Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ocean Drive Marathon - Tailwind vs Headwind

Ready for...beer?
Basically I've been waiting for the Ocean Drive Marathon since I crossed the finish line at the NYC marathon in November.  I was so excited that I took another 5ish minutes off my marathon time that I knew I wanted a spring marathon to try to keep chipping away towards a BQ.  Since we were already planning a big 10yr anniversary trip for end April/early May I knew it needed to be in March, local and inexpensive.  I only knew of one race that fit the bill and I signed up for the Ocean Drive marathon (read my experience from last year here) literally the day after NYC marathon. 
ok I guess we will go for a run instead of a beer
As I have mentioned, Emir got me a coach (Caleb Masland) for Christmas mostly to help me work towards my BQ goal and also my ultra goals.  Since January, Caleb has been working me hard. Besides the speed work, hills and strengthening programs he's also had me running more miles than ever before.  I ran 211 miles in March, my most ever in a month.  Not that I don't completely trust Caleb but I have had some thoughts during training that my legs might be too tired to run a PR especially because there was many a run that I struggled to maintain 9:20-9:30 pace.  Do I know that these miles usually are on tired legs? Yes but does that stop me from worrying about it? No ;-)

beautiful day for a run
Anyway I was so excited that marathon week was finally here!  Of course the first thing you do marathon week is check the weather apps and "bam" slap in the face, rain and wind.  Ugh.  Now I know this race usually has some wind.  For instance the last two years were definitely windy however it was not a strong steady wind.  I would say a steady breeze with some gusting that would be from all different directions.  This forecast indicated steady 20+mph from the north.  I was not happy! While one aspect that I love about Ocean Drive is that it is a point to point course however it is not so great when you are running the entire race in one direction that is into the wind.  Of course it was all I could talk about the whole week. I could really care less if it poured rain the whole time.  It's fun to have a wet, messy run and since this is a road race shouldn't really affect my speed.  Emir told me to email Caleb for suggestions probably so I would stop bugging him.  He gave me great advice on what to wear and some strategies.  He also reminded me that there is nothing we can do about the weather so just give it my best and if the conditions are too bad there will be other races to PR.  I appreciated all his advice, it was great but still inside I knew I would not be satisfied with not reaching my goal no matter what the conditions.

Finally, the weekend arrived.  All four of us drove to the shore Friday after work/school.  As I indicated last post, Emir was not running this race so he and the kids would be my support.  Saturday it rained all day.  I got my shakeout run in.  It was good practice for the rain and the temps so I could get a sense of what I would be comfortable wearing.  The wind however wasn't a factor at all.  It was a glimmer of hope.  I picked up the race stuff for myself and my sister, Cindy.  She was running the 10 miler that occurred simultaneously with the marathon.  Other than that, I just tried to rest and eat well for the next day.

Sunday morning Cindy and I had our coffee and breakfast and then caught the bus to Cape May where the race starts.  The logistics for the race really work out well for us as we have a condo in Wildwood not far from the 10 miler finish line which is where the bus picked us up.  We arrived with about an hour before the start.  The starting area is great since it's right in front of the famous Congress Hall which lets runners utilize their facilities and their cozy seating areas indoors.  It wasn't terribly cold, probably 50 degrees but nice to hang out inside during our wait.  I also should mention I had a brief freak out moment getting dressed for the race.  I had decided to wear a long sleeve compression top under my #teamwickedbonkproof singlet because I thought the temps would barely be in the 40s however that morning it wasn't as cold and I was afraid I would get hot.  After a brief argument with my husband, I ended up sticking to my long sleeves.  As much as I hate to say he was right, he was right.  I was a tad warm in the beginning of the race, however the temps and conditions deteriorated rather quickly and I would have froze my ass off in just the singlet and arm warmers.

Cindy coming down the homestretch of the 10 miler
Once the race started, Cindy and I ran together for about the first mile.  I didn't feel like we were going too fast however I did notice my overall pace was a bit quicker than I wanted.  She started to pull ahead and I backed down to my coach approved pace.  I guess I should mention that a couple weeks before the race, Caleb and I discussed what my marathon pace should be and fueling strategy. Since we both knew I wanted to beat 3:55, we agreed on a 3:50 goal.  I would of course have loved to try to tackle that BQ but realistically I know I'm not there yet plus as Caleb reminded me I have other goals for this spring (hello double blue ridge and Born to Run 100K!).  So I knew 3:50 was a good goal.  I also wanted to try a different fueling strategy for this race.  Most of my other marathons, I used my hydration pack full of Tailwind.  This time I really just wanted to use my handheld with a concentrated Tailwind so much less weight to carry.  Coach agreed with this strategy so while a bit nervous about thirst I figured he knows what should work.  So I ran with my handheld, had a couple gels for caffeine (really need to get the caffeinated Tailwind!) and drank water as needed at aide stations.

Almost there!
Anyway back to the race.  Nothing too eventful for the first half.  I talked to a lady who ran the HAT 50K with Emir last weekend (crazy person racing again already!) and only really had to dodge a few puddles, very surprising with how much it rained.  The temperature was very comfortable without too much wind and just kind of a misting going on.  I was pretty happy and actually thought I might need to ditch at least my gloves when I saw Emir.  My pace was consistently just a tad faster than goal pace but I felt great!  At the 10 mile mark where obviously the 10 milers were finishing, it was pretty loud and exciting.  I had to remember for that mile leading up to that finish to not get caught up in those 10 miler racers speeding to their finish.  And when I got to 10 miles there was Emir and the kids!  I was so happy to see them and I could tell they were so excited too. Turns out I wasn't hot anymore and actually temps seemed to be getting cooler so I kept everything I had. Only bummer was there's no stopping when I'm trying to PR for kisses and hugs like Emir's race last week so the moment was over before it practically started.  I remember thinking, "I really hope I see them maybe 1 or 2 more times before the finish."

so happy to see everyone at 10 miles!
I would say it was around miles 13-14 when EVERYTHING changed.  The air was definitely colder, my feet were soaked from the constant misting/light rain and a fog was rolling in.  I was playing music out loud on my phone as I did last year.  I know this is a super low key quiet race and I remember last year a lot of people that I came in contact with liked that I was playing music.  Well the same thing happened this year.  At some point between 13 and 14, I was passing a group of ladies.  They all started talking to me about my music, the quietness of the race etc.  One girl said it was her first marathon ever and she had only run 1 half marathon before and never any training runs further than 14 miles!  Yet she was pacing faster than me!  We ended up pulling away from the pack and running together for about a mile or 2.  As we were running, chatting we both noticed the wind had started.  All the sudden it was like running against a brick wall.  While we ran together we took turns helping each other out against the wind.  Then she saw her parents and that was the last of her.  With nothing to distract me anymore, all I could think about was this wind that was constantly trying to push me backwards.  And this course with no changes in direction at all, did not give us runners any breaks at all from it.  Lucky for me, Cindy and Emir had thrown the kids in the car and were waiting for me at an aide station not long after I had no one around me anymore.  Then after that, they drove along side of me for a few minutes then I must have seen them 5 or 6 more times before the finish.  It was awesome and definitely serious motivation to keep going against the conditions.

stalking me from the car
 I knew my legs felt really good, better than any other marathon but I didn't know if I would be able to keep my marathon pace a whole 12-13 miles in this wind.  I didn't want to panic or be a time freak so I made a deal with myself to only check my watch every mile marker.  I just tried to run by what felt like the right pace.  Every mile I would look down and my overall pace would still be right around the same as it was all race 8:40 and every time it would surprise me as I thought for sure I would have to be slowing down in this wind.  I saw Emir, Cindy and the kids one last time just past the 24 mile marker.  We all knew I was definitely on pace to PR and if I could just keep the same pace I would be right around 3:50, my goal.  Of course, I am never satisfied so I decided I needed to break 3:50 that I wanted my time to be in the 3:40s, it just looks so much better, don't you think?!  So after I waved to them, I just tried to run my hardest that last 2.2 miles to cross that finish.  About .5-.6 miles before the finish, it started pouring which didn't really matter to me at that point however I saw my support crew near the finish.  I knew Niko wanted to jump in and cross the finish with me like he did with Emir but Cindy had to take the kids under cover due to the weather.  I could see the clock changing to 3:50 as I got closer but I knew I started about 45 seconds or so after the start.  I gunned it and hit my watch as I crossed.  I looked down and 3:49.33!!  I was so pumped that I had no idea how wet, cold or anything I was, I was floating!  Emir was beaming as were the kids and Cindy when I got to them.  Later Emir also told me that I was 7th in my age group and 127/484 overall.  I know it's not a big race but it's still a good feeling!
Finishing in the pouring rain

Coming in for the finish!

Obviously I'm a very happy runner right now.  I feel like I learned so much from this race and that it was such an important stepping stone towards my BQ goal.   I feel like it's such an attainable goal now and maybe even within this year.  This race taught me a lot about my pacing.  I realize now in NYC I went out waaaay too fast. While I was still able to PR, the second half was really hell for me and way slower, not a good way to go.   This time I kept my pace in control and I felt great the whole race.  So I know now that I don't have to go so fast the first 13.1 to make my goals, I will still have enough in the second half as long as I run smart the first half.  The other piece was my fueling/hydration.  I've always been so worried about not having enough to drink or in the way of fuel and now I see I usually over did it.  I was perfectly fine with just a handheld of Tailwind and grabbing some plain water at aide stations as needed even in the tough conditions.  In the battle between the headwind and Tailwind, it was no contest!  Now I just need the caffeinated Tailwind since I'm a caffeine addict. 

The bottle speaks for itself
So now what's next?  Before I can go back to working some more on my marathon goals (Emir and I just signed up for the Philly marathon in November!), it's time to switch gears to ultra running.  Coming up April 26th is our attempt at the double Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke followed by our attempt at our first 100K May 17th at the Born to Run in California.  There will be a lot for me to talk about in the next few weeks regarding these races especially Blue Ridge as I am an official race blogger and maybe another surprise or two ;-)  stay tuned!


  1. That was fun to read ... congrats on your excellent race. This post reminds of something Gary Allen has said, "Patience, progress and P.R.s are keys to improved running ...". Certainly worked for you ...

  2. Super crazy impressive! Congrats on an awesome run. I just signed up for Philly too - it's going to be my first marathon ever and you're going to be paving the way for me since I'll be very far behind you. ;)

  3. Thank you Jim! I appreciate it!

  4. Meridith thank you! That is awesome!! I'm so excited for you. You will love Philly and the first one is all about just crossing that finish line, time is irrelevant. Good Luck!!!

  5. Enjoyed all the pictures! Felt like I was along side for the run, and now I want to snuggle under a blanket. Great job on the race!

  6. lol thanks Sarah!!! that's pretty much how I felt afterwards too!!

  7. Hi Amy! I have been following your running adventures since the fall!!(: I came across your blog when I did a google search for the Runner's World half marathon...and have been reading ever since. I am a mama to 3 kiddos, and LOVE LOVE LOVE running...I'll be running my 2nd marathon this weekend actually. You are SUCH an inspiration to me...when my littlest guy goes to kindergarten, I hope to wrap my mind around even longer distances and step into the crazy world of ultramarathons!!! I am really looking forward to living vicariously through you as you continue to accomplish your fabulous goals throughout the rest of the year! You are AMAZING!!!(:

  8. Hi lis!!! Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words! I'm in awe of you running marathons with 3 kids!!! I'm actually in awe of people with more than 2 kids in general!! I hope you rocked that marathon this weekend, I would love to hear how it went! 😃