Race Report: RDC Marathon

First and foremost, I just have to give credit to the organizers of the RDC Marathon for a fantastic first year event. It’s not easy to pull off a race and they did an amazing job from start to finish with planning. If you are looking for a PR race or a race with super easy logistics, check out RDC for next fall.

My buildup to RDC was…unconventional. I got my long runs in but my workouts were severely lacking. I did a couple of tempo efforts here and there and a couple of small scale marathon pace workouts, but all I carried in with me was general fitness and experience. Dave’s plan was for me to capitalize on this and go out slowly and stay very, very comfortable until 20 miles.

Two days before the race (Friday), I stood in the OR for 16 hours. Friday is usually a pretty mellow OR day for us with a couple of elective cases but last Friday was NUTS and I was in the OR until 10 pm. Not optimal pre-race preparation. I got my rounds done on Saturday morning then headed to Chapel Hill to post up in my hotel room for the evening. Chatted with Dave for final race stuff, walked to the grocery store to find some palatable snacks and fell asleep around 9.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 4:45 and fumbled around trying to get ready. It was below freezing in Chapel Hill and the valet didn’t plan on having to defrost my car so I left a little later than my plan of 5:30. It was no matter as the race was only an exit down 40 and right off the highway. I pulled into the mall and found the start line and grabbed a spot approximately 20 feet from the Start/Finish. I donned my winter layers and went for my first 5 minute shakeout run, followed by a good stretch. There was nowhere indoors to be so after this, I got back in my car, turned it off and flipped through Instagram mindlessly until about 6:25 when I headed out for my second 5 minute shuffle and stretch. By now, the sun was up and people were beginning to mill about. I swapped my warmup clothes for throwaway clothes and headed for the start area. After some announcements and the Anthem, we were off!

The first two miles of the course loop around the mall and are relatively flat with a couple of rollers. My plan was to run the first two miles in about 7:30 pace so my mantra for these was “easy girl, easy.” I tried to find a comfortable pace and not push at all, which was not entirely easy given that I was freezing in my shorts.

At mile 2, we turned north onto the Tobacco Trail for the first half out and back, which went out 6.5 miles before turning. This was my old stomping ground from when I lived in Chapel Hill so I knew many of our landmarks on this half. My plan for the remainder of the first half was no faster than 7:15 so I just tried to settle in and relax. Although the course is relatively flat, the “out” section is actually gradually downhill so I had to be careful not to go too fast. Toward the turnaround, I started passing runners and felt smooth, strong and happy. At the turnaround, I was able to see all the other people ahead of me and figured that I was in first place for women in the full with a woman about 4 minutes back from me. More on this assumption later…

We made the turn and begin to climb back up the incline we’d just come down for a couple of miles. I forced myself to relax and not fight the hill and just focused on reeling people in as a means to staying entertained. Somewhere around 8, I passed two women who I assumed were in the half. I initially tucked in behind them just to have company but they were slowing down a bit too much so I went on alone. I should note that by this time, the weather was PERFECT in the high 30s and still. We rolled towards the Start/Finish area again where the half would turn off which took me up a bit of a hill and then down the other side.

Once we headed south onto the second out and back, there was a fairly significant downhill and I saw 5:40 pace on my watch and had to put the brakes on. I was feeling great but also knew that mile 13 is a long way from mile 26. Right around here, a biker pulled up and said “I think you’re my first woman, I’m your lead biker.” Jess ended up being an awesome companion for the next 13 miles. He’s a multisport athlete but has done a couple of marathons and nailed the balance of conversation and quiet. We headed out towards the turnaround at ~20 and I felt amazing through mile 19. This is where I made a tactical error (obviously realized after) in reading the course. I started to feel more clunky during 18 and kept pressing without realizing that I was on a pretty significant uphill false flat. As soon as we turned, I realized it was downhill and my pace dropped again. I had wasted energy, however, and paid for it on the run home. At the turnaround, I was also able to see my competition. Much to my surprise, the woman I had passed around mile 8 was only about 4 minutes behind me and looked strong. She had a shirt on still but I had assumed she was a half marathoner, not a full runner. This spooked me as I wasn’t feeling awesome and didn’t want to give my win up over the last 6 miles.

Miles 20 through 23 were just less fun and I was over running although I took advantage of the downhill slope of 22 to drop one of my fastest miles of the day. Around 24, Jess said “Put your head down and win this race,” which was just the kick in the rear I needed to hear. I got up the last set of hills (seriously?!?!? Flat course and the only hill is at 25?!?!?!?!) and turned into the finish area and gave the last 400 meters whatever I had left. I crossed just over 3:10 as the overall women’s winner, 6 minutes ahead of second.

All in all, it was the perfect day for running a marathon with incredible weather and a fast course. My nutrition was excellent and I was able to take gels and hydration throughout the race without trouble. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to get there in better shape because this is definitely a PR course. Obviously 3:10 is far, far off my PR but I’m extremely proud of this race for a few reasons. First, I respected my body and executed my race plan. Second, my splits were very even and I squeezed every second out of the course. Third, I did this on crummy training as a General Surgery Intern. Finally, this is my first overall marathon win which accomplishes one of my bucket list goals!!

Not only did Jess bike with me for 13 miles and help me open my post race beer, he also snapped this photo. Full service, I tell ya.

Mile 1: 7:25

Mile 2: 7:24

Mile 3: 7:13

Mile 4: 7:10

Mile 5: 7:12

Mile 6: 7:10

Mile 7: 7:10

Mile 8: 7:10

Mile 9: 7:18

Mile 10: 7:09

Mile 11: 7:06

Mile 12: 7:13

Mile 13: 7:09

Mile 14: 7:01

Mile 15: 7:09

Mile 16: 7:10

Mile 17: 7:08

Mile 18: 7:16

Mile 19: 7:12

Mile 20: 7:21

Mile 21: 7:24

Mile 22: 7:04

Mile 23: 7:42 (Hissy fit, not hill…)

Mile 24: 7:19

Mile 25: 7:19

Mile 26: 7:40 (Hill back to the start area)

Mile 26.2: 6:46

3:10:18 Gun, 3:10:16 Chip.

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