Posts Tagged ‘half’

Shamrock Half Marathon 2014

Sherpa. The word specifically refers to the ethnic people of Nepal. It evolved to refer to the mountaineers who act as guides for people climbing mountains in the Himalayas. They go up the mountain first and make a way for those ambitious and less experienced people to make their way to the top. Among runners, you will hear it used as slang for the person who takes care of you so you can go race.

Byram is my sherpa. The week of a race, he takes care of logistics, planning, organizing, and communication. The night before a race, he takes childcare duties, and leaves me all to myself if that is what I want. The day of the race would never happen if not for my sherpa. He gets me to my starting line and is with me in spirit the whole way. When I get done with a race, he is there to greet me, schlepping all my post-race necessities along with him so I don’t have to worry about checking a bag or anything.

He makes a way for me to achieve my goals. I couldn’t do it without him.

It has been a crummy winter. The Winter That Won’t Die. It’s snowing like crazy, right now, on St. Patrick’s day. I have known I have a race on the calendar since January 7th. Did I really train for it? Sorta. I only got serious about it in the last 4 weeks. And every other week has been snowy and icy; treadmills have been in short supply and sidewalks have been essentially nonexistent for long stretches at a time.

The Shamrock Half was a gift, and it was one I treated a little shabbily in the weeks leading up to it. We went down to Virginia Beach on Saturday afternoon; it was a beautiful day and we spent several hours at the beach after packet pick-up and seeing the expo. We got a really good deal on compression socks, so I broke a cardinal rule (never try something new on race day) and put my new green socks into the clothing plan for the next day.

I had requested phở for my pre-race dinner and we got a recommendation for a place not far from the oceanfront. After a bit of confusion, we lucked into finding it, and I can say without reservation that Phở 79 has truly excellent broth. We made our way to the home of our friends Rich and Genie and Ian, and we settled in for a wonderful evening of catching up and reminiscing about the old days. The kids played until very late in the night, and the grown-up sat up chatting until very early in the morning. We trundled off to bed around 2am; it was a great evening but it set up a rough start when the alarms (I set 2!) went off at 4:30. Duane let me sleep as long as he could, but he wasn’t going to let me off the hook for a race just because I chose to stay up all hours of the night. I love him for that.

He got us to the oceanfront with no drama and we found a parking spot right off of the interstate and in a spot that would allow us to get right back on the interstate to leave with only two left turns. I didn’t mind the mile and a half walk but I felt bad for Byram. The weather was crystal clear; we started under the full moon as just before sunrise. The change in lighting was so gradual, I was startled when I realized the sun was up and we were running in full daylight.

The Shamrock Half route is very very simple. You start at Atlantic and 42nd Street and you follow Atlantic until you turn north west onto Shore Drive. Shore Drive is trees and swamp; not especially inspiring. Around mile 5.5 you turn right into Fort Story back on Atlantic Avenue and you officially “inbound”. I have been on Fort Story before a couple of times, but I didn’t remember it being such a bleak and stark place; particularly the northern end. Maybe it was partly because of the harsh winter we have suffered, or maybe I just went there later in the year when things were greener, but Fort Story as it appeared yesterday seemed to have all of the color drained from it. Everything was beige. It felt like we were running through a relic of another time, like World War II hadn’t quite ended for this place. It didn’t help that in the Fort, all of the intersections were guarded by mostly unsmiling, uniformed soldiers. I always try and smile and wave and say thank you to race volunteers, but the soldiers didn’t really respond. It felt a touch unfriendly and after a while, I just gave up on them. Thinking back on it, they probably weren’t “volunteers” in the traditional sense. They were on duty. At work. On a beautiful Sunday morning.

The sight I had looked forward to the most was in Fort Story though, which made unsmiling soldiers worth it. I got to see the two Cape Henry lights. There was a sundog in the sky and the morning was beautiful and clear, and the lights were there, solid and strong as ever. I have climbed the 1792 Light twice. I love it. The lights are at Mile Marker 8, and I was feeling great at that point. I was drinking water at every station, I had taken a gel around the 5 mile point, and all was well.

We continued on through Fort Story for another mile, which was a slightly less depressing section; there was some base housing, a few spectators, a few new and really expensive homes (clearly for top brass types), and after Mile Marker 9, we exited through the gates where I got the only friendly experience with any of the military types. The MP at the gate was smiling and giving out high fives to anyone in reach. I got one. I needed to see a smiling face and to shake the depressing dust of Fort Story from my heels.

Back into Virginia Beach proper, we completed the “loop” around the base and were back among the civilians. There weren’t lots of spectators, but those who were out were enthusiastic, several of whom had set up beer stations. It is always amusing to see beer being offered along a race course, amusing to see who chooses to take the offerings, and what the offerings are. The highest class of beer I saw being passed out was cans of Rolling Rock. It wasn’t even up to Pabst Blue Ribbon standards. No thanks.

I made a terrible mental mistake while we were running back to the ocean front. I noted the street number when we first got back in to Civilian Virginia Beach. We were at 89th Street. And I also knew that the finish line was at 30th Street.

I started doing math.

With 4 miles to go.

This was NOT the best idea ever. All of the sudden, in my mind, I knew I had almost 60 full blocks to still run and I started counting them down. This was BAD for me. I started tuning out my music and tuning into numbers. I was not disassociating from the normal late-race aches anymore. A few blocks from Mile Marker 11, at 67th Street, I heeled up for a one block walk break. I took another one block walk break between 50 and 49th Streets. After that, I was afraid if I walked anymore, I wouldn’t start up again. Seeing Mile Marker 12 cleared my head a lot. I plugged back into my music and told myself I had maybe 12 minutes left to go. It was better.

When we veered left on Atlantic where it splits from Pacific, we turned right into heavy and frigid winds. The wind gusts between intersections were spectacularly powerful and cold. I had stopped counting street numbers, so that was a good thing. I knew we were almost there because I could hear cheering.

The cheering was at 37th Street; a huge group of LiveStrong folks were set up where we turned off Atlantic and onto the Boardwalk. At the same time, we were turning into some hardcore wind and people were cheering and there were encouraging messages written in chalk on the sidewalk, and I was very tired and a little emotional. The wind was so strong and cold it literally took your breath away. Also, as I got around the corner and onto the boardwalk, I saw how far away the finish line still was (7 more blocks, but I didn’t know that number at the time). I got a bit teary for reasons I still don’t quite grasp. Fortunately, Thrift Shop by Macklemore came on my iPod and that song just cracks me up.

I know it wasn’t that far, but that boardwalk stretched on for what seemed like an eternity. The concrete hurt to run on. I was freezing and all I wanted to do was get through that finish line. As I approached Neptune, I took off my hat and gave him a little salute and plowed on through the finish line. I noted the clock time, knew it was not my chip time, and didn’t have any feelings about it one way or the other. I was just happy to be done. I felt like I had run a really good race despite a couple of rough miles near the end (they always happen, I think).

Taking off the hat was a mistake. Byram was looking for that hat, not wet red hair, and so he missed me when I passed him (I didn’t see him either). The chute stretched on a whole block and it was not easily navigable. I got my enormous medal from the most unenthusiastic volunteer ever, which felt odd. A long walk brought me to a station where they were handing out hats, then another long walk to water and Gatorade, then another long walk to the beach towels, then a granola bar stop; I mean it just went on forever. Then there was this enormous crowd of people coming and going to the beer tent up a fairly narrow set of stairs to the beach. I wanted nothing to do with the beer tent, I just wanted to go meet my husband at the arranged location.

Our reunion got all dorked up because I don’t carry my phone with me and he hadn’t seen me cross the finish. But that was just a sidebar to everything.

Shamrock was a really awesome and fun race with a touch of odd and awkward. Logistically, it was not easy, but like the other 30,000 participants, we managed. The course was fast and flat, and that was a nice change from moderately hilly Richmond, and the trail terrain of Instant Classic. The atmosphere of the party at the end would have been awesome if it had not been so bitterly cold that it felt like all 30,000 people were crammed into the beer tent. It did not have that friendly, whole town turns out vibe that Richmond does, but then I think the race must be an enormous PITA for the people who actually live in the area. It definitely lacked the mutual goodwill between spectators and runners of Richmond. It was cool to run along the beach. It was a great weekend to be with my family and play at the water’s edge too.

I keep getting asked if I would run it again and today my answer is I don’t know. If my March race choices come down to Instant Classic and Shamrock, it is tough to call between them. IC is 15 minutes from home, inexpensive, low key, calm and small. Shamrock is the opposite of all of those things, but Shamrock comes with the Big Race amenities like portajohns and freebies and swag bags and such. Not so with IC. Shamrock is flat and fast. IC is, well, not. Shamrock is pavement and concrete (to say, hurty), and IC is a trail (less hurty).

I don’t know and right now, it doesn’t matter. I am going to register for the Crawlin Crab half marathon in Hampton, running the first weekend of October. For that race, I am chasing down the King Crab challenge and will do the 5K with Byram on Saturday and the Half on Sunday.

Thank you to my best friend, love of my life, and sherpa, Byram, for making a weekend of incredible memories for our family.

One final note, added post script. As an indication of how much I just ran this race for the fun of it, I forgot to mention my final time. I shaved 2 minutes off of my last PR in November. 2:33:48. #ShamrockOn


What Race?

Hey, I have a race coming up in less than 72 hours! How the heck did that happen???

Not for nuthin, but it does sort of feel like this race has crept up on me unawares. The 14 Mile Run loomed large for me the entire training period, and then right after that, I came down with a series of illnesses and injuries, and just getting (and staying) healthy has become my biggest focus. Race? What race? I am still hacking and coughing; thanks a lot post-nasal congestion.

What to wear? Who knows?!? Richmond is doing its normal meteorological mood swings, with today’s highs being in the low 40s, and Saturday’s highs being in the low 70’s. Getting a grip on how fast it will warm up on Saturday will play the biggest factor in my personal version of “What Not To Wear” (Half Marathon Edition). I have in fact completely changed my plan on race day clothing at 3:30 a.m., only 4 hours before a race. I am not wedded to anything until I walk out the door.

Like I opted to do in March, I am going to leave my beloved stop watch at home; it will be much better for my brain not to be processing numbers if the knee pain ramps up and the pace starts to click down. I am going to run in my old but very trusty Adrenalines. I am deciding about my fuel belt right now. On the one hand, it is darn convenient not to HAVE to slow at fuel stops, especially as it warms up. But not wearing it is very freeing and my arm movements are more natural when I am not trying to avoid smacking my forearms into my water bottles. Natural arm movements cut down on upper body muscle fatigue.

I will not check a bag this year. I understand that they have sorted out that little inconvenience this year, but honestly, it won’t be a hardship for Byram to bring me my heavy Navy hoodie along with him to Brown’s Island. That is really all I need. I had zero need for my wallet or my phone (not a smart phone so no reason to carry it) at any race I have previously run.

Friday, I took 4 vacation hours and I will go get my packet from the Expo, meander around there for a bit, and then probably swing by a GoodWill and buy the warmest clothes I can find that are half off for the week. These I will wear in that pre-race hour while I am waiting and shivering in the pre-dawn fog, to be discarded and donated to local homeless shelters right before we hit the start line. I might also try the trash bag trick, since I have heard it is effective, and the forecast is calling for fog and high humidity. Friday’s dinner needs to be a KISS meal. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Chicken. Broccoli. Rice or noodles. Lots of water. Not a massive spaghetti dinner. Not something new and unusual. Not even a trusted restaurant.

One nice thing: my lack of focus has meant that I am not in pre-race freakout mode like I normally would be. I am calm and just looking forward to the atmosphere of race day and getting this one done and on the books.

To Do:
Clean and decide about my fuel belt
Charge up iPod
Centrally locate all my technical gear and start deciding what to wear
Figure out post-race meeting spot
Locate if possible GU Salted Caramel gels (!!!)
Try to get more sleep (ha!)
Get warm donation clothes
Chill out and enjoy this race! It has been MONTHS since I raced and I am really looking forward to this one.

I probably won’t have time to write again. Check back for a post-race recap!

Dropped on My Face

So I posted about being injured and my plan to get back on the road. Modestly optimistic and all that.

The next morning, I was sitting at my desk getting my morning going when a worrisome tell-tale heat began to develop in my eyes. Isn’t that weird? That is exactly how I know when a fever is coming on though; when my eyeballs feel hotter than the skin around them. I don’t know if the sensation is unique to me, but I do know it heralds major trouble.

I was leaving work early to take Byram to a medical appointment that day anyway, so I knew I only had to hang on until his appointment was over, but I gotta tell you, I was suffering by 2pm and we were headed back to Chesterfield. I remember very little of the drive and nothing about the discussion we were having (which couldn’t have been much; my throat hurt too much to talk). We got home and I practically crawled up the stairs (my knees and back hurt so much) and crashed into bed without so much as getting out of my work clothes.

It would be 48 more hours before I dragged my sorry self to the doctor and get my diagnosis. The Flu and something so alike to strep throat that even though it didn’t pop in the petri dish, the doc decided it treat it the same.

The Flu?!? I had gotten my flu shot three weeks before to the day when the fever kicked in. The doc reminded me that it isn’t a 100% guarantee preventative measure. She knows I run half marathons and asked me if I was training. I told her about my 14 mile distance last weekend and she said the peak point in training can take a toll on runner’s immune system. Add a fragile immune system to the fact that I took my daughter to the pediatrician’s office on Monday of that week, I was set up to catch All The Things.

And so I did. I rarely get sick, but when I do, it’s kind of like the Hand of God reaches down and simply drops me on my face. Today is the first day the splitting headache has finally relented. I was able to get up and take a shower and put on a change of clothes. I foam rolled my still achy back and legs. Still no real appetite, but at least I am on the mend.

So no mileage this week. I am not sure I would have the stamina even today to log a single mile. I have to grocery shop in a little while, and I anticipate landing on the couch for the rest of the afternoon after that. I am hoping that maybe by Tuesday or Wednesday I will be able to run a little. I know I will have to take it easy, but I have to get back on my feet and get moving.

Race day is coming. I suffered some set backs this week, but they aren’t going to stop me or hold me back. I was searching my jewelry box for a gold dollar coin (Grace lost her first baby tooth this morning) and while I didn’t find a coin, I did find my drawer full of race medallions. I am not the type to display my medals, but coming across them was a great motivator and brought a smile to my face. I can’t wait to add a new one to the drawer.

Friday Freak Out In Progress

I did something I don’t normally do. I went to FaceBook and made a post specifically to garner some encouragement. I love my FB Friends. They are very good to me.

Tomorrow morning is just another Saturday morning Half Marathon Training Team run. Only it isn’t just another Saturday morning Half Marathon Training Team run. This day, October 19, has been looming larger and larger for me ever since I opened my Training Manual and turned to the Intermediate Schedule and saw that the Intermediate teams would run a 14 mile route.

Knowing this date was coming was just sort of sitting there in the back of my mind, but as each week has gotten longer and as the long runs have gotten more difficult, the number 14 started becoming more and more intimidating. My brain is being overwhelmed by “Ohmigawd this is gonna hurt!” and I know I am setting myself up in a bad way just by being this anxious about the distance.

I was so miserable after last week’s 13 mile distance that I didn’t even walk back all the way to the Stadium where I could go pick up my new team shirt. I just limped straight to the car. I was too pitiful to let a free shirt draw me up that hill any further. I just keep thinking “If that was bad, how much worse is 14+ going to feel?”

It doesn’t help that the route covers some very familiar territory, including the location of actual race finish line (at only the 6 mile point; how is that for a mental sideswipe?), running directly past my place of work (or the starting and finishing point of every lunch time outdoor run I make during the week), and the dreaded long slog west on Broad Street (the first 2.5 miles of the race).

Yes, I can feel myself psyching myself out.

I feel unprepared. Hell, I am unprepared. This feels as big as race morning and I don’t have a plan in place like I would for race morning. Breakfast or no breakfast? How many GUs should I carry? What clothes will I wear? Those are questions I would have answers for if this was race day. And I don’t.

See? I am freaking out. So I am writing this out; getting it off my chest, actively seeking support even if it is just a shout-out from a bud on FB, and making it a point to ask myself the questions above and think up answers for them.

Some people I have talked to have asked why we run a 14 mile distance training run for a race that is only 13.1 miles long? The answer is simple: it will make race day easier to handle mentally. You know you can beat the distance and then some. Boom. Instant confidence builder. This one day with one extra mile isn’t going to do anything for me, physically, but as you can see from the freak-out I am undergoing right now, once it is over and done, I will have achieved something new, something I have never done before and that is why we run 14. It is good for your brain.

Maybe that can be my mantra tomorrow. “This is good for my brain.”

We’ll see.

I am still pretty nervous.

PS: This was my 99th post. My 100th post will be about my longest run ever. I like that.

An Ambitious Plan

So, half marathon training is underway. It has gotten started in spits and spurts. The first week was fine, no problems except that first team run was very hot and humid and my guts threw a fit. I couldn’t finish the 4 mile route; I turned back early.

The second week was fine, but I missed the training team weekend run because I was onsite for the ACL practice all weekend. That was a great, energetic weekend, but when I got nipped on the back of the leg by a dog, opening up one of my spider veins, it set my running back a bit while that healed up enough not to reopen.

So Saturday’s six miles were the first miles I had run in over a week. I was nervous. I hadn’t run anything over 4-5 in a while and I hadn’t run at all in a few days. It turned out just fine. I paced with some women who were trying out the intermediate team (they found the novice to be a bit too novice) and stayed with them for about 4 miles. That was great until I realized I could push it a bit faster, so I asked if they minded if I went on. Of course not, so I picked up my pace a bit and went on.

After a little while, I was joined by Cooter Coach Greta (I am on Team Red Bellied Cooters, in case you are wondering at the term) and she and I ran together, talking and just going. She helped me get over that subtle and very long hill heading east on Grove Avenue that ALWAYS kicks my butt. My pride kept me from asking for a walk break, and I never really needed it. By the end, the last little bit at McCloy and the hill back up to the Stadium, I was very tired but determined, and that hill did not stop me. I felt like a hero when it was over.

Okay, an 11:35 min/mile pace hero, but still. I was very happy.

Sunday, rather than a rest day like the novice schedule says, and which I am used too, Sunday is now a 5 mile day. Unfortunately, I waited until the sunniest, hottest part of the afternoon to go out, and my legs let me know in short order that just because I had had a great run the previous day, I was not going to get a repeat performance. By the 3 mile point, if I had had my cell phone on me, I might have called for a pickup. I was just that tired. I am glad I didn’t though because I did finish out my 5 miles, and the last mile was hard but it was mostly downhill and that was good for my brain.

I overcame.

Mondays are for cross training. Thinking of the higher mileage schedule, I have decided to apply much more running focused cross training exercises. No Michelle Obama Shoulders Plan right now (though my shoulders still look pretty damn good from the training early in the summer and an active late summer). For now, it will be strength training focusing on my core and my lower body with the goal being to prevent injury. Also, I am going to really try and add some yoga workouts into my weekly routine. That will probably mean setting the alarm for 5:30 in the morning, and my discipline for that is WEAK.

One of my favorite fitness bloggers posted an article last month on strength training for runners to prevent injury. It was exactly what I needed to read and today, I put it to good use.

I am not used to circuit training; I am more programmed towards strength building through heavy lifting, then one minute or so rest between reps. Circuit training was surprisingly challenging; I broke a serious sweat. I followed Tamara’s suggestion to pull one exercise from each of the 4 categories: single leg hip thrusts (both sides), a 30 second plank, lateral lunges (both sides), and a bent over dumbbell row with 15 pound dumbbells (that was when I noticed my shoulders don’t suck, haha). I did the 4 exercises with no rest between, then a second repetition. I was challenged enough that I did not do my planned 3rd rep.

I liked that workout; I didn’t need special equipment and I could probably do it at home if I dug out my heavier dumbbells or found my E-Z bar. Afterwards, I did about 10 minutes of timed stretches focusing on my lower body and back, and especially on my IT band and lower back. I like that I can swap in and out different exercises if I am bored with say, hip thrusts, then I can just switch to the hamstring curls with a ball.

My goal is to do that workout twice a week; Mondays and Fridays would be the ideal. It feels ambitious to say I want to run 5 days per week, cross train 2 days per week, and then find some way to squeeze a yoga session in there as well.

It is a lot, to be sure, but I want to run my best time ever this November. Really, I do, and the only way to do so is train harder than ever and avoid injury. I have to shave about a minute per mile off my pace to reach my goal so speed work, tempo runs, and strength training and stretching will be extremely important to staying healthy.


Gosh, I had started a post earlier this week about the fact that now I am home from Pennsic and we are shifting from High Summer to Late Summer, that meant it was time to start training for the Richmond Half Marathon. I had this whole post planned about how I couldn’t afford to get on the SportsBacker’s training team and how I had written out a plan based on their plan from last year.

Then everything shifted hard to the left when two of my attorneys, both of whom are also running the race, got together and plotted to pay my fee and register me on their own.


I will be at City Stadium tomorrow morning with about a thousand other people, beginning my 4th half marathon training cycle.

Bryan admitted with a sort of half smirk as the whole plot was revealed that he had insisted they put me down for an intermediate team. Gah! He’s pushing me to get outside my comfort zone and really, I needed that push. There is no distance that the intermediate team will run that I haven’t already run. The intermediate teams tend to be faster than me, but not everyone is. And running with faster people will get me running faster. There is nothing new that the intermediate teams do that I haven’t already done. It’s just a category. And since this IS my 4th training cycle, I really can’t claim to be a novice in all honesty anymore.

I keep stalking my email since I haven’t received my team assignment yet. But then, I was only registered 2 days ago, so I may not get an assignment until I show up tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Intermediates are running 4 miles tomorrow. No big deal, right? I haven’t run 4 miles in a while, but I ran 3 miles twice this week. No big deal, right? I don’t know why, but I am pretty wickedly nervous about it.

Wish me luck because away I go!

I Feel It In My Bones

I guess there isn’t much a run and a couple of mugs of peppermint tea can’t cure.

It was a rough morning. I felt like I was being crushed to death under paperwork and bullshit. I felt stressed, tired, and borderlining on hopeless. I didn’t want to go run, I didn’t want to put in the 4 miles I had promised myself. I didn’t have time, I had stuff I needed to do here in the office, I had attorneys who needed me.

The attorney here in the office running the IC on Saturday asked me if I was going out for my last run today around 1130 and assured me he would be going out even though he was in a similar boat as me. Well, if he could get out and go do it, then I’d best man up and get to it, right?

You can’t hone a knife on butter.

I went out, took my familiar long route around Brown and Belle Islands, and by the last half mile of those 4 miles, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. This was it, my last run until Saturday morning. The end of months and months of planning and training and thinking and running and and and and ….

I went out stressed, frustrated, anxious, drowning in my cares, and I came back and, embarrassingly enough, did a little happy dance (looked more like a touchdown celebration by an NFL quarterback, I guess) in the lobby of my building as the security guards and Capitol police watched in amusement.

I haven’t had much to say this week, which is unusual for me on the week of a major race. Truthfully, I don’t have anything new to say. I’ve been here, done this before. I am vastly less anxious than I was for my previous two half marathon distances. Not that I don’t have a checklist of to-do’s between now and Saturday, but none of it feels scary anymore.

Wash my fuel belt bottles, pick up 3 GUs from Lucky Foot when I pick my packet up on Friday, shave my damn legs so no one thinks they spotted a yeti running in Pocahontas State Park (they would have to nickname it Pokey, and really, no one wants to be responsible for that atrocity!), figure out whether it is ACTUALLY going to rain or just toy at rain on Saturday morning and decide what to wear, change out the battery in my MP3 player, pack a post-race bag with a sweatshirt and energy bar. Oh yeah, sleep should go on that list, too.

I have lots to do, but none of it is onerous; in fact, all of it (aside from shaving my legs) are enjoyable activities that bubble with the promise of an adventure. Which is exactly what I consider this race to be. An adventure.

I am in a really good place, mentally. This is the most prepared, most excited I have been for a race yet. I am not giving any space to the negative voices in my head that love to remind me of my pace, where I fall as a “competitor,” and all kinds of other unworthy thoughts. I worked hard for this and I know I will do well; I am making myself no promises about how well, nor am I setting any limits on what is possible. I know what I am getting into, that it is a hard thing, but a worthy thing. Unlike November, I don’t have to “Press on, regardless”; I’m not injured this time around. Unlike last March, I know explicitly what I have gotten myself into and have no unrealistic (or even realistic) expectations. I am going to have fun and do something a large portion of the people I know consider to be *just* on this side of Crazy.

Maybe I will think of something interesting to say before Saturday morning, but I expect to go radio silent between now and then.

See you on the other side of my third half marathon.