Monday, November 22, 2010

Outer Banks Marathon Recap - Making a Long Story Long

Now that the dust and Advil have settled, and stairs no longer mock me at every turn, I can objectively say that race day at the Outer Banks Marathon turned out about as well I could have hoped.  Not that there weren't some rough moments along the way, but stepping away from the microscope and just using the naked-eye, this was a good one.

Buckle up …. This is going to be a wordy ride.


The whole family packed into the Family Truckster Friday night for the drive to Kitty Hawk, which is less that 4-hours from Evolving World Headquarters.  The last 20 miles of the drive pretty closely follows the marathon course, just in reverse, so I got one last chance to see just how much more sense it makes to drive it.  I tried very hard not to think about how far it felt while in the car, since there would be no car to be found on Sunday.  The wind was blowing VERY hard throughout Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, gusting to 40 mph, and I did a little prayer to the wind gods that they would get it out of their system.  There’s a reason the Wright Brothers brought their flying machine to the Outer Banks ….. wind.  It’s almost always windy there, sometimes brutally so.  I have years of cancelled or ill-advised fishing trips to prove it.  Forecast was for the wind to lay down by race time.  Was keeping my IT-Bands crossed that the forecast would hold up.

Saturday was lots of stretching, icing, and generally worrying about how my knee would respond.  My dad and I hit the Expo after lunch, which was a little disappointing.  It was well-organized, but very little of it seemed to be about the race itself.  Limited marathon gear, no pace groups, etc.  Plenty of running vendors and samples.  We got out of there fairly quickly since I wanted to go check out a particular part of the course.  From about miles 10-13 the race goes through Nags Head Woods, which seemed like the most likely place I would run into trouble with my leg.  Unfortunately it didn’t disappoint.  The first couple miles cover a fairly hilly dirt road.  Good footing, but more up/down hill than my knee wanted to see.  The last stretch of this section turns off the road and heads onto a narrow trail that is VERY hilly, with sharp up and down grades.  Just walking the first hill, especially the downhill, was getting my knee a little cranky.  The run through the Woods would definitely make the second half of the race more interesting.  I felt better knowing what was coming, so I could get my head ready for it.

Saturday night was spent planning the dropoff plan for the morning, and a main and fallback spectator strategy.  My dad was walking the half-marathon, which started at 7AM from the halfway point of the full-marathon, so we all end up finishing at the same place.  The half started at 7:00, and the full marathon started at 7:20.  Plan was that my dad would drop me off far too early for the full, then drive to the start for the half.  One great thing about this race is the start is only a couple miles from my parents’ house.  Major downside of this is that the road in and out of their neighborhood, the only road, is closed from 6-9AM on race day since the race actually goes down that road.  I ran the whole race with my Fuel Belt, since I like to drink/eat/gel on a schedule that matches my training, rather than rely on water stops.  The plan was that my family would meet me at the halfway point, with high-fives, hugs,  and a fresh batch of Accelerade bottles for the Fuel Belt.  If the road stayed closed until 9AM, this wasn’t going to work, since they wouldn’t make it to the meeting spot by the time I got there.  We decided to go with this plan, hope the road opened earlier, and I would bring my Blackberry with me in case we needed to change things up.  Seemed simple enough on paper.

Race Day:

3:45AM .  Rise and Shine.  Needed plenty of time to eat, shower, stretch, and get rolling by 5:20AM.  Dad and I both got geared up, double/triple checked we had everything, and headed for the starting lines by 5:30.  When my dad dropped me off on his way to the Half start, I was, in fact, the first runner there.  I was actually the second person of any sort there, as there was a woman setting up a table with water near the start.  The weather was great – upper 40s, some humidity, very little wind.  I had my pick of a sea of pristine portable toilets, but once that was done I had a lot of waiting to do.  Fortunately folks started showing up soon after I got there, and by 6:30 the place was buzzing.  I spent most of the 2 hours leading up to the race pacing, trying to keep my feet and knee loose, stay warm, and hold on to as much of the stretching as I could.  There were no pace groups for the race, so I settled into the 7:00-9:00 Mile corral, and after a long prayer and an impressive National Anthem, we were off.

Miles 1-4 ….  Too fast by design
I knew the first few steps would set the table for my knee for the day.  I did some light jogging before heading to the corrals just to see how my leg would feel, and I was encouraged.  As we got underway with the race, I was once again encouraged when the pain was less than I expected, and it settled down very quickly.  Knowing that my knee would tighten up after the first couple hours, and knowing that the mid-race woods section was going to be rough, I decided I would go out fast if my body was cooperating.  I was still determined to go under 4 hours, and I knew I’d need some banked time at the end.  The runners’ energy was great, the weather was ideal, the spectators were doing their thing, so I went with the flow for the first 4 miles.  Didn’t even turn on my iPod during this time.  I really wanted to focus on reading how my knee felt, and wanted to really concentrate on the runners around me so I didn’t get tripped up and do any damage.  As I came up on the sign marking Mile 4, still focused on sub 4-hours, I said to myself ‘You’ve got this’……


Miles 5-10 …. Settling in
Once I hit mile 5 I tried to slow down a little and really focus on mid-foot strike as much as possible.  The better my knees-up, pop-pop-pop form, the better my knee felt.  This is a very flat stretch of the course, which winds through neighborhoods, does a picturesque half-lap around the Wright Brothers Memorial, and leads up to the stretch through the Woods.  Fired up the iPod during this stretch, followed my plan for Hammer Gels and Accelerade, and generally felt pretty good.  The knee had a tightness/ache to it, but no shooting pains and no feeling of instability.  Thanks to the lingering PF issues in my feet, they were starting to feel a little sore, but this was less than expected as well.  Temps were well into the 50s by the end of this stretch of miles, and the weather felt great.  There are various points that take you right along the sound, and the views were fantastic.  I can confidently say, however, that had the weather been bad, those stretches would have been brutal.  This is a beautiful course for a beautiful day, but could be very challenging in foul weather.  We made our way onto the dirt roads somewhere around mile 10 ……


Miles 11-14 ….  Into the Woods
Aside from the bridge at the end, I knew this would be the toughest part of the race for me.  After checking it out Saturday, and not knowing how my knee would respond, I had thought this might be the end of the race for me.  Race day, however, I knew this would just determine how much the rest of the race was going to hurt.  There was no way I wasn’t going to reach the finish line.  The dirt road portion was tough, but not too bad.  This was the first stretch where several people were walking parts of the course.  The footing was a little loose, so I was really concentrating on form and watching my step.  At the sharp left turn between Lap 12 and Lap 13 in the picture above, we left the road and followed a narrow path until leaving the woods.  This started with a steep uphill, and a very steep downhill, both of which put a beating on my leg.  The uphills and downhills continued, and I really had to overstress my left leg to do most of the work, and step lightly with my right leg.  Not ideal, but workable.

The exit from the woods was (hopefully) the point where I’d meet my family for some refueling and smiles.  I had my phone with me, with the plan being my wife would call me if they were NOT going to make it in time.  Good plan, but this didn’t account for the fact that I had no cell phone signal from about mile 9 until we left the woods.  So, did they make it in time??

You bet they did.  Got lots of hugs and high fives all around, a much-needed kiss from my wife, reloaded the Fuel  Belt better than the pit crews at Talladega, took stock of the knee (recovering well from the hills), and headed out for the second half of the race.....


Miles 15-18 ….. Paved Paradise
At just about the halfway point we hit our first stretch of the course on the main road through Nags Head, 158.  The road is 2-lanes both ways, and they had closed one of the Southbound lanes for us to run/walk.  Up to this point there had been plenty of shade, and the weather was a non-factor.  On the road, however, the temperature jumped noticeably, and the sun was shining strong.  It took a little while for my knee to settle down from the prior stretch, but it was still more ache than pain, so no big worries.  I could feel the knee brace rubbing the skin off a small section above my knee, but I expected some of that.  There were lots of signs and a few groups of cheering people along this stretch, and it was very flat and happy.  Still on-target with drinks and gels, still concentrating on form, and still maintaining a decent pace, although moving a bit slower – partially by design, and partially because I was getting a little tired….


Miles 19-21 ….. Fore
Fairly uneventful stretch, half of which winds through a golf course, and half of which is back on 158, leading up to the crossing of the Sound and the fun-filled bridge.  The sun was working hard, and the temps were rising.  Started seeing a scattering of folks who were obviously battling cramps, which started getting in my head and getting me prepared for the possibility of hitting the wall or cramping.  I hadn’t run much over the last couple weeks, so my legs were well rested, but they also didn’t feel like this was part of the routine like they had on the longer training runs.  I was starting to feel a little overstuffed on gel and Accelerade, so I started grabbing water at the water stops and dumping it on my head.  At the turn at mile 21 it was time to cross the water….


Miles 22-25 ….. A Bridge Too Far
This stretch takes you across the Currituck Sound, moving from Nags Head into Manteo and the finish line.  Unfortunately, if you’re not in a boat, then you’re probably going to have to cross a bridge to get across the water.  This is a very straight, very long, and mostly uphill stretch, including a big climb over the highest part of the bridge.  No real place for spectators in this area, so this is you against your mind.  I was definitely tired, my knee was aching, my feet were sore, my stomach was begging for mercy from gels, and it was all good.  This was what I had dragged myself out of bed for.  This was why I went to Physical Therapy.  This was yoga, stretching, foam roller, ice baths, blisters, and blood.  I was tempted to walk, and would have had lots of company, but I knew I would kick myself for it later.  My pace was dropping, but I knew I had time banked, so I let it slow enough to help my leg without threatening 4 hours.  Once we got off the bridge, the water stops returned, as did a scattering of spectators.  I forced down a last gel around mile 24, and made the turn for Manteo…..


Miles 25-Finish – Dragging it in
The last 1.2 miles are mercifully flat and straight.  Unfortunately I passed someone getting EMT attention, but he looked to be mostly OK.  I walked through the last water stop, double-fisting it with one cup to drink and one cup to dump on my head.  My stomach was a little queasy at this point from all the Accelerade and gel, so a big drink of water helped.  My knee was VERY tight at this point, and I knew my form was suffering, but I didn’t have a lot of life left in my legs to keep my steps as high as they should be.  Manteo is a pretty small town, so the spectators were packed into a fairly small area, which made the crowd look great, and sound very loud.  Spotted my family cheering at about 26.1 miles, which was GREAT to see.  Caught my first glimpse of the gun-time clock reading 3:56, which brought a big smile to my face.  Crossed the line, got my medal, and limped through the blankets and food to wait for my family.  Official chip time, 3:54:22.


Got some pictures with my dad, who kicked butt walking the half-marathon, got some pictures with my kids, roamed through the crowd and festivities for a while, then headed out for a much needed ice bath.  My legs were crazy tight, my knee and feet hurt, my stomach was shaky at best, but my 3:54 chiptime was about as best-case as I could have hoped for, took nearly 20 minutes off my prior marathon time, and I was still able to do this:

I would HIGHLY recommend this marathon to anyone considering it.  Very well organized, great job with water/gel stops and volunteers, beautiful course with stunning views of Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, and VERY well supported by the local community.  Can’t comment on the accommodations or the transportation, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining.  We didn’t stay in Manteo long afterwards, but there was plenty going on there, including a band and folks dancing in the streets, so the after-party looked like a success as well.

Most of the soreness is gone now, and my knee feels no worse than it did before the race, and isn’t bothering me at all walking around.  Haven’t tried running again yet, and won’t for at least another week.  I’m without a ‘next race’ right now, and that’s OK at the moment.  Just enjoying a great experience, and a great memory for me and my dad.  Planning to live vicariously through my blogging friends for a while before I get back to business.

I recognize it may have taken longer to read this entry than it took to run the race, but Shannon from ‘Running Injury Free’ has posted her recap of the OBX Marathon, and she took a BUNCH of pictures while running.  If you want to read a great recap, and see just how nice the weather and the course really were, I’d highly encourage you to check out her recap here.


  1. Well done, great run and great report too! Looks like a beautiful place to run. Rest well!

  2. Great job and congrats on the sub 4! Love that you did it with your Dad.... special memeories for sure!

  3. Great recap - congrats on a great time! I ran the half marathon, and LOVED it. Of course, I thought the expo was fab, too, but that's because I bought a bunch of new clothes for cheap! (Can't help it - I'm a thrifty kind of gal). Thanks for the recap - I might consider doing the full next year, but we'll see - I have a full at Disney in January and I'm going to see how that one goes before I consider anything else!

  4. Great recap of the OBX marathon! I love that first picture of you when you first saw your family! Hoping the marathon didn't do too much damage to your knee.

  5. I will admit, I skim most really long RR and jump to the punch line, but I read every word of yours b/c I was so concerned about your knee and wanted to know how it fared. I was thrilled to hear you finished, and finished so well and that the knee cooperated, for the most part!!! I think I need to add this marathon on my list of "to do"s - it looks like a great course. And I love the medal!! Congratulation to you - and to your dad who rocked the half!!! :) Hope you take some time to get that knee happy again!!

  6. Great race report! I love the aerial course pictures. Nags Head Woods was definitely a challenging part of the course, but offered a spectacular array of fall colors. I went out a little fast knowing that I would slow up at Nags Head and the bridge. Great job on not walking the bridge, between the incline and the sun, I considered walking it.

    Overall, it was a beautiful course and we couldn't have had better weather. Congrats on the sub-4! Thanks for mentioning me in your blog too!

  7. Fantastic time! Sounds like a good course, too. So glad your knee held up!

  8. Nice job! I could never bank time like that and hold on the way you did. A big PR too! Way to go.

  9. Congrats to you! Love reading this post! Love the pictures also!!!

  10. Congrats! Great work, glad your knee held up til the end, hope it's ok to run on now too!

  11. Great job on the write up and race, congrats on the huge PR!

  12. YAY YOU!!


    20 minutes off prior Marathon!!??


  13. congrats! loved reading about your race, way to persevere! sounds like it ended up being a great day for a marathon. enjoy the rest!

  14. Great job! And seriously, 20 mins off your last time?! Wowza! Really glad your knee held up - enjoy the rest deserve it!

  15. Great smiley photo, go happy for you that the knee kept it together...CONGRATS!!!!

  16. WOW Way to go! You rocked that race! Loved the recap! Thanks so much for sharing! :0)

  17. Wow really sounds like a great race and that you ran it pretty perfectly according to the day and your knee issues. Your fam got some great race pics. Congrats again on the sub-4!!!!

    Also, I'm glad Jennings finally pulled through for you this week. I don't want to take ALL of the credit (ok yes I do) but since I was at the game sporting my #85 jersey loud and proud, I daresay I had a bit of an influence on his stellar game. :D

  18. So glad your knee held out for you - enjoyed reading your post! Super accomplishment!

  19. This was a great race recap. Congratulations to you on this amazing accomplishment!
    Happy Thanksgiving too!

  20. Great RR. Great pics. Man, considering your injuries and your need to throttle back your training, I am going to give you an A+ and Gold Star for your performance. Regarding your comment on my Blog...what is an ice patch? I'm unfamiliar with that term :-)

  21. Great recap! Congrats on breaking 4 hours! Sounds like a great race too! I bet it was beautiful! Thanks for your comment! I'm looking forward to planning for #2!

  22. Great report, I loved your explanation of the long bridge...could have used that one on my NCY marathon report! Ugh!
    Congrats on your time and efforts.

  23. Congratulations! And thanks for the inspiration!

  24. Late comment here, but great job! I ran the OBX half that same day if you want to read my recap. I took a camera in my Go Belt so I have lots of pictures from the course :)

  25. Great job on a great PR! I am running the OBX half marathon in April. I hope I have as great a run day as you had :)

  26. Wow, congratulations on the PR!

    I loved your race report and it was awesome how you had the map sections to show the mile markers.