Thursday, May 25, 2017

Race Report: Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

Running the Firenze Marathon in Italy after a month sidelined by injury gave me renewed hope that I would be able to run distance again.  Especially knowing how to curtail any issues my knees, particularly my weak quad muscles, would give me.  A week after Firenze, I was scheduled to run in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to run a race that friends had talked about as being quite a fun and scenic race, despite being along the ocean in the off season, which meant one thing... COLD.

With the lovely Nora!
Earlier in 2016, when I was scheduling out the second half of the year, I had emailed the race director for the Rehoboth Beach race, with the intention to run it, but offering my services to sing at it as well.  My friend Nora vouched for my capabilities, and by July, I was confirmed to sing at the start of the race.  Flash forward to December, and the race is upon us!  Being a Saturday morning race, I needed to leave the office after work, and I booked a car to drive down to Rehoboth from Newark Airport.  It's a 3 to 3 1/2 hour drive depending on traffic, and I finally got on the road at about 7:30pm.  The quickest and most direct route would be taking I-95 south past Trenton, Philadelphia and Wilmington, then taking DE-1 south all the way down to Rehoboth Beach.  I stayed the night at a Holiday Inn with my friend Jim, who had gotten there earlier in the day, and also had gotten my bib for me.

Singing the national anthem
(Photo by the Cape Gazette)
We woke up super early the next morning, and drove separately into "downtown." Thankfully there was plenty of parking in front of businesses on Rehoboth Avenue, and we were there early enough to find it.  BOY was it cold.  The mercury measured at 41º, but with a slight wind, it really felt like 37º.  We assembled before the sun was up too, so it may have even felt colder.  The Christmas Tree at the end of Rehoboth Avenue looked so majestic with the morning sun rising over the ocean behind it, and inside the gazebo, volunteers were providing bibs to racers picking up minutes before the race.  I got myself to the gazebo, as that was where pre-race announcements were being made, and where I was summoned to come do the national anthem.  At ten minutes before 7, I gave my rendition of the anthem, marking off my 17th state to sing the national anthem at!


Early on, with Baylee pacing.
The runners headed out to the north side of Rehoboth Avenue, and with a little bit of a late start we were off!  The first 2/3 mile headed westward along Rehoboth Avenue, before making a right turn onto 5th Street.  We'd only go one block before turning right again as we followed Sussex Street eastward.  I began to follow my friend Baylee, who was running 4:40 - a pace I haven't touched in quite some time -- in fact, only one race beats 4:40, which was my 4:37 PR at the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon in December 2015; my next fastest were a 4:45:46 at my very first marathon, the 2014 Chicago Marathon, and 4:45:59 at the downhill Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah in September 2016.  I told Baylee I'd try to keep up with her as best as I could.

Chaotic turnaround at the 5k mark
And in fact, I was off to a steady start as I clocked my first three miles in even splits, mile one in 10:13; mile two in 10:17; and mile three in 10:14.  I had gone out in front of Baylee by a bit by the time I hit my second mile.  With the course being super flat, I didn't feel like I was going out too hard, and I was managing well and not having to do any intervals. After running along Sussex Street and hitting mile 1, we turned right for a block on 3rd Street, and then ran along Olive Avenue before turning left onto 1st Street.  We then turned right onto Lake Avenue, then left onto Surf Avenue, and then right again onto Ocean Drive, which we would run along for a little while.  Along the way, I ran into another friend, Julia, who was pacing 2:15 for the half marathon.  Ocean Drive ran parallel to the beach, though it was out of view because the sand dunes were blocking it.  We ran all the way up to the parking lot of Gordon's Pond State Park.  Set up in the parking lot was a short out and back and an aid station.  The turn around was only about a hundred feet away from the aid station, so it was a bit chaotic with the sheer amount of folks passing by; not only that, but the marathoners veered off into the trails around Gordon's Pond while everyone else continued back along Ocean Drive (we had seen several runners running back in our direction as we headed northward).

Beautiful views at Gordon's Pond
Once we had split off and gone into the Gordon's Pond Wildlife Area, we were on dirt and crushed stone trails with beautiful views of the marsh and Gordon's Pond, an active bird sanctuary, frequented by several species of shorebird, including endangered species such as the black skimmer, least tern, and piping plover.  The 3.2 mile trail took us around the pond along the water's edge and onto an elevated bridge, where we got to traverse through an upland pine forest.  Eventually, we emerged onto Dune Road, and took it northward before turning left at the 10K mark on a treelined stretch of gravel road for 1/4 mile.  We then ascended a short hill and found ourselves back on asphalt, where we ran through the small parking lot into the Fort Miles Historic Area, a military installation built to defend Delaware Bay and to protect domestic shipping from enemy fire within the capes.  We ran along a quick out and back right up to a scenic viewpoint where we were able to finally see the ocean for the first time since the beginning of the race, unobstructed by sand dunes.

Elevated bridges near Gordon's Pond

Short out and back at Fort Miles

Oh, hey, there's the ocean!


The 10k mark.
Before long, we were back on the roads, as we took Post Lane through the woods, eventually making our way past beach homes situated in Cape Henlopen.  By mile 8, we were on the shoulder of a long stretch of road, heading west, parallel to the shore but a short distance from it. We were on Post Lane and then Cape Henlopen Drive, asphalt roads dusted with beach sand.  We were also being tossed around by some strong winds.  At this point in time, I had caught up to my friend J.C., who was pacing 4:25 for the marathon and had a small group of folks running alongside him.  I felt quite strong, and ran with him for the next four miles, as we ran clear past the Lewes Ferry Terminal and the turn off for US-9, and looped ourselves around a parking lot near Lewes Beach, and a Dairy Queen (which, darn it, was closed; however it was announced in January that for the 2017 edition of the race, they'll be open!).  We then ran along the other shoulder, still keeping pace as we approached the halfway point of the race.

Halfway through, greeted by a T-Rex, and staying on pace!
 
More trails.
As we ran eastward along Cape Henlopen Drive, I was hitting a consistent 10:00 min per mile pace - not too fast, not too slow.   We turned right onto Engineer Road just before hitting the 12 mile mark, and where I stopped to take a walk break.  At that point in time, I let J.C. and the 4:25 crew pass; I still had a lot of race left to go, but I needed to conserve my energy.  We passed a World War II observation tower as we took the bike trail on the western edge of Fort Miles back toward the Gordon's Pond area, eventually making it back to the treelined stretch of gravel road that we had reached at the 10k mark earlier.  By then we were right at the halfway point of the race, and we traced our paths back along Dune Road, and onto the dirt and crushed stone trails around Gordon's Pond.  By then I was also taking in my GU, and I made sure to be very conscious of where I was disposing of my trash so that it could be easily removed at the mile markers when the race folks came back to pick up the signs.  We took back down Ocean Drive, and then found ourselves traversing through the residential neighborhood we ran through at the start of the race.

Back with Baylee and crew
We hit the 17 mile mark along Ocean Drive before turning right onto Columbia Avenue, where we would be running for the next mile as we headed toward Rehoboth Avenue (State Route 1A).  At mile 18, a small group of folks passed right by me, and it turned out it was Baylee and her pace group!  I had slowed down a bit, but managed to still stay within striking distance of a PR pace - and it turned out, Baylee and her group were a bit ahead of 4:40 pace. On the other side of the road, we saw runners coming in our direction - a mix of both marathoners and half marathoners less than half a mile from the finish line!  Among them, I waved hello to my friend Mwenyewe, finishing up her half marathon. We eventually turned right into the parking lot of the Rehoboth Beach Museum and Chamber of Commerce, where there was a conveniently placed water stop, before we continued on turning right onto Rehoboth Avenue and crossing the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal.  We turned right onto Church Street, and encountered a gauntlet of orange cones, as runners were coming toward us after completing the lengthy out-and-back that lay before me.

On the Junction &
Breakwater Trail
From Church Street, we were directed to turn onto Canal Crossing Road, and then right onto Route 273, which we followed past a tony subdivision all the way to the road's end, giving way to the Junction and Breakwater Trail, a popular crushed stone trail that follows a section of the former Penn Central railroad which connected Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.  When we hit the trail, we were only 19.5 miles in, so this out and back would be a lengthy one, as it was roughly 1.5 miles from where I had seen people turning off to the finish line when I was on Columbia Avenue.  After a mile of curvy trail, we reached a long straight section, and we would reach the turn around point at around the 22 mile mark, and along the way I ran into Nora and Donna, as well as JC, who had pushed further in front of me.  Baylee had gone in front of me at one point in time while we were on the trail as well, but she wasn't too far in front when she had come back from the turn around, so I figured I was staying well within striking distance.  I definitely had slowed down by this point, struggling even to hover around an 11 minute mile, but soldier on I did.

Awesome official finish photo!
We retraced our steps all the way back along the trail and onto Route 273, turning onto Canal Crossing, and then back onto Rehoboth Avenue, following the westbound lanes eastward and onto Columbia Avenue, where the finish was only some 400 meters away.  We climbed up two blocks, and made the turn onto Kent Street, and then made our final turn onto 4th Street.  To cheering crowds, I crossed in 4:41:05, my second fastest marathon to date, and only 3 1/2 minutes off of my PR.  It was a massive improvement over my race in Firenze just the week before, and I still felt great afterward.

Friends together at the finish!
(Photo by Donna Dullys)
Baylee crossed only a minute before me, finishing her race at the pace she was assigned, so I wasn't too far behind her at all!  I hurried over to the post-race party, and some AMAZING breakfast food that I quickly devoured.  I enjoyed the company of several friends, including Georgia, Amanda, Kimberly, Danielle, and her friend Karen, and headed off to watch Donna come in for her finish, as well.  It took awhile, but another keg of Dogfish Head beer finally appeared (I had missed it the first time around), and was able to get a pint in.  It was still quite cold that afternoon, and the wind was a contributing factor, but we moseyed our way back to the main drag near the startline, where I had parked my car, and Danielle took a great headstand photo of me near the beach.  That night I'd be staying with the ladies, taking in a night at The Avenue II Inn near the start, but before then, we all freshened up, and got a little rest.

With race director Mary Beth Evans post race.

Victory Headstand Photo!
Sassy post race photo.

At Crabby Dick's gift shoppe!
Seriously, it's the restaurant's name.
That evening, we headed out to dinner at Crabby Dick's, a seafood restaurant, where we continued to enjoy each other's company, followed by an incredible evening of shenanigans fueled by beer at Dogfish Head and karaoke night at the Purple Parrot.  Lots of fun was had including pictures with giant rooster statues and nativity scenes. Needless to say, there are lots of photos that we may or may not remember and may or may not want to forget.  LOL.

The next morning, we all took off on our separate ways; being far from an airport meant a bit of driving to do for several of my friends, so they all had to take off early (maybe a little hungover) to make their flights.  I decided to do some shopping as Rehoboth has some excellent outlet malls, and I made my way over to spend my afternoon shopping before I drove back to Newark to return my car.  Another state was checked off my list, and the year was winding down to my last few races before Christmas!

With the Schwartz's, who I've known now for two years!

Karaoke night at the Purple Parrot! (Photo by Amanda Dixon Sweeney)

Best photo of the weekend.  Donna and I, with Georgia and Amanda in selfie camera mode.
(Photo by Amanda Dixon Sweeney)
No comment needed.  It's a nativity scene.




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