I was thinking about numbers the whole time.
If we were at the half-mile mark at this point, we had six minutes left to get to the next mile marker, which would be a 12:00 pace — so we wouldn’t be behind.
We’re at a time ending in .85 now, so we have a good cushion for making it to the next mile marker in time.
Those are just a couple examples of the types of calculations I did in my mind as I tried to keep a consistent pace on Saturday at the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon.
I have found a love of pacing races, and I got my third pacing opportunity on Saturday, Dec. 2 — my first with Beast Pacing.
As a pacer, the job is to run a consistent pace throughout the race while holding a sign to get runners to the finish line within a certain time. I was the 2:30 half marathon pacer, so I could come in from 2:29-2:30, but not over. This is an 11:27/mile pace, but since it’s rare to end a half marathon with exactly 13.1 on the watch, the average pace on the watch might be different.
Although the 2:30 time gave me a cushion from my most recent half marathon times — 2:19 and two 2:14s in 2017, not including the Island to Island race I talk about below — it’s still stressful, yet rewarding, to know you’re responsible for keeping runners on track during the race. I certainly didn’t want to let anyone down.
I received a free entry to this race as a pacer and I also received a free entry — and race hoodies for last year and this year — for making selfie signs for the 2016 race (they were back this year!). Since I had two free entries, I gave one away on this blog not too long ago.
If you have been reading this blog, you may know that I had an unfortunate experience pacing earlier this year at the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon. I tried my hardest and came in a little after 2:30 on an unseasonably hot day. I look forward to returning for a successful pacing experience there in 2018.
The weather on Saturday at the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon was perfect. When I left the hotel slightly before 6 a.m. to meet the other pacers to get my sign and for a photo, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt underneath my safety yellow shirt along with shorts. But after thinking about it some more, I decided I could go with just the T-shirt and shorts, and I’m glad I did. The weather on the results page says it was “45 degrees and sunny.” It was not too hot, not too cold — and not windy.
When I headed back to the start corral, I soon had a small group form and we got a selfie before starting the race. I did not have one group with me the whole time. I ran with a couple of the people in the photo for the first mile or so, one of them being a friend from the Eastern Shore Running Club.
They ended up ahead of me, and I didn’t catch up with them, as I didn’t want to start out too fast.
I wore a Paceband (people have asked about this; you can find them at Pacebands.com) and my watch during the race. The Paceband has the cumulative times that I should be at each mile for a 2:30 finish. For example, the first mile should be completed in 11:27, the second mile should be completed in 22:53, the third mile should be completed in 34:20, and so on.
The first few mile markers were right on with my watch, which was great. After that, at some point, my watch was hitting the miles slightly before I got to the mile marker, so I had to try to do some adjusting. It’s only the mile markers that matter — nobody cares what my watch distance says.
My plan was to keep a consistent pace that wasn’t too fast, and then if I got to a mile marker early — for example, 11:15 instead of 11:27 — I would walk until I hit the cumulative pace on the Paceband. I didn’t walk after the first mile, but I’m pretty sure I did starting with the next mile, so I could try to keep everyone on track.
Relatively early on in the race, a runner who I had chatted with on the Facebook group for this race found me, and we ran much of the race together. We also chatted in person as we ran, and I learned about her and her running group, S.W.I.F.T. She was with me until Mile 10 or so, and she came back a few times, but unfortunately, I lost her. I did see her at the end, and she gave me a hug.
It’s tough to leave someone you’ve been running with, but as a pacer, you have to keep going.
Another runner was able to catch up to me after a bathroom stop before we made it to the halfway point, and she ran most of the rest of the race in front of me. Near the end, I was getting close to her and she kept getting back in front of me — which was good. We finished very close together, and since I finished in 2:29:58, I hope she was able to come in under 2:30.
Once I finished the race, I saw one of the runners I’d taken the photo with in the beginning, and she let me know afterward she’d finished in 2:25, which was great to hear.
When I do races on my own, I normally stop at water stops, and I did stop at water stops during this race — not every one, but several. I also brought Clif Shot Bloks with me, but I did not end up eating them. If I were struggling, I might have had them, but I thought it would kind of break the rhythm and I wasn’t feeling like I really needed them. When I first started running half marathons, I didn’t take any kind of on-course nutrition (not that I recommend doing that).
Although there were a few times I found myself slightly behind what was on the Paceband — because it’s hard to know exactly when you’ll hit that mile marker, and I’m not a machine — I never felt like I was struggling. I was never too far from the time on the Paceband, and I readjusted. With each mile I completed, I was one mile closer to finishing the race successfully.
I hit Mile 12 slightly after the time on the Paceband, so I sped it up a little bit for the last mile. I make sure I kept up a fast enough pace to cross the finish in under 2:30, and I came in with a chip time of 2:29:58.
Since my watch had the course at 13.19 miles, that put me at a final average pace of 11:22 on my watch. I am planning to return as a pacer at this race next year, and I will probably try to come in a few seconds early for each mile so that I hopefully won’t have to speed up at the end.
I was pacing based on the cumulative time on my watch, but my watch also shows the current pace — which you are not supposed to go by. Although I was not using that as the information I was pacing by, I was looking at it sort of as a guide to my speed.
There is a good portion of this race on the Junction & Breakwater Trail, and on the trail part of the race, my current pace was going crazy. I would see that I was going at paces in the 10s, 11s and 12s, when my pace hadn’t changed that much. I had to pretty much run by feel and continually look at the cumulative time to get to the mile markers on time.
Although I’ve mentioned how focused on the numbers I was, the course really is beautiful. This was my first marathon — and still my marathon PR and second-fastest marathon the following year — and this was my third year running the half marathon, making this my fifth year participating in this race.
The fellow Beast Pacers and leader were friendly; the race director, Mary Beth Evans, is awesome; the aforementioned Facebook group has a great community; and there are also friendly people along the course. It’s not an overly crowded course if you want a lot of crowd support/cheering/people holding signs, but the water stops were great and as I mentioned, the scenery is awesome.
Half marathon runners start out by the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand — right near the boardwalk and Atlantic Ocean — and go through the downtown area, up to Cape Henlopen State Park, back — with another view of the ocean — through a residential area and then up and back on the Junction & Breakwater Trail.
I also really liked the finisher medal and the lavender women’s race shirt. I can pretty confidently say that I will never win one of the overall awards, but they are large life preservers, and they are amazing! The age group awards are cool, too (but also very competitive).
After passing off the pace signs to the next pacer, I enjoyed the awesome after party. Another thing you’d know about me if you enjoy reading this blog is that I love good post-race food. This race has that — I stocked up on some breakfast food, mac and cheese, pulled pork and cole slaw.
Runners could also enjoy Dogfish Head beers (which I did) and a DJ that got a ton of people dancing. I’m not usually one who dances after racing, but I was definitely sort of moving to the beat (although not fully dancing).
In addition to the party in the tent, with the dancing, there’s also a party at The Cultured Pearl next door, where there wasn’t really a line for beer when I went. I also got some seconds of food. Yum!
After the race, my friend Veronica and I went on a bar crawl of Rehoboth Beach, enjoying food and drinks — including the race drink, One Hot Mama JAMa, at Jam. There are so many great places to eat in Rehoboth Beach!
I can’t wait for next year and look forward to helping people reach their goals again in 2018.
If you are interested in running the race, there is always a great deal on New Year’s Eve and the race director, Mary Beth, has commented with the info in the Facebook group: The first 400 people for the full marathon and 800 people for the half marathon to register on New Year’s Eve, from noon to 11:59 p.m., will get $15 off. Here’s the link to the race website: www.rbmarathon.com.
Splits (according to watch):
Mile 1: 11:13
Mile 2: 11:04
Mile 3: 11:21
Mile 4: 11:19
Mile 5: 11:31
Mile 6: 11:30
Mile 7: 11:31
Mile 8: 11:23
Mile 9: 11:34
Mile 10: 11:38
Mile 11: 11:30
Mile 12: 11:29
Mile 13: 10:58
Last part (watch had .19): 1:52
Total – official time: 2:29:58 (watch says 2:29:59)