Racing with the wind

I secretly ran the Charleston Marathon last weekend. I said I wasn’t running a race until spring. This was not a last-minute decision. It was a 12 weeks before decision. I lied to everyone*. Sometimes by omission, sometimes directly. I’m a terrible liar. Many lie-recipients cleverly realized I wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, but figured I had my reasons. I did. A zen marathon. No pressure. No analyzing of pace and strategy. No constant reminders of the race. Just a race. Simple. Except for the telling lies to my friends and family part.

I’ve been training well. Still low mileage, but high quality. My tune-up races were good. I had expectations for a PB, but mostly just wanted a strong race. With a PB. In the end I ran an A race under B circumstances, so it’s a happy ending.

Why I classify the day as B circumstances (for me):

  • I was Sick (capital S) from Jan 2 to Jan 13. Sinus and ear congestion. Fatigue. Little sleep. I ran 6 times from January 1 to the race. I almost cancelled the trip. Two days before I was still considering dropping down to the half marathon. I didn’t. But I blew my nose so many times during the race it was chapped and raw at the finish.
  • A painful tendonitis flare-up began Christmas Eve. In both feet. My doctor put me on a two-week cycle of heavy-duty anti-inflammatories. I wasn’t sure how well my foot would hold up. I was running mostly pain free by Jan 12, but it’s the kind of thing that gets in my brain.
  • Race day coincided with the time of the month when men ought to be glad they are men and don’t need to worry about things like tampons and cramps and back pain and migraines on race day. And so it began, race morning.
  • Race morning was colder than expected. I took only carry-on luggage for a 6 day trip with a marathon. I packed one race outfit. Short shorts and a tank top. No throwaway gear. It was below 0C (<35F) at the start. With a strong wind. I was so cold I was shaking. I didn’t stop shivering until mile 14. I like it cold, but 5C cold, not <0C and windy when I’m practically naked. I’m still cold.
  • The course is point to point, mostly going north. According to my weather app, there was a strong headwind from the north at 25 mph (I think around 40 km/hr, I haven’t looked it up). According to my tour guide, Charleston is known for this north wind. Charlestonians may have known, but not me. The wind never let up and it culminated in a final 3 miles straightaway into the wind tunnel. I’m not being a whiner. Well, I am being a whiner, but it is not unfounded whining. Even the men’s half marathon master’s winner commented on the headwind in his race report. Twice. And he ran half the distance. (Read his race report – it’s much better than mine).
  • The marathon course has a lot of twists and turns that break up rhythm – plus an evil out and back for the last 6 miles. Around 19 miles I was chatting with a fellow racer and we took a wrong turn. We quickly saw the dead-end and luckily only lost 10 seconds or so. Coincidently, when we got off course we were trying to figure out if we had missed the marathon turn-off. The marathon route merged with the half marathon route twice (around 20 miles and 26 miles), which made the course a bit confusing and meant twice trying to get around large numbers of slower runners. Still it’s a reasonably easy route given the (lack of) elevation, but there are a few fixes that could make this a really fast course. So A for flat and fast, B for twisty and confusing.
  • Travelling to a race always adds an element of adventure – and removes the home court advantage.

Why I classify the run as an A performance (for me):

  • The plague didn’t bother me, my tendonitis didn’t bother me, lady stuff didn’t bother me.
  • Despite the cold and wind and poor clothing choice (which did bother me) I ran nearly perfect splits. I think I could have managed to run a negative split without a headwind in the final 3 miles. I maintained my effort, but couldn’t overcome the gusts.
  • I never hit the wall. I never really slowed down. I got a bit tired at the end, but that’s it. (Sweaty Kids talks about this in her race report on the Louisiana Marathon; read her report – it’s much better than mine). I just ran. I finished smiling.
  • I have no second guessing. No desire for a do-over.
  • I spent the next 2 days walking Charleston with no muscle soreness, no lingering fatigue. Maybe to some (most?) that means I didn’t push hard enough (a longtime problem of mine), but I know I ran to my ability that day. I can’t always say that.

    Prize: Tate Nation Limited Edition Print

*Husband knew and so did my coach and one friend/training partner figured it out. If anyone else knew I don’t know they knew.

Title: Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild. 1968.


22 responses to “Racing with the wind

  1. For me, strong wind trumps even ice when it comes to the title of most irritating weather condition in which to attempt running well. One can at least modify footwear to accommodate ice. But wind? What the heck can you do about a constant headwind? Not much of anything.

    Also, if I were running that race, I would have royally loathed miles 11-19. Is it just me, or would you have to be some kind of astoundingly skilled tangent runner to avoid losing time on those miles?

    Sincere congrats on a strong and solid race under poor circumstances.

    • I’ll actually take the wind over the sun (or ice) any day. I ran 4 tune-up races this season and they all seemed to be windy, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared. I only *really* noticed at the end, when i was getting tired.

      And a big oh yeah on 11-19 miles. I am not skilled at tangents and I really need to slow for any turn 90 degrees or more, so it’s a bit of a pace killer section. There also wasn’t a ton of runners around, many of those turns were missing friendly volunteers that confirm directions, and the loops crossed paths so often I could see the wave of runners behind me which was kind of confusing, so I spent more time that I should have worrying that I would miss a turn.

      That said, it really was a good race and one I’d recommend.

  2. Congrats! My boyfriend ran a sneakathon recently (we are currently doing long distance, which is the only way he got away with it…he claimed he was doing a half marathon). Sometimes you just have to do something entirely for yourself without the pressure – I totally understand that, since I am very talented at putting loads of pressure on myself. I need to try one sometime!! Tricky business while keeping a running blog… 🙂

    • Glad I’m in good company. I felt a little weird about it, but I’m glad I did it. It sounds awful, but I didn’t even want the distraction of good luck emails and FB posts – I just wanted to be in my own head with no external distractions. I recommend trying it sometime, although it does require finding a bit of blog filler 😉

  3. Congrats on an awesome race! you were mentally in a great spot to overcome the negatives that presented themselves to you pre-race. I hope you are recovering well!

    • Thanks! I think you nailed it – on a good day those little annoyances are less annoying. The physical recovery was fast and after a weekend of sloth I think the mental recovery is complete.

  4. LOVE the idea of a zen marathon! Congrats on such a great race!

  5. Nice job!! Congrats

  6. I hope you enjoyed your time in charleston! I love it there, but it is my “backyard” at only 3 or so hours drive away.

    I think this was the inaugural year? So maybe theyll iron out the course kinks… One can hope.

    • Year 2 and it really was quite good. I know via FB they were short on volunteers and were really recruiting the days leading in, but other than the route (too many turns and a final O&B) and very limited access to the race expo without a car (not easy, not easy at all) I have no major complaints. The organizers are really encouraging feedback on FB, through email, and through an upcoming survey and it sounds like they want to keep improving the race, so I imagine it will only get better and better. I definitely recommend it.

      And I adored Charleston. So beautiful and friendly and I think the politest city I’ve ever visited in North America. I’d love a backyard like that.

  7. I think it’s funny you kept this race a secret, because when I was planning to run the half, I was going to keep it a secret as well until I posted my race report afterwards. I’m still super jealous you got to run it and I’m bummed I didn’t get to hang out with you when you were only an hour and a half away. Next time, indeed!

    Congrats a solid race! Hope you loved Charleston, it’s pretty much the only part of South Carolina that I can honestly say I adore.

    • Too funny. Charleston may have a new niche market: the race no one will know you are running. I do intend on wandering south again, so next time for sure. It’s the only part of SC I’ve visited and I was not at all disappointed.

  8. I suspect you ran a solid time too, though the results sure made my stalking confusing!

  9. Congratulations! Sounds like you had a great run – and you’ve given me something to think about. Kind of wishing I hadn’t told anyone except Husband that I plan to run a 50k race in May.

  10. (Late) congrats! It seems like the wind has been nutty of late. I am assuming some fun winds when we hit the lift bridge during the ATB run. That is always a treat.

  11. Pingback: How low can you go | My Running Shorts

  12. Pingback: Took the pictures off the wall | My Running Shorts

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