A mere 1 month after I ran in the County Marathon, I’m finally putting the words down to tell you the tale of the event. However, much more importantly on that weekend, Deanna and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary. I know, we’ve got a long way to go to catch up to many of you, but it was still pretty awesome to us! In case you are wondering, the notion of running a marathon that weekend actually came directly from Deanna. The idea was rooted in the fact that we first met while racing, and are always looking at new adventure to embark on together. Also, we like wine, beer, cheese, and the County 🙂 With all that in mind, we decided that it might be fun to celebrate our first anniversary doing some wine touring, and finishing off with running a race [sort of] together.
Let me state off the bat that this was definitely NOT a personal best for me. I have rarely set foot on pavement for running in the past couple years, instead focusing my effort on off-road running and multisport racing. Also, I’d just taken the last 2 months off, and in that time, despite best intentions, didn’t squeeze in as much training as I might have liked. However, I did make some amazing trips, and managed to get our house sold and buy a new house, so at least I was doing SOMETHING :-). Along the same lines, Deanna had originally intended to run the marathon herself, which would be her first full length marathon run. However, with also getting in less training than she’d hoped, she opted to drop down to the half marathon distance, which was totally understandable. As I had also agreed to provide video coverage for the event, I stayed at the full length race.
To make it a special weekend, we actually decided to rent a trailer near Sandbanks Park near the water. I figured it might be nice to build a little fire, watch the sun go down, and sip wine with the love of my life the day before racing. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. Friday and Saturday were cold, windy, and wet. Definitely not romantic wine touring weather! But as always, you change and adapt your plans, so we made the best of it and still managed to visit our favourite spots in the area, including the County Cider Company, Black River Cheese, Lake on the Mountain, a few wineries AND Barley Days Brewing. Along the way we snapped some pictures, and also picked up some groceries to prepare our own pre-race meal in the comfort of our private getaway. As it was only out first anniversary, we didn’t want to go overboard!
As far as the race goes, the course is a point to point race starting in Wellington and winding it’s way through the county until in reaches the finish line near the Crystal Palace in Picton. The half marathon actually started at about the halfway point of the marathon course AND 2 hours after the marathon started. That meant that barring any unforeseen really bad luck, I’d get a chance to see Deanna before her race started too! Both races featured buses to get participants to their respective start lines. However, in a stroke of luck, the 1/2 marathon course actually started about 400m away from where our trailer was located! That made race morning logistics much easier, as I’d be able to get up early, and take all our stuff to the finish line before catching my shuttle bus to the start. Deanna, for her part, could sleep in a bit and then just wander over to her start line. Perfect planning, right? 🙂
Morning came far too early for my taste, especially after the big supper and bottle of wine we’d consumed. The wind and rain had been howling all night, so I braced myself for the worst. However, I opened the door to find that although it was chilly out, it was no longer raining. As for the wind, it was still pretty strong, but based on the direction it was blowing it looked like 3/4s of the course would have cross and tail winds, with only 1/4 (10-11km) forcing us to run directly into the headwinds. I drove to the finish, and piled into the shuttle bus. In no time, I found myself at the start are. Luckily, we had a whole rec center to use as a warm up area, and it even included an indoor track. I did a little warm-up run, where I actually shared the track with the eventual winner of the race as he warmed up too. There weren’t many of us up there, with most racers just relaxing in the lobby areas below.
At 8am, with very little fanfare, we were off. Having not run a marathon in a while (well, other than running things like 100k trail races…), I opted to try and maintain a steady yet reasonable pace the whole way. I didn’t know how my legs might react to pavement pounding for 42.2km, and I was somewhat leery and dreading it. After about 15 minutes I fell into a pretty steady rhythm, and reminded myself to keep the energy up and not let my pace wane when others started fading. Of course, it would be a while before i had to think about that.
The course wound it’s way along country roads, passing through Wellington and Bloomfield before taking a right hand turn to head towards Sandbanks. That’s when we hit the headwinds. I didn’t realize just how taxing that would be, nor how much it would start impacting my pace. I had unofficially decided that my goal was 3h30mins, and up to that point, I had 30 seconds to a minute in the bank, and was feeling good. As the kilometers ticked by in the headwind, I saw that banked time slip away and eventually see me ‘in the red’ for time. I hoped that perhaps once back in a crosswind I could make up time, but of course, the winds took their toll on overall energy levels. This is when I dug into my earlier mantra of keeping up the pace. At every possible moment, I’d just push myself harder, knowing I was really only keeping the same pace I’d had.
My new goal was to pick people off in the distance, and see if I could reel them in. Happily, when I had reached the halfway point, Deanna was there, waiting on the side of the road for her race to start. I stopped running and gave her a big hug and kiss and wished her good luck, as this was our official wedding anniversary, October 5th! She ran along beside me for a few hundred meters then told me to just go for it. I had been toying with running the second half with her, but in the end, she knew it would likely be painful for me to do that, as I’d be waiting at least 15 minutes there for the start, then have to match her pace. Instead, I decided I’d get the run done, then get the car ready, and be at the finish line to film her cross the line.
Apparently, there are 2 ‘hills’ on the course, but given the amount of trail running I do, nothing really registered as anything overly challenging to run ‘up’. I could obviously tell they were hills, but they didn’t impact my pace. However, it did allow me to pass a few more people (not that it really mattered). the final 9k of the run was a nice run back into Picton, where the small, but very energetic groups of spectators were concentrated. I finished the race feeling fine and not a moment too soon. Shortly after crossing the line, collecting my medal and space blanket, it started raining. I felt a bit bad knowing that Deanna would have to run in the rain, and hoped she wouldn’t get too cold. In solidarity, I stayed outside in the rain the whole time waiting anyway, slowly freezing until I finally accepted another space blanket from a volunteer who saw me waiting and shivering. Sometimes having a low body fat percentage really sucks!
I was elated to see Deanna in good spirits as she came into he finishers chute. She busted out into an all-out sprint as there was another girl catching up to her that she didn’t want to ‘lose to’ at the line. Looks like I may be rubbing off on her ;-). When the race was wrapped up for us, we grabbed some of the post-race food, and hung out a bit longer. We also wandered over to the rink for showers and a change of clothes before snapping our final pictures and heading home. All in all, it was a great weekend, and a memorable way to spend our first anniversary. Who knows, perhaps we’ve started a new tradition? And in case you haven’t seen it, below is my video from the event for Get Out There.