Getting There: My race weekend began later than anticipated, and by 5:30pm on Friday, this was my view:
That would be Ninth Avenue, which is not quite where I was hoping to eat my pasta feast. Pro tip: never, ever, ever go through the Lincoln Tunnel at 5:30pm on a rainy Friday. Unless you have a spare hour to waste.
Once I made it through the Lincoln Tunnel, it was mostly an easy trip down to Rehoboth, and I was kept company by 92.5 XTU, Philadelphia's country station, for much of it. I checked into the Holiday Inn Express, arranged for late check out in the morning, and headed to my room.
Because I didn't get to Rehoboth until almost 9:30pm, I wasn't able to pick up my bib ahead of time. Nonetheless, I did at least try to get myself organized for the morning in the form of a bib(less) person, and set up the coffee maker.
Then I drank my beer, set my alarm for 4:30am, and went to bed.
Race Morning: I woke up, hit start on the coffee maker, unpacked my peanut butter and bread, and started jamming out to "Club Can't Handle Me" on repeat while I got dressed. I was aiming to leave for the race at 5:30am for a 7:00am start, so I'd be sure to have plenty of time to pick up my bib. After 3 cups of coffee and one facial scalding (cup 3 was extremely hot, having been on the burner for almost an hour), I got in the car.
4 minutes later I arrived at the start and found a parking spot approximately 30 feet from bib pick up. Which was inhabited by 4 people, all of whom were volunteers happy to help me. The entire process took 11 seconds, and I had 80 minutes to sit in my car, staying warm and dry, until the start. I did make a pit stop in the bathroom (best part of beach races is that they always have real bathrooms), but otherwise sat in car listening to country music (94.7 WDSD, and yes I did find country stations everywhere between New York and Delaware). About 6:40am, I got out of the car and met up with my friend Seth who was also running (and had a race morning mishap when he discovered he'd only packed one sneaker...). The race was so small, all he had to do was start shouting "Claire?" and we easily found each other.
The weather was perfect in my view: overcast, a little misty, and in the mid-40s. I was boggled by people walking by in tights and long sleeves, and for a split second considered bringing a throwaway hoodie to the start, but ultimately was happy with a tank and shorts, along with arm warmers and gloves. And my trash bag overcoat, obviously.
The small field (fewer than 1,000 finishers in the full) meant that there were no corrals, but I also didn't have a problem getting close to the front. And it seemed like participants were good about self-policing and not toeing the line if they were planning on running 10:00/mi. Having looked at last year's results, I figured my 3:30 goal time should have me in the first quarter of the field or so.
In the minutes leading up to the gun (actually, there was no gun... people just started moving forward), I heard a woman near me saying she was planning on running 7:26s.
This is what's called foreshadowing...
The Running: I crossed the starting mat and was immediately able to run at what I deemed to be my target race pace (my Garmin would differ, but I didn't look for the first mile so I wouldn't stress myself out); there were no crowds to weave through, and I was easily able to carve out some space for myself. The first mile clicked in 7:26. And what do you know? I was right with the woman from the start.
Now here's the part where you say "was this your first rodeo? You know that even your A goal only required an 8:00/mi pace right? Why in God's name were you going so fast, especially when you admittedly didn't do any speed work at all?"
I don't know.
Part of me felt good, part of me was secretly hoping I was magically fast even without speed work, and part of me was cognizant of the fact that I relied on the taboo "banking time" strategy when I PRed last fall. In any case, in my 14th marathon, I made the same mistake every first time marathoner makes and went out too fast.
Mile 2: 7:14
Mile 3: 7:17
Mile 4: 7:28
Mile 5: 7:27
Okay at this point, I realized I was being stupid and even as banking time goes, this was excessive. Also, (un)surprisingly unsustainable. 5 miles in and I was sort of tired. So I made a bargain with myself: run hard for an hour (7:30s), then ease up for the next hour (7:45s), then see where you are and hopefully run harder for another hour. Apparently I wasn't considering anything after 3 hours, likely because I knew it was going to suck no matter what. Anyway, I pressed on apace, self-loathing increasing all the while.
I should also mention that, unbeknownst to me ahead of time, probably 10 miles of this marathon were on a dirt/gravel trail, beginning at mile 6. Already struggling to hold on to 7:30s, this was not the most welcome sight.
Mile 6: 7:30
Mile 7: 7:28
Mile 8: 7:28
I hit 8 miles in exactly an hour and was quite relieved to be able to ease up a bit. And it was amazing how much better I felt as soon as I stopped fighting and just relaxed. Unfortunately, it was precisely at this point that I came upon someone who was also relaxed... in the bowels. Yep, while I managed to not shit myself, another girl was not so lucky. Poor thing was still chugging along, hopefully because of her dogged determination and not because she didn't realize what had happened (which was very apparent). I avoided eye contact and passed her.
Mile 9: 7:39
Mile 10: 7:44
Mile 11: 7:45
Mile 12: 7:40
Mile 13: 7:37
According to the official results, my half marathon split was 1:37:44, which is a PR. Which is ridiculous and indicative of terrible race pacing, because no one should run their half marathon PR during the first half of a full marathon, and also means the second half took me 12 minutes longer than the first. That's nearly a minute per mile slower. Yes, I'm suitably embarrassed by all of this. Moving on...
At mile 13, we entered Cape Henlopen State Park. While this course was by no means anything but very flat, there were a few changes in elevation in the park (total gain: 40 feet. Literally), and considering how much energy the first 8 miles took out of me, I was quite unhappy, and fearful I might actually be hitting "the wall" 13 miles in. Thankfully, the "hills" only lasted a mile. A lot of the route through the park consisted of loops and hairpins and out-and-backs, and at one point as I made a 180 degree turn around a fence post I said to the girl next to me "who designed this course?" But mostly it was scenic, and I was still alive, so I did my best to hang on and enjoy it. And pretend I hadn't previously suggested to myself I run the third hour hard, because I had absolutely no capacity for that.
Despite the twists and turns, the dirt path, and the fact that we were in a park, I was really surprised at the level of spectator support at this race. Sure, there were some sparse parts, but for a small field, and a damp day, there were a lot of people out. Thank you, citizens of Rehoboth.
Mile 14: 7:51
Mile 15: 7:47
Mile 17: 7:55
Mile 18: 7:51
My Garmin had been pretty much accurate from the start, but between miles 17 and 18, I somehow gained about 3 tenths of a mile. I ran into a guy (in the Dogfish Head Brewery, natch) after the race who asked if I'd experienced it as well, so I wasn't the only one. I also know that last year, the course was short, so maybe the race directors were sticking it to us to make up for that. Anyway, my recorded splits going forward are based on my Garmin.
From here, we headed out of the park and back towards the start, the same way we came. Which meant more dirt trails. Except this go around, I was grateful for the soft ground under my increasingly tired feet. Mile 19 was also the first (of the next 7...) I dropped over 8:00/mi. As usual, I started doing math in my head, calculating just how slow I could get and still run a 3:30. This is where I can't overstate the greatness of the pace bracelet. I hit mile 20 around 2:35, and by looking at my bracelet I knew this meant I could run as slow as 9:00/mi and still hit my A goal. Theoretically this was more than feasible, but I'd also never spent the first 8 miles of a marathon nearly sprinting, so it was hard to say how much energy I'd have. Rather than easing up and enjoying that banked time, I tried holding on as long as I could (are you sensing a theme?!)
Mile 19: 8:09
Mile 20: 8:26
Mile 21: 8:17
Mile 22: 8:12
Mile 23: 8:06
Mile 24: 8:14
Mile 25: 8:22
Mile 26: 8:25
|I'm making that face not just because I was unhappy with my race, but also because the ribbon on my medal really smelled bad because I insisted on wearing it before I took my shower.|
The End: I crossed the finish line in 3:27:37 - two and a half-ish minutes ahead of my A goal, and largely disappointed in the race I ran. I wasn't smart. And I was pissed that, having worked my tail off at the track and having given up beer for a full month before Smuttynose last year, I only ran 3 minutes faster there than I did in Rehoboth. So either training is totally overrated, or if I had done even a little bit more of it, or ran a little bit of a smarter race, I could have PRed.
I get it; I'm being ungrateful. 3:27:37 is my second fastest marathon, and everything I'm unhappy with about it is my own damn fault. And while some of my ability to not completely fall apart and end up running 9- or 10-minute miles, or walking, late in the race I owe to luck, some also comes from experience; I've run enough marathons to know how hard I can push myself and for how long late in the game. That said, success in the marathon for me is more than just the time on the clock. As I've said before, part of what makes the marathon my favorite distance is the planning and execution of a strategy that goes into it. And "hang on and don't die" isn't the most complex or effective strategy I've ever come up with. So I'm still left with a lot of "shoulda/woulda/coulda," which isn't how you want to feel after a marathon. What you want to feel is drunken and euphoric, for the record.
(I did take steps towards "drunken an euphoric" in the finish tent, where I drank a 16 Mile IPA and ate pancakes, and again I applaud the fine folks of Rehoboth for their finish line spread.)
So You Want To Run Rehoboth Beach: I'd recommend this race. It's a flat and scenic course, even if it potentially was a little long. There's surprisingly good race support, both from spectators and volunteers, and I was impressed with the race day organization. Getting to and parking at the start made for the most stress free race morning I've ever had. Hotels in the area are plenty and cheap considering it's the off season. While I didn't stay long, the finish line party was impressive, with a variety of food options, unlimited beer that wasn't shitty Mich Ultra, and a band. There is potential for wind, it being December and by the shore, but if you get a day like I did, you're in for pretty ideal marathon conditions. At $107, it's on the expensive side, but what can you do?)
In any case, number 14 is under my belt. I learned a few things about my self as a marathoner, and I'm excited (and also scared) to see what I can do the next time I fully commit myself to the marathon. But before then, I've got big (/long) plans for the spring...
Here's to the next great adventure!