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Steamtown Marathon<br>
Scranton, PA<br>
October 7, 2007<br><br><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Executive summary:</span><br>
Steamtown was steamy, but nothing like Chicago or Twin Cities. 62F (90% humidity) at the start and 75F at the 3 hour mark.<br><br>
A well organized mid-size race. Very similar in course and feel to Boston. A countryside point-to-point course with many town residents out to hand out water bottles and cheer from their front yards. The downhill course is scary fast and if not careful the race can get away from you in a hurry. It's easy to see that the Scranton area residents take pride in the event with ample course and crowd support.<br><br>
Goal one: 3:03<br>
Goal two: 3:08 (PR)<br>
Goal three: To finish with a smile and learn something. No matter the outcome, try not to be a self-absorbed grumpy-grump.<br><br><a href="http://www.runhigh.com/2007%20Results/2007%20Results%20B/R100707AA.html" target="_blank">Results: 3:16:27 (135 of 1582 finishers)</a><br>
1st half: 1:31:40<br>
2nd half: 1:44:47<br><br><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Training:</span><br>
After the Mohican 100 in June, I joined my local marathon training group for a 16 week program designed for this race. The plan was an adaptation of a Daniels Marathon Plan A with one quality mid-week workout a weekend long run. Averaged 49 mpw running and 45 mpw cycling for the 14 weeks leading up the race. An early season time trial set my initial VDOT at 52. I raced infrequently this summer, but the one 10 mile race (6 weeks ago) gave me the confidence to increase my quality training pace to VDOT 54. In the last phase of training, the emphasis was placed on long tempo sessions in the form of “cruise intervals.” Ran the weekly 40-50 minutes of tempo consistently at 6:20-6:25 pace; the easy and long runs at 8:00-8:30.<br><br>
This season was a bit light on mileage. Yet I stayed healthy and managed to hit all the quality workouts and long runs, each week, through the taper and into the final week. My confidence was high and everything seemed to fall into place this training cycle. I felt ready to run miles in the range of 6:50-7:05 for the race. The downhill course provided an additional mental boost.<br><br>
The story of my marathon, however, was the fever and cold that crept up on me with less than 72 hours to the race. On Friday, I developed a scratchy throat that turned to a fever on Saturday. I would never shake the cold. I spent Saturday worrying about it, hydrating and eating the best I could. The ailment took me out of my game plan, as I had no appetite on race morning and I failed to have a bowel movement before the race start. Of course, I started the race. I told myself to run 10 miles and see how it goes.<br><br><span style="text-decoration:underline;">The race:</span><br>
The Steamtown race experience reminded me of a small version of the Boston marathon with a shuttle to the start and the wait at the high school. We got to the start with plenty of time to use the restroom, stretch, and check-in a bag before the 8am start. My cold and fever took away my pre-race game face and all I was concerned with was hydrating and trying for BM. No luck.<br><br>
The race started next to the high school in Forest City, PA heading north-to-south towards Scranton. Although the course is generally downhill for the first 16 miles, the most significant elevation loss comes within the first six miles. I started off with my basic marathon plan to go easy in the first two miles similarly to a weekend long run. My idea is if I jog the first two miles that I effectively turn my 26 mile marathon into a 24 mile marathon.<br><br>
After goodbyes to my buds, I line up in the first third of the field and away we go into the foggy air. I remained optimistic that temps in the 60s would have minimal effect, but the lack of wind took its toll immediately. It took only a mile to become drenched in sweat. Normally, an easy first mile is 7:45-8:00 but Steamtown's initial mile offers 150’ loss by the 3/4 mile and I arrive at easily at <b>M1</b> (7:10). I still have my reservations about my day but my goal at this point is to just get to mile 5 and go from there.<br><br>
While I’ve placed high expectations for myself in this race, this is the first time racing the marathon as already qualified for Boston. I felt less pressure than normal and with my condition I briefly entertained the DNF. Why not, I thought? After all, Columbus is two weeks away.<br><br>
I settle in and hit <b>M2</b> (7:14) and notice that I’m already drenched. I’m pleased the miles are coming easy, staying a bit above goal pace, and after <b>M3</b> (7:16) we leave the township and head along a scenic country road. Looking ahead I couldn’t believe my eyes – at least several hundred runners lie ahead. Even though I held back, I expected to be closer to the front. The course sucked in anyone who wanted to run fast. Sheesh. I thought <b><i>I</i></b> was going fast!<br><br>
Well aware that next mile offers the steepest pitch on the course, I loosened-up and was not surprised when I arrive at <b>M4</b> (6:33). That’s just the beginning. The course continues on a steady decent, losing another 200’ in the next two miles. I take the first S-cap at 30 minutes and arrive at <b>M5</b> (6:46) exactly at 35:00 flat and perfectly on pace. Not bad, I thought to myself.<br><br>
In hindsight and with knowledge of the humidity, I should have backed off the goal pace by 5-10 seconds. But not knowing the course I had no clue how it was to unfold so I just went with it <b>M6</b> (6:52) continuing on and telling myself to now make it to 10 miles and evaluate from there. I was somewhat shocked that I was steadily passing runners up to this point, but it was a steady flow.<br><br><b>M7</b> (7:06) approaches the township of Carbondale as we cruise along the main thoroughfare which continues on for a good long stretch with some more downhill before arriving at <b>M8</b> (6:53). To our benefit, the locals seemed to embrace this race as there were many “unofficial” water stops; residents in front of their homes with a table handing out water bottles. On this day I took advantage of all the liquids I could. Chilled water felt like heaven.<br><br>
Before <b>M9</b> (6:58 ), I caught up to a woman wearing a bandana around her neck and asked the casual question, “run ultras?” She replied and we struck up a conversation. Hearing she ran Hellgate 100k, I asked her her goal. She said sub-3 but has backed off due to the heat. <b>M10</b> (6:53) came quickly, passing in 1:09:41 and I was feeling great and thought I could possibly do something on this day. Oh, how easily the competitive mind blocks out negative thoughts. In this case, the hot and humid weather.<br><br>
Hungry a little sooner than normal, I take the first of three gels at 75 minutes.<br><br>
Kerry, the speedy ultrarunner from Connecticut, and I traded miles <b>M11</b> (7:04) and <b>M12</b> (7:06) before eventually just running and working together. We took turns leading and the random conversation, including her husband's aspiration to do the <a href="http://www.run100s.com/gs.htm" target="_blank">Grand Slam of Ultrarunning,</a> passed the time. The course flattened out through the town of Archbald <b>M13</b> (7:05) before hitting the half in 1:31:40. Pace was perfect sevens and I couldn’t complain, considering the humid day. Before the race my guess was that this course was 2-3 minutes slower in the second half. My dreams of a PR began to materialize.<br><br>
I took S-cap number two at 90 minutes and continued the mission for max hydration, taking fluid at each chance. At <b>M14</b> (7:00) the pace wasn’t slowing, but I felt the heat and the effort rising. I tried to ignore my temperature but each time I poured water on my head I could feel it turn warm right away. Not good.<br><br>
Right before <b>M15</b> (6:56) we turn off the road and on to a dirt towpath style trail along a scenic river. Kerry was immediately turned on by the dirt trail and she led the next mile (still downhill) <b>M16</b> (6:52) as this race was shaping up great for her. She was feeding off the female competition and ready to reel them in. I pleaded for some patience, surprisingly she heeded, yet still our pace easily picked off runners ahead.<br><br>
Gel number two at 120 minutes.<br><br>
We continued working together as we left the dirt trail near <b>M17</b> (6:57). At this point came my “where’s the porto-john” moment and knew I had to stop. No john in sight as I ran on gingerly. Kerry was ready to roll and, looking back and not ready to leave me, I told her to go on (like I had any choice.) I survive the next 5 minutes until entering the park passing <b>M18</b> (7:11) and finally found a place for the pit stop. During the stop I simultaneously shivered and overheated. Reality hit me and I knew my day was somewhat done. Details being details, 2+ hours of humid, sweaty running and toilet paper don’t go well together. The deed takes a little over two minutes and after the restart I continued to push ahead arriving <b>M19</b> (9:46) entertaining a good finish but with much less spirit. Arriving <b>M20</b> (7:36) in 2hrs 23min+, I still had thoughts of a 45 minute final 10km and a possible PR. But in my heart I knew that this was not to be my day. I know what “good” feels like at mile twenty and this wasn’t it.<br><br>
It helped to have a similar race experience. Athens ’05 was a similarly hot day where I backed off after 18 miles, finishing intact and returning to race three weeks later.<br><br>
I trudged on, passing the desolate miles <b>M21</b> (7:43) and took S-cap number three at 2.5 hours into the race. By <b>M22</b> (7:49) I was no longer passing others and simply holding on to some semblance of a pace. While I was definitely jogging at this point and not running, I did notice a higher than normal amount of walking dead in this race. My guess is one or any of three reasons: 1) heat and humidity, 2) the faster-than-normal pace depleted runners' glycogen stores more quickly, or 3) downhill pounding taking its toll.<br><br>
My moment came again. The next porto-john could not come soon enough and this time I was in no rush to do my duty. My head was spinning and I just tried to compose myself. I cleaned myself off, laughed, and started walking on. With the chance to break 3:10 slipping away I thought to wait for one of my training buddies and just before <b>M23</b> (12:28 ), I turn around and see Mark about 100 meters behind. I wave and wait for him until I realize that he's running well and could likely blow on past me. I run on.<br><br>
We both know that <a href="http://www.steamtownmarathon.com/CHA_Marathon%203%20Miles-web.pdf" target="_blank">three hills</a> loom in the final three miles of the race. Mark chases me up the first one and catches me with about 2.5 to go. He’s laboring, but still gamely. My fleeting energy returned as I relished the chance to become pacer for a friend. In my head, I’m thinking we can still break 3:20 when Mark utters, “I can still PR.” (Which is 3:15.) I didn’t argue with him and kept pushing.<br><br>
By this point we’ve arrived in the city of Scranton and crowds became more frequent and louder. The nastiest of the three hills came next, a 100’ ascent to <b>M24</b> (8:25), which Mark and I ran evenly throughout. I expected worse. The reward was a downhill <b>M25</b> (7:34) that kick-started our drive to the finish. The final turn comes and the last 3/4 mile is a straight shot to the finish line. One minor hill separated us from the finish line. I drag Mark along to <b>M26</b> (7:43 + 1:29) and the finish. If not for Mark's presence, I'd likely finished minutes later.<br><br>
What a run. Mark ran well and missed his PR by 1 minute. Kerry finished in 3:04 and 6th overall woman. One other training bud missed a PR by 2 minutes. It's frustrating that we can only imagine and never know our outcome under better conditions.<br><br>
Waiting around the finish area, I get to see <b>Willamona</b> cross the finish line. We chat and I congratulate her before heading off on my day.<br><br>
I gave it a go, but the story of the day was my malady and the weather. I consumed only half of my normal pre-race breakfast, so I imagine that I was not topped off prior to the start. Since I slowed down on my own, I don't exactly know how well my glycogen stores worked. Nutrition-wise, I stuck the plan that has worked for me: to avoid gatorade and consume water only.<br><br><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Nutrition</span><br>
Carried: 4 gels, 5 S-caps, a few cough drops<br>
Consumed: 3 gels, 3 S-caps, 1 otter pop, and water only. It’s normal for me to pass on the gatorade.<br><br>
If marathoning was only about the training and running, we'd all have fabulous race results, every time. Unfortunately, it isn't. Part of the allure of the sport is the unpredictability of the conditions and the on-the-fly decisions that are needed within the race. We’ll never know in advance how the body will react to the stress of marathon pace under the conditions of the day.<br><br>
I am remiss not to mention that I recently launched a fundraising project for the <a href="http://www.fisherhouse.org/aboutUs/aboutUs.shtml" target="_blank">Fisher House Foundation.</a> Please visit my <a href="http://www.firstgiving.com/lloydthomas" target="_blank">Firstgiving site</a> to learn more about me and my endeavor to raise funds for an organization that help families of injured servicemen and women. Thanks to all that contributed -- I'm off to a great start toward my goal.<br><br>
As I write this on Wednesday, I have 30 cycling miles and an easy 5 mile run under my belt since the race. The fever is gone and I feel better. I avoided a complete thrashing of the legs and I imagine that a marathon re-run is on the horizon in the next 3-4 weeks.
 

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good job at a great race! you did not mention the cannon they s hoot off to start the race <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile">
 

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There's a lot to digest in this report. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"> Such a detailed course description is really helpful for those of us curious about Steamtown.<br><br>
What was it like as your group's leader to see your runners deal with the weather and and how it affected their races?<br><br>
As with all your race reports your substantial knowledge of marathoning strategy and science comes through clearly. That and your experience helped you both surge and regroup despite several factors being less than optimal on Sunday. Congratulations on finishing well (and smiling!) on a tough day health, porto-john, and weather-wise!<br><br>
Onward!
 

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Roots:<br><br>
Great job sticking it out on a very tough day. I only did a short run that morning and the humidity was oppresive. Sorry I was not able to make it to the finish to meet you.<br><br>
Congrats again and thank you for a great race report.
 

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Twice! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><br><br>
Sorry things didn't go as well as hoped. But you did log a time many of us would kill for. And it's comforting to see that even the really good runners such as yourself aren't always 100-percent on form. You're not the only one who can learn from your experience. Thanks for the report.
 

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Congrats-Great report! Where are the pictures? I like RRs with pictures<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile">
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Sorry, the photo crews didn't follow me! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"><br><br>
You can check out the race photo website here:<br><br><a href="http://www.runphotos.com/browse.cfm?race_id=119&bib_number=1629" target="_blank">http://www.runphotos.com/browse.cfm?...ib_number=1629</a>
 

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Great pictures! We will be needing a copy of 7412 for Team H's team photo<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile">
 

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<b>ROOTS</b> - great write up and excellent race considering the weather! I was hoping to BQ at Steamtown last year, but DNFed at 18ish - where the course loops into the park (I'd torn open my heel 2 days before the race on my storm door ... my stupid luck!). Reading your report reminded me so much of the race ... I definitely want to go back, it was a lot of fun and the community really seems to support it. Those first 6 miles are killer if you don't go slow enough - Vogel, who was pacing me, kept having to tell me to slow it down.<br><br><br>
Good grief girl, get the fella's name right, would ya?!!! (sorry roots!)
 

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Great job roots! An awesome run on a nasty weather weekend. An outstanding report.<br><br>
Recover well!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
How could I forget?<br><br>
BOOM!<br><br>
I imagine the scene at the start in Forest City was gorgeous, but the fog obscured the vista.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, Andrea.<br><br>
You know, this was my first stab at semi-formally coaching adult runners. I learned a lot this season working personally with runners. My first thought is that I am flattered that others believe in me and my ideas to train. I'm not really presenting new material, rather, I what I offered is my example. I ran the same training schedule that I asked of my group.<br><br>
I learned that for this set of runners, while we all strive to improve, that running is still but a pastime and hobby. Life takes priority and running (rightfully) takes its place. I found that concessions occur, often at the expense of the training.<br><br>
Probably the biggest thing I learned as a coach is that my role is to offer choice. The athlete makes the goals and ultimately decides on how/what to train for the week. I pay attention to the life and bio-rythyms of the individual, and make suggestions for the day. I also learned that people's goals and desires can change very quickly. Its easy to become disappointed when I witnessed some runners either become lazy or lose the desire to train.<br><br>
This group of runners were all experienced in humid conditions. They all compared the day to Grandma's '06 in similar conditions. Energy zapped and everyone was drained at the finish. A tough day to finish strong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks Tom! Do you like nearby?<br><br>
Thanks Voodoo. It is astounding on how one or two small things can unravel a season's worth of work. Sometimes, you have to ride the horses you got, and somedays its not good enough. Fortunately, we have many races nearby to get back on the horse and try again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Ha! What a high honor to be confused for MM Hippo. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/notworthy.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="notworthy"><br><br>
I hope you get another shot at Steamtown. Good luck at Bay State.
 

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Great photos roots!!!<br><br>
As Fernando used to say, <i>"It's better to look good, than to feel good!"</i>
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/blush.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="blush"> OOPS!
 

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w<span style="font-size:x-large;"><b>h</b></span>oooo <span style="font-size:x-large;"><b>h</b></span>oooooo, way to toug<b><span style="font-size:x-large;">h</span></b> it out Roots!! Just t<span style="font-size:x-large;"><b>h</b></span>ink of all the good you did for your team <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy">
 

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Great run & report, Lloyd! You handled everything that was within your control with aplomb. The intangibles ..... well, we just do what we can. Regardless, your time was one that many of us dream of. I'm thinking that you are destined for a sub 3 in the future.<br>
Take care<br>
hup
 
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