Sunday morning around 3:30 AM I just got up. I didn't feel like sleeping anymore. My marathon was starting in a few hours and after months of training; I felt that I was ready for it.
The start was a couple of miles from the finish so most people took the buses over. I opted for the same approach. My hotel was only a quarter mile from the buses.
I talked to a few others during the ride. For one guy, this was to be his first marathon. Our ride only lasted a few minutes and the buses dropped us off in an empty parking lot to wait for the start.
Preparation is everything. I pulled out my extra large towel and found a building to lean against. I then settled in for the hour plus wait until the start.
Fortunately, I found a couple of talkative runners nearby and we passed the time swapping stories about races that we had run or were planning to run.
When 6:15 AM came, I quickly shifted out to my racing gear. I dropped my bag with the baggage check van and then made a final stop by the porta potties.
Because Wrightsville beach has some bride construction going over to the island, the race organizers setup this weird wave start. Anyone slower than 12 minutes would start at 6:20. The main race would start at 6:40. Usually, I expect to be catching people in the latter stage of a marathon when there is an adjoining ½ marathon but not in the first few miles. I tried to keep an open mind and hoped for the best. Side note here, I passed what I believe was the last of the wave one runners at 7 miles into the race. I guess not everyone in the wave one start was running 12 or more minutes per mile.
This was my first visit to Wrightsville Beach so I don't know how many running stores are in the area. What I do know is that I saw a lot of TrySports jerseys in the crowd. I also go lots of encouragement from people along the course yelling "go TrySports" and even a couple of cyclist sporting the TrySports colors along the course. I met Lou who works in the local TrySports store and we even know some of the same TrySports people.
I joined the rest of the runners getting in some strides before the start. Sun rise is 7:20 this time of year in Wrightsville Beach so we were doing everything by street light. I chatted with a couple of the other guys at the start and we were trying to figure who was running the marathon and who was running the half. We all had the same bib style so we were not having any luck with a visual identification.
Finally, we are off. After months of waiting, I am anxious and the adrenaline was flowing.
During the first mile, I am trying to find my rhythm. I am also trying to pay close attention to the road ahead. The darkness hides gentle disruptions in the pavement. After months getting ready, I don't want to step in a hole the first mile.
I make the loop around by the beach and cross the first of two bridges. The first mile was 6:18 which is perfect for me. I then settle in running with a couple of other guys. Miles were starting to get faster. I start clicking off some 6:08s, and then 6:04s. Then I see a couple of sub 6s. This is way too fast for me so I let them go.
It hard watching them slowly pull away from me but I am trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture. I knew I was still running faster than I should be.
We made the right and went by the Mayfield area. We turn in the Land Fall subdivision. This is the part of the course that I couldn't preview because it is a closed community. I have no idea what to expect.
I found this area nice for running but very lonely. There were only a few people out to watch. I had expected there to be more people out. The course through Land Fall wasn't totally flat. There was just enough uphill to work the quads and then some downhill to let them recover. My first lap through this area felt pretty good.
The "full" and "half" split around 11 miles and I headed back out for the beach loop again. As I pass a couple of course workers, I ask them how many runners have passed. They tell me – 5. The thought crosses my mind that I am not going to have a top 5 finish today, but a 6th place finish wouldn't be that bad. I go back across the bridge. Interesting note, this is a grated bridge with some missing sections in it. I make a point to step carefully to avoid the holes in it.
There was this guy in a "yellow" jersey that I had been chasing for a long time. He has been my carrot for quite a while now. Suddenly, he darts off the road. The course monitors are looking at where he left the road. I come up on them and ask where he went. They didn't know. I am already thinking he is cutting the course. Cutting across he could easily shave off a couple of miles. Then, just as suddenly as he disappeared, he reappears from the bushes. False alarm, I am guessing he needed a nature break.
I finish the beach loop again and head back across the bridge. The second trip over the bridge doesn't feels as easy as it did the first time. I am meeting other people coming out to make this same loop. I love the distraction. I really need the distraction.
The temperature at the start was 57 degrees. I am now 15 miles into the race. The sun is up and the temperature has already climbed well into the 60s. I notice that I am perspiring a lot. Water is running down the sides of my face.
Miles 15, 16, and 17 pass. I merge into the "half" marathon making their way to finish. Only in a few circumstance were people walking 3 or 5 abreast. For the most part, I had plenty of room to run.
Looking left and seeing the finish had been painful on the first loop. Seeing it again I really wanted to be finished.
Having already made one loop through Land Fall, I know what to expect. I go about a mile to the "wrist band" station. I make the extra quarter mile out and back with a U-turn at the end so I can pick up my "yellow" wrist band. Without it, they would try to send me out for the beach loop a third time.
The wrist band was a cotton material. I had expected to be one of those snap wrist band, but I really liked this one. Sweat had been running into my eyes and this worked out great to remove the sweat burning into my eyes.
I pass 20 miles. I am still averaging about 6:15 per mile. The roads are even more lonely now as most people have grown tired of watching the race and went back into their homes. Other than a few course workers, I am alone with my thoughts and my fatigue. I hit mile 23 with a 6:28 mile. I try to make a deal with my body. Get me 3 miles and I promise I will stop running for today. The rocking motion of the hills that felt so good 13 miles earlier wasn't feeling so much now. The up hills I was feeling decent but the downhills and flats my hamstring were at the point of quitting. Several times I thought they would completely balk on me.
Mile 24 was 6:36 and Mile 25 was 6:46. I am pretty much in survival mode now. I am also back in the very end of the "half" marathoners. I am looking at my Garmin. Thoughts of getting under 2:46 are whispering in the back of my brain. I just need to pull out the last of my strength. I try.
For a short period, I feel excited. My body is responding. Then, my hamstrings really start to complain. I cross the 26 mile point. Any other day, I would be sprinting this last .2 miles to the finish. Today, my gait is now dissolved into a survival shuffle.
I cross the finish line. My hamstrings hurt. My feet hurt more. The only thought running through my brain was why did I do this? It's not like I have anything to prove. Probably the worst time to ask someone if they want to do another marathon is just after they have finished a marathon.
Honestly, I was pretty dejected with time and my effort. My training had been great. My times indicated that I was capable of so much more. However, I just didn't produce.
So I found my drop bag and hobbled back to the hotel. This felt like the slowest walk of my life. People were even passing me on the walk back.
Like I said; probably the worst time to analyze my race is right after I finish it. That's exactly what was going through my brain.
Given some time and distance from the event, I get a much better perspective on it.
Really, I am too hard on myself.
Yes, my last few marathons have been slower. What does each have in common? They were all run in temperatures either at or above 60 degrees. Clearly these are not great days to run marathon. Adding to the thought, I am not a great hot weather runner.
At the end of the day, I controlled all of the factors that I could. The weather, the course, and the other runners I just have to take my chances that it all works out.
I ran 2:46:16. I finished 6th overall and the first Male Masters runner. When I think about it, this wasn't the easiest of days to run. I hung on when others might have quite. This is a fact that makes me very proud.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner