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Steamtown Marathon - RunMarathon

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Scranton, Pennsylvania
United States
34F / 1C
Total Time = 3h 15m 32s
Overall Rank = 203/1950
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 37/172
Pre-race routine:

I got up at 4:30 AM - 3 1/2 hours prior to the Race Start. I wanted to make sure I left enough time for my breakfast to settle. I ate a banana and a clif bar; drank half a gatorade and a cup of Pikes Peak coffee.
Event warmup:

Did a few 25-yard warm-up strides. Nothing crazy. It was just above freezing outside and I did just enough to warm the muscles a bit.
  • 3h 15m 32s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 07m 28s  min/mile

I ran this marathon last year. I ran it strictly as a preview for this year. My one and only Long-Run going into Steamtown 2009 was a lone 15-miler. Also, just a week before last year's race, I raced a Half Ironman, so I was no where near 100%. Despite the lack of training in '09, I really enjoyed the natural Autumnal beauty of this forest-lined course and soaked in the small Pennsylvania town charm and ambiance. This year, I logged 356 miles from August 1st to race morning, including two 20-mile Long Runs and back-to-back 50-mile weeks. This time it was strictly about attempting to seriously Qualify for Boston, or at worst break 3:30 (my two prior marathons NYC 2007 - 3:34, and Steamtown 2009 - 3:33).

Just like last year, it was 33 degrees at the start. I get hot when I run, so I only wore a singlet and race ready shorts. This is perfect weather for me and my half mary PR (1:31) was in similar conditions. I bid my buddy Bill and his brother-in-law farewell and made my way to the start. With 2 mins to spare I hit the port-a-potty one last time, sprinted to the start, the cannon went BOOM, and we were off!!

Just a minute in, the runner next to me dropped one of his gels. He stopped a moment to get it, but then thought better of it and kept running. With 1900 people stampeding behind us, it was the wiser decision. I asked him what kind of gel he lost and he said a Tri-Berry GU. It just so happened I had an extra one. I had four total and he said he had two, so I handed him my Tri-Berry and wished him a good race. Secretly I was hoping the Marathon Gods would look favorably upon my deed.

The first 13 miles of this marathon have several steep descents (especially mile 1 and then 4, 5 & 6) with three modest climbs. Whether on a steep downhill or climbing, I was extremely patient and kept my RPE around a 4/10. The Race Director and everyone who has succesfully run this race in the past preaches going out easy the first half of this course. If you don't and instead choose to hammer the downhills in the first half, your quads will be shot and your second half will be a death marach. I took this advice last year when I ran it, and really stuck to it this year. Overall I only banked 3 minutes on the first half, keeping with a BQ Goal of 3:15 - 7:26 avg. My splits were: 6:58 7:14 7:08 6:48 7:11 7:10 7:20 7:11 7:16 7:12 7:20 7:32 7:24.

Around Mile 7 I started getting a side stitch. The sport drink used on the course is All-Sport. Knowing this, I trained the last month with All-Sport. My first 20-mile training run using All-Sport, I had wicked stomach cramps the last 5 miles. The next few times I used it the side stitches got less and less. I think using it in training prepared my body and the side stitch subsided mostly after a couple of miles. I am glad I practiced with it in training.

Also around mile 7 my right piriformis began to ache. It had bothered me throughout Marathon training, but in training I was always able to stop for a few seconds on the side of the road and stretch it out. Today I wasn't sure if I wanted to use that option. The pain lasted the entire race, but it kept reminding me to stay relax and keep my form.

Running through the half-dozen tiny Pennsylvania towns was awesome. The school marching bands were out, as were the cheerleaders and all the townspeople holding up signs, cheering us on. When not in town, we ran along forest-lined roads and I just marveled at how gorgeous Autumn is.

I hit the rails to trails section at mile 16 and I was feeling good but nervous. My cramps were gone but my right glute and hip were complaining. I looked down at my Garmin and my avg was around 7:30. I knew the Rails to Trails soft ground would slow me down a little, but I used it as a strategic point to rest my legs a little. I had to start working finally and my RPE was trending toward 6/10 effort. I also noticed early on in the race that my Garmin was clicking off miles earlier than the mile markers. First it was a few yards, then 50 yards. By this point my Garmin was ahead of the mile markers by close to .2 of a mile. I was starting to tire and fatigue at this point and didn't realize how important this was. At mile 17 I started to feel like I was "Hitting the Wall". I remember this feeling well from my first Marathon in NYC. At mile 23 in New York, I felt like someone pulled the power cord out of my back and the energy just drained out of me. I didn't panic this time. I quickly popped an Orange Power-Gel w/ Caffeine and the power slowly went back on. It was my second gel up to this point. My splits for 14 to 19 were: 7:20 7:17 7:33 7:27 7:25 7:36.

I hit the 20-mile mark and I knew this is where THE MARATHON BEGINS. I've been told it a hundred times, read it a thousand times, and experienced it first-hand twice. I saw the 20-mile digital clock and it read 2:27:05... I quickly did the math the best I could and figured I needed to run somewhere around a 48 minute 10k. The pain in my piriformis and hip was still there, but it wasn't getting worse. My legs overall felt strong, I was steadily catching up to runners ahead of me, I just dug deep and concentrated on my form. My RPE was around an 8/10 at this point. I really tried to use the energy from the cheering spectators. My 20 through 23 splits were 7:38 7:31 7:26.

When I think back to who I was five and ten years ago, I was someone who drank to get drunk, every single day. I abused alcohol on a daily basis for fifteen years. I had many "pipe dream" goals, and I never saw a single one of them through. Now, clean and sober for several years, I absolutely amaze myself that I'm able to plan out a Goal a full year in advance. I ran this race last year, to preview it for this year. And as a result, I knew exactly what I had to contend with the last 5k. The last 3 miles of this race are heartbreakingly brutal. There are three hills that will just annhilate you if you went out too hard from the start. The longest and hardest of the hills leads you up to St. Joseph's. A home for handicapped men and women. It's where a large portion of the marathon money raised goes to. I popped my last caffeine gel on the straightaway to this hill and tried to get some speed and momentum going into the climb. The second I upped my cadence my right hamstring began to dance and pulsate as if it had a mind of its own. I immediately slowed my pace and the spasming slowed. I couldn't help but think I was 2 miles and change from a BQ and a freaking cramp was going to ruin it all. What a feeling of dread. I glanced at my watch and saw my splits and knew I needed to mainatain an 8:00 average. My piriformis started screaming, along with my calves. My garmin pace bounced from a 7:30 down to a 9:30 pace. My head was woozy and my limbs felt like marionette legs and arms flopping around uncontrollably. With little momentum, I shuffled up the long winding hill with such force and effort, I could feel my calves sloshing back and forth against my leg bone. I wanted to cheer for the men and women in wheelchairs, and make eye contact with the people screaming to help me up the ascent, but I was trapped in my little world of hurt and could only focus on the next step. I made it up and over the hill and flopped down another downhill. I turned the corner and ran over railroad tracks to see the 25 mile marker. I took a high-definition picture of it with my brain. It was so damn lovely to see. I looked down at my Garmin and saw the time of 3:06:5X... Shiiiit!! It was basically 3:07, I had 8 minutes to run 1.2 miles. I thought, were the heck had my 3 minute buffer at 13 miles gone?? The last 5k was just killing me. I wanted to hit this point with a 10 minute buffer so I could enjoy my final mile of Victory. But that wasn't the case today.

I looked down at the ground and saw the words spay painted: LAST TURN. I remember vividly seeing those words last year. People were yelling "Congratulations! You did it!" And I kept thinking, No! No! I'm still not even close. I looked down Washington Ave and there loomed a never-ending 1 mile straight-away, with a city-block long climb still to go.

That mile was no-mans land. I felt like I was in a time warp. In a 5k last December I was able to 'will' myself the last stretch of a much shorter, but similar never-ending straight-away to break the tape with a 19:57. A sub 20 minute 5k was one of my original "Dream Chaser Goals". Almost a year later, I was now on the cusp of capturing another one. The difference was: as much as I was WILLING to dig deep and absorb the sadistic pain from within, my battered body just refused to respond. Some of the marionette strings were being tugged by different people. A few had snapped entirely. I began blacking out a bit at this point. In a 5k, 10k, even Half Marathon distance race, I can will myself to a Goal Time on limited training. But this isn't those other races. This is the Marathon. I only trained for 12 weeks, not the recommended 18 to 20 weeks. This what makes this distance so special and distinct.

In the middle of the last climb, I vaguely remember passing another runner in his own world of misery. I didn't dare look at him. Normally I would pat him on the back and encourage him to come with me, but I was in such a state that this was not even a thought or possibilty. When I finally crested the last hill, I could see the Finish Line. I could see the clock. It was at 3:14 and counting down quickly. It was too far away. 3:15 came and went along with my BQ dream. But almost all my splits were well under 7:26. How could I fail when I was so damn close?

I was trying to do the math but then I heard the roar from a group screaming louder than I'd heard all day. I couldn't see them, but I knew it was my wife and children. And then it occured to me - the :59 second buffer. I didn't need 3:15 ... I needed 3:15:59. I crossed the finish line victorious after all. I was so tired and beat-up, I had to hold onto chairs and poles as I walked the chow line. Wow. I'd done it.

What would you do differently?:

After missing Ironman Lake Placid on July 25th, due to a cycling injury, I only had 12 weeks to train for this. I layed down a quick base of 25 to 29 miles a week for three weeks, and then jumped to the 12-week Pfitz 18/55 plan. Aside from missing three VO2 max workouts, and substituting swimming for some Recovery runs, I followed the plan pretty well. I also spent 25% of my total equivalent running volume on Recovery (stretching, yoga, foam rolling) and Running-specific Strength training (strengthening my quads, glutes, tensor fascia, core, and I did a lot of one-legged balance exercises). My training was very focused and intense over those 12-weeks. Many people may look at it as "sacrificing". Like Deena Kastor (the fastest American Marathoner) points out, it's more about making "choices" rather than sacrifices. *I Choose* to only have family time, work time and training. I have little time for anything else.

So aside from training longer, I wouldn't have done ANYTHING differently.

Post race
Warm down:

I met my wife and children. My wife has been so supportive of me and she was beyond thrilled. She told me how gut-wrenching it was to see me slowing down a tenth of a mile from the finish when I thought I wasn't qualifying. She and the group of people around her were all screaming for me to run!

My wife then told me that my son had won the 7-8 yr old Fun Run that morning. She showed me the i-phone video of my son edging out another older boy for the win! I was so proud of him. Then I layed down on my space blanket and called my parents. What a marvelous day. What a Dream Come True.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

12 weeks as opposed to 18 to 20 weeks of Marathon-specific training.

I still can't believe a 26.2 mile, 3 hour plus race came down to :28 whopping seconds. I will be running Boston in 2012 and The Goal is to put in a solid 20 weeks of training so I can set a new marathon PR in Bean Town!

Event comments:

Steamtown Marathon Rocks. From the manageabe-sized 2,000 people field, to the funny Race Director updates, to all the townspeople who come out and cheer, and the peak of Autumn scenery with mountains and rivers - it's just an amazing race.

Last updated: 2010-07-15 12:00 AM
03:15:32 | 26.2 miles | 07m 28s  min/mile
Age Group: 37/172
Overall: 172/1950
Performance: Good
Course: The course is a point to point through beautiful Pennsylvania small towns. The grade for the first half is 90% downhill! And the second half is flat with some gradual downhills, a nice rails to trail section from miles 15 to 17, and three hills after mile 23 with a final harrowing downhill to the finish in the middle of Scranton.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2010-10-12 8:40 AM

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Subject: Steamtown Marathon

2010-10-12 9:17 AM
in reply to: #3146848

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Not a Coach
Media, PA
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

Enjoy Boston! 
2010-10-12 9:21 AM
in reply to: #3146848

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Finally north of the Mason-Dixon Line
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

Job well done... next year hope to have my Girl Scouts out cheering for the runners at Steamtown...

2010-10-12 9:25 AM
in reply to: #3146848

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Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
That is a sweet race report. Congratulations, awesome accomplishment.
2010-10-12 10:45 AM
in reply to: #3146848

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Extreme Veteran
Raleigh, NC
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
Awesome report and congrats on the BQ!!!
2010-10-12 1:44 PM
in reply to: #3146848

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Goodyear, AZ
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

Huge congrats! No-one deserves this more

2010-10-12 9:04 PM
in reply to: #3146848

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West Chester, Ohio
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
Fantastic.  Congratulations on a BQ, a well earned BQ!!
2010-10-13 6:27 AM
in reply to: #3146848

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Southern Indiana
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
Great report and congratulations.  I can identify with some of your past issues and what an accomplishment it is today: 3+ years clean and sober.
2010-10-13 2:30 PM
in reply to: #3146848

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Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

nice job earned that!!


2010-10-13 2:37 PM
in reply to: #3146848

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Fountain Hills, AZ
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
Boston is awesome, Bobby, you will love it!
2010-10-13 2:53 PM
in reply to: #3146848

Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

Congrats man super happy and proud of up and enjoy Boston next year.




2010-10-13 7:34 PM
in reply to: #3146848

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Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
Love how you set your goal, worked at it diligently and executed your race even when it got very tough those last 6.2 miles....congrats!

Goals that are easy to attain aren't as rewarding as something you put so much time, effort and training into.

You are coming to MA in '12...well done!~
2010-10-13 7:37 PM
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2010-10-13 7:41 PM
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2010-10-14 8:08 PM
in reply to: #3146848

Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon

Congrats on qualifying again.

2010-10-18 4:22 PM
in reply to: #3146848

Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: RE: Steamtown Marathon
It's been fun following you through these last months of training, with every day a step closer to capturing your next goal. You trained smart, you raced smart, and you earned every second of this Boston Qualifying time. Congrats! Hope to see you in Boston.

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