This past weekend, I took a trip down to Virginia Beach to run the Anthem Half Marathon during the Shamrock Marathon weekend. I’d heard wonderful things about the race, and when it became an option for a Spring Oiselle Team meet-up, I penciled the race into my calendar and set my sights on a PR attempt. But when my IT Band started to act up at the end of December (and it lasted through most of January), I readjusted my goals and figured I’d use it as a training run instead. But, running related things don’t often go according to plan when I’m involved.
I woke up bright and early (actually it was still pitch black) on Saturday morning and after a quick stop at Starbucks, I was on my way. The trip down was uneventful (thankfully) and I made it to the expo at the Virginia Beach convention center in just under 6 hours. The expo was pretty empty, so I was able to pick up my bib, grab my t-shirt, and get my beer tent bracelet in a matter of minutes. After the expo, I checked into the hotel and quickly changed so I could get in a shake-out run before our Oiselle team dinner. As soon as I changed and realized that the beach was right outside the hotel, I had to make a stop to take some no-snow pictures. It was so great to be outside in a tank top and shorts and not freezing!
My three mile shake-out run was rather uneventful, but I did have a cyclist come up from behind and stop to tell me I made it look easy. I wanted to reply “Maybe now… but wait until mile 12 tomorrow!” Instead I said thank you, chatted about the weather for a bit, and was on my way back to the hotel with just enough time to shower and head over to dinner with the team. The wonderful Mollie organized our team dinner at Bravo! and I had the pleasure of chatting with Allie (my shoe/jacket/birthday twin), Ellen (my favorite Shittens distributor), and Hollie (who has finally accepted the fact that she lives in NJ now) for the majority of the dinner. We butchered the menu they provided (us runners can be such high-maintenance!), but had a ton of fun telling ridiculous stories and getting to know each other better. At some point during dinner gelato was mentioned, and we were lucky to find a place down the street thanks to Yelp! So never being one to turn down dessert, I got myself a cone with salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut crunch gelato. And yes, it was amazing as it sounds!
The post-dinner festivities included heading back to the hotel, getting everything together for the morning, and trying to convince my body to go to bed at 9pm. Of course that didn’t work, but I’m pretty sure I was sound asleep by about 10pm. Unfortunately, the walls of the hotel seemed to be paper thin, and the people in the room next door had very loud, deep voices. They were likely in town to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so it was no surprise when I was woken up around 1:30am by the sound of their voices. After laying in bed angry for the first 20 minutes or so, I realized that when the AC unit kicked on, it was loud enough to drown out their voices. So I got up and set the thermostat to about 60 degrees in hopes of it not shutting off, and tried to go back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was 4:45am and my alarm was going off. Woof!
Race morning was the usual routine, and I made my way to the start (a mile from my hotel) at about 6:15am. I had just enough time to take off all my layers and get in the corral before it was time to start. I spent a few minutes looking around for other Oiselle teammates that I knew would be in the first corral, but I didn’t see anyone (they were likely further to the front, since they’re speedsters!). I also tried to look for the 1:45 pacer, but didn’t see them either. My plan was to run with the 1:45 group for the first 8 or so miles, and then pick it up depending on how I felt at that point, since it was just a training run. Before I knew it the clock was at 6:59am, ad we were counting down to the start… and at 7am we were off!
The course was pancake flat, so I knew my only struggle would be with the wind. The winds were around 20mph, but they were pretty light during the first few miles. I usually roll my eyes when people say things like, “before I knew it, we were at mile 6!” but I really felt that way on Sunday. At some moments, I’d be begging for the next mile marker, but for the majority of the race I’d look down at my watch and think, “wow! I’ve gone that far already?!” I have to say it was a great feeling! It wasn’t until mile 7 or so when the wind started to really become an issue. We turned into a Naval Base, and we were right up against the water, with nothing shielding us from the wind. I tried to park myself behind and alongside some other runners, but no one seemed to be keeping a consistent enough pace… and it didn’t really help either. I’d say the hardest miles were miles 6 through 9, mostly because of the wind. My first 9 miles were 7:51, 7:53, 7:48, 7:45, 7:54, 7:50, 7:47, 7:51, and 7:52. Talk about consistency! By the time I got to mile 9 and realized I only had 4 miles to go and that I still had a little energy left, I decided to pick it up. It was a mile later than I had originally planned, but my overall pace was about 10-15 seconds faster than I thought I’d be at that point so I didn’t worry much. I ran my 10th mile in 7:36, and realized that if I could just hold on for the last 5k, I would likely PR. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace, but I figured I’d give it a shot!
Those last three miles seemed to go on forever, but when I saw Rebecca fly by around mile 11, I got the little push I needed for those last two miles. The wind smacked me in the face right after mile 12 as we turned towards the beach to head onto the boardwalk for the final mile, but I happened to see Paulette running by and cowbelling right as as I made that final turn which was a welcomed distraction and boost of encouragement. As she yelled for me and I lifted my hand to wave, I realized that my fingers and hands were basically frozen. I tried to wave but only mustered up a little t-rex arm movement (which I’ve since decided will be my new race photo pose). Miles 11 and 12 were 7:33 and 7:34 respectively.
The boardwalk was nice and wide (and cement, not wood, thankfully), and I was pretty much alone for that last stretch. I was in a group of three guys for the last 2 miles or so that were counting down for each other and saying things like “Alright, just one mile to go. This is nothing! You can do it!” and while I was thinking the same thing in my head at the time, it was nice to finally break from them in that last mile. As soon as I could see the finish line arch, I looked at my watch, realized I’d PR, and decided to book it and hope for the best. I ran mile 13 in 7:21, and crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:41:39… a PR of just under a minute and a half! I grabbed my finisher hat and towel (Virginia races have the best swag – fleece blanket at Richmond, and now this!), medal, and some food, and quickly put on all the layers; I was cold!
I made my way to the party tent, got myself a Yuengling beer immediately, and roamed around until I found some of my Oiselle teammates! There were a lot of PRs and strong racing by everyone, and after our celebratory beer, we headed to a local coffee shop for some much needed coffee and food. Before I knew it it was early afternoon, and I headed back to the hotel to foam roll, and most importantly, take a hot shower. By the time I was on my way back to my hotel the wind had really picked up, but I was distracted by all the marathon finishers in their final two miles.
Overall, I absolutely loved this race. All of the volunteers and spectators seemed to be enjoying themselves, the course was flat and fast, and it was in a great location. Getting to meet up with so many wonderful Oiselle teammates that I felt like I already knew was an added bonus. I’d love to do this race again!