This past Saturday, I ran my second marathon, the 6th Annual Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Rehoboth is our family's default vacation spot each summer - my in-laws have had a beach house down there for over 25 years, and I've developed quite a fondness for the area in the 22+ years I've vacationed there. So I was especially looking forward to this.
The trip down on Friday, though, was pure hell. A trip that generally takes around 2 hours, 45 minutes on a good day took over 5 hours this time. Massive traffic delays, along with bad weather here in Virginia and sporadic backups until we reached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland was the culprit. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, offered to do the driving, since she knew I'd be a raging idiot if I were behind the wheel (and she would be correct).
Our late arrival meant I missed packet pickup on Friday night and would have to do the duty nice and early on Saturday before the race. As it was, I was the first person in line at 5:30 AM on Saturday, which gave me time to go back to my hotel (.3 mile from the start and right at the finish line) and stay warm before the gun. It was 29 degrees with a light rain both at 5:30 and at the 7 AM start.
Being such a small race (just under 1,000 for the marathon and about 1,300 for the half), the course wasn't too congested as the race started. No matter, because the race band that I ordered from Races2Remember had me at a 10:02 pace for the first mile, which I easily achieved (I actually ran 9:59). As a matter of fact, I was hitting all of my goal paces on the band, and running quite comfortably as we entered Cape Henlopen State Park at about the 13.1 mile mat. At this point, I was at 2:04:00 on the dot, and my goal for halfway was 2:04:14 - so I was only 14 seconds faster over 13 miles than planned. No problem, right?
There was a timing mat just before mile 15 that the race director announced, before the race, was at the top of a hill, and you had to hit it to avoid being DQ'd. As it was, it was at an overlook of the Atlantic Ocean where you could see Cape May, NJ in the distance. It was also an annoying circle around a small parking lot just to hit the mat. It was at this point, after climbing the hill, that my race went "downhill", so to speak.
Coming back down Route 9 at about mile 16.5, I pretty much hit the wall. My left quad started cramping, and my feet were really bothering me. This was the same left quad problem I had at Marine Corps Marathon in 2012, and almost at the same mile marker (18 in MCM). I attributed my cramp at MCM due to poor fueling, but in this race, I was fueling properly, so I was baffled. As for my feet, I'll get to that later.
I slowed considerably by now, and made it to mile marker 20 before I decided that the rest of the race would have to be run-walk. My Garmin was .1 mile ahead of the mile markers, so when my Garmin beeped on the mile (by my watch), I walked until reaching the actual mile marker, then jogged until the next beep. My splits from here to the end roughly put me at a 12:00 pace per mile. In short, it was an epic struggle.
As I got to mile 26, and could see the finish line, I started searching for my wife and son, who had accompanied me this weekend. After 41 races, this was the first time they had been at the finish line for me. As I rounded the curve to the finish, I saw my son pointing and jumping up and down, cheering. I am going to readily admit: I was so happy to see him that I teared up as I crossed the finish line and got my medal. After the struggles I had over the last 10 or so miles, it put it all in perspective - he didn't care that my performance wasn't what I expected - his Daddy just finished a marathon!!
I finished in 4:30:42, and the silver lining in this is that is was a 5-second improvement over my MCM time, so, yeah, a new PR.
My struggles can be traced back to my training. I only completed one 20-miler in this training cycle, and only one other long run of 18 miles. Everything else, long-run wise, was 16 miles or less. And 16 was where I crashed. Coincidence? I don't know.
As for my feet - about 2 weeks ago, I put a pair of sneakers (Brooks Adrenaline 13) in a box and marked them "Marathon Shoes". They only had 200 miles on them, so they would be the ones. Nice and broken in. Well, apparently TOO broken in. I should have inspected them before this, because when I took them off after the race, the entire big toe area on my right foot was worn away, and a hole was forming in the toe box. In short, these shoes were dead a few weeks ago, and I should have used fresher ones. Not saying this would have allowed me to run my 4:10, but it could have contributed some to my leg fatigue (which was really a result of my poor training).
I had already decided weeks before this race that this would be my last marathon, and my struggles only solidified that decision. I really don't care to train in the manner necessary to run the race I want to run. For those of you who run marathons, and run them well, I applaud you. Marathoning is quite an achievement, and I wish I enjoyed it more. The whole spectacle of a marathon is an awesome experience. But I find that I much more enjoy running 10-Milers and Half-marathons (and the training for both) than I do the marathon.
As for the Rehoboth Beach race, if you're looking for a nice, small marathon, with good crowd support and a nice, flat route, I whole-heartily endorse it. I will very much consider coming back again for the half-marathon. But this was my 26.2 swan song.