Editor’s Note: Nick Rod is a badass leader of November Project in Baltimore. He plays sports, turns workouts into social gatherings, and lives life large. When he and his tribe entered the world of November Project, I was shocked to find out that Nick Rod was not his given name. Hit it, Nick:
The reason I like running is because it’s what I call “Type 2 Fun.” Type 1 fun is easy fun, like seeing who can shotgun a beer fastest while holding a handstand or playing x-box in your underwear with your college roommate. Type 1 fun is simple, easily accessible and you just about always know what you’re going to get. Type 2 fun is the type that makes you doubt what you’re doing with your life, why you spent $90 to suffer and makes you think that, if life ended mid race, you’d probably be ok with it. There is a time and a place for Type 1 fun but let me stress that last weekend’s Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT was most assuredly Type 2.
Patrick O’Neil, Sydney Van Horn, Jana Goins and I ( all members or co-leaders of November Project Baltimore) got on a plane early Friday morning to fly to Boston to see Pat’s family before driving to Burlington on Saturday. This was my second marathon, Pat and Sydney’s first and Jana’s 100’th as support staff ( one of those is a lie….ok, it’s that thing about Jana) and we were all a little nervous. My first marathon was on a difficult course in Baltimore last October, completely untrained with next to no knowledge about proper marathon running, nutrition, hydration or nipple chafing. I managed to run a 3:48 in Baltimore but had come a long way since then and was looking forward to a relatively flat, fast course in Burlington. Pat and Sydney had likewise been training their asses off and it showed.
After a great day with Pat’s family we all piled in the car on Saturday to head to Burlington for the night. We stopped by the expo, bid on some Heady Topper beer ( yes, we did get to drink some) collected our bibs and set into our routine of over preparing. We went into Burlington for the afternoon for some food, walked around the lake and discussed the race route for the following day. We all got to bed early despite what turned out to be an excellent Blackhawks, Mighty Ducks playoff hockey game.
By the time we headed to the start line the following morning we were all ready to go. Pat headed to the preferred corral on account of a recent 1:18 half marathon time and I hung around the 3:30 pacer group for the start. Syd was right behind me with the 3:45 group but little did I know how close we were going to end up being. We said our goodbyes, Syd started her book on tape ( yes, she races to them) and we all shook out the last of the nerves.
The first several miles were right through the heart of Burlington’s small neighborhoods. Hundreds of spectators were out cheering us on so I took the first 3 miles relatively slow, easing into my rhythm and nutrition, hoping to keep some recent stomach issues at bay while enjoying the energetic crowd. Syd joined me for about a mile around the 5-mile marker but slowly we separated as I started to pick up my pace, dropping closer to 7:30 splits. My slow start to the race seemed to work quite well and, after seeing Pat well ahead of me at the first turn around, I managed to catch the 3:30 pace group at mile 8. I was feeling quite good at this point, well hydrated and energized after downing a Salted Watermelon Gu ( it’s not candy but it’s close) and seeing Pat at the turnaround. Seeing a familiar face during a race can make all of the difference and seeing Pat so close to some of the elite runners gave me a great boost.
I hung with the 3:30 pace group for the next 13 miles with little difficulty. I chatted with our pacer ( Thank you to that fella, I wish I could remember your name) and we managed to leave the hilliest portions of the course well behind us, looking forward to a flat 6-mile finish. Up through mile 20 my pace was right around 7:40 and I was very confident I could pick up some time towards the end and beat my goal of 3:25. The biggest hill of the course came at mile 15 along Battery Street but, after losing my pace group at an aid station about a half mile earlier, I managed to make up some ground and catch back up with them at the top of the hill. Ironically, that hill was nearly the same grade and length as the hill I run every Friday morning with November Project…it felt just like home.
I knew I would see Jana at mile 16 so I motored to that point knowing that if I was struggling she could finish the final ten with me. This is where the race really started and as we approached the 20 mile marker I was feeling fast and well supported. Compared to the Baltimore marathon this race was going extremely well, I had good friends running with me, a pace group that hadn’t yet left me in the dust and I had my hydration and nutrition well under control. I took another Gu around mile 18 followed by some candied ginger ( for those of you with more sensitive stomachs this seems to work well for me). However, Type 2 fun doesn’t quit and my Vermont City Marathon was about to get much longer.
By mile 21, even with Jana helping me along, I had started to cramp up ferociously. My legs felt like lead and I still had 5 miles to go. Each mile seemed to get longer and nothing was helping. I felt like I had been good about my hydration but I was feeling way worse than any sort of type 2 fun I had experienced up to this point (and there had been a lot of it). At this point it was just about gritting it out and maybe eating a freeze pop along the way in an attempt to distract myself from the fire burning throughout my body. For a race that had been relatively stress free for nearly 21 miles this was an unexpected turn. The final miles run along a flat bike path and then open up to fantastic views of Lake Champlain and green mountains. I relished the view but was far too focused on finishing the race to truly enjoy them as I had just a few miles earlier.
Jana pushed me hard the last few miles and I managed to stumble across the finish line with a time of 3:32. I had lost my pace group a couple of miles earlier but felt ok about the time considering what the end of the race had been like. Unfortunately, at this point I made the mistake of sitting down and did not get up again for quite some time. I blacked out a couple of times and after a trip to the medical tent and a good round of vomiting, was forced to get 2 liters of saline via IV in order to balance everything back out. This was relatively embarrassing for me at the time considering I had been training in Baltimore heat the past few weeks and thought I had developed a far better training plan. I have since gotten over that embarrassment however and am now proud that I managed to grit out those final couple of miles. Plus, the doctors were super friendly and, despite my vomiting and chills, they managed to keep me in good spirits.
But the best news came from my friends. Sydney crushed her first marathon with a time of 3:38 while Pat took it a step further, qualifying for Boston on his first attempt with a time of 2:56, finishing 6’th in his age group. So, while my race may not have ended on the absolute best note, I had 21 fantastic miles, 2 super fast friends with me and a great crew and pacer in Jana. The race took me all over one of my favorite cities in the U.S, along great lake front paths and through happy, energetic neighborhoods. While some parts of the race were relatively boring ( parts were along somewhat busy multi-lane roads) the vast majority was scenic, flat and fast. Unfortunately, since the weather was perfect, I can’t blame Burlington for my required medical attention.
I’m looking forward to getting back into a new training regime and conquering the next marathon, faster, fitter and more aware. I’ll make sure to bring some friends with me too…you know, just as a reality check. This race turned out to be serious type 2 fun but that should not deter anyone from taking it on. Type 2 fun is what it’s all about.