If you read my previous post about my road trip to Ironman Wisconsin, I hinted at having something a bit crazy planned for my next state highpoint. Well, after I decided to try and do a marathon in every state (roughly the time of number 3), I started looking for fall marathons, particularly anything within reasonable proximity of a state highpoint I hadn't done yet. I wound up focusing on Delaware, since it's a super easy highpoint and it's something of an outlier on a map of completed highpoints, being surrounded by states I've already done. I found two marathons quite close, the Monster Mash Marathon in Dover, DE, and the Atlantic City Marathon (New Jersey). I wasn't sure which I wanted to do, and then I realized since Dover is on a Saturday and AC the next day, it would be possible to do both in one trip. I floated the idea in my head for a while, ran it by my running coach, put it out to my Facebook friends, and essentially couldn't come with any reason NOT to do a double. I figured if I can finish an Ironman, there shouldn't be any reason I couldn't do marathons on consecutive days. So the weekend of October 18-19 added two tick marks each to three state lists- marathons, highpoints, and Capitols (bringing me to 7, 42+DC, and 32 respectively).
I didn't really do much of anything special to train for the double. Not that I ever do anything normal, but for the most part my training was fairly typical for a marathon. Actually, no. It was more like: Recover from Ironman Wisconsin ✓. Torture test ✓. Good to go ✓. The torture test was two weeks before the marathons, wherein I ran four separate times over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday morning and evening, 6-12 miles each time) for a total of 32 miles. It went fairly typically of my long runs- start too fast, walk/run the later miles- but the good thing was that some of the miles Sunday evening were sub-9 minutes. Instead of a sensible rest the weekend before the races, I volunteered for the city's bike-share program during the Austin City Limits festival, riding the bikes about a half mile and then running back, 20-odd times.
On Thursday, October 16, I flew to Washington, DC after work. It was after midnight when I arrived, but at least I was at Reagan and it was a short drive to my hotel once I got my rental car. I couldn't get to sleep until 1:30, woke up a few times in the night, and was more or less awake from 5:30 Friday morning. I went out for breakfast; as I was on my way to my appointment to tour the US Capitol I swung back by the hotel to check on the car. What had seemed a great free spot on the street behind the hotel was now a nightmare. My first clue was that mine was the only car on that side of the street. As I got close I found the parking ticket. Apparently that side of the street is no parking during rush hour, something I was unable to discern from the signage the night before. I got in the car to look for another spot, but there was nothing nearby. I started driving around the area, but this was Capitol Hill and everything was special-access or blocked by armed guards. I was so frazzled. Every traffic light was red. Every radio station was horrible. I made no progress, saw not one legitimate parking spot, got all turned around. My nerves were shot, something I absolutely did not need the day before a marathon. I gave up on visiting the Capitol, by that point it was too late to get there and through security on time for my appointment anyway. I finally got back to my hotel, parked out front for two minutes to grab my stuff and check out. When I finally got to the Maryland line and was out of Washington, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I did not sleep well. There were lots of noises to disturb me- people in the hall, traffic on the street, but the worst was the two cars that pulled up at midnight with their stereos thumping horrible music at ludicrous volume. I was up for good about 5am and had a bagel with peanut butter and a Dr Pepper for breakfast. The motel was booked and wouldn't let me keep my room long enough to take a shower after I finished the race, so I checked out before heading over. It was a cool morning, but not really cold. It was cool enough that I wanted to wait as long as possible to take off my jacket, but not so cold I was worried about wearing a short-sleeve shirt. I thought there was supposed to be a bag drop, but I never found it. I left my jacket in the car and carried the key with me, only slightly less convenient since the car was less than 100 meters from the finish line. A little before the 7am start time, the race director got everyone gathered in front of Miles and led us onto the track, which is where the race actually started. I lined up in the first third of the few hundred participants. After the national anthem came the starting gun, and we started the first mile going around the track. Even down as low as possible, there was a pretty vicious slant, with some relief possible along the straightaway, where the barriers weren't as tight to the track. After passing the start area again, we turned and went up and off the track. The next few miles were along nice tree-lined residential streets leading downtown. The course made a swing past the Capitol, marking the third marathon I've done that passed that state's Capitol. Once we were away from downtown, the course got rather boring. Most of it was past flat fields, along the side of a road (not closed to traffic). Crowd support went from good at the start, rather thin through downtown, to next to nil the rest of the course. There were a few here and there, but it was the same few again and again (I'm pretty sure I wasn't hallucinating seeing the same guy 4 times). I didn't do a formal survey, but I swear I saw more cops, firemen, and people with the barricade company directing traffic along the course than I did spectators. There weren't even that many volunteers- there were several spots along the course with a sign for an aid station, but there was no aid station. Between miles 10 and 20 the aid stations were only every two miles, something I was definitely not expecting. At mile 10 the course went down a crappy, super crowned road for 2 miles almost to Delaware Bay before turning back. I don't like running on a slanted surface, and this road was bad. I ran in the middle of the road, the flattest part, as much as possible, making room for other runners as needed. I took my first real walk break at the far end, and again when we returned to regular town roads. I only had a couple decent miles after that before going to a walk a mile/jog a mile "strategy" at mile 16. I probably could have pushed myself to go a little faster, but I wanted to save something in my legs for the next marathon. Whereas my usual marathon walk pace is leisurely, in the 18-minute range, this time I tried to walk more deliberately and stay closer to a 15-minute pace. At mile 24 I started a run for the finish, which lasted until the road started uphill to an overpass. I said "screw that" and walked until I was at the top of the overpass and ran the last 0.2 miles to the finish line. I arrived to the cheers of literally ones of people. I had the misfortune of arriving as the marathon awards were being handed out in front of Miles, so most participants, spectators, announcer, and the photographer were away from the finish line. There was one volunteer handing out medals and maybe 10 spectators, most likely waiting for their runner. It was far from a spectacular race, but my 4:46:04 is my third-quickest marathon, for what it's worth.
Florida being the lowest). It wasn't the easiest thing to find, even being on the side of a small road. I drove straight past the sign, which faces perpendicular to the road, the first time. I parked and walked around and snapped photos. I got a woman walking her dog to take a picture of me in front of the sign. As I was wandering around, a car pulled off the road and asked if I was a highpointer, as the driver is. We had a little chat before going our separate ways. I drove on to Atlantic City, arriving in enough time to get my packet, but too late for a t-shirt in my size. There was a decent little expo going on, it's just too bad I had to go through a smoky casino to get there. I grabbed an okay slice of pizza before going on and checking into my hotel. I had been booked into a place closer to the expo and start/finish line, but it closed a few months before and I got switched to a sister casino further away. Once I got to my room I didn't leave until the next morning, spending the couple hours I was awake getting prepped, stretching and rolling, checking in with the rest of the world, and munching on chips and snacks. I slept much better that night once the music died down at 10. The hotel was quieter, and I was quite tired after two nights of poor sleep plus a marathon. I did wake up a couple times, but that always happens to me in hotels.
I woke around 6 Sunday morning and once again had Dr Pepper and peanut butter on a bagel for breakfast. I checked out just past 7, they wouldn't let me keep the room until after my expected finish time unless I paid for another night. I drove over to Bally’s, where the start line was, rather than walk an extra mile. The parking garage was rather full by the time I got there, and had to go all the way to the top before I found a spot. When I got out of the car, there was a fierce cold wind blowing. I had intended to wear a short-sleeve t-shirt (actually the Monster Mash t-shirt from the previous day since I only brought one short-sleeve tech shirt with me), but made a last-minute change into a long-sleeve tech tee. I thought it would be warmer than necessary if I was running, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't be running the whole race, and I made the bet I would want some more warmth for those later slow miles. I dropped my bag and popped up onto the boardwalk to the start area. It was a larger field than Saturday’s but still not huge, a few thousand people. It was very low-key, there weren't any designated corrals, which was good because the queues for the port-o-potties were effectively in the staging area. It was a bit chaotic and a busy area; I would definitely suggest they rethink that arrangement. Things were a little more organized as everyone got ready to go for the 8am start. I lined up just behind the 4:30 pacer, which put me across the start mat about 2 minutes after the gun went off.
I started slowly along with the folks around me, feeling stiff but not bad. As I warmed up my legs felt better and I sped up. I knew I couldn't maintain the 9:30 pace I worked up to for the whole race, but I figured I would go with it as long as it was working. I worked my way up through the crowd, eventually passing the 4:20 pacer before the 10k mat. Crossing the 10k mark in just under an hour was a good feeling, because I knew that I just had to average 15 minutes per mile for the last 20 miles in order to finish before the official 6-hour limit. Sub-6 hours was really my only time goal, not just for the course limit but it would also be better than my best Ironman marathon time to date. Just past the 7-mile mark, I walked for the first time through an aid station. I knew that once I slowed down I wouldn't be able to get back to a 9:30 pace, so I delayed it as long as I could. I ran off and on for a while, largely as I was “incentivized” to do so. When we were back on the boardwalk I ran for a while with a woman who commented on my Ironman t-shirt; she had done some Iron-distance triathlons including Challenge Atlantic City. There was a woman with the 4:25 pace group I tried to follow, but couldn't keep up. I have said before I tend to run my best chasing a good-looking woman, but it wasn't working this time. After mile 10, I spent more time walking than running, and my "running" pace was a 12-minute mile. My legs didn't feel great at any point, but by mile 18 they hurt like hell. I took a bunch of ibuprofen, but I really needed something a lot stronger. It was reminiscent of an Ironman, so I knew at the very least I could keep going. I did try to walk with purpose, not just walk to keep moving. When the course got back onto the boardwalk at mile 23, it was such a relief to go from hard pavement to compliant boards I tried to run to the finish (BTW, every marathon should finish on a boardwalk). That didn't really work at first, but I did manage to run for the finish from two miles out, working up to a 10-minute pace for at least the last 100 meters. And there was much rejoicing. Well, at least there was an announcer and a photographer for the finish this time. My time of 5:45:02 was almost an hour longer than the previous day's much more of a positive split than I wanted, but I got it done.
I don't have reliable data, but I think the Atlantic City marathon had less elevation gain/loss than Dover overall (both being very flat), but it was concentrated in just a few points such as a ramp up to an overpass, down into and back out of a GPS-wrecking tunnel, and the 8-10 feet between boardwalk level and street level. These ramp sections were nice in a way, since they gave some vantage to better see the number of runners. One of the psychological low points of the race for me was on the boardwalk during the middle miles, seeing the half marathon runners coming back. At first, it was the half race leaders, and that was cool; as I got closer to the turnaround the runners were more and more ordinary; then I was past it and there were far fewer people around me. Compared to Dover, AC was a lot better staffed in terms of aid stations and course marshals. There still wasn't much of a crowd other than at the start. However, there was a radio station out with their van blasting music out along the marathon-only portion of the course. In the final miles coming back up the boardwalk, most of the people strolling around were either completely unaware or uninterested in the race going on. One other random observation- the boards in the Ventnor area (I wasn't exactly searching for Monopoly names, but that one was hard to miss) were less securely fastened and therefore springier than the ones in Atlantic City proper. I should also give a shout-out to the racer who gave me half of his honey stinger, at a point where I was aching and exhausted and feeling a little hungry. It was an especially nice gesture, and one I probably didn't sufficiently acknowledge at the time. Thanks, man.
I had a sedentary recovery week, only running once before going up to Dallas to run up stairs. I'll leave what happened after that for my next post.
After this weekend, I qualified to enter the Marathon Maniacs as Maniac #9936 at the "Iridium" level. It's the first time I've been excited to receive an email with the greeting "Hi Maniac."