race report: wineglass marathon

I wasn’t planning on doing a marathon this year, but some friends talked me into it. It sounded fun.

So, with 10ish weeks before race day, I started training for the Wineglass Marathon. Before I get into the details of my race, here’s an overview:

the event

Wineglass — officially the Guthrie Wineglass Marathon — is a point-to-point race in New York, in the Finger Lakes, and this year it occurred Sunday, Sept. 30. The course starts in Bath and finishes in Corning, and the towns along the way get really into marathon weekend. Even though it rained the entire race day, I felt a good amount of crowd support and really enjoyed the experience of waving to families cheering from their porches and high-fiving kids lined up along the sidewalks.

It may be a small race but it’s an excellent one. This was the 37th year of the marathon, and Wineglass Weekend offered three events: a 5K on Saturday and the marathon and half marathon on Sunday. The half and full have the same finish line in Corning, so the half starts at mile 13.1 of the marathon. The race guide said 7,000 runners signed up for the weekend races. 1,674 finished the marathon.

bib pickup, expo & swag

The Corning Museum of Glass serves as the race hub, and we went there Saturday afternoon for packet pickup (there is no race-day pickup). Everything went smoothly and was easy to find.

All participants received a drawstring bag and a long-sleeve, quarter-zip tech tee. It’s a good-quality tee, and unlike most long-sleeve race apparel I get, the sleeves are actually long enough for my arms.

Runners of drinking age also received a small bottle of local bubbly and a tasting glass with the marathon name and date. The race organized a good expo, too. Better than I’ve encountered at some larger races.

logistics & course

On race morning, runners must take a bus from either Bath (a 5-minute ride) or Corning (a 30-minute ride) to the start line in Bath.

Wineglass has a net-downhill course, with the steepest hill coming at mile 14. My watch recorded a total elevation gain of 331 feet. The first half is particularly easy to navigate, though quite narrow in some of the early miles (runners don’t have free reign over the roads). The last half has minimal elevation change, but there are some spots with no spectators, particularly the segment along the highway (miles 16-18), making it a bit of a slog. I recommend driving the course, because doing so really helped me prepare for the final five miles, which are flat but have more turns than the rest of the course combined.

Still, there’s great scenery. Even in bad weather, it’s lovely. The fall leaves hadn’t quite turned yet, but the hills, small towns and rivers are a great backdrop for a marathon. The finishing stretch among Market Street is pretty and full of energy — I smiled the whole way through it.

My massive PR probably had something to do with that, too.

my experience

the view of lake keuka from the porch of our airbnb.

The feat of endurance really started with the drive up. The Finger Lakes are at least five and a half hours away from New York. My friend David and I left Brooklyn at 3:45 on a Friday, and we arrived at our Airbnb nine hours later. Brittney (our other race buddy) and her girlfriend, Kathy, picked up their rental car in Newark and made it upstate in less than five hours. It took me and David two hours just to get to New Jersey.

I would recommend not doing what we did. Driving up early Saturday or taking the day off Friday would have been better choices. The good news is we got to sleep in Saturday, so we got to recover from the long drive. Saturday’s weather was gorgeous — the four of us hung out on the porch overlooking Lake Keuka, drinking coffee and chatting before eventually making our way to packet pickup. It was a breeze. After a shakeout run and driving the course, we cooked dinner, watched some college football and went to bed.

The last bus from Bath left at 7:30. We left later than we should have but it worked out — there was no traffic. A short bus ride later, we arrived at the start and made a portapotty stop before shimmying into a packed tent to stay warm and out of the rain. The bus drop off, toilets, bag check and tent (with chairs and water) were all right next to each other, which made for a relatively low-stress race morning. After a short warmup, our trio shared a group hug and high fives. David and Brittney walked closer to the start, and I found the 3:55 pace group — I’d set a goal of finishing in less than four hours. At 8:15, we started running.

the race

early in the race with the 3:55 pace group. [photo credit: kathy]

Right before hitting the air horn, an announcer assured us the rain wouldn’t last long. We’d be through it by the time we left Bath, she said.

That didn’t happen. Temperatures hovered in the high 40s, the sun never came out and the light rain rarely took breaks. Other than running in soaked socks and shoes, the rain wasn’t a huge deal. There was little wind, and had there been sun, we would have had little protection from it.

The first 10K went by fast, but the pace made me nervous. It felt aggressive. My right leg was also really fatigued, which surprised me because it felt fresh the day before. (DOMS? Or DODMS? Delayed onset driving-muscle soreness? Whatever, it was definitely from all that driving.)

And then there was the fact I had to pee. I had hoped the sensation was just nerves, but after seven miles I figured that wasn’t the case, and I had to choose: Stop and have to catch up or hold it and hope for the best.

At that point, I said something to myself i don’t recall ever before thinking during a race: Just make a decision and deal with it.

I’ve historically been an indecisive racer, agonizing over choices I feared would become mistakes. And when it comes to running, I’m especially hesitant.

Make a decision and deal with it.

It’s a sentiment reflective of my attempts this year to be more confident and more willing to take risks.

I surged ahead of my pace group, hoping this would make it easier to catch up later. I didn’t know where the next portapotties were, but after about a mile, I saw them by a highway underpass. I took the pee break, ran back to the road and started what would be a two-mile effort to reel in my group.

I settled in. Calmed down. Conserved as much as I could going into the hill in mile 14. It wasn’t bad, and by mile 15 I welcomed the first twinges of marathon pain. Everything was on track.

I cruised through an aid station before mile 16 after briefly considering a second pit stop. My stomach felt a little funky, but I thought it might pass.

By the time mile 16 ended, I knew I had to take the next opportunity to go to the bathroom. I also knew it was going to be harder to catch up to the group this time, but I figured it would also be difficult to try to run the last 8 miles feeling the way I did.

Make a decision and deal with it.

I surged ahead again, partially because I wanted to give myself a time cushion and partially because I wanted to get to a bathroom ASAP.

Where is it?

I put down a fast mile before having the chance to stop. It took a little more than a minute, and then the chase began.

I could barely see the pacer’s sign — a large white card on the top of a long stick — but at least I had something to go after.

Run them down.

I repeated the words in my head at least a dozen times over the next several miles. I passed people I had been running with earlier and had, too, fallen off the pace group. But I barely gained ground on the pacer. Still, having a rabbit to chase — a rabbit going a speed I knew I could keep — helped immensely.

Run them down.

In contrast to the flat, open roads of the first 21 miles, the last few demand more attention. The path on which we ran mile 23 had these little micro hills — it was just not flat enough that I had to think more about my footing. The end of the race winds through residential areas of Painted Post and Corning, requiring runners to consider how best to handle corners, while trying to maintain speed and not wipe out on the slick roads.

I had pulled the pace group within 100 meters but couldn’t seem to go faster. Actually, my last two miles were some of my slowest. But I also knew that my goal was within reach, and I struggled to maintain focus.

Breathe.

With a mile left, I checked my watch: I had 15 minutes to get to the finish line and nab a sub-4. I tried to stay calm but allowed myself to get a little excited. I saw the bridge that led to the final turn. I gained more ground on the pace group.

The last quarter mile goes over the river before runners turn left onto Market Street — the finishing chute. I made the corner and charged ahead, passing the the pacer as he cheered his remaining runners through the end. Everything hurt and I smiled the whole time.

3:54:41. A personal best by 16 minutes.

after the race

Euphoric, I collected my medal and some food. The stabbing pain of a post-marathon run spiked, but I didn’t care. I walked gingerly toward the 7-Eleven on Denison Parkway, where my friends and I planned to meet up. I couldn’t wait to tell them what happened.

You probably know or can understand that finishing a marathon is a very emotional experience. So when I entered the 7-Eleven and couldn’t find my people, I went from elated to anxious. I looked around the tiny store for a few minutes before leaving, for some reason thinking I might be at the wrong 7-Eleven. I wandered down the street, and I tried to hold back tears, worried I wouldn’t find my friends. I didn’t have my phone, and I didn’t know anyone’s number.

I started back toward the 7-Eleven, thinking I’d ask if there was a different one somewhere nearby (which I should have done before walking around aimlessly). I must have been quite the sight: waddling alongside a busy road, wrapped in a Mylar blanket, crying. Then again, no one seemed to notice.

I approached the door of the 7-Eleven and Brittney’s dad, Kevin, greeted me with a smile — then a hug when he saw my pathetic face. I started full-on sobbing, relieved to be reunited. I knew my reaction was ridiculous but couldn’t help it. The scene continued in its comical absurdity when I walked in the store and found Brittney, at which point we held each other in what I imagine was the most dramatic cry-hug the 7-Eleven had ever seen.

I soon realized we were still missing a member of our trio. Brittney said she had last seen David at mile 19. A few minutes later, Kevin and I found David shuffling around on Market Street in his Mylar blanket. He had been in the medical tent and wasn’t moving well. Kevin walked with him while Brittney, Kathy and I headed to the YMCA to change into dry clothes. Another nice feature of the race: The Y allowed racers to use the locker room and showers. (Highlight of the walk from the finish area to the Y: Brittney’s little brother complaining, “My legs are tired after all this walking.” Yeah, kid. Yeah.)

After changing and (coincidentally) meeting some of my PPTC teammates in the locker room, I got in the car so we could drive back to the Airbnb, take showers, check out and get on the road back to the city.

A few minutes into the ride, I started to feel queasy. I won’t go into all the details, but I ended up puking in a grocery bag in the backseat, and again on the side of the road. (Shoutout to Brittney, Kathy and David for keeping calm, thinking fast with the doubled-up Wegmans bags and saying all sorts of nice things while I cried and crumpled into a useless vomity heap in the backseat. Also a huge thanks to Kevin for holding me on the side of the road and cracking jokes during round two. Extra shoutout to David, who had the misfortune of sitting next to me during this whole endeavor, holding my barf bag and later driving the first few hours home while I recovered. All of you are my heroes.)

I’m not sure why this happened. It’s possible I didn’t hydrate or eat enough, or perhaps I didn’t take enough electrolytes. The good news is I felt totally fine within a few hours (and I will do some work to figure out how to avoid this from happening again). We then stopped to feast at Denny’s before I got behind the wheel and finished the last half of our six-hour drive home.

The weekend had extreme highs and lows, but I’d do it all again — minus the 9-hour drive Friday and the excessive vomiting. I’m really looking forward to my next marathon (Ironman Lake Placid in July, then New York City next November), and I’m excited to some day return to race Wineglass another time. 2020, anyone?

yes, the medal is glass. it is fantastic.

other race things

cost: $140 ($148.40 with processing fees). I registered on July 2nd for a Sept. 30 race, and I could have saved money by registering earlier.

runner tracking: Wineglass offers free, live tracking, with one caveat: You have to run with your phone. Because of that, I didn’t partake. However, friends and family could see my finish time on the website immediately, which was great, because I was in no condition to text anyone for a few hours.

activities: I didn’t spend much time in the glass museum, but even the parts I saw were pretty cool. It’s great to have a race expo in a place besides a hotel banquet hall or conference center. I also didn’t stay in the region long enough to enjoy the local wineries, but that’s definitely on my to-do list next time. Even if you can’t spend much time in the area, downtown Corning has many nice shops and restaurants, so I had a memorable and enjoyable local experience, despite my short stay. Finally, the organizers put on a pasta dinner the night before the marathon, featuring a guest speaker. I was interested in the speaker but ultimately didn’t want to come back to Corning for the dinner. If you’re staying closer or don’t want to cook, I heard it is a good event. Tickets this year were $30.

the nitty gritty

fuel

breakfast: pb&j. coffee. Beet Performer with passionfruit juice.
an hour before: a Rip Van Wafel
during: two Clif Shot Bloks (leftovers). four Endurance Taps. Gatorade and water throughout. eight Salt Sticks. three orange slices. (thank you, man handing out food on the side of the road. you are a champion.)
after: pizza, water, coca cola… none of which I digested.

gear

apparel: Asics PPTC singlet. Oiselle 2016 Verrazano bra. lululemon strength and sweat 8” shorts. Stance Spaced Out crew socks — green. BOCO ironman Lake Placid running hat.
anti-chafe: 2Toms Sport Shield and TriSlide
shoes: Asics GT-1000 7
other: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask. Roka SR-1 (I never needed them — they stayed on top of my hat the entire race).

{main image photo credit: kathy}

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