As part of their summer vacation Team Running Riddles headed up to Lake Placid, NY for Aaron to run a marathon in state number 6.
Race Background and Training
Back in December 2017 Christie and I were talking about where to go for for our family vacation. Usually my side of the family visits Myrtle Beach, SC for a week in the summer and we have joined them many times. However this year with the 50 state marathon challenge underway, we wanted to go somewhere different where I could cross another marathon off the list.
In searching the internet for summertime marathons within a reasonable driving distance we discovered the Lake Placid Marathon. Known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1980 (where the Miracle on Ice took place), Lake Placid is a wonderful town located in the Adirondack Mountains in the northern part of New York state. Preferring to run a marathon in the mountains instead of the city, this race would be perfect to cross New York off my state list.
Occurring only 3 short weeks after the Run for the Red Pocono 2018 Marathon, my training consisted of mainly easy runs to focus on recovery. Having made the mistake in my last marathon of not fueling correctly and starting out way too fast, my plan was to start out slow and stay right on target with a mile pace of 9:09 and increase slightly at the end. This would put me right at the mark for a sub-4 hour marathon which has been my goal since 2012.
I also would plan to fuel properly by smartly carb-loading 3-2 days prior to the marathon and using more energy chews throughout the race. After doing some research in turns out that I have been training WAY below the required carbohydrate needs for a runner during a marathon. Learning that my body type needs 40-50g of carbohydrates per hour during a marathon, I realized I was only receiving around 10g! This is part of why I “bonked” during the Missouri and Pennsylvania marathons.
In studying the course for the Lake Placid Marathon I learned that the initial 3 miles would take you through the town and around Mirror Lake on mostly flat terrain. Then after running back through town down a steep hill, you go past the Olympic Ski Jump area and out a long a scenic country road with rolling hills. You come back the same way towards the town and up the same steep hill you came down.
This is where the HALF marathon ends…and us marathon runners would then need to head back out towards the ski jumps and repeat that same part of the course. At the end I noticed a somewhat steep hill leading up to the Olympic speed skating oval area where the race concludes. Running hills all the time as part of my home course, I wasn’t too concerned. Yet I continued to read previous reviews in which runners warned about the steep hill leading into town and the hill leading up to the finish line. PR’ing on the course would be difficult, but I had confidence I would be able to achieve the sub-4 hour marathon.
With Lake Placid being a 9 hour drive from our home, we decided to split the trip in two to make it more enjoyable. June 8 was the last day of school for Corinne and Caitlin, so after they got home we packed our bags and headed out on the first part of our drive. We stayed in Middletown, NY just pass the Pennsylvania state line at a Sleep Inn which had just opened. I was really impressed with the “newness” of the hotel. It was so new that even the stair well looked amazing (and yes, I pulled Christie out of our comfortable hotel room to check out this amazing stair well).
The next morning we left and made the additional 4 hour drive to Lake Placid (stopping at a gas station along the way and purchasing a stuffed pig…a requirement on our trips). We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid which was absolutely wonderful. The best part is that it was located RIGHT NEXT TO the marathon packet pickup area and start / finish area. After a nice lunch at the hotel, we literally walked 2-3 minutes over to the Olympic Conference Center to pick up my race packet (including a nice drinking glass and marathon t-shirt swag).
After a short exploration of the town, we grabbed a cheap dinner from subway (I wanted to eat light the nice before the race), and headed back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the night.
Race Day Morning
I slept restlessly all night as I usually do before a marathon. But this time I had a nightmare in which I showed up to the race start late and couldn’t participate in the race! Sheesh.
With the race start time being at 8 a.m., I woke up at 5 a.m. to have a good breakfast 3 hours before the race…wheat bagel with almond butter, a banana, and some coffee. After getting dressed and ready, I left the hotel room around 7:15 a.m. and made my way down to the race starting area. Again, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get from our hotel to the starting line…it will never get easier than a 5 minute walk!
The weather was absolutely gorgeous out…low 50s, slight breeze, sunny, and not one cloud in the sky. I did my pre-race stretch routine in the Olympic speed skating oval area and made conversation with a few of the other runners. About 10 minutes prior to the start Christie, Corinne, and Caitlin showed up to wish me well along with my brother Josh, sister-in-law Katy, and 1 year old niece Ellie who had arrived the night before. Before the race I had given them all approximate times as to where they could see me at the beginning, middle and end of the race. In fact I had given my daughters the assignment of giving me a container of extra hydration drink at a turn-around point at mile 15…so I looked forward to seeing them again at that mile marker.
After saying goodbye and taking a pre-race selfie of us all, I got in line for the start around the middle of the pack. There was quite a crowd since the race was not only a marathon, but a half marathon as well (260 marathon runners, 814 half marathon runners). The race director made a few announcements, “God Bless America” was played (as part of their race tradition), and soon after the race had begun.
As soon as the race began I told myself to take it slow and easy. This time around I was using a pacing app on my watch so I could carefully monitor how fast I was going the whole race. The plan was to keep it around 9:09 / mile give or take a few seconds either way.
The first portion of the race around Mirror Lake was very scenic. While running I over heard two other runners explain that they call it “Mirror Lake” because the reflection of the other side is so clear, it looks like a mirror. How true!
The running crowd started to thin out around mile 3, and the course wound down hill past the ski jump area and out onto a flat sunny portion of the course. After a gradual incline and some rolling hills, I came to the half-marathon area turn-around point. I kept going straight (since I was doing the full marathon), and the running crowd thinned out significantly. Now I was mostly by myself aside from a few runners I would pass here and there, along with the lead marathoners I would see coming back from the marathon turn-around point. I tried to say “Good job, stay strong!” to a majority of the front place marathoners not only to encourage them but to keep my mindset positive (I remember the first place guy was wearing a cowboy hat). I also made a point to smile at each photographer I passed, which some appreciated. One remarked most of the runners were so serious it was nice to see a smile.
After hitting the marathon turn-around point of the first loop, a few cyclists passed by me on my way back. Seeing my Team Running Riddles 50 Marathons shirt I was wearing, they complimented me on such an amazing goal and stated there is no way they could run that much. I responded with “Thank you, and for the record I can’t bike worth a crud.” which got a few laughs out of them.
Heading up to the 14-15 mile point was the first iteration of the steep hill. I quickened my cadence and made sure my arms were swinging front and backwards (not side to side) and felt pretty good going up the hill. Running those mountain hills at home really pay off. As I hit the 15 mile turn-around point to head back out for the second marathon loop, I began to scan the area for my daughters to get a refill of my hydration drink. I thought they might not have been able to make it when all of a sudden Caitlin sprinted out of nowhere with the refill for me to top off my bottle. After the race I learned from Christie that they had arrived just as I was making the turn. Perfect timing!
Heading back out along the course for the final 7 miles I still felt strong. My pace was still in the low 9:00s and I kept telling myself just to keep steady. Out and back I went and at mile 22-24 things got harder, but I knew I still had energy. My fueling strategy of more energy chews had worked as I wasn’t feeling anywhere close to running out of gas. This time around it was just the typical 24 mile marathon wall I was hitting, which was coupled with the second time up the steep incline back into town. It was hard, but I kept moving even though my pace was slowing down.
Coming into the last mile I knew it was going to be close, when all of a sudden that incline hill at the finish was MUCH steeper than I had thought. This hill got me and my pace really slowed down until I reached the top. My family was there to cheer me on as I rounded the track toward the finish, and I heard my brother yell “SPRINT!!!” as I passed by. I gave a thumbs up to the photographer at the finish line taking my photo (which conveniently caused my back to spasm), and I crossed the finish line having no idea what my time as since there was no running clock at the finish.
Post Race Reflections and Lessons Learned
Checking my watch I saw my time was around 4:05:00 (official result was 4:04:22). I had failed to hit my sub-4 hour goal again, but was proud for running a smart race on a tough course where a PR is not expected. Not to mention this was only 3 weeks after my last marathon! Grabbing some post-race food and talking with my family, we eventually made our way back to our hotel (which included a very steep uphill walk) where a hot tub soak was in order! In reviewing the race results in detail, I noticed that I started out in an overall place of 111 out of 260…but finished in place 75. This reinforced to me that I ran smart…much smarter than my last marathon!
My next marathon is not until September (WVU Medicine Morgantown Marathon), so I have plenty of time to really dive into correct pacing and proper fueling to hit that sub-4 hour marathon goal. It’s another hilly course where few PRs are set, but I’m confident I can do it. I’ve already noticed that course has a similar steep hill to end around mile 25, so this time I’ll be ready.
Official Race Results
Overall: 75 of 260
Male: 60 of 167
Male 35-39: 13 of 23
Photos from Race Day
This race is part of Aaron’s 50 Marathons in 50 States Challenge:
Click on a state to see a recap of that marathon.