Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fallsburg Marathon - 8/15/09

I love the Fallsburg Marathon in Lowell, MI! It's a long 9 hour drive for me, but it's well worth it. I had to work all day on Friday and didn't hit the road until almost 6:00 p.m. I ran into road construction 2 or 3 different times, which didn't help the situation. I didn't get much sleep in the car before the start of the race. I was about an hour away from Lowell when I decided to stop at a rest area to sleep for 2 hours. When my cell phone's alarm went off, I changed into my running clothes and arrived at the race site in Fallasburg Park about 45 minutes before the start.

Now if you noticed, the name of the race is spelled differently from the name of the park. It is not a typo. I wish I had a story to explain it, but for two years in a row, I've forgotten to ask Dan, the race director, why that is, lol.

In the race packet is a t-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. The finisher's award is a medal and a huge, thick, hot pink bath towel with the race name embroidered on it. I love the towels that Dan gives the runners. I have 2 brown towels from last year when I ran the marathon and the Wild West 100K, which is held at the same location.

I talked with my running buddies, Eugene (CT) and Cathy (NY), before we started. After the start, I quickly lost track of Eugene. He's been having some back problems lately, and he's been known to go off-course (i.e., get lost) at some races, so I'm not sure which situation kept him out of the results. He successfully finished the Lean Horse 50K the following weekend, so at least I know he's okay.

Cathy and I would spend the day together. Since there was no cut-off, there was no pressure. Cathy runs an evenly paced race, so I was determined to keep up with her. She runs one minute and then walks one minute. On this course with the rolling hills and trails, we would deviate from this routine periodically to walk the uphills and to take advantage of the downhills.

It was hot but not very humid. Most of the course that is on the roads and exposed is run in the early part of the race, while most of the trail sections with the canopy of trees for shade is run in the afternoon when the temperature really starts heating up.

We started on the road and went up a short hill passing through the first of 3 covered bridges. We then follow rolling country roads for a few miles. At some point, we saw 3 deer cross the road right in front of us. Cathy said they represented her daughter and 2 of her friends that have succumbed to cancer. Respectfully, we said hello to the deer, who were now hiding in the woods as we passed by them.

We hit a rolling dirt/gravel road next, and covered bridge #2, followed by some beautiful trails, before emptying back onto the road. After the short road section, we are on the trail leading back to the start/finish area. The relatively flat, rockless, and rootless (are those real words?) trail circles the lake where locals are fishing and swimming. We then cross covered bridge #3 and are back at the start/finish area.

Just as we are leaving to start the 2nd loop, Chuck (OH), a fellow 50 Stater and Marathon Maniac, won the marathon in 3:20:22. Chuck finishes and wins road marathons in the 2:30-2:50 range, so that gives you an indication that the hills on this course are no joke. The fact that Chuck was finished and we still had 13 miles remaining indicates that his speed is also no joke, lol.

Cathy and I headed back out onto the course. The 2nd half is mostly on the North Country Trail. It is my favorite section. As we went back uphill to the 1st covered bridge, I was getting excited. We turned onto the gravel/dirt road which steadily continues uphill for a couple of miles, and then I saw the chalk markings leading us into the woods onto the trail. The North Country Trail runs 4,600 miles through 7 states. It's on my list of things to do when I retire, lol.

Once we hit the trail, I was in heaven. It's single track with just enough roots and rocks to keep it interesting. There were several pine tree sections. Running on the pine needles felt wonderful under my feet. I don't even mind the power line section which has several sandy areas. As I led us through the trail, I could hear Cathy's watch signaling the one minute intervals, but we were ignoring it and running when we could and walking when we couldn't run.

Too soon we were back onto a rolling country road. We passed another runner along this section, who was not carrying a water bottle. He did not look happy, but he was still moving forward, so we went on. We had less than a 10K to the finish, so he would make it.

Once back onto a trail section that we had covered in the first loop, we passed another runner that didn't seem too happy. He, too, was not carrying a water bottle. It's too hot; aid stations are every 3 miles; and we're on a hilly course with trails. I just didn't understand why some runners did not heed Dan's instructions about carrying a water bottle.

We returned to the short road section leading back to the last portion of the trail section around the lake. We were ending a wonderful day, and I was as content as I could be. At some point, Cathy stated in disbelief that I had returned to this race after running it last year. I laughed and told her that I'd be back next year as well. She stated that she probably would be, too, lol.

Cathy won the female grand master's division in 7:15:54. She received even more swag including a polo shirt, jacket, and a bottle of massage oil (for hard working muscles, of course). My finishing time of 7:15:55 was about 40 minutes slower than last year, but last year I ran this race completely alone. Thanks to Cathy, I enjoyed this year's race much more.

Note: A few days later, I received a certificate with my official finish time. Dan also included a nice finish line photo of Cathy and me looking like the trail divas that we are, lol.

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