Ken Swab - Frederick Marathon 2006

(Ken Swab ran his first marathon on 30 April 2006 [1]; see below for his race report. Congratulations, Ken! - ^z)

Saturday night using my times from the LIRRC 10K and 20K in the WAVA age-graded formula I try to predict what to expect in the marathon. They give me times of 4:56 and 5:06 respectively. It's about what I expect them to produce and I make sure that I have my 5 hour pace chart packed for Sunday. After sixteen weeks and 339 miles of training, the once "super-secret" goal of 5 hours (the official goal is to finish, the "secret" goal is finish in 5 and a half hours) in my first marathon has moved up to being my goal, but I keep that to myself.

At 5:50 a.m. there is a light tapping on the front door, and there is the half-light of pre-dawn is Mark, who has volunteered to crew for me, bubbly as ever. I let him in, we eat a bagel and have some OJ and make the 30 minute drive to Harry Grove stadium. We park across the street as the stadium lot appears filled, and at about 6:45 I go and get my bib, chip, nice competitor's cap and shirt, of which there are only small sizes left. I put on sunscreen, sunglasses and hat, decide to wear the long sleeve shirt as it is still cool, although dry and sunny, and give my sweats and bag to Mark. I look for the 5:00 pacer and get in near him.

Following the national anthem, we are off, just a minute or two behind the scheduled 7:30 start. We run around the stadium and head north toward downtown Frederick. Mark is at mile 1 snapping pictures. The first mile goes by in 10:20, even faster than I planned. We go thru downtown and head out toward the Fairgrounds. The aid station at mile 2 is out of water when we arrive, a bad development, but a woman offers me water from the bottle on her pack and I take a couple of sips. Beyond the fairgrounds I fall in with another first time marathoner who has trained by mostly running on a treadmill. He ran his long 20 mile run on the treadmill and I comment that I am ready to shoot myself after 3 miles on the treadmill. He admits to getting off at 17.5, but forced himself back on for the next 2.5. I tell him if he can do that, he is mentally tough enough for the marathon.

At 3 miles Mark reappears and offers me Gatorade. I take a couple of gulps, spilling it down my front.. He reminds me that I can walk to drink. I soon fall in with one of the 4:45 pacers. He and his wife are teamed up to provide that pace. We soon get into a single family residential neighborhood, and a number of the houses have items set out by the curb with ‘free' signs on them from small appliances, knick-knacks and a variety of other cast offs. Around mile 5 I fall in with a couple running their first marathon. I comment on how my pace is about 30 seconds faster than I want it to be, i.e, a 5 hour pace, and they laugh, saying theirs is about a minute and a half faster, as all they want to do is finish under the 6 hour cutoff. They had looked for a 6 hour pacer, but realized their are no pace groups slower than 5 hours.

Near mile 6 is an aid station, the relay exchange and Mark. I mix water and Gatorade, and express concern to Mark about my pace. He assures me that I am doing fine. I head north and, as I cross the overpass over Route 15 at mile 7, I catch up with a barefoot runner with the star-spangled shorts. Pinned to the rear of his shorts is a sign indicating that this is his 200th marathon. A little later I chat with a woman running with her GPS. It is giving her pace read-outs, but they are bouncing all over the place - 10 minutes/mile on the slight downhill, 12 minutes/mile on the slight uphill. The aid station at mile 8 is sponsored by State Farm Insurance, and their mascot, some sort of fuzzy bear-like animal in what looks like a baseball uniform is there. I yell at him to be sure to pay all claims promptly and he nods his oversized head. Who knew that insurance companies had mascots? Following the aid station I have to duck into the bushes. I take that as a good sign that I am staying hydrated. I soon catch up with a runner with a White House Hash House Harriers shirt and joke with him about the lack of beer at the aid stations. He tells me that there is some at mile 18. I start to tell a joke about a guy, a bar and water, but as I turn toward the runner to deliver the punch line, he has already put his earbuds in. I speed away from him as the course heads downhill. I fall in with a high school girl running a leg in the marathon relay. We talk about hydration. She mentions that she had heard that high fructose corn syrup used in soda is not that good for you. That is an opportunity for me to explain to her U.S. sugar policy, restrictions on the importation of cheap world cane sugar and the political power of midwestern sugar beet growers and FL and LA cane growers (Pam, note I did not blame HI cane growers). I tell her that she shouldn't feel compelled to stay with me, and she speeds away before I can talk about the damage to the Everglades caused by water diversion in FL to benefit cane growers.

Mark is waiting near mile 12 and I again express concern about my pace being too fast, especially the 10:00 mile 11 during the sugar monologue. As the weather is warming up, I hand him my hat. He tells me again that I am doing fine, snaps some pictures and heads off to meet me again at mile 16. I soon catch up with two women, one wearing a T-shirt with "I am running my first 1/2 marathon with my daughter" and the other wearing a shirt with "I am running her first 1/2 marathon with my mother" shirt. The daughter, a teenager, has on an ipod and both have headphones connected to it. She says that she selected the music, eliciting words of dismay from the other runners around the pair. Daughter is urging Mom to keep running up the incline we are on, and I am trying to subvert her efforts by saying that walking is OK. Mom labors on, and we reach the crest. The 13 mile sign comes in sight, and they pick up the pace as they turn off for the end of the half marathon.

I reach the halfway point at 2:20 and start to think that either 5 hours is doable, or that I'm facing disaster after mile 20. I ask a couple of guys who have run the race before how the course is after mile 18 and they say it gets hillier than the first part of the course. Lying would have been OK, I note to them. Gummi bears from the Boy Scouts add some variety to the fare at the aid station at mile 13.5. Out and back thru the pretty neighborhood behind Frederick HS and past the school's greenhouse, overflowing with hanging flowers and flats filled with more flowers and plants. The weather continues to warm and I push up my sleeves.

As promised Mark joins me at mile 16 to run along for a couple of miles. We pass a woman sitting in front of her house with a "Way To Go (Your name here)" sign. Soon we catch up with the "suitcase guys" - two guys carrying a small hard-sided suitcase in the race. They say they will find out what is in it when they reach the finish. After the race they explain that they picked it up from one of the "free piles" along mile 5 and that it was empty. We get back to the stadium at mile 17 and after more water and Gatorade, and more Gummi Bears, I make a quick Porta-potty stop - another sign that I am still hydrated. Then over the two overpasses at I-70 and I-270, walking the up sides. From time to time the side of the course looks like the path of a refugee group, as discarded shirts, hats and gloves, as well as empty goo containers, bottles, cups and other debris like scattered on the side. I spot a pair of discarded cotton running gloves, backtrack slightly to retrieve them and hand the damp gloves to Mark. I leave him and am on my own as I head toward into the distance that I have never run before.

My time for mile 18 is 11:58, my first mile over the 5 hour pace. It did involve an aid station, potty stop and glove pick-up but I don't like the precedent and wonder if there are more to come. On the other hand, I am 14 or 15 minutes ahead of the 5 hour pace, so I have some margin of error. The aid station at mile 18 is sponsored by a sports bar, and I joke that it should offer more than just water. Clearly this is the right thing to say, and a cup with beer is quickly proffered. The Hash Harrier was right! This stretch is pretty sterile - it is all new development, retail, commercial and townhouses along a four lane divided road evidencing the sprawling growth of Frederick. I fall in alongside 59 year old William Brustein of Pittburgh, running his 18th marathon. He tells me that at the Pittsburgh Marathon (surprisingly flat, he says) one finishes by running thru the tunnel out onto the field in Heinz Stadium. Even better, as you emerge from the tunnel, you can see yourself on the Jumbotron! And the crowd goes wild -at least in the movie playing in your head. William has a very bent over style, with an almost a walking style gait, and one of the Deputy Sheriffs asks him if he is OK as we pass. He assures her he is fine.

We keep moving forward and soon are joined by the husband-wife team of 4:45 pacers. I take a break to walk some and they move on ahead. The break shows in my time for mile 20, a 12:03. I determine to get back to the 5 hour 11:30 pace for the rest of the race. I eat the goo pack I have stashed in my pocket for this moment, as time is running out for keeping up strength. Soon enough I catch back up to William, and we pass a farm field on our left and the newest Frederick County HS on our right - so new it is not even complete yet. The one is Frederick's past; the other its future. The road is slanted to the left and my left foot begins to hurt. The pain goes away after the road levels out.

Aid stations are now a mile apart rather than 2 miles, a nice touch for this part of the course, and manned by enthusiastic volunteers. William and I catch up with the female half of the 4:45 pace team at the aid station at mile 21, or does she catch up with us? But she says she is about 2 minutes ahead of the pace, so being between her and her husband gives us a fairly narrow pace window to try to stay in. I begin to think that the issue is no longer finishing in 5 hours, but 4:50, or even besting Mark's PR of 4:49. My comment of how Frederick has changed over the years elicits our pacer's observation of how, as a life-time Frederick resident, she remembers that her uncle's house out here, miles from the edge of old Frederick, was the first house on the road. There are some girls standing by the side of the road waving yellow streamers. I imitate their actions by waving my arms like a bird, and they laugh. At mile 23 we run past some bovines in a field, and after saying hello to a pair of spectators, I tell the bovines that I look forward to seeing them at my table soon. From behind a voice responds, "they are dairy cows." So much for my agricultural knowledge.

Mark reappears at mile 23, taking pictures and warning of a hill upcoming around the corner to mile 24. I make the turn, run a bit and begin walking. He takes the direct way back toward the stadium and the finish. Our pacer is now out of sight, but her husband hasn't caught up with us, so 4:45 is still looking good. The walking takes a bit of a time penalty, and I post my third mile over the 5 hour pace, but just barely, at 11:34. But it is worth it, as I feel good reaching the top of the hill. After the aid station, I catch up to William, bid him good-bye and move out. A guy parked on the side of the road with his pick-up truck has a stereo system providing music to the runners. I tell him he needs something more up-tempo than the song that is on, and he observes that he doesn't particularly like that song either.

After mile 25 there are more and more people walking and I pass them. I can see the light towers of the stadium and I am feeling good. At the aid station I take a cup of water and pour it over my head and back; it's too late for hydration but not for cooling. I walk parts of the inclines over I-270 and I-70 but pick up the pace once I'm over the two highways - less than a mile left. At the 26 mile marker, at the turn into the stadium parking lot some has posted a sign, "If you are not having a good time call Rachel [the race director] at [her phone number]." As I turn onto the warning track alongside the right field foul line to head for the finish line in front of the first base dugout, another runner pulls next to me. "Want to race?" I say. "Yeah," he replies, and we sprint (if that is what can be said we did after 26 miles) over the pitching mounds for the Keys relief pitchers, stride for stride, crossing the line next to each other as Mark snaps more photos. We shake hands and I sit down, and a volunteer unlaces my shoe and removes the chip. I reach down to retie them but she waves me off. "I'm used to tying shoes," she says, "I'm a librarian in an elementary school."

I catch my breath after the sprint, get up and collect my finisher's medal and shirt. This time there is no shortage of size selection, and I take a large.

(see also Ken Swab - Buffalo Marathon 2006 for Ken's report on his second marathon ...)

TopicRunning - 2006-05-06

(correlates: Subway Agreement, ReadyWillingAble, QuidConducere, ...)