My First Marathon: Key Bank Vermont City Marathon, May 29, 2011

Almost at the Finish Line!

I hope you enjoy my new blog, Treading Lightly in Vermont. It’s about my passion for running, and my outdoor adventures on the trails and in the snow. It is also about my progression as a vegan in my forties, picking up from where I left off before all my knee problems. It’s about running, training, racing, cooking and living in a way that is gentle and kind to the planet, our bodies and of course the animals. I wrote up a bit more about my knee issues in my profile. I’m hoping my profile might inspire other people with injuries or health issues to believe our bodies can heal themselves and thrive! If I can do it, so can you!

In the fall of 2010 after successfully completing my second Half Marathon (Leaf Peepers in Waterbury, VT), I decided I was going to run my first full marathon here in Vermont! I decided to trust my newly ‘healed’ knees and go for it! I hired ultra running coach, Jack Pilla of Vermont who’s one of the most accomplished ultra runners in Vermont and the USA! Jack knows his stuff and started me on my training program beginning on December 2, 2010. For me having a coach made a world of a difference! I trained hard all through the winter in snow, sleet, rain and frigid temperatures. Having a coach made me accountable for every single work-out even when the weather conditions were sometimes hideous! But most importantly, my training plan was smart and adjusted to how I was doing each month. I accumulated a solid base mileage with plenty of long runs up to 26 miles! And this training plan worked so well! I could feel myself getting stronger over time!

Key Bank Vermont City Marathon, May 29, 2011. Time: 3:16:21, 22nd of 1,029 women,  4th Master Woman & 2nd in my age group. Qualified for the Boston Marathon!

Vermont weather can be so unpredictable and Marathon Sunday was no exception. The average temperature for Memorial Day weekend is about 72F and the ideal temperature for a marathon is 55F. For this marathon temperatures reached the 80s F in Burlington. At 8am, it started out rainy and warm and then became sunny, hot and very humid. Towards the end of my race, they were posting high alert levels at the water/aid stations. This was a very challenging marathon after training all winter and spring in snow and rain. But in spite of the conditions, I ran a very smart race and paced myself well. I’m sure I could have run a few minutes faster in cooler temperatures, but I was able to reach the goal Jack felt was feasible: 7:30 minute miles!

I have to admit that I was very nervous about the weather forecast the few days before the marathon. Each day, the temperature for Sunday kept getting higher! When I used to be a competitive road cyclist in my twenties, hot bike races used to devastate me. I was a vegetarian back then but it must have been the dairy products causing me to suffer so much during the hot races. I even ended up in the emergency room at Nationals one year out in Cleveland, OH. So you can imagine my worry about Sunday’s race. But as I got back into cycling last year for the first time in years, I noticed that I could handle the heat better in my forties and as a vegan! So I kept telling myself that things were different now and that my body was running better and more efficiently. Even during our Costa Rican vacation last March, I did well hiking and running in the extreme heat (high 90s F). So I kept reminding myself that I was now able to handle strenuous activity in the heat and humidity! And I proved this to myself during the marathon! Going completely veggie works!!

I wanted my first marathon to be special and mean something so I decided to raise money for my favorite non-profit animal charity of all time, The Farm Sanctuary! The funds raised went towards the emergency rescue efforts of farm animals in need. Scott and I spent a few days on the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY last summer and fell in love with the animals! It’s truly one of our favorite places. My goal was to raise $600 and I exceeded my goal by $145, thanks to our generous friends, family and co-workers. It meant so much to have the support and encouragement!

Myself and a new friend at the Farm Sanctuary. July 2010

Here is the link to my First Giving website:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/joyce-holsten/key-bank-vermont-city-marathon

Myself and Hildie at the Farm Sanctuary. She was one of my favorites!

Race recap:

When the marathon started, it was raining lightly and this was most welcomed! I was thrilled to be honest! This drizzle kept us nice and cool as we cruised the streets of Burlington. I made sure to remember what it felt like to start my first marathon! It was thrilling and almost surreal, like a dream. Was I really doing this?! It was exciting to see all the cheering and festive folks down on Church Street! I was mindful about watching my pace on the Garmin. My goal was still to run 7:30 minute miles and I watched each one closely! (for the first 13 miles I was ranging 7:22 to 7:30).

Miles 4-8 took us down to the Beltline and back. This is a long ‘out-and back’ stretch on a closed by-way with a nice little hill at the end. It was during this portion of the marathon that the rain started to slowly subside and become warmer. I was still doing fine and pacing myself well. I ran up the Beltline hill conservatively but still strong as some people were fading a bit. Scott was on Park Street on his Mountain bike and fed me my first 10 oz bottle of Vega Sports drink! I was ready for this! I wasn’t drinking very well from the paper cups of water (need more practice at the water stations!) and my first Cliff Shot made me rather thirsty. Scott said I was looking good and strong! So off I ran back through Church Street with great cheering from the crowds! It was nice to see my co-worker Mercedes yelling out my name! Her husband was also running the marathon. My friends, Heather and Matt were also there cheering me on! Thanks to you both!

The next portion of the marathon brought us down to Pine Street which was another long stretch. It was getting warmer and the sun was coming out. I was starting to feel the effects of the heat but kept up my pace. Another gel and electrolytes (Endurolyte capsules/E-caps by Hammer) were taken here. Scott came riding along the runners and myself along Pine Street on his bike. I handed him back the bottle and continued on. It was great moral support to see him at this point. He told me I was doing great! And this support helped extinguish any minor thoughts about not being able to sustain this pace in the growing heat. So I soldiered on to the South Cove Road neighborhood loop and felt a bit of a pickup. It was a bit cooler with the trees and I felt some improvement. This was around mile 10-12. After the South Cove Road loop, Scott handed me another bottle of Vega Sport. It was helpful but I didn’t need all of it. I left it on the side of the bike path hoping someone might keep it or recycle it. I actually felt faster not running with a water bottle in my hand.

Running through the halfway point at the Oakledge Park gave me another bit of a boost. It was still warm but the breeze by Lake Champlain was most welcomed. It was very pretty running on the bike path, but I was very busy keeping an eye on my pace as it was easy to slow down in the humidity which was growing! By the time I got to the train tracks, it was getting even warmer and the sun was bearing down. There was a moderate health warning at the water station near Battery Street (mile 15). At this point I had trouble opening a vanilla cliff shot and this was frustrating! It slowed me down a bit and then I got it all over my hands! I even had trouble ripping it open with my teeth! So as I was running up Battery Street, I wasn’t able to enjoy the drummers and crowds since I was trying to get the gel off my hands. I was also feeling very hot at this point going up the notorious Battery Street hill. I ran up it conservatively but not too slow. This mile was my slowest at 7:50 but I knew I would still be on target overall. Luckily Scott came to my rescue again at the top of Battery Street on his bike and fed me another bottle of Vega Sport. A mile after the Battery Street Hill, I started to recover and feel better from the heat. More electrolytes and Vega Sport really helped in the heat!

Mile 16, began a long stretch down North Avenue. By mile 17 I was happy to discover I was feeling decent with a second wind. I realized that I would be able to finish the marathon at my intended goal! This was very exciting and gave me an extra boost. It was still sunny, hot and humid but my body was adapting and working well in the heat. I was passing a lot of the relay runners at this point. The heat was getting to everyone!

Off of North Avenue was the first neighborhood loop with kids spraying garden hoses. This was very welcomed and I even took a cup of bad tasting water from some very happy and excited kids. It was very much appreciated! This loop felt hard and I had to put forth extra effort to keep up my pace.

The second loop off of North Avenue took us through Leddy Park. It was hot and I got to run on plywood covering mud for just a few yards before getting into the residential neighborhood streets. This loop was also a bit of an extra effort but I didn’t feel any worse than the last one! So that kept my spirits up! Plus it was fun to see all the people camped out on their lawns celebrating and cheering on the runners! I did take some extra electrolyte capsules as I started to feel a very small cramp in my right calf muscle. Luckily these worked like a charm and I never had a problem later on towards the end. Jack had warned me about elite runners cramping up in the last miles of hot marathons. Luckily I wasn’t a casualty! Thanks to the E-caps!

Once I was back onto North Avenue, I felt improvement again! Scott biked down North Avenue to hand me my last bottle of Vega Sport. He told me I was going really fast and strong! At this point I took my 5th and last cliff shot (Mocha) which had a lot of caffeine. I saved this one for the end and it seemed to help! I finished the Vega Sport and tossed the bottle back to Scott. Then it was a steep run down the final hill before getting onto the bike path.

Mile 22 was another slow one in the second half at 7:45. This is because I took it easy down the steep hill before the bike path. I was warned that many people take it too fast and blow out their quads! Once I got onto the bike path (the final stretch) I was pleased at how my legs were doing. I never hit the ‘wall’ that I read so much about. Instead I was happy to realize my legs were in decent shape with a very tolerable amount of fatigue. Miles 23 to 26 my pace was ranged from 7:22 to 7:31! I ran strong along the bike path but sometimes it felt very hard to keep up my pace in certain areas. I was still passing people, mostly the relay runners! I did catch up to one woman who was running the whole marathon and paced behind her a bit from mile 23-26. She was strong and was keeping a desirable pace. This was the only time I ever had anyone to use as a pacer.

The last .2 of a mile was very sweet. I felt so happy to see the crowds and the Waterfront Park. I was still feeling strong but the heat was tough at this point. I was happy that the end was near. As I was about to cross the finish line, the announcer said that I looked like I had just stepped out my door for a run. I certainly didn’t feel like that! But I finished strong and almost wanted to cry as I crossed the finish line! I finally did it!

Scott and myself right after finishing! Scott was my hero of the day!

My chip time was 3:16:21 and my gun time was 3:16:37. This qualifies me for the Boston Marathon with 34 minutes to spare! I’m very happy with my results, especially since it was a hot and humid marathon!

I’m 100% sure that my plant-based diet was a big help in training and my ability to recover quickly from hard workouts. I also believe it was a huge help in getting me to the finish line successfully! I hope I can inspire other runners to try going veggie! Not just for better race results, but also for a healthier and happier life!

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4 Responses to My First Marathon: Key Bank Vermont City Marathon, May 29, 2011

  1. Aliza says:

    You rocked it girl! I cannot wait to see you out on the trails or at OTR.

  2. Pingback: Life After the Marathon | Treading Lightly in Vermont

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