21) Run for the Red Marathon, Poconos Mountains, PA, 15th May 2016

M finishing Poconos marathon (3) 15-05-2016I selected this race as it was relatively close to home and the dates worked with my training. The net downhill course looked interesting, it was a Boston qualifier and in previous years a relatively high number of people had qualified. It was also a chance to see the Delaware Water Gap. I wasn’t sure whether my wife would join me so the other advantage was that the area could be a weekend away, or just an overnight stay on Saturday for the race.

I did taper for this one as it was my goal race. But managed to pick up a slight cold which actually made the taper even more severe i.e. a few days off running. I was determined to still do the race but decided I might just treat it as a training run. I was feeling better on the Thursday and Friday just tired so decided I’d see how I felt on the day.

My wife decided she would come up so we booked into hotel near Poconos summit, less than 2 miles from the race start, and drove up after work on Friday.  We arrived late and went to a local bar for food (and had to sample the local beer).

On Saturday I registered and toured the small Expo, purchasing lots of discounted winter running clothing (some of which came in handy after the race as it was relatively cool). There was a really good atmosphere and it was a great opportunity to talk to a few other runners, lots had done the race before and there were also a few first timers. I also had a good chat with the race director.

We had a wander round Stroudsberg (where registration was, and the race finish) then decided to hike at Delaware water gap.  A 6 miles hike, 3 up 3 down and a good stretch of the legs.  Then to a bar for food (and another sample of local beer to help relaxation!).  I bought a bagel, pb&j and coconut water for morning as I wasn’t sure what the hotel was going to put on. We got back to the hotel to find bagels etc out for morning!

Race morning was another early start, and downstairs for a bagel, coffee, and a small muffin. I felt ok with no signs of the cold but didn’t know how it would affect me.

My wife gave me a lift to the start, at a school at Poconos Summit. The school was open and I was glad of the warmth and toilets. I had a coconut water and an banana, and sheltered until we were called to the start. I drank a starch drink on the way to the start to make sure I was well hydrated.

After the National anthem sung by local school children, I lined up a couple of rows back and to one side, wearing an old t-shirt for warmth.

It was a flat start and I tried not to get carried away.  I used my Garmin for pace and heart rate to stop me going to fast. I passed my wife watching near the hotel at mile 2, then turned along the ridge and started focusing on heart rate not pace, especially on the hills.

I was feeling good at half way and on pace. Running on and off with a guy from New York looking to BQ in his second marathon.

In the second half of the course there were more hills with some up hills.  I was still feeling strong at mile 20 so decided I would push the pace a bit. Rain at mile 22 but not heavy and welcome for cooling down as it was starting to warm up. I was starting to feel the onset of cramp at mile 24 so slowed the pace a bit as I was still on course for a big PR.  By mile 25 I was really suffering and out of gels. The guy from New York overtook me and offered half of one which I took and was able to pick up the pace a bit through Stroudsburg (Also in part due to good support from crowds), through school car park and then into stadium by which point I knew I was on for a big PR and BQ time. I even managed some semblance of a run around the track to finish in 3:05:44, taking almost 10 mins off my PR.

The downhill course definitely helped push the pace up but I need to do more training on downhills as my quads were a wreck for several days.

A really well orgnaized event.  Scenic and fast course (train for the downhills but there are some ups as well) and a great excuse to explore the local area.

Learning points.

If feeling strong at mile 21 stick with it don’t push as the next 5 miles are long.

Carry an emergency gel! Not sure how much difference it made in terms of energy levels but it was a psychological boost if nothing else.

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