The Rehoboth Seashore Marathon and Half Marathon should be on every runner’s holiday checklist

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is one of my favorite places in the world.

I’ve been vacationing there since I was two years old, and I look forward to my annual beach week in Rehoboth every year. I take comfort in the fact that in so many ways, Rehoboth in 2018 looks a lot like Rehoboth in the 1980s. Very little about the boardwalk has changed in 30 years — and I like that.

Still, even though I’ve been going to the beach for most of my life, last year was the first year that I ever visited during the holidays! I ran the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon to qualify for Boston, and had such a wonderful experience that I decided I will try to run the half marathon every year that I am able. (I don’t like the idea of repeating a full marathon unless it’s Boston — there are just too many I want to run! But I’ll happily run the same half more than once!)

So I ran the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon on Dec. 8, finishing in 1:42:55– a 7:51/mile pace, and my fastest half in almost two years! Truthfully, I had dreams of finishing under 1:40, and I know I can do it eventually — but I’m going to need to train smarter. This was my 17th half marathon, and I’ve yet to follow an actual training plan for that distance. I just run my normal 3-5 mile runs three or four times a week, and try to do a long run of 10-12 miles every weekend for about 4-6 weeks leading up to any half. It works for me, but maybe I could do better if I trained more seriously!

Anyway, my husband and I drove in Friday night after work and got to Rehoboth about 15 minutes before the race expo closed, so I was able to grab my bib and swag bag before we hit dinner at the Dogfish Head Brewpub. My eating habits before a race tend to be a little unconventional — if at all possible, I prefer to eat a veggie burger and French fries and wash it all down with a beer or two. Hey, it’s carb-loading! I wish I could remember the name of the stout I drank when we first got there — it was rich and chocolate-y and, at 10 percent ABV, probably a risky move before a race, but it was worth it. I also had a Seaquench Ale with dinner, one of my favorites and also one of the beers given out to runners at the post-race after party! (Did I mention that runners each get three beer tickets with their race registration? Seriously, if you are a beer lover who loves to run, sign up for this race!)

I knew it was going to be cold the morning of the race, but I wasn’t too worried. Like most people, I run much better in the cold. Last year, it was 45 degrees and sunny for the marathon; this year, it was about 15 degrees cooler. I was prepared for it in running tights, compression knee socks, a long-sleeved shirt, my Rock ‘N Roll Marathon windbreaker, neck gaiter and gloves. Oh, and my goofy “Meowy Christmas” cat hat that I wore last year.

Runners were treated to an amazing sunrise just before the start of the race! Sooooo many people were taking selfies, haha.

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The gun went off promptly at 7 am, and once I started running, I warmed up almost immediately. All runners start off at the Rehoboth Bandstand and head down Rehoboth Avenue, then turn off into the side streets to head toward Cape Henlopen State Park. There’s a turnaround for half marathoners around mile 3, with marathoners heading into the park and half marathoners going back through Rehoboth and then onto the Junction & Breakwater Trail for much of the back half of the race.

I ran my first mile in 7:56 and it felt comfy. My next few miles grew progressively faster, and I held pretty steady between 7:30-7:40 for miles 3 through about 9! I was proud of that — not just the pace, but the fact that I was able to stay so consistent. I even had a woman run with me for a mile or two on the trail because she said I was pacing so well. Again, I think the cooler temps helped me a lot, as well as the flat terrain. There are pretty much ZERO hills in both the full and the half marathons, making both races good for PRs.

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Look how pretty and even! 

I did start to hit a bit of a wall around mile 11/11.5. By then, I’d been running on the trail for several miles and it is more uneven and tougher than road running — plus, I’m sure I was paying for all those earlier miles in the 7:30s. Whoops. That said, the Junction & Breakwater Trail is lovely and is home to one of my favorite parts of the course –the “flag alley,” with a variety of different flags hanging above the trail. I’m not sure who sets that up, but it’s so colorful and fun! There is also a DJ playing music right around that point in the race, too.

At mile 12, I was officially off the trail and back on the road, heading toward the finish line behind the Cultured Pearl sushi restaurant. I started thinking about finishing the marathon a year earlier, and seeing my husband standing on the side of the street at mile 26 yelling at me to “EMPTY THE TANK!” I can’t believe that was a whole year ago, and I’ll finally get to run Boston in four months.

It was really all such a blur that I don’t remember much about actually finishing (I legit look like I’m about to pass a kidney stone in the finish line pictures). This year, I was paying a bit more attention and felt like that last turn by the Cultured Pearl and through the finish line went on forever. Like, that last .1 might as well have been a mile long. Of course it wasn’t, but that’s how it felt!

I collected my finisher’s medal and called my husband (who decided to sleep in rather than see me finish — part of me wanted to be annoyed, and part of me was like, “well, it was your 17th freaking half marathon, this is not exciting for him anymore.”) I walked back to the hotel about two blocks away, showered and then he and I grabbed some breakfast and then came back for the after party.

The post-race party is LIT. The DJ was taking requests all week long in a Facebook group dedicated to the race, and he was playing all of them — including lots of ’90s music, my personal favorite. Everyone was dancing a lot and a group of runners who call themselves Team Fireball were there passing around, what else, a bottle of Fireball. I even saw the race director take a shot or two. I love me some Fireball, but it gives me two-day hangovers and so I stuck with my beloved Seaquench instead. 🙂

The party continued well into the afternoon, and some of the volunteers even walked the last finisher into the tent, to huge applause! I thought that was so awesome.

As for me, I probably had a little *too* much fun at the after party and then at the Purple Parrot that night for karaoke. If you had to hear me singing Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” (among other gems) …. well, I am truly sorry.

Registration for the 2019 race opens on New Year’s Eve! I believe both the full and the half sold out this year, so don’t wait until the last minute if you are interested!

I’m a Boston qualifier! Recapping the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

No need to bury the lede — I qualified for the Boston Marathon in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday!

Three days later, and the excitement still hasn’t worn off. I really did it! All that hard work paid off! Next September, I will get to register for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

My BQ standard is 3:40, and I ran a 3:35:00:7 — that’s right, seven-tenths of a second over a perfect 3:35, which was my goal. If you run five minutes or more under your standard, the Boston Athletic Association lets you register during week one of registrations — not sure if this counts. Anyone know? The field for the Boston Marathon has gotten so competitive over the past few years that to gain entrance into the 2018 marathon, you had to run a whole three minutes, 23 seconds under your standard — which is why I was shooting for 3:35 instead of 3:40. I should have a pretty good cushion for 2019, barring any major jumps in the cutoff time.

The road to a BQ goes through Rehoboth 

The Rehoboth Marathon was my fourth full marathon, and the first time I trained specifically for a BQ. I decided to go for it after I ran the Charlottesville Marathon last April in 3:42:15, surprising myself — it was a difficult course, and my last long run before my taper was a disaster of a 20-miler. I always train hard, but I knew if I pushed myself even harder, I could earn a Boston qualifier. Enter Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan, which had me running Yasso 800s (I truly believe this is what got me the 3:35 … more on that in a bit), hill repeats and three 30-mile weekends comprised of 10 miles one day, 20 miles the next.

It was a damn tough plan, but it worked. I chose Rehoboth because I’ve been vacationing there most of my life, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. The course is also super flat, unlike, well, every other marathon I’ve run. I think the fast course, coupled with that training plan and the amazing weather on race day, helped me meet my goal.

Speaking of the weather, I was REAL nervous about it. The race (which is both a full and a half marathon) has a really active Facebook group, and about 10 days out from the race, people started posting forecasts. One of the early forecasts called for 30 mph winds, and my heart sunk immediately when I saw that. I really feel the crazy winds hurt me in the Annapolis Running Classic and the Turkey Chase 10K two weekends ago, so I was not happy about possibly facing the same thing in the marathon. Fortunately, the forecast changed and there was almost no wind at all! With temperatures at the start of the race in the 40s, and the sun shining, it really was pretty ideal weather for a December race.

The race

My plan was to run with the 3:40 pace group for at least the first half of the marathon, then pass them by. I figured staying with the 3:40 group in the beginning would keep me from starting out too fast, then burning out late in the race. It ended up being the right strategy.

Both the half and full marathon started off at the Rehoboth Bandstand on Rehoboth Avenue, and right away, I noticed how crowded it was. I was pretty much running shoulder to shoulder with other runners until I broke off from the pace group at mile 14. That was the only thing I really didn’t like about the race — but when you’re running on narrow-ish streets, through a state park and down a rail trail, it’s kind of to be expected. I definitely had to apologize a few times to other runners I elbowed!

That aside, I thought the course was just beautiful. After starting in downtown Rehoboth, runners in both races ran through Cape Henlopen State Park, a favorite place of mine. The half marathoners turned around at a pavilion inside the park, while everyone running the marathon ran through the park and into Lewes Beach. We even got to run along the coast line for a hot second. At around mile 10, we ran past a Dairy Queen, where workers were handing out small servings of vanilla ice cream. While that was a nice idea, there was no way I was brave enough to try eating ice cream when I still had 16 miles left to run — I’ve had issues with dairy during training as it is. I stuck with my typical marathon fueling plan, which is taking Gu at miles five, 10, 15 and 20. It worked, though I felt my stomach start to grumble just before I hit mile 15 and got worried that a crash was imminent. Fortunately, the Gu (shout out to the lemon sublime and toasted marshmallow flavors!) did its job.

After turning around in Lewes Beach, the marathon runners went back through the park, and I decided it was time for me to go off on my own. At that point, I had been running a steady 8:20 pace, and it felt really comfortable. I started to speed up into the low 8s, while still making a point to appreciate the view around me (if you haven’t visited Cape Henlopen State Park, you totally should!) When I looked at my watch and saw I ran mile 15 in 7:58, I got a little nervous that I was going too fast, but I still felt great. I ran mile 16 in 8:07 and 17 in 8:16, and then came upon two runners who were chatting about running Boston.

I told them I was trying to qualify, and the one runner, James, asked me what time I was shooting for. I said I needed 3:40, but wanted a 3:35. He offered to pace me the rest of the marathon, which was so nice of him. He told me he was trying to take it easy with a 3:40 time, so he was quite obviously a much faster runner than I am! At this point, I was still feeling really strong and we hit miles 18 and 19 (which were back in the town of Rehoboth) at a sub-8 pace.

That pace continued as we ran miles 20 and 21 together, then we entered the Junction and Breakwater Trail, a rail trail that I didn’t even know existed until this race. (Now I have a new place to run when I come to the beach!) The trail was a little uneven, but not too bad, and I was able to hold a steady pace in the high 7s/low 8s. One big highlight was the dozens of flags hanging above the trail at mile 22, representing countries from all around the world. The volunteers at that stop were playing awesome music, too. At that point, I remember looking down at my watch and seeing I was at three hours, and knew that I could conceivably finish in the low 3:30s. After the turnaround point at the end of the trail, it was time to head back into Rehoboth, and I knew the finish line was near!

At mile 24, I started to hit “the wall,” and even began to feel a bit queasy. But my running partner cheered me on and I managed to power through. At mile 25, as we were running into Rehoboth, a spectator called out, “You look so athletic!” which made my day. At that point, I kept my eyes trained on the sidelines looking for my husband (who was in the bathroom when I crossed the finish line at the Charlottesville Marathon, haha.)

This time, he was right there at mile 26, and when he saw me, he yelled “EMPTY THE TANK! The finish line is right around the corner!” So I pretty much pushed as hard as I could mentally, ran that last 0.2 with everything left in me and crossed the finish line in a hair over 3:35. I hugged my new friend, who congratulated me on the BQ. Then I met up with my husband, who had brought a change of clean clothes for me, and it was time to hit the after party! I got three beer tickets, for three Dogfish Head Seaquench Ales (one of my favorite beers), and boy, did they taste good!

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Why I qualified 

Aside from the kindness of a fellow marathoner, there are a few reasons why I had such a successful race.

  1. Yasso 800s. This speed workout is named after its creator, Runner’s World’s Bart Yasso, who realized he could predict his marathon time, more or less, by how fast he could run 800 meters. My training plan had me doing the 800s every three weeks, starting off with repeats of four, all the way up to repeats of eight. I ran my repeats in 3:35, and ….. voila, a 3:35 marathon! Of course there is probably more to it than that, but I was amazed at how accurate the 800s turned out to be. I tweeted Yasso after the race, and he said he was actually in Rehoboth cheering on the runners — so I ran past him and didn’t even realize!
  2. I ran more than ever before. This is a no brainer, but the more miles you log, the faster you will get. In previous training cycles, I’d always run one 20-miler before tapering. This time, I ran three. Plus, the day before the long run always included a medium-long run– for example, eight miles Saturday then 16 on Sunday; nine miles, then 19 miles; and finally, three weekends of 10 miles, then 20 miles. Some weekends I felt like I did nothing but run!
  3. The weather! Totally out of a runner’s control, but bad weather can make or break a race. I struggled with what to wear during this race, and settled on a long-sleeved technical top and running tights. I did not wear a running jacket, and I’m glad I didn’t, because even with temperatures in the 40s, it started to warm up pretty quickly. I never felt too hot or cold, and I feel like I really lucked out there.
  4. I followed the long, slow distance rule during long runs, but also worked on finishing fast. You’re supposed to do your long runs during marathon training at a pace that’s easy and comfortable for you, which is probably not your race pace. I usually have a hard time doing that, but this time, I ran my long runs in the 9-minute range. But I also threw in a few marathon pace miles in there and worked on finishing fast (I ran the last two miles of my 20-milers at a sub-8 pace.) I feel that definitely helped me in the last few miles of the Rehoboth Marathon, when I was pushing hard physically and mentally.
  5. I believed in myself. Simple, but true! I’ve spent the last few months thinking about my goal and dreaming of what it would feel like to run a BQ time. I knew I had the physical ability to do it, and I’d certainly put in the work. I truly saw this as my race. And it was.

Since I qualified for Boston 2019, that leaves me in search of a marathon in 2018! What should my next one be? I’m thinking of targeting a November marathon, but I’m so used to training for marathons over the winter that I kind of want to do a spring one, too. I welcome your suggestions!

 

Halfway done with training for the Rehoboth Marathon

The Rehoboth Marathon is just two months away!

Yesterday was my longest run to date of this training cycle — 17 miles. As I was running along the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail, enjoying the absolutely perfect fall weather, I thought about how much harder the training is going to get in the next few weeks.

This weekend calls for 9 miles on Saturday and 19 miles on Sunday, then I have three 20-milers sprinkled over the next six weeks. This plan I am following is all new to me — with previous marathons, I’ve followed a plan that called for one 20-miler, then the taper. It’s challenging, but I’m confident in my abilities and so far, I feel really good.

(In non-running related life happenings, the husband and I are also in the process of buying a house, so I’m trying to jam house tours into my weekend schedule, as well. Fun times. Who needs a social life?)

Here’s what I’ve learned after the first two months of training for my fourth marathon:

Running long and slow is HARD. I have more trouble with the “run slow” part, which probably sounds really cocky. But like most runners, I’m in the habit of pushing myself as hard as I can, including on long training runs. But running as fast as you can isn’t the point of the long run — it’s to build up strength and endurance so you aren’t burned out on race day. Makes sense. It’s just hard to put into practice. But I think I did all right on this weekend’s long run. Tried to take it nice and slow — just like Usher said. 🙂

Eating the right foods is important. That’s not exactly groundbreaking information, but like running long and slow, it’s sometimes easier said than done. An example: This Sunday, I was fairly lazy. I didn’t get up until 10:30 (I wish I was one of those runners who’s up at 6 a.m. sharp pounding out those miles! But I like sleep.) Then, I wanted to watch the Steelers-Ravens game (go Steelers!) at 1 p.m. I didn’t actually make it out for my run until 4:30 p.m.

For a late breakfast, I ate a bagel with sunflower seed butter and banana (protein and carbs, good choice), but then my pre-run snack was … a piece of beer bread and three Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins. FAIL. I brought an energy gel along on my run, but I was pretty hungry by the end of it. Not good.

My expensive gel pedicures are a necessity! My husband complains about the cost until he looks at my feet. They’re a freaking train wreck even after the best pedi my money can buy, so imagine if I didn’t take care of them. Right now, I’m rocking a sexy blood blister on my left foot. Based on past training experiences, I know a black toenail or two isn’t far behind. Whatever. Sandal season is almost done for the year anyway!

Two months down, two months to go. Bring on the next eight weeks!

Recap of the Bottle & Cork Ten-Miler

I came to Dewey Beach last weekend with one goal — win my age group in the Bottle & Cork Ten-Miler. I’d run this race twice before, and came in second place in my age group both times.

I’m proud to say that I accomplished my mission! I had the perfect race. Plus, it was a great way for me to pre-game for the Rehoboth Marathon!

This race, in its 41st year in Dewey Beach, Delaware, is part of the Dewey Beach Ten Sisters Road Race series. It’s an extremely flat course, but it’s often quite hot the day of the race. When I ran the race in 2014, it was 90 degrees and humid and I finished in 1:24 — not bad at all considering it felt like I was running on the face of the sun.

This year? 1:13:27 — a full two minutes faster than my A10 time two weeks ago. With an average 7:21 pace, it was a PR in a huge way.

And look, I love hot weather, but I don’t necessarily love running in it. Saturday’s temperatures in the 60s, with no humidity, were just right.

As I mentioned, the course, which begins right in the heart of Dewey, is almost entirely flat. Runners start by running down Coastal Highway into neighboring Rehoboth Beach. After running miles 2-5 through Rehoboth and Henlopen Acres, where there are a few small rolling hills, runners get on the Rehoboth Boardwalk. The boardwalk is exactly a mile long, and while it’s one of my favorite places to hang out when I’m on vacation at the beach, it’s honestly the worst part of this race! The sun is beating down on you the whole time, and you’re weaving around people who are out for their morning stroll. I’m glad it’s only a mile.

Then runners exit the boardwalk, run around Silver Lake (one of the prettiest parts of Rehoboth!) and through the neighborhoods around the lake, then head back toward Dewey. You spend the last two miles of the race running around the residential part of Dewey before getting to the finish line on the Rehoboth Bay.

I remember looking down at my Garmin and seeing that I’d run eight miles in just under and hour, and it was then that I knew I was going to PR. Just before I turned the corner to run past the Bottle & Cork and down to the finish line, I saw two friends waiting on the sidelines calling my name. I was dead tired, but knew I couldn’t slow down then! I high-fived them, screamed “I’M GONNA PR!” and sprinted to the finish.

I had a strong feeling I came in first in my age group, and I was so happy that I did! I got a finisher’s medal, and a beer stein for the first place finish. For my previous second place finishes, I’d received a wine glass and another beer stein, so I’m building up quite the collection of Bottle & Cork drinkware. (I put it to good use, trust me.)

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The race also coincides with an annual girls trip, so I was in Dewey with a big group of women. Let’s just say I celebrated heartily after my victory, and leave it at that! 😉

The Delaware shore is one of my very favorite places in the world, and it’s such a pleasure to race there. I cannot wait until the Rehoboth Marathon! 79 days to go!

Speed work makes the dream work

…. or something like that.

As I mentioned before, I’m following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan as I prepare for the Rehoboth Marathon. It’s far more challenging than the plan I’ve followed previously, incorporating hill repeats, speed workouts and a total of three 20-mile long runs leading up to the race. (My old plan had me running one 20-miler before the taper.) But let’s talk about those speed workouts.

This is my first time doing Yasso 800s, which are supposed to be a way to predict your marathon finishing time. They’re named for Bart Yasso, longtime race services manager at Runner’s World magazine and a seasoned marathoner and ultramarathoner. (I’m reading his book now — review to come!)

Basically, Yasso realized that he could gauge his marathon time based on how long it took him to run 800 meters, or a half-mile. If you can run, say, 800 meters (two laps around your typical high school track) in four minutes, you will likely bang out a four-hour marathon. Training to run a 3:30 marathon? Then run your Yasso 800s in three minutes and 30 seconds. You get the idea. Here’s the whole history of Yasso 800s and how Bart came up with the concept.

With the plan I am following, I’m running my 800s every third week. I started with four repeats three weeks ago and will progress up to eight repeats. In between each 800-meter sprint, I jog for 400 meters to recover. I’ve been shooting for 800s in 3:35. My Boston qualifying standard is 3:40, but I’m trying to give myself a solid cushion, so a 3:35 marathon is my ultimate goal! It means I need to knock seven minutes off my marathon time– definitely not impossible.

I’m not going to lie — speed work is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I think it kind of blows. So I’m hoping this is as effective as the pros say! Three weeks ago, I went to the track at the local high school and ran my 800s as the football team practiced in the background. Tonight, it was pouring, so I ran my five repeats on the treadmill. Works just as well.

Not everyone believes in the total accuracy of the Yasso 800s — this article notes there’s no scientific data to back up its legitimacy as a time predictor. So we’ll see! Regardless, it’s certainly challenging my body and helping me to mix up my training.

Hill yes!

I’m no stranger to running up hills.

Annapolis, where I do almost all of my training, is hillier than one might think (the A10 is often described as a challenging race partly because of all the rolling hills.) Most of the hills here aren’t super long or super steep, but they are definitely there.

That said, I’ve never done any dedicated hill training before now, as I work to BQ at the Rehoboth Marathon on Dec. 2.

I missed a BQ by two minutes and 15 seconds when I ran the Charlottesville Marathon in April (talk about hills.) To be honest, I thought it would be cool to run a BQ time — for me, that’s three hours, 40 minutes — but I wasn’t intentionally training for one. After I came so close, I thought, well, if I really push myself next time, maybe I can do it!

Enter Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training schedule, which includes hill repeats every third week. The plan starts with three hill repeats, and progresses all the way up to seven hill repeats. They’re relatively short runs, but they will get your heart pumping and your legs aching.

I’ve been doing my hill repeats on the Naval Academy Bridge, which is one of my favorite places to run in Annapolis.

Why is it one of my favorite places? I mean, look at this:

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That was the view from the bridge at sunset the other night.

It was just the best reward after four rounds of hill repeats.

The Naval Academy Bridge is a solid choice for the hill workouts, too, because you can run up one side, catch your breath at the top, take in the pretty view, jog down the other side, then run back up. It’s perfect!

The Rehoboth Marathon is a flat course, so I’m hoping that a solid foundation in hill training will give me an advantage in my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Do you do hill training as part of your workouts? What advice do you have for me?