State #9 Delaware (Running by the Seashore)

Delaware, while being known as The First State, is also one of those states that I think 50 staters have a harder time finding one to run since there are so few marathons. Much like Rhode Island and Connecticut, you can count the number of marathons they offer on one hand. Imagine having to fly from the West Coast just to run a marathon in a smaller state like Delaware, you really want to make it a good one!

I had run the half marathon in Wilmington, DE a few years ago, and found it to be a very well-run event with a nice course in May. The only issue I had was that it was two loops, and I have yet to run a course like this and I am not sure I’d like it. I can handle out and backs, but I’m not sold on the two loops course yet. Other than that the choices were limited to only a few others, like Dover and my ultimate choice, Rehoboth Beach.
Out of all of them, this seemed to be the best choice, after all, it was along the shoreline (not really the boardwalk area like Shamrock in Virginia Beach) and went into Cape Henlopen State Park, some of the sections of the race were even on dirt and gravel trail, which appealed to me, and had a cap of 900 runners total for the marathon. The downsides were all dependent on things out of my control: it was in December, wind can be brutal and the temps can be cold and rainy. But I was willing to take a chance on it. In the end, Rehoboth Seashore Marathon was one of my favorite marathons and in my top three of the ones I have run so far.

I had run the Outer Banks marathon 4 weeks before I was to run Rehoboth. I have NEVER run marathons that close together but it was a good test to see how I would fare. After consulting various runners in the Twitterverse (including the well-renowned Bart Yasso! Thanks Bart!), the general consensus was to run Outer Banks conservatively (check) and to spend the next 4 weeks in a sort of recovery stage in order to run a stronger second race…my longest run in those 4 weeks was 16 miles and I maxed out at 48 miles for the week in the third week of recovery. Since my Outer Banks marathon was considered a training run, I recovered very fast from it and was able to jump right back into training.
Race weekend turned into a girl’s weekend as I brought my good family friend D. with me and Chris manned the fort at home. We arrived early Friday afternoon and it was quite overcast and chilly (not to mention it rained off and on the entire drive there), so it wasn’t going to be a great “beach weekend” like we thought. Packet pick-up was simply a large white tent and a few tables, nothing like the massive expos you see at races like Disney or Philly. The hotel was within walking distance to the start, which was a huge plus and eliminated some of the usual race day complications.

Many of the shops were closed for the season, but we still enjoyed walking around and taking in what we could. Of course we hit Kilwin’s in order to grab several varieties of fudge, all which they happily confirmed were gluten-free and made in-house, unlike other shops we had visited which said their fudge was made in a factory and it couldn’t be guaranteed. I’ll take Kilwin’s any day and can easily recommend them as the very best fudge you can find in Rehoboth! The Nutcracker Sweet (vanilla, caramel and pecan) was a huge winner, and I assumed it was seasonal for the holidays. But the fact that it was handmade rather than by machinery off-site really sealed the deal for us.

Yup, this was my race and recovery fuel that weekend!

I discovered, with horror, that I forgot my homemade gluten-free pizza at home for my evening carb load. I was crushed and immediately concerned. Luckily I was able to research with my iPhone (again and again this thing comes in SO handy when it comes to my dietary needs while travelling) that there was a Grotto’s within walking distance that made gluten-free pizza. By this, I was wary…after all, Domino’s also makes gluten-free pizza…but they use the same ovens, pans, prep areas, etc.  Basically NOT at all safe for people with celiac disease (and that’s a WHOLE other rant). Would Grotto’s follow the same cross-contamination method for their own GF pizza?

I asked them upon arrival about their prepping areas and how the gluten-free pizza was made, and the woman almost looked appalled that I would even ask such a question. Her dry response: “Of COURSE. Everything is made in a separate area, we take it very seriously.” That was relieving to hear, but I was still apprehensive. In the end, I took the plunge and ordered a small mushroom GF pizza and said a few silent prayers before diving in later that night.

                      The pre-race fuel of “the old days” in all its greasy goodness.

My fears were unfounded, everything was perfect. D and I enjoyed an evening of fudge, pizza and French fries from Five Guys. All in all, it was a total junk food extravaganza…as I had also brought a whole batch of GF M&M cookies as well. I carb loaded to the absolute extreme that night!

Friday afternoon and evening it rained…a lot. It had me wondering if I would be running my race in the rain on Saturday morning. As I woke up the next morning I saw it was overcast, but the rain had finally ceased. I’ll take that! I have heard in years past that the wind and cold temps really made the race tough, but it looked like winds would be only around 10 mph and temps ranged that morning between 40 and 50 degrees, which was pretty ideal marathoning weather for me!

The race start was simple: no corrals, just a crowd of runners ready to run with the elites in the front. I stayed in the rear simply to avoid crowds and survey the scene. It was definitely chilly, damp and breezy, but far better than the pouring rain we had the day before. Everyone seemed in a good mood and ready to run, and the race began with little fanfare, pomp and circumstance.

The start of the race the streets felt a bit narrow and it was tough to navigate. I felt pretty good and ready to put in a good effort, especially since I knew I had time to recover until my next marathon in March. Luckily the race wasn’t massively crowded, although it did, in fact, sell out since many displaced NYC marathoners registered last-minute for races that were somewhat local (such as Philly, Richmond, Va. and Harrisburg), so it capped out at 900 runners for the full marathon.

I found the general mood of the course was a very friendly crowd, I found myself chatting with other runners; as usual, for out-of-state races, people liked to know where you were from, how many marathons you had run, etc. Plenty of friendly 50-staters and Marathon Maniacs were along the course, all very encouraging and smiling. Much like Colorado Springs and Hatfield-McCoy Reunion, it was a low-key vibe, little PR pressure, and lots of friendly runners ready to give you a word of encouragement. I’ve run plenty of races where I talked to almost no one, others like this I found myself making friends along the way and it definitely makes the mood much lighter and more fun. Not only were the runners friendly, but I absolutely loved the volunteers for this event, several water stops were manned by people who served in the military, which was really wonderful. At one point I had to stop and shake some rocks out of my shoe, and a kind man in uniform approached me with concern to make sure I was OK. I assured him several times I was, but he was insistent on making sure I could get back up!

While a lot of the course was paved roads, several miles were on dirt and gravel rails-to-trails path in pine-forested areas, which were a little narrow, and there was some mud to contend with on the out-and-back. The half-marathoners turn around past this point, so we had to share the trail as a two-way path with the elite/faster halfers.The course was beautiful too, lots of beach grass, views of dunes and the ocean, and by far the best view was getting to crest the top of a hill in Cape Henlopen and getting to see the vast ocean spread as far as the eye could see. It truly took my breath away and I almost wanted to stop just to savor the moment.

                                                  Yup, views like this!
                    
I remember running with another woman for a while, D., who (like me) was heavily tattooed. Seeing female runners with lots of tattoos (and I’m not talking a little ankle or shoulder piece here) isn’t especially common, so I felt a quiet kind of kinship with her and had this desire to run with her for a bit. We joked about how often we felt sort of like black sheep in the running community, and sometimes when we go to expos, etc. people sort of step back and treat us like we don’t belong. It can be sort of a social stigma, but I also think the levels of acceptance are definitely lifting quite a bit. Tattoos or no, we are still athletes and have the guts to finish a marathon time and time again (like me, she was also a 50-stater working on her goal and we swapped stories).  We may not fit the mold of a runner, but I assure you we ARE and then some. Never judge someone by appearance alone! But I digress, getting to run with her for a few miles was fun and I saw that she successfully finished the race as well not too long after me.
                   I remember hitting my wall early right around the Observation Tower!

Around mile 14 I recall I started to lag in my energy; while the course was quite flat, the miles in Cape Henlopen were slightly hilly and sort of wore me out a little early. There was a gentleman running in front of me for miles, and no matter what, I kept pace behind him. Eventually he started to slow down, and I ran alongside him and said with a grin: “You’ve been my rabbit for several miles, I expect you to stay ahead of me!” He laughed and said he would do his best; we ran side by side for a while, chatting and talking about other races we had run, where we were from, etc. In the end, I had to leave him behind, but he really helped those miles fly by and I wish I could thank him for helping boost my stamina. It’s the nice thing about smaller race courses, you can really make a buddy time and time again, sometimes even passing the same people and remembering them…makes all the difference!

As stated, Rehoboth was an out-and-back course so I got to revisit many miles in reverse. While the spectators were few, they were enthusiastic considering the weather wasn’t the most pleasant for spectating. While it wasn’t raining, it definitely was quite damp and misting at times. I made sure to high five a little girl that was so excited to interact with the runners. I felt GREAT and had a lot of energy after I caught my third wind. I really enjoyed how easy the dirt and gravel course was on my joints, and the final miles seemed to sail by without complaint. The finish line loomed as we approached the main town area (and the volunteers really helped increase my fervor to get to that finish line!), and it was such a triumphant feeling to cross it (and hear my name announced, which is always fun!) and see my time was 5 minutes faster than the previous two marathons! I finished in 4:10 and was thrilled. Sure it wasn’t a PR, but it really was nice to see that Bart Yasso WAS right, that I DID finish stronger simply by staying conservative with my OBX marathon. I was thrilled to finish in one piece and earned another state medal, this one in the shape of a lifesaver.

The finish tent area was crowded with runners, all high-spirited and hungry. The spread was incredible and looked delicious. The downside to this was that absolutely none of it was gluten-free. There was macaroni and cheese, pancakes with fruit compote, pulled pork sandwiches and veggie burgers, cookies and brownies, and lots and lots of beer…but I couldn’t find anything (not even a piece of fruit) except a bottle of water. Luckily D. carried a race bag for me with a KIND bar and some clothes (thank goodness too because the day’s moisture really made my feet look like they’d been soaking in a bathtub). The other downside, besides not getting food, was that I had to drive home. Talk about horrible. I kept my car on cruise control any chance I got in order to stretch out my legs. Lesson here: if you don’t have to drive home the day of a marathon, DON’T.

I didn’t get to eat a real meal until 6:30 PM that night. In the afternoon I was able to stop by my parents’ house for a bit on the drive home, where she had an amazing black bean dip and chips waiting for us, so my post-race meal ended up being chips and dip and leftover fudge. I know, mortifying right? Later that night, it was a fully loaded burger and fries from Five Guys. So a whole weekend of junk food for my post-race fuel.

I had some time to recover just in time for the holidays, and my next marathon wasn’t until March. I did end up making some substantial dietary changes in my life between this marathon and Shamrock, and while I am unsure if it boosted my performance (because of several factors which I can get into next time), I can say I’m glad that I leaned to healthfully balance out my diet much better. Rehoboth was considered my last hurrah.

Race Results

Finish Time: 4:10
Overall Place: 433/ 829
Sex Place: 123/ 321
Gender Place: 27/ 45

What I Learned

  • If you have serious food intolerances, it’s really important to check and double-check your food before leaving for a road trip. That should be one of the top priorities, for a pre-race glutening can be a disaster. Forgetting my pre-race fuel was a pretty big mistake and I was lucky that Grotto’s did such a fine job providing safe, GF food for me. I may not always be so lucky! If you have to travel by plane, research options in advance, I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you know where grocery stores are, and any restaurants that have good reputations for providing safe, GF food. It’s always good to make sure your hotel has a microwave and fridge in the room, even if you have to call ahead to have it specially delivered to the room(I did this for Vermont)…explain you have special dietary needs and they should have absolutely no problem accommodating you.
  • Post-race fuel is another thing to always plan in advance. I definitely should have consumed more after my race than a KIND bar and a large WaWa coffee for the long drive home. You need to try to get in some essential calories within 45 minutes of the finish in order to help with muscle recovery, so along with the KIND bar I definitely could have benefitted from a couple hundred extra calories (and protein should be stressed). Some ideas are fresh fruit, nuts, cheese sticks, half a sandwich (though cold GF bread is NOT the most appetizing thing), hummus and veggies, a greek (or soy) yogurt and granola, or peanut/almond butter on  a rice cake. Don’t let yourself go too long without eating, or an unhealthy binge could be on the horizon. I ended up just binging out on chips, dip and fudge. While delicious, my body could have used some better fuel in the form of whole foods.

 

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