Tuesday, November 25, 2008

3:52:49...With a Little Help From My Friends...

Nearing the half-way point at the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon on Saturday, November 22.

I've said many times that I'd rather run in really cold weather than in extreme heat. In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware this past Saturday, I got my wish. 27 degrees at the start and gusts to 20 mph made what to wear an instant question for all of our Rise Up Runners in town for the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon.

This is a fairly myopic report. If you want to get a good sense and photos for how the race and weekend went for everyone, hope over to the RUR blog and have a look-see. As we've established in the goals post below, my quest on Saturday, aside from having fun, was a sub 4-hour marathon.

My pace was a steady, survival stride, clipping just under 9:00 minutes per mile. Because I'm an idiot--a stubborn one at that--there was never a question that I'd wear anything other than shorts :) I also made the call to wear a Nathan vest without the bladder, so that I could carry gels, Clif Shot Blocks, and S-Caps in an accessible place.

Dominic, James, Joel, Lori, and I all started in a pack, though Dominic distanced himself pretty quickly en route to a 3:29 and change marathon debut. Lori and James were in and out for the first 10 miles, where Joel Shilliday and I ran together and discussed everything from sweet Beach bungalows to the five greatest films of all time, to the fact that the "BRIDGE FREEZES FIRST" and that marshalls along the course were weary of black ice.

I made a point to eat a gel or shot blocks every half hour and take an S-Cap every 40 minutes or so. I had NUUN in my hand-held water bottle, and picked up and drank a cup of half-frozen water at every aid station.

I had two things going for me for pacing and conversation: 1) Joel had announced his goal was to run a sub 2:00 half-marathon. I knew that would fit in perfectly with my goal, so running with Joel worked well until he decided to stretch it out over the last three miles. I knew I had 16 miles to go, so I let him go up ahead a bit. 2) My other secret weapon was Lori Callahan, who is a Honda Accord (or Civic in Lori's case) of consistently quick (3:40 - 3:50) marathons. Chances were, running with Lori would bring me in under goal.

Double-fisting at the half-marathon point on the course, while RUR James Woodring slaps a high-five to Lori Callahan.

Lori caught up at the half-marathon mark, as a slew of other RURs - James Woodring, Mike Keene, and just-finishing Joel were all around to cheer us on and get Keene running his second leg after Joel.

The next 4-5 miles were wwwiiinnnddy, around Cape Henlopen, and back up a straight away taking us back to Rehoboth proper. Lori and I kept a steady pace into a wicked headwind, and I was plenty glad to turn a corner and crank relatively wind free for miles 18 or so on. If memory serves, miles 19 - 22, coming back on to the stellar dirt and gravel Breakwater Trail were among the fastest of the race.

Along about mile 23, I started to hit a rough patch. Not a wall, mind you, but everything became a bit more labored. I told Lori to do her thing and focused in on my own stride, a low arm-swing, keeping running, and picturing a flow, fluid run without leg cramps setting in.

This focus on form and stride was only interrupted as I hit mile markers and checked my watch. I hit mile marker 24 at 3:32, and figured I had a pretty good shot and staying under goal.

I made a point to never walk during the race, keeping forward momentum and mojo, which carried me past mile 25, and turned us back on to the boardwalk for the finish.

As runners approached the inflatable arch that marked the finish line, my stride picked up and I caught Mike Keene and Dominic waiting and cheering at the finish. A space-blanket wrapped Keene held out a paw for a high five and I slapped it and unleashed a howl, to the amusement of spectators at the line. I stopped my watch coming under the chute at 3:52:49. Official finishing times here.

Keene throws a paw up for a high five as Dominic (blue hat) takes it all in as the last of the RURs crossed the line.

The Rehoboth Marathon was the first complete race I have run at the marathon distance, without issue or falling apart. I finally dialed in on food, nutrition, hydration, and electrolytes. If I'm smart, it will give me something to build on as I try to creep the time down a bit lower.

I've got some trail 50Ks on the radar screen for next year. I'm flirting with a second 50-miler at some point (not necessarily next year). But I'm encouraged to keep a road marathon on the calendar, especially since most of our running around here takes place on roads. And to be honest, with the course, amenities, easy travel, and RUR participants, the second Seashore Marathon wouldn't be a bad one to keep on the list!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Is there a more famous "goal" photo in the world at this point than Brandi Chastain's? Wait, were we talking about a different kind of goal? ;)

Saturday is the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon. It will probably be the last race I run in 2008, unless we find a good 10 mile trail race to tack on in December. Either way, it will be my last marathon/plus race of the year. And it will be my first road marathon of the year.

Anyone who knows Rehoboth, and Delaware in general, knows that it's pretty well akin to Maryland's Eastern Shore: flat and surrounded by water. Unlike the mountainous trail races which I/we love to run in, the RBSM is held on the kind of terrain we do our normal road runs on. This makes it a reasonable race to set goals for and push myself to see what I can do.

My past marathons have had a number of caveats--my first marathon distance run, not enough training or preparation, getting sick just before a race, and then a hilly trail marathon. A few of them have brought on leg cramping issues. So I've not run a road marathon where I've been able to get my time where I think it should be.

Our training runs with the Rise Up Runners have put my tempo pace at 8:00 minutes per mile, or the low 8's for a good stretch. My long runs, 20+ have been at about 9:00 minute pace. At Dominic's persistence, we've thrown some Yasso 800's in for speed (though not enough!) and my last 20 mile run came in my leg of the Vermont 50-miler in late September. A couple of 13-15 milers since.

I try to go into every long distance race with the attitude that if I finish and have a good time, then that's enough. And it is. Getting out there and finishing a 26.2-mile race is an accomplishment. Enjoy the process and savor the finish. But setting goals in my running keeps me honest and getting out there.

So what I am after, if all goes well, this time is a sub 4:00 hour marathon. I think the training is there, and the proper pacing leading up. Hydration/nutrition to avoid cramping, and somehow fighting off the cracks in the mental/psychological wall are going to be the key. I like to think I could rock a 3:45 or so if I run the race I can. But we'll see.

In any case, we've got a great crew of our Rise Up Runners going. Dominic, Lori, and I are running the full marathon. Joel and Keene are signed up as a relay team (each running a half-marathon), as are James Woodring and Katherine Binder. Hard to get more motivation and inspiration than running with all these folks!

Saturday is a couple days away. We'll see what the weather holds, what race day holds, and hopefully all look to enjoy ourselves and pre-burn off some Thanksgiving dinner calories!