Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

2013 Wrightsville Beach Marathon

All signs pointed toward a challenging day at the 2013 Wrightsville Beach Marathon. In 2011, I set my then-PR in Wrightsville, but in 2012, fresh off of Freedom Park's 24-hour event, Uwharrie's 40-miler, and the Black Mountain Marathon, I faded quickly in the last half of the race. Having done nothing in the way of speedwork in ages, I really couldn't expect much of this year's event. Seeing that the start temperature was in the mid-50s with a forecast high in the mid-70s gave me greater cause for concern. So, I packed a couple S-caps, filled my bottle with Succeed Ultra, and vowed to drink plenty.

The WBM course changed slightly for 2013--a change for the better most would agree. They eliminated some of the looping in the Landfall community and did away with a mentally difficult out-and-back near the end of the race that had you run very close to the finish at about mile 23 or so. They also run you back onto the island a second time. I can't really find any negatives about the course change though it does mean crossing the drawbridge three times instead of once and that's the one spot where a trip could happen.

Crowd support is really pretty good for this event. On the main roads, you have the heavier concentration of spectators, but even in the quieter Landfall community, a lot of the residents set up a chair on their front lawn and watch you come by--often offering an encouraging word or two.

As with prior years, many aid stations are staffed by fans/alumni of North (and South) Carolina universities. The UNC and NCSU aid stations were, by far, the largest, but I also saw Duke, UNC-Wilmington, South Carolina, and East Carolina represented. This is especially fitting since it is the weekend of the ACC Basketball Tournament. NCSU had a girl in a mascots costume (and she had to be burning up with a big fur head on.) I also saw volunteers dressed as sharks, vegetables, and a bird (UNC-W's mascot.) Plenty of distractions, if you needed them.

Despite telling myself not to go out too quickly, I know I did. They posted the splits (kind of at unusual mile points) and through the mile 7 checkpoint, my pace was 6:56/mile which is pretty close to a 3-hour marathon pace. This was too fast a pace for someone who had spent the past six months running only slow, ultra events. By mile 11, I had slowed to 7:03 and the downward spiral was on. Mile 15.8, my pace was 7:16; 7:17 at mile 20; and 7:26 when it was over. As I came through the chute, I saw the clock ticking away at 3:14:52...53...54. I knew my chip time would be different, but I really wanted to get in under 3:15. That was what I had put down as expected time when I registered (though I later doubted it was even in the cards.) With what little energy I had left, I hit the final mat at 3:14:59, gun time. My chip time was about 15 seconds faster. My Boston Qualifying time is 3:15 and they don't give you the extra 59 seconds anymore, so I had my first BQ since Ridge to Bridge in 2011. This time fell right near the middle of my 2011 3:02 and my 2012 3:27, so maybe I'm working my way back.

I could never put my finger on what was "wrong." I had one pit stop around mile 15, but I was not dehydrated and my Under Armour shirt helped cool me with my own sweat. Ultimately, I have to conclude that I finished exactly where I should have given the quantity and quality of training I have done in the past year. On the plus side, I felt pretty good the rest of the day.

Oh, I should note that the awards were sort of like moonshine jugs with the race logo on them. Someone referred to them as "growlers" but I am unfamiliar with the term. They probably held about a gallon of liquid. Each year, the awards seem to be getting larger, but continue to be made of glass and be drinking-related.

I have recommended this event in the past and will continue to do so. I wish that they could coordinate with Tobacco Road Marathon so that the two events weren't on the exact same day as some people might like to try to double up on a weekend. But, the conflict obviously hasn't hurt turnout, so I guess they will be sticking with the same Sunday morning race day in the future.

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