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Monday, March 25, 2013

Shamrock Marathon: Gone with the Wind

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...In my next life, I am going to be a weather forecaster.  It is one of the only jobs in which you can be WRONG 75+%  of the time and still have a job.  The Shamrock forecast during the week was 46 degrees and 9-mph winds.  For a coastal race, those winds are manageable.  However, race morning, as I walked from our hotel to the start line, I dropped my first of many f-bombs for the day.  The winds were closer to 20-mph sustained and gusting even faster.  Lucky for me though, once the gun went off,  I was mentally ready to kick anything's a$$.  Nothing was going to stop me from my 3:05 goal...

During the final weeks of training, I felt great.  I ran the Yasso 800's at a 2:54 average, and on my final long-ish run of 12 miles, the first nine were at goal race pace before comfortably dropping the final three at 6:27 pace.  Physically, I was ready.  I was starting to get nervous but kept myself in check.  At work one day, a customer asked me when I ran my 3:06 PR, and when I said 2009, she replied, "Oh.  Well that was a long time ago now."  ...just the comment I needed to get mentally fired up as well.  Bring it, Shamrock!

My gluts and calves started to flare over the final two weeks of training, but I kept telling myself that I am accustomed to handling these "problem" areas now.  I went for an extra deep tissue massage to loosen up my tight a$$, took an ice bath (awful), and told Mike to slap me every time I allowed these aches to get into my head.  Okay, Mike didn't really slap me.  Really, that was a joke.  Don't call the cops.

Good times

Oh yeah, and I also learned something new.  Actually, no, I didn't learn something new; I simply did something really stupid.  After developing calluses on both feet, I thought it would be, um, smart to buy medicated callus removers.  So, five days before the race, I put four of them on for 24 hours, and bam!  When I took them off, here was the result:

Medicated callus removers = Worst.  Purchase.  Ever.  I quickly drained the blisters, neosporined (that is totally a verb) the crappers out of them, and tried to stop staring at what looked like four UFOs crash landing on my feet.  I officially had the funkiest-looking feet in the world. 

Mmk,  Friday morning.  Decided to weigh myself.  Dumb.  I was a few pounds light.  See now, I think I am odd.  Whereas most women would be like, "WOOHOO!  I lost weight!", I was like, "CRAP!  I lost strength!"  Mike and I planned to leave for Virginia Beach that day around 3pm, but our new post-weigh-in plan was to stop in Durham along the way at a brewery.  Yep, two nights before the marathon, and I was eating a cheeseburger and quesadillas.  What better way to regain strength than with a big ol' protein-y burger.  Hey, at least I refrained from the wine...

On Saturday, we watched the 8K right below our oceanfront balcony window, and I got those excited jitters in my tummy.  After grabbing my number at the expo, we were off to an Italian dinner with Mike's parents, who trekked down from Philly to watch me run.  We had just gotten our check when I decided I was still hungry; therefore, I ordered pasta meal number two.  Yep, I am pretty sure my weight and strength were back in full force.  Nom nom!  Or perhaps, oink oink.

Race morning.  I body-glided my UFOs for about six hours, foam-rolled my a$$ for another four hours, peed 34 times, and was ready to run.  I decided to race in compression sleeves for the first time too.  No, I did not wear them because "OMG!  Look at how my pink socks match my pink and blue polka-dotted shirt!"  They helped keep my calves in check during training, so if they would help today, I was all for it.

Man, was it windy.  I made my way to the start area, which felt like a wind tunnel.  The highlight of my morning?  I was the FIRST person to use one of the porta-potties.  Yep, there was nothing in the toilet, and the TP was still wrapped in paper.  I felt so honored that I even forgot about the wind for a little while.  When I got back in line to pee for the 87th time, a fellow runner asked me why I was so excited.  When I told her, she stared at my face for a few seconds and then stopped talking to me. 

I navigated my way to the start line and chatted with the 3:05 pacers, Danny and Tom.  They said they went for a warmup into the headwinds, concluding that the effort was going to be about 15-20 seconds harder today.  Therefore, if we were running 7:00 pace into the wind, it would feel like we were running 6:40-6:45 pace.  Well, crappers!  We would hit a 10-mile stretch into the wind beginning at mile six, so their goal was to bank time in the first few miles and start at 6:45 pace.  Yikes.  Hearing that and looking around at all the in-shape men I was lined up with started to intimidate me, but then I reminded myself how well my training had gone, and I knew I belonged there.  F-yeah, I belonged there!  There was a guy from DC lined up next to me saying he was going for a 3:05, but his previous PR was a 3:24.  My gut reaction was, "Holy Moses, now that's a goal!" to which he also stopped talking to me.  WTF?  Perhaps he was really religious?  Whatever it was, I certainly wasn't making any friends today.  Right as the national anthem concluded, I wished him luck anyway and asked him his name, to which he responded, "Moses".  Ahhh.  Got it. 


The gun went off, and I let Danny and Tom go as I settled into my own, comfortable rhythm.  Mile one = 6:53.  I looked up, and Danny and Tom were right there, so from this point forward, I latched onto the group.  We had about 10-15 men and two women, myself included, which in the later miles would become much smaller.  Miles two through four averaged 6:58, and I was feeling extremely easy.  The five-mile marker was waaaaay off, and Danny and Tom were actually pretty annoyed, asking officials along the route what the deal was.  It was a full tenth of a mile long according to both their GPS watches (and since we were running in a straight line at that point, the tangents did not come into play).  Therefore, moving forward (no pun intended), I decided to run by feel and not check my watch.  At mile six, we hit the first turn-around, and WHOOSH!  Hi, wind.  This is where being a shawty like me helps.  I started playing connect the dots, with Danny and Tom being the dots, and me following in erratic lines to stay right behind them. 

After running through what felt like a maze (Camp Pendleton), we went back over a bridge and hit the boardwalk for almost two miles, where the wind was just dumb.  I have no other word for it.  Dumb.  A few more f-bombs went through my head, but in the, "you ain't got nuttin' on me, wind!" kind of way.  I did not look at the ocean because I knew if I did, I would see the waves and let the wind get the best of me, so I just did my best to keep connecting the dots.  Down the boardwalk, I saw Mike, Ginny, and Charlie and gave them a fist-pump.  I was feeling relaxed and STRONG.

Fist pumpin' as we leave the boardwalk at mile 12

We passed the half-marathon mark in 1:32:02.  My gluts and calves were doing okay, but I was forming new blisters on top of my old blisters, but again, I didn't care; I could deal with that.  Even though we were still running into headwinds, we picked up the pace.  In looking back at splits post-race, we had a four-mile stretch here that averaged 6:38 pace.  I'm not sure if we were actually running THIS fast or if this was where the course made up for the earlier mile that was long, but regardless, it was definitely a faster pace.  At mile 16, I could feel some fatigue setting in, most likely due to the increased pace and having run so long into the wind.  Danny and Tom decided to scale the pace back since we got ahead of ourselves, and this is where I decided to go.   I was in a groove; I didn't want to suddenly pull back.  Miles 16-19 had a tailwind, which was nice, but I kept wondering if I was going too fast too soon.  I made sure to take my tangents along Shore Drive and dropped two sub-6:50's in a row, but when I made the turn at mile-19, I was right back into the wind.  Sh*t got hard here, ha!  I took my final gu, and within a mile, I knew I had my PR; I was tired but still strong.  When a blood blister popped at mile 22, I about tripped over myself, but meh...four miles with a little blood never hurt a marathon runner!  At mile 23, I was out of the winds, but by mile 24, my quads were pretty tired.  Two miles to go...whatever, quads.

Mile 22 foot carnage, five days post-race

Note to self:  If windy, wear braids!

Once I rounded the turn back onto the boardwalk, I could see the finish line.  My second half passed in 1:30:57, a negative split, and I reached home in 3:02:59.  I started getting choked up as I walked my way out to find Mike.  I think the emotions of the past year started settling in.  Then I realized what a goober I must look like, so I wiped my nasty face on the not-so-nasty finisher blanket they gave us.  Nice touch!  ...the blankets; not my snot.

I finished as eighth woman overall, and having only been seven minutes off the second Ethiopian and 1:19 off the money (top five), I was pretty stoked (albeit a little frustrated to have been that close!).  Top-10 was in the back of my head before the race, and I ended up winning my age group, which I was happy with too.  Also adding to the weekend awesomeness were my Streakers.  Of the 26 racing at Shamrock or other races that day, 25 had PR's.  Simply amazing.  With the out-and-back layout of the Shamrock course, it was awesome being able to see and cheer for those doing the marathon.

By 3pm, I was eating a burrito and taking a shot of Bailey's.  By 5pm, I was drinking wine and eating M&M's.   By 7pm, I got my burger and a frozen margarita because, well, that was quenching my thirst better than wine.  By 9pm, I was back in the hotel drinking wine again with Ginny and Holly, my friend and coworker that had run a PR in the half-marathon that day.  Yep, all the proper post-race recovery techniques were in-tact.

This race gave me the confidence boost I need to go sub-3.  Given how easy the first half felt, I keep wondering if I could have done it here, but I could be wrong.  No looking back regardless; I am happy with my race but extremely curious with how good I felt.    Marathoning is so much about balance.  Am I going out too slow?  Am I going out too fast?  There will be more marathons to test it out.

Thanks for the fun and PR, Virginia Beach!  Not sure what my next adventure will be, but for now, I'm just gonna keep putting one foot in front of the other.  
Happy Running!