I struggle to put words together about this race because of the many variables that came into play for me to get to this point this year. Today I ran my 32nd race, my 16th half marathon, and race #3 out of the 13 I said I would complete in 2013. The Shamrock Half Marathon is one of my favorite races because of all the turns in the course, the people that cheer you on along the way, the quirky Shamrock joke signs, the many friends, near and far, that I get to see, and of course the beer and Murphy’s Irish Stew at the finish line tent. I lost a few weeks of training recently because the doctor put up a HUGE red stop sign on any running when I fell ill and the antibiotics weren’t working. Sometimes we truly have to rest to heal from whatever ails us. And truth be told, even athletes need rest when it’s an ailment that is not your typical, every day cold. This frustrated me to no end because running is my stress reliever and one of my absolute favorite things to do. No running?! Not what I wanted to hear.
When I got the green light to begin running again, the aforementioned illness left a lingering mark on my breathing, and I had to work with what my body could do in order to continue my training. At first, that meant that I was running slower and not as often as I would have liked. Eventually, my mileage increased back to normal, and my slowness dissipated to some extent.
Today’s race proved that I was ready to run at a quicker pace than even I thought I was prepared for. I am thankful for my coach, Sam, for pacing me in today’s race. Originally, I thought running with my coach would put a lot of pressure on me to perform at a higher level than I was capable. Sam was willing to run whatever pace felt comfortable as long as we started out the first five miles with the 2:00 pace group. I agreed to this, and am glad that we did.
The race started 15 minutes late due to some kind of obstruction in the roadway that had to be cleared before we could run the course. By the time we got started, I was freezing again because my warm-up run of just over a mile and my stretching had been done about 10 minutes prior to the start time of 7am. It was 40 degrees and overcast, and I was grateful that when I stepped outside earlier in the morning that I had thought to put on a 2nd layer over my long sleeve compression top. The wind was viciously slicing through all my layers, and blowing my green and white sparkly tutu any direction it pleased.
We were off and rolling as soon as they gave us the green light to go. I was in corral 4 this year, and oddly enough, I think I was last year too. Sam and I had a lot of people to weave in and out of in order to stay with the 2:00 pacer. I felt good for the first five miles, and realized that our pace hovered above the 9:00 minute per mile mark only briefly and wavered around 8:30-8:45. After the first five miles, we had managed to make our way ahead of the 2:00 pacer, and didn’t see him again at all. The next several miles seemed to breeze by. It’s always so much easier to run long distance at a steady pace when you have someone who can run with you stride for stride. As we made our way off Shore Drive onto Fort Story, the wind definitely picked up, and I was able to hide behind the tall people running the race for the most part to get out of the head on winds. I seriously think there was a large group of people who were easily 6 foot or taller running this race today, and I am THANKFUL for them to block the wind for my vertically challenged self! 🙂
I had to slow up a bit once we got past mile 7 because I couldn’t get my breathing to even out. What I realized today is that I get so worked up about doing so well, and pushing myself s hard that I lean forward with my shoulders and don’t let my body take in the full, deep breaths that I need to keep a steady pace. Once I relaxed my shoulders, and took in several deep, slow breaths, it was back under control, and I was back to a steady pace again. This happened a few times during the end of the race, and I am positive it’s because I put so much mental and physical pressure on myself to do well.
As we got a little ways past mile marker 12, I finally checked my watch for the first time since mile 5, and saw 1:51. The wind had picked up again at this point because we were getting close to the oceanfront, and were about to turn back onto Atlantic Avenue. Once I read my watch, I looked at Sam, and he must’ve known what I was thinking because he said, ” You can make it.”
I picked up my pace as soon as we turned the corner to Atlantic Avenue, bypassed the last water station, and started weaving in and out of the runners, making my way to that finish line. Hitting the boardwalk is the biggest thrill and the hardest part of this race. You’re so close to the finish that you can see it, but you still have about 6 blocks to go. I knew I had really picked it up because I could feel my heart racing as I was approaching that finish line, but I wasn’t about to give in to my lungs asking for more air when I was that close. We got one block from the finish, and I told Sam I was going for it, and gave every last ounce of energy I had left to fly across the finish line. I finished my 16th half marathon at 1:58:02!!! My 2nd half marathon under 2 hours!!!! Woo-hooo! Thanks goes to my awesome coach for pacing me and for all the training that has gotten me to this point!
13.1 is DONE!
Live. Love. Run. Passionately!