My trip to Portland, Maine this October was special for a couple reasons. First, it marked the end of my ultra racing season for 2007 (!!!), but more importantly it was the first time I had the chance to run a marathon with my cousin Erin. She's a 19 year-old college student who ran Boston this past April as her first marathon. Since she had to bandit that race to get in, this would be her first "official" 26.2 mile haul. To close out 2007 in style myself, I decided I would wake up early (2:30 a.m.) and run the marathon course first all by myself. After which I would meet up with Erin back at the starting line and run it all over again with everyone else in the real race. Nothing like covering 52.4 miles before noon on a Sunday morning!
One other special note about this race: When I checked my registration on-line a few weeks prior to the race, I saw I had been assigned the bib number '666'. Talk about good luck, right? I figured that number was something they just didn't give out, sort of like the 13th floor in a hotel or something.....but hey, since that was my number, I might as well have fun with it. It took a little effort, but Elizabeth tracked down some easy-to-run-with devil horns for me to wear during the marathon, so we packed them up and headed north to run the race with style.
After a nice dinner the night before the race (9 family members made the trip!), we headed back to our hotels to get some sleep. I finally nodded off around Midnight, and my usual pre-run excitement actually woke me up before my alarm at 2:20 a.m.. The first thing I checked was the weather since it was raining pretty steadily when I fell asleep, but luck was definitely on my side as I saw nothing but smooth puddles outside the window. On my way through the hotel lobby, I saw a group of drunken girls coming in from a night out...just as I thought we couldn't be more opposite in our 2:30 a.m. goals, I noticed one of the girls was wearing the *exact* same pair of Devil Horns I brought with me for my run. I guess we weren't so different after all.
As I stepped outside and made the 1 mile walk to the starting line, I was happy to feel that it was warmer than I anticipated (probably about 55 degrees). When I arrived at the starting line, I geared up with both my fuel belt and hand-bottle since I would need to self-support my first 26.2 miles. With no sun and cool temps, I knew the 62 oz. of fluid would be plenty to get me through the first marathon. Before starting out, I noticed a guy sitting in his car guarding the start-line equipment which had been set up the day before. We shared this conversation:
Him: "You're here early"
Me: "I'm actually running the course twice"
Him: "Oh, that's nice. How long of a race is it, 4 miles?"
Me: "Something like that...have a good morning!"
...and with that I was off. The first couple miles of the race were a half-circle loop around the Back Cove, and by the time you get 1/2 way around you're treated to a nice view back on the city lights of Portland - well, this is your view if you're running it at 3 a.m. anyway. This section of the course is also fairly well lit with street lamps, so while I still had my headlamp on I really didn't need it. After 3 or 4 miles I was warm enough to take off my long-sleeve top and gloves as I settled into my pace. The marathon course is an out-and-back which, aside from a couple side streets to add mileage, essentially runs north and south on Rt. 88...the only thing that made things a little rough for me on the way out was a fairly strong head-wind that was blowing in the new weather front after the rain. Not only did I feel this wind, but my headlamp allowed me to 'see' it as well as its beams illuminated the mist blowing directly into my face up until the turn-around point at mile 13. Aside from the occasional check of my map and extra skip in my step when I ran by a fox and/or skunk in the street, I just kept my head down and powered through the turn-around point at a steady clip to get that wind working in my favor.
On the way back to Portland I was comfortably cruising along with the wind at my back and a smile on my face. One thing I did notice was all of that wind had blown in some much colder weather (definitely 10 degrees colder than when I started). With about 3 miles to go I started seeing my first signs of human life - trucks were dropping off the tables and water for the aid stations - and the horizon was bright enough for me to turn off my headlamp. I crossed the finish line with my GPS watch reading exactly 26.2 miles (always nice to know the course it accurate) and my time being 4:12. I hadn't looked at my pace the entire run since I wasn't worried about time at all. I just ran a comfortable pace knowing I had another 26.2 to run with my cousin as soon as I finished the first one. After grabbing some food and filling up my bottles, I met up with Erin and her mom (my aunt) Betsy at the starting area. Erin was a little nervous, and I was feeling a little stomach problem coming on (wrong food mix, apparently), so we both took comfort in our decision to just be happy to run a comfortable pace regardless of our finishing time.
When the gun went off we were at the very back of the pack (something like 1000 marathoners and 1500 1/2 marathoners started), but we steadily moved our way up through the crowd. It was fun running and talking with Erin for the first ten miles or so, but right around then I really needed to hit a porta-potty. Little did I know once I stopped off to deal with my stomach I wouldn't see Erin again until the finish. Her planned goals for the race were to break 4 hours and win her age group...and while I was dealing with my stomach, she was tearing up the course to the tune of a 3:53 finish which broke the all-time course record for the 19-under age group!!
Here she is with her Age-Group Champion award! I couldn't be prouder.
Meanwhile, back on the course, I finally rebounded from my bout with the evil banana and found my stride again around mile 18 (44 for me) or so. Once I got back to smiling and chatting with other runners I felt comfortable again on the road. The sun was shining brightly on a now beautiful New England fall day, and I was having a lot of fun hamming it up for the fans who were commenting on my Devil ensemble as I ran by.
The official race photographer snapped off this photo of me with about 100 yards to go in the race. It's always nice to act like an idiot during a run. Just after passing the photographer I heard the announcer talking over the PA as I approached the finish line. He must have just finished telling the crowd that I was out there running the double because he said, "Speak of the Devil! Here comes #666, Dan Rose!". That made me smile since I didn't think anyone knew I was running the course twice (turns out my old man told him a few minutes earlier). I crossed the line and happily met up with my family (and the food table), and found out the great news about Erin's successful run.
My watch read 52.67 miles which proves that when you're forced to stay on one side of the road on a course it adds milage (.27 in this case) to any course that was measured using the middle of the road as the reference point (since there were no cars out in my first run, I pretty much ran in the middle of the road and finished with the accurate 26.2 mile distance on my watch). When you take out that extra extra effort, I was quite happy to see my finishing time for my second marathon of the morning was EXACTLY the same as my first go around. Sure, it would have been a lot faster if I didn't have to stop 3x at the porta-potties, but I am more than happy with my even-split pace. I'll be training this off-season to keep that same pace (9:30/mile) over 100 miles so I can place in the Top 5 at the Umstead 100 on April 5, 2008. Stay tuned for more on that story!
Here are the happy runners at the finish!