Monday, June 18, 2012

Race Recaps and Ramblings

So last fall after two enjoyable marathons at Marshal and Indianapolis, I cooked up a half brained idea for 2012 that included 7 marathons in an 8 month time span.  The reasoning (if you can call it that) was that I would like to complete the 50 states challenge of running a marathon in each state by the time I turn 40.  In order to do that I figured I could quickly ramp up and have 10 states under my belt and then do a much more "realistic" 4 marathons a year for 10 years.  Fast forward to last weekend and you found mom and I running in 85 degree heat in the hills of Kentucky/West Virginia at the Hatfield McCoy marathon.  Three weeks earlier I had an awesome marathon experience in Vermont.  It was hilly, it was hot, and it was my slowest marathon time yet, but I loved almost every minute of it!  Vermont had beautiful scenery and some of the most positive people I have seen on a marathon course in a good while.  Running you got to see scenes like this:
Yes we did run that hill in the background

I knew going into this race that it was definitely hillier than pancake flat Champaign Urbana and a few days before the run I took a peak at the elevation profile and may have peed my pants a little bit. 
While the course and conditions were tough the marathon ended up being a great experience and huge kudos to the people and volunteers behind this race who pulled off one heck of a good run.

Coming off of Vermont I had three weeks to once again recover and prepare myself for the next one in Kentucky.  This time around mom was going to be joining me for the half and so we headed down to feudin' country to tackle the hills of Eastern Kentucky at Hatfield Mccoy.  We knew once again that this was a hilly course, but I didn't compare the elevation change to Vermont until after the race when I was surprised to find that this one was actually hillier - I think willful ignorance is a good racing strategy don't you? 
Boy would we feel that Blackberry Mountain around mile 6

Looking back, and talking with mom's, we definitely had some mixed emotions on this race.  The marathon has excellent reviews and runners all over the United States proclaim this as one of the best races they have done.  That high praise may have led us to have too high expectations and I found this one to be enjoyable, but also containing some problems.  Number one was lodging.  Surprise, surprise but Holiday Inn and Hilton don't build hotels in way off the grid Williamson, Kentucky.  Having 500 + runners invade these backwater towns led to some creative hotel arrangements.  The local firehouse offered runners air mattresses in a florescent filled hall and some local families agreed to take runners into their homes.  Planning ahead I had managed to score us one of the scarce rooms in a local B&B in Matewan, WV where the half marathon ended.  When we got there we were greeted with this sight:
Yup - this plus about 10 more buildings was the whole town

This gives you an idea of how close our building was to the tracks
Good news - we were staying in what was definitely the nicest place in Matewan and were greeted by a very upbeat and friendly innkeeper.  Bad news - our room was literally built 10 feet from a very active railroad line with trains that ran throughout the entire night - surprisingly it didn't interfere with our sleep too much!  The race itself started off without a hitch and cooler morning temps led to a good race through about mile 10.
 Mom had a great half marathon and we managed to keep our pace for the first half within a few minutes of Illinois - impressive given we had to go over Blackberry mountain during those miles.  Coming into Matewan you could feel the heat start to rise and mom was glad to give me a high five and a wave as she crossed her finish line and went on to stretch, cool down, and hitch a ride back to the finish line.

Leaving the half-marathoners I always get a little surge as I feel like its at this point that the marathon really "starts."  Unfortunately it was also at this point that the road conditions quickly started to deteriorate and I was soon running on dirt ATV trails with mega gravel chunks punishing the bottom of my feet.  I could tell I was developing a blister from the combination of crappy socks and crappy roads, but just kept pushing through the pain.  Along the way I met some great "50 staters" and Marathon Maniacs (of which I am now one!!!) and had some good conversations about their favorite races, racing tips, and everything else marathon related.  However, I was very happy to see these two gentlemen at the finish line and take off my shoes (CAUTION - ugly blister photo follows). 
Good Ol' Devil Anse Hatfield and Randal McCoy high-fived every runner at the finish line

No I do not have six toes - that is my blister
Road conditions, hotel accommodations, and some transportation mishaps that mom had to suffer through, made this at times a frustrating experience and while there were good parts I think mom and I are glad to have both West Virginia and Kentucky now off our racing calendar and can start looking forward to other our next challenge Macon, GA in July (what the hell were we thinking!). 

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