I ran the marathon. What more can I say? I ran 26.2 miles. It went a little something like this:
Up and out the door by 5:00 am. Google Maps says its a one hour forty five minute ride.I had everything packed and ready by the door last night before bed. Bearing that drive time in mind, I would be onsite at the race around 6:45 am, which would be early enough for me to relax and get myself organized for the 7:15 am shuttle buses heading to the start. Google Maps must figure some kind of traffic into its drive time calculations, because it only took an hour and thirty minutes to get there, with zero traffic on the way down (and that drive time included a gas stop). Turns out that I was one of the first arrivals at the race site. I had more than enough time to fill up my Fuel Belt Bottles, mixup my GU powder mix crap, etc.
Fast forward to 7:15 am – they pile us up on the bus for the thirty minute drive to the starting area in Cape May. I got into conversation with a lady from New York- this would be her 2oth marathon.
Its about 7:45 am when we arrive at the start. I am wondering what the hell I am going to do with myself for the next hour, besides peeing ten times before the start, which has sort of become my trademark. Something to tell the grandkids. Real proud.
The start of the race was smack dab in front of some kind of really old (and really nice) hotel in Cape May. I saw alot of the runners migrating their way in that direction, so like the lemming that I am, I followed, figuring that the hell else am I going to do with myself for the next 60 minutes. Turns out that the hotel was where the cool kids were hanging out. I wandered around the hotel, found the bathroom, dropped a couple of pounds (if you know what I am saying), and did a whole lot of nothing. I was kinda disappointed that there was no food or anything at the start – I could have used a banana or something along those lines. I only are a cliff bar on the way down, because I am an idiot.
After I found the gear check spot, I made my way to the porta-potties for the last “shakedown” if you will. Of course, the lines were about a half block long, but moving.
Finally, I got myself all set and jumped in the crowd massing at the start, near the back. I had a tech T-shirt on, with my ghetto arm warmers, and a throw-away long sleeve shirt on as the top layer. I didnt even hear the gun – I just saw the crowd move and….. WE’RE OFF!
The start was crowded, but nothing like the big Philly races. It was gun timed, so I started my Garmin when I crossed the start line, which was about a minute after the gun.
For the first five miles, I kept it easy, no music on the iPod. I wanted to settle in, get comfy, find a rhythm, let things spread out. Right off the bat, my left calf is tight. WTF. This calf hasnt bothered me in ages and never on my long runs. I stopped not even three miles in to stretch it, which helped slightly. I figured it would loosen up as I went along. To be honest, I dont remember much of the first 5 miles. I remember hitting the first bridge leaving Cape May (?). Next thing I know I am in Wildwood. The crowd had started to thin out by now, and I was feeling good. We detoured up to the Wildwood Boardwalk for a bit, which was really cool. I felt great going through North Wildwood into Stone Harbor. The calf loosened up and it wasnt an issue thereafter.
I’ll admit that alot of this shit was blending in together. I dont remember what particular town I was in, but I remember hitting this straight road for about 2 or 3 miles which ran right through the middle of a bay or wetlands or some shit like that. It was windy as a motherf*cker – a direct headwind. That was a goddamn suffer fest.
Finally, in Stone Harbor, we had houses blocking us from the wind as we ran parallel to the ocean. Every once in a blue moon, we’d have to make a right turn to drop us down a block, and those right turns were a bitch, because we were running directly into the wind. While it only seems like a block, at mile 19 on, those right turns were like running up a hill, straight up.
I felt great through the first two hours. I hit the half marathon mark smack dab on 2 hours. I started to pick it up a bit, dropping the pace below 9’00” all the while keeping the average around 9’11”.
Things started to suck around mile 16. I started feeling the miles. I knew my girls were going be cheering me on at mile 19, and that was a great motivator to keep me going strong. At this point, I was in Avalon, which was really boring, because we basically ran down a street with nothing but houses on both sides for the entire length of the island.
I stopped to see the family at mile 19.5, and getting started again was a bitch. I popped a couple of Excedrin, but I was definitely feeling it. Finally, around mile 21, I had to walk. Some other guy was doing the same thing – also a first time marathoner – and we chatted and walked for about four-tenth’s of a mile. I ran the last half-mile of Avalon into Sea Isle, and when I reached the beginning of Sea Isle, around mile 22 or 23 (I cant remember) I was in pain, but the Excedrin must have kicked in, because I felt like things were starting to come around. From this point forward, I mostly ran, walked here and there – I just kept saying to myself “keep the legs moving.”
FINALLY, we made a turn onto the promenade or whatever its called in Sea Isle, and I could see the finish banner a ways out. As I got closer to the finish, I could see the crowds of spectators starting to get a bit thicker, and I started pushing it, dropping my pace below 9’0”. I came across that finish line in a damn near sprint – 4:08:46 according to the Garmin. I stopped the Garmin every time I stopped, and let it run every time I walked, to keep things honest. I am not sure what my official time is – the results arent yet posted.
You want to know what sucked? Driving home for an hour and forty five minutes. But, I stopped on the way home and bought two bags of ice from Wawa, and took a ten minute ice bath, which was the friggen amazing. It was a bit of a shock, but it sure was hell took some of the edge off of my pain. Heather and I ordered food, and I made every human attempt possible to ingest 3,000 calories in one setting via a massive cheese steak and a side order of fries.
Final wrap up: I hit every water stop (cept for the very first one), so Between what I was carrying on me, and what I drank at each stop, I think I did a good job at staying hydrated. I hammered down 6 gels – I took the first one around an hour, and then about every 40 minutes on from there. I think I should have had a bit more to eat before the race. As I mentioned, I only ate a cliff bar on the way to the race. I think I could have used another 300 or 400 calories or so. This was a good first experience. Its definitely a great launching pad for lessons learned for the next one :)