North Carolina: Ran Damn Crazy in the RDC Marathon
It was 106 days since my last marathon and I FINALLY have been able to go the distance AGAIN! It was rewarding to have a good run and also participate in a well-organized race. After the poorly executed race in Idaho Falls and the complete bust of a race in Omaha, Nebraska, as expected, Durham, North Carolina delivered! The organizers did a top-notch job. The communication was excellent prior to the race and the course was clearly labelled with adequate signs and race personnel directing runners along the way. There was good food (Papa John's pizza, bagels, bananas, muffins, etc.) after the race (although I couldn't eat it) and they even had an official awards ceremony for the top 3 runners overall and in each age group! For this race only being in it's 3rd year, they know how to do it right and I was very impressed.
It was an unusually cold day in North Carolina - about 30 degrees at the start line. I could hear the locals complaining about the cold and although I'm from the north, I just chalked it up to what it was, a damn cold morning, but I know that running a marathon in the cold is actually ideal! I was torn between wearing a thermal UA shirt or long sleeve dri-fit shirt and I elected to take Pat's advice and wore my daughter's long sleeve dri-fit shirt with a short-sleeve dri-fit underneath it. By the time the race was over, I would estimate it was almost 50 degrees with the full sun, this was definitely the way to dress. I felt very hot in the later stages of the race when I hit the longer sunny patches of the Tobacco Trail.
Initially, I was simply just freezing though. I jogged back and forth to the car to warm up and I know it was comical, I was wearing my youngest daughter's terrycloth robe from when she was like 8 years old. I recently found it in the basement and thought this could be a good throwaway on race day (and it was)!! The race finally began and we circled around the Streets of SouthPoint Mall before we embarked on the Tobacco Trail for 25 miles. It was shady and chilly for most of that trail, but I warmed up enough by mile 3 to ditch the robe on the side of the road. I kept my gloves on for a few more miles though. My pace in the first few miles hit the high 7's which is normal and to be expected. I felt pretty good. I was always afraid to find out if my left hip was going to hold up throughout the race. Even the morning of the race and the day before, it felt achy and sore when I would just climb out of bed and I wondered then "How the heck am I even going to run a full marathon with this?!" I wasn't feeling 100% confident but adrenaline has a way of squashing any pain - at least temporarily. The race started off well. I hit mile 7.3 as the clock said 1:00 and change and I knew that was a "decent" time. I just tried to run consistently and maintain that pace as I checked off the miles. There were times I thought I felt a little tired but then I would have moments of being on the verge of a runner's high and feeling good, so I just experienced all of it as it came to me. Run faster when you can run faster and try to fight through some of the fatigue as it appeared. When I felt any early fatigue, I simply tried to put it out of my mind and punch it back in the face. LOL. I was thinking it's too early to feel fatigue. My pace wasn't wavering much though until I turned around at mile 13.8. It was around mile 8 that the trail became a compacted dirt trail full of leaves and pine needles. I knew this would have some impact on my time as I wasn't receiving the bounce-back from the pavement any longer. So essentially we ran on this dirt trail for about 10 miles total! That's a long time in a marathon to be running on a trail but it was absolutely beautiful. We ran by gorgeous homes and golf courses and it was stunning. There was a sign "If you lived here, you would be home now." and sure enough, I was wishing I lived there. I love North Carolina - always have. I hope we move here someday. That's the plan anyway! As I endured the 2nd half of the race, my watch at times was telling my pace within the miles and sometimes my pace was slow in the 11's or 12's and I thought that can't be right because I'm still moving at a decent clip. I know this Tobacco Trail is pretty much in the woods so I was wondering if the GPS just wasn't accurate because my watch couldn't be pinged? I'm not quite sure because sometimes my watch would be ahead of the mile markers and sometimes after. I would get mad when I heard those paces because I did not believe I was running that pace at all and I would try to pick it up even more. If you look at my chart of my marathon paces, it shows a very up and down race. I'm not convinced this is because of fatigue but rather that my watch was not pinged at the right time points. It's not to say I never felt tired because I did, but I kept pushing hard the entire way. My stretch goal for the race was a 3:45 finish while my realistic goal was under 4:00. I knew at mile 18 when I looked at my phone and it said 9:42, I wasn't convinced I could bust out 8.2 miles in 1 hour (also not being sure what precise time the race started). I can run 8 miles in 1 hour if I am rested, but not sure if I can do it after running 18 miles. So I pushed along doing the best I could with the distance and time that I had left. When I realized I wasn't going run a sub 3:50, I pushed to make sure I ran the best sub 4:00 race that I could. There were a few hills at the end which was rough but had to be conquered. As I turned right off the Tobacco Trail and headed for the finish, I saw my daughter Stephanie (who turned 16 that day) and my favorite neighbors (Jennifer & Ken) who moved to NC in 2007. I waved to them and said "Happy Birthday Stephanie!" and proceeded to run to the finish line. It was a great run and I told the volunteers that I love North Carolina. Everyone was so nice and wonderful there. I felt pretty darn good after the race. Stephanie even proceeded to tell me that I won 1st place in my age group. LOL. It was a good day. Given that I wasn't even sure how my hip was going to hold up, I was definitely happy with a 3:53 marathon. I'm so glad this day happened and it all went well. I was so disappointed for such a long time (marathon-wise), that I simply needed a good day and a good race and that's exactly what I got. North Carolina delivered!!!
POST RACE: I felt pretty good immediately post-race. We walked around the mall and went shopping - of all things. I knew I had to walk asap to recover well. I felt some sharp pain in my right shin that eventually made me stop walking and go to the hotel to rest. Took an epsom salt bath as well as an alternating hot and cold shower and proceeded to go out to celebrate Stephanie's 16th birthday before I packed our bags and passed out from complete exhaustion. Soreness seeped in as the night wore on but slept pretty good before we flew home early the next morning. Attempted to jog once I got home but was way too sore. Felt better on Tuesday and Wednesday but proceeded to walk 15,000 and 20,000 steps respectively. No blisters this time, just bruised & sore toenails. It's now four days post race and I was able to run a slow 5 miles with no significant pain or soreness. Heart rate was hovering in the high 140 to low 150's for such a slow pace so know that I still have to take it easy until I fully recover. Will use my compression boots again today and slowly get myself back to normal before I figure out my mini-training plan for Mississippi. I'm feeling more and more excited for this next race because IT IS so close. I'm not ready today but will be ready to go the distance again real soon coming off this decent race. This gives me more confidence and I'm recovering surprisingly well. My hip doesn't feel as bad now as it did pre-race. I don't get it, but I'm ok with it. Marathoners need lots of restorative sleep as I went to sleep at 6pm one night and 7:15 the next night. Love my rest because I need it in order to feel good again so I can have a repeat or even better performance. LFG!!