Monday, March 18, 2013

Shamrock Half Marathon

It's very accomplishing to realize that in March I have already tackled my New Year's Resolution, because I completed my first ever half marathon in Virginia Beach this weekend (like you didn't know, right?)!

This weekend began on Friday night with me picking up my friend, Jessica, at the Newport News Airport since she was flying in from a week in Florida. We then drove to Sandbridge (the Virginia Outer Banks about 20 minutes south of Virginia Beach) to stay her her parent's semi-oceanfront beach house. We got in around 9 PM, got outselves settled and then went to bed around 11 PM.

View from the porch Saturday afternoon
On Saturday we slept in, which for me is 8:30 AM, had breakfast (bagel with peanut butter and a banana), stopped by Starbucks (obvi) and went to the race expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center (right near the boardwalk for those of you familiar with the area) so we could pick up our numbers and visit all the fun stands/take cheesy pictures with various St. Patties Day themes. We were there until noon, and I got a lot of free samples, registered for many free drawings (which I will now get lots of span emails from...darn!), looked at other races, and shopped around for cool running gear that geeky running people love. It was fun! Afterwards, we hit up Target for food to make for dinner and went to Panera for lunch. My favorite part of the day was when we walked out to the beach in our coats and jeans and laid on the sand and fell asleep. It was the only sunny day of the weekend, so we definitely had to get our beach time in despite the cold temps! I was so happy laying on the beach in the sunshine, even though I knew I could not get tan. It was perfect and so relaxing. We read and chatted all afternoon until more of the crew came in late Saturday for our carb-loading dinner and early bed!

Ready to go!
Sunday came at 5 AM with an early breakfast (bagel, pb & banana!) and leaving the beach house at 5:45 to give ourselves enough time for parking near the boardwalk and bathroom breaks. We parked and hung out in a hotel lobby (The Cavalier) right near the starting line. It was chilly (40 degrees) but not awful, so I felt good about the temps (I prefer running in the cold), and the rain stayed away, so we were happy! We checked our bags and got in our starting corrals!

Jessica & I
All the girls ready to start!
The music at the starting line was great at pumping the runners up. I waited with my friend who I was planning to run with, while the rest of our group was further back, and we started off as the sun was coming up despite a 10 minute delay due to a "course obstruction!"

Waiting with our corral to start!
The race goes up Pacific Avenue, which is not the street directly on the beach, but the next over, and there were nice houses to look at and people cheering us on. We turned right before mile 3 to run up a tree-lined road that was nice because it shielded us from the wind and was very peaceful. I went off faster than my friend, so I was on my own by this time. I was really feeling good along this stretch and was keeping a mile pace faster than what I had planed for- around 9:30/mile. I had to go to the bathroom at mile 5 but the port-a-potty lines were too long, so I decided to hold it until the next stop, but by that time I didn't really have to go anymore, so I soldiered on (I actually had to go the entire race, but holding it long enough made me feel like I didn't). We turned into Fort Story Base at mile 6, which was in the open and right along the beach, so we got a LOT of wind but could see the ocean to the side, and it was nice that it was overcast or else this would have been an area where people would have gotten overheated from direct sun. I was still feeling good mentally and physically along this stretch, but a slight pain was beginning in the hip flexor/groin area of my right thigh (this had developed towards the end of my training on long runs). I was ok until mile 9 when the pain became pretty significant. This is when running gets very frustrating- you feel great cardiovascularly (not breathing very hard, in a good rhythm) but you're in pain, whether blisters (which were fine due to proper taping) or muscle injuries. Luckily, mile 9 was when we were running out of the base and were along beach house streets with a lot of fans, so I figured I could push myself 4 more miles. It was at the point where stopping to walk would hurt just as much as running, so I altered my stride and kept up my pace. I had a Carb BOOM Gel to keep my energy up for the last few miles, and that kept my spirits up. We were on numbered streets so you could count the streets down, and it was nice knowing where you were and how far you had to go. People started giving out beer, and I decided I would not stop because I had come so far, so I tried to enjoy it with a slight cringe here and there:). Once we got to mile 12 I was pumped because that is the longest I ever ran in training, so I had officially run my longest run ever! This also is when you are getting really close to the end, so it is exciting. We turned to the boardwalk right before mile 13 and ran down to the statue where the finish line was. I sped up on the boardwalk to end strong, and I finished the race in 2:05:28, beating my goal time of 2:10 (which means I kept a 9:35/mile pace the whole time)!

The statue we waited 13.1 miles to see

The SECOND I stopped, my leg pain grew exponentially, so I hobbled through the crowds where we got drinks, food, medals, and finisher hats/blankets. It was COLD on the beach and very windy, so I quickly grew uncomfortable. I knew I was ahead of my group, so I got my dry bag with my phone and a change of shirt and sweatshirt, and walked over to a tent on the beach that had food, beer and music. By this point I couldn't walk very fast, was in pain and was freezing, so I went to a hotel lobby to chill. While waiting, I chatted with a lot of people (runners are a friendly bunch!) and even got to go back out to the finish line to see the marathon winner, and he wasn't a Kenyan- he is from Connecticut!

He's from Connecticut! Look at that stride!
Number 3 marathon finisher.

Watching the marathoners around mile 13 from the lobby
I eventually met up with my group who had finished behind me, and we spent the day chilling at the beach house, eating (a lot), chatting and taking it easy. We went out to dinner later that night, but most of us passed out by 10 PM after a long day. I woke up on Monday very sore, but well rested!

All smiles a few hours after the race with my medal:)
Half marathon group at dinner- we clean up decent!
My overall take from the race: I am very pleased with my time and think that without muscle pain I could do even better. However, the one thing I do not like about the half marathon distance is that it is more running than is needed for physical fitness because to keep yourself going at optimal pace, you need to consume extra energy (aka calories) during and before your run. I don't like having to time eating/drinking on a long run; I just like to run as a fun way to exercise. I really focused on my water and food intake for this race, and maybe I focused too much, because my stomach was a little off on race morning from the additional food, sugar and electrolytes that it wasn't used to. I will adjust my training and food plans for my next half (probably the Richmond Half in November), with a shorter training period to ward of injury and less additional foods.

I am excited for my next few races- The Monument Avenue 10k on April 14th and Carytown 10k on May 5th, because 6.2 miles is a great distance, and hopefully I can PR after this half training. I won't do many long runs between now and then because of my European travels, but I will try to get in a fast 6 miler this weekend and when I get back from Spain.

Thanks for all your support and encouragement through my training journey! Get excited that I won't have to blog about it much anymore:)!
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