Name of the race: Wineglass Marathon
Where: Corning, NY
Date: Oct 4, 2015
Time: 8:15 am
Distance: 26.2 miles
Terrain: Point-to-point road, net decline, small rolling hills
- 12/1 thru 12/31 $80
- 1/1 thru 1/31 $95
- 2/1 thru 3/31 $105
- 4/1 thru 5/31 $115
- 6/1 thru 7/31 $125
- 8/1+ $135
Swag: Gender specific long-sleeve tech shirt, glass finisher medal, pretty nice Wineglass spike bag, one piece of chocolate turtle, $10 gift certificate at Connors, $10 gift certificate at Pure Design, small bottle of local sparkling wine, & wineglass
Post-race Food: Chicken soup, bagels, string cheese, apples, bananas, cookies (peanut butter, chocolate chip, sugar cookie), pizza, chocolate milk, Gatorade, Coke, & water
Performance: Overall: 489/1930; Gender: 203/1445; Age Group (35-39): 38/236
Weather: 46 degrees, 74% humidity, some headwind
I’m full of feelings and thoughts. I’m just going to stick to the race report for this post, so it’s not too long.
On Friday, Oct 2nd, we drove to Ithaca after I was done with work and dropped Bandit off at my friend’s who kindly agreed to look after her for the weekend. Ben was working from home that day, so it was simply we were going to leave as soon as I was able. As usual meetings run long and we left an hour later than we had hoped. The drive out of NYC was insane. The 8 miles to leave the metropolitan NYC area took 2 hours. The irony of being able to run faster did not escape us. We made it to Ithaca by 10 pm (7 hours of driving). It was nice to have a quick reunion with T, who’s one of my dearest friends. Being grad school friends with someone is like being war buddies. There’s an unbreakable bond of having gone through the trenches together. She’s a runner too and did her first marathon last spring at LA. She gave me some tips based on her experience and we caught up on each other’s lives. Also I did my laundry at her place like I was some college kid going back home. Don’t judge me. I live without a washer and dryer. #nyclivingprobs
Saturday morning, T did her 20-mile long run (she’s in training for Marine Corps) and we babysat her kids, by which I mean Ben and her daughters played a rousing game of hide-and-seek while I worked. Then T made us breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Honestly I don’t know why I don’t go visit more often considering how well we always get fed at her place.
After being well fed, we left for Corning to get to the expo before it closed at 3 pm. The expo was held at the Corning Museum of Glass, which is an incredible museum. It’s a nice mix of art (cool glass art of all kinds) and science (how glass is made, technological advances in glass, etc). The entry fee is 50% with a Wineglass race bib for Wineglass Marathon weekend. The expo itself is pretty small. We were disappointed to learn that the lady who makes the incredible wine cakes is no longer selling those cakes. I didn’t want much except a Wineglass beanie and that cake. I got the beanie.
We did the Wineglass Half Marathon two years ago and stayed at some shabby little motel in Horseheads a few miles away from Corning. For a cheap single night’s stay, it wasn’t bad, but in my growing old age, I’m finding that I care more and more about creature comforts. I insisted that this year we stay at the Radisson, which is the race hotel. It’s a pretty nice hotel with very warm and friendly service, most importantly very runner friendly (unsurprisingly since Wineglass probably is the biggest event of the year at Corning, and it is the official race hotel). We checked in and then relaxed until it was time for Wineglass Marathon Pasta dinner that was being held at the Radisson.
I recommend going to the pasta dinner for several reasons. Every year they have an amazing speaker (two years ago it was Bart Yasso). This year it was Colleen Kelly Alexander. If you don’t know her story, you need to go read it now! She survived a horrific accident where a truck ran her over while she was out riding a bike on a beautiful fall day. She turned that tragic event into motivation to fulfill her mission of raising money for various non-profits and to teach people how to “use adversity as a catalyst to make the world a better, brighter place.” Her spirit and positivity are truly inspirational and her words brought tears to my eyes.
She had a slideshow and showed us photos of her life, including her labs. She proudly stated that she was a mom to two dogs and I quipped, “They look just like you.” She laughed and agreed. I was very much moved by her story and how much she has done for the various causes she cares so deeply about. She gives away all of her medals to people she wishes to acknowledge as heroes because so many people were involved in saving her life after the accident. She gave her half marathon medal to Frank Davis (aka Fabulous Frank), a Red Cross hero, who sets up the medical tent for Wineglass every year.
Aside from the great speakers, the all-you-can-eat pasta buffet is quite good. There are different types of pasta (regular penne, tortellini, gluten free pasta), various sauces (marinara, meat sauce, alfredo), and MEAT (meatballs – my favorite, sausage, and chicken), not to mention sides (salads, vegetables, fruit salad, rolls) and toppings for salads (cheeses, dressings, croutons, bay shrimp, etc). And then there’s dessert (banana bread pudding this year). All this for $25 which is a very reasonable price. Corning doesn’t have too many restaurants, so the pasta dinner is a very attractive choice.
The buffet service is very well organized. The servers tell each table when it’s their turn to go, so the lines are never long and you don’t feel like you’re waiting forever to get your food. They set up two different stations, so the entire room gets their food pretty quickly. Ben and I ate our fill and then we got seconds. It’s always a little embarrassing how much we eat because I’d say most of the time we out-eat everyone at our table. This was no exception.
It was so nice simply going up to our room after dinner. I love staying at the Radisson for Wineglass. Before going to bed early, we soaked in the outdoor hot tub for a half hour or so to relax. I slept really well and was well-rested in the morning when we woke up at 5 am. For breakfast I ate the two rolls and an extra serving of banana bread pudding that we sneaked out from dinner. Downstairs at the lobby, the hotel set out a hospitality table with coffee, tea, bottles of water bananas, and granola bars for the runners. We helped ourselves to coffee and waited in the lobby.
The night before we prepared everything that we needed for the morning. I customized an old Headsweats visor (now you guys know a rather badly kept secret – my real name). I’m not artist, but I was rather pleased with my replication of the Wineglass logo on the visor. Then I blinged it out sparklies and feathers ‘cuz why not. I decided to run with two Simple Hydration bottles – one with Gatorade and one with water. I went over my fueling plan with Ben. Based on what happened in my long training runs, I decided to eat Shotbloks starting at Mile 6 and finishing them around around Mile 12. I wanted to eat two chews for every mile. In order to do that, I needed to carry water with me because the aid stations wouldn’t be available at every mile. After that, I would switch to Huma gels, and then switch to Gatorade for the last six miles. I knew that as I grew tired, I wouldn’t be able to stand chewing or eating anything. I was a bit concerned about carrying two bottles because I hadn’t ever practiced it, but it worked out beautifully. I didn’t notice the extra weight once the bottles settled into their spots. In the beginning, there was a bit of bouncing and jostling as the bottles tried to figure out where the best place would be, but once they settled, I forgot all about them until I needed them.
The shuttle buses to the start line were a block away from the Radisson. We could actually see the buses from our hotel room. We got another refill of coffee and walked over to the buses at 6:15. I kissed Ben good-bye and boarded my bus. The drive to the start in Campbell took about a half hour. There was a bit of a confusion as the driver was instructed to drop us off at the other end of the field, but a bus that arrived a couple minutes after us was allowed to drop people off where we had been. The only reason why I was annoyed because we were dropped off farther away from the port-o-potties. After I used the facilities, I gratefully went to the giant metal shed that’s normally used to store farm equipment like tractors that was converted to a warming area for runners. Rows and rows of foldable chairs were set out for us. I found a free seat and sat quietly, lost in my own thoughts. At 7:30 I ate a chocolate Huma gel and drank some water in order to top off energy level. Then a few minutes later, I decided to head out to the start line. There were two long rows of port-o-potties and a giant tent with more chairs for runners to rest and try to stay warm while waiting for the marathon to begin. Otherwise there was nothing in this area. We were in a corn field essentially. I ran into a former blogger while in line for the port-o-potties and we chitchatted a bit.
Except for a few people, I hadn’t told anyone what my goal was for Wineglass. My A-goal was sub-3:50, B-goal was sub-4:00, and C-goal was to finish. Based on how training had been going, I knew for me to make the A-goal, I needed the weather to cooperate 100% (Stay away, Hurricane Joaquin!) and for me to just have the most incredible day of my life. I’ve had a couple of races where for whatever reason, on that day, my body was fire and I completely out-performed anything that McMillan had predicted based on training. If I had another phenomenal day, a sub-3:50 could happen. The B-goal was a far more reason, very much doable goal based on training and fitness level and relying on the weather to be pretty decent. The C-goal was if something completely went wrong and I was in just-survive-the-marathon mode. When we woke up that morning, the weather was just about race perfect. The start temperature was in the high 40s, which is nice and cool, just how I like it. There was plenty of gray cover, again, which helps with keeping me cool while running. I couldn’t have asked for better temperature-wise. Now it was just to see what kind of day my body was having.
I decided to start off with the 3:55 pace leader to prevent myself from going out too fast. I told him, “I’m running with you for a few miles and then I’m leaving the group. If all goes well, I’ll never see you again.” He laughed and said, “Well, maybe at the finish line.” We stood around waiting for the marathon to begin at 8:15. The half marathon had already started at 7:45. I knew Ben was already running and would be long done by the time I reached Campbell, the halfway point for me and the start line for him. Finally the air horn blared and we were off.
All the runners and I were anxious for the first three miles. The pacer, Mike S., was a pro and a well-seasoned in leading this pace group. He continually consoled us that we were going at the right pace even thought it felt way too easy and slow. Ben had warned me several times that I needed to feel this way for several miles. At each mile, our Garmins beeped and reassured us that we were indeed running at the right pace. At Mile 3 at the first water stop, he slowed down and I decided to keep on going on my own.
Except I was never on my own. Even though Wineglass is a smaller marathon, there were still plenty of runners around me. I was never alone. There were a small group of us where we continually passed and was passed by each other. We leapfrogged each other mile after mile. One of those runners was Judith of So Very Slightly Mad (and another Simple Hydration team member). It was really fun meeting her on the course. I knew it was important not to run too fast and to settle to a pace that I thought I could hold for the rest of the 23.2 miles. I didn’t want to prematurely focus on chasing down all the runners in front of me. I forced myself to draw my attention inward into my own body and breathing. I ran at what felt comfortable. For several miles this meant a 8:40-8:50 pace. Actually I didn’t look at my Garmin all much except once in while to check what my pace was. I didn’t want to accidentally go too fast in the early miles or slow down too much because of carelessness in the later miles.
While Wineglass has a net decline, it honestly doesn’t feel like it. Except for a couple of sections with steeper declines, Wineglass feels like a flat course with a few rolling hills with short steep climbs. The first one came at around Mile 5. This early on, I didn’t sweat the hill and I was grateful for all the hill training I did in the Poconos, Prospect Park, and Central Park. For the most part, the course has no spectators. Whenever we went through a town, there were tons of people lining the streets and cheering, but otherwise, we were out on country roads by ourselves. You could feel lonely, but I appreciated the silence. I like being alone with my thoughts. The scenery is beautiful with the explosion of fall colors, if you noticed the scenery. I was so focused on running and on myself, that I saw very little of it. The next day when I saw race photos in the local newspapers, I was impressed with how pretty the course was. We ran past a beautiful lake. I had no idea.
One of my concerns for the marathon distance was fueling. I had bonked in a few of my long training runs because I wasn’t taking in enough calories. For me, Shotbloks are more effective in getting more calories in me, but I don’t like chewing. I don’t need to chew gels, but I can’t eat as many of them. Gatorade is honestly my preferred way of getting calories, but I can’t drink enough calories. Based on how I did at training runs and my own proclivities in fueling, I decided to eat a couple of ShotBloks every mile from Miles 6 – 12/13 while I was still relatively fresh and capable of chewing. Then from 13/14 switch to having gels every other mile. And from Mile 20, I would start drinking Gatorade. I could only have this fueling plan because I was running with Simple Hydration bottles so I can access to water whenever I needed it. Between Miles 6 and 20, I wasn’t hungry and eating wasn’t appealing, but I forced myself to continually fuel as long as my stomach could hold it. There were a few moments where my stomach was a tad queasy feeling, so I gave myself more time. I postponed the fueling by a quarter or half mile. I skipped a mile. But for the most part, I ate and ate.
Mile 10 I quickly ran into a port-o-potty. In my overeagerness to hydrate in the morning, I may have drunk a little too much water. I needed to pee for a while, but I wasn’t willing to lose too much time over it. At Mile 10, there were several empty port-o-potties right by the road. I ran in and ran out. I lost only 30 seconds, that I easily made up in less than 3 miles because I was running so much more comfortably with an empty bladder. At 13.1 we reached Campbell the halfway point. I thought of Ben and how he was already done. I still had miles and hours to go. The race clock told me that I made the halfway mark in 1:55:xx. A sub-3:50 was still just possible if I could keep the race going. By this point, I was feeling a little tired and this wasn’t a good sign. I was going to slow down. It wasn’t a question of if, but when. At this point, all I could do was continue running and see what would happen. I really enjoyed the second half of the course, because I had run it before when I did the half. The familiarity of the course did a lot to cheer me up.
Starting at Mile 14, the pace slowed to 8:50 – 9:00. I hadn’t intended to start listening to music until Mile 16, but I thought I could use music to help me get through, so I took out my IPhone and played the Wineglass Marathon playlist, which contained all the bouncy cheesy music I had. The beats of the songs helped me going. While it didn’t make me speed up, I definitely didn’t slow down even more. At Mile 16 I knew the sub-3:50 was out the window; I wasn’t going to make up the lost seconds that turned into minutes. Mile 18, I was really tired. The paces were slowing down even more to 9:00-9:10. I was tempted by the thought of DNF’ing. I thought about the 20-milers that I did. Told myself that I just had to make it til Mile 20. I knew once I made it to Mile 20 that I would finish Wineglass.
Finally it was Mile 20. Unwelcome thoughts of DNF’ing entered my head. I told myself, “You did a couple of 21-milers. You can do another one.” I ran another mile. Then I told myself, it was such a pity to come this far and not at least set a new record for longest distance. I ran another mile. Then I told myself, “You should run another mile, so this way you only have just a little more than a 5K left.” Runner’s math, whatever you need to do to keep on running. I ran another mile. Then I said, “Well, now you just have a little more than a 5K. You’ve done lots of 5Ks. You might as well finish.” The paces were slower than the early miles, but my fears that the wheels were about to come off and that my pace would slow down drastically were unfounded. I kept on running slightly above 9:00. A couple of times I saw 9:3X, but this was because I got complacent, not because I was tiring quickly. I refocused and the pace went back to 9:0X.
At Mile 25, I knew that this was about to cross the finish line just over 10 minutes. I was elated because I hadn’t hit The Wall. Yes, I slowed a bit, but my pace didn’t completely fall off. I refocused my energy and concentrated on having a good fast final mile. I picked up my pace to 8:50. Before the final bridge, I heard my name. It was Ben. He was there to cheer me on and to take photos. I was happy to see him. Over the bridge and then, there I saw the final left hand turn. I knew once I made that turn that I would see the finish line sign up head. That left hand turn was the most glorious turn. The roar of the crowds is surprising after so many miles of country quiet. The FINISH LINE sign was hung high so it could be seen clearly by weary runners. Why was it so far away? I ran faster. I wanted to get to it as fast as I could. With every step, the sign got a little larger.
And then, I ran through the finish line, across the timing mats. An overwhelming surge of emotions welled up in me. I thought about my friend who told me that when she ran her first marathon, she cried when she crossed the finish line because she had never thought that she would ever do a marathon. She thought that her body wasn’t capable of such a feat. I felt an immense sense of happiness and satisfaction because I knew I ran the best race that I could. The final time of 3:54:03 reflected the training that I had put in and the level of fitness that I’m in. If you miss a goal because of external circumstances (injury, weather), you learned to be satisfied with running the best race you could that day. I was uninjured. The weather was pretty much perfect. I carried and executed the race plan that I thought through and planned so meticulously. Whenever I experienced a hard moment during the marathon, I thought back to my training runs and what I learned. I learned how to be mentally tough and keep going. I learned how to push my pace despite the fatigue and to not collapse at the end. I learned how to fuel for the 26.2 miles. And in the end, I executed the best marathon that was in my body.
This was the perfect first marathon experience. I’m so incredibly happy and overjoyed that Wineglass turned out so well for me. I couldn’t have scripted a better race, a better day for me. Thank you, Wineglass. The race organizers, staff, and volunteers made this an incredible experience for me. Thank you to my sponsors, Simple Hydration (email me for 20% off promo code) and Headsweats (promo code AFASTPACEDLIFE for 25% off) for making running easier. Thank you to all my friends for running with me, encouraging me, and sending me luck. Thank you, Ben, for your love and support. I may have been there physically running without you, but you were always there in spirit.