I had thoughts of running a fall marathon in 2016 as part of my goal to run at least one race per month I'm 2016. I had November and December open so I searched the web for races. To me, I have to have 'that feeling' for a race. I considered Savannah, Philly, Route 66, Richmond, I opened the possibilities geographically. I decided I would be willing to travel wherever I found a race that felt right. I was likely going to choose the Richmond Marathon but before I settled I got word that I was selected to be an Ambassador for J&A Racing. Right away, I knew that the Norfolk Harbor Half was the November race I had been looking for. It wasn't the full I had been thinking of but I knew in my gut it was exactly the November race I needed. And not one to pass up at 'challenge' I registered for the 'Get Nauti Challenge' which was the 5k Saturday morning and the Half Marathon Sunday morning. Dan and I took off Friday and headed out early in the morning to Norfolk. I was set to volunteer at the expo at 3 that afternoon so we had plenty of time to leisurely make our way to Virginia.
Packet pickup was at the cruise terminal. It was small but nice. I had a lot of fun working a the expo getting people to sign up for Surf-n-Santa (recap coming!) and Shamrock and getting to know the other ambassadors who I previously only interacted with via social media. We stayed at the Sheraton, which was the official race hotel. It worked out really well since I was running and working the expo a lot throughout the weekend, I was able to come and go from the hotel easily since it was a 5 minute walk from the hotel to the race festivities. While I did all of that, Dan spend the weekend giving himself a Filipino food tour of Norfolk. (There's usually plenty of Filipino food anywhere that has a Navy presence, which he looks forward to)
Saturday morning I got up early and headed to the 5k start/finish, which were basically next to each other. As an ambassador I was also given access to the VIP tent. It was warm for November but it was nice to have such easy gear check and restrooms in the tent along with some awesome breakfast sandwiches, fruit, drinks, and anything you might want before a run. I hung out until it was time to move toward the start. It was beautiful and warm out but I live in fear of being cold so I was wearing shorts and long sleeves. My goal was to finish under 30 minutes. The 5k started at 8am and I needed to be at the expo by 9:30 and I knew I needed to shower in there too so if I could finish running in 30 minutes, I thought I should have enough time to run back to the VIP tent, grab some food, run back to the hotel and shower, and get to the expo by 9:30. I pulled it off, I literally ran from place to place but like I said, the hotel was so close that it was totally doable. Dan was really excited to finally have a morning that he didn't have to be somewhere and he could sleep in and leisurely drink coffee and watch the news so I didn't even mind that he stayed behind. I finished the 5k in 29:11. I was really happy with that time. It was my second fastest 5k and as seems to be the case with most of my faster runs, it was a fairly relaxed low stress run. I enjoyed the route through downtown Norfolk, although the parts where we ran over cobblestones might not have been my favorite. I just had to pay extra attention to my footing so I didn't hurt myself.
The final few yards of the 5K:
After the 5k, I hit the VIP tent again and grabbed another egg sandwich before a quick shower and getting back to the expo to work until 3pm. When I got back to the hotel at the end of the day, I found Dan in another Filipino food coma :-) We headed out so I could get some dinner and we were hoping to walk the boardwalk at Virginia Beach but while we were driving the wind got crazy and we figured it would be even worse at the beach so we ditched that idea and drove around a little and went back to the hotel.
The next morning, I was up early again for the half marathon. After seeing how nice it was to have a place to hang out in the VIP tent, I made sure to get there a little earlier rather than just in time to start. I had given an estimated finish time of 2:30 when I registered which put me right on the line between starting in corral 3 and corral 4. I was assigned to 4 but since registering, I had run a pretty big half marathon PR of 2:22 and I was hoping to get close to that again. I requested a corral change at the expo and was moved to corral 3. I had hoped to run with the 2:15 pace group and they were starting in corral 3. Sunday was significantly colder and so so windy. I still wore long sleeves and shorts but I had an ear warmer and gloves as well as another jacket that I left in the VIP tent while running. I started with the 2:15 pace group and I wanted to stay with them as long as possible, I was hoping for at least the fist 10 miles. I could see after about 3-4 miles they were going much faster than 2:15. I hung with them for about 5 miles and then just kept with a comfortable pace. The wind was something else. I kept looking ahead and thinking the wind would be at our backs with the next turn and that never seemed to happened. It felt like 13 miles of running against the wind. I enjoyed the course, especially around mile 10, where there was a pie stop with tiny little bite sized tarts. I grabbed one as I ran by and popped it in my mouth, so good! I had several moments in the last three miles where I wondered if I should stop racing and just slow down and enjoy because I didn't think I was going to end up with the time I wanted anyway. Each time I told myself I needed to see it through and work until the end. I am so glad I did, I finished in 2:23, my second fastest half marathon. My body felt fine but my brain wanted to give it up a few times there at the end. I need to remember that in the future, its not worth giving up the run because my brain gets tired.
Coming around the corner to the finish, smiling but still not realizing I was finishing within a minute of a PR!
The spoils of a successful running weekend- hardware! 5k medal, half marathon medal, and Get Nauti Challenge medal.