Thursday, March 24, 2011

RR: Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge: Part 2: Anthem Half Marathon

Yuengling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge
March 19-20, 2011 - Virginia Beach, VA

Saturday: Towne Bank 8K - 1:04:54
Sunday: Anthem Half Marathon: 03:08:03

Race Summary:  Ran "nearly naked" all weekend long (no watch to keep track of race pace) and had a fantastic time enjoying the Race, my Friends, the Beach and, of course, the Beer!

Also picked up my HALF FANATICS membership by finishing 3 Half Marathons within 72 days!  I am already looking at the list, trying to figure out how to move up to the next level of membership since "3 Half Marathons in 90 days" is only Level One. 

THE LONG VERSION - PART 2: (grab some coffee or a pint...this was a long weekend!)

Sunday: Anthem Half Marathon

I woke up Sunday morning, earlier, in an attempt to get Breakfast in early enough to feel like it made a difference.  Up at 5AM (race start at 7AM) and had my Bagel and Peanut butter and a large bottle of water and then puttered around, feeling anxious and nervous.  I had not brought enough "cold weather" running clothes with me and was very concerned that the high winds (15-20 mph) and the cooler temps ( 45F at start, high of 50F for the day) were going to make for a pretty miserable race experience.  I was much moodier than my typical "race-morning self" but the Ladies (Leanne, Judy, Alexis and Keri) just rolled with it. Good Friends on Race Mornings are a Blessing!

By 615am we were out the door and headed to the Half Marathon Start, a little 10 very windy blocks up from the hotel.  Did I mention it was COLD & WINDY? That didn't help my nerves much but I tried to relax and enjoy walking to the start - since everybody was starting in the same COLD & WIND b*tching about it wasn't going to make much difference - so I did my best to let it go.

After a fun Pre-Race photo op, we all split up to head to our Start Waves and I went to Wave 5 and stood with the huddle masses - there were lots of smiles and  pretty quickly after the National Anthem, we were off and on our way.

At the start: Judy, Keri, Holly (me) & Leanne

I really didn't see this coming - after having a rough day out on the 8K course - I honestly expected to have nothing for the Half Marathon and was really just planning to "move forward with purpose and try to have as much fun on the course as I could - no matter what my pace."  For this race, I ran "Half-Naked" - I had my Timex watch set for Run/Walk intervals of 3/1 - "to be started only if I ran out of motivation to keep running continuously" but I was not allowed to start the stop watch function that would tell me overall time elapsed, nor was I allowed to check on the actual time of day.

So here I am, feeling good, settling into a nice easy pace (at least it felt nice and easy - don't know, no watch to check!) and having fun, watching the people around me, checking out the neighborhoods and looking forward to the next 12 miles.

Miles 1-3 went by effortlessly - just moving along, settling in the pace. Just before Mile 3 we passed the local HASH HARRIERS Rest Stop and while I didn't stop and indulge in a little bit of beer - I did yell "ON ON" nice and loud and got "ON ON" and a few toasts from the folks on the side of the road!

I did break one "Golden Rule" of running that says "Do Nothing NEW on Race Day" but I was curious to try the nutrition plan that my own sister Heather has been using on her long runs since I have always been hit or miss on my stomach behaving on long runs.  Lately Heather has been using the "Running Buffet Method", as she likes to jokingly refer to it.  She eats one honey stinger chew per mile and keeps her hydration at regular intervals - as she needs it.  So I thought I'd give it a try.

My Result?  STEADY ENERGY and NO STOMACH ISSUES the ENTIRE RACE! (Also NO STOMACH ISSUES AFTER THE RACE - which has been a problem sometimes too!) I ate one Margarita Cliff Block every mile and drank water only when I felt like I wanted a little (which for me was Miles 3, 6, 8 & 11) and it worked out perfectly.  I am SOLD on the "Running Buffet Method" for any run longer than 6 miles from this point forward!

Miles 4-6 were spent on River Road - enjoying the bad Shamrock Jokes signs as well as some other Funny/Silly signs.  The one that I remember?

"I used to keep an open mind but it kept falling out of my head on my long runs; so I don't keep an open mind anymore"

Just before Mile 5, I stopped for my only Port-o-Potty break and while waiting in a long line, had a cool chat with a fellow in front of me who was running his first Half Marathon. As I left the Port-o-Potty, along came Priscilla & Debbie!  It was awesome to run with some Team Z teammates for a little bit but I honestly felt like the pace was a little faster than I wanted to go - so I backed off after about a mile of running with Debbie - reminding myself that "Today is for FUN, don't worry about TIME."

Just about half a mile from separating, I passed Debbie again - as she stopped at a Port-o-Potty and I waved "Hi!" and continued on.  Mile 7 came and went and I found myself thinking "I'm bored, this is getting harder, where is that darn lighthouse Ron told me about?"

The time had clearly come to "shake things up a bit" so I turned on my Interval Timer and started it.  I decided that from this point on, I would run 3:00 / walk 1:00 until the final turn onto the boardwalk and then run to the Finish Line.  It helped to have something "new" to focus on and I actually felt like my pace picked up ever so slightly, overall.

Miles 8-9 were fine - just working my way through Fort Storey - finally saw the Lighthouse and some beautiful Oceanviews, just in time to head straight into the WIND!  UGH!  But in perfect timing, right about Mile 9 - Debbie finally caught up to me and after discovering my Interval Plan - suggested that we stay together.  I was game and ready for the company so we divived the Intervals - My job was to keep us moving steady for the 3:00 Run and Debbie's job was to keep us "Walking quickly with purpse" for the 1:00 Walk.

We talked and ran and walked and talked.  It was really wonderful to spend some time with Debbie - hearing about her season plans, sharing my season plans - talking about swimming and running and everything in between. Debbie made the miles fly by and really I don't remember the headwinds - although I know we ran through them.

While I was not at all concerned with time, Debbie was focused on her time. She had done this race in 2010 as her first Half Marathon and she was steady and focused on a strong finish and setting a new PR (Personal Record).  We talked "Half Marathon Finish Times" in general, as I told her about my two Half Fanatic's races from this season (MS Blues & Myrtle Beach) and she shared with me that if we finished in/around my average pace for this season: 3:05-3:10 - She would come away with a nearly 20 minute PR.  This got my attention, because while I was not trying to race for time, I understood how much focus and effort Debbie was putting into her Race day and I was honored to be running with her and helping her make her personal time goal.

Before I knew it, we were looking at Mile 12 and just two more Run/Walk interval left. We agreed that "We only got two more Run/Walk Intervals and then we'd RUN it into the Finish Line - no matter how far we might be from the actual last turn onto the Boardwalk."  As it turns out our timing was perfect - our last 1:00 Walk was about 2 blocks before the final turn.

As we ran down the Boardwalk, Debbie asked me how I was going to finish - was I going to speed up? And I said "No, Sorry - this is all I have" and she responded "That is OK, this is all I have too but I am still going to have a big PR!" And with big smiles on our face, we ran together in to the Finish Line!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying Beer, Cheering on Team Z teammates and friends Ron and Shawn to their Marathon Finishes and a large tasty Philly Cheesesteak and Cheesecake at the Jewish Mother's Deli in Norfolk, VA with Shawn, Ron and Keri on our way home.

Ron, Shawn, Holly (me) & Keri - FINISHERS!
I couldn't have PLANNED a better Half Marathon Race Day if I tried - and maybe that is because this time, I didn't try. I just went out and took what my body had to give and focused on having fun and enjoying every mile. 

I would recommend running at least "One Race Naked Every Year" to those of you who run and for those of you who are not running - What are you waiting for?  Come on along - the finisher's BLING is worth every mile!
Just a little bit of the Race Swag & Bling - Half Marathon Medal, Finisher's Hat, Finishers Shirt (not in photo) and the 8K Finisher Medal plus an 8K Long Sleeve Tshirt and Half Marathon Tech Shirt - just for picking up your race packet!

Life is GOOD!  Live STRONG!

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