Sunday, December 6, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015 -- Rehoboth Beach Marathon

State #31, Marathon #39 -- a race I chose because I wanted the medal. Seriously, a random picture of that medal popped up on Facebook, and I was like, Ooooooooo, I want that. So I signed up.

After I signed up, I dug up a longtime running friend, who was actually a running friend of my brother's who I sort of inherited, Marty. I haven't seen him in at least four or five years, and been in only the most casual of contact, but I knew he'd moved to the East Coast and I knew he was doing 50 states, so when I told him I was doing Rehoboth Beach, he was up for doing it too. It is always better to share a room and cut down on expenses, that way there is more money available for more marathons! Plus, running friends are generally easy to get along with and cool to hang out with, a generalization that applies across all the different places I have lived and all the different running friends I've had. So that was another bonus.

Rehoboth Beach Marathon has a stellar reputation in the running community. The marathon has a super active Facebook page which the race organizers are on all the time, posting updates about the marathon, the sponsors, the weather, and everything else. This reputation plus the medal made it an easy choice for my Delaware marathon, but Rehoboth Beach itself is a little bit of a drive. To be precise, a 10-hour-plus drive from Michigan. I love driving, and gas is dirt cheap right now, so that was no problem. The only bad thing is that I ended up having to take Frieda with me.

Originally Will was going to watch the dogs, but then he changed jobs and had to be in California for work on race weekend. It's never hard to find someone to watch Duncan, but Frieda is more of a challenge due to her many and varied unsoundnesses of temperament. So I decided to bring her with me and have her stay in a kennel in Rehoboth Beach overnight. (Cheaper than boarding her in Michigan and having to pay for two or three nights, which again = more money for more marathons.) One thing that was immediately obvious was that she has become a horrible traveler. She was never great in the car because of her tendency to pace, pant, spin, and vocalize, which is why she always rides in a crate. She never settles down during the drive to and from work, but I figured surely she would settle down after an hour or so. Nope. She whined, panted, pawed at the crate, and turned around and around in circles almost the entire drive to Delaware. I stopped every two hours, walked her, played fetch with her, gave her water, and hoped she would settle down, but no. Every curve in the road, every passing semi, every application of brakes, every change in road surface was cause for escalation of her behavior. She was fine when the car wasn't moving; when I took naps in the car, she right away went to sleep in the crate. She is great in a crate in general. But she is AWFUL in a crate in a moving car. I blame Michigan roads with their shitty surfaces and bone-jarring potholes. But there was nothing I could do this time other than, finally, turn up the radio so loud I couldn't hear her, and not look in the mirror at her. I do not plan to repeat a lengthy road trip with Frieda ever again if at all possible, or if I have to, I will get drugs from the vet.

I had originally volunteered to lead an informal 4:15 pace group during a discussion about pace groups (which this race does not have) on the Facebook page, but I changed my mind as the time got closer. Partly because my reason for wanting to lead an unofficial pace group no longer existed (when I volunteered, I wanted to do it as practice for some day being a "real" pace group leader, but then I unexpectedly WAS a real pace group leader at the last minute in Harrisburg, and it was fine and now I know I can do it), but mostly because if I wasn't done with the race and back at the boarding kennel by noon, I would have to wait till 4:00 to pick Frieda up and start my drive back to Michigan. The race started at 7:00. a 4:15 pace group would have me finish at 11:15, and that would cut it a little too close for comfort. So I bailed on the pace group. (Note that I would not have bailed if I had made any kind of formal commitment at all, or was getting anything from leading a group, like a free race entry or anything. But since I wasn't, I felt justified.)

Rehoboth Beach is a super-cute beach town. I'm sure it is a madhouse in the summer, but in December, it was empty except for people who came for the race. Packet pickup (I can't call it an expo since there was only one vendor there) was right in town. The shirt is short-sleeved and neon green. This is the second Day-Glo race shirt I've gotten this year and I really hope it's a trend! Safety first, right? Anyway, after packet pickup, I went back to the hotel and read and napped while I waited for Marty. It was almost 9 by the time he got there and we went out for dinner. One of the local Italian restaurants had half-price pasta, and we got there so late that there was no wait at all. I treated myself to dessert, a giant, gorgeous, sinful bread pudding that was bigger than the really big piece of lasagna I had already eaten. Nevertheless, I ate the whole thing and could barely waddle back to the hotel afterwards.

The hotel was literally a block from the start line, which is a bandstand right on the beach. In the morning Marty went for a warmup jog while I went to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. We strolled down to the start line at 6:50, ten minutes before the gun went off. I had a throwaway shirt with me and as I was messing around with it and with my ear buds, I almost dropped my glove, and thought to myself that I had better be careful not to lose it. Not a minute later, I went to put my gloves back on and, sure enough, I only had one in my hand. I walked back and forth over this tiny area of sidewalk that I had been standing on, right by the bandstand, and no glove. Well, that sucked! The only thing that made it okay was that it wasn't really THAT cold. Low 40's, but the sun was coming up, and weather was supposed to be good all day. I was even wearing shorts. I stuck my hand in my sleeve and decided to make the best of it.

The first mile was west through town, away from the beach, and then we turned back east towards the beach, then north into what I think was a state park but I don't remember the name. The running surface changed from road into crushed gravel, and the trail went through salt marsh and coastal plains with beautiful ocean views for a long time. Then it spit us onto a road for a short out-and-back, then back into town on the same trail. That was my least favorite part of the race even though it was pretty and the headwind that we had had on the "out" part was now a tail wind. I don't like out-and-backs in general, and this one had three of them, but at least the other two were shorter. This one was long, the wind was cold, and it felt like an "elastic trail", the kind that stretches out way longer than you know it actually is.

I had not checked my watch this whole time. I felt like I was running moderately hard but at a sustainable pace. We ran back into town. My stomach wasn't feeling great most of the morning, and I decided I would stop at the next porta-potty That was at Mile 18. I checked my watch and my time was 2:30, which meant I was running well. My legs felt okay and, once I had stopped for a bathroom break, so did my stomach. I thought maybe I could BQ again, no reason I couldn't!

After running through town, we turned onto the final out-and-back, a 2-something mile run down a trail and back. I passed Marty coming the other direction at about Mile 20, which was another good sign. He's really fast, I'm pretty sure always or almost always under 3:00, so for me to see him on course at all meant I was doing okay. Then suddenly it all fell apart, and my GI system went to hell. I literally had to stop four times between 20 and 24. And as soon as I got out of one stop, I started looking for the next. This has never happened to me in a marathon! I've never had to stop at all, even when I had to go on the start line. It was kind of dispiriting, but at the same time I still didn't feel even remotely like puking, just shitting myself, so it wasn't as bad as it could possibly be. I ran when I could and walked when I felt the worst. Also, in the middle of that mess, my ear buds died. They're supposed to have four hours of battery life but they only made it to 3:15. Okay, it was worth a try but I won't be using those again in a race.

I ended up finishing in 3:46:07. I could've done better, but that was still my 4th fastest time ever out of 39 marathons, so I'll take it. I felt fine once I stopped running, and went in search of food. This race is famous for its after-party inside a tent, with unlimited food of all kinds, but the line to get in was horrendous. I stood in it for about five minutes, during which it didn't move at all, and finally gave up and settled for Gatorade, which was the only thing available outside the tent. That was the only thing I didn't like about this whole event. It is totally unacceptable to not have food immediately available for marathon finishes, especially given the very high registration fee and the fact that it was chilly outside and you get cold really fast standing out in the cold wind. I walked back to the hotel. Marty had finished long ago and was in the shower. I wished I had time to take a hot shower, but I really didn't because I was paranoid about traffic congestion in town and not getting to the kennel in time to get Frieda out. I told Marty about my experience and he said, "Do you think it was the bread pudding last night?" Hmmm, possibly. I've always prided myself on my stomach of steel, but that bread pudding was truly monstrous. Maybe next time I'll stick to lasagna and save the bread pudding for AFTER the race.

Anyway, this was a nice last marathon of 2015, my biggest marathon year ever by far. I started out with slow-ish times (although all of those slower races also could be explained by things like muddy trail, excessive heat and humidity, running up a mountain, et cetera) but finished pretty strong:

Right now I only have five marathons on my calendar for next year: Mississippi/Mercedes (Birmingham) Marathon back-to-backs in February, Boston in April, and the I-35 Challenge (Kansas City/Des Moines back-to-backs in October). I'm sure I will add more even though I said I was going to cut back so that I could pay off my car and be debt-free. I can probably live with car payments if it means I get to keep running marathons!