Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Race Recap: Shamrock Marathon

After a very long off season from racing, I finally completed my first race of the year. The winter season is usually a time for me to log some solid training miles as I prefer to train harder in the winter than in the summer. However, my body had other plans for me. If you read my blog, you know that I was sidelined for 7 weeks (from late November to mid-January) due to a broken arm and a banged up knee. After easing back into running on a treadmill, I was able transition to the more unforgiving road in February. Returning to training didn’t come without its aches and pains, but thankfully my body responded well.

While running the Shamrock Marathon marked my returning to racing, that wasn’t what this race weekend was all about. The Shamrock weekend was more about hanging with friends, trading stories, laughing and relaxing. Back in the fall I proposed to my friends Chad, Kristy and Carolyn that we should go to Virginia Beach and run Shamrock. Shortly thereafter we were booking our beach rental and registering for the race!

Friday evening we all piled into my car and headed for Virginia Beach. Chad's husband Jon joined us for the weekend as well, so it was a packed car! We arrive pretty late that night and after a quick trip to grocery store to gather our weekend rations, we went to bed. After some breakfast and a shakeout run by the beach Saturday morning, we headed to the expo to get our bibs. I swung by the Nuun booth to say hi to my friend Kim. We had a nice catch up and she shared with me some of Nuun’s plans for the Boston Marathon next month. All I can say is that if you’re going to be in Boston, be sure to stop by the Nuun booth!

Beach house
Shakeout run with Kristy and Carolyn
One of the perks of staying at a house over a hotel is that you can cook your meals. So, instead of eating out for our pre-race meal, I whipped up some of my homemade pasta sauce and we had a pasta dinner. Pre-dawn rise times the following morning meant we were in bed pretty early.

At 5AM alarm clocks were going off. Chad, Kristy and Carolyn were all running the half which started at 7. The full didn’t start until 8:30, but I got up with them and had an early breakfast. After Chad, Kristy and Carolyn left I relaxed and started to think about my race. My plan was pretty straightforward, finish. I had an underlying goal of going sub-4, but my main goal was to just go out and see how my body would hold up for 26 miles. My fitness was not exactly where I would have liked it to be for a marathon, but I knew I was healthy enough to give it a crack.

Race day sunrise
In many ways, Shamrock felt like my first marathon. Butterflies filled my stomach as I slipped into my corral. But, I must say it was a nice homecoming. I missed the racing atmosphere. The blast of a horn filled the air and I was off. I started around an 8:55 pace and didn’t waver from that for the first half of the race. Runners shot past me earlier on and the excitement of racing filled my legs, but I remained committed to my race plan and held my pace. I constantly repeated in my head, “Run your race.”

After working out some little pings of pain here and there during the early miles, I settled into a nice groove. Every mile I soaked in the environment. I was so happy to be running a race again. While injured, you have those days when you fear you’re never going to get better. For me, that was the hardest part. Those dark days weren’t fun but that was now all in the past.

As I neared the halfway point, I allowed my pace to creep down ever so slightly. I felt strong and was ready to push myself in the second half. As each mile passed, I got a little faster. By mile 20, I was running 8:30 miles. My legs were beginning to bark at me, but knowing that my pace was much faster than I thought I’d be able to run gave me all the incentive I needed to keep pushing. Bring on the pain!

The last 6 miles definitely hurt, but it was a hurt I missed. I knew I was right on the edge of my limit, but those are the moments I crave. That feeling of being right on the edge, but not out of control, is such a rush!  About 2 miles from the finish line I passed a group of people partying/spectating in front of their house. They were passing out small cups of beer and I grabbed one and took a little celebratory swig…sorta like what you see during the last stage of the Tour de France when the yellow jersey drinks some champagne with his teammates. I knew I was going to finish this thing!

A couple hundred yards from the finish line I saw all my friends cheering me on and that gave me a little extra boost. I crossed the line nowhere close to my PR time, but it felt every bit like one. I left everything I had in me out on the course. I was exhausted, but so freaking happy.

As I walked through the finisher’s chute, emotions started to flood in. I thought back to those dark days and the path it took to get me back to this point. I thought about my dad and all the strength he has given me. I thought about the race and how stoked I was to run a 3:50:32. I thought about how good it felt to be back doing what I love.

For icing on the cake, after meeting up with Chad, Kristy and Carolyn, I learned that they had all PR’d their half! Massive CONGRATS to all of them! Rockin' our Shamrock finisher hats, we headed to the awesome post-race party and sipped on some well-deserved beer! It was a good weekend to be with friends.

Post race beers on the beach with Jon, Chad, Carolyn, Dan, and Kristy