was also the place for the pasta dinner the night before and a pre-race breakfast the morning of.
In spite an early 8 a.m. start, the hotel was so convenient, all I had to do race morning was slip into running gear, lace up my shoes, hit the breakfast spread for a muffin, banana, and coffee, and then stumble out the door for a short walk down the hill to race start at the Olympic Oval.
Small town marathons… they rock!
After what had to be the longest recorded version of God Bless America over a monotone speaker, the Lake Placid Marathon was started by the muffled sounds of a malfunctioning air horn.
I could tell right away this marathon was different. With Ironman being so close to this date, many triathletes were in town for a training weekend that included the half marathon. But with the marathon and the half joining in a mass start, it was crowded enough to provide good conversation.
By the time the course zipped uphill into town and down Main Street, still within the first quarter mile, I had already settled in with 3 others. My new Iron hooligan friends were in town to cap off a glorified training weekend by running the half.
Miles 1 through 6 (7:19, 7:04, 7:02, 7:03, 7:04, 7:04) were a bit faster than I wanted, but since I felt comfortable chatting at that pace and effort, and since the conversation was about all things Iron, I decided to stick in and, when my mates would split at the end of the half marathon loop, where the marathon would then turn around for another loop, I would then dial the effort back down to size.
By Mile 7 (7:26), me and my mates fell into pairs with two maintaining pace and me, with my new buddy Eric, saying he wanted to dial back the pace to 7:30’s. I was jumped all over it, since I was not racing, nor even looking at my splits – just blindly clicking the button at each mile marker.
Mile 8 (7:30) was much of the same as Eric and I settled deep in conversation about he and his wife’s epic hikes and scaled mountains. By then our other two mates were far enough ahead, and the road winding and set with rolling hills, that we could no longer see them.
Suddenly Eric needed to hit a Porto-head. Timing was everything, because we were just approaching the turn-around for the out and back part of the loop, and there on the other side of the road, now coming at us, were our other two mates. They seemed to be just under a quarter mile ahead.
It didn’t take long for me to weigh the odds of running alone now that Eric was off the course verses putting out the effort to catch the two ahead so that I could have company the remainder of the loop. And that’s what I did. Mile 9 (6:22) came quick, but I caught them.
Mile 10 (7:00), now heading back toward town over rolling hills, some of which were challenging but none of which would put you under, was back at the pace the other two had been running.
As we approached a long steep hill by Mile 11 (8:17), one of the two started pushing pace and slowly pulled away. But by then, the other mate wasn’t speaking at all, so I used the flat Miles of 12 (6:14) and 13 (6:10) in attempts to catch up to at least say thanks for the company.
No such luck. I ran out of road. The split point was before me. Off went the half marathoners to the left as the marathon turned 180 degrees back to the other side of the road and now against the flow of returning half marathoners and marathoners completing the first loop.
For the first time in the race, right at where I estimated the half marathon mark to be, I looked at my watch. Just then the digits flipped to 1:34:00. I couldn’t help but think about how psychological distance events were. Here I was, now on mile 13 of a full marathon, and because I chatted away the beginning miles, and because I never looked at my splits, I was actually feeling much better than I would have been – especially on such a rolling course – had I been eyeing my splits.
Suddenly a voice coming from the other side of the road rocked me out of deep thought. “10th place, you’re in 10th!”
Hearing that put things in perspective. Miles earlier, when I had caught up to my two faster mates, someone on the other side of the road hollered: “12th place.” Upon hearing that, one of my mates looked around and then said to the female we just caught up to that she was 12th female in the half marathon. Only now I realize that wasn’t right. Between then and now, I had climbed two places.
‘10th Place.’ I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Just how far, I wondered, could I climb? I knew there were a few marathoners not too far ahead – maybe 5 minutes – by their red bib numbers. I had seen them on one of the turn-arounds. Before I had a chance to think about pacing, I subconsciously already convinced myself that I was on the prowl.
Mile 14 (6:24) and 15 (6:27) were fast and productive, as I zipped from 10th place all the way down to 6th.
Mile 16 (6:33) and 17 (6:29), still on the prowl but not seeing anybody in the marathon, were fast. Fatigue was growing, and my pace was too fast, but I placed faith in my strength to be able to hold on. Because the truth was that no pain could be worse than Mooseman the week before. If I could hold on to that run in such oppressive heat and humidity and a world of hurt, I could certainly hold onto this.
Finally by Mile 18 (6:47), as the course rolls with one small hill after another, I nipped another marathoner. That put me square in 5th place.
Approaching the turn-around for the second loop, I finally spotted ahead the 4th place guy. And as soon as I did so, I also spotted coming the other way, already through the turn, the first place guy looking very focused and strong, almost unbeatable, and, four minutes later – I clocked it! – 2nd and 3rd place working together but looking very tired.
Mile 19 (6:42) came as I closed the gap with 4th. Through the turnaround, I was so on the hunt for 4th, and nipping on his heals, I forgot to look at the watch to see how far ahead 2nd and 3rd were. Damn!
With that I decided to up the pace for Mile 20 (6:24), pass with authority, and work like mad over the rolling hills in attempts to close what I thought was a, maybe, 5 to 8 minute gap for 2nd place.
Mile 21 (6:56), with a net climb back toward the main road, was a bit slower, but I knew my effort was strong. Mile 22 (6:38) was solid, I was feeling tired but knew I could hold on.
But still, there no sight of 3rd place.
Mile 23 (6:49) and into the long steep hill at 24 (8:10), I was now running on edge, holding on, peering up the road for prey.
Mile 25 back to town and up a long grind on a hill that just wouldn’t quit up to the Olympic Oval, there was still no sign of 2nd or 3rd.
Now rounding the Oval, with the finish line on the other side, I shook the hill out of my legs and streamed through the finish in what probably was the easiest fast marathon I’ve ever run.
It took a 1:28:57 second half for a serious 5 minute negative split to cross the line in 3:02:57.
As I would find out later, the 3rd place guy finished only two and a half minute ahead, and 2nd only a short time sooner. I know – I just know – that if the foot race were a mile longer, I would have had at least 3rd place. I was just too strong on the day.
4th place was good for one special thing more – a spot on the podium, and not just an age group podium. 4th place was good for a Top 5 finish. For that I was awarded a nifty all-glass 4th Place Overall trophy and a complimentary Fuel Belt.
Small town marathons…indeed, they rock!
1 – 7:19 – Find 3 Iron hooligan mates. My new friends.
2 – 7:04 – Pace brisk, but I’m still catching, and the chatting is good!
3 – 7:02
4 – 7:03
5 – 7:04
6 – 7:04
7 – 7:26 – Eric wants to slow pace. I’m cool with that.
8 – 7:30
9 – 6:22 – Eric pulls off course as I catch up to other two mates just ahead.
10 – 7:00 – Back at pace of two mates. 12th Place but don’t yet know it.
11 – 8:17 – Big Hill!
12 – 6:14 – Faster mate pulls away. I chase.
13 – 6:10 – Almost caught faster mate before the turn for the second loop.
14 – 6:24 – Look at that, I’m in 10th place!
15 – 6:27 – Work my way into 6th place!
16 – 6:33 – On the prowl.
17 – 6:29
18 – 6:47 – Caught 5th place.
19 – 6:42 – See 1st through 3rd places. 1st has 4 minute lead over 2nd.
20 – 6:24 – Toss in quick mile to overtake 4th place.
21 – 6:56 – Damn, forgot to look at watch to see how far behind 3rd.
22 – 6:38 – Prowling for 3rd.
23 – 6:49 – Hunting continues without sight.
24 – 8:10 – Big Hill!
25 – 14:54 (?)
26.2 – (?)
2nd Half: 1:28:57