Run hard, party hard: The 2019 Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon

Earlier this month, I ran my 22nd half marathon, the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon. This annual race, which also includes a full marathon, happens every year on the first weekend in December. I ran the full marathon to qualify for Boston two years ago, and decided that I’d like to return for the half every year that I am able to. (I don’t really want to repeat marathons unless it’s Boston.)

There is just so much to love about this race — it’s in Rehoboth, one of my very favorite places, it’s pancake flat, and the weather is usually pretty good. It’s cold, because duh, it’s in December, but I much prefer that to the heat anyway. And the after party! You won’t find a better one, seriously.

Last year, I ran a 1:42:56 half, and was hopeful that I could break 1:40 for the third time this fall. And I did, finishing exactly four minutes faster in 1:38:56!

My husband and I got to Rehoboth Friday afternoon and waited for my sister Catherine to join us. (She recently moved back to the Pittsburgh area from Georgia, so we are excited to be able to see more of her!) Of course, we went to Dogfish Head for dinner, where I got my usual veggie burger, fries and a beer (actually, two beers. I’m sure there are a lot of runners out there who won’t drink before a race, but I’m not one of them! Everything in moderation!) This was Catherine’s first time in Rehoboth during the Christmas season, and she kept marveling over how empty the boardwalk was. It definitely looks much different when we are there in the summer!

Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

We love Dogfish!

Rehoboth Beach at Christmas time

Rehoboth at Christmas! (Photo by Catherine Rebitch)

The next morning, I awoke promptly when my alarm went off at 5. The race starts at 7 and I like to eat my bagel with peanut butter and a banana (and drink my black coffee) about two hours before a race. We were staying in the Atlantic Sands hotel, about a block from the start line (another awesome thing about this race — getting to the start is so convenient!) Catherine walked to the start line with me so she could get some pictures of the beautiful sunrise and I did a very quick warm up on the boardwalk, mainly so I could literally warm up. It was in the 30s and windy — very windy. I was a bit concerned about that headwind, but it didn’t end up being too bad for most of the race. I lined up with the 1:40 pacer, planning to stick with him for a few miles and move on ahead.

As it turned out, I ran with him for about two miles, then sped up. As always, I knew this was risky, but I was feeling fresh. The wind picked up significantly around mile 1.5 and we were running into it until around mile 3, when the half marathoners turned around and the marathoners continued into Cape Henlopen State Park. To be honest, I didn’t feel much of a tailwind then, but I’m sure it was there because my pace picked up significantly after that.

Mile 1: 7:41
Mile 2: 7:31
Mile 3: 7:31
Mile 4: 7:13

At this point, the race takes you back through the residential streets of Rehoboth and then toward the Junction and Breakwater Trail, which is a lovely trail that I never even knew existed until I ran the marathon in 2017. Miles 7-11.5ish of the half marathon are on this trail, and it’s also home to the “flag alley,” where flags from all around the world are hung above the trail. There is a DJ and a timing mat at this part, too, so the DJ calls out runners’ names as you go past.

Mile 5: 7:23
Mile 6: 7:20
Mile 7: 7:35

I was hoping to hit mile 8 right at right around an hour, which I did. The turnaround is at mile 9, and I was starting to feel tired but like I could hold onto my pace. I’m pretty proud of how consistent these next few miles were. After the turnaround, we were running directly into the sun, which was somewhat annoying because I couldn’t see all that well even with my sunglasses on! The trail is pretty even, but I still kept worrying that I was going to trip and fall over a rock or something.

Mile 8: 7:33
Mile 9: 7:33
Mile 10: 7:37
Mile 11: 7:31

The last mile and a half of the race is back out on the road and for some reason, hitting the pavement after spending the previous few miles on the trail kind of bothered my feet this year. But I told myself I was almost done at that point and could power through. Micah and Catherine were at mile 12.5 and they started screaming as soon as they saw me. They told me my Maryland flag print tights helped me stand out (apparently — at least a dozen spectators called out “Go Maryland!” as I ran past them!)

Mile 12: 7:35
Mile 13: 7:36

Last 0.18 (per my watch): 1:21

Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon

Almost at the finish

When I ran the half last year, I remember thinking the finish line was sooooo far away, and I thought the same thing this year. The last straightaway before the final right turn toward the finish seems extra long. I saw the clock read 1:39 something when I crossed, but I figured my official time would be in the 1:38s since it probably took me 20-30 seconds to cross the start line. I collected my medal and sat down on a curb to wait for my cheering squad. We walked over to the tent where the after party is held and quickly learned that the beer wasn’t available yet because apparently you have to wait until 9 am to serve alcohol in Delaware. Such silliness! Of course, we totally made up for it. The after party for this race is the absolute best I’ve ever been to, with a kickass DJ taking requests via Twitter, three Dogfish beer tickets for runners (with guests having the option to buy beer bracelets for themselves) and a spread of yummy food.

Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon

Dogfish Head beer at the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon after party!

An off-centered pyramid for off-centered people!

I placed sixth in my age group out of 197 (I think I was 11th or 12th last year), 23rd out of 1,132 females (really proud of that!) and 118th out of 1,743 half marathoners. I plan on returning in 2020 for the half marathon — registration opens every year at noon on New Year’s Eve. If you’re looking for a flat, fast course in a beautiful beach town, check this one out!

Summer running, had me a blast: A month of hot and humid racing

First of all, sorry not sorry for that title. I love Grease and even though I have not sat down to watch it in years, I used to pop it into the VCR on at least a weekly basis when I was in high school (and yes, I am giving away my age there! Ha!)

Anyway, summer running. You hot, humid beast. It’s funny because for most of my life, I preferred summer to winter. And I still do, when it comes to going to the beach or taking day trips or drinking margaritas. But when it comes to running? Give me 30 degrees over 80 degrees any day of the week!

Of course, I still run in the summer, as brutal as this time of year is in the Chesapeake Bay region. And I still race in the summer. This month, I ran three races — two 5Ks and a 5-miler!

The first 5K, the Red White and Blue Mountain 5K, was a literal hot mess. It was my slowest 5K in at least five years, thanks to the hilly terrain and humid weather. (You can read the full recap here.) Afterwards, I thought, “Well, that really sucked. It can’t get much worse!”

Wrong!

The following week, I traveled to Rehoboth Beach for my family’s annual summer vacation. My brother-in-law Justin and I signed up for the Seashore 5 Miler, which we had also run last year. In the 2018 race, I finished in 40:08 and won my age group, but was annoyed that I had just missed breaking 40 minutes. I went out too fast and wilted on the back half of the race, so I told myself I wouldn’t make that mistake again. (Psssh. Sure!)

The race started at Gordon’s Pond Bike Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park at 7:30 am, and thank the Lord it didn’t start a second later because it was hotter than Hades that day. (I think the temperatures climbed into the 90s by the afternoon.) Everyone was sweating just standing at the start line. After the race started, Justin and I stayed together for a bit and then I moved ahead. When my watch beeped at mile 1 and I saw that I had run it in 7:02, I thought, “Well, that seems a little fast.” But it didn’t feel all that fast to me….. At least not yet. It felt comfortably hard. I ran mile 2 in 7:29 and still felt good and like I could sustain a pace in the mid-7s for the rest of the race.

Except then the sun came out in full force and there was little to no shade. (The course, which is an out and back, is really flat, though!) I felt my pace starting to slow around the mid-way point and I think I ran mile 3 somewhere around the 8-minute range. I honestly can’t remember what my mile splits were after that, but I know I ran a big positive split again. However, I knew once I passed the mile 4 marker that I was going to squeeze under 40 minutes, which made me happy. Once I could see the finish line, I made myself sprint until I crossed it. And then I almost puked. But I broke 40! My official time was 39:18, I was the fourth overall female and I won my age group again.

There were a lot of other people complaining about the heat, too, so I know I wasn’t the only one affected by it. What do you expect for a race at the beach on July 14, though? Props to the race organizers, the Seashore Striders, for bringing a water mister to the finish line as well as more than enough cold bottles of water! I look forward to doing this race next year, too. The only real downside is that the bugs in the park were terrible and I got bitten badly on my right arm by some unknown critter. Two weeks later, the bites are still visible and just now starting to fully heal.

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The Ellicott City 5K

After I returned home from the beach, I had the Ellicott City 5K with Rip It Events the next day. This is another challenging course due to the hills. I had run the 10K last year and finished third overall female, but didn’t really feel the need to repeat that experience again, so I signed up for the 5K.

As it turned out, we were in the middle of a pretty bad heat wave that began when I was on vacation (it cooled down a bit the day after the 5 miler, then heated up again) and continued on into the weekend for the whole mid-Atlantic region. Some area races even got canceled, and our race directors decided the nix the kids’ fun run that was planned for the same time. But the 5K and 10K went off without a hitch at 8:30 am. The weather was already in the 80s and it was quite muggy, but the good thing is the course, which is in Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, is shady. So we weren’t running directly underneath the sun until the tail end (yay!)

Having run the longer race last year, I knew what to expect. I knew that most of the first half of the 5K would be downhill, and the second half would be uphill. (And then 10K runners repeat that course a second time!) So even though going out too fast in 5Ks is pretty much always my downfall, I knew I would need to bank some time during the first mile and a half. And I did! I felt like I was flying during the first mile, clocking a 6:48 pace. Most of the second mile is downhill, but then you turn around and have to climb up and up and up as you slog toward the finish.

As I headed up the hill, runners who were headed down kept calling out to me that I was the first female, which was very exciting! But in general, this part of the race sucks (and again, I was very happy I was doing the 5K and wouldn’t have to do that hill twice!) I told myself to suck it up and keep going and it would be over with soon. The last half mile of the course is probably the biggest kick in the ass because there is zero shade and you are STILL going uphill. As I approached the finish line, I felt someone coming up behind me and I was like “OH HELL NO” and I started to sprint. Turns out it was a dude, he still beat me by like two seconds and I tripped and fell just after I crossed the finish line. SO GRACEFUL. Oh, and my split for that last mile was 8:43. 8:43! Nearly TWO MINUTES slower than my first mile! Maybe it was just poor execution on my part, but I think it would be damn near impossible to negative split that race.

When I checked my results, I saw that I was second overall female. Hmmm, I thought. Weird. I guess there was someone ahead of me and I didn’t realize it! I was announced as second overall female at the awards ceremony, but I’m pretty sure that was a mistake because the official results have me listed in first place. Oh well. It’s not like I’m doing this for a paycheck or anything!

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What’s next?

My next race is my favorite of the year, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, on Aug. 25. Then I’m going to start training for the Philly Half on Nov. 23. It will be my 20th half marathon and the first one I am following an actual training plan for, because I am determined to break 1:40 in the half this year! If I don’t do it in that race, the Rehoboth Seashore Half is in December, so I’ll have another chance. And before I know it, it’ll be time to start training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in April! What’s a winter without marathon training?

Which do you prefer — summer training or winter training?

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.

splits

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!