If I had to rank best weekends of my life....this would be in the top 10 without a doubt. I've been grinning from ear to ear all day since Sunday, and there's no end to the perma-grin in sight
I forgot I had agreed to attend a Military Ball the Friday before Shamrock.The result? I was forced to pack for both a Ball and a Marathon - drive an hour south after work to the ball...then 4 hours north to VA Beach Saturday morning. I had a blast but drank way too much given the plan for the rest of the weekend. Woke up with a slight hangover. Bad Jen! It wasn't a really bad one, but it def made eating a bit difficult. I forced down some food before my 10am departure to VA Beach.
VA Beach Convention Center - made me nervous because my two Personal Worst Pikermis started here.
The drive up to VA Beach was uneventful. I got there a little before 2 and headed straight to the Expo to be greeted by the beautiful ladies of Runner's World's Loop (Loopsters)! After chatting a bit we tricked a poor girl into taking pics with a squillion different cameras! Here's mine:
MJ, Deirdre, Abby, Chris, Me
After discussing dinner plans, we went on our merry ways. Packet pickup was a ghost town and took 60 seconds tops. I was really excited to hit the Expo but it SUCKED! I didn't buy anything. Probably for the best but I was really disappointed. Boo, Expo! Luckily the really cool race shirt kinda made up for it.
I love the beach in the off season! Cheap room with a view!!
With plenty of time to kill before dinner, I debated a shake out run. I know I needed it after the car ride. Weather was great. But I hadn't eaten lunch because the hangover suppressed my appetite. I decided to work up an appetite and loosen up by walking along the main stip. Unfortunately that didnt happen (well, the loosening up did and I force fed myself some pretzels) but I did happen to run into Abby and Chris out for a stroll!
I saw these guys right before spotting the girls.
I made a wish on Zoltar for a good marathon. Figured it worked for Tom Hanks!
Dinner was filled with great conversation and the lady Loopsters just kept getting lovelier (who would have thought that possible?). The pasta was about the same quality as the stuff my run club gives us for a $1 but I scarfed down as much as I could, thankful I ate A TON on Friday, and filled up on laughter.
After dinner I foam rolled and stretched, while admiring the moon and listening to the waves. It was really relaxing.
I tried to get pics a million different ways....but it was amazing.
Unfortunately it didnt help me sleep. I havent had prerace sleep trouble in a long, long time. Not even in the previous 3 marathons. For some reason I didn't fall asleep until 2 am.
Luckily, I woke up feeling refreshed. More than refreshed - I felt amazing! Even though I felt better in the last week, I was still feeling the effects of Bronchitis. As late as my Monday run earlier in the week\ I had a trace of gunk in my lungs. Sunday was the first day in almost a month that I woke up breathing effortlessly. I think this must be how people who live at altitude feel when they get on sea level.
My hotel was kind enough to serve breakfast early so I was able to get a bagel with PB and honey, a banana, and a nice cup of coffee before starting my 20 block walk to the start line. The wind was HORRIBLE. It doesn't help that I'm a total pansy in harsh elements. I kept hearing conflicting reports on wind speed, but it was bad. The flags were whipping pretty violently.
Despite the wind, warm fuzzy feelings began when I saw the Yuengling trucks unloading the kegs. Then I saw a cute guy in a kilt and thought, "Maybe the wind isn't so bad?"
Pretty sure that Coors Light van and Miller truck contained Yuengling
Being a public beach there were plenty of open restrooms with minimal lines so I was saved from port-a-potty nonsense. SWEET! Although I never needed a potty break during the race, I saw plenty along the course with no lines. Major props to Shamrock.
As the delayed start approached, the wind seemed to die down. I ended up right next to the 4:30 pace group, my original A Goal before getting sick. My new goal was to just finish happy. I finished MCM in 5:19 and while I wasn't happy with the time, I had a good race experience and I could live with another crappy finish time as long as I enjoyed the race.
However, did I mention I felt FANTASTIC??
Since there was no 4:45 pace group, I said eff it - I was gonna see how it felt sticking with the 4:30s. I was gonna try to put as much distance between me and the 5 hour group as possible...and hope my body held up.
The 4:30 group took off slow and comfortable. It was really congested and I was happy to be with them, instead of that frantic "get out of my way!" feeling I usually get at crowded starts. Their first mile was 10:54, which ended up being a perfect first mile for me before getting into the groove.
About a half mile into the race, I heard two guys talking loudly about their lack of training. One guy said his longest run was one 18 miler. The other guy said his longest was a pikermi. I laughed and said "someone's in for a long race" to the guy next to me, which ended up being the best thing I could have possibly done - I did the rest of the race with him!
His name was Ken, although I only found that our because of the names on our bibs. It was his 14th marathon. We both had no real goals other than to have fun. Thanks to him, the miles flew by. We tried to stay with the 4:30 pace group. Mile 2-4 were 10:18, 10:16, and 9:53 (I saw MJ this mile, she looked awesome!), after that sub 10, I said I had to slow down. Luckily Ken slowed with me saying, "I'm not going to win the race and I'm not going to qualify for Boston." He later told me he qualified and ran in 2007, the year the nor'easter come through.
Despite losing the pace group, Ken and I made pretty good time, Miles 5-7 were 10:15, 10:10, and 10:20.
After hitting the 7M split (1:13:22), we trotted through Camp Pendleton. This is always a rough stretch for me in the Rock'n'Roll Pikermis, which I did in 2009 and 2010. Its always looked like a deserted trailer park to me. Typically at the RnRs, this is when it starts getting really hot and I start regretting doing a half marathon on Labor Day Weekend in VA.
What a difference cooler weather and a new friend make! As we zig zaged through the camp, we kept hearing a ton of cheering. I thought maybe it was a cheer squad. Instead the street was lined with young Marines! Ken said, "eat this up" so I ran through high-fiving and screaming "Thank you Marines!" Our names were on the bibs so they were able to sream right back at me. I loved it! Ken compared it to the Wellsey Girls at Boston. I asked if he got is kiss (He did!). Miles 8, 9, 10 through Camp Pendleton - 10:33, 10:15, 10:42.
Somewhere around Mile 8 cramps started forming in my lower calves. This never happened during training and I hoped they would subside as I pressed on. Instead it went from slight discomfort to holy crap! by mile 10. I told Ken I might have to start slowing down if he wanted to press on. He said again that he wasnt there to win. At this point I really wished he had gone ahead because I wanted to stop (so glad he didnt). We slowed on the Boardwalk. The wind was intense but there were pockets of people out cheering.
What fantastic cheerleaders!! They werent the screaming crowds of MCM, but they cheered for everyone and their cheers felt genuine. I saw Deirdre (who was injured but came to cheer) looking hot in her green coat and red hair! Nothing like seeing peeps you know We also got annoyingly close to the finish line, so we could see HM peeps walking around with medals and beer. JEALOUS! Despite the cramping and the wind, Ken and I pressed on (although a bit more slowly. Miles 11-16 - 10:31, 10:37, 10:47, 10:45, 10:58, 11:19. Half Split was 2:18:33, which is a pretty decent Pikermi time for me.
Around mile 16 the cramp had grown, traveling up my claves and into my quads. I was in pain. It didnt feel like injury pain, so I told myself to man up....but I tried not to think about how much farther we had to go. My legs were really lockin up as we turned into a gorgeous tree lined street. While pretty, this was the longest stretch for me as I wondered if my pain management skills were good enough to tough it out another 10 miles. Ken needed to use the port-a-potty. He looked way stronger than me and knew about the cramping. He told me to go a head and he'd catch up. I finally stopped for a walk/stretch break, trying to find some relief.
I had hit my wall early, but unlike every other Marathon so far, I refused to have a pity party. I was still in good spirits. My new friend was a life saver!.
We took walk/stretch breaks at every mile marker. By now my hip flexors were hurting, which was also something that never happened in training but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with how the cramps in my quads and calves messed up my form. Ken would ask "are you ready?" about 1-2 min into every walk break. My head said no every time but my body trotted back into a run anyway. I would have a lost a ton more time in this stretch if it wasn't for him. Miles 17-22 were 12:59, 11:35, 11:41, 12:32, 11:55, 12:59. Mile 18 split 3:17:01.
As we exited the Army post, most of the people were hurting. Lots of walking. Even more hobbling. Ken said he always took 2 Motrin at mile 20 and he had 3 if I wanted the extra. At first I thought no. But as I thought about it, I wasn't dehydrated and I didn't think I was going to mask anything leading to injury. I know you're not supposed to take pills from strangers, but after almost 4 hours together, we were practically married! So, I took it.
Something awesome started happening - I started feeling better. At mile 24 I felt better than mile 16. We still took a few walk/stretch breaks but it wasn't like before. I felt strong again and getting stronger. Miles 23-25 - 12:16, 11:35, 10:55. Around 24 I kept saying "OMG, I feel fantastic!" It's a miracle no one within earshot slapped me. We were passing people pretty consistently. Ken mentioned I looked like I was going to chick him.
We hit mile 25 and Ken asked if I wanted to go for it. Again my body answered before my brain had a chance to calc what I had left. I've never even come close to doing this in a marathon. Heck, its hard for me to hit these kind of paces in a 5k! Mile 26 was 10:07! That's not a typo. 10:07. HOLY COW!!!
As we hit the boardwalk for the final stretch, there was a "who moved the finish line" feeling. Gary had been off by .16 pretty much since mile 5...but hadnt gone up in inaccuracy from there. Final distance was 26.48. But the final .48 was 4:17. Thats a 9:01 average. What?? That's close to my 800m pace when I do intervals. How in the heck did I do that after 26 miles???
People were screaming "you look strong!" and "nice kick" and I actually believed them. Ken out sprinted me by far but we were still blowing through people like speed boats in a sea of canoes. It was a high like no other. I could relive that moment over and over.
Even though I'm ecstatic with the finish time...I cannot get over the final mile and a half. I think even if my finish was 6 hours and I had those last few miles I would have been happy. But it wasn't 6 hours.
Final time was 4:51:29!! March Marathon Magic!!!!!
With, Ken - My hero! I'm in the finisher' s shirt and he's wearing the technical hat.
Ken and I hugged. We got our finishers long sleeved shirt and hat, and a pretty awesome medal. The Lady Loopsters were all there at the end of the chute.
Everyone kicked so much butt!! I introduced Ken to the ladies and told him for the millionth time he needed to get on the Loop. After seeing all the lovely Loopsters, I think he might be considering it
After the RnR, my friend and I stopped some volunteer medics walking across the beach to thank them. They told us that they dont run the RnR because Shamrock is so much better. Those medics were not liars...and I might follow their lead! The party was in the biggest tent I've ever seen. Complete with a band and all the Yuengling I could drink (I only had 3). I loved that there was no sign that a sold out half marathon and at least half the sold out marathon had gotten to the party 4 hours before me. It was still hoppin and the beer was flowing!! Good thing too - beer helps with jumping pics
The perfect end to a perfect race.