Gail and I had arrived in the DC area a couple of days before the race. We had planned to fly to NYC and play around but a big snowstorm forced us to go to Phoenix and sit in the 75 degree sunshine and watch Spring Training Baseball. ( I know it is rough).
This was to be our first attempt and running a back to back marathon, or a double as it might be called. Our first one is in Northern Maryland and the second is in the Southern part of the state the next day. The first race is called the Seneca Creek - Greenway Trail Marathon and 50k. It is run 95% on trails. We parked at the finish line and were bussed about 20 miles or so to the start near Damascus, MD. at Seneca Creek Park. It was a pretty low key event with about 300 runners doing either of the two races. This marathon was a long one, actually about 28.4 miles they said. The 50k was about 32.5 miles. The way they talked you could make a decision at the end to do the 50k or the marathon. I thought that was a great idea as if I felt good I might do the 50k. Gail and I had discussed this and she didn't think it was very intelligent of me to try and do a 50k first before my first double.
The race started on a road in the park. We soon dropped on to a paved bike path and over the the first mile or so dropped about 300 feet in elevation. This was to be the largest drop on the course as we went from around a 1,000 feet to almost sea level at the Potomac River at Riley's Lock. I felt good and the weather was awesome, probably 60 degrees and blue sky. So great to run in short sleeves! After a mile or so we dropped onto some single track trail in the woods. If you are not familiar with east coast woods, they are very barren. That is that there is virtually no undergrowth in the winter, just leaves on the ground. Most the trees are deciduous so you can see for a long way as the leaves are off the trees. This makes it quite easy to see the trail ribbons from a great distance.
Gail and I ran together for the first few miles then I started passing some folks on the single track. After about 4 miles we came upon the first stream crossing of the day. There was a big line up to cross at an area where there was a rope and rocks laid across the stream. After about a minute a bunch of us said, "Who cares!" and we ran across the river on our own and the water only came up mid shin. The bank on the far side was rather steep and muddy and I had to push a womans tush up the hill as she giggled away. I then pulled another runner up and off we went, squishy shoes and all.
The trail though out the day just meandered through the woods and along the creek. You often felt miles from anywhere but would look up the hillside and see many nice homes back yards. We would cross a few major roads now and then but mostly you felt alone on the trail. We went through some pretty diverse areas, open fields, bogs, muddy areas, pine forrests, and many other types of wood I don't know the name of. I really enjoyed this trail and wish it was in my back yard.
I was feeling good today. High clouds had rolled in so it was warm but not hot with the sun out. I was drinking and gel'n in my normal fashion. I was picking off runners as I usually do after the first 5 miles or so. After awhile I was basically on my own which was very nice. The trails were pretty smooth with the usual roots and some rocks but very runnable course the entire way.
At about mile 15 I came up to an aid station, a woman approached and said "50k or Marathon?" I said "I don't know yet". She said "You have to decided here, because you have to do the four mile loop around this lake if you want to do the 50k. You look good, do the 50k" "OK" I said. Was this to be a big mistake??? My first double and I decide to make day one a 50k....hmmm...wonder how this will turn out.
Well I ate some taters and some great turkey and cheese sandwiches and went off around the lake. It was a nice loop with just some usual rollers. I started chatting with a nice woman from Florida who was training for the Miwok 100k. I slowed down for a few miles just to chat. My legs still felt great with no distress anywhere. I got back to the original AS, refueled and joined the regular trail at mile 19.
I ran into Larry Macon, marathoner of the year. This guy is 64 years old and ran 104 marathons in 2008! He has ran over 500 marathons in his life. He is the nicest guy and remembers who you are. As I came up on Larry for the second time on the day (he was doing the marathon only) we chatted and he said he had talked with Gail and said she wasn't too far ahead. So I passed Larry and off I went. Searching for the "Detour".
Probably less than a half mile later I could see Gail up ahead of me. I had a trailer behind me for the last 8 miles or so. She would get close behind and I would offer to let her by but she kindly would say no, but once did say she liked my Marathon Maniacs fluorescent green hat because she could always see me and kept her from getting lost we she dropped back. As I approached Gail I let the gal go by me. I yelled "Hey Detour". Gail turns around and says back "Idiot!!!" We both understood she was describing my decision to do the 50k rather than the marathon. Opps another mental mistake. Ha!
By this point we had probably 12 miles to go. This race is 2 miles longer than a usual marathon and 50k. I decided pretty much then to stick with Gail for the remainder of the race. I felt really strong and would have pushed on if we just had the one race to do. But it is always so much fun to run with Gail and this was the perfect opportunity to do that. It would allows to have some fun and to keep me from over doing it as I chose the longer distance. We kept on going, chatting sometimes and going with our ipod's on at other times. We did a combo run walk and probably walked 25% of the time.
At the Berryville Road AS we had about 4 miles to go. We forded another stream which felt sooo good to me. Gail has a different opinion on cold feet during a race than I do! We climbed a small hill and a runner was laying on the side of the trail, but was with his son so we pressed on after asking if we can help. I was getting a bit tired but still felt good at this point, my GPS said this was mile 32. We came out on a gravel road and I knew the finish was close. We had a group of French runners pass us a mile or so back and soon when we were about to pass them back. We got on the last mile stretch to the finish and I told Gail "We got to beat the French!" so I made her push it up a bit. This was not a good choice for marital relations but it did keep us ahead of the French running team!
There was the finish line. Just a low key area with a timer and a few folks. We both crossed together finishing in 6:51:28. Not a bad time for this long course. We had to walk a quarter mile or so to the picnic area where they had the food. It was a nice spread with shredded chicken, hot dogs and numerous other types of food. It was a warm day so just hanging out eating and chatting was pretty nice in March in short sleeves and shorts. I felt fine after this race, no real upset stomach or such. I drank a large Starbucks Mocha Frap and a cup of coffee too. Later i would get a large Coke Slurrpee for 7-11. I love my caffeine after a race.
We got a ride back to our car with the Race Director. We told him this was a great race. Plus it only cost $20!!!! So all you big time Marathons charging over $100 take note here. This RD also doesn't use an online service and says he uses the extra money to buy more food for the finish. So for $20 bucks he buses you to the start, has a few port a potties on the course, provides course food and one of the better spreads at the finish. So if you want to know how he does it his name is Ed Schultze and can be reached at EdSchultze@Comcast.net
Gail and I got back to our car by about 3:30 pm. We figured we had about a 2 hour drive to get to the next race location. We stopped at Chez Mac's for a nice fish dinner and pressed on. The drive was pretty nice as we went around the east side of DC then south along Route 4 to Lexington Park. We got a nice suite at the Hampton Inn for two nights. Gail was determined to take an ice bath as our friends who had run doubles before said this is a requirement to take the soreness out of your legs. So we decided to just do cold water in the tub first. I went and got 3 big bags of ice to put in the tub as she got used to the temperature. I went into the the other room when I heard the screams and moans start. I thought she was dieing in the there! It took a long time for her to get all the way in the water but she did it for a good 15 to 20 minutes with me pouring more and more ice in as she adjusted to the temp.
Then it was a my turn. Big tough guy would have no problem. As soon as my tush hit that ice water I was screaming like a baby wanting his mama! It took me forever to get my breathing slowed down. Man that was cold!
Well after all that we went across the street for a nice dinner. We tried to eat allot as we figured we burned a ton of calories. My GPS watch said I burned about 6,000 calories just in the race.
We went back to the room. It was to be a short night as we had to "Spring Forward" for daylight savings time. It will be nice to have the extra hour of sunlight but why tonight on the day two our our first double. Sleep did not come easy as our minds contemplated our fate the next day. Day 2 post to follow.