The Outer Banks (and a quick 26.2 mile run while I was there)

Posted on November 17, 2013


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Race Day!  Oh yes, I almost forgot that was why we came.  With mine and my husband’s ever-evolving, hectic schedules, we never get to see each other.  He is fast asleep when I get home, and gone to work before I awake.  We have a wonderful relationship via texts and Instagram. So I sneakily snuck a vacation into our schedule by signing up six months ago for a marathon in the Outer Banks.  Since he has extended family in the area, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to force some usage of his accumulated vacation days.

My training was complete and I was feeling good about running, but not giving it too much thought.  With all of the schedule coordinating, job changing, school breaking, packing and travel arrangements to be made, I nearly forgot to worry about the BIG RACE.  Cars packed and kids in tow, we set off for our big beach vacation.  Our inexpensive hotel was about three notches more luxurious than we thought it would be and right on the beach, right across the big street from the Wright Brothers Memorial.  (I’m the daughter of a pilot, so it’s kind of my favorite thing to visit there.) Checked in, the first thing on my mind was where are we going to eat?  I was excited about hitting the beach and trying many new restaurants.  We crashed hard and woke with a fresh start for a new day.

We had all of Saturday to enjoy as a family before Sunday’s race. We only had packet pickup and some family to visit on the agenda.  I rose early and decided to go ahead and get my day-before-the-race run out of the way.  How amazing!  I was only to do a fifteen minute slow run to locomote my legs, so I ran over and up to the top of the Wright Bros Memorial. Cool! I hit my 15 minute mark on the way back, so I kept it going to the beach to hit an even two miles and walked back in the sand and surf to the hotel.  I probably looked like a looney gooney grinning with delight at how exhilirated and free I was feeling.  The beach in the Fall will do that to a person.

The rest of the day outside of the usual packet pickup circus was all family; eating, miniature golf, letting waves chase our feet while screaming at the surf and wagging our tails with feet grounded in sand: “Bury my feet! Bury my feet!” Which I’m pretty sure was the funnest possible game in the world for my almost four year old daughter. She didn’t even care that the water was icy cold.

A few amazing meals later I was in the hotel setting out my run gear.  I picked out a super amazing outfit for race day. (Which, is technically my full time job, so I’d really better hit the mark on the outfit!) I may have to dedicate an entire post to how great looking and comfortably functional my high tech Athleta run gear was.  (See pictures of hot runner mom in slideshow.)  I set out to fall asleep, but of course, the good luck text bombs kept coming well after 10 pm.

The morning of the race I was in my usual ADD getting organized double checking crazy spree, but I got it together without too much trouble.  I kept thinking how odd I hadn’t really started to worry about the race.  I have always been one to worry about things in the moment rather than give myself gut rot worrying in advance for no good reason, but now was the time.  I am in the car on the way to be dropped off!  I looked for my friend who was also racing that day with her husband, and saw her finally for about one second before the race started and we were off!

My first song that came on my headphones (set to Madness on Pandora) was Madness’ One Step Beyond which is pretty much the most perfect race starting song in the world.  Smile intact, I got off to a very positive start. I maintained a slow pace early on, settling for a slightly faster pace than marathon one, but not getting crazy and jetting off like an excited maniac.  (As I had hoped, I was smugly pleased at how perfect my outfit was for the conditions.  Yes!)  I found my pace, kept it steady and readied myself to hold it until I hit mile five, where I would pick it up a bit.  This was working, I was keeping it slow, keeping it real, music was on my side, weather was unbelievable, and the fan support was really great.  At mile four, my headphones quit. Completely. Last marathon, this would have blown my entire game.  But some new found overwhelming sense of calm I’d harnessed this past year was just letting it slide.  I was happy to have my real life ears with me and be a part of my surroundings.  This was meant to be.  So I ditched them in a trash can.  Onward march!

At five miles, I easily switched into speed gear. Not Gonzales style, this is a MARATHON, but a pretty good pace.  Felt good.  I was going to make sure I kept it for ten miles, then see how I was feeling, bring it down a notch or keep it steady, but definitely not rush it and burn out my much needed end of the race energy.  Just say no to the wall. I saw my family cheering me on at mile (seven?) as we looped the Wright Memorial.  Awesome!  Their cheers and smiles and on the fly hugs and kisses were the biggest boost of positivity.  And they looked so darn cute.

We cut through some grass, hit a field and entered some trail running much like the tobacco trail I run on every day.  This is my kind of running, awesome!  Then it dumped us into a narrow and up and down hilly twisty turny adventure dirt path between trees.  This was easily my favorite part of the run!  Up and down, I felt like a dirt biker.  I pretended I was so BMX. This lasted for three miles and I realized I was probably getting close to the 13 mile area of the race, and I wanted to know how I was doing at the half point.

Since my headphones had been ditched, my Runkeeper app was announcing my pace and mile marks out loud at each mile.  I kept wondering where that 13 mile was going to be, and couldn’t remember if I’d heard 10 or 11 or 12.   so I pulled out my phone and realized that I was well past 13.  Aw shucks!  Sound went out on my phone I guess, I wasn’t even sure if the mileage was accurate.  I tucked it back in its place and forgot about it.

I knew at the halfway point that this is where you make the race.  You can’t make up time at teh end of the race, its over by the last three miles, your locked in to keeping it steady by then.  So I picked it up, but not too much.  I didn’t want to hit the wall at the bridge.  Yes, they put a big giant bridge you have to run up and cross right at the 23 mile mark.  Hilarious!  I was kind of excited about it though. So I kept my pace normal.  Let’s not get too excited and burn out early.  Save it for the last miles so you aren’t crying and crawling.

I chatted briefly with a few runners as we made rounds by the sound.  The air was so delicious and it was a great respite from the two stretches down the main road which were in full sun and a bit boring.  Thank goodness for EACH and EVERY supporter out there with a silly poster, a cowbell, or even a grimace while sitting in a lawn chair bundled up drinking coffee out of a cardboard cup.  You all made my, and every other runner out there’s, day. The crowd support along the long boring stretches completely made up for the only uneventful terrain in the race, and made them “exciting corridors of cheer!” It was along this corridor that my little goose came running toward me in the grass along the side with her adorable arms outstretched and ran into me with a huge hug, while her brother yelled “Go, Mommy! Go, Mommy!” over and over.  I mean who needs a Gu break? I’ll take hug breaks, thank you very much!

I did however, take every water, Gatorade, and Gu station offered up.  No, I didn’t read the labels.  My dried pineapple chunks are great fuel and have done me well, but for the full Monty, I’m taking everything coming my way.  However in the future, I may actually be able to abstain from the ketchup packets of chocolate chip cookie dough-flavored vaseline.  What IS that stuff???

As we took a turn into another neighborhood around mile (18?) I noticed some systems failing for myself and the runners around me.  I was ok, but I decided it was a good time to let up.  I had earlier on decided that I felt like taking this run easy, I was having so much fun and I had no data.  There was no way I was going to PR and I didn’t care, because I was having a blast.  It was just so beautiful, how could I waste a moment worrying about something I couldn’t even track? The wind had been in our face all day long, and although it was a bit strong, I welcomed it.  It was holding me up and it felt amazing.

Oh yes, back to systems failing.  I was ding allright, but I did start to walk through water stations at mile twenty.  I kept the rest of the time at a slow steady jog, probably slower than necessary, but the bridge was still ahead!  I never got to the crying, I-absolutely-have-to-walk-right-now phase.  But the water stations.  Walked.  I kept that slow steady jog for a coulpe of miles, while this poor guy kept using me as his running mark.  He would stop and walk, and as soon as I was beside him, he would run ahead.  We did this dance for three miles, he would walk/speed ahead, I kept a steady jog, we were in the same place.  Then it happened.  My pace picked up.  I was in recovery! My fueling had worked, my reserved energy was being paid back!  I steadily climbed my energy until I reached a humble, but running, pace.   I was ecstatic.

My pace continued to climb until the bridge was in sight.  I pulled back, almost to a jog again.  I was going to charge this bridge.  I have always enjoyed a good uphill charge.  “Coast the flats, charge the hills.”  That’s what my old cross-country coach used to say in high school, and I’ve heard it my mind every hill since.  I hit the foot of the bridge and propelled upwards.  I had a smile on my face the whole way up.  I passed runner after runner after walker after walker.  There were people lined up on the siderails; good looking, young, fit people; grabbing their calves and thighs, crying, puking; not as happy as I was to see the bridge.

I passed the top and coasted down at an easy relaxed stride.  Of course, the last three miles were the longest, but not from exhaustion so much as I was ready to see my family and eat.  A few long long miles later and I was coming through the chutes.  I had no idea what kind of time I was going to have, I could have added tn or thirty minutes to my old time.  Who knows? Maybe I made it.  I crossed the line as the clock flashed 4:30:00 overhead.  Then I remembered the whole gun time/chip time discrepancy and though, “Holy Crap? could I have PRed?”

I didn’t.  I came in a full 50 seconds later than I had my first marathon.  Upon this revelation I laughed hysterically.  With all the differences in training, speed gained between races, competitive edge dulled, smelling the roses ensued, and headwind sucked in the face, it didn’t make a hill of beans!  Whatever the race or conditions, that my friends, is how long it takes for this 40 year old lady to get 26.2 miles down the road.  Fascinating.

I have to say, I felt a great deal better after this race than the first one, and just as I did then, I had to carry my three year old a mile to the car.  She was exhausted, people.  I also think that maybe running marathons is my jam, because I find it very hard to fathom the idea that I don’t get to race this course again.

Beach trip: SUCCESS!!!

Happy Running out there!