Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

"..or imagine being magically whisked away to Delaware! Hi, I'm in Delaware."

November 29, 2008
Every reason I had not to run the Rehoboth Beach marathon was countered with a better reason to just go ahead and do it. I hadn't really trained at all, but I was still riding the training benefits of the 50 miler only 4 weeks earlier. I didn't particularly want to travel mid-semester, yet Rehoboth beach is only two and a half hours outside DC and I had no other plans. Although I didn't know anyone else who was doing this particular race, a few other Marathon Maniacs had already signed up. Besides, when else would it be this easy to check Delaware off my 50 state list?

As soon as you equate something with "easy", go ahead and bet that something will go wrong. That was the case with Rehoboth Beach. The inaugural race was being held on a Saturday and it began snowing around lunch on Friday. By the time I went to bed, the roads were covered and I was sure I didn't have enough layers for the 15 degree start the following morning!

My hotel was only 3 blocks from the starting line and, in true Suzy fashion, I got there in just enough time to line up and start. With only 500 runners, I didn't expect or need bells and whistles, but it was sort of weird that there was no National anthem or starting gun. The first quarter mile was on the very slippery, snowy boardwalk and runners were at opposite ends of the spectrum: some were laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it and others were terrified, cursing with every step. I was the latter.

Even though some runners stubbornly wore shorts and tanks (brave or dumb? You decide!), I decided on CWX tights, 2 long sleeved dri-fit tops with my Maniacs jersey over them. Let's be honest, I looked like a marshmallow but I was not only warm, 3 other Maniacs recognized me. One MM was running his 498th marathon and Cowboy Jeff, who I met earlier this fall in Akron, ended up winning his age group. Once again, the camaraderie of the Maniacs was one of the best things about the race.

I usually skip the first water stop, making my first stop at Rehoboth somewhere around mile 5. Imagine my surprise when (1) My watch reads 47 minutes (this is much slower than normal) and (2) the Dixie cup has a thin layer of ICE on top! The icy Gatorade and water was a constant through about mile 12, exemplifying just how cold it was outside. The wind, coming strong off of the Atlantic Ocean, did not help matters. Parts of the course were single track trail, so as the ice melted it was a slippery mess. Amanda (who guided me through my first marathon) often reminds to "choose your attitude", which is especially applicable in running. Oh, I chose alright- chose to sulk in it. As a result, I had a horrible first half and clocked 1:57.

Finally it hit me that I was not going to have my best time so I decided to just have fun. I stopped looking at my watch, began high fiving all of the kids, and thanked every course volunteer and spectator for being out there (jeez, they weren't even getting a medal at the end of this miserable morning!). When I finally settled into a steady pace, banished negative thoughts, and noticed the sun beginning to poke through the clouds, I look down at my Garmin and was shocked- mile 19. 19?!?! It has never taken me 19 miles to start enjoying the race.

By the last stretch of boardwalk, the snow had melted and I switched over to one of those who just laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. I finished in 3:49, solidifying a (very!) negative split. I was the 15th female overall out of 186 women and grateful to have finished under 4 hours. The best part? I can now mark Delaware off as the 18th state!

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler

"Oh crap…WHAT am I doing?"
That was pretty much the only thought going through my head at the beginning the North Face Endurance 50 miler. I was one in a sea of runners with headlamps and flash lights necessary to navigate the ups and downs of the trails in the pitch-black 6 am start. It didn't take me long to learn the trail running etiquette of calling hazards to my fellow runners (Stick! Mud! Ditch! Root!). When I missed a 2 person-tree collision around mile 4, I thought of my starting line friend Tim who had said, "Don't get out your mp3 player until sunlight." Yeah right…with terrain like this, you couldn't PAY me to have the distraction of music!

By mile 6, I had gone ankle deep in mud twice- shoe sucking, deep, squishy mud. As a "roadie", my first instinct was to worry about the blisters my soaking socks would inevitably create. That was the least of my concerns! Combined with wet leaves, the slick mud caked on my shoes made the entire course a hazard- especially the steep down hills. After a wrong turn for a quarter mile, the white ribbons marking the course guided us out of the woods and into an open field. The sun was beginning to come up and despite my less than stellar start, I was able to calm down and focus on getting a good rhythm.

Having chosen to have my first drop off bag at mile 21, I stopped only to take the rocks out of my shoes and ditch my headlamp at the first aid station. By this point, the field of runners was settling into "groups". I met Marathon Maniacs Bekkie and Joe as well as another gal right around my age, which is uncommon because ultra running isn't exactly a younger person's sport. I instantly liked Katie because she had a cute pink shirt on, a feeling solidified by her confession that this was (also) her first 50 miler, she had not (also) been over 35 miles, and she (also) was more of a road racer.
By the 4th hour at mile 21 (also well within the first hard cutoff), Katie and I had a "come to Jesus" regarding terms of our partnership: we were grateful to have shared the miles, but if one person was holding the other back it was totally fine to separate. When we got to the aid station, her husband Chris must have realized we DTRed because he attended to me as well. With fresh socks (hallelujah!) and a dry shirt, I felt like a new woman!

Even as the elevation changes became more drastic, I was able to maintain a steady pace with the help of my now established partner. After comparing running histories, recurring dreams, and deciding that giving birth wouldn't be that far from the pain we were experiencing, Katie and I both splashed into a mud puddle, completely soaking another pair of socks. We squish squashed to Aid 5 at mile 28, where my pacer was scheduled to meet up and run 7 miles. Charlie was waiting with a smile, fresh legs, and wait for it…a pair of extra socks!

Charlie, who was my coworker in 2004 and has been a great friend ever since, had planned to pace me only 7 miles that day. I was already grateful to have the QT from such a great athlete, but as we were out there I realized what a mental boost he was. Not only could he deliver great one-liner jokes, having 3 people watch for course markings was a blessing. Somewhere around mile 34, he mentioned that he may take us through the end. I'm not sure if it was our whimpering or what, but his "may" turned into a "definitely" and the three of us became a package deal for the rest of the race!

Combined with the sounds of a local shooting range in the distance (oh Wisconsin!), we twisted back to a tight single track portion of the course. The thing about trail running is you have to be alert and focused at all times…the second you let your mind wander, you've tripped on something or turned a non-turnable body part. Physically, I was feeling fine enough but my mind was all, "Isn't this running? Don't I get to zone OUT?!"

Mentally, I was so spent by mile 40 that I didn't even care about the two HUGE blood blisters on both of my big toes…in fact, I joked that they were an advantage as "extra toes", knowing good and well that when they popped I would be in for an even more painful ride. I fought an overwhelming urge to call Trey, who is still training at Fort Knox, for a pep talk...but I knew exactly how the conversation would go: "What do you need from ME? Call me back when you are finished with YOUR race!" He later confirmed that this is, in fact, how he would have responded. And it's one of the reasons why I love him.

As we made our way back to Ottawa Lake, Katie began to recognize some of the earlier markings and we realized we were less than a mile from the finish. I was perfectly happy with a slow grind in those last turns, but Katie and Charlie convinced me otherwise. Running is inherently an individual sport, but on Saturday I felt as accountable to them as any teammate and cannot imagine having done this race alone. When we finally crossed finish line in 10 hours 11 minutes (putting us in the middle of a field that was overwhelmingly male), trying to wrap my head around what I had just done seemed impossible. Although I felt exhilarated, stunned, overjoyed and accomplished, I couldn't help but still think: "Oh crap…WHAT did I DO?!"

ING Hartford Marathon

October 11, 2008

8 am start?! Isn't that really late?? After double checking the website umpteen times and asking the race director "if he was sure" (!) the race began at 8, I set my alarm clock to essentially sleep in on race day. My hotel was across from Bushnell Park, where the ING Hartford marathon began and ended, so I was able to take my time and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with other runners. Cindy, the breakfast attendant, asked "which one of you will win today?!" and then inquired if our marathon was shorter than the one they do in Boston. Bless her heart.

Despite being on extremely narrow roads, the first few miles out of the park and through downtown were great! I couldn't have imagined a more perfect autumn day- the sky was a stunning turquoise-blue backdrop to the intense reds, fiery oranges, and bright yellow leaves on the trees. As we went over the bridge and into a quaint residential area, complete with white picket fences, farm animals, and pumpkin patches, I thought "I am running in a Norman Rockwell painting!"

I ran these beginning miles quickly, clocking 1:22:46 at 10 miles. I don't recall thinking the pace was TOO fast; I was simply focused on my "first 10 miler". During a marathon, I always break the race up into 3 parts: 10, 10, and 6.2. During 1-10, I only allow myself to think of those miles. Mile 11, in my mind, becomes mile 1 of my "2nd 10 miler". The third segment, at a little over 6 miles, is when I'm "allowed" to break down the numbers on the clock. This allows me to digest the intimidating number of 26.2 miles and focus on the task at hand. I wanted to complete this race in under 4 hours.

Because of the out and back turnaround on a 3 mile stretch, I was able to see almost the entire marathon field- the frontrunners coming back as I was headed out and those behind me as I headed back. It was exciting to see the (many!) Marathon Maniacs who would give a thumbs up and an encouraging "hey, Maniac!" Even the spectators and volunteers noticed there were a lot of us- toward the beginning of the race I'd overhear them say, "there's another one" and by the end they were all, "Yeeeaaaahhh Marathon Maniacs!" Even the live bands, one about every other mile, caught onto our presence and gave shout outs!

I hit the half at 1:48:02, just before seeing the BEST spectator sign of the day: Running on King Street is better than investing on Wall Street! By the time we hit the waterfront at Great River Park, I was cruising just in time to hear my favorite feel-good association song, "Cupid Shuffle". I was with Trey in Kentucky when I heard it for the first time and my friend Terrill and I had a blast learning the dance, which is totally Electric Slide meets Soulja Boy. Anyway, I hit a button on my mp3 to turn it up (or so I think), but when the song played again, again, and yet again…yep, I realized I had pressed "repeat" instead. Nonetheless, I Cupid Shuffled my way through the "second 10 miler", hitting 20 miles at 2:45:50.

Crossing Founders Bridge and into Riverside Park, I was too distracted by the beauty of Hartford and enthusiasm of the spectators to notice the pain in my legs. One of the last live bands I heard was playing the Boss' "Born to Run" and I remember thinking, "okay, maybe not Norman Rockwell but definitely Nike commercial!" Finishing at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch was picturesque and receiving a medal in its likeness was ohso cool…which is perhaps why I forgot to turn my Garmin off and didn't even know my results until a full day afterward!

In Connecticut, I ran 3:37:59, was 16th of 128 in my age group, and 446th of 1948 total runners. Don't tell Cindy I didn't win…

Akron Marathon

September 27, 2008

I'm the gal who takes extra packets of splenda from coffee shops and absolutely refuses to buy something at regular retail price. You call it cheap-o, I call it "deal-conscious". Anywhoo, I knew my Ohio race when I saw it: included in the registration fee (and in addition to the medal and long sleeved technical tee), the Akron marathon included a one year subscription to Running Times and FREE Brooks running shoes.

My fall training, including the Akron marathon, has been designed around a 50 mile race in October. I had prepared for this race with the understanding that I would not be "racing" it, simply "running". Yet, in the days leading up to the race, I felt like I was in the shape to beat my current best time from Arizona (3:32:59). I admit this to NO ONE since that would automatically make me accountable to actually doing it.

During the drive to Akron, I offered up my secret to Trey. Without hesitation, he went into full support/coach/inspiration mode. By the time I got off the phone with him, I had convinced myself to line up with the 3:30 pacer and see what happened. Besides, this was my first race as Suzy GOODWIN!

At the expo, I was able to see my friend Dane speak about his 52 marathons (a race every weekend, while maintaining a full time job) in 2006 to benefit L'Arche Mobile Foundation. Dane is an awesome role model for anyone who embraces the camaraderie, spirit, and challenge of marathoning. So when he asked me what time I was aiming for the next day, I dug myself even further into the hole by admitting, again, that I'd try for a personal best.

On race morning, I met up with Kim, who had run the Air Force marathon the weekend prior and had a half marathon…wait for it…the next DAY! I mentioned going for a PR but instead of getting nervous or overanalyzing it, we caught up and chatted as if we were anywhere BUT the start of a race. When I lined up, thanks to Kim, I was not nervous or worked up at all- I didn't really have time to be!

We had a cool, crisp 50 degree start in downtown Akron for a few loops. I enjoyed running through the University of Akron's campus, although I was a bit disappointed not to see any Phi Mu ladies out and about! Clocking 48:58 at the 10K mark and solidifying a sub 3:30 pace, I would find out later that Mom (who was receiving text messages with my splits) thought, "Oh no! She's going WAY too fast!"

Running very even 8 minute miles brought me to 1:13:57 at 15K (9ish miles), as we headed to the Ohio & Erie Canal Trail. This dirt towpath was eerily similar to the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, where I bonked in 2007. As soon as the negative association and thoughts entered my head, a gentleman from North Carolina lifted my spirits and my pace. He joked that marathons were the "only time he could chase young pretty girls and get away with it" and we discussed training on the Tobacco Trail in Durham. We were rockin' a 2:03:28 at the 25K (15ish mile), on pace to finish around 3:33- the time I was aiming to beat!

Despite my best efforts to maintain a positive mentality, my "bad self" started creeping in at mile 19. I began to make excuses- "I wasn't expecting all of these hills", "I started too fast", "nobody will know if I walk for awhile", "this isn't even my main Fall race! It's a training race and nobody PRs on those anyway". The negative thoughts were reflected by my performance- the 3:30 pace group blew past me, I slowed down to a 3:38 projected finish time, and hit 30K at 2:29:19.

Bad news or good news first? Bad: mile 23 was dubbed "Heart Rate Hill" (funny play on words when you're NOT reevaluating being a runner in the first place). Good: at the top of the hill, a spectator shouted "the last 2 miles are downhill!" 2 whole miles? For real?! I just KNEW it was some cruel joke until verifying it with the runners around then I told myself, "Suz, you will never be this close to a PR again with a downhill advantage".

Even though I learned in my sport physiology class that strenuous eccentric movement brings on DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness…I really shouldn't study my hobby, should I?!), I let the last 2 miles RIP. I sprinted. Turned the music in my headphones off and focused on moving as fast as I could.

The finishing stretch into Canal Park baseball field was the most painful .2 I have ever experienced, but secured my finishing time (and PR!) of 3:31:22, 10th of 119 in my age group, 27th of 543 women, and 174 of 1585 total runners. No matter how you crunch the numbers- time, ranking, or value of race-related schwag for the "deal-conscious", Ohio was my best state/race yet!

Ocean Drive Marathon

March 30, 2008
I decided I wanted to complete a "double" last summer, after talking with an experienced ultramarathoner in the waiting area of an auto mechanic’s garage. After discovering the Saturday/Sunday schedule of the National and Ocean Drive marathons and confirming the less than 4 hour drive between the two, I was in. Simply finishing would be fine…but completing both in a combined sub 9 hours was the goal.
Ocean Drive Marathon: For those of you who don’t know my Dad, he is absolutely THE most positive, energetic person in the world…hence, the perfect person to keep me in good spirits while accompanying me to race number 2. Having never been there, we both had different (stereotypical) expectations of New Jersey. Dad thought it would be busy and dirty. I was convinced we’d see a lot of gold chains and hear the F bomb every other word.

Of course, it was NOTHING like that! We actually drove through a lot of quiet farmland on the way to the shore, which was simply beautiful. The course was a perfect point to point, running from historic Cape May, NJ, north to Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Avalon, Stone Harbor, and then to Sea Isle City. For most of the race we traveled on the closest road to the beach, except through Wildwood and Sea Isle City, where there was a very cool boardwalk.

The people in NJ were so friendly. In fact, the only curse word muttered all weekend came from my own mouth when I felt the cold winds on race day morning! There was a steady 10 mph headwind throughout almost the entire course, with serious icy gusts over all the inter-island bridges. I had battled wind like this at the Las Vegas marathon last December, so beyond having ran 26.2 a day prior, I knew I was in for a gut check.

This time, the sign on my back read: "52.4 OR BUST! I ran 26.2 yesterday in DC"...again, this allowed me to again trade my mp3 for conversation and I even met 2 others who had done National the day before! During mile 12, I met a 60 year old gentleman who was running his 206th marathon. When amazing athletes like that are willing to talk with me, I soak up all of the information possible about training, nutrition, mentality and strategy...however, when I asked him for advice he simply said, "Just keep moving!" When I asked how long he’d continue running he said, "Until I stop moving!".

All the towns we traveled are summer beach towns so there aren’t a lot of people there in March. However, for 600 runners the crowd support was good and the camaraderie among participants in this race was unbelievable. My Dad saw me several times along the way, enthusiastically shouting to the top of his lungs and wildly ringing a cow bell each time! I actually skipped 3 of my Galloway-style walk breaks because he was at the front of a pack of spectators.

The end of the race was as tough as I had imagined back in the auto mechanic’s garage. From mile 25 to the finish, I literally repeated out loud "I feel good. I feel good. I feel good" over and over again. Seriously, 10 minutes of it! "I feel good. I feel good. I feel good." People must have thought I had gone nuts! "I feel good. I feel good. I feel good..."

I’ve never wanted to feel a medal around my neck so badly...and finally I got one, coming in at 4:10:27. Not only did I run Ocean Drive faster than National, but I was well within the 9 hour goal!

National Marathon

March 29, 2008
I decided I wanted to complete a "double" last summer, after talking with an experienced ultramarathoner in the waiting area of an auto mechanic’s garage. After discovering the Saturday/Sunday schedule of the National and Ocean Drive marathons and confirming the less than 4 hour drive between the two, I was in. Simply finishing would be fine…but completing both in a combined sub 9 hours was the goal.

National Marathon: I met up with a myspace friend, Kim, at the expo. After several months of race reporting, running chats, and messages of support, it was very cool to finally meet her face to face! Running is, of course, a very individual sport- having others to be accountable to (even if it is online) is a major source of motivation. If you are reading this blog now, odds are YOU fall into this category as well. Thank you.

My roommate, Claire, is a coach for TNT so my Dad and I grabbed a ride to the start at RFK Stadium with some of her runners. The excitement of first-time marathoners really lifted my spirits and positive mentality for the upcoming 26.2! Mayor Fenty, who was also running the full marathon, spoke as we lined up and I began to get nervous. Those nerves turned to heavy emotion during the national anthem when I thought about Trey, who is currently in OCS at Ft. Benning.

I tried to take the first part easy because I knew the overall challenge would be staying within my limits and preserving energy for the next day. The first few miles were the real "welcome to DC" miles – past the Library of Congress, National Gallery, and US Capitol Building. Even though I have been running past these things on a regular basis for over a year, I was as excited as the newest tourist…DC is a beautiful city. Also, the Howard University marching band and step teams were great support additions that I normally don’t get during my weekend training runs!

I had a sign on my back that read: "26.2 today + 26.2 tomorrow = 52.4 miles in 48 hours"…this invited a lot of conversation from the beginning. Typically, I run with music the entire way; this time, I only had my ear buds in about a third of the time! I got a lot of "which race are you doing tomorrow?", "I couldn’t imagine doing this tomorrow!", "You’re insane, girl!", and welcome advice from experienced runners who had already accomplished the feat. I talked at length with a woman who was running her 83rd marathon, a man who was completing his 27th state of 50 plus DC, and another who was using National as part of training for his 7th Comrades ultramarathon. No doubt about it, at races you will ALWAYS find someone who has crazier running goals than you do!

Because of the recovery benefits, I had planned to use the "Galloway method" both days, meaning I would run 9 minutes and walk 1 throughout both races. As the crowds began to thin out around DuPont Circle, I put Galloway into action and by Adams Morgan the ratio was consistent. Somewhere around the Maine Avenue waterfront and new Nationals Stadium, dialogue with other runners surrounded my falling behind to take a walk break and then quickly passing them (again, again, and again)! To credit the run/walk method, I beat each and every runner I played this "game" with. I finished Saturday’s race strong with an "official" chip time of 4:16:17. One down, one to go….

Rock N Roll Phoenix Marathon

January 13, 2008
The Boston Marathon is my ultimate runner's dream. I first tried to qualify in 2006. I was in great shape and had already broken the 4 hour mark but a string of injuries kept me from being 100%. I gave my body a rest before making the resolution that I would run my 3:40 at some point during 2007. The year came and went, and I was still within minutes short of qualifying: 3:46, 3:45, 3:49, 3:51.

Being SO close is sometimes worse than being far away…you're taunted with the reality of achieving your goal but still you cannot have it. There were many races in 2007 when I just knew I had it, but in the later miles of the race I hit the wall and could not recover. The disappointment of seeing my watch turn to 3:41 while I still had less than a mile to go was gut wrenching. And it happened over and over again.

At the beginning of this year, I made plans to do a double (2 marathons, 2 consecutive days) in March. The sheer challenge, of course, fascinated me but a huge part of me just wanted a major running goal that was NOT tied to Boston. I was tired of feeling like a failure! It never occurred to me that the Rock N Roll marathon in Phoenix would be a possible race to BQ…

On a whim at the expo, I decided to wear a 3:40 pace band and even join the pace group. Hell, I may as well TRY, right?! On race morning, I ate breakfast with Amanda and Jen (who were both running their 3rd marathon that day) without giving much thought to my time OR strategy. As Trey and I drove to the start in downtown Phoenix, he told me to "stop talking so much and focus on a PR". He never sugarcoats anything, which I appreciate because it is always exactly what I need to hear.

I met up with the pace group and headed north away from downtown for the first 5 miles. We were at 52:09 at the 10K, 8:24 minute miles- dead on for 3:40. It was refreshing to see friends at mile 7 (Trey, Ashlea, Jeff, Shane, Zach). Near mile 8, we saw Camelback Mountain for the first time and it got closer and closer as we continued east. While I enjoyed the camaraderie of running in a group, a lot of the girls were really talky. Had our leader not been so efficient, I would have left them earlier than in mile 10, when I pulled away.

The "signature" piece to the RnR marathon is a band at every mile; it's a great boost to hear them even if you don't like their style of music! They also had a ton of local kids participating in "spirit squads". Since my name was on my shirt, I got to hear their appreciation. "Way to go Suzy", "You can do it Suzy", "Suz, lookin' good". The support helped, because at the halfway mark I was running at a pace of 8:18 and hit 1:48:37. This gave me a very small amount of cushion for 3:40.

At mile 19, we entered downtown Scottsdale and I was feeling GREAT. You talk to yourself a lot during 26 miles, and I kept reminding myself that the uncontrollables were in my favor: great weather, flat course, super crowd. I could only focus on what I could control and…no pressure…but I was the controllable. If I had to see another 3:41 while still in the race, it was my own fault. Maybe this thought sped me up, because at mile 20 I clocked 2:44:55 and had an 8:13 pace.

As we crossed over the bridge at mile 23, I could see ASU and Sun Devil Stadium. It was 3 miles away and I knew that was the finish. At this point my legs, knees, hips were hurting. It was quiet, not like the start when everyone's all talky. Almost eerie. We all just kept moving forward.

I held off thinking about the reality of qualifying for Boston until I got to the final mile. Mile 25 started with a detour around a water main break. As Young Jeezy and R Kelly sang "Go Getta" on my mp3, we ran through the Salt River Project compound. I looked at my watch at mile 26 and knew that this WAS in fact going to be my BQ race.

Perhaps exhilarated by the realization, I began my final "kick" to the sound of TuPac's "Hail Mary" and took my pace down to an 8:08 minute mile. This would not only solidify my negative split, but also my BOSTON QUALIFYING time of 3:32:59. I finished 773rd of 6489 marathoners, 163rd of 2974 females, and 39th of 620 in my age division. Having committed to a full 2008 calendar (including the aforementioned double), I will run Boston in 2009...FINALLY!