Shamrock Half Marathon Recap: Part Two

We last left off with bedtime the night before the Shamrock Half Marathon. (If you missed it part one of my recap, you can find it here) My alarm was set for 4:15 a.m., and I actually got a decent amount of sleep, which almost never happens the night before a race.

My flat Amanda photo shoot the night before Shamrock

Flat Amanda the night before Shamrock

That morning, I got up, walked the dog, ate a banana and some peanut butter toast, got dressed, and my mom and I were out the door by 5:20 a.m. My parents don’t live too far from the oceanfront, but I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get parked and head for the start line. The start and finish lines are about 11 blocks apart, so we opted to park near the finish. Parking was super easy, so I had no trouble stopping to go to the bathroom, get water, and pay a visit to King Neptune, who appears just before the finish line.

King Neptune looking over the final steps of the race

King Neptune looking over the final steps of the race course

My mom and I chatted just outside of my corral for a while before I finally gave her a hug and wandered in. The temperatures were great – mid 40s. I ended up talking to a group from Maryland as we waited for the start. They were fun and talked about everything from who had run Shamrock before to whether or not they were currently wearing underwear. It was around this time that I realized I was extremely relaxed. I reminded myself that I had already reached one of my race day goals (to show up healthy coming off of my stress fracture). Now I needed to complete the other – just have fun.

We were off shortly after 7 a.m. I quickly found my mom in the crowd shortly after the start line and waved to her as I started. I had decided that I was not going to listen to music for the majority of this race and I was almost immediately rewarded with the sounds of a few bagpipe players who were playing in the median. While I have run shorter races with no music, this would be my first half that I did not wear earbuds the entire time.

More than anything, I wanted to be present for each and every moment of this race. The 2011 Shamrock was my first half marathon, and I was so excited to be back on a course that I am so fond of. I wanted to enjoy my return to racing after missing my first marathon because of my injury. So I gladly took in each cheer and cowbell strike. I laughed at funny spectator signs and smiled at the (many) beer stops along the course. No seriously, I don’t think we even made it to mile one before we found a group who had set up some small cups of beer – there was even a mimosa stop! However, I did not have any samples… I saved that for the finish line. I was quickly reminded that Shamrock is one big party!

I made a point of talking to each Team Hoyt group I passed. These people always amaze me, and I think it’s important to acknowledge them whenever possible. I also chatted with a blind athlete and his guide. I enjoyed looking at the beachy neighborhoods we were running through and giggled at the goofy St. Patrick’s themed riddles that line miles 3-4 along Shore Drive. I even got a little over excited when I saw someone wearing an Atlanta Half Marathon shirt and tried to talk to him about how great Atlanta is. The guy was downright apologetic about the fact that he isn’t from here, he just ran the race.

While I was looking at my mile splits as they came in, I wasn’t really paying attention to my times. I felt good – no pain in my troubled leg, my effort was easy, I was having a blast! We hit the 10K mat shortly after entering Fort Story, and around 6.5 miles in I decided to listen to music for a bit. I remembered that the portion of the race that is on the base is beautiful, but lacks a lot of crowd support since it is indeed a military base. However, there were some service members lining the street, including the guys at the fire house. As we got close to the lighthouses, I happened to look up at the sun rising over the ocean and for some reason thought, “hi Grammee and Grampee”. My grandparents lived in Virginia Beach before they passed away, and my grandfather served in the Navy (as did my father), so I think this is why they popped into my head right then. Since we only lost my grandfather last year, this moment was very special to me.

After exiting the base halfway through mile 9, we were in the home stretch. It wasn’t until my mile 10 split came in that I did some math and had a revelation: I was on track to PR! I was by no means trying, but I was elated to think that this was possible. Especially since I hadn’t done any speedwork since November (before my injury)! I knew if I could just maintain my pace, I could finally break the time I last set on this course – something I hadn’t been able to do at any other half since then!

Somewhere during mile 11, I ditched the headphones for good. I wanted to hear the crowd noise. It was a perfect moment as we turned onto the boardwalk with about a half a mile left. Seeing the ocean and the sand and the sun just reminded me that I was home. As King Neptune greeted me, my Garmin confirmed that I would indeed be setting a new PR! I crossed the finish line smiling ear to ear, hardly able to believe that this race went so well with limited preparation and such a laid-back attitude going into it.

All the swag!

All the swag!

I collected the remainder of my race swag (medal, hat, beach towel) and was greeted on the beach by my mom and sister, who showed up to surprise me despite the fact that she wasn’t feeling well. I bolted over to the PR bell – you can ring it if you earned it. I was truly proud that I was able to ring that bell!!

Proud to PR!

Proud to PR!

Shamrock boasts a great post-race party. We went inside where I ate a banana and helped myself to a beer. We enjoyed the band on stage and the overall vibe, but couldn’t stay too long since my sister was sick and her dog was not into the party scene.

Each year, an awesome sandcastle awaits near the finish line

Each year, an awesome sandcastle awaits near the finish line

My splits ended up like this:

  • Mile 1: 9:19
  • Mile 2: 9:14
  • Mile 3: 9:07
  • Mile 4: 9:16
  • Mile 5: 9:17
  • Mile 6: 9:18
  • Mile 7: 9:14
  • Mile 8: 9:03
  • Mile 9: 9:10
  • Mile 10: 9:38 (a lengthy Gatorade sipping)
  • Mile 11: 9:07
  • Mile 12: 9:17
  • Mile 13: 9:18

Official finish time: 2:01:34 – avg. 9:17/mile

A nice looking medal in front of my hometown

A nice looking medal in front of my hometown

I beat my PR by more than 2 minutes! This race was a perfect reminder of what can happen when you free yourself from pressure and just go out there to have a good time. That’s why we run, isn’t it? To feel free and happy and alive. Well done, J&A Racing. You pulled off another 13.1 mile party. And I’ll be back again.

Do you have a race that you just love for the vibe? Have you ever done better than expected when you go into race day loose?

Interested in more Shamrock Weekend fun? Check out the 2015 Shamrock Race Recap linkup, hosted by J&A Ambassadors Nan, Sarah, Lindsey, and Jennifer.

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.


Shamrock Half Marathon Recap: Part One

I am back from a weekend trip to Virginia Beach, where I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon on Sunday. I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time, and I won’t wait to tell you that it didn’t disappoint!

I was happy to be heading home to see my family and run a race that I love. This weekend came at an especially good time since the boyfriend works in sports and is in the middle of  round-the-clock March Madness coverage. So the dog and I set off for my hometown.

Sigmund dressed in his St. Patrick's Day finest

Sigmund dressed in his St. Patrick’s Day finest

I went into this race with a different mentality from my other half marathons. While I wanted to do well, I knew that I was dealing with an abbreviated training period since I was coming off of a stress fracture. I had two goals: get to Shamrock healthy and have fun on race day.

When I got to my parents’ house on Friday, we had a couple of mimosas that morning (which I normally wouldn’t do so close to a half marathon). I also had a vodka soda at lunch – which was at Rudee’s, just like I foreshadowed in my last post 🙂 I was treating this as a vacation that happened to have a race on the schedule, which made me feel a little more at ease.

Before lunch, my mom and I hit the expo. The Shamrock expo is one of the best I have ever been to. The volunteers are always smiling and helpful, there is a great selection of merchandise, and the festive vibe just puts everyone in a good mood. My mom and I took some silly pictures and shopped. I bought a fun new pair of running tights and drooled over a sweatshirt that I eventually ended up buying at the finish line party (more on that later). My mom even got into the spirit and picked up a headband that says Sham Rock On! That night my mom, sister, and I had an avocado pesto pasta for dinner and chilled out at the house. (My dad hadn’t returned from a business trip at that point)

Mom and me with a leprechaun at the expo

Mom and me with a leprechaun at the expo

Hoping for some Irish luck for the Shamrock Half Marathon

Hoping for some Irish luck for the Shamrock Half Marathon

I did a 2.2 mile shakeout run on Saturday morning, which felt great. The temperatures were in the mid-30s and I ran an 8:40/mile average, which was surprising since it was an easy effort. We’ll thank the flatness of Virginia Beach for that! I followed tradition and took my mom and sister to my favorite pre-race meal: sushi. I swear by this – I get a seaweed salad and a couple of rolls. Afterwards, my mom and I picked up my dad from the airport and then headed home. We chatted for a while, and I finally put myself to bed around 10 p.m. since my alarm was set for 4:15 a.m. the next day!

I don't normally buy a lot of stuff at expos, but these tights were too cute!

I don’t normally buy a lot of stuff at expos, but these tights were too cute!

I felt very at ease going into the next day. I was truly looking forward to just having fun on the course and seeing how it all turned out. I think this mentality helped me on Sunday… which you’ll hear more about later this week… 🙂

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Counting Down to the Shamrock Half

Loyal blog followers, I am indeed still alive though I’ve missed 3 weeks worth of training updates. Let’s blame it on juggling a new job with trying to get out and enjoy the beginnings of nice spring weather.

That said, I’m one week away from the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach! I won’t bore you with every detail of my training from the past few weeks, but it has been going better than I hoped. I was only cleared to run again a little less than 8 weeks ago following a stress fracture in my tibia but I feel as prepared as I can be heading into this race.

Photo credit: J&A Racing

Photo credit: J&A Racing

Last Sunday I completed my longest run for this cycle – a 10 miler. I was so relieved that my leg felt strong and was pain-free both during and after the run! Yesterday was my longest run of the week and I even decided to push the pace for the first time since my injury. I completed a progression run of 6 miles, starting at 9:38/mile and dropping time with each mile to end at 8:10/mile. Again, no pain!!

To say that I’m excited about Shamrock weekend is an understatement. This will be my first race since November. It also happens to be my favorite half marathon course. J&A Racing does a fantastic job with this race – a flat, fun, and interesting course; a great expo and post-race party; tons of swag and great-looking finisher’s items. I’ll also get to see my family and hometown, which is always nice. And you can bet that at some point during my trip I will head to Rudee’s for a crabcake sandwich – I only hope it’s warm enough so I can sit on the best bar patio ever built. (Seriously if you’ve never been there and find yourself in Virginia Beach – go! Just don’t get there right before me and cause me to wait…)

Rudee’s patio – the best place ever. Photo credit: Trip Advisor


This week, I’ll fit in a few miles here and there ahead of race day but will mainly be focusing on packing and then enjoying the weekend ahead! And I promise to post a timely race recap afterwards 🙂

Roll call – who else is participating in Shamrock weekend? What other St. Patrick’s Day races do you like in your area?

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.