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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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
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?