Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Last Chance for Beantown Marathon

I'm learning quickly that aging, lack of speed work, and not participating in 5 & 10Ks has a direct correlation to marathon performance. The Last Chance for Beantown Marathon in Holly Ridge (NE of Wilmington) made that very clear to me on August 24th. Burke County was represented by four runners, one of whom (Josh) was running his first marathon and one (Alisha) who was seriously aiming to go twenty minutes under her Boston Qualifying time so she'd be in the early registration group. Paul and I still aren't sure why we were there.

The race promises a flat, fast course where, because it's five laps, you can set up your own aid station and crew that you will come by every five miles. It starts at 7:30 p.m., in hopes of minimizing the hot, humid conditions you expect to encounter on the NC coast in August. This year had surprisingly good weather (relatively speaking) for running, though some of my perception of the weather could have been due to my pace--more about that later. The entire event takes place within a planned sub-division (Summerhouse on Everett Bay) that is in the very early stages of construction. The facilities are in place, but very few homes. There was virtually no traffic along the course and streetlamps were about every 100 feet or so. The start/finish area was at the massive clubhouse facility which featured a pool that wrapped around the building.

I really had no goal or plan for the race. I wanted to go under 3:30 at a minimum and thought 3:15 (3:14:59) would be nice to give me another BQ for the year. 3:15 was also Alisha's goal. Alisha seemed inclined to stick with me for the first several miles, perhaps thinking I had any ability to hold a steady pace. Fortunately, we met up with another guy who was shooting for a 3:15. We stayed together until around mile five and I let them go on ahead. The sun had not yet set and it was getting a bit warm. Things were going ok, though not at a 3:15 pace until around mile 12. My ankle that has bothered me off and on since Leatherwood started sending those "zingers" up my leg again. It's hard to describe. It's about like hitting your funny bone, but sometimes my leg threatens to give way when a particularly sharp "zinger" hits. A doctor friend had suggested that it could be a nerve that is being pinched by swelling in my ankle and the upper section of my shoelaces. It sometimes feels like a stress fracture, but I can press on the area without any pain. Anyway, once this started, I knew I was out any chance of reaching my "goal" time.

There was not a lot to look at during the daylight hours of the race, though there were some nice lakes and a few nice homes in spots. The community is planned for over 1,000 homes so if they continue to host the race, I imagine it could look vastly different in 5-10 years. When the sun set and the streetlights first came on, I (and others) had a problem with small bugs getting in my mouth and eyes. Oddly, this only lasted about one lap and then the bugs were no longer a problem. Occasionally, a street light would go out as I drew close to it. This temporarily left me without night vision in a fairly dark area. There was almost nothing to trip over on the course (very low-rise speed humps) and a few wooden bridges, but it still made me slow down a bit.

There were plenty of volunteers to keep us on course, so getting lost was not a real issue. If I counted correctly, there were three aid stations along the five mile loop, offering water, Gatorade, and Hammer gels. One had iced rags you could use to cool off with, but once the sun went down, the temperature was actually fairly pleasant, though that could have been due to my then-slower pace.

One of the highlights of the race was when I would hit a darker area of the course (like when a streetlight wasn't on) and I could see far more stars than we see in the more urban (and light-polluted) areas. The Milky Way Galaxy was very clear and watching the waning moon rise and change from orange to white provided a bit of a distraction from my run.

The finisher's medallions were nice and in line with what you see at other races, basically the logo seen on the website. There were no awards, even for Alisha who was first female overall--though she did get some sort of promotional materials and a coupon for half off entry into the Wrightsville Beach Marathon. I told her they should have given her a free homesite. The results on the website are in ten year age groups so even if they had awards, my fifth place would not have earned one. My chip time was 3:35:20, which was about a minute slower than Grandfather Mountain Marathon in July. Paul finished just a couple minutes behind me and Josh pulled in at just under 3:56 with only a 16 or 18 mile long run prior to the race and a lot of nervousness about his ability to even finish.

Being that I'm not a fan of asphalt, flat, and hot/humid, I don't know that I will return to this event next year. It's a good race and I would recommend it to others, but I certainly don't expect to get so lucky with the weather on the NC coast next August. Maybe in future years, I'll go back again. If there is one takeaway from the race it's that I really need to start adding speedwork to my weekly calendar--once the ankle zingers stop...

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