Monday, 15 December 2014

Kiawah Island Marathon Recap

Kiawah Island Marathon, SC - Dec 14th 2014

I have had very mixed feelings about this race, which are constantly changing, so I've waited a few days to write a post, so I can try to figure out where I finally stand. I've gone from really angry and disappointed at the end of the race to 95% positive a few days later.

So recap on my goals for the race:
A. 4 hours or under
B. 4 hours 10 or under
D. Not feel like death---debatable

I ended up with a chip time of 4.22.28, a PR of 27 minutes 22 seconds, but first lets back it up a bit so you can see why I had such a great weekend.

Kiawah Island is around a 2 hour drive from my house. The expo was open until 8.30pm and I'd already picked up my bib and t-shirt the week before so the drive down (apart from a little traffic) was very stress free. 

It is a private resort with lots of golf courses, fancy restaurants, a spa and beautiful beaches. The only way onto the island was either for the race or to rent a vacation home.

 If one thing all my races have taught me this year, its that the less stress on race morning the better. So instead of staying 20 minutes away in Charleston, I managed to rent a gem of a condo on the island though VRBO. By a gem, I mean it was beautiful and less than 5 minutes walk from the expo and the race start/finish.

Two of my friends were coming with me but one had to pull out at the last the two of us stretched out and enjoyed having the place to ourselves. It was so nice in fact that I went to the expo, had dinner and then nixed my 2 mile run (not sure if this was a good decision). 

View from the condo
The expo itself was pretty small. Besides the packet pickup there was one room with a variety of running related goods (I got a cute ornament), another with some reps from other races etc and then a room full of Kiawah Island marathon branded gear. I couldn't resist a pair of fleece lined sweatpants...I'm going to live in them.

Afterwards I chowed down on some pasta and sauce (I'd pre-prepared) along with some garlic bread, yummy, before heading to bed for an early night. As usual I didn't sleep great due to pre-race anxiety and also a bit of discomfort from my tight shoulders.
 I woke up ready to roll. My friend also got up with me at 6am (the angel) but it wasn't bad because the race started at 8am and we didn't have to drive anywhere or negotiate parking. I ate a english muffin with some PB and half a banana and just spent 30 minutes getting myself together before we walked to the race start. Surprisingly my nervousness was under control, all my racing this year has really helped so much with this. We were there way too early but the temperatures were good and didn't feel as cold as I expected, I didn't even need gloves.

Jackie at the finish..looking perfect!
I decided to be ambitious and line up with the 4 hour pace group, led by a super nice but very perky lady called Jackie. In the deepest part of my soul I might have ended up hating her a little bit. Only because she wore makeup...which looked perfect from start to finish, she ran the whole marathon at a 9 min/mile pace with no problem and didn't take a drink or gel the entire time. I'm not sure she was human, ha ha. Her plan was to have us run the exact same pace the entire race (around 9.08-9.10) with the aim of getting us over the line at 3.59.30, to barely break 4 hours. Perfect for me, or so I thought.

We started out and the first few miles were really crowded. I almost fell a few times either from tripping on people or getting hit by them, whilst trying to keep up with the gazelle-like Jackie. It started to thin out a bit within 3 miles but those first few miles were a bit panicky as I tried to warm up and maintain pace all the while alternatively getting trapped behind people and then surging to keep up with the pacer. The first water station was a bit of a disaster but things started to settle a bit after that. The crowd only really thinned out  a lot when the half split off from the full and then I felt like I could take a breath.

The course was really pretty. It was absolutely flat, I think there was one 19ft incline on the entire nice! The aid stations were every 2 miles and well stocked. Every mile marker had a timer screen and we crossed timing mats multiple times throughout the race. My only dislike (a very minor one) was that there were a few very tight turn arounds, hard when you are sore, and with half of most of the roads opened it was hard to run the tangents and when I stopped my watch (mistakenly) after crossing a mat at 26 miles I'd run an extra .48 of a mile.

I knew within a few miles that Saturday was not going to be my day. My shoulders hurt, they were so tight (especially the left one which has been giving me problems) and my groin area felt tight and sore very quickly (never felt that before). Eventually the pull on my hips gave me horrific pain in my outer hip and knees. My shoulders eventually loosened a bit but they also resulted in some referred pain in my inner left elbow. The elbow pain was annoying but dropping my arm every so often relieved that a bit and it didn't impede my running.
 The hip-knee pain was a whole other saga. For the first while it was bearable and I left the pacer and did a fastish mile (8.40) at the 7 mile point to give myself a bit of time to stop and stretch. Engaging my glutes helped too. For the longest time my mantra for every step was "squeeze your butt, tuck your pelvis up" lol.
At mile 12, I seen my friend who had hopped on a shuttle bus (the race had them for spectators) to cheer me on. Right after I seen her a port-a-potty opened and no one was waiting so I sprinted in for a pee. I managed to run a 5k pace interval mid-race to catch the pace group!
Around mile 17-18 we turned a corner and something popped in my left hip, the pain increased dramatically and at that point I knew it was game over for a time anywhere close to 4 hours and I let the pace group go. After that I walk-ran, mostly running but stopping once or twice per mile to try stretch in the vain hope that something would release. I also detoured to use the one real restroom on the course. I didn't really need to go badly but I figured my time was blown so why not make myself more comfortable.
My pace dropped from around 9 min/mile to 12-13 mins/mile for the last 8 miles. So you can see how I added a good chunk of time onto my final time. I pulled through those last miles being passed by 65 other people in the last 6 miles...apparently I passed 35 runners and finished as a truly middle of the pack runner.

 I crossed the line, got an awesome medal and met my friend who was waiting. After getting a heat sheet, crying for 30 seconds (pain and anger) and drinking a couple of cups of gatorade I headed to an area with some yoga mats laid out. I figured I'd stretch not realising that professional physiotherapist were stretching people out. A really nice guy worked on me for 5 minutes and straight away 50% of the pain was gone.

A bobcat medal, native on the island

After that I went straight for the alcohol, Angry Orchard cider is like liquid candy and was exactly what I wanted. The beer/cider were unlimited but I felt like one was enough to celebrate. Then food. They had a couple of different pasta salads, fruit, cornbread muffins, brownies and a white meat soup. I loaded up on everything but the soup. One nice thing was that there was white cloth covered tables with some heaters spread throughout the area so I was able to take a seat to eat.

Then it was back to the condo to shower. I got away with one small blister on a toe, no other chaffing. I missed out on the free post race massage as they ended at 2.30pm and I was done showering etc at 2pm (I didn't want to walk over and discover a massive line). I didn't need to sleep. I just laid on the bed and watched TV for the afternoon until we met up with some fellow runners for some pizza and watched Pitch Perfect (very funny).

The next day I went to The Southern Kitchen for an amazing breakfast and then a walk on the beach where my weekend was topped off by watching dolphins surf and frolic really close to the beach. The drive home was uneventful. It was nice to come back to the pup and Martina (who'd been away all week at a conference).

Spot the dolphin
Now I said I'd swung back to 95% positive about the experience, here is why:

When I could manage the pain, the pace felt easy.

I never let myself mentally quit because if I had, believe me, I would have added way more than 22 minutes to my time. I pushed as hard as I could for those last 8 miles.

I didn't crash. I felt nauseous maybe 3 times for 30 seconds but otherwise I felt ok. I didn't take in a whole lot of solid food (a tube of shot bloks) and drank not that much gatorade. I know I can run a half on water but it surprised me that I didn't need more. Unlike my last marathon, I didn't hit a wall or cramp at any point. Just pain slowed me.

Except the mentioned pains, in very specific sites, I didn't hurt until the last two miles. Then my calves etc. began to hurt but on a different day pushing through the last couple of miles wouldn't be too hard or unusual.

Except for my shoulder (which I suspect I might need some PT for) I feel fine, I'm recovering really well. I even managed yoga the next day without any issues. I'm back to a slightly elevated level of hip/knee pains but I've felt way worst after some of my harder half marathons.

What all of that boils down to is I KNOW I can run under 4 hours 10 and on a really good day I'd make my A goal of under 4 hours. There is something equally frustrating and satisfying about realizing that. At least I don't feel like the race broke me this time. I just had a shitty day.

BTW as a overall assessment of this race---it was amazing. There were so many little extras, like the spectator buses/spectator bike rentals, that made this a quality experience. Other than the t-shirt, which I didn't like ascetically and the crowded start, I can see why this race is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best (smaller) marathons in the country. I'm not sure if I'll run another marathon next year, but if I'm in South Carolina, I'll be running the half at Kiawah Island next year for sure.


  1. Congrats on your new huge PR! How fantastic that you rented a place and could stay so close to the race start and make a weekend out of it!

    Man, I am sorry that your body was in so much pain, though. I wonder what was with all the new pains? How convenient for them to come, on race day. I do hope you get PT to help with that shoulder! Way to power through when you were hurting, and still finish with such a great time! You can totally get that 4:10 and 4:00 once your body quits being a little turd on the wrong day!

    LOLing about your comments about Jackie looking so perfect! :)

    1. I donno I think my body hears the word marathon and decides to seize up. It all sounds like excuses, but a 27 min PR doesn't need excuses!!! all I could think was not this again...can I not have a nice marathon? Well as nice as marathons get, lol!
      I fight with IT issues on and off so I probably have a ton of imbalances I should get around to dealing with. Maybe I was too ambitious with the mileage. Anyhow can't change it now. After Disney I'll actually get around to some strength training and see how it goes!

  2. A PR of 27 minutes is HUGE and something you should be very proud of. Even though you did not meet a couple of your goals, now you have something to work toward and strive for in 2015! You know you are capable and can do it!! It looks like a beautiful, smaller race and that they provided a great atmosphere for all of the runners.

    “I’m not sure if I’ll run another marathon next year…” You say that now, but just wait. I have a feeling you will get the itch!

    1. I'm sure I will but first let me forget this race and its associated 20 mile training runs lol