Hilton Head Island Marathon – Race recap

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The inaugural Hilton Head Marathon is going to be a tough one to summarize for many reasons.  There were many, many highs, along with some lows.  I guess that may be true for a lot of races, but I think now that I have had a few days to digest the race this one was so much more in my head and heart, and not necessarily in my feet.  I will try to explain…..

As I began planning out my races for the first half of 2014, I realized that this race would be my 10th marathon.  What an amazing achievement, but also bittersweet.  I would be traveling to this race, to Hilton Head, but it would really be my last visit to my Mother’s house before she puts it on the market to sell.  Yes, bittersweet.  Not sure when I will be back again, probably never again to the house, the mix of emotions and memories really got to me over the long weekend.

We drove down Thursday evening after work.  It’s a five hour drive, and after working eight straight days, I was just exhausted even before we arrived.  Mom, of course, was thrilled to see us.  She had prepared, and was taking hot homemade pizza out of the oven as we pulled up.  We got in about 9:30pm.  A great start to the weekend, we relaxed a bit to wind down from the drive, and hit the hay.

Friday was a day of relaxation for me.  I planned on doing very little except for getting in a quick last minute two mile tune up run.  The kids really wanted to play some golf, so that is exactly what they did.  So while they golfed, I went on a few mile peaceful walk on the beach.  Just what the doctor ordered.  It was a beautiful day.

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My late afternoon run was just a final stretch out for me to prepare for Saturday.  I made my way down golf cart paths around the plantation.  As I crossed a bridge over a pond on the golf course, I watched a huge pelican fly over me.  It was very peaceful, and reflective.  I was alone with my thoughts, and my feet carried me lightly through the live oaks and Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  What a great place to run.

In the early evening we had to make our way to the race Expo.  As luck would have it, we could have walked there.  It was that close to mom’s house. She lives in Port Royal Plantation, on the private side.  The race expo was in Port Royal, too, but on the public side, at the Westin Resort Hotel.  It was a very small expo.  It was a quick in and out really.  Just a shirt and bib pick up, and a few vendors.  They did have a chip check, but that was really it.

So, all in all, I think this was the quickest trip to and back from an expo ever!  We were gone from the house for probably 25 minutes total.  Not too bad.  We had a delicious dinner that night.  Pasta, chicken and salad, all well prepared by my Mom.  Then, we capped off the day by watching the 2014 Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi.  Overall, a very relaxing day.  Time to get ready for race day, and get some rest.

This race is located only about a ten minute drive from the house, so we were lucky.  That meant a decent nights rest without worry about  a long commute to the race.  The race began at 8am, so we didn’t even leave the house until 7:15.  We all got up, and prepped.  Believe it or not, and I have talked many times previous to this post about the eventuality of a rainy race.  I was ready for it, thanks to a lot of great advice.  When I got up however, it was not raining.  It sprinkled for about 15 seconds, and that was it.  Looking at the local weather though, it looked like it would begin raining now sometime around 8am, just as the race was starting.

Easy parking across the street at a school, and a short walk to Jarvis Creek Park, we were at the start.  Right before the start we snapped a bunch of pictures.  It was about right then, that I realized that I was not alone in this race.  My whole family was running one event or another.  I started thinking more about their race, than mine.  Then things really got real.

The gun went off right at 8am.  I had lined up with my older son, who was running his first Half Marathon.  Further back were Lance, Colton and Tanner, all running the 5k.  We shot out pretty quickly for a mass start for all races.  The course for all three distances covered the first 2 miles together.  Just after about a half mile in, as my older son and I were dodging in and out of the crowd, trying to find room, my younger son shot right past us.  We was moving!  I was thrilled!  There was a turnaround just before the first mile marker.  I saw Colton on the other side as I approached it.  I made the turn, followed by Dylan.  It was then that I was trying to maintain pace, but fighting not going too fast.  When there is a mass start, it’s always more challenging for me not to go out to fast against those running shorter distances.  I found myself wanting to keep Colton in my view.  I knew he was running strong, and found myself wishing I could watch him finish.

The 5k turnaround came about 2.5 miles in.  So, Colton comes back in my direction with a big smile, and much determined look on his face.   I high fived him, and told him to finish strong.  Again, I found myself wishing I could watch him finish.  Alas, I had 24 more miles to go.  Most of this race is flat, but coming up just after the five mile mark was the first crossing over the bridge. Dylan was behind me somewhere, not sure where.  I was strong up the bridge, and glided down the other side. An extremely skinny tall guy, probably late 40’s whizzed past me on downhill.  He was booking.  About a half mile ahead, he was throwing up on the side of the road.  I never saw him again after that.

Wait, isn’t it supposed to be raining?  Oh yeah, it wasn’t.  I had worn a hat, something new to me, and had also left me phone in the car.  I usually run with my phone so that I can text out mile markers every now and then to those waiting at the finish for me.  I couldn’t do this for this race.  I wonder how Dylan is doing.  He has had stomach problems in other various races of shorter distances, I hope he is ok.  I hope he wasn’t back there puking alongside the other guy.  I tried to keep focused.  Focus, focus.  I was thinking more about my family, the rain, than on my race.

Mile 6.5 takes a turn onto a nice bike trail, for a loop down by Palmetto Bay Rd.  The south side of the island.  Promptly, at about mile 7, it started sprinkling.  By mile 8, it was a good light rain.  Ok, gear up, I told myself.  Wow!  In the midst of all of my mind wanderings, I had completely forgotten to take my first GU.  That would explain why my pace was dropping off.  What was once a pace of 7:30 was now at 7:43.  Right after I finished my gel, Dylan appears by my side.  What a relief, I thought.  We exchanged a few words, and he seemed really strong.  His longest training run was ten miles, and that was on a treadmill.  He was doing great!!  I told him to go, go, go.  He pulled away from me right after that.  He looked great.  Mile 9, a turn back toward the bridge for another crossing.  Give me strength.  I pounded up the bridge the best I could.  Dylan was moving further and further ahead.  I wanted to keep him within view for as long as possible.  He slowly faded away as we approached mile 10.  I was so happy for him.  He was matching his longest run ever, and had just 5k to go.  Me, on the other hand, had a long way to go.

At mile 10.5 the half marathoners and full marathoners split.  We turned out toward Spanish Wells Road, and they kept moving on the Cross Island Parkway back to Jarvis Creek Park.  At this point the runners became very sparse.  What a huge difference.  I knew that there were going to be several hundred more in the half marathon, but wow.  I now could only see about three to four runners ahead of me instead of a hundred.  I still felt pretty good, and I was dealing with the rain the best way I could.  I was trying to stay positive about it.  I was trying to stay away from puddles to keep my shoes as dry as possible.  Good thing that it wasn’t a downpour.  It was a light, steady rain.  Nothing too difficult, but I worried for me feet.  I worried about blisters, but other than that I felt good.  My legs were holding up.  The temperature was fine, upper 40’s.  I wasn’t cold.

As I hit mile 11, I felt myself slowing down.  I really felt it.  My 7 something pace was quickly approaching an 8 something pace.  I was disappointed.  As I past mile 12, wow, really slowing down.  I kept thinking about my boys.  How did they finish?  I wanted to know.  If I had my phone, they would have texted me by now.  I didn’t.  Knowing how they finished would have to wait.  I made my way to the timing mat at 13.1, for a 1:46:04.  Pace 8:05.  Mentally, I wasn’t in it like I needed to be.  My thoughts were elsewhere, and not on my race.  I oddly was ok with it.  I wasn’t disappointed in being unfocused until after the race.  This was a momentous day for my sons.  I thought of them instead of myself.

I am not going to lie here, the next several miles were a complete struggle.  We got back onto the Parkway about mile 15.  This section was boring, and rainy, and tiresome.  I wanted to be done.  Plus I knew that as the next few miles ticked by, it meant that I had to traverse the bridge, yet again.  So, at mile 17.5, the bridge comes into view, and my attitude dips.  Just get over it.  Oh, here comes the leader, meaning he is five miles ahead of me.  I was jealous.  I enjoyed the downhill off the bridge.  I tried to glide, and pick up the pace, even for just a moment.  We turned out toward Point Comfort, again on the south end of the island.  Pretty houses, marsh views.  It stopped raining here, too.  Ok, so the bulk of the race was behind me, the rain had stopped.  Let’s finish.  Let’s find that energy to get it done.

Mile 20 turns, and we head back toward the finish.  Back to the bridge.  Omg, not again.  This time the wind had picked up a bit, and I felt extremely cold running over the bridge.  I had to walk a few times, and then just try to meander my way to the end.  My pace was shot at this point, so my main goal became staying strong enough to finish sub 4.   The finish was actually fun, if you can call the last mile of a marathon fun.  My family was waiting at the entrance to Jarvis Park, cheering me on.  As I made the turn, I had about a half mile run around the pond in the park to finish.  I was a quiet, tranquil run around the pond.  I could see the finish, and I was alone.  No one around me.  It was quiet.  The crowd was cheering as I hit the finish line.  Sub 4 accomplished.  Family waiting with stories of their own races.  My body was beat up, my hips and knees.  The underside of my right foot was burning.  I knew this meant a blister had formed in my wet shoe.  I was glad it was over.

My 10th marathon was complete.  I was happy, but happier for my kids, as they told me of their runs.  Wish I could have seen both of them finish.

Here is a look at my medal.

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Stats certainly not what I wanted, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Finished 48th overall, out of 160.

Chip time: 3:54:00

My 5th sub 4 hour marathon in a row, and just about 7 minutes slower than the Charleston Marathon three weeks ago.  I am proud of my 10th, but even more proud of my kids.  Dylan finished his first Half Marathon in 68th place out of 579 runners.  Just amazing.  He won a medal for 2nd place in the 19 and under AG.  His finish time was an amazing 1:43:10.  So incredibly proud of him!  Here he is coming to the finish line.

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Colton had a massive PR in the 5k.  He placed 19th overall, out of exactly 300 runners.  At 15 years old, I am in awe of his accomplishment.  Simply incredible!  He finished in 22:39, and just out of the medals in his AG, in 4th place.

It really was a fantastic weekend.  Lance and Tanner had great races, too, and they didn’t even train.  I love my family!  Time with family is so precious and sometimes limited, that I really will cherish the memories this weekend left me with.  Family is not always with me when I run a race, but I know they have rallied around my crazy addiction to long distance running.  Sometimes they put up with it, other times they participate or spectate.  For all of their support, I thank them.  I would never have been able to get to a tenth marathon without their support.

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8 thoughts on “Hilton Head Island Marathon – Race recap

  1. What an awesome (and, as you say, somewhat bittersweet) race for you and your family! And congrats on such a strong race so quickly after Charleston!!

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