Sunday turned out significantly different than I thought it would. So so much different. But first, lets take a few steps back to the week leading up to the race. Grant hit 9 months and decided sleeping through the night just wasn’t his thing. We went from months of wonderful sleep to multiple wake ups a night, which started to kill my running. Luckily, I was able to get in all of my long runs, but as soon as taper started, so did the sleep deprivation. I started to get a little bit discouraged. If easy 4 mile runs were tough, how on earth was I going to get in 26.2 miles at any sort of decent pace?!
Welp, I scored big in the husband department because starting on the Wednesday before the race, he gave me some ear plugs and told me he would be on baby duty so I could get my rest. Sleeping through the night for 4 consecutive nights after being awake at night for a couple of weeks was pretty much the best. I credit this amazing gesture to the success of my race!
Fast forward a couple of days and it was my birthday. My family ended up surprising me and my twin sister flew down with her boyfriend to cheer me on during the race! She has made it to quite a few marathons, and I was even more excited now that she was here! We all hopped in the car Saturday afternoon and headed to the expo for the Best Damn Race!
Packet pickup was an absolute breeze. It was outdoors at the Marina at Cape Harbour. We got there around 6:15 the night before the race, so we were able to get in and out pretty quick with my race number in hand. After making a little adjustment to my race number, we headed to a quick dinner and then back to the hotel to rest up! I had a marathon to run the next morning!
My alarm went off at 5:00am so I had plenty of time to eat, grab some coffee, and use the facilities before heading to the start line. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was only 4 miles or so from the start/finish lines. There was virtually no traffic on race morning, so Marcus was able to drop me off right at the start and headed back to get the rest of the support crew! I huddled in a hallway of a nearby building with some other runners to keep warm. It was a chilly 45 degrees at the start, which is quite chilly for south Florida!
A few minutes before the start I made my way to the coral to get a good spot. The marathon and half marathon both started at the same time, so I was careful not to get too far up front to get caught up with the fast half marathoners, but I also didn’t want to get stuck behind people running slower than my pace.
The morning of the race, I decided I would take the first 3 miles to really make my race strategy. I took training a lot differently this time around than any other training cycle, so I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself. I was just happy to be able to get to a marathon start line just 9 months after having a baby. The national anthem was sung and we were off!
The first mile was nearly silent, just the pitter patter of feet to be heard. My friend krissy and I met up at the start so we stuck together for the first 7-8 miles. I looked down at my watch and saw a pretty quick pace: 8:03. That was definitely a bit quicker than I would have liked, but it felt so so easy! I just went with it and ran by feel for the next 2 miles, and ended up seeing very similar paces as well. That’s when I made my decision to just go for it. I would do my best to hold that pace the entire race. If I fell off and started to slow down, oh well. But, if I could keep this pace for the duration of the 26 miles, then I was going to be able to do something I never thought possible.
The course was an out back, 2 loop course. I was actually dreading this going into the race, but ended up loving it! I expected it to be very boring, and it actually ended up being just the opposite for me. The course went through a bunch of neighborhoods, so it reminded me of just going on a training run. There was always something to look at, and since the half and full marathon ran together, there were a lot of people on the course for both loops.
Another huge perk of the race was the on course hydration support. There were aid stations about every mile to mile and a half, all completely manned with volunteers. Since it was an out and back course that we covered twice, we knew exactly where they were going to be, which I loved. Nuun and water were both provided, which was the only bummer (for me!). I love Nuun, but in long distance runs, I need the sugar from Gatorade. Luckily, my amazing support crew picked me up some Gatorade and handed it my way whenever I saw them.
The first half absolutely flew by. Once we cut off from the half marathon participants, I knew exactly what was ahead of me since I had already run the loop once. There were no hills, minimal wind, and lots of water ahead. Perfect! Right after the half and full split, I started to get pretty hungry. I had some Gu Chomps with me, but knew I was going to need something a bit more substantial to keep up the 8:02 pace I was currently running. I saw my family at mile 15 and asked them to grab me some peanut butter crackers for the next time we planned to meet up. It was perfect timing, because at mile 20 when I saw them, I devoured those crackers. It only took me a few minutes to feel the difference of getting some much need calories!
In my training, I reached a peak of 20 miles, so once I got above that in the race, I knew I had the potential to bonk. I was sure to get out of my head and only focus on the task at hand – finishing this race strong. Looking back, I still not believe how fast the entire 26.2 miles went by. I only started to get restless around mile 23 – it usually happens much earlier. The course really did a great job of keeping my focus elsewhere.
I picked up my pace a bit in the last 5k and I could definitely feel it. At that point, I just I pretty much told myself to suck it up. To run a 3:30, I needed to drop a few seconds off per mile. Only 9 months ago, I was in labor for nearly 24 hours straight. I had a little over 20 minutes of feeling uncomfortable. I could definitely do this!
I made a turn on the last big straight away, which lasted around a mile or so. The course headed right and so did I – the finish line was in sight! I could see the clock with 3:30:XX and I was not going to let the clock get to 3:31.
I ended up finishing in 3:30:46 – my absolute dream race! I even had a pretty awesome guy at the finish to give me my medal – thanks for giving Marcus that opportunity Beth! My finish time was good enough for 1st in my age group and the fifth woman overall.
I still can not believe I broke my PR of 3:35:14 from Chicago in 2012 with a new PR of 3:30:46 in 2014, just 9 months after having a baby. It really is such a dream!
I have to admit, I went into the race not expecting terribly much. I knew it was going to be on the smaller side, and since it was the very first year the race had been put on, there had to be some hiccups. I can say I was blown away. There were no issues on the course. It was clearly marked, there were plenty of aid stations, ample porto potties, etc. It started on time and the 2 loop course made it easy to know what was coming up next. I really do recommend the race to anyone looking for a fun, no hassle marathon. The course was very spectator friendly. I was able to see my family 7 different times! It was amazing!
Thanks to all the volunteers and everyone who made the race possible! Best Damn Race Cape Coral was a really great marathon!