Yesterday, I capped off a 6 week recovery, training, and taper period with the running of the OBX Marathon.
The weekend kicked off with my 6 drive to the Outer Banks. I arrived around noon and went directly Nags Head Woods for a run on the trail section of the OBX course.
Then, it was over to the Marathon Expo to pick up my packet and a chance to check out the booths at the Expo. They had changed things around a bit. And, the expo seemed smaller than in previous years. I was probably done with the expo in maybe an hour and half.
Before heading to the hotel, I stopped by a local pasta place that I have frequented the last couple of years. The pasta is good not great but good.
With a full tummy, it was time for the hotel check and getting cleaned up. I had promised to attend the VIP party for the race sponsors that night. The party was okay, I spent some hanging out, but I was not thrilled with their choices of food. Everything was heavy and deep fried. Definitely, it was not the ideal food for a marathon runner, but I half expected it. 99% of the attendees were race sponsors and they were clearly enjoying the open bar and free food.
I ended up picking something to eat on the drive back to the hotel.
Saturday morning, I tried to relax and sleep in a little. Knowing full well, I would be up early on Sunday morning.
With 4 miles complete through the Nags Head Woods and a little Tabata workout done, my final bale of hay was then stored safely in the barn.
I eat a banana and bagel that swiped from the hotel's continental breakfast on my way out.
I made one quick stop at the expo again before heading off for some lunch.
Later in the afternoon, I tried to take a walk on the beach but the wind was blowing so hard that I was getting sand blasted.
I finished the day off with dinner in the room and head off to sleep by 8pm.
Sunday, I was up by 3:50 AM and headed out the door to meet the shuttles at the K-mart parking by 5:30.
As usual, the marathon shuttle was very sparse just 6 men and no elite women.
The weather race morning was probably the best that I have seen in my 3 years at OBX. The temperature was about 50 degrees 80% humidity, and no wind. Personally, I was hoping for a tail wind, but if I have to have a choice between no wind and a head wind, I will take no wind every time.
I followed my typical race preparation and was at the starting line about 10 minutes prior to the start. I spotted John Crew and Ryan Wood. Also saw Ulf at the starting line and Tommy rode over with us in the Elite van.
After long pray and the singing of the national anthem, they started the race with the firing of a small cannon. Yes, it was actually tiny working cannon. Luckily, no one was in front of it when they fired it.
John jumped out immediately to the lead followed by several African runners and some tall white guy. Ulf and Ryan headed out in front of me as I was trying to determine how my legs felt. Tommy settled in beside me and Mark Render running off our shoulders.
Ulf and Ryan pulled out to about a 10 to 12 second lead on us by the mile. By the time, we reached mile 2 Ulf and Ryan had split up. Tommy dropped off the pace and Mark and I continued to churn along. Around mile 3, I asked Mark about this age; he was in 45-49 age group. Ut-O, this was bad news for me. Ryan was probably 30 seconds ahead and Ulf was about 15 seconds ahead of us. I told Mark that we needed to catch Ulf because he was in our age.
Mark didn't say anything so I wasn't sure if he was committed to the effort or not. So I made the decision that I was going to reel in Ulf if I could. Over the next 3 miles, I slowly cut the deficit until I was running right behind him.
That's when strangeness began. Ulf would slow down and the surge ahead. It took me a while to figure it out -his slowing and then looking at his watch before surging to the next mile mark. At first, I would try to match his surges, that is, until I figured him out. Then, I just settled in and waited until we passed the mile and waited on him to come back to me. Just before the Wright Brothers Park, Mark joined in our little group which worried me. Any times someone comes up after 7 miles, it raises a question if this is where they are making their push. Fortunately, Ulf put in one of his surges around the park and Mark dropped off.
Having run this course for the 3rd time, I knew what was coming and where. I started focusing on intermediate goals. First, I needed to stay with Ulf through 10 miles. Then, it was staying with him through the Nags Head Woods.
Coming off the Trail, we hit the roads running almost stride for stride. This type of racing is just like a Texas Poker. One runner makes a move and watches to see what the other does. Each runner gauges the other for a reaction before making his next move.
For me, every year when I come off the trail, I always try to focus on relaxing and getting my road rhythm back.
Passing 15 miles, I didn't feel that I was on the fence, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to go too much faster. Then, we made the first turn into a neighborhood. There was a water stop with people handing out water on both sides of the road. I went left the shortest distance and Ulf went right. By the time that we passed through I probably had a 15 to 20 meters gap on him.
This was an unexpected advantage and I wasn't sure if I wanted to press my advantage just yet. After a quick review of my options, I choose to hold the pace I was running. I didn't want to slow down and wait on Ulf. What I hoped would happen is that he would push closer to his red line to catch me. The water stop had been an unexpected opportunity to get an advantage while expending no additional energy.
I could hear his footsteps and him breathing but I didn't look back. I cleared through the neighborhood and he hadn't caught me.
We covered another long stretch on 158 before turning into the next neighborhood. As I made the turn, I could a glimpse of a runner maybe 50 yards back. My first thought, Ulf was hanging tough and we were going to battle right to the end.
I went about 100 yards before started this particular neighborhood looped. Suddenly, I started hearing footsteps again and heavy breathing again. Crap, Ulf had reeled me in less than ¼ mile. I thought maybe I had cracked and was slowing. I could feel him coming up on my shoulder.
All of a sudden, he was there. I looked over and it wasn't Ulf at all, it was Ryan. I had to do a double take. I thought that he was in front of us. I asked what happen and he said that he had to take a bathroom break at 13 miles.
Ryan slowly pulled in front and started to open a gap on me. At this point, we were passing by 19 miles and I had no idea how far Ulf was behind and didn't want to look.
I took stock of the situation. I had 7 miles to run. Yeah, I could cover this distance no problem but I didn't want to go into the red doing it.
With each passing mile, I evaluated how I felt and adjusted my effort to match. I didn't want to bonk and I wanted something left in the tank – just in case Ulf suddenly showed up. And, I knew it was better to give up 2, 3, 4, seconds per mile than cross red line and start losing major chunks of time.
Going up and over the bridge, this diesel truck was matching me stride for stride and sucking up all of my good oxygen. I just wanted him to go away.
Coming off the bridge, I made sure to lean forward and use my quads to take pounding. Thereby, I wasn't exposing my hamstrings to any strain – live and learn. I am never too old.
At this point, the ½ marathoners was spreading across the road and making it very difficult to pass them.
I made the first turn and headed toward Manteo. Coming up on the final 2 turns on the course, I took careful note of the ½ marathoners and when I made the turn, I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if there was anyone new following me. With the finish being slow close, I didn't want to be surprised.
Just past 26 miles, I took my final peek and didn't see anyone close. For the first time, 26 miles I could fully relax and enjoy the final .2 miles.
I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin at 2:41:33 having just run 26.45 miles. For the first time, I turned around and looked back. I didn't see another runner in sight.
Only later did I learn that the next runner was nearly a mile behind me.
We were met by one of the elite crew who escorted us to an area where we could change, rest, drink, and eat.
Setting down first the first time in nearly 3 hours, I needed to change clothes and shoes, but I didn't really want to. From about 10 miles on, I knew I was developing a bad blister on both feet. By 20 miles, I knew they were really bad (Oh, and painful). One blister is bad enough but a blister on both feet that there is nothing worse.
I pulled off my shoe and my sock and the bottom of my left foot was red. The blister had burst. The blister on my right hadn't burst but it looked bad and needed to be lanced. These were probably the worst blisters that I have ever had during a marathon – just part of life.
After changing, I hung out with Charlie, Ulf, Ryan, John, and Tommy for a while before heading out for the awards.
The women's awards went smoothly but the men's awards – not so much. Some guy had signed up for the marathon but decided to do just the ½ marathon. His ½ marathon time placed him 2nd place overall in the marathon. Essentially, he skewed all of the awards. Jim and the timing team had to redo everything.
But the wait was worth it, I finished 7th overall, 3rd USAT&F Open, 1st USAT&F – NC and RRCA Master's Champion. This was the 3rd year in a row that I have been lucky enough to capture all of these awards.
And, I couldn't have done it without all of the running buddies who keep me going when I was struggling to put one foot in front of another.
To all of you, I extend a heart thanks and appreciation for making the Charlotte Running Community one of the best around.
Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner