The Hartford Connecticut marathon was my goal race for the fall. I began with a warm up marathon in Marquette MI and logged a pretty good time. Not one of my best but better than my last few marathons. My goal has been to simply overcome the mental hurdles that life has thrown my way in the last year and a half and hope for at least a time of 3:50 in Hartford. Although I didn’t quite do it, I was closer and that gives me hope for next time.
Hurricane Matthew was hitting the Carolina’s and ended up pouring down rain with some wind in the North East on Sunday. However, Saturday October 8, 2016 turned out to be a perfect day for running a marathon. It was 50 degrees at the race start, over cast skies expected all day with a high of about 65 degrees, no wind. In spite of struggling to fend off a head cold, I was still hoping for things to go well.
Ted and I arrived Friday afternoon and stayed at the Marriott which was about .7 of a mile from the expo at the XL Center and about the same distance to the start of the marathon the following day. I took a bag of SpecialK Nourish Chocolate Almond bars and handed them out to anyone we spoke to along the way: the lady who noticed we were lost and stepped right up to offer directions, quite a few of the volunteers working the expo, runners entering and exiting the expo. It was a fun way to offer a smile and get a friendly smile back.
The expo was small. I was under the impression this was a large race but the total number of finishers for the marathon was only 1816. There were three other events held at the same time as the full marathon: the 5K, the half marathon and the relay marathon. Packet pick up seemed pretty easy without congestion on the Friday afternoon at 4pm. I had opted for PrePERKS (more on this later) and had my packet mailed to me before hand so I really didn’t have to attend the expo but I enjoy looking around and grabbing freebies so we went anyway.
After barely half an hour at the XL center, we went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner at Vivo Seasonal Trattoria within the Marriott hotel. It was good with only limited pasta options for a vegetarian. They were offering 20% off pasta dishes for runners as were many restaurants in the area.
Immediately after dinner, it was back to the room for an early night. So far that head cold hadn’t broken and I was only suffering a sore throat. Maybe that’s the reason I felt the need to injure myself further by running right into the hotel desk chair leg with my right "index" toe. I thought that was my race done. It hurt so badly and every time I awoke during the night, it throbbed. It all worked out as I was able to get my shoe on in the morning and once I got moving, completely forgot about it.
Ted walked with me to the starting area. The race was to set off at 8 am, we left the room at 6:55 am. It was only a 15 minute walk at a slow pace but I had signed up for Pre PERKS and wanted to find the Bushnell Memorial Hall on Capital Ave. where I believed they had food, water, etc. We didn’t have much difficulty finding it as location maps were on the street corners and easily navigated. Other than bathroom facilities, warmth, massage services, I saw no food, coffee, tea, water or anything else. There was an upstairs which I didn’t venture so maybe I missed all the amenities. So what I got was a warm area to wait, nice bathrooms as opposed to porto potties, and soft carpet to walk on.
The race began on time at 8 am along with the half marathon, relay, an 5k.
Fueling: Ate a Clif Bar at 5:30 am and banana at 6 am. Drank the 5 Hour Energy at 6:15 am. Had a gel chomp at mile 4, first GU gel at mile 5 ½ (relay point), another chomp at mile 9, second GU gel at mile 12, another GU gel around 17, and last GU gel at 21. I began walking through water stops at mile 21.
The course was fairly quiet. There were only a couple of spots where there were any mass of spectators. There wasn’t as much music as I had expected so in that respect, spectator and music wise, it was a disappointment. Volunteers were terrific and there were more than enough water stations with candy at mile 12 and 22. There weren’t a lot of talkers in the race so no conversation to eavesdrop. The SpecialK #Fortify shirt I wore got a lot of attention. Folks called out “Go SpecialK” as I ran past. For about 4 miles, I had a chat with a guy from Calgary who was on a mission, with his buddy, to run a marathon in every state. He was on number 17. Crazy as it sounded to me, he and his friend were double up races each weekend. He was running Rhode Island the very next day then off to New Mexico and Colorado the following weekend. Good luck!!
There were no significant hills but there were a lot of turns. I prefer a lot of turns because it keeps things interesting for me. The draw back is that unless you can navigate the tangents meticulously, your pace watch will be off. My Garmin had me logging 26.4 miles at the finish line.
I began to struggle around mile 18 and told myself to just hold on until 21 then walk the water stops. I had the course laid out in “happy points”. Enjoy the first part of the race, miles 1 through 11 getting through the winding roads of town. Sit back for a long out and back, watching for the faster runners passing by from miles 12 – 22. At mile 23, get happy because there isn’t much more to go and it was heading back into town. I enjoy hitting relay points when marathons offer them as well. There is always more people at these points and they are great mile markers to think about taking a gel or some other fuel. This strategy worked great for me. It kept my mind busy and when the legs got heavy, I focused on the next phase, just getting from one spot to the next.
The finish line offered heat sheets, a big and heavy medal, and a really nice reusable water bottle. The party area was very easy to get around and locate food, beer, family. There were bananas, brownies, yogurt, rolls, pretzels (in the beer tent so you had to save your food ticket), chocolate milk and we were given a nice carry bag with an assortment of goodies to eat.
I met up with Ted and we headed to the beer tent where he enjoyed my free beer. Since it was past noon, Ted had checked us out of the hotel and we headed off to Foxwoods to enjoy the remainder of our long weekend.
As far as marathons go, I enjoyed Hartford. The city is clean and easy to get around. Folks are friendly. No problem finding marathon eve dining. The expo was fast and friendly. The race itself lacked supporters but the course was fun.
Final race results:
What is the biggest hurdle you have to over come when tired or physically challenged?