Yesterday morning I competed in the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in Rehoboth beach Delaware. The decision to run this race goes back to my first marathon last month at Richmond. If you read my Richmond RR I said I was very proud of this personal accomplishment. I was and am. Entering and completing a marathon was something I once thought only crazy people did. (Of course, I was right . . runners rally aren’t playing with a ful deck.) I had entered Richmond full of piss and vinegar SURE that I could go and bang out a 3:30 marathon or better in my first attempt. I had trained hard and, arrogantly, felt I could do that. Long story short I crashed and burned. By all appearances, I finished with a decent time for a first time marathon. I’ve had many people tell me tons of folks would KILL for a sub-4:00 marathon. But even that night after finishing the race as the euphoria wore off and the excitement of the Runner’s World Challenge wound down I found myself unfulfilled and disappointed. Not that I’d finished worse then I expected but by the thought that I’d let myself down. The second half of the race had been a disaster that concluded with me trudging across the line. I had trained hard. I was physically strong. But I was weak mentally and felt that I had betrayed my training. No matter, I was going to try again in the spring at Shamrock. But that was 4 months away. That was 4 long months with every opportunity for injury, illness, or for life to get in the way of training. I was ready NOW! I couldn’t let that dissatisfied feeling smolder and fester all winter. So after a couple of private messages to trusted sources with much experience going back-to-back in big races, I perused the internet and found Rehoboth Beach. A few clicks later, I was signed up.
I mentioned nothing to anyone. I had arrogantly proclaimed my goals for Richmond and felt they were a foregone conclusion. I didn’t even tell my wife. She thought I was traveling to Delaware on business. (Not uncommon.) I had already decided I didn’t want to be set up for failure so if the weather was extreme I was going to skip it altogether. But I didn’t want anyone but me focusing on my performance or my finish. I didn’t want to have that self-induced pressure to perform. I needed to run my own race. My race goal was just to race smart, and strong and not betray my training with arrogance again. I was hoping time-wise for something under 3:40. If I got that then fine . . that would affirm my training. If my time was closer to Richmond then I would feel better about Richmond and affirm that finish as well.
I drove to Rehoboth Beach Friday evening. It was an uneventful drive. This is a small race. 1400 competitors or so for both the ½ and full events. There were several sponsors but the main one was the Rehoboth Beach Running Company. This is a small store right on Rehoboth Avenue. Packet pick-up and race festivities would occur here. They had a tent setup next door to accommodate things. I quickly got my bib, shirt, and a course map and walked down the road to see where the start was. Then it was off to dinner by myself at Applebees (3 cheese Chicken Penne is a great pre-marathon meal). I stayed at the Comfort Inn no more then 10 minutes from the start. Based on the predicted weather I decided to go with my most comfortable tights and Nike Dri-Fit shirt. It is long-sleeved but never feels hot. After pinning on my bib and laying stuff out I went to bed. I also had no less then 4 gels stashed in my running clothes. This was my biggest factor for poor performance at Richmond (lack of fuel) and it wasn’t going to happen again.
Race day was near perfect. Perhaps a bit cold but considering the time of year it could have been terrible. It was around 30 degrees at race start warming to the low 40s by 9:00am or so. I couldn’t tell this the night before but the start at the Rehoboth Avenue Band Shell was right on the water. With a 7:00am start we got to see the beginnings of a pink & salmon ocean sunrise before the gun. Both races went off together with the half-turning around much sooner on the more-or-less out and back course. One of the lessons I learned at Richmond was, for me, a pace group was a bad idea. No problem applying that lesson here . . there were no pace groups. The gun went off in a timely fashion at 7 and we were underway. We all shuffled/walked/ran/stopped/shuffled to the start line and then got up to speed. My plan was to pace around 8:10-8:15 for the first half and then try for a negative split on the second half. I carefully monitored this over the first few miles when one wants to go charging along on a cool morning. I think I verbally admonished myself on several occasions to slow down.
The course was actually quite pretty. A mix of the towns of Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, 2 Delaware State Parks, a nice trail system, and rural Delaware. From miles 4 through about 8 I got talking to a nice young lady from Albany, NY. She was doing 3 marathons in 90 days in order to join a local club. She had qualified for Boston in an earlier race. I gave her a congratulatory high five. At mile 7.22 the leader of the half went back the other way and he was positively FLYING. The guy on the bicycle escorting him could barely keep up. About that time I realized while talking to my fellow runner was fun I was violating another lesson from Richmond. Don’t get so caught up being social that you don’t run your own race. In Richmond I had run too fast because of this. Now I realized I was running too slow. So after the mile 8 water stop I picked it up and we parted ways.
The turnaround for the half was near mile 10. (Not the exact path back). After this there were a lot less runners. Even before then, the water stops here were much easier compared to Richmond just because of the much smaller number of runners. I can’t imagine what NYC or Marine Corp must be like. I was never lonely. There were always plenty of other runners in sight and groups of 2 and 3 here and there. But my pacing stayed consistent. Before entering Cape Henlopen State Park we hit the ½. Time to step it up a bit. I popped my new iPod Shuffle in and hit play. I did not drop the pace significantly but definitely picked it up a bit for a strong second half. After looping through the park we began the trek back toward Rehoboth Beach. In Richmond I crashed right before mile 18 and remember gloomily staring at the 18 mile marker for a long time as I walked toward it. As I briskly ran toward 18 now, I looked around and saw nobody was looking and gave it a one-finger salute as I ran by.
The miles began chipping away . . 19, 20, 21. Around then there was a small semblance of a wall. That nagging doubt “Just wak”. But I didn’t listen. The wall was small and I jumped over it and kept going. Fueling was a gel ever 6 miles followed by water at the next two stations, then some Gatorade. At mile 22 they had bananas and M&Ms. I ate half a banana. It tasted like manna from Heaven!
At mile 25 I was really excited and focused on the finish. I looked at my watch and realized I would easily beat my 3:40 goal. There was another water stop at 26 but I’m not sure who in their right mind would stop for water with .2 miles to go. Certainly not me!!! I cranked on by there and crossed the line with 3:37 something on the clock. It had taken a good 30-40 seconds to cross the line and I didn’t remember to stop my Garmin until I had gotten my medal, water, and space blanket. At that point it said 3:36:50 so I’m pretty sure once official chip-time results are posted it will be 3:36 something. This is approximately a 17 minute PR over Richmond. Not too surprising considering the second half there.
A couple of notes on the race itself. This was a smaller event but very well run. There was plenty of bathroom facilities at the start and plenty of water and Gatorade stops. (More-or-less every 2 miles.) There weren’t tons of people out cheering along the course. A few now and again and a bunch at the finish. The post-race food was adequate but I wouldn’t pay the extra money to buy a guest wrist-band if you had someone with you. There are a BUNCH of restaurants around the finish. If you have guests and friends just go to one of those. The shirts and finishers medals are very nice. If you are local and want a great late-season race on a VERY flat course this would be a good one. Note that if it were windy it would probably be miserable. We didn’t have a breath of air. It is also worth mentioning that there were runners from 40 States in attendance. I don’t think Delaware has a lot of marathons so for those looking to do 50 States it is one of the only opportunities.
Well . . I apologize that this was so long winded. If you stuck with me . . thanks! I hope you enjoyed the read.
1 8:17 14 8:07
2 8:02 15 7:56
3 8:02 16 8:03
4 8:15 17 7:59
5 8:07 18 8:11
6 8:23 19 7:54
7 8:18 20 8:12
8 8:16 21 8:03
9 8:02 22 8:33*
10 8:05 23 9:25*
11 8:01 24 8:43**
12 8:07 25 9:36**
13 8:03 26 8:14
.2 – ? (TBD)
* This is where I found the little wall (and stopping to eat the banana)
** I think just running out of gas. These were tough miles.