Lehigh Valley Marathon Race Review by Stein Langlie
We traveled to Bethlehem PA on Saturday, and figuring on a 3 hour drive Thomas N and I left at 11AM from Baltimore. Upon arrival we showed up at the marathon Expo, which was held at the site of an old steel mill. The expo facility was modern but the old mill was very visible and a striking historical remnant left from the area’s industrial past. The packet pickup was smooth and there were some T-shirts and basic nutrition being sold by a couple vendors – but the selection was sparse and we didn’t buy anything. I didn’t notice any representation by Runner’s World, which was a little surprising since the course is on their home turf.
After packet pickup, we slowly drove our way through town and stopped for a sandwich. A little more adventurous and we would have wandered through a local Vegfest that was happening – but instead we hopped into the car and drove 25 minutes to the hotel, near the local airport. After check-in we went for a easy 2 mile shakeout run in the rain – doing a big loop around a shopping center near the hotel. There were a number of other friendly runners at the hotel but we didn’t see anyone else jogging in the rain. For dinner, I had a veg-burger and two beers at the Red Robin in the parking lot. After dinner we almost walked to a movie but decided a early night with a little TV was a smarter idea; I would have surely filled up on some movie popcorn.
Race-day morning I must have flip-flopped between wearing the Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Asics GEL-Lyte 33 for at least five minutes, finally deciding on the Kinvara since the Lyte 33 only had 10 miles on them. You know what they say – “don’t try anything new on race day!” We drove to the starting area at a hospital complex and did some stretching and a few strides to loosen up. The marathoners and relay runners started together, while the half marathon runners started at another location.
From the start we tried to hit our goal pace of 7:15 – 7:25 in order to finish with a BQ time of 3:10 – 3:15. Unfortunately that was a little too ambitious and we started falling off the pace by mile 10. It seemed like Thomas gained momentum as the race progressed and he could have finished strong, while I did the opposite and lost steam. At around mile 15 we decided to just enjoy the run rather than race it; BQ was out of the picture so why strain, right? Mentally I got pretty beat up in those final 10 miles and never got out of my funk. I’m really glad Thomas decided to stick with me because I was struggling and probably would have turned into a grumpy walker. I saw someone with leg cramps and kept feeling like mine might cramp up – so as it was, we still walked up a couple of the small hills. Looking back I’m sure that most of my problems were in my head, not my legs, but when you’re in a dark place it can be hard to perk up and come back to reality. 3:37:19 felt like a small accomplishment on race day but I’m grateful that Thomas pushed me to keep going in that last mile or two so I was still able to PR (by less than a minute).
This was a point-to-point marathon so after sitting down for a few minutes we hopped a shuttle-bus from the finish area back to the start. Even though this was a smaller race it seemed like there weren’t quite enough buses and we ended up waiting for at least 15 minutes while the line of people behind us got longer and longer. I’m sure the bus drivers were a little grossed out by all the stinky people they were driving around!
Looking back, a couple factors contributed to my less-than-stellar performance. First, and most obvious, I went out too fast. Even though BQ was the goal I think starting off at around 7:45 and slowly ratcheting the pace down would have been smart. So far, even pacing has not worked out for me. Secondly, this was really a trail marathon. The course followed a somewhat gravely path next to a river most of the way, but there were plenty of puddles, roots and uncertain footing. It was not single-track but it was also nothing like the road and you really had to be alert. I think this focus on footing contributed to my mental and physical slow-down. Third, I didn’t fuel according to my training experience. I stuck with exclusively “runny” honey, instead of a combination of “goo” and honey chews that have always worked great for me in the past.
All things considered, however, I had a good day at the Lehigh Valley Marathon. No injuries. Nice long buddy-run. Great weather. What’s not to like?