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.

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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.

Shamrock Half Marathon Training Weeks 2 & 3

It has been a crazy couple of weeks! Since my last post, I finished my old job, started a new job, planned and executed the boyfriend’s birthday weekend, hosted my mom for a visit, and oh yeah, ran/worked out. It has been hard to juggle all of those things but it has been really fun and exciting… although I’m ready to get back to a more solid training routine.

Here’s how the weeks broke down:

Week 2 (02/02/15-02/08/15)

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 3.1 mile run
  • Wednesday: PiYo: Define Lower Body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Snow tubing and hauling the tubes around at Snow Mountain
  • Sunday: 2.5 mile walk with the dog and the boyfriend

Total: 5.6 miles

Week 3 (02/09/15-02/15/15)

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 2.5 mile run
  • Wednesday: 3.5 mile run
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 6 mile run

Total: 12 miles

The leg is still feeling strong post-stress fracture, and maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve been so busy – I don’t want to run too much, too soon. But this week I will be far more consistent in my runs and workouts for sure!

Now to some exciting news – I have joined Atlanta Track Club as PR & marketing communications manager! While I don’t plan to chronicle my (awesome) new job here, I thought I would at least mention this change since it is indeed running related. I am so happy to be able to channel my professional skills into something I am truly passionate about – for that I am very lucky!

My new work home: Atlanta Track Club!

My new work home: Atlanta Track Club!

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day and that you remembered to show your running shoes some love this weekend. My date with my Pure Connects was a very cold and windy one, but we had a great time Sunday morning!

Hope you felt the love this weekend!

Hope you felt the love this weekend!

With all of the cold weather taking over the U.S., how are you coping? Layering and sucking it up? Treadmill?

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Shamrock Half Marathon Training Week 1: 01/26-02/01

It’s great to be back! Obviously my training for the Shamrock Half Marathon is beginning much later than I would have liked, but I still have some time to get it together. Sadly, this will not be the PR I was hoping for this year.

I was cleared to run again as of last Tuesday, but there were rules: no more than 15 miles for the week, no more than 3 runs for the week, and I had to take at least one day off in between runs. I decided to err on the side of caution and did less mileage than I was allowed.

  • Monday: 45 minutes of physical therapy at home
  • Tuesday: 1 hour physical therapy session + 2 mile run
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 3 mile run + 20 minutes of physical therapy at home
  • Friday: PiYo: Sweat
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday:  5.5 mile run + PiYo: Define Upper Body

Total: 10.5 miles

These runs were more exploratory in nature than anything else. I’m happy to say that the leg is feeling great – no pain at all! I am also not as slow as I would have anticipated after being out for so long, which gives me hope for a swift comeback!

Sunday’s run was along the Beltline. I was happy to see that there is some new art to enjoy since the last time I ran there!

A new mural along the Beltline

A new mural along the Beltline

Awful picture, but happy to be running again!

Sunday’s run also led me to discover that fellow blogger Kristen (Running for More) lives in my neighborhood! She saw the above picture posted on my Instagram and realized she saw me leaving for my run the same time she was heading out for hers! Small world!

How is your winter training coming along? What was your favorite Super Bowl ad? (I of course loved the Budweiser puppy commercial and the Always “Like a Girl” ad!)

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

My Goals for 2015

Putting together my goals for 2015 has been a little difficult for me. While most of 2014 was fantastic in terms of running, recovering from my stress fracture has me a little on edge. It has been 50 days since my last run and it’s a little unnerving not knowing how I’ll feel when I am able to lace up my running shoes once again!

However, I’m very optimistic after yesterday’s visit with my orthopedist. He says my tibia is probably about 95% there. I am currently weaning myself off of the boot and will be completely free of it by Friday! I have been cleared to start PT, and will likely be running again in the next couple of weeks. I feel like it will be Christmas all over again when that day comes!

2015 goalsSo here are my running-related goals for 2015:

  • Get healthy, and stay that way. I have been following doctor’s orders and will continue to do so until I am 100% done with this stress fracture. This injury has been maddening and I can’t wait to be completely healthy again!
  • More strength training and cross training. I made an effort to do more of both in 2014, but next year I want to be even more consistent. This will also help with my first goal.
  • A new half marathon PR. My best was the Shamrock Half in 2011. It was my first half and I came in at 2:03:43. I want to break 2 hours this year. I had hoped to do it at the very same race this March, but obviously this may be in jeopardy since I’m coming off of an injury. I’m not ruling it out though – and if I don’t get my shiny new PR there, I’ll try again somewhere else!
  • Run at least 800 miles. I managed to get in 711 miles in 2014 by November 11, so I think this goal is more than reasonable.
  • ???Complete my first marathon??? This almost happened in 2014 (so frustrating that I came so close!). I’d like to make it happen in 2015, but my injury has me a bit scared to completely commit. But I am about 75% sure that I still want to do this, ha!

I really am proud of how consistent I was in 2014, and the fact that I did up to 20 mile runs this year (you can read my full 2014 recap here). Here’s hoping that 2015 will be even better!

What are your 2015 goals? Did you accomplish all you had hoped in 2014?

Fall Fever

It’s here! The season full of pumpkiny goodness, the return of boots, and cooler running weather. Fall is always a welcome break from the sticky, hot days of summer and I have a lot to look forward to this season.

Fall is a great time to get back on track if the summer heat kicked your butt and you ended up taking some time off from running outdoors. I actually was very consistent this year, but I  am still looking forward to some fun races under better conditions.

If the cooler temperatures aren’t enough to get you out the door, consider signing up for a fall race so that you have something to work towards! Here is my schedule through the end of the year thus far, and why you should consider these races:

Rise Up & Run 5K – Photo courtesy Atlanta Track Club

Oct. 18 – Rise Up & Run 5K (Atlanta): Atlanta Track Club and the Atlanta Falcons are teaming up once again to host this 5K, which finishes on the Falcons’ 50 yard line inside the Georgia Dome. I may be a Giants fan, but I can swallow my team pride for a unique race experience. I mean, I did it with the Braves. There is also the One Mile Fun Run and Kilometer Kids Dash, so the whole family can get involved. Click here to register.

Oct. 26 – Atlanta 10 Miler (Atlanta): I ran this one last year and I’m excited to hit it up again. This year offers a different course through Buckhead that starts and finishes at Atlantic Station. If you want to take on the Peachtree Road Race’s famed Cardiac Hill without the extreme heat, this is the event to do it! Not ready for the 10 miler? There is also a 5K option. Registration is open here.

Dec. 13 – Kiawah Island Marathon (Kiawah Island, SC): This will be my first full marathon, and I’m excited for a flat course with pretty scenery. There is also a half marathon option. I don’t have any other insight on this one yet, but you can learn more and register here.

A bunch of Grinches at the 2012 Surf-n-Santa

A bunch of Grinches at the 2012 Surf-n-Santa

Dec. 20 – Surf-n-Santa 5 Miler (Virginia Beach, VA): Yes, this will only be a week after my marathon, but I could not pass this race up! This used to be a 10 miler and 5K, but is now an evening 5 miler run underneath the holiday lights display on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. As a Christmas nerd, it doesn’t get any better than this for me, especially with the great post-race party. Register today to beat the October 1 price increase!

Some other upcoming races you should consider (I would be running these if I was going to be in the area):

Atlanta Races: Atlanta Half Marathon & Thankgiving Day 5K (Nov. 27), The Ugly Sweater Run 5K (Dec. 13), Atlanta Christmas 5K (Dec. 20)

Virginia Races: Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon & 5K (Oct. 4, 5), Wicked 10K & Monster Mile (Oct. 25), Harbor Lights Half Marathon & 5K (Nov. 22, 23) – all of these feature flat courses, and perhaps more importantly, BEER!

Hopefully you are feeling a fresh wave of motivation as we head into the end of the year. Registering for a race is always a great way to get you back out on the roads and trails if your running shoes have been banished to the back of the closet for a while.

What do you have on your race calendar? And what do you love about fall running?