Get Your Shamrock On!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I apologize for the lack of entries for the last week.  A lot has come up and happened since Friday.  I promise that this upcoming week I will be more attentive to this Tumblog =).

For now, here is a recap of my marathon weekend!

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and Towne Bank 8K

This marathon weekend completely snuck up on me.  I knew it was coming but I didn’t realize how soon it was.  Alas, Friday arrived and I had an “Oh, crap!” moment.  My husband got off work early and we went over to the VA Beach Convention Center to pick up my race gear.

The packet pick up was extremely well organized, up to par with Disney’s race packet pick ups minus the hordes of people that make Disney pick ups headache-inducing.  I received my number and bags for both races then we walked around the expo to see what everyone was selling.  It was the usual swag of headbands, t-shirts, reflective gear, shoes, pre-race fuels, etc, etc.  They were offering samples of the beer (which my husband gladly partook in) and had a pre-race ID booth.  Both of us got our wristbands and then took off for dinner on the waterfront.  Originally we were supposed to go to this nice Italian restaurant but they weren’t open until way later that night.  Instead we opted for Taphouse and then went home.

The next morning we got up at 5 and left the house by 6.  The first race, the 8K, wasn’t starting until 8 but my husband wanted to get parking at the finish line.  We got there in time to park in the parking structure across the street and then headed out to explore the pre-race festivities.  There wasn’t much going on so we looked for a place to eat some breakfast (well, more like a place for my husband to eat.  I had already had my pre-race breakfast).  Starbucks was open so we went in and I had a tall coffee while we waited for the start.  Once it was closer to race time, we headed over to Hilton and then I headed to the start line.  Since this was my first Shamrock run, I was placed in the 2nd to last corral.  However, this wasn’t terrible since the waves took off every 2 minutes.  We finally made it to the front and before I even got to stop they blew the horn for our corral.  We were off!

I planned to run this race with an easy pace because of the marathon the following day.  That completely changed as soon as I crossed the start.  There’s something about having a number pinned on you that causes you to want to run faster.  As a result, I quickly changed my mind and decided to run at my fastest pace.  After all, this was only an 8K.  I zipped around people and quickly caught up to some 1st corral runners.  The course itself was pretty flat which made for a nice and easy run.  Before I knew it, I was on the boardwalk running towards the finish.  I picked up my pace and crossed the finish at 37 minutes and 11 seconds.  Happy with my time, I met up with my husband on the sidelines and we headed out for brunch.  We had discussed staying for the post-race festivities but it was definitely way too early for beer.  We headed over to the Broken Egg Bistro instead and had a wonderful brunch.  As we left, the rain began to fall and we laughed at my incredibly lucky timing.  I was glad to be done before the rain hit though running in the rain is kind of fun =).

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Close up of the medal (which also doubled as a bottle opener!)

Once we made it home, I made sure to massage my calves and feet out to remove any stiffness that may have resulted from running the 8K.  I checked out my final time and saw that I had placed top 5 in my age category.  This is huge to me because never before have I placed in the top anything for a race.  I was happy and felt really motivated for the next day.

Sunday we got up even earlier (4 AM, I believe).  The marathon wasn’t starting until 8:30 but the half marathon was starting at 7.  Given that there was a larger number of half marathoners than marathoners and that my husband loved the wonderful parking we had the day before, he opted to get up early  and get to the parking structure before the half marathon was due to start.  We got there, got a spot, and then took a nap in the car for about an hour.  Around 7:30 we got up and he ran down to Starbucks to get me breakfast while I held the baby as she napped.  We hung around in the car a bit until she woke up and then we went out to the Hilton so I could use the bathroom and he could scope out a place to watch the race.

The Hilton had a gorgeous foyer on the second floor that overlooked the finish line.  After using their wonderful bathrooms (suck it, port-a-potties!) we headed downstairs so that my husband could find out if they served breakfast at the restaurant below.  We made it back to the second floor, picked a spot to watch the start, and then I headed down to my corral.  Once again, because this was my first Shamrock I was in the last corral.  The waves were only 2 minutes apart again.  I chose to stand in the front of my corral to ensure a good start.  We made our way up to the front and then we were off!  I settled to an easy pace as I had decided that my main goal was to finish the race before the 5 hour mark and take as few walking breaks as possible.  I quickly outran my fellow corral members.  I led the pack for a few minutes before I caught up with the corral ahead of us.  

The course headed south towards Camp Pendleton.  There was only one real climb and that was the bridge that took us out of downtown VA Beach and into the Camp Pendleton area.  It wasn’t too bad and I didn’t have to stop on the way up (a huge first considering past small bridges like this always slowed me down).  We headed into Camp Pendleton and I kept up with a guy I dubbed Red Shirt for this entire part of the course. Once we we did the loop there, we headed north towards the boardwalk and the halfway mark

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The run on the boardwalk was COLD.  The sea breeze from the Atlantic felt brutal as it sharply cut through my body.  Still, I pressed on and didn’t compromise my pace.  When I reached the half marathon mark, I realized the clock read 1:50.  Whaaaat?  I’ve never finished any half marathon distance in less than two hours before!  I was ecstatic but I knew I still had one more battle to fight on my marathon endeavor: the wall.  I hit that notorious wall at 15 miles in my previous 2 marathons.  I knew it was coming.  I prepared myself for it and I approached that mile marker…

It came and it went.  I didn’t hit the wall.  What?  I was shocked but in the back of my mind I knew it was coming.  Just because I didn’t hit it then didn’t mean I couldn’t hit it later on in my run.  Still, I pressed on northward towards Fort Story, the next loop in our course.  The run towards Fort Story was extremely beautiful and scenic.  I almost forgot that I was running a race rather than a training run.  Almost.  Still, it was quite beautiful and I took in all the splendor surrounding me.

At Fort Story we were greeted by Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airman.  There we received our gels, jellybeans, and bananas.  I took the gels but politely turned down the other items as I have a hard time chewing and breathing while I run.  I caught glimpses of the gorgeous beachfront and the lighthouse that marked the landing of the settler’s that were heading to Jamestown.  It was a comfortable loop and it was nice to be sheltered from the wind for once.

Once we exited Fort Story, we headed south back to the finish.  I knew the end was near.  Along this stretch we had many people offer us beer.  I politely declined as it wasn’t smart to drink that while I still had about 4 miles left.  As soon as I reached downtown VA Beach again, I looked up at the street signs.  It read 58th.  So close.  Just a mere few blocks separated me from my finish.  I smiled as I knew the end was near.  Around 38th St we made the left turn back onto the boardwalk.  As soon as we rounded the corner I could see the banner for the finish line.  It was so close!  At that moment I knew I had not only done what I came out there to do but I had exceeded it.  I pushed myself a bit harder using the last bit of reserve energy I had in me.  As I ran past Neptune’s statue all my thoughts came rushing to me.  I did this.  No one else did this for me.  It was just me.  I caught a glimpse of the timer and saw that it read three hours and fifty-something minutes.  I was determined to get under that 4 hour mark and wasn’t going to let that timer go onto the next minute before I crossed the finish line.  I pushed and pushed and made it. 

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All my emotions came flooding at me at that moment.  I did it.  I collected my medal, food, finisher hat, and blanket.  I met my family at the first aid tent and we decided against the post-race party as it was cold and I could care less for beer.  We went home, I showered, then we headed out for a celebratory dinner.

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Close up of the medal

All in all it was an amazing weekend.  I accomplished a lot and learned a lot about myself as a runner as well.  Never underestimate what you are capable of doing and never sell yourself short.  You never know.  You might just accomplish more than you set out to do =)

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