On December 3, I ran the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon in Rehoboth Beach, DE. This was the third time I’ve run this race. It always has a good post-race party, and I knew several other runners who were planning to be there. There were so many 50sub4 runners that it was an unofficial club reunion.
There aren’t any major airports in Delaware. The closest cities with large commercial airports are Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. I opted for Philadelphia, since I was already familiar with the drive.
I flew to Philadelphia Friday morning . From there, the drive time to Rehoboth Beach was about two hours. I had a meal on the flight, so I didn’t feel any need to stop for lunch. I got to Rehoboth Beach in the early afternoon.
The last two times I did this race, I stayed at a hotel that was about four miles from the city center. This year, I was able to get a room at a hotel that was closer. After checking in, I didn’t need to drive again until Sunday. I was able to walk to everything.
For most of the year, I’ve had sciatica on my right side. Early in the year, I usually felt it in my right hip or on the right side of my lower back. In September, I started having pain along the outside of my right leg. At the end of September, I had a cortisone shot near my L5/S1 joint. Within days, I felt good as new. For the next seven weeks, I had no pain at all.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last. Two weeks ago, I started having minor discomfort in my right leg. At first, I thought I pulled a hamstring in my right leg. It felt tight and slightly inflamed. I had gone so long without symptoms that it took until the next day before I realized there was nothing wrong with my leg. It was my sciatic nerve again.
It feels worst when I spend too much time sitting. It feels best when I keep moving. Since then, I’ve made a point of walking or running for at least a few miles each day.
Friday, I did more sitting than I’ve done in the last two weeks. First, I was sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight. Then I was on the plane for three hours. Then I had a two-hour drive. By the time I got to my hotel, I was feeling more discomfort than I’ve had in weeks.
Packet pickup was under a large tent across the street from Rehoboth Beach Running Company. It was about half a mile from my hotel, which was my first opportunity to do some walking. Besides my race bib and T-shirt, I also got the wrist band I would need to attend the post-race party. After picking up my race packet and bringing it back to the hotel, I already felt better. After that, I continued to walk around town.
First, I walked to Cinnabon to pick up some rolls for breakfast. Then I walked over to Dogfish Head Brewery for a beer flight. I never had lunch, so I also had a bowl of chowder to tide me over until dinner. While I was there, a few friends arrived, so I sat with them until they were done eating.
I had dinner with ten other runners at Shorebreak Lodge. It was nice walking to dinner and not having to drive around looking for a parking space.
I had no trouble getting to sleep, but halfway through the night, I woke up with a sour stomach and had trouble getting back to sleep. I eventually felt better, but I never fell asleep again. I rested in bed until it was time to get up. I felt like a zombie, but I started getting ready.
The race started next to bandstand, which is close to the boardwalk. The bandstand was only two blocks from my hotel. Last year, I had to leave early, so I had time to drive into town and find a good parking spot. This year, I didn’t have to leave the hotel as early. I got there about 30 minutes before the race, so I could join other 50sub4 runners and Marathon Maniacs for group pictures.
The temperature at the start was in the low 50s. That would be ideal, except for strong winds and periods of rain. I dressed a little warmer than usual to compensate. I wasn’t expecting it to rain for the whole race, but I kept a plastic rain poncho folded up in my fanny pack, just in case.
The course has a mixture of surfaces. Parts are on city streets, parts are on gravel trails, about a mile is on the boardwalk, there are two wooden bridges, and there’s also a steel grate bridge late in the race. When I did this race last year, I was still recovering from a knee injury, so I had to walk the boardwalk and the wooden bridges. This year, my knee is 100 percent, so I was able to run those sections.
The parts of the course that concerned me this year were the trail sections. They’re pretty runnable, but there are some small rocks imbedded in the trails, particularly in the last few miles. Last year, I managed to trip and fall three times. I just wasn’t picking up my feet. With that in mind, I decided to run this race at an easy pace. I didn’t care too much about my time. I just wanted to run cautiously and stay upright.
As I was lining up to start the race, I noticed my friend Shane was leading the 4:20 pace group. That was a little faster than I expected to run, but it seemed like it might be a reasonable pace to start, since the first two miles have good footing. My friend Heather also lined up near Shane, although she didn’t expect to run as fast as 4:20. As we were waiting for the race to start, the sun rose over the beach behind us.
The first two miles were a loop around the city center. I started out running close to Shane. The pace felt pretty easy at first, but I was careful not to get too far in front of him.
By the end of the first mile, I was running with Heather. We started to get a little ahead of Shane. By the end of the second mile, we had turned so that the wind was at our back, and I immediately felt warmer. I had started the race wearing a Tyvek jacket, which was open in the front. I knew we would have the wind at our back for several miles, so I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist.
There wasn’t any rain before the race, but I started feeling drops as soon as we started running. It wasn’t a steady rain – just a few small drops. With the wind at my back, I wasn’t too worried about this small amount of rain, but I knew we would get more rain at some point.
After two miles, we turned onto the boardwalk. I paid close attention to my footing, but I didn’t have any problems. We were on the boardwalk for about a mile.
Shortly after leaving the boardwalk, we turned onto a road to begin a long out-and-back section, which would take us several miles from the city center. Runners doing the half marathon had a much shorter out-and-back. We could already see the fastest runners coming back.
We didn’t recognize the fastest men, but two of our friends were among the fastest women in the half marathon. Sadie was in second place, and Krista was also on a fast pace.
Each time we saw one of our friends, Heather stopped to take a picture. When I realized I was suddenly ahead of her, I slowed to a walk until she caught up. We still had the wind at our back, and my hands were getting sweaty. I had been wearing polypro gloves since the start of the race, and I decided to take them off, even though I knew I might need them again later. Waiting for Heather gave me time to take off my gloves and stuff them into my fanny pack.
I was starting to feel some indigestion. My dinner on Friday included more meat than I usually eat, and it felt like it was still in my stomach. My dinner entrée tasted good, but it probably wasn’t the best choice for the night before a race. At the aid stations, I drank Gatorade. That seemed to gradually settle my stomach, but it took a long time before I felt better.
Heather and I were constantly talking. When I talk, I have a tendency to speed up. More than once, Heather told me she needed to slow down, so I slowed down too. The pace didn’t feel as easy as it did at first, so I was more than happy to slow down when I realized I was going too fast.
As we continued along the road, the trickle of runners coming back became a dense pack. Then we went around a circle, where an aid station was set up. After the aid station, we started heading back. Those of us doing the marathon made an immediate right turn and left the road for a gravel trail. The runners doing the half marathon kept going back the way they came.
The first time I ran this course, I found this junction somewhat confusing. I had not yet reached the circle, when I heard volunteers saying, “marathon runners turn right.” I saw runners on the trail, but that was on my left. The volunteers were talking to runners who had already gone around the circle. To them, this was a right turn. This year, I knew what to expect here.
The next several miles were on a trail that was mostly gravel, but occasionally had some small rocks imbedded in the trail. The rocks weren’t a big deal, but I paid close attention to them.
By now, we were noticing more rain. It wasn’t raining hard, but it was more than a few stray drops. With the wind at our backs, I wasn’t too worried about getting cold, but I knew we’d eventually have to come back and run into the wind.
Since the first mile, Heather and I had been ahead of Shane’s 4:20 pace group. By the middle of the sixth mile, we could hear them behind us. They eventually caught up to us. At one point, I no longer saw Heather. I realized she must be behind the pace group, but it was tough to see her through a dense pack of at least a dozen runners. I wanted to move behind the pace group as well, but that was easier said than done. There wasn’t much room on the trail for such a large group. I found myself running just ahead of them for a few minutes before finally working my way back through the group. Then I saw Heather and slowed down until she caught up to me. This was just before the six mile mark.
We had been running through a wide clearing next to some wetlands. Eventually we reached a bridge over a marshy area. Last year, I walked the bridge. This year, I was able to run it. The surface was a bit springy, but that no longer bothers my knee. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the surface was fairly runnable. I didn’t see anything I could trip on. The bridge was wet, but that also wasn’t a problem. The wood had a coating that gave us good traction.
After the bridge, we returned to a gravel trail, but it wasn’t long before we turned onto a road. It was somewhere along here that Heather’s friend Barb caught up to us. After that, the three of us ran together.
Overall, I was staying warm enough, but my hands were getting a bit cold. I had to put my gloves on again. Pulling them on over hands that were already wet took some effort.
As we continued along the road, we had to climb a hill. It was the first time I had found the terrain to be tiring. Overall, this race is fairly flat. This was the biggest hill, and it wasn’t really that bad.
Much of the course was outside of town, so there weren’t many spectators. When we heard cheering, we knew we were getting close to an aid station. The loudest cheers were from the aid station at Fort Miles Artillery Park. This was a landmark I remembered from last year.
After running through Fort Miles, we turned and ran down a small hill. Eventually, we would need to run up this same hill. That was something else I remembered from last year.
I don’t recall when we first started seeing the fastest runners coming back, but after Fort Miles we started seeing runners we know. Each time, I knew Heather would stop to take their picture, so I took a walking break until she caught up to me.
One of the friends we saw along this stretch was Karen, who was finishing 50sub4 at this race. Shortly after we saw Karen, we saw a pace group approaching. We eventually recognized them as the 4:00 pace group. Karen needed to stay ahead of them to break four hours, which she did.
Eventually, we saw Shane’s 4:20 group coming back. They were much farther ahead of us now. That wasn’t a surprise. We knew we had been slowing down.
The turnaround point for this out-and-back was at roughly 11 miles. Before we got there, we saw friends who were running faster. After the turnaround, we started seeing friends who were behind us. The first person we recognized was Glen. Glen and Heather have a friendly rivalry. Heather wanted to finish ahead of him, but she was surprised how close he was.
As we saw more friends, Heather continued to stop and take pictures. Barb and I kept running. At one point, I wondered if Heather would catch up after taking pictures of several friends in rapid succession. When Heather eventually caught up to us, we learned that she had briefly fallen behind Glen before passing him again.
When we reached the 13 mile sign, I looked at my watch for the first time. I looked at it again when we reached the halfway mark. We were on pace to finish in about 4:26, but we continued to slow down in the second half. When we reached the short hill before Fort Miles, we walked part of it.
After running through Fort Miles, I knew we were getting close to a downhill section. By now, water had soaked all the way through my shoes. I wear orthotics with replacement insoles, and if water gets between the insole and the orthotic, the insole can slip forward. I was worried about running downhill, because that’s where it’s most likely to happen. As we ran down the hill, I could feel one insole slipping forward. So far, it wasn’t too bad, but there were a lot of miles left.
We were running into the wind, but I didn’t feel it too much until we got back to the bridge. On the bridge, we were high enough off the ground that we were much more exposed to the wind. After the bridge, we were running through an open area. In other places, we were somewhat sheltered by the trees. Here, we felt the wind resistance. We couldn’t wait to get through this section.
Eventually, we got back to a wooded area, but only briefly. Then we reached the road, where we were exposed to the wind again.
By the time we reached the road, my insole was getting worse. It had slid forward so far that it was bunched up under my forefoot, with no padding under my heal. When that happens, there’s not much I can do about it. Even if I found a place to sit down and took off my shoe to adjust it, it would only be a few minutes before it slipped forward again. Every step was uncomfortable, but I just had to do my best to tune it out.
After we got onto the road, I noticed the rain was picking up. For the first 18 miles of the race, it was only sprinkling. For the rest of the race, it was a steady rain. Running into the wind with this much rain, I started to get cold.
I still had a Tyvek jacket tied around my waist, but it was as wet as the rest of my clothes. Putting it on now wouldn’t do much good. I still had a rain poncho in my fanny pack. I didn’t think I would need it, but I was wrong.
I asked Heather and Barb if they could take a walking break while I put on my rain poncho. I could get it out of my fanny pack while I was running, but I had to slow to a walk to put it on. It took longer than I thought. The wind was blowing, and my gloves were wet. By the time I finally got it on, Heather and Barb were running again. I had to work to catch up to them.
We had to run into the wind for another mile before we turned . Then we were no longer going directly into the wind. Our new obstacle was standing water in the street. There were puddles everywhere.
Earlier in the race, I was having indigestion. Now, Heather’s stomach was bothering her. Every now and then, she would tell us she needed a break, and we would walk until Heather was ready to run again. More than once, she told me I could go on ahead if I wanted to. I had no interest in that. I was cold, wet and miserable. Running with Heather and Barb helped pass the miles. I didn’t really care about my time, but I definitely didn’t want to run the remaining miles by myself.
As we ran past the street where we would eventually finish, we briefly got to see faster runners approaching the finish. They were coming back from the out-and-back section that we were about to start.
We still had about six miles to go. About a third of that was on city streets. The rest was an out-and-back section on another trail.
As we left the downtown area, we had to cross a bridge over a canal. Going out, we ran on the sidewalk. The runners coming back were in the street, where the bridge was a steel grate. I didn’t look forward to running on that surface when it was wet.
After crossing the bridge, we turned, and we got to experience a tailwind. Running with the wind at our backs was easier. It also wasn’t as cold.
After about a mile on streets, we reached the last trail section of the course. It was here that I tripped on small rocks and fell three times in last year’s race.
The trail surface was mostly gravel, but the drainage wasn’t as good as the trails we ran on earlier. There were puddles. I didn’t initially see any rocks. It was hard to believe I was frequently tripping on this section last year.
Most of the trail had a nice runnable surface, but eventually, I started to see a few spots where the soil had eroded enough to expose some small rocks underneath. This year, I was watching for them like a hawk. I saw every rock, and I made an effort to pick up my feet as I ran over them.
We had to run about two miles on the trail before we reached the turnaround. On the way out, we saw the faster runners coming back. On the way back, we saw slower runners who were still on the way out. Heather once again looked for Glen. It was several minutes before she saw him. There wasn’t any question that he wouldn’t be able to catch her.
When we finished the trail section, I felt a sense of relief. I had made it through this section without tripping. We still had more than a mile to go, but we would be on pavement the rest of the way. Unfortunately, we were running into the wind again, and it was getting tiring.
Often, Heather or Barb would say something that reminded me of my experience at some other race. Then I would tell them all about that race. I think my story-telling helped distract them from the fatigue of each mile. With less than a mile to go, I finished telling one story, and Barb asked me to tell another.
When we got back to the bridge, there weren’t many runners still on the way out, so we were able to move over to the sidewalk. We stayed on the sidewalk until the next turn.
The last aid station was in a small park. When we left the park and returned to the street, we had about half a mile to go. It wasn’t until we made the last turn and got close enough to the finish line to see it that we started to speed up. In the last block, we saw several of our friends cheering for us. They had already finished.
The three of us finished with a few seconds of each other. I crossed the line in 4:35:13. I received my medal and a heat shield. Then the three of us posed for a finish line pic.
This race always has a large post-race party, with food, beer, and music. Just past the finish line, there was a buffet line under a tent. I think I enjoyed shelter form the rain as much I enjoyed as the food.
I picked up a plate and filled it with a biscuit, a scrambled egg patty, bacon, and macaroni and cheese. There were many other foods, but that was as much as I felt like eating.
The party was held at two locations. We could either go to a restaurant called The Culture Pearl, which was on one side of the street, or we could go to a large tent on the other side of the street. Inside the restaurant, there were tables and chairs. Inside the tent, there was no place to sit, but they had a DJ, and everyone was dancing. Most of my friends started at The Cultured Pearl. It was nice to be able to sit down.
Our wrist bands for the party each had three beer coupons. Inside The Cultured Pearl, we could choose either of two beers from Dogfish Head Brewery. I had one of each. Later, after everyone was done eating, we went across the street to the tent, where we met the rest of our friends. They had different beers there, so I had one more. Besides the beer, people were coming around with trays of Fireball shots. I love Fireball, but I didn’t want to get hammered.
Several of my friends were celebrating big milestones. Karen finished running sub four-hour marathons in all 50 states, and she was one of four runners who ran their 100th marathon at this race.
Others were celebrating good race results in the half marathon. Sadie won the masters division in that race.
I’m not sure how long I was at the party, but eventually, I had to go back out into the cold wind, so I could walk back to the hotel. I felt a little bit of fine drizzle, but the rain had mostly stopped.
After getting out of my wet clothes, I took a good long soak in a hot bath. Then I did some stretching. I needed some time to recharge.
Later, I joined about a dozen of my friends for drinks at Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen. Most of them had already eaten dinner, but I had dinner at Cooter Brown’s. They had an entrée called a Piggy Mac Bowl, which was pulled pork served over macaroni & cheese. That’s comfort food.
I slept better Saturday night. At one point, I had trouble getting back to sleep after getting up to go to the bathroom, but when I got back to sleep, I crashed pretty hard. I slept so hard that I slept through my alarm.
There wasn’t an alarm clock in the room, so I was depending on my phone alarm to wake me up. Apparently, if I’m sleeping hard enough, I can sleep right through it. When I woke up, I looked at my phone to see what time it was. It was 6:06. I had set the alarm for 5:15.
I needed to drive back to Philadelphia for my flight home. I wanted to get on the road by 7:00 AM. Fortunately, I had given myself a generous amount of time to get ready. I already had food for breakfast in my room. Instead of taking my time, I had to rush, but I was still able to pack up and check out on schedule. My wet running clothes had time to dry overnight, but I had to pack my shoes while they were still damp.
Leaving Rehoboth Beach on a Sunday morning there wasn’t much traffic. The drive to Philadelphia was quicker than I expected, so I arrived at the airport with plenty of time before my flight.
The first time I did this race, there was a snowstorm in Philadelphia, and the airport was shut down for hours. Since then, I’ve always been nervous about flying out of Philadelphia in December. This year, the weather in Philadelphia was nice, so I had no trouble getting home.