Here’s part two of the super sized post of City of Oaks Marathon
We made plans to meet at 6am to leave for the race start. I wavered back and forth on what to wear and finally stuck with my tank and skirt (my original outfit). The temps did not dip as low as we thought and I feared becoming overheated in capris. I have to have at least one body part cold when I run. But while the temps were behaving, the wind was not! We had pretty steady wind with gusts reaching 24mph! We arrived to the parking area with plenty of time to hit the bathroom (Thanks Harris Teeter!) and head to the starting line. I made a beeline to the port-a-potties again before we moved to our corral.
The start of the race was way more crowded than last year and we had a hard time trying to get between the 4:30 and 5:00 pacers. We didn’t want to start too far back and have to weave around walkers. We just couldn’t move up anymore and we were right with the 5 hour pacer. After the horn blared, we were off! Nathan and I decided to stay together for as long as we could. I was sticking to my HR plan and we’d just see how long we’d run together. Christine was running the half and she was just ahead of us from mile 2. I could see her yellow flower! 🙂
After a few miles, we finally had some breathing room. Nathan and I just chatted as we ran and enjoyed the race. Katie was going to meet us along the course to take pictures. If there is one thing that really helps when running a marathon is seeing your people! While the crowd support is great, the boost you get from seeing a familiar face is the best! We saw Katie several times as we weaved our way through downtown Raleigh. Right before mile 10, Cara caught us just past the water stop. She was trying to catch Christine, who was super speedy. Cara ran with us for just a bit before heading to mile 12 to run with Christine to the finish. Cara was going to come back out to 23 to run us back in to the finish.
By this point, I was starting to feel the hills. I knew signing up for Raleigh that this was not an easy course, but I underestimated the hills just a bit. I knew if we got to mile 11 and the greenway section of the race, we’d have a break. I was doing an awesome job of keeping my HR below 140 too. Even though my HR was staying low, we were actually getting faster with each check point. We hit mile 11 and had some good downhill sections. It was definitely a lot flatter than what we had been running. Nathan and I were still together at this point too. We also met up with another pair of runners who were running our pace. We linked up with them for a few miles, which helped the time go by. Nathan and I would lose and find each other again a couple of times. Neither one of us ever felt really bad, just needed a break here or there to get ourselves together.
We hit the turnaround at mile 17.5 and we were on our way back! I was still keeping my HR low. I had started to let it creep up to 150 now. Going for 165 for the last 5K was my goal. That also meant that we would be hitting some nasty uphills too. Miles 22-23 were not runner friendly. There was a sign that said “Steep Grade ahead”. Not exactly the type of sign you want to see at mile 23 of a marathon. I walked most of it while Nathan jogged up it. I couldn’t even jog up it without my HR going crazy. We did the best we could from mile 22-23.5. Cara caught us at mile 23.5 just at the same time, my nasty calf cramps started. I stopped to eat some salt. I had packed salt packets in my water belt for this reason.
We headed off the greenway back onto the road and we’re heading to the finish. This part was a mix of uphill and downhill and with my calf cramps, I would run until they would tighten up and then walk for a bit. I was still in great spirits though! Unlike my previous marathons, I didn’t feel awful. We hacked at the last few miles, finding our cheer squad at mile 25 and by mile 26, it was downhill to the finish. Nathan and I headed off and ran into the finish! Nick was there to take pictures right before we crossed under the banner. He said it was the best he’d ever seen me finish a marathon! Mission accomplished!
I finished with a 4:46 and could not be happier!! Marathon #5 done!! That was the toughest marathon I have ever run. With 951ft gain of elevation over the course, I’ll take it!! My best time was at Richmond which is about half the elevation gain. To come within 7 minutes of my best (4:39) on a much harder course is so rewarding!! I love the challenge of City of Oaks and I’m contemplating running similarly tough courses. If I run them like I ran this one, they would all be awesome!
Very well organized race! Everything is where they say it will be (water, Gatorade, and GU). The course is clearly marked and accurate to my GPS too. The crowd support along the Greenway was awesome! I like that the course is a mix of running through downtown and the greenway. The variation is nice! The medals are awesome! As big as a dinner plate! The post race event was a little thin by the time we came through but nice.
I have just a few suggestions for improvement. This year, each runner received a finisher’s tee. By the time we got through, the women’s sizes were picked through and I didn’t end up with the right size. My shirt is huge! I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t plan that better. My other suggestion would be to have actual corrals vs a mass start. The race had its largest field this year and it was obvious. They need to consider a wave start to avoid a lot of the congestion at the start.
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