Thursday, April 28, 2016

Coastal Delaware Marathon: Race Recap (Part 2)

If you missed my Coastal Delaware Marathon Race Recap Part 1 with my pre-race travel adventures, catch up here first!

Okay, so yesterday I left off with a whirlwind tour of Washington DC, Gettysburg and rural Maryland.  Well, before I knew it, after a fabulous breakfast with mimosas downtown, I headed off solo to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Once again, I had no idea what to expect as a result of my total lack of planning for this trip!  I knew Rehoboth was a 3-hour trip from Frederick, but I underestimated what that actually meant.  What started out as an adventure turned into its own marathon of sorts as I struggled to stay awake throughout miles of flat, rural farmland.  I learned quickly that past Annapolis, there is pretty much nothing between Maryland and Rehoboth Beach, which is on the complete opposite side of Delaware.  Fun times.
Never so happy to arrive in the middle of nowhere before!
When I finally arrived in Rehoboth Beach, I couldn’t wait to catch my first glimpse of the ocean!  I had booked a hotel room overlooking the boardwalk as a pre-marathon splurge – mostly because I couldn’t imagine going to a beach town and not staying on the beach.  It proved to be the best decision of my trip!  My room at the Atlantic Sands hotel was like a dream come true.  The view from my balcony overlooked the beach below, and I could hear the waves crashing on the shore from my room.  Perfection.  I also loved being able to walk out of the hotel to all of the nearby shops and restaurants – literally everything was walking distance.
View from my hotel room balcony... not too shabby!
To get the lay of the land, I decided to walk to the marathon expo at nearby Dewey Beach (nearby in runner terms, meaning about 2 miles away).  It was a lovely walk, with a mile on the boardwalk in Rehoboth, another half-mile along the sand, and then the remainder along Route 1 in Dewey.  I really need to learn to take it easy before a race!  I enjoyed catching a glimpse of two of the mile-markers for the marathon on my way back to the hotel.  I envisioned myself running strong and soaking up the sun past these miles the next day.

Ready to run!!  Let me at it!
On marathon day, I woke up bright and early once again (4:30 AM somehow seemed pretty tame compared to my previous 3 AM wake-up call!).  The start line was just a few miles away at the Delaware Seashore State Park, and parking was plentiful, which I always appreciate.  I had about an hour to relax in the car, visit the porta-potty, and watch the sun rise over the beach. It was 48 degrees and sunny at the start - chilly in my shorts and singlet, but I knew I would warm up quickly once I got started.  Perfect running weather!

Sunrise over Tower Beach at the marathon start
The marathon started right on time at 7 am.  I appreciated that the marathon started separately from the half marathon, which kicked off at 7:30 AM, and the 9K which began at 8 AM.  The staggered start meant that I didn't spend the first few miles dodging other runners and was able to get to my target pace almost immediately as we headed from the Delaware Seashore State Park into downtown Dewey Beach.  I was feeling strong as we passed Dewey Beach, where the race would finish, and crossed the bridge over Silver Lake, a beautiful residential community on our way to Rehoboth Beach.  By mile 3, we were running on the boardwalk along Rehoboth Beach, with great crowd support and a beautiful view.  I was feeling strong and loving every minute!
We ran right past my hotel along Rehoboth Beach!
The course continued along the boardwalk past mile 5, where we entered Cape Henlopen State Park, an extensive nature reserve bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay on each side.  From here, the boardwalk turned into a packed gravel trail until mile 8.5, where we ran on a paved bicycle path through the park until mile 12.  Here, we encountered the course's only three hills (only about 50 feet of elevation each - other than that, the race was wonderfully flat!)  The three miles of gravel trail were challenging for me, since I had only trained on roads and packed dirt.  I found my feet slipping slightly back with each step forward, similar to the sensation of running in sand, and by the end of these three miles, my quads were burning from the control it took to push forward.  Note to self... train on terrain similar to the race course!

aOn the elevated boardwalk leading to Cape Henlopen
My second wind came when we reached the city of Lewes, a small residential community between the state park and Rehoboth Beach.  This part of the course was four miles alongside a paved road - not overly scenic, but refreshingly similar to my training, so I was able to settle back and refocus.  I repeated my mantra, "Trust your training" as I passed the halfway point right on my target pace.  I was starting to pass runners who had passed me earlier in the course, and this rebuilt my confidence after the challenge of the trails.

Suburban bliss... there's no place like home!
I knew there was another short portion of trail coming, but I hadn't paid much attention to this part of the course map, so I wasn't sure how long the trail would last.  I was praying it would be short!  As the course turned back to packed gravel after mile 16 on the Junction and Breakwater Trail, my legs started to fade.  This was probably one of the most beautiful parts of the race, following a section of the former Penn Central railroad, and crossing through a shady pine forest, sprawling farmland and a coastal marsh - but I can't say I was really at a point in the race to appreciate much of it.  Instead, I spent  the next three miles wondering when the trail would end, and we would get back to paved roads.  Three LONG miles was the answer to that question.  Again, note to self, actually read the course map!

It really was beautiful, I shouldn't complain!
Just after mile 19, we crossed into downtown Rehoboth on our way back to the boardwalk.  This part of the course had beautiful ocean views and incredible support at the aid stations.  It was the friendly encouragement of the volunteers that got me in the right frame of mind again, and as my legs adjusted back to the paved surface of the course, I worked to push back to my target pace, after having slowed by almost a minute per mile on the 3 miles of trails - yikes!  

Back to the ocean and the pavement!
Surprisingly, the last six miles passed quickly, as we turned back onto the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, which at that point in the weekend was familiar to me.  As I passed the landmarks from my exploration the previous day - first my hotel, then the downtown shopping area, and then the residential part of the boardwalk leading to Dewey Beach, I knew we were getting close!  We turned off the boardwalk at Mile 23 and crossed the Silver Lake bridge again to the most enthusiastic group of volunteers and yet.  It provided a much-needed boost of energy as I tried to push the pace and focused on picking off runners one at a time to pass.  At this point in the race, it was all mental for me, and this helped to make the miles go by for me while still feeling surprisingly strong. 
More views from the boardwalk - the dunes were incredible!
Before I knew it, the course emerged from a residential area into downtown Dewey Beach, where we ran along Route 1 for about a quarter mile before making the final turn.  The finish line was in sight with less than 100 yards to go, and I still felt great!  One final push to the finish line, as I heard my name over the loudspeakers, with an enthusiastic, "She's still smiling!" by the race announcer. 
Thankful for a strong finish (and a great finish photo!)
I collected my medal and a water bottle, and then headed straight to gear check, where I couldn't wait to take off my running shoes and slip on the recovery flip flops that I had remembered to pack.  The race finished right on the beach, and I was more excited than ever to feel the sand between my toes!  The after-party offered pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, grilled chicken and chocolate chip cookies - and obviously I had to sample it all!  The race also provided free beer tickets, and I have to say, I wasn't sad about laying on the beach and drinking a beer after 26.2!  

Pretty freaking perfect
The medal was stained glass with a painted version of Tower Beach, and it reflected the sun just perfectly as I laid near the ocean.  I could have laid there in the sun all day!  At that point it was 58 and sunny, and although I was tired after an early wake-up and the miles I had traveled since then, I felt remarkably good - the strongest and most limber I've ever felt after a marathon.  It was exciting to feel my hard training this year pay off - not necessarily in a super fast race (this was only my 3rd fastest marathon) but from such a strong finish and a relatively pain-free experience.  I had a smile on my face for 26.2 miles, and I can't ask for much more than that!  Thank you Coastal Delaware for an incredible race and a fabulous getaway to one of my new favorite beach destinations!

Linking up with Running with Spoons for Thursdays are for Thinking Out Loud.


  1. I live in Frederick MD. I too took the same trip as you to Delaware. You are so right about nothing past Annapolis. HA!
    I couldn't have agreed more about the gravel path. It was tough. It was downhill for me after that trail. :( I guess research fail for me for not seeing how the terrain was before running the race. Ooops. I loved the after party and, enjoyed the boardwalk. Such a fun race!!
    Glad you did so well! :)

    1. Too funny - what a brutal drive! I totally fell in love with Frederick while I was there - the downtown area is SO cute! I could totally see myself living there someday...

      I agree about the "research fail" on the race as well - I did the same thing. I knew about the trail in the first part of the race, but I had NO idea there would be a gravel path from miles 16-19 as well... that was a sad surprise! Oh well :-)

  2. Sounds like a great race! Gotta love races in which you actually feel great about your training, pain free, and feel accomplished.

    1. Thanks so much for reading :-) I couldn't agree more!

  3. I LOVE that the announcer pointed out your smile! How great!! I mean, even greater that you finished smiling!

    Congratulations! It sounds like a great race!

    1. Thanks, I tend to be obnoxiously cheerful when I run :-) Haha it was funny to me that it was pointed out too!