So I have been holding off on writing this report as I "only" ran this race as a training run. I wasn't sure if I should have written a report because I didn't "race" it. After much thought, I did run the race, therefore, I should write a recap...A PR is a PR, training run or not.
Let's start a couple of days before the race. I got off of work Thursday night and headed to Atlanta to pick up my Sweet Boo. We were both excited to spend the weekend together, I think she was more excited to spend the weekend at the beach(she will never admit to that though!) We woke up early Friday morning and got on teh road for Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach. The drive is primarily spent on I-20 and man is it boring....almost as boring as the drive on I-16 from Savannah to Atlanta. Most of you will never understand that statement but for those who do, well, you know....
We arrived in WB around 5pm and quickly got checked into our room. The Shell Island Resort was the host hotel for the race, they contracted a discounted rate for runners! Every room had a balcony and ocean view, the water was a stones throw away. Fantastic!
This was the first running of this marathon and the "expo" proved so, no pomp and circumstance...just your regular run of the mill packet pick up. don't get me wrong, I thought the race was well organized and they did a fantastic job putting it together...I guess I just keep seeing photos of NYC and Chicago's race expo.
Early rise on Sunday morning, I slowly jogged the mile and a half to the start to warm up. There were shuttles running from the hotel to the start; I chose not to take one. I had a simple game plan for the day. This was only to be a training run for the upcoming Sweetwater 50k. I wanted to make sure I didn't kill myself and not be able to compete next week. 10 minute miles and shoot for a 4:20-4:30 finish.
Between the half and the full mary there was probably 1500 runners, interestingly I think the male/female ratio was 65/35 in favor of the fairer sex. (A good reason to come back next year)
6:30am came quickly and we were running! "Just stay comfortable and run easy!" The first few miles ticked off with relative ease. I was hitting low 10's and my HR was sitting right around 137. As I approached the 10 mile mark I was feeling good and had to resist the urge to go faster.
The 13 mile mark informed me that I was moving along nicely and it felt just like another Sunday run. The crowd support was nice, spaced out but not too many dead spots. The course set up was that of a double/triple loop. Let me see if I can explain. We started on Wrightville Beach, ran over the bridge and off the island towards Wilmington. Turned right onto Military Cutoff Road and ran through a business district. In this area we saw the most crowd support. We turned right into the Landfall Homes neighborhood. There were some lonely parts in this area as most people were probably asleep. We came out of the neighborhood and turned right, at this point we completed the first loop and merged back onto the race course at about mile 2. The full loop was about 10 miles, marathoners did this loop twice, 1/2er's only once. (obviously) I only had one bone to pick with this layout. After completing the second loop (or first for 1/2er's) There was one point we had to make a left turn across traffic. There were police on both sides of the road directing traffic but I just didn't feel comfortable running along the road having drivers glare at me as they were held up in traffic waiting for breaks in the runners to get through the intersection. That was my only issue with the race course.
Okay, back to the actual running part of this recap. I left you off at the halfway point. Garmy says hit it at 2:14:07. HR was at 139. Wow, I was really running within myself. At this point my HR was climbing an extra beat or two per mile. I continued to plug away, hitting the miles at about 10:15 per mile. As I approached the 18 mile mark I began to wonder where this "wall" would be. I thought since I wasn't pushing the pace I may avoid it. My last training run was 22 miles and the last two miles were a mental battle. I quickly approached the 20 mile mark and all systems were a go! HR was now in the high 140's. 21, 22 & 23 easy, peasy...
The early warning systems were starting to sound. I could hear the gavel pounding in my head. "I would like to call this committee to order please. Gentlemen, it has been several months since the Running is Stupid committee has met, we have a lot of work to do, let's not waste any more time." The committee quickly formed and they began peppering me with questions. "This is only a training run Thomas, you should start walking." "Why are you even here, it is not like you are racing? Why don't you quit and save yourself for the ultra?" "You are never going to be able to run a 50k if you can't handle this distance!"...I suppose this is the "wall" people speak of...
It was a mental struggle to continue. "Just keep moving forward" I was able to push through this mile and was very happy to see the mile 25 marker...It's all down hill from here. I managed to fight my way through the remaining mile and was happy to see the finish line.
After making it back to the hotel It was time for my ice bath. However, I was going to try something different. The ocean. Let's see, the Atlantic Ocean in March, very cold. I would have preferred to run into the ocean to just get it over with but my legs would not cooperate. I had to SLOWLY wade into the bone chilling water. Instantly, my feet began to scream. It was as if someone was stabbing them with a hundred needles. I began to wade deeper and my knees soon joined in on the pain. As I made it into waist deep ocean water, the pain was becoming unbearable. I was not going to make it 15 minutes. The worst part was the waves breaking toward the shore and splashing my chest and face with water shaped daggers. I think I lasted 7-8 minutes, there were onlookers from the shore that could not figure out why on earth would I subject myself to such torture. I got out of the water and headed to the hotel, planning on trying out the outdoor pool(It was not heated) to see if that was any easier. The pool water was a little warmer, I managed to stay in the pool for 10 minutes. I am happy to report that as of right now, two days later, I am at 95% and plan on running today. It was totally worth it. I was a mess for a week after my first marathon.
I enjoyed it. I ran a very conservative training run and am completely confident in my ability to complete the ultra in 10 days. I am happy to know that I do not have any more 20 mile training runs on the books for the near future. I will post a pre race report for the ultra in the coming days.