Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon 2013

As I write today’s race recap, I have many mixed emotions about today’s race.  This is my 7th year in a row running Rock N Roll, and my 40th race in my racing career.  It’s funny to even think about it being my 40th race when I have been running for most of my life.  As soon as I figured out how to run as a child, I didn’t stop running. I raced anyone who wanted to and loved every minute of it!  40 just seems like such a large number for only 6 years of road racing… but it has come, and now gone!

I have been excited about this race for quite some time for a variety of reasons.  It marks the start of a new training month.  It marks 77 days out from the Richmond Marathon.  It denotes that I am over halfway through my training for the aforementioned marathon.  It also denotes that summer is officially over since it’s Labor Day weekend.  And finally, it’s a ton of fun, sun, music, and racing!

I started the race out walking with Sheila from her home near 24th Street, and headed over to the convention center.  I, of course, slept last night, but was too excited, and nervous about forgetting something, that I was super chipper this morning! (I even dreamt I forgot my timing tag, and woke myself up just to set it out with all the other things I set out! I want to be timed!) We got over to the convention center around 6:30ish, and headed straight for the porta-potty lines to get in one last pit stop prior to the race. We cut it seriously close because we literally got out of the porta-potties and ran over to the start line just as our corral, corral 6, was being released to go run! From what I hear, we weren’t the only ones! I really think there needs to be a better way to handle the porta-potty situation since it’s a recurring thing for numerous people.  As we raced to the starting line, the lines to the potties weren’t any shorter than when we first got there.

As we hopped into our corral, I hugged Sheila and wished her luck since we weren’t sure if we would be able to stick together for the whole race or not.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose someone in the crowd, as we soon discovered.  I was giddy as we started mile 1, and made our way weaving through the crowd.  It was already muggy out, but the breeze and temperature at the start felt really good.  We were moving along at a good pace as we eased into the mile.  As we were just about to make the first turn, we noticed that race officials were making us quickly manuver to the left side of the road.  I quickly saw a man laying down on the road, receiving assistance from medical personnel.  Sheila brought to my attention that he was receiving CPR.  All I could do or say was to pray.  The race had just started.  My fear for this man was for his safety and his life.  I thought of him, and prayed for him the entire race today.  I ran harder when I was tired because I knew he could not run.  I prayed for his well-being and healthiness at every mile.  I have not heard any updates about this man, but hope that we will soon, and that it will be good news.  I am not an overly religious person, but each time I prayed, despite the heat and humidity, I got goosebumps.  Maybe my personal guardian angel was there. Maybe I was being heard.  Maybe it was me being depleted of salt.  Believe what you want, but I think my prayers were being listened to today… what else can explain the goosebumps?!

My giddy mood waned, and my focus became more on finishing for someone else who could not finish.  I didn’t care how hot I was, how my legs felt tired, or how I could have walked if I had really slowed down.  I was determined to run for those who could not.  As mile 3 approached and the next water stop came up, Sheila and I lost each other in the crowd of runners.  I looked for her on and off during the rest of the race, but it’s not hard to lose someone in a crowd of thousands of runners.  I looked for a number of the others I knew were running today also, and spotted only a few while running the race.  I just kept focusing on moving forward, praying, and keeping cool.  Every chance I had to run through a sprinkler, a straight up stream from a water hose, or a chance to dump a water cup over my head, I did.  I have to admit that I did something today that I would not normally do.  I am very self-conscious about how I am built (thank you, Grandma, for the genetics) because of my petite stature, my non-existent behind, and my uh-hmmm, well, bustiness.  I knew from past experience that this race is always hot and humid, and I am constantly seeking a new way to stay cool year after year.  This year, I chose to run in shorts and a sports bra.  This is a big step for me.  I am not looking for kudos or congrats on this, just wanted to shout out that it’s a big, brave deal for me to just run in a sports bra because normally I am all about hiding the girls as much as possible. I don’t want or need unnecessary attention, but I knew I would be cooler if I ran sans a running top today.  And I was right! By mile 3, I was already soaking wet from a mixture of running through the sprinklers, dumping my water cups over my head, and sweat.

There was intermittent shade from the sun throughout the race, but the turn off General Booth is always welcome to the shade from the trees before we hit the long stretch on Camp Pendleton.  My coach managed to find me at this halfway point, and ran with me for a bit before moving ahead.  I know I heard my name called several times throughout the race, and I am thankful for those of you who were cheering me on! My apologies for not being able to find everyone to say thank you or to wave and smile back.

I felt the area above my knees starting to feel tight, and pulled an old track workout trick of doing a few high knees to ease the tension.  This seemed to work, as I didn’t feel the pain or tension again after that.  At this point, I was thankful for my new kicks and that they felt so great during the race! I just continued repeating to myself that I was stronger than the fatigue, and that I was running for those that could not.  At about mile 7, the water stop was a much needed sight as I knew I needed to eat my sports beans because my energy was waning. I had prepared myself by eating good proteins, carbs, fruits, and veggies all week, but the day of the race, especially in heat and humidity, your energy is zapped pretty quickly.

I was disappointed to see that the water hoses weren’t set up on Camp Pendleton, as this is the longest stretch without any shade. But as I previously mentioned, my mind was completely elsewhere, and I really didn’t think about it too long. I just continued to put one foot in front of the other. I counted the miles as they passed, and made sure to hug the curves of the road as close as I could so I wasn’t running extra distance. As we left Camp Pendleton and headed back to General Booth, there were some incredible spectators who had their sprinklers going over the street, and several with hoses spraying down the runners. I can’t thank them enough for sharing their water on one of the hottest races of the year. I wish I could personally thank each of them, as I know their water bill is through the roof, but the smiles and words of encouragement through it all let’s me know they want to do it. Again, I am grateful.

Just past getting sprayed down, and soaked even further (how is this possible?!), there were people handing out freezie pops! Boy were they a welcome surprise! I was so excited to get an ice cold freezie pop to be slurping down as I tackled the bridge over Rudee’s Inlet. And then guess what?! Just at the edge of the bridge, there were MORE people with MORE freezie pops! This time, however, it wasn’t cut open… and I was seriously bummed! I carried it because the cold felt good in my incredibly hot hands. Just as I crested the bridge, I noticed the guy next to me had ripped his open. I had tried to rip mine, but was severely unsuccessful, and was pouting. I kept looking at him, and he finally noticed. I smiled really big and asked if he would open mine. He asked if I cared if he bit the top off. I told him that at this point, I could care less. I just wanted that freezie pop!!!! Thankfully, he opened my freezie pop, I thanked him a ton of times, and was off! We were nearing the end of mile 12, and mile 13 was just starting. When I saw the mile 12 mile marker, it was like I had just started running. It was the strangest sensation to be so light on my feet at the last mile of a half marathon. I rounded the circular section of Rudee’s Inlet, and hit the boardwalk with a smile on my face. I knew my goal was to reach 13th Street where the finish line was located, and this would be an easy run because I know this boardwalk like the back of my hand. The photographers were up on scaffolding only a few blocks into the boardwalk, and I was raising my fists because I knew I was so close. As I passed each of the blocks, I was counting down how many blocks I had left. The closer I got, the more spectators were lining the sides of the boardwalk. This made me push that much more. I hit the 13 mile marker and took off for the last .1 of a mile. I wanted to finish strong, and I pushed so hard that I could feel every muscle in my body moving in rhythm to get to that finish line. I looked up at the clock and saw 2:12. My best guess was that I was a few minutes shy of this time since we started in Corral 6. I had had a goal of finishing in under 2:15, even with the heat. I had beat the 2 hour mark 3 times this year already, and I just wanted to finish strong for this race. Well, I did it. I rocked this race in 2:06:32!!!

I love the volunteers throughout the race, but the ones at the end of the race are the most welcome, smiling faces any runner wants to see! I was loaded up with water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, popsicles, granola bars, bananas, and a freezing cold towel to wrap around my neck over my incredibly designed starfish medal for finishing the race! I wandered along after the race and out to the beach to try and find some HRR friends and others I knew were running. I think I lost count at one point, but I know so many runners who ran this race and rocked it today! I am proud of you all!

Sadly, about twenty minutes after I crossed the finish line, I started feeling like I was going to throw up. No amount of water or Gatorade seemed to help. I kneeled down for a bit to stretch and just get a sense of being grounded. I stood up, and felt more dizzy and lightheaded than when I had squatted. By this point, Sheila had found me on the beach by the other HRR people. I was started seeing black spots, and told her that I needed to go to the medical tent pronto for some ice. I got to the medical tent just in time to lay down, and they quickly covered me with ice packs and ice cold towels. Unfortunately, I know all the signs and symptoms of passing out from heat exhaustion, and knew enough to ask for help. I am super thankful for Sheila for guiding me to the tent and offering me to carry me there, and for the medical personnel for acting quickly. After having my blood pressure taken (106/72), getting my finger pricked to check my blood sugar, and having my temperature taken, I finally started to cool down. One of the medical personnel talked to me some more and concluded that my salt levels were on the very low end, and she mixed up a Gatorade and salt drink to sip on until all my color came back. She didn’t tell me til I sat up that when I walked in I was nearly as white as the towel wrapped around my neck. Yikes! Thank you, thank you, thank you to those medical personnel. You guys and Sheila were my lifesavers today! On the walk back to Sheila’s place, she was helping me carry my multiple drinks, and snacks, and kept trying to give me food as we walked. We both like Scooby Doo, and at one point I did tell her I felt like Scooby Doo earning my Scooby Snacks! She made me do tricks for my pretzels… such nice friends I have! hahaha!

After this day has come to a conclusion, I have realized several things. As a runner, I can survive without music for a whole race (my mp3 player got soaked by mile 5 and quit playing), I am super in-tune with my body and am good at listening to it, my mind can drift even while running a race, but I can do well, and I am surrounded by amazing friends. This was an incredible race, and it wasn’t just the venue or the people who put it on. It was all that and the volunteers, friends, and family that made it a race worth running for those who cannot run. Today, I ran for them.

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

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