Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fortitude for First Descents Marathon, Lewes, Delaware

This sweet little marathon was scheduled for August in Cape Henlopen State Park, but was rescheduled because of a hurricane that came by exactly at the wrong time. That was our good fortune, though, because we couldn’t make it in August.

The mission of the marathon is fund-raising. "First Descents is committed to curing young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing outdoor adventure therapy through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports." We didn’t contribute much to the fund-raising, just the entry fee, but we definitely enjoyed their marathon.

Good Stuff:

  • It wasn’t a certified race, but I think it was at least 26.2 miles. All three of us agreed that we worked just as hard as we had in the recent rainy and hilly Seattle Marathon, and we needed just a bit more time to finish this one than we needed in Seattle.
  • The spark plug of the race is Elysa, I think, who is also on another mission: If so, then I think that Lynne (at run the day dot com) was the engine. She did LOTS.
  • The course is relatively flat. I can think of three places where I was glad to get to the top, but actually the top wasn’t very high. It’s not quite flat, but it’s not really hilly either.
  • The course was a combination of roads, paved trails, and crushed-rock trail. Honestly I loved that rocky trail, winding through the woods, up hill and down dale. It was well made and I would have been delighted to run the whole 26 miles on it. Alas, that piece was probably only a mile long, but we did it four times!
  • Cape Henlopen State Park is a pine forest, with the forest floor covered in brown pine needles. I saw some junipers too, but mostly is was pine, whatever kind of pine will grow in sand.
  • Marathoners ran the 6.55-mile loop through the forest four times, while the half-marathoners ran it twice. In addition, another quarter mile or so was tacked on the front of the race, because, perhaps, the race organizers wanted to be sure that the course wasn’t short. I didn’t ask about that though.
  • There were three aid stations, placed a little over two miles apart. Each had water, energy drink, energy gels, and delightful volunteers.
  • The U.S. Army shares part of the park, and assisted at some of the aid stations. Also, along the way, are relics of the armaments of World War II, with 8-inch guns (I think) for taking out ships and submarines, and 3-inch guns (for sure) for air defense, along with many well-spaced mostly-underground munitions bunkers.
  • German submarines actually sank 400 vessels off the East Coast of the U.S. during that war. Delaware bay gives access to several major ports, which would have been vulnerable to attack, hence the formidable defenses.
  • A German sub surrendered off Cape Henlopen, after hearing that the war had ended. No shots fired.
  • Considering the pine forest, the rocky trail, the war history, and splendid views of the ocean, I didn’t mind repeating the same loop four times. Delightful.
  • Weather was pretty good, considering what it could have been. Average temperature was probably between 40 and 42, with sunny skies for the first two loops and cloudy for the last two, but no rain. The only problem was wind, which was muted by the pines much of the way.
  • Also, according to the race web site, the horseflies are fewer at this time of year! Indeed, there were none.
  • Not so good: They had soup and other food for race finishers, but that shut down early, probably about 5 hours after the start. Really, if it’s a six-hour marathon, the finishers’ area should stay open for six hours! If the aid-station volunteers can tough it out in the wind, then so can the people in the warm building.
My Race:
  • Marathon number 61, state number 42, finish time 5:32:40, probably third of three in my ancient age group of 70 and up (results are not up yet).
  • Early on I thought I was running short on energy, but that didn’t happen. The last loop was only a little slower than the others.
  • I ran and walked, as usual. Most of the time I ran 30 seconds and walked about 50, but often cut the walking part shorter. I suppose that I actually ran more than half the distance, though not half the time.
  • I passed our car four times on the course, so I used it as a private aid station, dropping a shirt after the first loop and picking up gels three times.
  • The temperature was right on the edge for shorts, but they worked out fine. For most of the way I wore a wind jacket over a single long-sleeved wicking shirt, plus ear cover and gloves.
  • Interesting: Our car remotes worked very poorly in the parking lot, and even worse near the finish-area building. We thought something in the car had failed. However, I suspect that a nearby radar installation was interfering with the tiny radio signals from the remotes. They work just fine now, away from the park.
  • Six gels (with caffeine, the only legal performance-enhancing drug), eight or nine ThermoTab salt tablets. I took one or the other at every aid station.
  • Because of the interesting multi-loop course and a few out-back segments I bumped into my sweeties running the half marathon at least three times. I like that.
  • Whining: The right knee hurt just a little, but that went away. The “sports hernia” (abdominal wall strain) hurt a bit toward the end, but was never a limiting factor. The left hamstrings got sore, up near the top of the muscles, but were not limiting. Calves threatened to cramp, but didn’t. All in all, pace was limited by energy and nothing else. I probably couldn’t have run it much faster.
Splits: This was partly a trail marathon, so there were no mile markers, but I recorded a few times passing the finish line: 1:24:22 (one loop plus maybe 1/4 mile), 2:43:13 (two loops), 1:25:04 (one loop), total 5:32:40, overall pace 12:41. Again, though, I believe that the course might have been at least a quarter mile long. That’s OK - better long than short!

Sunshine and Don discussing the course during the race:

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