The Nor’witch Marathon in Vermont was my 61st marathon, 48th state, and (because of the rain, cold, and hills) one of my most challenging races yet!
The race was in its second year and was held on Sunday, October 27th, 2019.
The Nor’witch Marathon
The week before this marathon was pretty crazy. On Monday I drove back to Hartford, CT and flew out to Montana to be at my uncle’s funeral and see family. I got in three short runs in MT but felt like I spent too much time sitting and not enough time sleeping.
I got back to Hartford the day before the marathon, drove to Vermont, and checked into my hotel. Packet pick up was low key and I met two MTA listeners Amy and Ingrid who lived in the area for dinner. We had a great time talking and during the meal were able to witness a Halloween parade that went right by the restaurant windows.
I had a good night’s sleep and work up hoping that the forecast had changed. Alas, it was in the 30’s F and 100% chance of rain. I decided on the warmer outfit that I had packed and wore compression socks, tights, short sleeve race shirt, arm warmers, a water resistant shell, and brimmed hat.I had two packets of plain oatmeal with a UCAN bar melted in it for breakfast. Then I drove to the race starting area in the Norwich town green and found a parking spot easily. They were set up under a gazebo to stay dry and I got free my race shirt which wasn’t available the day before. It was a long sleeve technical shirt with a Halloween theme.
I saw Amy and Ingrid again as well as Kate and Emily who live in the area. Their kids are 5th generation locals! We took a quick picture and everyone lined up in the starting area. The race consisted of a half marathon, marathon, and 50k and all distances started at 9am.
The course began at the town green in Norwich and proceeded along roads out of town. The race was described this way over on Ultra Sign up,
This scenic, single-loop course features rolling hills, sweeping views, and small town Vermont charm. Challenging in true Vermont tradition, with approximately 1400′ of gain in the Half’witch, 3050′ of gain in the Full’witch, and 3550′ of gain in the Ultra’witch! The course is not, repeat, NOT certified! Being hilly, you can also expect to run between 30-45 minutes slower than your average flat marathon time making a BQ pretty unlikely for many if not most.
The course was open to traffic so runners were directed to stay on the left side of the road. There were police officers helping direct traffic near town and the course was well marked to designate which distance you were running. There were no mile markers out on the course but arrows marked any turns.
We quickly got out onto rural roads and it was hilly from the beginning. You know when most roads you pass have the word “hill” in the name (like Blood Hill Road) that things might get challenging.
The surface was around 50% pavement and 50% dirt/gravel roads for the marathon. The rain was coming down steadily and there were tons of puddles. My feet got soaked early on and it was a shock to feel ice cold water rushing into my shoes.
The half marathon split off back into town at mile 12 and the marathoners continued on up a hill that went for 6 miles. It felt super challenging so I ran the flats, downhills, and moderate hills and power walked the steeper sections. The marathon had an out and back that started at mile 15 and went to mile 18 before turning around. It was a small race and the runners quickly spread out. I didn’t see any other runners for a few miles of the race.
They had a photographer out on the course and the race gives out free photos. The Half’witch had a very walker-friendly time limit of 6 hours, 7 hours for the Full’witch and 8 for the Ultra.
The aid stations were located every 3-5 miles and the volunteers were amazing, especially considering they were out in the wet and cold as well. They had water, sports drink, gels, candy, and occasionally other food choices at each aid station. They encouraged runners to carry their own cup or bottle to cut back on waste so I carried a small water bottle that I refilled from time to time.
I used UCAN bars for my primary fuel and had some candy along the course as well. The peanut M&M’s tasted particularly good, although it was so wet that the package was saturated and the color was melting off the outside. Still, my energy levels were steady and my stomach felt good. The hardest thing with fueling was that my hands were so cold that they felt like frozen claws. It took twice as long to open things and fumble around with my fuel.
My goal going into the race was to listen to my body and stay strong. I knew I wasn’t 100% recovered from the Hartford Marathon two weeks ago so I took pace out of the equation since I knew it would be super hilly as well. I didn’t look at my watch until after mile 25 when I passed a very cold runner who asked what mile we were at. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be that far along so it was a pleasant surprise.
I enjoyed the beautiful scenery despite the steady rain and cold. There was still about 50% of the fall foliage left and fall is my favorite season. The Vermont countryside was just gorgeous and we ran past a lot of rural houses and farms. Since the weather conditions were a challenge I tried to keep my mental space very positive. I focused on gratitude and courage again, told myself “you can do hard things” a lot, spent time praying, and just tried to run strong and relaxed.
In the last few miles my glutes were feeling very sore, definitely not totally recovered from the previous marathon. My left hamstring also started twinging and spasoming especially on the uphills which wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. The downhills felt really good because the impact was more on my quads. Although with how wet the ground was I was hoping that I didn’t slip and fall on the downhills.
The Finish Line:
In the last half mile the course went back into the town of Norwich to the finish area at the town green. The finish line had a banner but there weren’t any timing mats there or along the course. They simply met us at the finish line with a medal and took down our time.The medal was very cool (even though it was the same for all distances) featuring a witch riding a broom that moves between the distances.
My official time was 4:05:51 and I saw Ingrid at the finish line and we got a couple pictures.
I also saw the first place male 50k finisher come in. He was shivering so bad that they put him in front of a couple heaters to warm up. The first place man finished soon after that as well. They had hot apple cider, some snacks, and pizza at the town hall for finishers.
I had been dreaming about sitting in my warm vehicle with heated seats so I headed over there pretty quick. I changed out of my wet clothes in the suburban (they were dripping) and it felt amazing to be semi-dry. Then I headed back to my hotel for a warm shower, ate, and called Trevor. I was so happy when my feet and hands were finally warm again.
They also gave out prizes for the Best Costume and Spirit of the Witch. There were a few people who were dressed up, mostly half marathoners. MTA listeners and sisters Kate and Emily had matching Captain America Costumes and Ingrid had a turtle costume. I also saw a bird, banana, fairy…. I think the rest of us were mostly worried about warmth and not asthetics.
The next day I had a 8 hour drive home to PA.
1st Place Mix Up
At first it looked like I had won the marathon. When I got back to the gazebo I was told, “Congratulations, you’re our first place finisher.” I was like, “WHAT?!?”
They gave me a very nice slate plaque with the words “first place female marathon” to take home. Later we were told that I was the 1st place overall finisher. I was shocked. But alas, the next day I got this message from the race directors:
Hi Angie, Thank you so much for choosing the Nor’witch as marathon #61 and coming to run with us in Vermont (and bringing your listeners)! I wish we were reaching out for a happier reason. Unfortunately we have just realized that our timing staff and the volunteer assigning awards had a communication error that led to a snafu in mis-classifying another marathon finisher. Another woman, Katie Beebe of Middlebury, VT actually smoked the entire marathon field by almost half and hour and basically kept on running right to her car as soon as she finished, not even stopping to collect a medal. The volunteers assumed she was a pre-race dropdown and that you were the first female (and overall) finisher of the marathon, and redundant checks didn’t catch it until we finalized the results tonight. We wanted to let you know as soon as we realized what happened. . .This is 100% our fault and we take full responsibility for the mix-up. We’d like to offer you and your husband an entry to any of our events and accommodations. We’d love to see you in Vermont again sometime. We deeply apologize for the mix-up and thank you for bearing with us in sorting everything out. We’d love to send you the correct place award if you’d like it. Please let us know.-Eliza & Adam
Trevor is calling it “that time Angie almost won a marathon” 😂.
Apparently I finished 2nd place overall. Big congrats to Katie Beebe on winning the race. I’m just happy to have Vermont checked off my 50 state list. Only two states more to go! New Hampshire and Hawaii.
Great race recap, Angie! I’m glad to know that your assessment of the non-ideal race day conditions matched mine. This was definitely one of those “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” races and I’m so glad to have been there and gotten to meet you and other MTA listeners. Congrats on your super finish and thank you for inspiring me to stay strong too!!
Thanks Amy! It was fantastic meeting you too. Way to run strong despite those conditions 🙂