Vermont City Marathon full of syrup, scenery and support

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I took this photo at a shakeout run the day before the Vermont City Marathon. The marathon course went through the Church Street Marketplace, shown here, as well. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find and write race reviews!

Right before the start of the Vermont City Marathon the morning of Sunday, May 27, I posted a photo with the words, “Let’s see how long I can stick with the 4:45 group at this morning’s @runvermont #VermontCityMarathon! Ready to run!!” on Instagram and Twitter.

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I’m pretty sure I am only running in this photo because I saw the photographer. 

It turned out that my time with the 4:45 group was short-lived. But I still enjoyed the race and my time in Vermont.

Pre-Race

I drove up to Burlington, Vermont, from Salisbury, Maryland, on Friday. With the different stops and a small bit of traffic, it took about 11 hours. My drive back from New Hampshire, where I did some exploring, took a little bit longer, but these two were my longest solo drives ever. I wanted to stop into the expo briefly, so even though I arrived at about 7:40 p.m. and the expo closed at 8, I stopped into the DoubleTree by Hilton Burlington and got my shirt, my bib and a photo with an inflatable syrup bottle.

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Here I am with a big bottle of UnTapped. After seeing that UnTapped would be on course, I trained with it.

This was the 30th running of the Vermont City Marathon, and the shirts and medals celebrate this. There were also shirts and medals from previous years displayed at the expo. As a BibRave Pro, I also got a bag of other Vermont City Marathon and Vermont-themed goodies.

 

The hospitality was great, and I was excited to meet Jess Cover, RunVermont’s director of marketing and communications, who I had conversed with a little bit via email. I first met her at Waterfront Park on Saturday, and we saw each other at other times during the weekend as well.

As a BibRave Pro, I was able to stay with a family for free, which was really nice! Mike and Marybeth were great hosts and I enjoyed chatting about running along with some delicious food made by Marybeth. It also turned out they are into craft beer, which was also fun, because I am a craft beer fan and my boyfriend is a brewer.

The day before the marathon, there was a shakeout run with the pacers that started in Battery Park. I decided to go to this run. I don’t always run the day before, but I figured it would be fun and I would go slow.

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Here I am with retired elite runner Meb Keflezighi at Waterfront Park in Burlington, Vermont.

I did enjoy the shakeout run, and I ran a decent portion of it with a runner named Steve. Bart Yasso, the Mayor of Running and formerly of Runner’s World, was scheduled to be at the run, but one of the pacers said his flight was canceled, so he didn’t make it. I still enjoyed chatting with the pacers and runners. Also in attendance was Tyler Andrews, who won the Vermont City Marathon last year — and, spoiler alert — this year. I didn’t see him once the run started until the end — I assume his shakeout pace is probably like my 5K race pace — but I did make a point to introduce myself later at the expo. I interviewed Andrews for a RunWashington article before — and after — he won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington D.C. Marathon in March, but these were phone interviews, so it was nice to meet in person.

After heading to the Burlington Farmers Market, I headed to Waterfront Park, where I got to meet Meb Keflezighi! Keflezighi, winner of the Boston and New York City marathons and an Olympic silver medalist, was posing for photos with runners at the park, and the line was short here. (The line was long later at the expo.) I’d seen he was signing runners’ bibs, but unfortunately, I left mine in the car and didn’t really have anything for him to sign.

However, it was awesome to get a photo with him, and I thought he was very generous to offer several opportunities to interact with fans. He was even high-fiving people at the finish, although by the time I finished, he must have moved onto something else, which is totally understandable.

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Since it was the Vermont City Marathon’s 30th anniversary, there were previous race shirts and medals displayed at the expo. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I had listened to one of Keflezighi’s books, “Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream,” on the drive north, so I did mention that I had just listened to it, and he thanked me. We did not have time to chat, as there were other people waiting, but this was definitely a cool part of the weekend.

 

As I was driving away a little later, I saw him running with someone from RunVermont.

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It was fun meeting fellow BibRave Pro Jessica before the race!

I returned to Williston, where I was staying, to take a shower before heading back out into town. I went back to the expo and tasted some beers from 14th Star Brewing. I thought they were quality beers and I bought a four-pack each of the Maple Breakfast Stout, which was my favorite of the ones I tried, and the Tribute Double IPA. I then got in the line to see Keflezighi again, hoping he could sign my race bib.

 

This line was much longer than the one at Waterfront Park, and by the time I was getting closer to the front, Keflezighi was only taking photos to save time. I did get another photo, but not an autograph. However, if the line kept continuing, it could potentially take up many more hours than the time for which he was scheduled, so I do understand why the line had to start moving a little faster.

Later in the day, I walked around at the Church Street Marketplace and then met up with fellow BibRave Pro Jessica (Fun Size Athlete) for dinner at The Gryphon. We both got the burger, which was delicious, and then we also got dessert, which was also great. We had just met for the first time in person, but the server wondered if we were sisters, and I felt like we had a lot to talk about even though we had never met before. After dinner, we walked around some before I dropped her off at the place she was staying.

The First Half

My host, Mike, had mentioned that parking would not be a problem if I left before 6 a.m., and he was right. I picked up Jessica and we found a free parking spot very close to the finish line. To get to the start line, though, we did have to walk up the Battery Street hill, which was part of the race course.

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From left to right are BibRave Pros me, Sam and Jessica.

I’d had a couple UnTapped waffles before the start (I usually have one, but I figured I would have two to have a few more calories) and drank water. There were plenty of portable toilets at the start, and I was able to go without having to wait in line.

Jessica and I met up with another BibRave Pro, Sam (See Sam Run), before we started the race. We all had pretty similar goals.

Before the race began, I also saw a running friend who used to live in Salisbury and now lives in Georgia — another Mike. I saw on social media that this was his 33rd marathon state.

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Here I am meeting up with my friend Mike before the race.

After seeing him and grabbing a selfie, I headed to the 4:45 pace area. Having started too quickly in other races, my goal was to pace myself and run with the 4:45 group, which I thought was reasonable given that I ran a 4:47:52 at my last marathon, the Richmond Marathon. I figured I would try to stay with them through the big hill at Mile 15-16, then speed up if I could.

I made my way to the start with the group and saw someone that I thought could have been the Goatman’s cousin — a guy in a Marathon Maniacs singlet that also had a tail and ears. (Algonquin 50K friends will understand the Goatman reference.) I wanted to take a photo, but I had already turned my phone off. I turned it back on, but ran out of time to get a good photo.

I was not running right with the 4:45 group, but I was not far behind for the first couple miles. I had spotted the pace band on the sign before we started and noticed that it was for a 4:44 finish and for 26.4 miles, which made me confident about the pacers’ abilities. It seemed like they really knew what they were doing — these type of adjustments are something I’ve had to think about as a pacer in other races.

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It was easy to find the 4:45 group, but not as easy to stay with them. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Although I do understand pacing and how not every mile lines up with a watch, the first couple miles seemed a little fast. I ran them in 10:31 and 10:17.

I started out the race basically looking for a portable toilet. I had just gone, but I had to go again, and I wanted to get it out of the way early. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to run a marathon without having to take at least one bathroom stop.

I saw portable toilets when we entered the Church Street Marketplace, and since I hadn’t carefully studied the map to see when the next ones would be, I figured I would pull to the side even though there was a very short line. I will spare you from hearing all the details, but I also ended up having a female issue to deal with. Men can skip this sentence if you want, but thankfully, I had tucked an extra tampon into my Spibelt.

While that was a lifesaver, I’m not a fast portable toilet user. I lost about four minutes between the short wait and the time inside. Mile 3 clocked in at 14:40 on my watch.

This was disappointing to me. First of all, I never have issues with that time of the month, so it was frustrating that there was a problem on race day. Also, I had lost the 4:45 pace group, as well as the 5:00 pace group. It was going to take a while to make up the lost time. I didn’t want to lose energy by doing an 8:30-9:00 mile; I would need to make it up somewhat gradually. This put me in a little bit of a bad mood, but there wasn’t much I could do except for try to make up the time and get closer to the 4:45 group.

Although I was down mentally, I did feel better physically. It was necessary to make the stop. And the negative feelings didn’t last long.

After the first stretch downtown, the race headed up and back on the Burlington Beltline. Even before I made it to this point, I saw the leaders, including Andrews, heading back. Right as I entered the Beltline, I saw Keflezighi heading the other way; he was part of a relay team — Meb’s Team. Although this was a highway, it was very scenic. Jessica mentioned after the race that one reason it’s so beautiful along Vermont highways is because there are no distracting billboards, which I had not really noticed — but certainly noticed after she said that.

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I took this selfie at the expo.

There was a hill as we got closer to downtown, and I did some walking. I did this as a strategy; I didn’t want to lose energy running up the hills when I could try to do a fast walk instead. I channeled Karla, who I have been running with on Wednesdays with the Eastern Shore Running Club. We do a run-walk, but her walk is much faster than my usual walk. So, I tried to think about keeping up a good pace when I was walking.

 

Throughout the race, I kept seeing people who would look like someone I knew, but I was in a city hundreds of miles away from home. There was one person I would see on the course who I actually knew — Lori, the wife of Mike, the running friend I mentioned earlier. That was a nice surprise, but I noticed more than usual that I kept seeing familiar faces. Then, I looked again and it really didn’t look like the person.

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Here I am (at right) enjoying a downhill stretch of the course.

I live in a very flat area, and although the course apparently isn’t that hilly for Burlington, I’m sure I noticed every hill. There are two larger hills, the Battery Street hill being the most daunting, but I also noticed hills in other spots on the course and neighborhoods.

Around Mile 10, I got a pink ice pop from a young boy, and it felt like just what I needed. It was delicious and reminded me of having the same type of ice pops with my neighbors as a child in the summer.

 

I was stopping at pretty much all of the water stops until the end, when I skipped two, at Miles 23 and 25. There were people at the aid stations holding signs that started out with a low health risk, which changed to moderate, but I surprisingly never had any issues with heat. It was not sunny and the temperature felt good. Maybe I didn’t have issues because I stopped at so many of the water stops — and there were plenty — but I was glad that was not an issue.

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I took this photo at Waterfront Park on Sunday evening after I finished the Vermont City Marathon that morning. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

By the time I hit the first half, I had not caught up to the 5:00 group yet, but I felt I must be getting closer. As I crossed this point, I remembered seeing 2:29-something on my watch, and the results tracked my first half at 2:29:40. Coincidentally, this would be a perfect time for the half marathon time that I usually pace — 2:30. But I still had another half marathon ahead of me.

The Second Half

Going into the second half, I knew that big hill was coming up. When we were walking around Saturday evening, Jessica and I met a runner who said this was his 17th time running the race and to walk the hill. I received similar advice from my boyfriend as well as a pacer at the shakeout run about walking hills, so I decided to do just that.

Right before we got to the hill, someone said something like “It’s all downhill from here!,” which was actually not true (which I knew). I also saw a guy with a Heady Topper sign. Crowd support was great, and there were fun signs along the course. The Beltline and the Burlington Greenway, the bike path that comprised the last four miles of the course, were the least populated areas as far as spectators.

On the hill were Taiko Drummers, which were awesome. There were also drummers on the Beltline — and all throughout the course. Some were professionals, like these, and some were just people banging on trash cans or plastic bins. I thought it was awesome that neighbors came out to support the runners.

I figured after the hill, the worst was behind me — which it was, as far as the hills — but I did still notice some other inclines. Also, I felt great cardio-wise, but my legs were sore. Not only did I feel pain on the back of my legs, but I even felt pain on the front of my leg, where my right leg connects to my pelvis. Later, I had some pain on the back of my right knee. This was probably because I very rarely run hills.

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Here’s a view of the elevation gain on Strava. I thought it was hilly, but the half I did last weekend had an elevation gain of 52 feet.

Around Mile 18, we went into the Lakewood Estates neighborhood, which was an awesome neighborhood. There were people drumming, a person in a T-rex costume to high-five right before a Maple Syrup Shots station, the Sciatica Garage Band, and a great energy. There was even a kid playing piano along the course, which reminded me in a way of the Big Sur International Marathon, which famously has a pianist on course.

I also saw a large American flag, which reminded me of the large flag my grandparents hang up, and even a cat blanket, which reminded me of my cats.

After this, there was a beach-themed water stop at Leddy Park, which was fun. I think it was early in the neighborhood we’d just exited that I saw a guy wearing a shirt from the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon, which is a little more than an hour away from my house, my first marathon, and a race I run every year. I mentioned to him that I love the race and run it every year, and he said something like that it was a good one.

I was also wearing Maryland flag shorts, and throughout the race, people would say something or reference Maryland — I talked briefly to I think two people from Gaithersburg. I later saw a guy wearing Maryland flag shorts on the bike path and told him I liked the shorts.

I had another pink ice pop in this area, which was great.

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Here’s a view from the Burlington Greenway that I took the day after the race. The last four miles were run on this path. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There was a downhill as we approached the bike path, which would be the last four miles of the course. There were five relay stations — the race includes a half-and-half and 3-to-5-person relay — and I’d been mentally ticking these off as well. For example, once I passed the last relay exchange, I knew I was in the home stretch.

 

I noticed a creative sign that said “Skateboard for sale $10,000” and then enjoyed hearing the Burlington Concert Band before I turned onto the bike path.

At some point, I had realized that it would be unlikely for me to even break 5:00. Around the time that I had about a 5K left, I noticed that I only had about 28 minutes left till I would be five hours in, and since my last 5K race was just under 27 minutes, that wasn’t going to happen after running 23 miles.

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Ben & Jerry’s at the finish line was awesome! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

However, I kept pushing. I was thinking I might be able to beat my time from the Shamrock Marathon in 2016. During that race, I struggled with some breathing issues, and I came in at 5:03:33 (in my mind, I was thinking 5:03, so I was correct). After I figured I would not hit that time, I thought I at least wanted to beat my time from the 2015 Big Sur International Marathon, which was much more hilly. My time there was 5:18:04. I was able to do that.

 

I tried to speed up some in the last four miles of the race, and I skipped two of the water stops because I ended up walking more than I really needed to after getting water. I was close enough to the end that I felt I would stay hydrated.

During the race, I also took the UnTapped syrup from the aid stations, which I had trained with. The UnTapped was separate from the water stops, but there were so many water stops that I didn’t have any problems.

My last full mile was my seventh fastest of the day, at 10:58. My watch logged 26.49 miles (I guess I did not run the tangents well), but for the last bit of 0.49, my watch said it took me 4:58, a 10:11 pace. That means I was going faster at the end than my fastest full mile — Mile 4, which I ran in 10:14.

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Here I am with my Zero Gravity beer after the race. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The end of the race was amazing. There were spectators on both sides and I felt like a celebrity as I made my way toward the finish. I think I finished at a good time for the spectators, as I did notice that the crowd lightened up a little bit later. On the other side of the coin, in talking with my host Mike, who is very fast, it seemed like there also might have not been quite as many spectators out on the course in the early hours — but where I was in the field, there was lots of support.

I finished in 5:07:17.

Post-Race

Although I did not cross the finish line in the goal I had set for myself and ran my second-slowest marathon, I was really not disappointed at all. I just finished a marathon!

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I took a photo of my medal at an overlook along the course. There was a nice view, but I didn’t stop for any photos along the way. And, obviously, I did not have my medal until I crossed the finish line. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I thought the elevation gain was going to be higher when I checked my watch after crossing the finish, but my watch showed 696 feet of gain — and actually more loss than gain. This was less gain than my watch logged at Richmond! However, I’m not used to running hills, up or down.

I did do a half marathon the previous week — it may not be the best idea to do a half marathon and then a marathon, but I do really enjoy racing and I’m (clearly) not an elite runner or anything like that. I knew I wouldn’t PR and I’m not trying to qualify for Boston (although I’d love to run it someday, I’m nowhere near the qualifying standard of 3:35 for my age group). I also didn’t train enough on hills, and although I did do my long runs, I think I could have added more mileage during the week.

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While not the most flattering photo, I feel like this photo definitely sums up what it feels like to finish a marathon.

It was easy to find Jessica, who had finished before me with a huge PR, and I got post-race water and food. I’m not even sure why I took an apple, because I really wanted the unhealthy food. I didn’t even eat the apple.

I did get the Ben & Jerry’s — of course! I was a little disappointed they were just sample-sized, but there was a Ben & Jerry’s truck at the finish as well, so I was able to buy a full ice cream. It ended up melting all over me, but it was still delicious. I also had some tortilla chips and pizza.

After that, I went to the beer tent — I did think to bring my ID, which was a good call as it was necessary to enter the area — and had a Zero Gravity Green State Lager. There were signs saying the beer was $4.00, but the first one was free, as the pourer marked my bib.

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Here are the race shirt — I love the design — and the marathon finisher medal. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I just added my unofficial result to Athlinks — and I assume the official result will show up within the next couple weeks. Check it out here, and claim your own race results so you can have them all in one place! 

This was my eighth marathon and the sixth state in which I have run a marathon. I also saw some fun stats from RunPix — in the second half, it tracked I passed 137 runners but nobody passed me, which I think is pretty awesome!

Although I did not run negative splits, my first and second half were pretty close in time. Since I ran the first half in 2:29:40, that would mean I ran the second half in about 2:37:37 if I did my math right. As I mentioned on social media, not all of the RunPix stats were as complimentary (I hadn’t yet reached mile 12 when the winner, Andrews, finished the race, for example), but they were fun to look at.

Before heading back to Maryland, I enjoyed spending some more time in Burlington and then exploring New Hampshire — I spent nearly a whole day in Franconia Notch State Park. It was a great trip and a fun race! I also really liked training with and using the UnTapped. If you don’t live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, you might not even think the course is that hilly.

Check out my BibRave review — and write your own — here! 

Splits

Mile 1: 10:31

Mile 2: 10:17

Mile 3: 14:40 (bathroom break)

Mile 4: 10:14

Mile 5: 10:41

Mile 6: 11:13

Mile 7: 11:27

Mile 8: 10:49

Mile 9: 12:07 (hill)

Mile 10: 10:16

Mile 11: 11:21

Mile 12: 12:34

Mile 13: 11:07

Mile 14: 11:01

Mile 15: 11:15

Mile 16: 13:35 (hill)

Mile 17: 12:13

Mile 18: 12:13

Mile 19: 12:03

Mile 20: 13:32

Mile 21: 11:45

Mile 22: 11:29

Mile 23: 11:50

Mile 24: 11:18

Mile 25: 11:42

Mile 26: 10:58

Last part (watch had .49): 4:58 (10:11 pace)

Total time: 5:07:17 (11:44 pace according to results; 11:36 pace on watch)

Like She Runs by the Seashore on Facebook here. 

This post was updated to include some of the free race photos.

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