Thursday, January 3, 2019

Race Report: Two Rivers Marathon

In February, an opportunity came about to sing the national anthem at the Eau Claire Marathon in Wisconsin, which was the last state I was trying to book in order to fully have all of my 50 states of national anthems scheduled before finishing in Oklahoma in November.  The only issue was that the Eau Claire Marathon was scheduled on May 6th, the same day I had already registered for the Pittsburgh Marathon, a bucket list race for me and one which would check off the state of Pennsylvania for marathons. Thankfully, Pittsburgh allowed transfers, and I was able to transfer my bib for that race to a friend, freeing up the weekend for me to run in Wisconsin.  However, that left me with needing to schedule a new Pennsylvania race into my calendar, and sometime before November in one of the weekends I had free.

I had run the Two Rivers Half Marathon back in 2016 and had a fun time; unfortunately I was sick and had to DNS the 2017 edition of the race.  The 2018 race was on an open weekend for me, and thankfully with two separate race days available, I could double it up with the Love Run Half Marathon in Philadelphia on Sunday, where a friend was celebrating his 100th Half Marathon, and not be too far away in terms of driving distance to get to both.  Also, with a 52.4 mile weekend looming at the end of April, this would be a good opportunity to get more miles under my belt in successive days leading up to my double marathon plan.

After work on Friday, I took an LIRR train to Penn Station, then boarded the first NJTransit train out to Secaucus where I would connect to a Port Jervis bound train. All in all, the trip would take nearly 3 1/2 hours door to door.  At Port Jervis, I arrived to a sleepy little town, disembarking into the small train station parking lot in front of an adult video store.  I headed over to the Erie Hotel where my friends JC and Jeanette were having dinner with their friend Phillip - all of us running the full marathon at the next morning's Two Rivers Marathon Day 1.

After dinner, we drove off to Lackawaxen, along New York State Route 97, a narrow highway dangerously close to the cliffside edge overlooking the Delaware River.  It was a 40 minute trip in pitch black darkness that weaved in a sidewinder fashion with our cell phone signals going in and out - but mostly out, since the approach to Lackawaxen basically gave us nonexistent cell service. Eventually, we turned left and crossed the Delaware River from New York into Pennsylvania on the rickety single-lane Roebling Bridge, a 535 foot long bridge that's the oldest existing wire suspension bridge in the US.  After stopping at the Two Rivers Junction Bed & Breakfast, we headed to our accommodations for the night, the home of Mark Hughes, the race director, who was kind enough to put us up for the evening. We got to bed at around 11pm, happy to not have to wake up too early, as the race started at 9am.

The next morning, the three of us all got up and out of the house by 7:15, and headed back to Two Rivers Junction, where the finish line was located. The ten minute drive down the hill was exciting, as we saw at least six deer just wandering along the side of the road, which would be part of the course we were running that morning. We parked near the fire house and waited for the next school bus to come pick us up to take us to the start at the Woodloch Resort, in the rural mountain location up in the northern Poconos. At the start, we were able to enjoy the company of fellow runners, many who I've seen at other races, including Glen, Karen, and Sally; we posed for photos in the frigidly cold temperatures while waiting for the bus to arrive.  On the bus, I sat next to Joe from Philadelphia, who I learned was just as well-travelled for marathons (if not better) than I was, who was attempting the double weekend of marathons.

Singing the anthem
We eventually reached the Woodloch Resort and kept ourselves warm inside the Heritage Theater, where we could pick up bibs and use the facilities before the race start.  In the theatre, I was able to connect with Carrie and Danielle, who were both running the half.  The weather was below 30 degrees, so we were quite happy to be inside and not having to deal with the cold weather until we absolutely needed to.  At about 8:45, we decided to head outside, when another schoolbus pulled up carrying a busload full of runners just arriving.  Mark told us that we wouldn't be starting right on time.  A little after 9am, we all began to assemble at the makeshift startline and after setting up the informal sound equipment, JC made some announcements before I sang the national anthem.  Before long, we were off.

Soon after the start, snow all around
Just as I had remembered from running this course two years ago, the first several miles consisted of some pretty steady downhills, with a short marked uphill here and there; however, like the previous week, my calves began to fail me and I ended up having to walk quite a bit for much of the first five miles of the race.  Just before mile 2, we turned right onto Masthope Plank Road, continuing to walk quite a bit as I tried to manage the pain reverberating along my calf and ankle muscles.

Hunt safely.
As I continued along the road, JC and several other runners in Maniacs gear ran past, and soon, the field began to thin out, with some of us slower runners separated within visible distance of each other.  Among those I befriended were Kino, who I had informally met at other races, and his friend Kenneth, both from NYC.  We stayed together, ending up keeping up a similar pace for several miles.

With it being so sparse and devoid of people, I was pretty sure I'd have a chance encounter with some wildlife, and sure enough, we spotted some deer alongside the course. About four of them were spooked as we ran by, and even ran across the path of the road.  This would be the third time I'd encounter deer in a race, after seeing the fallow dear that make Dublin, Ireland's Preston Park their home during the 2016 Rock 'n' Roll Dublin Half Marathon and a couple deer who decided to run across the course during the 2016 Baltimore Marathon as we passed through the urban city's more pastoral Druid Hill Park northwest of the downtown.

Downed trees from heavy snow...
At least it wasn't snowing DURING the race.
Selfie with the statues with
fellow marathoners
As we continued along Masthope Plank Road, we would pass by Mark's house where I stayed the night before. Unsurprisingly, there was a port-a-potty in his front yard, conveniently located for us runners.  From mile 6, we started to follow the course of the Delaware River to our left.  On the other side of the river was New York. We approached the "center" of Lackawaxen Town, passing a few notable landmarks like some quarried stone statues alongside the road, signage for a stone supplier located out here at this remote location. At around the 8.5 mile mark, we ran under a railroad trestle, then turned left, notably marked with several signs telling us to turn left. Apparently, some folks in past editions of the race had gotten lost by not turning left, and they kept going... along a very sharp uphill along the road.

Slightly downhill... but not terrible.  I'm still cold.
With Danielle and Nora at mile 12.
A few miles later, we turn right just before mile 12; and finally, I run into Nora, whom Danielle had caught up with.  Nora had taken an earlier start, and had made good progress down the road.  Since she had missed my national anthem, I decided to give her her own private rendition, which she greatly appreciated.  After catching my breath and taking a selfie with these two, I continued on.

At mile 12.3 the half marathoners turned around, but the marathoners would continue on along the Towpath Road all the way to the mile 18.8 mark, where there was a turnaround.  These next six miles would be new territory for me, parts I hadn't seen the last time I had done this race two years ago since I had just done the half.

Creepy troll.
The road continued, mostly flat as we headed through the Pennsylvania towns of Rowland (aka Little Norway - with a sign that had a creepy troll on it) and Glen Eyre.  The road followed the curvy Lackawaxen River, a tributary of the Delaware River.  As I continued on forward, the faster marathoners began to come back along the same road.  It was good to see some familiar faces continuing to urge me on, as I continued to get frustrated not finding the turnaround anywhere near.  Eventually, some runners on the way back told me that the turnaround would be right around 18.8, so I hotly anticipated that turn, and hopefully a wind that could help carry me back to Lackawaxen to the finish.

Beautiful shot of the Lackawaxen River in the second half of the race
Nice capture of me running down the Towpath Road during the race.
Bullet holes. Typical.
Just before the turnaround, I ended up meeting Lara, a fellow New Yorker and Marathon Maniac.  She was doing an interval and pace conducive to mine, so we decided to run together all the way to the very end.  We keep up a consistent 2 minutes on, 1 minute off interval for the last seven miles. Like clockwork, we were making some good ground progressing forward, and even in some cases passing other runners.  Along the way, I comment that we have a strong chance to finish the race under 5:30 if we keep this up. We get to the point where we had initially turned right off of Masthope Plank Road, with practically the last 0.2 mile left to go, with only the bridge crossing across the Lackawaxen River before we hit the finish.  Lara had some good closing speed and pushes about 20 feet ahead of me and I keep up as best as I can; the two of us end up crossing in 5:29, perfectly fulfilling my prediction of finishing under 5:30!
Lara and I... finishers!
Victory Headstand!
At the finish, Danielle is there waiting for me, and we grab a quick bite at the food truck (all runners are given a ticket to redeem a free food item; except I lost mine -- but thankfully, I got a replacement!) and then quickly get my headstand photo done near the bridge across the Lackawaxen River before the two of us head out on the road to Philly for our second race of the weekend, hoping that we're headed in the right direction since our cell service was practically non-existent.  We drive the ~3 hours down to Philadelphia, and make it in time for Steve's 100 half marathons celebration dinner!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Jim. Excellent race report. I'm posting it on the Two Rivers Marathon page for more of the world to read!