We had an all-around fantastic trip to Erie, Pennsylvania over the weekend for the Erie Marathon. I was lucky to travel with a really fun group and the whole weekend went by entirely too quickly. Road trip silliness, group meals, grocery store shenanigans, hotel room parties and of course gathering with our mighty group at the start and finish lines added so many dimensions of fun to this marathon experience. I have never used an out-of-town marathon as a goal race and prefer to sleep in my own bed, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. We had such an awesome group of runners in which I was honoured to be included, and more importantly we had a top-notch support crew who devoted their entire weekend to looking after us. They drove us around, fed us candy (before, during AND after the race), retrieved disgustingly sweaty items that we tossed at them, provided fantastic cheer stations and even ran with us. Kelly, Katie, Matt and Luis were the real stars of the weekend!
I would easily recommend the Erie Marathon and would do it again in a heartbeat. Not everyone in our group had the same opinion, but I really enjoyed the two-loop, almost entirely flat course. You couldn’t beat the beautiful scenery running alongside Lake Erie the entire time. As my friend Greta likes to say, it felt like being on vacation!
It was a very quiet course for spectators except for a few spots, but this wasn’t an issue for us since we had our own personal crew cheering their heads off at 11k, 19k, 32k and 40k. It was a bit crazy getting into the park in the morning with 2000 runners bottle-necking down a narrow road into some small parking lots in the dark. The race organizers aren’t kidding when they suggest arriving no less than 1h15m before race time. Even with our crazy o’clock departure from the hotel, we only had time for one potty stop once we had arrived and parked – I think that’s a record low for me! Thankfully I was able to take care of business and then popped my 2 immodiums as usual to avoid any bathroom emergencies during the race!
I was thrilled to be running a second marathon this year after all of my setbacks in 2014 and 2015. Ultimately I was just hoping to run another strong race and improve on my time from Toronto in May (3:58), but after a very successful training cycle I decided that a 3:45 might be possible in good conditions. The weather wasn’t perfect but it certainly could have been worse given the heat and humidity in the days leading up to the race. It was about 19C and fairly humid in the morning and although the temperature only rose by a few degrees, it felt much warmer when the sun came out in the second half. We did have quite a bit of shade on the course and a nice, cooling breeze a lot of the time – all in all, could have been better but could have been much worse!
Enough preamble, on to the race! I stuck to my plan of starting slower and kept a ~5:30 pace for the first 5k. Greta and I ended up together and soon picked up Scott. I didn’t expect to run with anyone and usually like to run marathons solo, but it was nice to have some company and it helped me relax since it kind of felt like any old Sunday long run.
2.75mi split = 23:59
We gradually started picking up the pace, eventually settling into the 5:15-5:20 range for the long haul. I like to break marathons down into smaller, manageable chunks and it was easy to do so thanks to our perfectly spaced cheering sections and Katie jumping in with me/us from 11-19 and 32-40. In my mind it was Start-11k -> 11-19 with Katie -> to the half -> to 32K for cheer crew/pick up Katie -> to 37K (because it always seems like the last 5k will feel short til you actually get there) -> 40K cheer crew -> FINISH. Easy peasy, right? Ha!
10K split = 53:40
Hitting water tables every single mile also helped break down the distance. I had originally planned to walk through every 2nd or 3rd water stop but I never really felt like walking so I skipped walk breaks all-together. Slowing just enough to grab a cup and drink seemed to work well and helped me keep a good rhythm. I took my gus every 8K as usual and alternated water/gu brew at the water tables. We were chatting a little and enjoying the sights as the miles seemed to fly by. I felt great hitting the half.
Half split = 1:53:06
Finishing loop 1, we ran right past the finish line banner and had to veer right which could have been mentally tough, but we were in good spirits heading out. I (perhaps obnoxiously) called out, ‘That was fun, let’s do it again!’ We could see two of our friends, Martin and Fergie, up ahead for ages in their matching orange tops and eventually caught up to them shortly after the half. We hoped they would join our little posse but wished them well as we carried on. Greta and I ended up losing Scott around KM 26 or 27 and I hoped he would be able to hang in there! Meanwhile Greta and I continued running perfectly together. We seemed to be completely in sync as we took turns doing the pacing, talking and pointing out dogs along the way. At one point Greta asked me if I thought she might have been a dog in a previous life. Oh, the conversations during a long ass run!
20mi split = 2:53:37
Before we knew it, we were seeing our gang again at 32K and picking up Katie. I could feel myself slowing slightly and told her that I was fading. Katie said ‘That’s OK! That’s why I’m here!’ Greta gradually pulled away from us looking strong and I was so happy for her, well on track for a big PB and BQ! I was tiring and feeling very hot by this point. It took everything to keep following Katie but she kept me going, saying all the right things and telling me to get out of my head and just follow her. She reminded me that I had worked all summer for this. I had slowed to 5:40s through this section and knew my 3:45 stretch goal was out of reach, but that 3:50 was still possible if I could rally for a strong finish. Katie kept handing me Gatorade from her belt (so much better than the nasty gu brew on course) and getting me cups of water to dump on my head. I couldn’t have been more spoiled. Suddenly our friend Luis showed up and joined us for a little while which was a great distraction as well. Katie was telling him how awesome I was doing and I remember thinking in my head that she was lying. Lol
Finally I could see (and hear!) our amazing cheering crew just past 40K – I felt like a rock star and got the biggest burst of energy! They sent me on my way and I used all that energy to pick up the pace again, somehow busting out 5:24 and 5:10 for my last 2K.
Heading down the chute I could see the clock ticking up ahead with Greta finishing seconds ahead of me, and managed to squeak in just under 3:50.
I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend or race. I’m so proud of my friends on some spectacular results and extremely grateful to our support crew who made all the difference for us. Even though I missed my “A+” goal, I’m thrilled with this result given the conditions, and a solid 9 minute improvement over my last marathon. #14 is in the books and I’m already looking ahead to the next one. It’s so good to be back!
A trip to the Erie Marathon wouldn’t be complete without some post-race pics and leg-soaking in beautiful Lake Erie. Until next time!