On Sunday March 16 the 2014 Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon went down and it was nothing short of amazing! The morning started off very smoothly, a foretelling prelude to how the race itself would unfold. I woke up at 5 am, ate some vegan blueberry pancakes I had made the night before, a cup of OJ, and a few swigs of coffee. It just so happened that all of that totaled to exactly 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram - perfect! I drove to the race start, hit absolutely no traffic, and found an open parking spot literally 50 yds from the start of the race. With no transition to set up, I sat down for a little bit and waited for the right time to warm up - I didn't feel rushed or stressed. Thirty minutes prior to the gun going off, I downed three shot blocks and went for a little jaunt. Dropped my backpack off at bag drop-off without any snafus and even the line at the port-a-potties seemed to go unusually quickly. Weather was perfect - it was in the 50's and rain had held off. I met up with all my Without Limits teammates at the starting line and was feeling good. There was a contagious feeling of excitement in the air and everything was lining up perfectly for a good day!
When the race started I felt like I was in a dream, almost in disbelief that I was actually about to run another marathon!
- My first marathon was 8 years ago - New York City in 2006; I finished in 3:48; my PR.
- I accompanied my brother at Richmond in 2007; a 5 hrs + change slog.
- My most recent marathon was in 2008, at the end of the Beach2Battleship triathlon, in which I held a leisurely 10:50 pace to produce a 4:45 split.
So, I was a little giddy at the start at the prospect of my first marathon in quite some time! Thankfully I was in a very experienced pace group consisting of WOL'ers Shawn, Taye, & Donnie. These guys have pacing down to a science and I knew that if I stayed behind them it would keep me under control and I wouldn't go out too fast. (They were also great wind-blockers). We ran together for the first 12 miles of the race and it was so much fun! It felt like we were just out on another Saturday morning long run and I thoroughly enjoyed the company! I also met a TMS-IOS triathlete who was also named Tara and who was also a dietitian! What a coincidence - she was doing the half and put up with our incessant pace-checking until the Mojave Desert, aka the split point where all the half marathoners turned right and we continued running straight.
I really was feeling great when I got out of Landfall and made the turn back towards the beach. It was here where Taye's first pacer and my pacer extraordinaire, Erin Hogston, joined us. Taye's plan was to start picking it up at this point and since I felt really good I decided to stay with him. So the four of us ran together and the pace dropped to 7:05/mi. Now I was running. The four of us stayed together until around mile 16 when I got a cramp and Taye swapped pacer #1 for pacer #2, i.e. Miss Christa Iammarino, Olympic marathon trialist. The two of them picked it up a bit while I tried to get my cramp to go away. Once it did, we caught back up with them and all worked together for a while.
Things started getting EXTREMELY difficult the second time through landfall. This was probably 18-20 miles into it and I was not feeling good. With every step I just wanted to stop. But I had Erin there, encouraging me and pushing me (literally at times) forward every step of the way! I think if I had been alone I would have slowed down or maybe even stopped! My legs hurt so bad and I remembered a text that my friend and marathon expert, Tricia Winters, had sent me the night before, "Remember, it's all mental." But the pain wasn't in my mind, it was in my quads!!! I couldn't stop though. We had caught sight of the 3:10 pace group around mile 20 and Erin was hell-bent on us reeling it in. We dropped a few 6:50's, but I wasn't as excited about them as Erin - I just wanted to make it to the finish line ... alive. It gave me a boost running past family and friends, especially my parents & all my TOPS peeps - you guys were great! Thanks for the support & cheers! And then finally mile 25 appeared and I only had 1 more mile to go. It was a struggle and it hurt like hell, but I knew I could do it. I looked down at my watch and saw that I had a chance at going under 3:10. This became my goal for the last mile. With Erin shouting encouragement at me and the music from the finish line getting louder and louder that goal materialized. I felt extremely happy at the end and satisfied with the day's effort and rewards.
My chip time was 3:08:56 (7:13/mi); gun time was 3:09:10 (7:14/mi). It wasn't what I had originally hoped for when I started training 19 weeks ago. However, with all of my setbacks that resulted in a weekly average of 40.5 mi/week, I am elated about my new 40 minute PR!!!! Thanks Tom Clifford for all the great coaching & tough track practices that helped me get there! I was also pretty happy about this growler that I won for placing 1st in my age group (5th overall):
So what's next? First step is to recover my tired body and legs! I am not kidding when I say I could barely walk today! And then next up, I have some plans, but those will be for my next blog :)
Lastly, one thing that I have learned from this race and know for sure is that the marathon is not for the faint of heart.