Yesterday, I ran my 7th half marathon and second Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. I had high hope going in to this event because I had set my PR here in 2009. Well, the day did not disappoint.
Now, on paper, this race should not have been great for me. The weather on Friday was spectacular, so hubby and I decided to sit outside on our deck and drink beer. Well, one beer led to another, which then led to getting a pizza because we were not in the mood to cook. Overindulging two days before a race is probably not in the manual under "good ideas." We were much better on Saturday, however. We ate well and went to sleep early. Despite our going to bed at a reasonable hour, we did not get as much sleep as we had hoped. The winds were blowing so hard (16-17 mph) that is was causing the balcony railing to shake and make noise. I woke up several times and wondered how it would affect the race. It was still windy in the morning, but I don't think it was a huge factor in the race overall. Once you add that I have not been running long distances (I think I did 8 miles in January, last 13.1 was at the Kiawah Island Half in December) and have only been running once a week, I should not have done well at all. My attitude when I started the race was not to worry about a PR, but to just have fun. If it didn't happen, it didn't happen.
I started the race feeling pretty good. I knew the course and knew that it was pretty darn flat. This race is known for it's crazy costumes, and this year was no different. Everyone is in such a good mood - people are just out to have fun and get the beach party sponsored by Yuengling at the end of the race. I was running along feeling pretty good at about mile 4, and I decided to check my watch. I was a little slow off my PR pace, but it wasn't too far off. I had lots of race left, so I decided to experiment. I thought of my intervals like a CrossFit WOD. I thought I would see what would happen if I pushed a little bit harder through the last 45 seconds of my two minute run interval. I worked on it for awhile, and saw that my pace was now at my PR pace. I was encouraged.
I decided that I was going to go for it. I was going to leave everything on the course. I thought about my friends at CrossFit and about the mental toughness to get through those difficult workouts. It's OK to take a break, but then get right back to it. Try to get just a little bit more before the beep lets you know that it is time for a walk break. I stuck to that idea, and it worked. By the halfway point in the race, I was below my PR pace. I knew it wasn't over yet - I would have to keep pushing and get a negative split (faster on the second half of the race than the first) to get the PR. I kept pushing, and when I got tired, I would adjust the surge time - 30 seconds, 25 seconds, then 20 seconds. Then, there was the wall.
At about mile 11.5, everything seemed to go. I was really tired and my left IT band at the knee was really hurting. I was checking my watch, and I could see my pace slowing. People were lining the road, yelling for the runners. I was trying to suck it up, counting down the distance remaining with each interval. For the last mile, I had to literally concentrate on two minutes of running at a time. We made the turn onto the boardwalk, and I could see the finish about a 1/2 mile away. I was aching, but I ran it in. I could see my time, and I knew it was close.
I managed my way through the gauntlet of folks with the medals, water, finisher's hat, finisher's shirt, and food. I found Bill, and thought I might collapse. My legs just could not take my weight anymore. I was so thankful that our hotel was about 50 yards away. I did manage to make it back to our room, but nearly lost it when we could not get the door open. Standing hurt too much. I went right in to a cool bath, and I really think it helped my legs. After soaking for a bit, I was able to take a shower and get dressed so we could leave the hotel and get a much needed celebratory burger and beer.
I checked the website for my official time last night, and it was to the second the exact time of my previous PR. Sure, I wish I could have broken it, but I am happy. I did second guess myself for awhile - what if I hadn't stopped to drink the water at that one stop? What if I had had my Sports Beans instead of Gu? What if I hadn't done CrossFit and actually trained to run? Well, it doesn't matter now. I did it, I finished it, and I am happy with the overall race. I learned that I can push myself. Just wait until next year.