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 New Hampshire Marathon report
mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:14 pm 

I ran the New Hampshire Marathon (http://www.nhmarathon.com) on October 1st and started putting my thoughts down soon afterwards, but just finally got around to finishing it. Sorry It's a bit long but I hope it helps give you a good sense of what this marathon was like.

My training schedule for this fall's NYC Marathon called for a 23 mile long run on the weekend of October 1st. We all know how boring long runs can be and how difficult it is to find a measured course as well as keeping hydrated and fueled. Occasionally I take advantage of a local Half Marathon, or longer, race to help me cover the necessary distance. I just run the race at my training pace and then immediately turn around and go back out for more milage. The fluid stations are still plentiful and I can easily track my pace on the measured course.

For this this 23 mile long run I started thinking about the possibility of doing it as part of a Marathon. Since one of my long term goals is to run a marathon in all 50 states I looked for a nearby Marathon in a state I hadn’t done yet. I did a search on MarathonGuide.com and decided the New Hampshire Marathon looked good. The reviews on the MarathonGuide.com web site indicated the course was challenging but with beautiful scenery. Keeping in mind that my goal was to run (not race) a comfortable training pace up to 23 miles. After 23 miles I would just finish at whatever pace I was capable of. One of the keys to this plan was to run just hard enough so as not to require taking more than a day off to recover. I wanted to be able to get back into my training schedule within two to three days.

But, with the expense of getting there (five and half hour drive) and one or two nights lodging, I was a bit ambivalent about registering for the race and reserving a hotel room. I kind of didn’t want to commit to the registration fee (only $30) and room reservations if there was a chance I might not be ready or could be injured. Fortunately, this marathon allows registration on the morning of the race. I needed to leave on Friday so that meant going alone since my wife and kids all had school (my wife is a teacher). But that then allowed me to be a bit more flexible with my travel plans and accommodations. To save some money and to add to the adventure, I decided to make a reservation at a nearby campground.

A lot of the reviews on Marathonguide.com mentioned that you shouldn’t expect a PR at this marathon due to the hilly course. This is the 13th year for this marathon and so I figured they must have their act together, but I still wondered why so few runners. Is it because it's so challenging or because most runners choose to do the bigger fall marathons instead? The overall feel I got from the marathon web site was that this would be a low-key event. That seemed okay since I was doing this as an organized training run and not for the thrill that I usually get from a big marathon race.

I arrived at the campground on Friday just in time to get my tent pitched before it got dark. The campground was a family owned site along a nearby lake about six miles from the start line. This time of year there aren't very many campers so it was pretty quiet. After getting settled in I decided to drive the course to get a feel for just how hilly it really is. The course starts at the front of the Newfound Middle School in Bristol, NH and travels north out of town along a state route. It follows a counter clockwise direction around Newfound Lake. At the other end of the lake it takes an out and back section of road to the 14 mile turn around mark. As the course returns to the lake, it continues counter clockwise again around the other side of the lake where it returns to town and the finish behind the middle school.

As I drove the course at night I couldn’t make out much in the way of landmarks so I just concentrated on how the road rolled and turned. The first 6 miles were up hill but with an elevation change of only about 250 feet. That's a grade of about 1%; a fairly gradual climb. There were a few flat sections to break up the climb so it wasn't constant. As I continued my drive I realized there were many hills. The elevation profile on the marathon web site doesn’t really show the level of detail to reveal just how many hills there were. But most of the hills were pretty tame. There were a few that took a fairly steep dip down and then up but they were short hills; the type that you crest just as your legs start to ache. Fortunately, the last 6 miles are mostly flat or down hill. I figured those later hills would be nice for my tired legs. .

On Saturday morning I arrived at the Newfound Middle School in Bristol (population about 3000+) about an hour and a half before the 9:00 AM start time. I immediately saw that this race was more “low key” than I had expected. The atmosphere seemed more like a small local 5K event. I made my way to the school cafeteria and paid my $40 late registration fee ($30 for early registration). I expected this but I didn't expect that I'd have to shell out another $15 for a race t-shirt. I can understand paying extra for registering late...but to charge even more for a t-shirt that everyone else got included in their registration fee didn’t seem fair. That put me in a kind of grumpy mood. Then I discovered that there was nothing available to eat or drink before the race. Not even water, unless you count the drinking fountain in the hallway on the second floor. I noticed that the pre-registered runners were getting some sort of goodie bag as they received their race packet; something which the late registrants didn't get. Now I began to wonder why I was charged a late registration fee. I felt like a second class citizen. I had to remind myself I was here for a good reason; another "notch" on my 50-state list and a good strong training run.

Runners were permitted to make use of the school's few bathrooms. There were no portable toilettes. I don't know about the women, but the men had three bathrooms and each had one or two urinals and one or two toilets. I found a small line at the first two and managed to find the one up on the second floor a bit more available. I began to appreciate the small number of runners. This could get real ugly if there were...oh...say a thousand runners. So far I wasn’t very impressed. But I was here and it was too late to change my mind.

There wasn't much to do before the race other than sit and relax. As I looked around the cafeteria I noticed there were no chairs. All the runners hanging out in the cafeteria were sitting on the floor. Okay...no shirt, no food, no goodie bag, no portable toilettes, and nothing to sit on in the cafeteria. “So what exactly IS the registration fee being used for?” Oh heck, what do I know about race management and the costs involved? I'm sure they've got major expenses to pay to host an event like this. Again, I reminded myself that this was just a training run. So I wondered around a bit and chatted with a few people and just soaked in the small town charm of this event. The runners and volunteers seemed very friendly and energetic.

I then went back to my car at the athletic field behind the school and relaxed for a while before finally removing my warm-up pants and top and doing a slow jog up and down a nearby road. I made one more rest room visit and then grabbed my fuel belt. My fuel belt had three 7 ounce bottles of Cytomax energy drink and a full Gel flask of GU. My plan was to take a few sips of Cytomax after each server of GU; at about every 6-7 miles. I planned to rely on the fluid stations otherwise. I’ve found that Gatorade just isn’t enough for me on long runs/races.

They called everyone to the starting area about 15 minutes before the race. As I looked around I figured there were 300-400 runners present. But some of these runners were running in the 5K or 10K race being held at the same time. The race director said a quick welcome and informed everyone that Marathon runners with bib numbers 1-300 should line up on the right side of the road, the 10K runners with bib numbers 301-500 should line up on the left side of the road, and the 5K runners with bib numbers 501 and above should go down the road to the other start line for the 5K. The director informed the marathon runners that as soon as possible after the start we would need to move to the left side of the road and run against traffic, and that we’d be running on the left side for the entire length of the race. It was at this point that we were notified/reminded that the road would be open to traffic and would only be controlled at intersections. “Okay...so what is my registration fee being used for?” Take a deep breath...it's a training run...just a training run.

My plan was to run about an 8:30 pace to mile 23 and then play it by feel from there. I was expecting that I would slow down and walk a bit in the last three miles. I put in 27 miles during the week leading up to the marathon. That included a good interval workout (8x800 @ 3:15 pace with 3 miles of warm-up and cool down) and a good tempo workout (6mi. @ 7:10 pace with 3 mile warm-up and cool down). So with the exception of a rest day on Friday I hadn’t really tapered for this race like you normally would before a marathon. Thus, the reason why I wasn’t planning to run hard or expect to get beyond 23 miles without having to ease up considerably.

The race directory wasted no time...no pre-race speeches, tributes, or acknowledgements. He called everyone to the starting line and I no sooner got set when the starters gun fired. Wow, I think this was the first time I've ever been able to line up right on the starting line. That was kind of cool. So we were off, and the same thought crossed my mind as it does at the start of every marathon, "I can't believe I'm doing this. Why?"

I immediately tried settling into a nice easy comfortable pace. My first mile was about 7:57 and I knew I needed to slow down. We were going up hill and I didn’t want to burn out on the hills. There were no spectators during the first 8 miles. The traffic coming at us was going slowly and many kept as far from the edge of the road as they could. That coupled with the paved shoulder of about 3 feet gave plenty of running room. The marathon runners quickly thinned out as the 10K runners hit their turn around and crossed the road to head back to the finish line. I could see only a couple runners up ahead of me. The dips and turns in the road hid the rest of the runners ahead as well as most of those behind me. The car traffic thinned out also as the race progressed. I was feeling pretty relaxed. The view of the lake and the smell of the pine trees was wonderful. The lack of spectators seemed to make the run a bit tranquil actually; a nice change. There were no bands, no noise makers, and no boisterous crowds. Occasionally I would see a car parked along the shoulder on the other side of the road ahead of me. It was obviously someone waiting to cheer on a runner they knew. Since the road was open to traffic it allowed friends and family to drive along the course and park at any spot to cheer on their runner. I don’t think a marathon course can get much more spectator friendly that this one.

At the 8 mile point we turned off the main road to follow along the other end of the lake. The paved shoulder from this point on varied from about three feet to 6 inches. I tried to make use of the soft shoulder when I could, mostly to avoid the camber of the road as much as possible. But the shoulder sometimes had too much gravel or ruts to run on safely. I think I managed to run about 40% of the race on the shoulder. I think this definitely helped minimize the stress on my feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

At about mile 10 I passed my first runner since before the 10K turnaround point. This was the same guy who had passed me at about mile 5. I think I was averaging about an 8:20 pace at this point. It felt very comfortable. This was a little faster than my plan but I decided to stick with this level of effort as long as I could.

All of the fluid stations were pretty simple, a single table or two with 4-6 people waiting to hand me water or Gatorade. As I approached the table someone would yell to me, “What would you like, water or Gatorade.” And they would hand me which ever I asked for. Just about all the fluid stations were manned by adults rather than little kids who can sometimes hinder more than help. Some of these people were obviously runners themselves; they ran along side me as they handed me my drink to avoid spilling it. I REALLY appreciated that. Between water stations I took advantage of the extra energy drink and gel I was carrying.

At about the 11 mile mark, I think, the course left the lake area and turned out along a stretch of road with little to no traffic on it as it headed to the turn around at the 14 mile mark. It was probably around the 12 mile mark that I saw the lead runner coming back towards me. He looked pretty fresh and appeared to have quite a healthy lead the second place runner. I had no idea of where I was in order of runners. So, I decided to start counting the runners coming towards me from the turn around point. I was feeling pretty good at this point and decided to try to shout encouragement to each runner coming towards me. I kind of got a kick out of doing this, but I also tried to remind myself not to use up my energy by showing too much enthusiasm.. When I hit the turn around point, I figured I was in about 20th place. Wow, that was surprising. . As I started back the other way I started seeing more and more runners and I continued to shout encouragement to every one of them. Just about every one of them shouted back to me too. Now this was getting fun. I was also passing people at this point. I passed a guy at mile 15 and asked how he was doing. He said he was resigned to walking up the hills. He said I was looking great. I shouted back that I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t tell him I was just planning to get to the 23 mile mark.

Lately, during my long training runs and races, I’ve gotten in the habit of telling myself, for example, at the 8 mile mark when I feel pretty good, that if only I could feel this good at mile 2 I’d be very happy. I often repeat this sort of mental thought at various points in a long run (8, 10, 14, 16 mile mark). I know that even though I may feel really good at, say, the 15 mile mark it could all change drastically in the next quarter mile.

When I got back to the road that takes us along the other side of the lake at mile 18 I was still feeling pretty good. I thought, “This is odd, I’ve never felt this good at this point in a training run.” I reminded myself that the weather was much cooler than any of my other training runs this year. I wasn’t sweating as much and so that may explain why my legs still felt pretty good. This area of the course goes through a small (I mean tiny) town where there were actually a fair number of people out cheering us on. At this point I was running pretty much all by myself so I knew the cheers were all for me. Now that’s cool! I thought, “this small marathon is really quite nice…very different from the bigger marathons.” I started to see some of the same people along the road and the look on their face seemed so welcoming and supportive. It was like I was getting to know these people, and vice versa, each time I saw them.

As I hit the 22 mile mark I was still maintaining a comfortable 8:20 pace and I kept thinking…”okay, my hips should start to ache soon, or my calves will start to tighten up, or my quads are going to start to cramp.” I was still taking advantage of the soft shoulder as much as possible (which was quite a bit now). When I hit the 23 mile mark I still felt pretty good and decided to just keep going with my pace. I passed a few more people along the way. I asked each one how they were doing and gave them some words of encouragement. They all looked pretty beat up. And yet I was feeling pretty good. I’ve NEVER felt this good at this point in a long run or Marathon.

This part of the course was pretty much flat to down hill. Occasionally there would be some roll to it too. The road was much closer to the lake in this area. In one place I could easily have jumped into the lake without too much effort. The water was crystal clear and I could see about four to six feet to the bottom along the shore line in places..

I hit a pretty steep, but short, hill just before the 24 mile mark and managed to get up it without slowing too much. It was at this point that the course rejoined the highway that returns back to the middle school. The highway patrolman stopped traffic for me as I crossed the road and made the turn towards town. I could see three people ahead of me now. The first was probably a quarter mile ahead and the other two were a good 100 meters or so ahead of him. I began to consider picking up my pace. Since I was feeling so good I thought, “what the heck, lets see if I can catch these guys and run in with them.

The last two miles of the course are pretty much all down hill. This helped me pick up my pace and I caught up with the first guy about a half mile later. I must have surprised this guy as I passed him. I heard him say, ”whoa…you’re really cruising…alright…finish strong.” His encouragement really gave me a boost. The other two were only a hundred yards or so ahead of me. I made a decision to pass these guys rather than follow them in. I picked my pace up a bit more and finally reached these two just after passing the 25 mile mark. My split was 7:15. As I passed the last guy I heard him make some sort of noise in surprise and I thought it sounded like he was accepting the challenge of a race to the finish. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw him pick up his pace. I thought, “Oh crap, I kicked way too soon and this guy's going to be on my tail all the way to the finish. I can’t let up, I’ve started this and now I have to finish it.” I focused on shortening my stride a little and increasing my turn over and felt my pace quicken. I couldn’t bring myself to look over my shoulder to see how close the other guy was. But thought I could hear footsteps behind me. I’m not used to kicking until about a half mile out from the finish (or closer) in shorter races. Here I am more than a mile out and I’m running at a pace that I don’t even do my Tempo runs at…and I’m 25 miles into a marathon. Holy crap! But now I felt like I was running for my life.

Just before I reached the 26 mile mark my Gel Flask popped out of my Fuel Belt but I wasn’t about to stop to get it. I figured, “what the heck they can’t cost that much to replace.” I just kept on going. My split at the 26 mile mark was 6:55. I made a left hand turn on a road just before the middle school that would lead me to the back of the school. There was a small hill and for the first time I felt my pace slow considerably. As I then made a right turn along the back of the school I imagined this guy behind me would come around me in a dead sprint. As the road sloped down gradually I was able to pick my pace back up. I still couldn’t bring myself to look over my shoulder. I figured the finish line was about 200 meters away and that was about all I could focus on. I had to make one last hard right turn just before the finish chute and then it was a short down hill sprint to the finish line. I finished in 3:34:34 (about one and a half minutes slower than my PR at NYC in 2002). The guy scoring the finishers told me I finished in 13th place.

The guy I had raced to the finish line finished 30 seconds behind me. So I’m not sure how much effort he actually made to race me…but it was a blast anyway. Several runners who finished before me came up to congratulate me. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I looked it was a stranger handing me my Gel Flask I had dropped out on the road. I thanked him profusely, not because of the value of the Gel Flask but for taking the time to pick it up and then come find me to return it. That would never happen at the NYC Marathon. The finish line area was the nicest reception area I’ve experienced at any race. There were no crowds, nice live music, lots of food with no waiting line, and free massages with no waiting lines also. It felt more like the finish of a local 5K race than a marathon. And I have to say the runners themselves were the most sociable group I’ve ever seen.

I was quite please with my run; not so much with my finishing in 13th place but that I felt so good during the entire race, and even afterwards. Usually I can’t wait to sit down and take a load off my feet. Instead, I continued to stand along the finish chute for quite some time as I cheered runners across the finish line. My goal for NYC is 3:30 and this marathon has given me confidence that I should be able to meet that goal as long as nothing gets in my way. I think the cool clear weather helped my performance that day. But I also think the hills helped. I believe that my training runs tend to be tougher on flat routes than when there are some hills involved. I think it has to do with the notion that you use different muscles as you climb and descend the hills, thus varying the stress on your legs.

It seems kind of odd that I could finish in 13th place with a time of 3:34. The winning time was 2:34:58. I think this is simply a consequence of a small marathon that doesn’t attract very many high caliber age groupers. I'm finding that small races tend to be a bit more enjoyable. It's must more fun to be able to say you finished 13th instead of 11331st.

So, I guess at the start of the race I wasn’t feeling too impressed with how the race was organized. But, as I progressed through the course I really started to enjoy the race and the people more and more. Though the course was hilly it really wasn’t that bad. The food and drink at the end of the race was great and made up for the lack of food or drink at the beginning. Though there was no music on the course there was a guitar soloist at the finish area who was quite good. The relaxed atmosphere at the finish area and the comradery of the runners and spectators was priceless. I’m not sure if I’d feel as positive about this marathon if I had suffered through it instead but I have to say this is probably the best race experience I've had to date.

I would highly recommend the NH Marathon if you don’t need lots of people cheering you along during the race or you are tired of running FLAT marathons. This area of New Hampshire is gorgeous (I think the entire state must be) and it would be a great destination race if you like camping, hiking, and the quiet wilderness.


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 1:49 pm 

Great report! AND Amazing finishing place. 13th has got to feel great, even if there's only 15 runners, that's so cool! I am shocked you could run those fast miles at the end. I don't care if you walked the first 23, that's amazing. I am so impressed you ran so strong 'alone' and without a taper. Psychologically I struggle if there's not other runners around to feed off of, like you did at the end. I liked your account of the small race. I did a somewhat larger one here in May and was so soured by it that I vowed never to do a small marathon again, but after reading this I think I will just choose very carefully and give it a go again sometime. How has your training continued? Did you recover well? Are you tapering now?

mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 5:41 pm 

Thanks. I took a day off after the NH Marathon and then started back into my training with a easy 8 miler, another day off due to heavy rain, and then intervals the next day (10x800 @ 3:30 pace), followed by another easy 8 miler the next day. I took Saturday off and then ran the Staten Island Half marathon on a very windy day and managed to set a new PR by 2 minutes (1:38:16). This was the first race that I've ever run where I didn't have to concentrate hard on keeping my pace. I felt strong through the entire race and finished with a nice 6:58 final mile. So I think I recovered quite well from the marathon.

It's three weeks until NYC but I won't think about tapering until next week. I usually do a two week taper. I expect to put in about 50 miles this week, 35 next week and about 20 in the last week before the marathon. I plan to do a local 5K race next Sunday and then the NYRR Marathon Kickoff 5 milerr the next weekend in Central Park.

If all goes well I hope to see you guys in Boston.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 8:31 pm 

Congratulations on a great race and a great report! With a race like that on a "training run", I'm sure you'll have no problem meeting your time goal in NY. I really enjoyed your race account too, although it must have taken you nearly as long to write as it did to run the race! :-)

After reading that the entry fee was just $30, I wasn't surprised to hear about the minimal pre-race amenaties. I think I've paid more than that for 5Ks. About a year ago I spent a while looking into putting on races myself, and in fact I did run a 5K, and it's surprisingly expensive. The biggest costs are police and emergency services, insurance, and permits. Even if without road closures, it sounds like this race still had police directing traffic at intersections. And of course you've got to pay for timing systems, awards, post-race food, etc. According to an experienced race director I spoke to, relatively few races are actually profitable for their organizers. The ones that are make much of their revenue from selling sponsorships to advertisers.

I'm impressed by how well you held up throughout the race, and especially your mighty strong finish. 6:55 for mile 26! I guess it just goes to show the importance of staying within yourself during the early miles of a longer race, and avoiding going out too hard. I usually manage to screw that up myself. Maybe you should treat all your races as training runs!

I'm also amazed that you were able to take only a single day off after this race, and get right back to training again. I would have thought that 26 miles at any pace would have been pretty exhausting, let alone 26 miles at only a couple of minutes off your personal best time. Wow.


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 8:06 pm 

Thanks. Yes, $30 is a good bargain. But when you have to pay $55 it becomes less of a bargain. I'm used to spending $11 (or $14 if I register late) for a typical NYRRC race and getting much more bang for my buck.

By the way, there were only three intersections and one person at each intersection directing traffic. I saw only one emergency service vehicle (Rescue Squad) at the start/finish area. The only clock on the course was at the finish line. The timing consisted of a person pressing a hand-held button that registered the clock time on a strip of paper as each person crossed the finish line. There was another person with a clipboard jotting down each runner's BIB number. They manually merged the two on a computer and then printed it out and posted it near the finish line (a page-worth at a time). The race director stated that all of the food was donated. The awards medals were identical to the finisher medal but just a bit larger. The race director thanked the volunteers during the awards ceremony and announced that everyone involved was a volunteer. Though I doubt the officers directing traffic at the intersections were volunteers. There were seven corporate sponsors. They had extra race shirts they were trying to sell after the race. So, I'm not sure why I had to pay an extra $15 for mine when I registered.

I don't mean to highlight the negatives...I really did enjoy this marathon. I just felt a little stung by the extra fee I had to pay.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: New Hampshire Marathon report Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:53 pm 

It does seem a bit strange. Hmm... It may be that the race director intentionally chose to make late registration a bad financial deal, in order to encourage more people to sign up ahead of time. That's one thing I've heard that races often suffer with. When so many people sign up at the last minute, it can be difficult to estimate how many people will actually do the race, and the accordant amount of food, toilets, and other bathrooms needed. $14 for a late registration NYRRC race sounds like a real bargain! I'm glad you had a great NH race despite the financial oddities...

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