Wineglass Marathon 2006

(graph of pace (minutes/mile) versus distance (miles) for ^z at the Wineglass Marathon 2006; red circles are "raw" splits, blue crosses are "smoothed" nearest-neighbor averages, and the yellow-filled line depicts my "doubly-smoothed" pace — making my deterioration after mile 16 rather obvious)

"Your pulse is weak and thready," the nurse at the medical tent tells me. My calves have been cramping for most of the past hour; comrade Ken has felt lightheaded since mile 20. His pulse is likewise diagnosed as "thready" — a word we both find intriguing — and at 90/40 his blood pressure trumps my 94/60. A few minutes earlier we staggered across the finish line of the 25th Wineglass Marathon. One hour later Ken observes, "All things considered, that wasn't a bad experience!" After laughing, I agree with him.

How did we get here? The 1 October 2006 Wineglass Marathon violates several of my cardinal rules:

Well maybe they're not rules, they're guidelines. Ken really wants to try the Wineglass, he offers to drive us there, and he argues cogently that this is a fine training run for the JFK 50 Miler [1] that I've signed up for in mid-November. Besides all that, Ken's wife grew up in the area and owns a lovely house on Seneca Lake [2]. Ken arranges for us to crash free overnight with family friends nearby. How can I resist?

So on Saturday morning Ken and I begin the 280-mile journey to race packet pick-up. On the way we stop at the Red Rabbit, just north of Harrisburg, but are disappointed to find it closed. The Fry Brothers Turkey Ranch in Trout Run PA nurtures me with excellent raspberry pie à la mode. We listen to CDs of African popular music, Bollywood show tunes, and Chicago street musicians while cruising north on US-15 through intermittent drizzle.

In Corning NY near the marathon finish line we pick up our goodie bags, including spiffy technical shirts and small commemorative bottles of champagne. We decide to preview the course by driving to the start in Bath. That's fun and worthwhile — scenery en route is splendid — and it also offers a chance for humorous banter about the impossibly long distance we're going to cover on foot the next day.

After we survey the starting line we drive on to Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake. On the way we pause at a cemetery where some of Ken's in-laws are buried, and I photograph several outré modern grave markers that catch my eye. Then Ken takes me to see his wife's lake house and some neighborhood wineries, where the depths of my oenological ignorance become apparent. After camerawork at dramatic waterfalls, historic markers, and classical buildings, we eat a light dinner at a noisy but nice microbrewery/bar, "The Rooster Fish". (Note to self: avoid banana-flavored ales!) At Rocky and Pam's home in nearby Montour Falls we have an enjoyable chat with our hosts. I retire to a comfy air mattress on the living floor.

Sunday morning I'm up at 5am for coffee and a real banana. The day dawns cloudy but dry, contrary to last night's weather forecast. Ken and I cruise back to Corning, passing the Watkins Glen race track; I see several MINI Coopers outfitted for rally competition with numbers on their rear windows. We park, organize our gear, and ride on a school bus to the start at the Philips arc-lamp factory in Bath. Friendly workers, on watch to keep wayward runners out of the machinery, answer our questions about their dangerous-looking furnaces.

At the starting line Jeanne Larrison greets me. She's an enthusistic photographer/runner comrade whom I last saw at the Annapolis 10 miler and, before that, at Riley's Rumble half-marathon. Jeanne's with a buddy, Joanne H., who's doing her second marathon here. J&J jog with me for the first three miles at ~11:30 pace, including many pauses for Jeanne to take pictures of the houses and spectators in the town.

This would have been a smart pace for me to maintain but I'm feeling frisky and foolish — so I excuse myself and trek on ahead, pushing the tempo slightly to the 10:30-11:00 zone. About mile 5 I spy a fork by the shoulder of the pavement and pause to pick it up. I place it carefully on the asphalt, telling myself that competitors behind me can scratch their heads when they encounter a fork in the road. Aid stations every two miles are staffed by energetic, helpful volunteers. Ham radio operators provide comms support, and local ambulances cruise the route in case anyone needs help. One fallen runner has a bloody nose and is being tended at the roadside as I pass.

Entering Savona at the mile 9 porta-johns I'm startled when someone shouts my name: I've unexpectely caught up with Ken and with Susan Q., a veteran ultramarathoner whom he's been running with since the start. We discuss the JFK 50 miler, the HAT Run, the Marine Corps Marathon, and several other races that Suzy has done over the years. I insist on taking walk breaks every 4-5 minutes, and so for an hour I entertain S&K as I fall behind and then catch up with them while they maintain a steady 11 min/mi forward velocity. Along the way I see a cute kid, maybe four years old, who points out my long beard to his mother. "I'm Santa Claus," I tell him as we jog by, "in training for Christmas!" He's delighted; several miles later we see him again — the family has driven down the road to cheer someone else along — and he chases after me shouting, "Santa!"

But alas, my too-brisk-for-the-day pace catches up with me: I begin to feel significant fatigue about mile 15 and increase the frequency of my walk breaks. I still manage to keep in contact with Suzy and Ken, but more intermittently. I'm only carrying two "Succeed!" electrolyte capsules, and swallow them at mile 16 and 18. I've been drinking Gatorade religously and sucking down packets of energy-goo every 45 minutes, but to no avail. The day begins cool and cloudy but when the sun comes out temperatures climb into the mid-60s, a bit too warm for my comfort. My shirt is sweat-soaked.

At mile 20.5 Suzy's family meets her and gives us all bananas. Ken gets dizzy standing there, an ominous sign. Our route leaves the highway at Painted Post and zig-zags through parks and down residential streets. We press onward as an abrupt squall throws icy-cold rain in our faces for ten minutes. Then the sun returns.

I start to feel serious cramps in my calves which soon make it impossible for me to run for more than 45 seconds at a time. Ken meanwhile is feeling increasingly weak, so he sticks with me. At our insistence Suzy runs ahead, to finish seven minutes in front of us. At mile 26, with the end in sight, Ken tells me to go forward. I stumble across the line 13 seconds under the arbitrary 5-hour mark; Ken crosses 19 seconds later.

We eat, drink, shower at the nearby YMCA, and enjoy the 6-hour drive home. Between stops for Chinese food and ice cream we pause to investigate a tiny tombstone perched in a traffic triangle by the highway. The engraving on it reads:

John Lee - Major
1 BN. PA. MIL.
AUGUST 12, 1782

(cf. Washington Birthday Marathon 2006 (20 Feb 2006), SenecaCreekGreenwayTrailMarathon2006 (5 Mar 2006), HAT Run 2006 (31 Mar 2006), VikingRailroad (26 Sep 2006), ...)

^z split information for the Wineglass Marathon 2006:


TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2006-10-04

Ken Swab's report


On Saturday, Mark and I head up through Pennsylvania to Corning for packet pickup. As we get north of Williamsport and into the mountains, the leaves on the trees go from mostly green to a fall mix of colors. Mark notes that it looks almost artificially perfect, like a model train layout. Unlike a model train layout, we drive through intermittent drizzle. When we get out of the mountains and on to the lower and flatter land of NY, much of the color fades, and the trees are mostly green, with some yellow.

Packet pickup in Corning is fast and smooth, and in a few minutes we have our bibs with disposable chip and antenna attached to the back, our 175 ml split of champagne (in commemorative race bottle) and our shirts. No other goodies are included, only tourism brochures.

Mark insists we drive the course. He wants to see it but I don't, since 26 miles from point to point seems an awfully long way. But we do it in reverse, missing some of the turns but generally following it to the start in Bath. From there we drive north, stopping at the cemetery where Sandy's parents are buried. Mark takes photos of many of the newer grave markers, some laser carved with cars and hobbies, others colored and some with embedded picture medallions. We drive over the rolling countryside between Hammondsport and Watkins Glen, visit two wineries, sample some cabernet chocolate swirl ice cream and visit a pair of the waterfalls in Montour Falls.

Pam and Rocky, who have offered to let us to stay with them, are going out to the movies with Rocky's brother, so we get a bit to eat and go back to their house. The Weather Channel promises only showers and rain for a cool Sunday. I am discouraged, trying to imagine how far I will get before the hypothermia strikes me down. Mark on the other hand, is ecstatic. "It will be nice and cool," he observes. Pam and Rock return, we chat for a bit and we all turn in.


I'm up at six o'clock. Mark has already been up an hour and is fueled up on a couple of cups of his German instant coffee. I pop outside, and am pleasantly surprised to see only clouds and feel cool air. I flip on the Weather Channel and the radar map show no precipitation moving toward us. We leave Pam and Rock a thank you note. I have a cup of tea, we pack the car, head to Tobe's, the local donut shop where I get an OJ and a cinnamon bun, and we drive the half hour to Corning.

We park in the garage at the end of the course, and get on the yellow school bus to take us to the start. The bus has less legroom than airline coach seats, and it seems like a long ride to Bath, even along the direct route of I-86. For us, we'll be coming back on foot and on country roads.

Mark runs into Jeanne Larrison from near Annapolis who he knows from various races in the Washington area. She is there to run with her friend Joanne Holmes.

Pre-race ceremonies are minimalist. No speech from local officials or the race director. Just the National Anthem and a "go" and we are off right at the 9 a.m. start time.

The four of us start off together, with the usual banter that comes with any running group that includes Mark and me. A woman on my left asks where we are from when she hears Mark mention the HAT Run. I tell her, and she introduces herself as Susan Queen from Rockville, MD. She is an accomplished and experienced ultrarunner, having run three JFK 50s and three HAT runs, plus numerous marathons. She is coming off an injury and, although her husband and two children have come along as spectators to root her on, is not looking forward to running the race alone, although she has run it three previous times. Her family stands near mile 1 and cheers her on.

Susan and I gradually pull away from Mark, Jeanne and Joanne, as the women plan a 5:30 or slower race, and I am looking to run it in 5 hours. We go along, chatting about running, politics and anything else that comes into our minds. Susan tells me where she grew up in Bethesda, and it is only blocks from where I live.

We reach mile 4, at Lake Salubria at the eastern edge of Bath, in 42:49. A little fast, but it feels OK. We head out into the country, and Susan's family is there at mile 5 to cheer her on. Around mile 6 we fall in with a relay runner, Jennifer Severance from Leesburg VA. In the usual six degrees of separation that bind runners, Jennifer's sister, who is running the last leg of the relay, is a Rockville attorney, who it appears, knows Susan's relative, Molly Ruhl, the retiring clerk of the court in Mongomery County.

Around mile 7 we pass a house with about a dozen six-foot tall arborvitae bushes in front. I observe that they look like they have been trimmed to resemble a row of male organs. "You're right," Susan agrees. We pass the usual debris along the side of the road, including hubcaps, broken furniture, road kill of various species and a pair of metal dinner forks. I speculate whether I could get a grant to make an art display of found items gathered from the side of the road.

At mile 9, Susan and I avail ourselves of the portapotties. As I wait for her to emerge, Mark comes trotting along. I call out to him, Susan comes out, and the three of us go on together, having covered the the first 9 miles in 1:36, a sub 11:00 minute pace.

As we run thru Savona, a small child spots Mark and his long white beard. "Santa!" the child yells. "I'm getting in shape for Christmas," Mark replies. Mark notes that he found a fork by the side of the road and stopped to stick it in — "a fork in the road!" he puns to groans.

Past mile 10, the route crosses over I-86 and we run along a beautiful country road along the Chemung River. The leaves have just barely started to change, but there is golden rod and blue flowers along the roadside, the clouds have started to part, and we are passing the occasional horse and cow in fields. An elderly couple sits in a car in their driveway. At first we think they are waiting for a gap in the runners to pull out, but they are sitting there to watch the runners go by, and they nod in reply to our waves.

Mark is a yo-yo, running with Susan and I, then taking his regular walk break, and catching up to us again, over and over. All of us are walking thru the aid stations, drinking Gatorade and water. I nibble on my Hooah! Bar. Mark is eating goo packs. At one point a van pulls up next to a pair of women running in front of us, and a hand extends a peeled banana to each of them. "That's some service you got there," we tell them.

We reach the half way point in 2:24 and pass thru the small town of Campbell. A quick left and right jog puts us on an even smaller country road, where not only are there herds of dairy cattle to be seen, but smelled. Susan, truly an experienced trail runner, begins to talk about finding the "women's bush." As we approach a railroad crossing around mile 16, she spots it, and while she dashes ahead and across the road, Mark and I slow to a walk to give her some privacy. She is out in a flash, and we are off again.

Mile 18 takes us across the Chemung River into Coopers Plain and I am starting to feel a bit tired. The watch confirms the feeling, as it takes 11:57 to get through mile 18. We turn onto route 415 and head for Painted Post. By now the sun had been out fully, and we are all a bit hot. Susan's phone rings, and it is her husband, calling to set up a rendezvous at mile 20.5. "Have some extra bananas for my friends," she tells him.

As we approach, the meeting spot, she speeds off to meet them. We arrive and are offered bananas. Mark and I split one. I have no sooner stopped than I feel lightheaded — approaching dizziness. I start walking to fight it and it largely goes away, but I am definitely starting to feel tired.

Just past mile 21, the sky above us begins to darken and a cold wind starts to turn the leaves on the trees over. As we run down through the grounds of a park, a cold drizzle begins to fall with a breeze blowing it directly into our faces. Fortunately we soon turn onto residential streets with mature trees, and in about ten minutes the shower is over.

By now running is no longer fun. I'm feeling tired — not hurting, just exhausted, and have largely stopped talking in anything other than monosyllables. I can feel lightheadedness lurking just below the surface. Mark is starting to suffer from cramps in his calves, and the walk breaks are coming with greater frequency. By mile 23 we tell Susan to go ahead, and she does, finishing in 4:52:08. I try to eat a Cliff Shot, but after a small taste, decide I can't swallow it, so I give the mango-flavored gel to Mark. He eats it and a chocolate flavor one together.

Just past mile 24 a woman course marshal is dancing to urge us forward. As we approach, I point to the pole near her and tell her that we would have run faster toward her if she had been twirling around it. She laughs and says, "Especially with less clothing."

By mile 25, Mark's leg cramps are such that he can only run for about 45 seconds at a time, so we are walking almost as much as we are running. Finally, it appears that we are coming to the bridge that will take us over the Chemung to the finish just on the other side, but it is not the one, and we have to run another mile around the Corning Glass Museum, discouragingly first headed away from the finish. Mark and I reach mile 26 on the approach to the bridge, and know that with just a little push, have a chance to finish in less than 5 hours. I tell Mark to go on, as I feel spent. He does and finishes in 4:59:47. I walk most of the way across the bridge, feeling no shame or need to run as people cheer me on. Even when a runner passes me I have nothing left to run for, unlike Frederick when I raced someone to the finish. Finally, 50 yards from the finish I start to run and cross the line in 5:00:06.

No sooner has someone hung the clear glass medal around my neck than I feel lightheaded and dizzy. My fingertips are numb as well. I bend my head over a table as Mark comes up and suggests that I should go to the medical tent a few paces away. I concur, sit on a cot and a nurse takes my blood pressure, which is 90/40. Either number would qualify as low, and she urges me to drink some Gatorade, suggesting that I am dehydrated. This indicates that I failed to replenish my sodium and potassium while running. Mark has his blood pressure checked and it is only slightly better than mine, 94/60, leading to the same conclusion.

We go to the food tent, and refuel on minestrone soup for him and chicken noodle soup for me, with Coke for both of us. Then it's off to the YMCA for a shower, a nice perk of the Wineglass Marathon, and we start our journey home.

Major John Lee

Ken offers the following additional information:

Recall the grave of Maj. Lee alongside route 15? Here is the description from the roadside marker on the other side of the road [3]:

Major John Lee and his entire family, with the exception of a son Robert, were massacred near here by an Indian war party of August 16, 1782.

More detail from [4]:

From the LYCOMING COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA GENEALOGY PROJECT: The murder of Maj. John Lee and several members of his family, some time in August, 1782, was very cruel and caused much excitement among the people. He lived near what is now the little town of Winfield, a few miles above Northumberland, on the west side of the river. It was a warm evening, and Lee and his family, with one or two neighbors, were eating supper. Suddenly a band of Indians burst upon them. Lee was stricken down and scalped, and an old man named Walker shared the same fate. Mrs. Boatman was killed and scalped, and a daughter was also scalped. Two or three escaped. A son of Lee named Robert was returning home, and when he came in sight of the house the Indians were leaving it. He fled to Sunbury and gave the alarm. In the mean time the Indians, retreated up the river, carrying Mrs. Lee and her infant child with them as prisoners. Colonel Hunter hastily collected a party of twenty men and started in pursuit. When they reached the house they found Lee and Miss Boatman still, living. They were sent to Sunbury on litters for treatment, but Lee soon after died. Miss Boatman recovered and lived for many years.

(correlates: HistoricTexasDessert, UncleBert, WebGardening, ...)