I had no horse in the race. I had a BQ for 2020. Even a course PR seemed unlikely given the wobbly weeks leading up to the week.
And truth be told, I just wanted revenge on last year’s race. My only expectation was to feel in a good place mentally for most of the race. Last year, I went out hard, hoping for a new PR. Instead, I succumbed to the demons mid-race and struggled to find that drive until the last 10K.
Rehoboth has been good to me every year though. And I often let the thought trickle into my brain that the worst possible thing that could happen would still mean I’d be surrounded by my favorite internet weirdos in the beer tent when finished.
As we discussed our plans (or lack thereof) on Friday, I said I wanted to find the 3:25 pacer on race morning. Randy, Eric, & Ken all discussed pacing Caitlin and I wavered on helping myself. I didn’t want to put any undue pressure on her to stick with anyone or be unnecessarily distracted.
We left around 6:40 a.m. on race morning for the 7:00 a.m. start - another reason I love this race and the awesome house location Caitlin has secured the past 3 years. The weather was perfect. Cold, no wind, and sunny skies to follow. I was actually okay in my shorts, tank, arm warmers, and throwaway hoodie. Looking around, I didn’t see the 3:25 pacer and ultimately decided that maybe I would just stick with the Loop pacers and see what transpired.
For a short while the pace team ran with John and Abby who were racing the half and then we all kind of got lost in the shuffle until we reached the turnaround. Ken and I ran shoulder to shoulder for awhile, keeping the pace around 8ish and then slowly I started to drop into the 7:50s. I peeled off my hoodie near the first water stop, warmed up with a couple of miles on my legs.
Once we hit the trail portion, I began to play leapfrog with Eric and Randy. I don’t know if any of us were being intentional with our pace swapping, but it was kind of nice to share the work as we worked our way across the trails. Because I was not so focused on a time goal this year, I actually took the time to look around and really soak in the morning, feeling pretty lucky to be doing the thing I love.
The Vaporfly is not a great shoe on the trails so I was relieved to get onto the pavement where I could finally feel some pop in my step. It felt good to be cruising with the gas pedal a few inches away from the redline.
I slowly gapped the pace team for a bit, pulling up closely with a group of runners who were talking and running 7:50s steadily. As we reached the first major turnaround, I looked forward to seeing Loopsters out on the course - though somehow I only managed to see Steve.
As I headed back towards the park, Randy and Eric caught back up with me. It was good to have company again, even if I was just jamming out to my music and letting them jabber at random. We played leapfrog once again and clipped off some 7:30s on the trail section on the way back. Sensing that was a bit too aggressive, too early, I tried to stick to the back of our little pack.
Once we hit the road and headed into town, mile 16 started to swallow runners up. It certainly was wearing on my own legs, but there was no acute pain or distress and I told myself to just stay strong between the ears. Maybe it was Demi Lovato’s “Confident” coming on at the right time, but I started to push a little harder as we crept back to town.
Two runners ahead of me were clearly feeling strong and I kept them in my sights as we passed the finish line area and got wooed at by the Loopster cheer squad. I wasn’t really slowing down at this point, but the 7:50s started to get a little tougher. I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I probably had an hour’s worth of running to do. I can run for another hour.
Freshly inspired on the trail section by the first few marathon runners, I just told myself to get to the last turnaround with enough left in the tank to push hard for the final miles. At this point, I wasn’t really sure where any other Loopster marathoners were, but I was super happy to see Jill & Sara all smiles wrapping up their final of the half.
I took my time to grab Gatorade at the last stop before the final turnaround and then rallied to get to that point where I just had to hold on. Checking my watch, I could see that I had a comfortable cushion to stay under 3:30 if I didn’t fall apart.
After tapping the mat at the turnaround, I saw that Eric was maybe 30 - 45 seconds behind me with Randy and Ken not too close behind him. In years past, I have felt pretty strong in the flag section and this time, it would be best described as steady. I wasn’t fading hard, but I also wasn’t speeding up either. Just cruising (and pretending like marathons aren't hard).
I saw Caitlin ahead of the 3:40 group (which at the time I thought was the 3:30 group) and gave her a shout, followed by Steve who looked happy and cruising, and then Angie, who was crushing it!
Coming off the trail and onto the road, I was starting to feel bonkish. My vision narrowed and I began to argue with myself over just getting it done and pushing versus not caring about the time and relaxing. I bypassed the last water stop, trying to maintain my stride and focus on finishing strong.
Past mile 26, I high-fived the cheer squad and saw the finish chute was mostly clear - a great time to execute a jump finish!
3:26:21! 12th female & 3rd in the 35-39 age group. I was handed a heat sheet and a medal and then promptly went behind the bushes near the finish line and puked. Shortly thereafter, I stood at the finish line, waiting for Eric, Randy, Ken, and Caitlin to finish their
races, high-fiving, fist-bumping, and hugging as they came through.
The rest of the day and night included shenanigans as usual - the real reason I go run a marathon in Rehoboth Beach every December.