VA Beach Shamrock 1/2 Marathon Recap!

We headed down to Va Beach on Friday after a detour to DC to take my Dad to the airport. The traffic was terrible and it took us about 5 hours. I was happy (but really more tired, hungry, and cranky) when we got to the expo which was very well organized…getting our number and shirts was a breeze! Saturday we had the entire day to relax, watch the 8K and kids races, hit the expo again, eat our gourmet PB&J lunch, and  tour around a bit. We realized we picked a perfect hotel (Residence Inn Oceanfront) that was literally within steps of the marathon start.

Yup, we pack our pre-race lunch!

Yup, we pack our pre-race lunch!

Bought green shorts the night before the race!

Bought green shorts the night before the race!

But yes, I whined a bit when I realized I had to walk 10 blocks at 6am the next morning in the dark and cold…poor me! Actually I found myself walking with a few hundred or so other runners and it was an easy walk. The wind was about 10-15+ mph and it was about 40 degrees – it felt way colder! I spent :40 huddling by a brick wall and a dumpster trying to keep warm before I shed my pants and coat.  I was in corral 1 out of 10 (gulp!) and I was looking forward to snuggling up with my fellow corral peeps to keep warm (not really, but the body heat at the start is normally overwhelming). The corrals spanned the width of 4 lanes of the road separated by a median – so not compact enough to get warmed up. I found a friendly woman about my age to chat with to pass the time…the wait was so long we ran out of things to talk about! The delay was announced around 6:55am…and we waited….and we waited…apparently something or someone was on the course. Just after 7:15am 10,000 grumpy, anxious runners began the 13.1 mile trek – finally! I was so pumped up from my music and finally running that I took off at a great pace. I watched my Garmin tick off the miles while I held a 7:35 – 7:27 pace. A bit faster then I thought I could hold. The course was….ummm….boring…nothing wrong with that, I just like more action. There wasn’t a lot of spectators (they were inside keeping warm) and it was mostly residential (with horrible bacon smells coming from the houses)  for the first few miles. Then we hit a long wooded straight away…not much to see…so maybe that was good because I kept my pace up.

We hit Ft. Story just before mile 6 and were greeted by stronger winds….I was getting sucked up by dozens of runners that seemed to push through the elements so much easier then me…ugh….I fell off pace. We ran about 3 miles through this tiny (seemed to me) Naval base. Even fewer spectators – but I did notice a group of Marines at one point and that made me smile! I took my Gu around mile 6.5 and wished I had another… As we rounded a corner we could see a lighthouse….or was that 2 lighthouses? As I wondered about the history of the lighthouses the wind blew harder from the nearby ocean and slapped me in the face and pushed me back. Damn it – I looked down and was hitting an 8:15 pace…mentally this hurt me. I was secretly hoping to break a 1:40 and now that might not happen. I was so happy to see the end of Ft. Story and head back toward the town.

When I saw the 10 mile marker I was so excited – that is my salt marker! I have had so many bad experiences from dehydration that salt is now a race necessity for me. Yum –  I slowly let small portions of the Panera salt packet melt on my tongue. It helped me pass the time and it helped me get back on a 7:35 – 7:40 pace. I started calculating my finish time and knew I could break a 1:40! Woohoo! At this point I would have been horribly disappointed if I didn’t break it – so I kept calculating the ¼ miles, ½ miles, ¾ miles, and miles…I was on pace! I was thrilled to see the area where we started, because I knew the finish was about 10 blocks away. I picked up the pace….until…we were routed on the boardwalk – the headwind to get to the boardwalk was incredible. The spectators were out in full force which was awesome to see at this point.

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That’s right – not even 9am and I was drinking a beer!

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Me – posing after the race in the wind and freezing cold! But HAPPY!!!

As I started the final run down the boardwalk I thought how fortunate I was to be almost done – especially because I knew that Jeff had not too long ago started the marathon – so glad I was only doing the half! I don’t know how long the boardwalk run was – I think under a mile? But I could see the tiny finish banner waaayyy in the distance. The time went by pretty fast as I realized the wind was now at my back pushing me toward my PR!

When I crossed the finish line I immediately thought I was going to throw up – so like a seasoned runner I leaned over the boardwalk railing and tried to throw up – nothing came out – but I got some stares!  My stomach got back to normal in a few minutes (seemed like hours!) as I milled around and got my awesome medal and very super-cool finisher’s blanket! The entire finish line, snacks, medals, bag check pick were all wonderfully organized – I was very impressed with how they kept everyone moving. I made my way through the sand to the post-race party tent to score my first beer before 9am! I figured I deserved it!

I never completely believe my Garmin – not sure why – so I was happy to get my phone out of my bag and check my finish time which I had sent to me during the race –  I finished in 1:39:49! Success!!!

After hanging at the post-race party listening to the band for a bit I went back to the hotel (2 blocks away) and turned the heat to 80 degrees! Ahhhh!!! I watched the hundreds of runners down on the boardwalk still running.

 

The view from our hotel room of thousands of runners heading towards the finish line....

The view from our hotel room of thousands of runners heading towards the finish line….

After awhile I headed out to meet Jeff at the ½ point of the marathon to give him his 2nd water bottle. I was horrified to see him running by as I walked out of the hotel lobby – oops…my calculation was off! I sprinted through the parking lot and down the road in the middle of all the marathoners until I caught up to him – did a quick bottle handoff and headed back to the room. I grabbed my now favorite blanket from the race and made my way to the boardwalk. There I sat for about 1 ½ hours until Jeff came by – I was relieved to see him breaking his dreaded 3:58 and successfully getting a PR!!!

Proud of my medal!

Proud of my medal!

It was a great race for both of us – and to celebrate we made sure that we did our duty of ensuring all of our beer tickets were gone! I was pleasantly surprised to see the finalized results and see that I was 7th (out of 594) in my age group – but I can’t lie – that motivates me to run faster, I want to place!

To sum it up, this was a well-organized event by J&A Racing – they know how to successfully manage and execute a very large event that includes 4 races. I was impressed and would definitely consider running Va Beach 1/2 Marathon or another event by J&A.

Best race freebie I have ever gotten!!

Best race freebie I have ever gotten!!

 

 

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