Steamtown Marathon — 10/10/10

With many races being held on 10.10.10, we needed to find a story to share, and we found a great one. Ladies and Gentlemen, our guest blogger for today is Teena Renfrow.

As a runner of over 30 years, I am relatively new to the running of half marathons and marathons. My second marathon on Oct 10, 2010 in Scranton, PA was such a joy to run, I felt compelled to share it with other runners. Steamtown is a small marathon limited to 2,500 runners. It sold out in mid-July. It is touted as one of the fastest marathon courses in the US due to its net drop of nearly 1000 feet over the length of the course. Some might think that is a good thing although I must admit I was concerned because downhills usually kill my knees. Nevertheless, I signed up for it along with my husband and his son.

Arriving in Scranton on Saturday to pick up race packets, the expo was small. No featured speakers. No elite runners. But the day was a beautiful autumn day in the low 60’s and the fall foliage was in abundance. However, notices warning of the starting temperature to be at 30 degrees were placed throughout the venue.

Race day arrives. After not one, but two, alarms that had been set declined to go off, I happened to check the time as I could hear people bustling around outside the motel room. Sure enough, it was after 5:00 am. Buses were running from downtown Scranton to Forrest City, where the start was, from 5:30 to 6:45 am. We hurried through our pre-race ritual and managed to get to the buses by 6:30. A 45 minute ride through the hilly countryside took us to Forrest City. Luckily one of the schools hosted the runners so that we were able to stay nice and toasty until it was time to start the race. Race time was at 8 am so this was much appreciated.

Everyone was encouraged to hit the starting line about ten minutes before eight. A prayer was given, the national anthem sung and then cover your ears because the cannon was shot to start the race. The race starts out with one of the steepest drops in the entire course. Then there were a few gently rolling hills before settling into the downhill decline for which it is known for the next 13 miles. I had been warned not to try and make up too much time on this as you would need leg strength at the end of the race when some uphills kicked in at the 23rd mile. So I paced myself conservatively and settled in to enjoy the view.

And what a view! The hills were alive with color, the sky was void of clouds and a crystal clear blue. We traveled through many small towns along the way and each community was so welcoming it was hard not to smile the entire way. Besides the regular aid stations set up by the race committee, it was as though each town tried to outdo the other on who could be the most hospitable. Cheerleaders, bands, tables of cookies, bananas, orange slices all were offered along the way. Some homes also set up their own welcoming committee and at times, a single car might be open with its radio blaring to encourage us to keep running.

In between some of the towns, the course wound its way into some very nice trails alongside a rushing river. The softer touch of the ground was extremely appreciated at this time for the toll taken to the knees of continuously going downhill. I wish I could have taken the time to get some beautiful pictures of this scenic area, but I was focused on getting a better time than my first marathon so kept chugging along.

Once we got into Scranton, the crowds thickened dramatically. About three miles from the finish line the crowds were so thick, you wouldn’t have been blamed if you had thought you were at the finish line. Houses competed to see who could blare music the loudest or who had the best Halloween decorations. This also is when the hills started to kick in. I live and train in Bethlehem, PA and we are not without our own hills here. Most people — at least those running my pace — started walking once they reached these hills but I suddenly felt right at home. I cranked up the pace and reveled in the spectators encouraging me to go faster. The last three miles were the most fun — I was in the home stretch and nothing was going to stop me now. One last push about a half mile before the finish line and then it was downhill to cross. As I got to the finishing mat, the announcers called my name — and then felt inclined to add that “Teena has a nice kick!” — which only made me smile bigger than before as I crossed the finish line at 4:29:56. Someone put a medal around my neck and I don’t know if he thought I was going to collapse or what, but he continued to hug me so that I just had to tell him that I just knocked 30 minutes off the time of my last marathon. He was thrilled and said I must have listened to my coach. I replied — I did! He said, it sounds like the coach knew what he was talking about. Again I replied — yes he did! I’m not sure who this man was but he seemed to be as happy for me and my time as I was.

So I’m not a fast runner but I do love to run. Sunday’s race was just about as perfect as you could hope for with the scenery and temperatures. The crowds and hospitality were just an extra bonus. I would encourage anyone to run Steamtown but register early and book a hotel room as soon as you register. There were no rooms to be found on race day.

And now that I have run this enjoyable small town race, I am looking extremely forward to my next marathon — my dream marathon — the ING NYC marathon! Talk about 180 degrees! Having completed Steamtown, my confidence is now high and I can’t wait for the next marathon in less than four weeks.

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Thanks for the amazing race recap Teena. And WOW! Shaving 30 mins. off your time is a testament to your training. Very impressive... you are more than set for NYC. Maybe I'll "run" into you. :)

If you'd like to share your comments below or on Teena's facebook page, feel free to do so, It's one heck of an accomplishment.


Mix It Up

Since this weekend is pretty special, it deserves a special (and final) post about our goal to raise some money for Dana's cause as she runs 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money/awareness for South African AIDS orphans.

Dana has committed to raising $26,000 on her 52 week journey and is currently around $11,000 with back-to-back marathons this weekend. The ING Hartford Marathon (10/9) and Steamtown Marathon (10/10). So, with a back-to-back weekend and 10.10.10 being this Sunday, I'd like to set up a special giveaway:

If you donate $10, I'll send you an audio file that will coach you through a 30-minute Nike treadmill workout. It includes coached instructions to complete a 30-minute workout on a treadmill. Basically, there is a gentlemen that instructs you how to adjust the settings on the treadmill with music clips in-between to keep you going. It starts with an easy warm-up, a gradual progression in speeds based on your ability and suggested incline percentages (BONUS: It includes a session of speed intervals set to techno music).

If you donate $15, I'll also include a running playlist CD with great music to run to. A full 80 minutes of music to get those feet moving. It's my personal mix, so it has been road tested and approved.

BONUS MILE: If you take it a step further and donate $25, I'll include a $5 iTunes gift card with the two items above. Score!

DONATE HERE: this is a link to Dana's blog where you can donate.

So if you have been looking for a way to mix up your workout, here is your chance to do so and help out a very worthy cause. If you donate, please send me an email here and let me know how much you donated. Thats it. Easy as pie.


Recap: San Jose Rock n Roll Half

Coming off ITB injury and slowly building miles to NY, I had no wiggle room for any kind of set back. Having registered for the Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon a year in advance and running it the last 4 years, I was pretty set on doing the race.

Whether it was foretold around the fire by the elders or pure coincidence, the distance worked out perfectly in my training schedule. With NY getting closer every day, my weekend schedule is laid out by running a little further each weekend. After building up to 10 miles, 13, 15, 18, and 21 are chalked for the weekends. And yesterday was week 13 right in time for the RNRSJ. The plan was to take it at full marathon pace (10min. miles). My previous longer distance runs have been at 11 min. pace as I build strength.

I know it's been awhile since I've raced but sheesh, I brought my water belt, but left the water bottle at home. I brought my Garmin watch with me, but left it at my friends house while getting ready. Apparently treating this like a training run and not a race, was not going to be an issue.

The race weather was ideal for the faster packs. Although there was a brief sprinkle in the first mile, the sun stayed behind the clouds for most of the morning. It was a comfortable over-cast day with the sun not creeping out until 1:40 after the start time. If you were on the course past the 2+ hour mark, the sun could prove to be challenging. But typically the latter miles of the RNRSJ are typically sunny and warm.

Running this race the last 3 years, I knew what to expect: a relatively flat course, with lots of cheering support along the way. It's funny when you remember the bands from previous years. Throughout the race I was clocking high 9 min miles and fairly close to 10s, which was a comfortable pace. I stopped at mile 7 to stretch out the IT just as a precaution and to remind myself that this was a training run and I was only at a 13 mile race. I'm definitely not strong enough to risk any setbacks and time is a 100% factor in that equation. I ended up cruising in at 2:08:30, right on pace and pain free. I couldn't have asked for a better race and it gives me a little confidence boost for the future knowing I have at least half the NY distance at race pace. The next three weeks will be difficult as I build towards the FULL-monty, but with 13.1 in my back pocket it shows that I'm half way there... and that I know how to Rock N Roll.