Sunday, November 18, 2012

Outer Banks Marathon Race Report

I should start this post by saying I have the coolest family in the world. When Adam and I suggested we run the Outer Banks Marathon and Half Marathon and the family should join us in a beach house for the weekend, they said "Sure". My parents, my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece were not hard to convince. Much like my closest friends ('hey, want to go to Hawaii for the weekend', BK: 'sure!' or 'hey, we should do a triathlon this summer!', SW" 'sure!'), they are generally up for anything, even marathon spectating!

I'll write more about the trip in future posts. This one will focus on the marathon. The lead up to the race did not go so well for me. I developed a wicked cold, mostly involving a sore throat and cough that prevented me from sleeping at night. That, plus a 6 am flight the day we left for North Carolina left me in pretty rough shape. But I knew there was no way I was going to skip the marathon because of a piddly cold no matter how bad I felt. I have bailed on destination marathons twice before- once in Newport Rhode Island when I had a really bad cold- fevers, chills, had to stay in bed for a few hours each day, terrible runny nose etc, etc. The race would have required a really early wake up call and I was worried about how much sicker it might make me, so I decided the night before to call it off. Then, this past summer, mental and physical exhaustion after a long first year of fellowship caused me to bail on the Ann Arbor Marathon. I was just a few weeks away from the HOT Med City Marathon and I just didn't have it in me to slog through another hot race. I don't feel bad about missing either of those races. I'll go back and do Newport another time and there are actually other races I think I'd prefer in Michigan (like Traverse City). But I would feel bad about going all the way to North Carolina with my family and then missing a race, especially because I don't have any other marathons scheduled until next fall. So I was doing this race, no matter what.

Race morning I actually felt a little bit better. Still sick, but okay. Did I feel like running a marathon that morning? No. But I wasn't full of dread, and knew I could handle it and maybe even enjoy part of it.

The weather was absolutely perfect. It was about 50 degrees and sunny at the start. There was a nice breeze. Not too cold, not too hot. The first few miles were through pretty residential areas, some along the sound. There were very pretty views with fog over the water. I trucked along at a comfortable pace which ended up being b/t 8:50-9:20 min/mi or so. This is actually a bit faster than I projected so my family missed me at the first spectation point they attempted. Running too fast for your spectators is always a good problem to have! We ran by the Wright Brothers Monument (First in Flight), which was cool. We then entered a dirt trail through a park (the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve) which provided for lots of elevation changes on what was otherwise a flat course. Around mile 10 my dad showed up on a bike and rode with me for a bit. This was a good distraction because while I could appreciate the beauty of my surroundings on some level, I mostly was not feeling very well and not very excited about still having 16 miles to run. He rode with me for a few miles then headed off to re-unite with the rest of the family as I trudged on.

Just before mile 13, the trail turned to single track, HILLY single track. Right before a pretty dramatic hill, there was a rest stop offering fruit and banana bread. A tasty bite of banana bread seemed like  perfect opportunity for a walk break up that hill which of course resulted in a 10:30 mile. Oh well. I pulled it back together for a few timely miles but after mile 16 or so I slowed down quite a bit to a 10-10:30 min/mile average, which was more in line with what I expected give the cold.

Thankfully, my parents were all over the course in the latter half because I was struggling. I tried to stay optimistic for them keeping in mind that they did travel all the way to the Outer Banks for a weekend vacation and were donating half a day of it to spectate for me, but I definitely wasn't the most cheerful version of myself! As usual, my family members were super spectators, wearing goofy hats, taking pictures, providing water, running along with me (thanks Dad!) and wearing super-amazing-sparkly spectator shirts. Check out this amazing sequined shirt she was wearing- I could see it from half a mile away, shining in the sun!

The whole gang. This picture does not do the sparkles justice!

The latter 10 miles of the race were........let's just say I held it together and got them done but it wasn't pretty. I stayed focused (or blank!) and did not let my mind wander to negative thoughts. I focused on forward progress and getting to the bridge. "Just get to the bridge" became my mantra. Miles 22-24ish were over the Washington-Baum Bridge and I just focused on getting to that bridge. Like most bridges, there was a significant hill to the bridge and I told myself once I got there I could walk, relax and enjoy the view knowing I only had a few short miles to go. For some reason I thought the bridge started at mile 20 and I'm sorta glad I didn't know it was actually 22 because I could hold out hope that I was "almost to the bridge" to pull myself through a bit longer!
The Washington-Baum bridge is in the background,
quite the incline.

The bridge was really neat and I was able to enjoy it a bit even though I was feeling pretty rotten. Beautiful day, sun shining, nice ocean breeze, just a few miles until completion of my 14th marathon in my 9th state! I was able to ignore my sore throat and inability to swallow properly for just a few minutes at the top of the bridge then re-focused to get the work done to get to the finish. I surprised myself by actually running up the bridge, figuring I didn't need a walk break, I'm an experienced marathoner, and I should keep it together!

In the finish chute.

I was definitely happy to finish the race and even happier to partake in a delicious post-race meal of skillet cheese toast back at the house with the family. Delicious!

While I didn't have any big revelations or amazing moments (or record times) during this race, it was a solid marathon. Not my best, not my worst, but an overall good experience especially because I got to share it with my family!

I would definitely recommend this race to others. It was well-run, the course was beautiful and the aid stations were plentiful and well stocked with cheerful volunteers. I must admit I gave fewer "thank yous" than I usually do because my voice was so hoarse and instead was surprised to hear the volunteers thanking us for coming! Turns out the race is a big money maker during the off-season in the Outer Banks. I'm happy to be able to contribute- it was well worst the cost!

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