Shamrock Marathon 2014 Race Report

I always enjoy reading race recaps from other runners (especially when I'm killing time in the taper!) so I thought I'd post mine here. Shamrock Marathon 2014 - 3:09:52

Race Week: I ran the Shamrock Marathon on March 16th of this year.  Four days before the race I caught my daughters' stomach virus and it threw me (and my race preparation!) for a loop.  I was so sick with the girls’ stomach bug on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday I was feeling better, but couldn’t really eat any solid foods until Thursday. Tried my best to force down the carbs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and just prayed that my stomach would hold it together on race day.  It definitely was an anxiety-filled week as I wasn't sure if I'd be able to race at all - much less to race for the time goal (sub 3:10) I wanted.  I knew that was a pretty ambitious goal going into this race (almost 9 minutes off my current PR from the fall) and that in order to have a good shot at it, the day had to go pretty well.  A stomach virus that prevented me from eating as much as I normally do before a race was not part of the plan!

Day Before the Race: My parents and uncle were running the Shamrock Half marathon, so I kissed the girls & my husband goodbye and drove down from Richmond to Virginia Beach with my parents on Saturday around noon. I’d done a shakeout run that morning with a brief interval (3 minutes HARD effort) to prime my body to store some glycogen. After a quick lunch at Panera, we headed down to VA Beach to stay at my uncle’s house. He’d picked up our packets so we got to avoid the expo. We had spaghetti for dinner, and I had a piece of birthday cake (it was my birthday on Saturday) to round out the meal. Went to bed around 9:30pm after listening to my visualization program (mental prep). Woke up in the middle of the night (2am) because I rolled over on the “inflate” button for the air mattress and it started inflating more!!! It scared the life out of me (and out of my parents who were sleeping on an air mattress in the same room!)! By the time I figured out to unplug it, I was wide awake and worried I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. Thankfully, I managed it.

Race Day: I woke up at 5am when my parents’ alarm went off. The half marathon started 1.5 hrs earlier than the full marathon (7am vs. 8:30am) so they had to get there before me.I got up and had 1 serving (2 scoops) of Hammer Perpetum (UGH – so yucky, but effective – just had to get it down) and then just chilled out for an hour or so on the sofa. At 6:45 I tried to get down my bagel and banana. I had a hard time (stomach did not want to eat), but I managed all of the bagel and probably 3/4ths of the banana. Some Gatorade and water as well. My aunt drove me to the start (one of the HUGE perks about running a race near family) with about 40 minutes to go. It was 40 degrees with 15-20mph wind from the NNE, so it felt a bit colder. Even still, I wore shorts, a singlet, gloves and long socks that I cut off to use as arm warmers. (because I didn’t want to throw away my actual arm warmers - ha!) I used the restroom, warmed up for 5 minutes or so, ate 1 gel (Honey Stinger) and then got in my corral. They had a 3:05 pace group (too fast) and a 3:15 pace group (too slow), so I kind of stood in the middle and nervously asked people around me if anyone was shooting for a 3:10 or so. No takers. The gun went off, and I did my best to keep it reasonable.

Miles 1-5: 7:21, 7:11, 7:14, 7:08, 7:14

Ran a 7:21 for the first mile and had a few talkative guys around. Tried to see what they were running but they were targeting a 3:05 or so, so I knew I needed to let them go. Miles 2-5 passed pretty uneventfully. The wind was blowing pretty good but it was mostly to the side or at our backs during this part so I tried to relax and conserve energy. Somewhere in this stretch I found a group of 2 guys and a girl that were looking for around a 3:10. One of the guys (Adam) was a coach of some athletes and was doing a great job holding the pace pretty steady, so I kind of locked on to him and his friends (Aaron & Liz). Another girl (Gina) joined us and she and I talked for a bit. She was also shooting for a 3:10 and (like me) she had been worried that she wouldn’t have anyone to run with. We all joked a bit that we were now the “unofficial 3:10 pace group”. I decided to hang with them as long as I could.

Miles 6-10: 7:10, 7:08, 7:06, 7:10, 7:11

Miles 5-10 were tougher – we hit the turnaround and then started running back up north – so were running right into the wind. I took my first gel at mile 5. Our little group did a good job of blocking some of the wind, but it was coming from the side as well and we were getting a bit pummeled. The two guys “leading” the group at the time picked it up a bit and Gina (the talkative one) started to freak out a bit about the slightly faster pace. She wanted me to drop back with her to the planned 7:15 pace, but I sadly told her that I really didn’t want to lose the pack. I knew we had the boardwalk coming up where we’d get HAMMERED by the wind and I wanted to be with as big of a pack as I could at that point. So I told her I was going to stay with the pack. She ended up sticking it out too. Took my second gel at mile 10.

Miles 11-15: 7:08, 7:06, 7:06, 7:06, 7:09

We eventually wound our way back to the boardwalk and then the fun REALLY started. The wind was miserable – gusting so hard that it literally was blowing us from side to side. I was so, SO grateful for our pack at this point. The main “coach” guy (Adam) and the rest of the group had already talked about how we’d all need to take turns leading so that we each shared the wind-blocking duties. I decided to take the first shift and Gina came up with me. It was actually a bit of a mental boost for me to be “leading” – all of the sudden I got to focus on helping the group vs. worrying about how I was feeling my legs slowly growing more tired. I felt pretty decent during this section and kept reminding myself how much better I felt this year vs. during this same stretch last year in this marathon. The group was pretty good about taking turns. Everyone had a go at “leading” and then we kept rotating. I ended up taking 3 turns blocking the wind and felt the best during those times since my focus was on the group (vs. myself). Though it was really nice to be able to relinquish the lead and tuck in to get a respite from the wind. I pretended I was on a normal Saturday long run and my usual training partners were the ones leading the pack! Took my third gel at mile 15. One random observation – though I was in a pack for most of the race, no one was really talking much. I have found that as my times have improved, people around me in races are less and less talkative. I guess because they are all having to focus and work harder and are less inclined to have conversation – but I miss that! It makes the time go by so fast!

Around mile 13 - I'm in the green top

Miles 16-22: 7:12, 7:06, 7:05, 7:00, 7:19, 7:33 (WIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!),7:23

The first part of this wasn’t too bad – we were still running into the wind, but we had our little pack and took turns. And at around mile 17, we finally got to the wooded section where we were sheltered from the wind. At this point, our pack disbanded a bit. Two of the guys went on ahead (Adam and Aaron) and I lost the other two girls (Liz and Gina). So I was kind of left on my own. But without the wind, I was feeling much better. The legs were tired and the quads were talking to me, but I was surprised to look down and see a 7:00 split - my fastest ever in a marathon! Yes! Unfortunately, we headed out to the woods to the peninsula and woooooooo boy. Things got ugly. This was the toughest stretch by far. You could see the ocean and the wind was RIPPING off that sucker and just howling. It was so strong that at the water stop it blew the Gatorade out of my cup – I ended up only getting half of it! Took my last gel at mile 20 and barely had the strength to open it and get it down. I had to pull out all of my mental tricks during these miles – I could hear Dr. Asp's (sports psychologist who made my visualization CD) voice in my head telling me to use my reserves and to NOT be complacent – to keep pushing. It was rough seeing my time creep up - I was frantically trying to figure out if I could still make my goal. I passed 3 girls in this stretch, which was good. But man, I missed my pack. Facing that wind all on my own was so rough. I wanted to stop. I wanted to quit. I thought about my friend Meg Menzies and how she was up in heaven cheering me on and I kept going. I could not WAIT to be out of this section and headed back to what I hoped would be a tailwind to finish it up.

Miles 23-26.2: 7:15, 7:16, 7:17, 7:10, 6:44 (last .38)

FINALLY back to the main road with significantly less wind. But unfortunately by this point my legs were so toast and I was just trying desperately to hang on. I was passing guys (no other girls in sight), which was encouraging, but I knew I had a long way to go. At this point I started playing mind games. I told myself that this was a tempo run, that I just had to suck it up and know it would hurt but it would be over soon. For some reason I kept telling myself I had only two miles to go – I told myself that at mile 23 (even though it wasn’t true) and again at mile 24 (when it actually was true). For some reason, two miles seemed “reasonable” – something I could handle, that my brain would accept. I got to mile 25 and just kept pushing. My legs were starting to cramp and I was just praying they would hold on. I tried to pick it up but I was so, so tired. I knew it was going to be close and started to panic a bit. I hit a huge headwind coming on the boardwalk for the final stretch and it literally blew me sideways. Made the turn onto the boardwalk the finish just seemed SO FAR away. I kept looking at my watch and realized it was going to be REALLY close.

Finished! Need to do better running those tangents.

Pushed and pushed and made it down the final stretch – heard my dad and mom and uncle yelling for me and saw the clock – already 3:09 and change!! I gave it every single thing I had and almost fell across the line. 3:09:52 – I barely made it, but I did! I was so incredibly happy and thankful!!!  I had three people rush up to me to try and steady me, but I was fine - just exhausted.  I think they were relieved that I wasn’t going to faint or throw up! Ha! Saw my mom and dad who had made their way over and got a bit emotional. I’d been working for this for months and I was just so happy I was healthy enough to do it and had had a good day. Ended up as 10th female overall and 2nd in my age group – new PR by about 9 minutes! What a wonderful day!

Post-race it was time for hot coffee, a shower and clean clothes!  Then a nice lunch at my aunt & uncle's house before heading back to Richmond.

In clean clothes and happy!

Final Thoughts:

I was very pleased at how this went.  Training had been pretty solid, but with the wind that is usually present at Shamrock and the complications with the stomach bug, I wasn't really sure quite what to expect.  The course itself is pancake flat.  There's one tiny overpass that you go over twice and that's the only "hill" in the entire thing.  Crowd support is patchy (especially since the course takes you onto two military bases where spectators aren't allowed), but the race itself is well organized and well run.  I enjoy the smaller marathons and this one has an additional advantage to me of being relatively close to home, and near family.   This is the second time I've run this marathon and while I think it is a good race, I don't think I'll be coming back for a while.  Mainly due to the WIND and the slightly boring course, but mostly due to the fact that there are so many other marathons I'd like to experience.  But if you are looking for a flat marathon and don't mind some wind, you may want to check it out!

Anyone out there run Shamrock in the past?  What did you think of the course?

Thanks for reading!