Only three weeks after the fact, I have time to sit down and write about my recent half marathon in Rehoboth Beach. That may have worked out well because my time was adjusted a few days ago, due to an error with the timing mat, and I’ll tell you guys a little later how that worked out 😉
So what fun is a race recap without a good story to back it up? No fun, I tell you, none! Running the Rehoboth Beach Half had a specific purpose and sprouted from an ideation that began back in March 2017. Prior to the Rock’n’Roll D.C. half-marathon I had completed two half-marathons, neither at a hard effort and both as training runs for a marathon. I really wasn’t that interested in half-marathons, it was go fast or go long for me. My PB was a 1:37+ going into the race. I decided to run on feel and see what happened, no specific goal in mind. Well, what happened was I ran 1:33:13 on a hilly course in D.C (of course you can read about that if you like). It gave me a bit of a half-marathon itch, if you will. I thought, wow what can I do if I deliberately train for a half marathon?
About a month later, I ran and bombed at Boston. I had already decided Boston would be my last marathon for a while, but after the train up and slow recovery, and fun I had racing shorter distances during the training cycle, I decided that I would only be running World Majors and bucket list marathons in the future. No more of this 1 or so per year. I had done Chicago and Boston so the next most accessible race would be New York City, but it is hard to get into with the lottery. The guaranteed entry times had seemed out of reach…UNTIL NOW! One can achieve the guaranteed entry times in either a full marathon (sub 3:13) or a half marathon (sub-1:32 for my age group). Having just run a 1:33:13 I thought “I could shave off 1:13.” Especially on a flatter course! I decided to run a cool weather half-marathon in November/December and heard about Rehoboth Beach from my friend Calesse. Cool weather, super flat, not far from home, December 2nd = perfect!
I decided not to rely on my own experience and actually purchase a training plan. I didn’t think I needed a coach to drop 73 seconds, so I purchased a 10-week training plan from Runner’s World after using their 5k training plan to get back under 20:00 over the summer. I began training at the end of September and found myself doing longer runs than I had expected for a half (14 and 16 milers) and more intense track workouts than I have ever done, but I LOVED them. I honestly loved this plan. It was manageable and challenging. It gave time for rest, which is important for my mechanically inefficient body. The plan was actually for someone who wanted to run under 1:30 so with the extra challenges I felt really confident I could run 1:32, especially after a 10k PB in November.
My husband, Jeremy, accompanied me to Rehoboth Beach to be my pace man for the race. I was confident I could do it on my own, but why not have my good luck charm? Especially if anything went wrong during the race, I could lean on him for support. The drive was as smooth as the training plan and our pre-race dinner at Lupo Italian Kitchen was fantastic! Check it out if you ever head to Rehoboth Beach! After dinner, however, a few things went awry…
We got back to the hotel room and were laying out our clothes for the next day when Jeremy realized he forgot his GPS watch! My pace man forgot the one item he needed to help pace me! I couldn’t give him mine because I would just be anxious and annoy the crap out of him if I was constantly checking our pace. Deep breath, I could do this. Jeremy was officially going to be there for moral support, cool cool cool cool cool.
About an hour later, around 9:00pm I realized that I had forgotten a sports bra! The veteran travel runner I am, who always brings a sports bra just in case, forgot a sports bra for this race. I started panicking about chafing and how I could wear my thin long sleeve without a bra, then considered what running in a regular bra would be like…I had basically assumed I was screwed because any sporting goods store or running store would be closed. Jeremy came to the rescue and reminded me that we have places like Wal-Mart that are open late. Sigh of relief! Sure enough there was a Wal-Mart about 15 minutes from out hotel. We made the trip and I got a nice little Danskin number for about $5. And it worked just fine!
We got back, settled in, set our alarms for 5:00am and…..didn’t wake up at 5:00am. I actually set my alarm for 5:00pm so we didn’t wake up until almost 6 when Jeremy’s backup alarm went off! The race started at 7:00am and I am a stickler for my morning routine. I scarfed down half a bagel with peanut butter, drank some Nuun, and had some coffee all too close together and too close to the start. I was freaking out about cramping because I didn’t have time to digest my food. My stomach was aching during the warm-up jog. Again deep breath, and told myself I could run through digestion issues and it would all be okay, just focus on the plan.
The plan, by the way, was to run a consistent 6:55 pace to give myself some cushion, since i had to run a 6:59 pace to achieve the time goal. I planned to stick to that 6:55 through the first ten miles then pick it up during the last three if I was feeling good.
We entered the starting shoot just as the sun light began to appear on the horizon. It was 38 degrees with no wind. Perfect! Miraculously, when the gun went off my stomach was fine and I didn’t have any issues from my first step to the last. It may have all been in my head! We started toward the front and things spread out fairly quickly. The first 6.5 miles were all on paved road with one section that was an out and back. I always enjoy those, mostly for the distraction and seeing all of the runners supporting each other.
We split from the full marathoners right after the 5k and it was an open road. I don’t even remember much of it except checking my watch and being annoyed that the water was in plastic cups! I spilled alot more on myself than I usually do with paper cups.
Right around 6.5 we left the paved road and ran onto an improved surface trail. It was something like packed dirt covered in a mix of sand/stone/gravel? Little did I know, I would be running that for the next 5.5ish miles! It was narrow, hard to pass people, and sucked. If you’ve ever run on sand, it wasn’t that bad but same concept when the surface gives that much and doesn’t provide the push-back of a paved surface. I picked up the pace after we hit the turn around point and I think that was mostly out of being angry at the trail and wanting to get the hell off of it. My hammies were on fire!
Once we hit that paved road again I felt like I was floating! We had about a mile to go and aside from the hammies was feeling strong. At this point I did the math and realized we would be well under 1:32. I got pretty excited about that and picked it up a little more. The final mile had some cheering fans and that was welcome after the solitude on the trail.
The final stretch had a sharp turn to the right and BOOM there was the finish line! I looked on the clock and saw that it was about to hit 1:35! I knew there were a few seconds between our chip time and the clock time, so I surged across the finish line and hit pause on my watch. It read 1:30:00 EXACTLY and considering I stopped it after the finish I had a good feeling I may have broken 1:30 on the chip time! I was ecstatic! We reached our goal, I had met the guaranteed entry time for NYC marathon, AND I had surprised myself and possibly broken 1:30!
6:50, 6:52, 6:50, 6:48, (realized we were well ahead and tried to settle back to the 6:55 goal), 6:57, 6:50, (then entered the gravel trail) 6:53, 6:57, 6:46, 7:00 (yoyo’d with getting stuck behind people on the narrow trail), 6:47, 6:46 (wanted to get the hell off the trail), 6:34 (final mile!)
Overall pace 6:52 according to the official results!
The funny thing is, I set a goal and achieved it, but the thought of breaking 1:30 had become even more exciting than reaching the goal I had been working toward for 10 weeks. I think many other athletes can relate to this feeling. Well, when I checked the chip times a few hours after the race, per the timing company, it said I had run a 1:30:00.5 exactly. It also said I had gotten 6th woman overall and 2nd in my age group but I didn’t care, I just couldn’t believe I was that close and didn’t break 1:30. Then I looked up Jeremy’s time and it said he had run 1:29:58.6 and that confused both of us. We had started together and I had actually hit the finish line a split step ahead of him.
Not sure which time was wrong, I wrote to the timing company and asked how that was possible. Our clock times were 1/100th of a second different but out chip times were 1.5 seconds different. The rep from the timing company informed me that they had a timing mat malfunction and my chip registered on the back-up mat. Jeremy’s time was correct and mine should be 1:29:58.5! Such a tiny thing, but I had now officially broken 1:30 in the half-marathon! That was just some icing on the cake to the true satisfaction in setting a goal, working hard toward it, and achieving it. But still, a nice twist to the end of the story.
Now, I just have to hope that this time is good enough to get me into NYC based on the demand for guaranteed entries! It is kinda like Boston, sometimes you have to qualify and then some. I will keep you posted!
p.s. totally recommend this race for anyone looking for a fast half! It was fun and well-organized for a smaller race!