March 2016 - Yuengling Shamrock Marathon
This weekend, I participated in my third Shamrock Marathon. (2015 Recap) As usual, winter training is as much just trying to stay in great shape as it is running. I’ve been able to do a few races in the last couple months, so I knew my running was in decent shape and I was dreaming of a PR. The drive to Virginia Beach is about 5 hours so we headed out early Saturday morning. There was some traffic but nothing terrible. After Dan and I both had a week that left us saying ‘what a week!’ we were ready to enjoy the weekend so a little traffic didn’t phase us.
The Shamrock Expo is one of my favorites of the year. Picking up race bibs, shirts, and runner info is always smooth and quick. Once I got my packet, I stopped by the id check table. By showing your id at the expo, you get a wrist band and it allows them to serve you the complementary drinks at the after party without needing to check your id. After the id check, you move through the ‘store’ of race gear. I always check to see if there is a new magnet style for the year to add to my collection of race magnets on the side of my refrigerator. I quickly verified that I already had all of the styles being offered this year. After exiting the store, the remainder of the expo is vendors. There were a few vendors I was anxious to visit. I knew I was going to pick up a Sparkle Athletic Skirt and SureSport Calf Compression Sleeves. I swear by my SureSport compression and this was my first Sparkle Skirt.
After the expo, we headed to our hotel. We stayed on the boardwalk about 10 blocks south of the race start/finish. This was closer than we’ve stayed in the past. After a mostly failed attempt to take a walk in the cold wind and rain it was time for dinner. Burritos is my favorite pre-race meal. We went to the nearest Moe’s where I had my typical burrito bowl with rice, beans, chicken, and veggies then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
I knew poor weather was forecasted for race day but when you register for a race a year ahead of time, train, book a hotel, take off work, and travel to the race you are at the mercy of the weather and whatever it does it does. Thankfully the thunderstorms they were calling for earlier in the week didn’t come and it was just rain. The full marathon starts at 8:30 so after having coffee and a Larabar in the hotel’s breakfast area, we started walking to the starting line. The closer we got, the harder it rained and the colder it got. I started saying ‘What am I thinking?’ ‘This is madness’ ‘I can’t run 26.2 miles in this’. Thankfully, I had my cheerleader with me who said ‘That would be a pretty boring blog post if you backed out now’. I got myself prepared with gloves, rain jacket, hat, took my last bathroom break and lined up in my starting coral. The race started right on time and we were off. Thankfully the rain ended within the first 30 minutes or so. The first 10 miles of the race were great. We headed south, out of town through a military base and back toward town. The wind is generally calmer and conditions tend to be pretty good for the first 10 miles. Once we got back to town heading north on the boardwalk, the wind going against us made it difficult to walk let alone run. Around mile 12, the course cuts back to one block off the beach. The conditions improve a bit through that stretch. Around mile17, the course enters an area with a fair amount of tree cover and the temperature generally improves and wind is generally non-existent. Mile 19 enters a second military base and mile 21 is back on the street heading back to the beach. The last mile is one block off the beach and then turns onto the boardwalk and finishes on the boardwalk.
Of the races I’ve done multiple times, I know this course the best. I find it so helpful to know what’s ahead. In fact around mile 10, a girl started talking to me on the boardwalk and she was clearly not enjoying the experience. I was glad I could tell her that it gets better once we get off the boardwalk. As I was headed toward the second military base, passing the lead athletes coming out of the base, I could see they were struggling. I’ve never seen lead runners walking before but this time I did. The first few pace groups were completely dissolved and were just a pacer with their pacer sign.
For as many times as I haven’t gotten my fueling right and found myself with an upset stomach, I got it way right this weekend. My stomach felt awesome and I was able to drink Gatorade at a few aid stations. I hit the happy medium between drinking enough to be beneficial but not so much that I had the sick feeling of sloshing in my stomach.
I had some tightness in my hips between mile 20-25 but nothing beyond what’s expected for running a marathon. My feet stayed dry and blister and pain free. In the 25th mile, it started to rain. Dan was in his normal spot at the finish and I was glad he brought my dry winter coat with him. I ended with a strong finish, not my fasted time, not my slowest time but happy to have braved the conditions.
At the finish, volunteers handed out medals, finisher hats, and this year, they had finisher towels and snacks already packed into bags so it was easy to grab a bag rather than juggle a medal, snacks, my phone/headphones all while photographers try to take photos with your medal. Dan met me at the runner exit and we went down a few steps onto the sand to the party tent. I wanted to get out of the rain so I gathered myself inside the tent rather than on the boardwalk. I took off as many sweaty layers as I could, put on my dry coat, switched to cushiony flip flips and put on my compression sleeves and I was ready to enjoy some Yuengling and Murphy’s Irish stew. We stayed for a little while and enjoyed the band playing in the tent before we headed back to the car. I was anticipating walking back to the hotel, but I’ll admit that when Dan said he drove to the finish area and the car was just around the corner, I was relieved to get out of the cold rain!
This was my third Shamrock Marathon and all three years had some weather challenges. March can be such a wide variety of conditions and being on the coast can really magnify that. The conditions have proven to be tough, but you can be sure I’ll be lining up at the start of the 2017 Shamrock Marathon!