Several days leading up to the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, the weather forecast looked less than ideal. Temperatures would be around 40 with winds and a high chance of rain. As race day neared, the hope of better weather diminished and I just embraced the suck.
My husband and I arrived on Saturday (day before the race) and headed straight to the race expo to pick up our race packets. The expo was small, but all the usual vendor categories were featured. I was able to meet the authors of Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. My senior year of college, I ran against Shalane in the ACC Cross Country Championships, so chatting with her while she signed my cookbook was definitely a highlight.
As I was leaving the expo, I also ran into someone from my high school unexpectedly. Very cool.
My shakeout run was a little creaky. After a near 4 hour car ride, my legs felt stiff and I didn’t feel loose until after a mile. I felt nervous and anxious after the short run, but mentally, was ready to go. After a quick shower and a little basketball watching, we headed down to dinner. Our hotel served a simple pasta buffet meal for any Shamrock runners, so I filled up on penne and continued to hydrate.
Race morning, I awoke on my own at 4 a.m. As I pulled back the curtain to glance at the weather outside, I almost laughed out loud. Dark, steady rain, windy, cold. Somewhat fitting for March Madness weekend. I noshed on my pre-race breakfast (peanut butter toast, unsweetened applesauce and Nuun) and dressed in my Shamrock race kit. To stay somewhat warm and dry, I layered on some old clothes and a high-tech windbreaker: a hotel trash bag.
The awful weather quelled my nerves as I jogged up to the starting area. As I warmed up and dodged puddles, the situation made me smile. I joked with volunteers as I ran by – “it’ll be fun they said”. Near the start, I ran into my running partner/coach and another running friend from back home. We all stood around the starting line; trying to stay warm and prepare ourselves for 13.1 soggy and blustery miles.
About 5 minutes until gun time, we moved into our corral and begrudgingly took off our sopping wet outer layers. These last minutes honestly were the worst part of the entire race – standing in the cold, wet darkness as the breeze continued to pick up. Soon, the starters called us to the line. Coach Jeremy asked, “Are you ready?” Ready as I’ll ever be.
Approximately a week before the race, Jeremy and I discussed a race goal. Last year, I ran my first two half marathons and both were right around the low 1:50s. This time, my training base was much stronger and had also built speedwork into my regimen. We set a goal of 1:35 or faster and I set out to maintain a 7:15 pace.
Off the line, I could see the 1:35 pace group ahead of me and I increased my pace to bring up the rear of the group. Listening to our feet pound the wet pavement, we sounded like a pack of horses on a renegade mission. Our group moved as one tight pack through the first miles, knocking out a 7:05 pace. The winds blew, but I stayed tucked in behind the group and before I realized it, we were at mile 5.
At this point, the course started to turn back and the winds shifted direction. I was feeling pretty good and decided to pull away from the group. Mile after mile, I felt stronger and stronger. Glancing down, I could see I was dipping into the 6s, and truly was surprising myself.
Around mile 7, the wind was pretty wild. At one point, there was an opening between the dunes and sand was whipping through. Nothing like a little skin exfoliation while you are running. From this point on, I thought of my usual Tuesday/Thursday a.m. 6 mile runs – telling myself – “Alright, you got this – just on one of your usual morning runs to the park.” One foot in front of the other and the miles just kept flying by. I fell in step with another runner around mile 10 and we were stride from stride until we made the final turn which would take us to the boardwalk and ultimately, to the finish line. As I glanced ahead, I could see the clock was still in the 1:20s and I was full steam ahead. I crossed the finish line is 1:29:10; over 5 minutes faster than my goal and 20 minutes faster than my times from 2016.
Finish Line Fun – Coach Jeremy and I showing off our medals!
The Anthem Shamrock Half has been my most insane, but most favorite race. Looking
back at my stats and remembering what I powered through puts me back on my runner’s high. Sharing the experience with others was also amazing: my husband completed his first half marathon (HUGE!!), my coach/running partner shaved ~4 minutes off and set a new PR, and several other running friends conquered all Mother Nature threw at us. The memories will sure live on for quite awhile. And the icing on the cake – unexpectedly, it looks like I secured 1st place in my age group (as did Coach Jeremy) – awards will be mailed in a couple weeks.
There will always be conditions which are out of your control. I’ve learned to not stress about what I cannot change; but to accept and embrace the situation as is. Make the most out of what you are given. Just because the environment is less than perfect does not mean you cannot have the race of your life.
Before Shamrock, I had not run a long race since my 1st marathon in November and being able to maintain the pace I did has certainly boosted my confidence in achieving a BQ this year. Training is just around the corner and I continue to become more eager to start as the days near.
Big thanks to my husband who puts up with my running insanity, my coach who runs with me a few times a week at o’dark thirty through a myriad of crazy weather conditions and to all of my running partners. I continue to succeed due to all of you!
Next up, Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with most of my Team Running Dad!