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May 28, 2013 / fionarwbl

A Bittersweet PR: Vermont City Marathon Race Recap

This is a tough race recap to write. On paper, a 16 minute PR is amazing. A feat to be proud of. And believe me, I’m trying. I broke the magic sub 4:00 barrier, and for the most part, felt good doing it.

However, there is no overcoming the overwhelming frustration that I feel right now. There is no doubt that there was a faster finish time in my mind and my body. A few small decisions had significant impacts on my race day time, and of course, I’ll do the necessary things and learn from them, but between now and my next marathon, there will always be a sense of “could have, should have”.

The Vermont City Marathon will also, hopefully, be the wettest marathon I ever run. From the moment we left NYC until about 2hrs into the race, it did not stop raining. Yay summer? I drove up with Steph and Shaya on Friday night, and we got as far as somewheresville just past Albany before finding a random “don’t kill me please” motel to call it a night.

Saturday morning was yet more rain, and the expo had a decidedly damp feeling with people stocking up on emergency hats and waterproof jackets. I got a hat, but decided to stick with my tank top and shorts combination as I hate wet sleeves and figured I’d be working hard enough to stay warm. This, it turned out to be mostly true actually, even if I was the only person in a tank top and shorts I saw the entire race. We also saw Laura at the pacers table who gave us lots of advice and made plans to meet up for dinner later. Dinner was amazing – huge helpings of pasta and delicious sauce. There was even an option for $3.75 cocktails which none of us went for. Next time!

At this point I should let you know – there are not many pictures in this post, because frankly, rain is not so picturesque. Bad blogger.

We got an early night and fairly decent sleep before a 6am wake up call. The race started at 8:03, and we were just a 10 minute drive from the starting line. How awesome are smaller races? We drove over and huddled in the car watching people who were far better prepared for the elements than us head over to the starting line. We had debated picking up gallon trash bags the night before. This was a mistake. We should have. Instead, we had sheer, flimsy, lightweight trashbags that were not exactly weatherproof.

Standing in line for the portapotties we all had serious doubts about even starting. To be honest, I was very, very concerned about hyporthermia or getting sick. However, I knew that I couldn’t go home after not even having run. Having gotten to the start, but not actually started? Not happening. A DNF I could take, a DNS from so close? Not so much.

Having said that, the portapotty line was taking forever, despite the rain, and we hadn’t really left enough time to go, so we ended up sort of missing the actual start and jumping into the race sort of at the back. This was actually a good way to have a slow first mile, and it wasn’t so crowded that I was ducking a weaving the whole time.

I wanted to settle into an 8:45 pace. For the first time since the DC Half in March, I was wearing a watch. I was impressed I could remember how to use it! The first couple of miles are downhill, so I knew I had to hold back and relax on these miles, rather than pay for it later. I briefly ran into Stephanie and exchanged hellos before continuing locked into my pace.

Very early on, I realized, well, I needed the bathroom. I decided that I could try and go early, which would probably be easier than making the time up in the race later, so at the first portapotties at around mile 5 I stopped. And lost 3 minutes, without getting much, er, relief. Eh. Sucks. I picked up the pace and ran past Steph and Shaya again. It took me until mile 8 or 9 to catch up to the 4:00 pace group again, who I wanted to keep well behind me at all times.


I was trying to make up a little time, but not get ahead of myself and end up with dead legs in the second half, so my pace hovered around the 8:20s to 8:30s. I was so nervous about my legs running away with me, as they have a habit of doing, and then leaving me nothing for miles 21-26.2, but at the same time, I was frustrated about losing time. Mile 8 was the first of the two hills on the course, and having run down it, it was straightforward enough up – nothing overwhelming, and only 100ft over half a mile. We also got a sweet downhill about a mile later.

I don’t really remember much until mile 13.1, which was a big relay exchange, and was the only time I felt cold. Oh, and I nearly cried. I still needed the bathroom too. We were running along Lake Champlain, and the wind was bitter, the waves were sloshing over the trail, my time was drifting away, I was cold, and I had no idea where I was. I was very, very unhappy. This lasted for about half a mile, and is one of my slowest miles of the day (9:07). I don’t know what cheered me up – maybe leaving the lake shore – but I got over my “I want to die” and kept one foot in front of the other.

The other “big hill’” in the race is at mile 15, and is a short, steep, bandaid of a hill -steep, intense, but over in a couple of minutes. My type of hill, thankyouverymuch. It didn’t kick my ass too bad, and right at the top running through yet another relay exchange I saw my Ragnar team-mate Kim waving for me. She had just finished her relay running, lucky her. Still, getting over that hill was hugely psychological – there were no more hills to deal with. By the way, this is totally true. There are lots of races where people say there are no more hills after a certain big hill e.g., the Queensboro Bridge in NYC, but it turns out there are about 5 more, maybe not as big, but still, you know, hills. Not in this marathon. It was literally downhill from that point onwards.


My marathon brain gets a little fuzzy from this point. I did finally breakdown and use the bathroom at mile 18, because, well, I just had to. Another 3 minutes lost. There was some more pretty running on paved trails (lots of this race is on paved trails which is so nice, and I imagine even nicer on a sunny day!). My energy started to flag at mile 21, and then started the painful countdown of miles and multiple bargaining with myself just. keep. running. I had some watermelon at some point. I nearly cried again. Every mile seemed to take about 34 minutes to run, but actually they were more like 8:50s. By mile 25 I was seriously, miserably, ready to be done, and recorded my slowest running mile (9:25). Mile 26 I perked it up to a 9:15, bouyed by the realization that this torture would be over soon. Mile 0.2 was a long circuitous journey through an incredibly long chute, up some mud, and over the finish line. 3:54. Not the 3:50 I had wanted. Not the 3:48 my auto-stopped Garmin had recorded. I was soaking wet, freezing, and upset.

Honestly, I should be pleased. My legs played along the whole race. The times that they were running were amazing – they actually ran to their potential. And I actually got a sense of potential – I could do this better; I could run this faster; this is going ok; I’m having fun! So many emotions from such a self-imposed torture.

I’m sure I’ll have more eloquent thoughts later in the week, but right now I’m just glad I don’t have to run anymore. Everything hurts.



Leave a Comment
  1. Stephanie / May 28 2013 8:10 pm

    I can totally understand where you are coming from! But, just remember how awesome a PR is and the fact that you still broke 4 hours while stopping twice. The weather was miserable and you totally rocked the race! Congratulations on your 16 minute PR, that’s seriously awesome! It was so nice to see you quickly out there, you were looking great.

    • fionarwbl / May 28 2013 8:12 pm

      Thank you! I know I’m being hard on myself. I learned a lot, and there were a lot of good moments during this race. It was great to see you out there as well, if only briefly. The finish area was so cold I had to bail pretty fast because I was turning blue!

  2. Laura / May 28 2013 8:29 pm


    One piece of advice I neglected to provide beforehand – the cambre of the road on the Ethan Allen Highway will do a NUMBER on your IT bands/knees. Foam roll, foam roll, foam roll! (Or use a wine bottle and drink the wine.)

    • fionarwbl / May 29 2013 3:20 pm

      Thank you! My knees were sore on Monday. My quads are still burning though! Might have to drink more wine 🙂

  3. Dori / May 28 2013 8:30 pm

    This weather sounds miserable. I’ve never had to race in the rain, although I am sure one day I will. I’m impressed with how well you did despite the rain, the cold and the bathroom. Seriously, you know you have at LEAST a 3:48 in you now and the next marathon will be in better weather and you’ll be in a better mood and you will beat that. You’re an amazing runner!

    • fionarwbl / May 29 2013 3:22 pm

      Thank you so much! I am coming around t the face that I should be pleased, and that I’ve come a long way this training cycle. The base is there!

  4. Emilia @ Run for Your Life / May 29 2013 3:17 pm

    Congrats, Fiona! I know how much you wanted a redemption race after Richmond, so I think your PR and sub-4 in those conditions is amazing. Maybe not exactly the race you wanted, but this just means you will crush those goals next time!

  5. Jen @ Jens Best Life / May 30 2013 12:51 pm

    I cannot imagine running a marathon in Sunday’s weather, let alone PRing. I know it wasn’t what you hoped for but I hope you’re still really proud of yourself for your performance, especially after the intense few weeks you put your legs through earlier. You rocked it, Fiona!!

    • fionarwbl / May 30 2013 7:03 pm

      It’s funny – I really do not think that the weather had any negative effect on me! I’m pretty happy with my performance now – onto the next! Well, first a month of fun 🙂

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