Nope. – Kiawah Island Marathon Race Report

I did not run a sub-4 marathon this weekend.

I’m not going to do my usual thing and write a long race report where I try and keep you in suspense the whole time and leave you on the edge of your seat about what happened. You know the result now, so you can choose to keep reading if you want to or not. Either way, I’ll start from the beginning.

In addition to being excited for the race itself, I was looking forward to this weekend primarily because I had friends coming in from across the country to run it. Patty, Jennie, and Leslie were flying in from Tulsa, while JC was coming from New York, Amanda was coming from Houston, and Kino and his crew were coming from New Jersey. They had picked the race based on my recommendation, which always makes me happy but also super nervous because I get afraid that the race will somehow suck this year and everyone will hate it and they’ll be all “Ughhh why did we listen to Danielle, she picks the worst races!” Fortunately, that has yet to happen, but the fear is real.

Anyway, I ran around like a crazy person on Friday morning baking brownies, grabbing groceries for our pasta dinner that night, packing, stretching, and trying to take my mind off of the race, which obviously was a failure. I picked the Oklahoma girls up at 3 pm from the airport and we headed down to Kiawah, which took us much longer than it should have based on the traffic I knew was inevitable. We got to the expo around 4:45, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much they had expanded the expo since 2011, when I last ran it. They had really cute merchandise for sale along with handmade Christmas ornaments and a bunch of other items, plus everything you could need for the race. I checked us into our gigantic house and we headed over to it, getting impossibly lost along the way. Once it gets dark on that island, there is no hope. There are no lights anywhere.

We settled into our absurdly large house and discovered that there were a lot more than the 8 beds that we had been told were available. I think the final count we came to was 14 BEDS, not including couch space and all the room available for air mattresses. We definitely could have had more people stay with us, but we had no way of knowing that.

Back of the house. Check out that gigantic porch!

We had a great pasta dinner with all the fixings, including garlic bread, salad, and dessert. It was nice to sit around and talk with everyone about our goals and what we wanted the race to look like the next day. All of us in the house were going for a sub-4 marathon except for Leslie, and out of all of us, the only person who had ever actually done it was JC! That didn’t exactly inspire confidence, but it was nice to know we were all in it together either way. We decided our plan would be to warm up for the first couple of miles at 5-10 seconds slower than goal pace, then speed up to about 10 seconds faster than goal pace and hold that for as long as possible before leveling out at the end. The strategy has worked for me in all of the races I’ve PRed in this year, so I figured it was as good as any.

Race morning dawned and I woke up from not one, but two nightmares, because of course I did. In the first one, we missed the race because someone had told Jennie that it didn’t start til 1 pm and we apparently just thought that was completely reasonable and didn’t question it until we saw everyone running by. In the second one, AJ became a drug dealer not unlike Scarface and got me addicted to cocaine that looked like glitter. Upon reflection, I’m 100% sure there’s a market for glitter cocaine. Our house was only half a mile from the start, so it was super convenient to walk over, and we didn’t even leave the house til half an hour before the start. Walking outside, the 100% humidity was completely obvious. I tried not to think about it.

Do I look like I’m going to throw up? I feel like i’m going to throw up.

My friend Sharen was running the full and also trying to break 4 hours, and her husband Doug is perhaps the most calming running influence in my life, so I made an appointment with him for my pre-race “DON’T PANIC” pep talk, but I couldn’t find him anywhere at the start. It was a madhouse with people EVERYWHERE. With about 3 minutes to go before the race start, I finally found Sharen, who showed me where Doug was. He gave me the schpiel and I went back to find my friends with about 10 seconds to go, and then the gun went off.

I got choked up as we approached the start line for the first time since my very first marathon. The magnitude of what I was about to try to accomplish just got the best of me, I guess. As soon as we crossed the line, I composed myself and set out to stick to our plan. As it turns out, that was basically impossible in the early miles. For reasons I will never entirely understand, this race is more crowded for the first 3 miles than any race I have ever done, and it’s not even a big race. It’s very unsettling, but having done the race before, I knew it would settle down quickly. That being said, the best we could do for the first mile was just under 9:30 as we dodged walkers, slower runners, and tried to weave through the crowds. My heart rate was sky high and I was boiling hot in half a mile. The humidity was just insane, and I couldn’t believe how miserable it felt so quickly. I wasn’t alone though – I commented to Amanda about how hot I was, and she and JC and everyone else were feeling the same way too, so I knew I wasn’t crazy or overreacting, so I calmed down.

This might not seem that crowded, but just trust me on this one.

I was not feeling good pretty much from the start, but I told myself it was all in my head and I just needed to settle in and hold on for the first few miles and my heart rate would come down and I would cool off and it would be fine. Even once the road opened up and we had more room, that wasn’t happening. My legs felt fine, but I was very uncomfortable. “Don’t panic,” I kept telling myself. “You’re fine. Look at all the pretty salt marshes and the houses you will never be able to afford.”

As we approached mile 5, I started seeing black spots and knew I was about to pass out if I did not stop. If you’ve never passed out before, it’s a very odd feeling, but you kind of know when it’s going to happen. I was incredibly dizzy and weak and knew I was about to go down if I kept running. I told JC and Amanda to go on ahead of me and get that sub-4 or at least PR, and I was adamant about it. Patty came up behind us and I told her what was going on and she said that she knew sub-4 was not going to happen for her either. She was struggling with the humidity, so we decided to slow the pace down and shoot for one of the other goals on my list. I was fine with that. My only concern was maintaining an upright position for the rest of the race.

The problem was that even running at a slower pace, I did not feel right and I was very woozy. For the first time in my life, I truly did not feel safe continuing the marathon. After thinking about it for a couple of miles, I told Patty that I was going to drop down and do the half. My reasons were as follows:

  1. Obviously I did not feel well, and continuing could definitely have resulted in me passing out or getting sick. I’ve already run the marathon before and obviously I have the state completed, so it wasn’t worth the risk to continue.
  2. I knew that I was not going to come anywhere close to my goal, and in fact, I’d be lucky if I even finished, so it seemed silly to exhaust myself or put myself in danger.
  3. I only have a certain number of marathons I can do this spring in order to make sure that Flying Pig is my 50th marathon, as I’ve been planning. Doing the half instead of the full at Kiawah would mean that I could do the full marathon at both Charleston next month and Myrtle Beach in February and have two more chances to break 4 hours on flat courses in better weather.

When I thought about it like that, the decision was easy. I sent Patty off at mile 8, and the only thing I really felt bad about was the fact that she was going to be running alone. I was very strangely at peace with my decision, and even at peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to accomplish any of my goals that day.  Sure, I wasn’t happy about it, but this wasn’t a matter of not pushing myself hard enough or psyching myself out. I genuinely could not safely continue the race, and there was nothing I could do about that.

I’m sure Ron Swanson would be really proud of me if he read my blog. Or if he was a real person.

Shortly after mile 8, a woman complimented me on my Team T-Rex shirt and then recognized me and realized that this is my blog. “Your blog has made me cry quite a few times!” she said. I didn’t know what to say, so I apologized, but it turns out that she meant I’ve made her cry from laughter. Awkward! She was running her first marathon and has been a lurker on my blog, so it was nice to have someone to talk to for a minute to take my mind off of everything. I was a bit embarrassed when I told her that today wasn’t going to be my day for a big PR, but I realized I might as well get over that since I’d have to tell all of you in a matter of time anyway. I was dizzy even when I was walking, so I decided to just walk for awhile and just get back to the finish safely.

Mercifully, Allison and Allen, my friends from Team in Training, caught up with me somewhere after mile 9 and we started running together. They weren’t feeling great either, so I was able to maintain the pace and we talked a bit to make the time go by. We all wanted the race to be over. I was pleasantly surprised to find a beer stop at mile 11, and although I’m pretty sure Allison and Allen thought I was nuts, I grabbed a cup of Sweetwater 420 and it was the best. So at least the race was not a total loss.

I have never felt so completely sure of a decision in my entire life as when the half marathon split from the full around mile 11.5. Normally, I kind of joke and laugh that I wish I was running the half instead of the full, but I don’t really mean it. As we passed the split, I honestly could not imagine running the full marathon that day. If Allison had not been with me, I would have walked or verrrrrry slowly jogged the entire rest of the way. In the end, we finished the half in something like 2:12, which is obviously not important, but just in case you were wondering.

Team in Training friends! Note my awkward yellow marathon bib with all the white half marathon bibs, yet we all have the same medal. Le sigh.

I headed back to the house for a quick shower in hopes of getting back to the finish line in time to see Chuck finish, since he was shooting for a big PR at 3:50. I got totally lost going back to the house. It was very simple to just follow the path on our way TO the start/finish, but on the way back, there were a lot more options and I found myself aimlessly wandering the island, dizzy and about to cry. I eventually found my way back, took a quick shower, and made it back to the finish. I was able to hang out with my TNT friends for awhile as we all waited for Chuck, but the clock kept ticking and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to make his goal either. He eventually finished in 4:12 and had a hard time in the heat and humidity too. He and I suck at quite a few things – sensitivity, pacing, and running in the heat – so neither of us was that surprised. He is in great shape and has been training so hard, so I know with the right conditions he will crush his goal.

As the clock ticked closer to 4 hours, I kept hoping I would see someone, anyone, from our house break that elusive barrier. It turns out that the closest anyone came was Patty, who finished in 4:26. Everyone else was close to 5 hours, and it turns out that the weather just crushed all of us. I was sad that they didn’t accomplish their goals, but I felt slightly vindicated knowing that almost everyone had had a rough day and I wasn’t completely insane.

We all hung out at the beer tent for quite awhile, and I ran into my friend Crystal. Did you know the race offers unlimited beer to all of the runners? And not shitty beer, either. Local craft beers (Palmetto Amber), Yuengling, Mich Ultra, the whole works. Also, the food is excellent – soup, organic pasta, couscous, fruit, brownies, etc. Cannot be beat, and there is plenty of space for everyone to sit down. At this point, I saw Kino, Nobu, and Maggie – also known as the fast people from New Jersey. Nobu was 2nd in his age group with a 3:04 and Maggie was 3rd in hers – and those were bad times for them. Crazy.

Team T-Rex pose!

The fact of the matter is that in any race, there are some things you can control and some that you can’t. You can control your training, your attitude, and your preparation, but you can’t control the weather or how you’ll feel. PR races are basically a perfect storm of all of those factors coming together, and they didn’t come together for me this weekend. I’m ok with that. I wish it had turned out differently, but I’m proud of myself for making a smart decision FOR ONCE and living to race another day. I am going to the doctor this week to get some blood work done and see what is going on and figure out why I’ve been feeling so badly. Assuming I can figure it out, my next attempt at sub-4 will be the Charleston Marathon on January 18. I know I am prepared for this PR. It is going to happen. It’s just a question of getting the stars to line up and having the guts to go for it on the day that they do.

Our group at dinner at Red’s Icehouse, minus AJ and Dar

Note: Some of you checked my race results because you couldn’t stand the suspense and tweeted/Facbeooked me congratulating on my PR. First, thank you for caring enough to stalk my results. Second, I have no idea why the results say that I finished the marathon in 3:55. I did not. This is not some elaborate hoax to try and trick you guys into thinking I didn’t break 4 hours when I secretly did. Trust me, that shit would have been all over the internet if it actually happened. But thank you for caring.

40 thoughts on “Nope. – Kiawah Island Marathon Race Report

  1. Oh, T-Rex. I’m glad you listened to your body and realized that yesterday was not your day and that you’ll get that sub-4 another day! I’ve had similar problems with almost fainting while running, and I hope that everything turns out to be totally fine and just some wonky, nbd. You’re awesome!

    1. Thanks, Becky! I hope everything turns out fine, but I’d also like some answers as to how I can feel better, you know? If it’s something I’m doing wrong or some vitamin or something that I’m missing, that can be easily corrected. If it’s random, not so much. I hope your back is feeling better 🙂

      1. I actually had a similar experience with almost fainting while running (after 2 other episodes where I actually fainted, but not while running and instead within 24 hours of running). After blood tests/heart monitor/etc., my doctors decided I was totally fine and this might just be something that I deal with. Weird, right? No fainting since, but I’m definitely more aware of how my body feels. AND my back is feeling *much* better – got through 12 miles yesterday! Good luck with the doctor, and fingers crossed for something easy to fix! 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry I know how disappointing it can be to feel prepared to PR and then have it all slip away. That was my experience at Rt 66. I felt humiliated when I would talk to people about it but I realized that the only person that really cares if I PR is me. I’m the only one disappointed in me. Everyone has bad runs and you can’t PR every time you want to even if you feel prepared. You will get that PR and you made the right decision. Just put it behind you and look ahead to the next one :).

    1. You’re absolutely right! The only person who really cares about our PRs is ourselves. Sure, other people root for you and want to see you succeed, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, especially if you did your best and prepared as well as you could. That’s all we can do, right?

  3. It is sooooo hard to be good sometimes when things aren’t going your way. Great job being smart- it sounded like the humidity killed a lot of people this weekend. Gotta love SC in December!

  4. Ugh, I’ve totally been there (except for the spots which is really scary). I’m glad that you feel that you made the right decision – because you did. Everything has to work right to run a PR marathon. If you have another one coming up, there is no reason to do it.

    Also, so bonkers about the weather! You know it is a shitty day when your friends were so far off pace.

    I have to think that if there was craft beer at the beer tent for runners and I had a race like yours, I’d still be there. Get after it in a month!!

    1. Well, you know where they have craft beer at the beer tent for runners? Unlimited amounts of it? MYRTLE BEACH. HINT HINT.

  5. I am really glad you listened to your body and dropped down to the half. Another one of my friends had a rough day yesterday too, I think the humidity impacted a lot of people. It felt fine here, but I live 1/2 hour from Kiawah and not super along the coast either and that makes a BIG temperature difference. Plus a marathon in humid weather is a lot longer and worse than a half too. If nothing else, you got to see some friends finish and you stayed in a gorgeous home in Charleston, and met up with a lot of friends. No shame in reevaluating priorities and finding other goal races.

    My marathon, although I finished, did not have very good conditions and I know the weather impacted my finish time. Hopefully we will have great weather for Charleston. I will be there, I am pacing the half marathon 2:30 runners- it is my first time pacing, so i am both excited and nervous.

    Also, I will say you guys did the smart thing renting that house. Those packages to stay on the island are outrageous and that’s why Charleston/West Ashley hotels were full this weekend, people stay here and just drive the 45 minutes to an hour to Kiawah.

    If you wanna meet up prior to or after the Charleston race let me know!

    1. I would love to meet up sometime around the Charleston race! That would be great! I know you will be a GREAT pacer!!

      Almost everyone I talked to had a rough race because of the weather. The only two people I know that ran well did the half – everyone else I spoke to that did the full felt terrible. No one hit their goals. So frustrating! I definitely had a great weekend and a great experience, though. It’s really such a convenient race when you rent a house so close to the start/finish.

  6. I’ll bet you still had your chip on when you went to the finish line to check on your friends. Close enough for the timers to pick it up. 🙂 Yes, I am a nerd.

    I always applaud those who know when it is time to stop. It is much better to be able to run another day than use everything up for one race. Your body was telling you something.

  7. I think it takes a much stronger person to step back and realize that that was not the day. Have you thought about PRing at the NJ full? I have heard it’s a very flat, fast course (if there is little wind?) maybe it is the day!

    I know you will run a sub 4 hour marathon soon. Thank you for being open and honest as usual and you made the right choice.

    1. I would love to PR in New Jersey, but unfortunately, I’ll be doing that race as part of a double and running the Garmin Marathon in Kansas the day before! Not exactly PR conditions 🙂

  8. Ok. So I guess I was wrong in callin’ bullsh!t but that is so completely odd that they listed your time as 3:55…….I had a “goal” half marathon this past weekend as part of my sub 4 marathon training and the humidity totally killed me! Missed my goal by about 7 minutes! This has me rethinking a sub 4 for Feb. I hate humidity! Hoping for better weather at all of our coming races.

    1. Do you believe me now that I would not lie about that, haha? Seriously, how cruel to list my time as 3:55…ugh. Good luck on your sub-4 training! We’ll get it soon!

  9. Heat and humidity really are a pain … definitely better to be too cold than too hot, IMO. I know that for Wineglass where the average high is around 60, we ended up over 80F with high humidity! In upstate NY in October! Yuk! Definitely liked my Red Baron half a few weeks later that was sub-30F with decently strong winds.

    1. Absolutely! And I definitely think that some people are more affected by the heat and humidity than others. I have friends who love running in it and actually run better when it’s hot – I cannot imagine. I’d take freezing and raining temperatures over warm ANY day.

  10. UG. So sorry to hear that the race didn’t go your way either. I wanted to quit so bad, but I decided not to since I don’t have any other marathons planned next year. But it was a miserable, horrible 26 miles. I’m kind of (selfishly) glad that other people were really affected by the humidity because it killed me but I thought maybe I just sucked a lot. SO frustrating…but you can’t control the weather so it is what it is, I guess. Hopefully you’ll feel better and get that PR at another race!

    1. I don’t think you’re being selfish at all! Of course I wanted all my friends to do well, but it was also a relief to know that I wasn’t the only person affected by the conditions! I completely understand where you’re coming from. Sounds like you need to schedule another marathon!!

  11. T-Rex. I know this was not what you wanted but I learned a lot from your story. Wife and I do channel your blog when running and this story will come in handy on many occasions. You are the best and good luck in Jan.

  12. So glad you listened and made the right decision for you. Obtaining a PR is awesome, especially when you’ve put significant work and training into it. But it’s not worth not being able to race or even run again after. Glad you made it through the half and are ready to do a sub-4 in January!!

  13. Kudos to you on being wise enough to back out instead of taking unnecessary risks. The weather is a huge factor in a marathon and totally out of your control, as you know. I’m impressed you even did the half, You are a trooper and will surely break four hours, sooner than later. Thanks for an honest and inspiring race report. Once again.

    1. Thank you so much! It’s a shame that the weather is out of our control because like you said, it is such a huge factor! I hope you’re right and I’ll break 4 hours soon.

  14. Sounds like brutal racing conditions. It’s difficult to PR in humid weather. You’ll get this goal. Sometimes it takes a while to chase down our new PRs. It took me 6 months to get my sub-24 5K because of weather, wasn’t feeling quite right, etc, etc, etc. Finally everything was aligned and I smashed it.

    You did the right and smart thing to drop down to the half. We readers will live to read another one of your marathon posts. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Elle. This makes me feel better. Sometimes I feel like talking about the weather or not feeling great that day sound like excuses, but they really make SUCH a huge difference!

  15. Sorry you had a rough day and I hope you figure out what’s going on. Whatever it is , I hope it’s easily remedied. It was nice to see you, though! Your hair looked beautiful.

    We tapped Fat Tire and Sam Adams Summer Wheat around 1 o’clock 🙂

    Debby owns a house on Seabrook that she rents out. It’s smaller and about a 5 minute drive to Kiawah. Here’s the link if you or any of your friends are interested.

    See you in Charleston!

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