Last weekend, I participated in the 2018 Shamrock marathon. This race in particular is important to my family because it falls during the same time of year that our neighbors across the street from us lost their 6 year old son. These aren’t just neighbors, but Sam is also my best friend and her oldest daughter is my oldest daughter’s best friend. They moved into our neighborhood when Makayla was just 4 years old. Our families “grew up” together. Losing Bubbies had a massive impact on our families and running has been very therapeutic in the healing process for Sam and I (and Steven too, I believe). Two years ago, the race fell on March 20th, which is the date he passed away in 2013. Steven and Sam ran the marathon as a way to honor him (recap here). I had planned to run the marathon also but an injury prevented me from properly training so I ran the half marathon that year instead. This year, I decided in January to give the training another shot and I was successful this time!! Unfortunately, due to injuries and other issues, I had to run it alone this year, although I am confident that Bubbies was with me every step of the way. Steven and Gabby came along to support me and I had many other cheerleaders who were sending their support from home.
Makayla decided to stay home because my niece was having a birthday / baby gender reveal party that same weekend. I was really bummed I couldn’t make it but Makayla called us right away when the babies gender was announced and sent us videos so that we could feel like we were a part of the excitement 🙂
Steven, Gabby, and I headed to Virginia Beach on Saturday. We went straight to the expo and picked up my bib and shirt and then headed to the hotel to get checked in.
The hotel was right near the finish line, which was so much better than years past! After getting settled, we walked down the street to find a pizza and pasta joint. Carb loading is so much fun!! We walked around the finish area for a bit to scope out some places to look for each other. Then we returned to the room and I tried to go to bed early. Unfortunately the heat was extremely loud and kept cutting on and off. That, along with race jitters (can’t believe it has been so long since I ran a race) made for a horrible night of sleep.
I got up and got ready as quietly as I could so that I didn’t wake Steven and Gabby up. I had brought my breakfast with me to make in the room (Ezekiel toast with peanut butter, banana slices, and honey on top – yum). They started stirring as I finished getting ready. The race was starting at 7:30 and the hotel was about a mile from the start so I decided to leave around 6:50. At 6:45, I went to put my hydration vest on and realized I had left the bladder at home (drying from my last run). Seriously?!? I panicked for a moment but then decided to just take one of my 16 oz. Water bottles with me (I had brought a bunch from home to fill the hydration vest). I was planning to see Steven and Gabby at the halfway point so I asked them to bring another bottle and give it to me at that point in the race. They also had water/Gatorade stations set up throughout the race so I knew if I ran out before seeing them, I could always rely on those stations. Also, the vest I chose to wear had deep pockets so I was able to hold everything that I normally put in my hydration vest (fuels, phone, gloves after I warm up, etc). Crisis averted!! I kissed my family goodbye and headed to the start line.
As soon as I exited the hotel lobby, I could see the excitement of the race day all around. So many runners were headed to the start. I walked to the boardwalk side to take a few quick pictures, but it was too cold (windy) to stay on that side! I made it to the start and hung out behind a wall of a parking garage to stay out of the wind as much as possible.
I was so cold! I guess this is good time to address the weather. We had horrible weather 2 years ago. That year, the half marathon began an hour and a half before the full and it was pouring at the start. Luckily, the rain stopped for the marathoners, but they still contended with high winds. We missed last year’s race, but word on the street is that the weather was even worse. Snow, sleet, high winds, and sand blowing all over runners. Eek! So, although I complain that it was cold and windy I really couldn’t have asked for more perfect race weather. Cold at the start is a good thing. And wind on the beach is pretty much a given, so I can’t even really complain about that.
I texted my family to let them know I made it to the start and ate my gu and stretched a little before finding a spot in my corral (10). Before I knew it, it was time to start. The corrals started about 2 minutes apart so I didn’t actually cross the start line until 7:54.
I had come up with a walk/run plan that would get me to my goal of a sub 5 hour marathon. My first marathon was in 2014 and I finished with a time of 5.01.48. So close! I knew I needed to schedule walk breaks or I would burn out at the end. I decided to take a quick (.10) walk break every 1.5 miles and then a longer (.30) walk break after every 4.5 miles so that I could fuel (alternating gu’s and honey stinger waffles.
The first 4.5 miles took me north up Pacific Avenue towards Fort Story. It took me about a mile to get into a good rhythm and another mile or so to really warm up. My hat kept wanting to blow off so I ended up taking it off and carrying it. I also came out of my gloves once I warmed up.
The next 4.5 miles took me onto Fort Story. This portion of the race was pretty boring. Since it is a military base, there isn’t much crowd support. I texted Steven and Gabby at my mile 9 walk break to tell them where I was. They let me know where to look for them.
After exiting the base, I headed back south. The crowd support really picked up! Just after mile 13, I started looking for Steven and Gabby and was able to find them waiting on the street. Gabby had made me two signs! She had told me the day before that signs weren’t really her thing so that I would be surprised when I saw them 🙂
As a side note, I didn’t think it was cool that a lady stopped to correct her grammar. Umm…how about “THANK YOU FOR STANDING OUT IN THE COLD AND CHEERING ALL THE RUNNERS ON”. They even brought tissues with them to give to runners (great idea; runners always need tissues when running in cold weather) and also gave out a few water bottles. They had so much fun they ended up staying outside for the duration of the race. Most people were very appreciative! I stopped in order to ditch my gloves, hat, and empty water bottle, and grabbed the other water bottle from them. After a quick hug for each of them, I was running again. I wish I would have got a quick picture with them, but I completely forgot. I took my walk break to fuel at mile 13.5 and then continued heading south.
The race took me back to the boardwalk for another mile and half and then we headed back to the road. The only hill of the race was just before mile 16 to cross an over pass. I ended up walking ahead of schedule to get through the hill. I started really struggling around this point of the race. I remember sending out a couple of texts around mile 16 to let them know I was struggling. I got some encouraging texts back and then put my phone away. At this point in the race, I honestly felt like I wouldn’t be able to meet my goal, but was also too mentally/physically exhausted to figure out the math. It didn’t help that this part of the race was very boring to me. We reached Camp Pendleton and again there was no crowd support. Steven and Gabby received an automated text when I crossed a timing mat at mile 18.4. At this point I was running a 10:53 pace. Around this part of the race, I noticed that my phone was at 1%. I had used airplane mode for most of the race so I was really surprised and bummed about this. I knew I wouldn’t be able to send out anymore updates. I was still able to listen to a podcast and I was really worried that if I sent a message that it would use up the remaining juice and I wouldn’t be able to listen to anything for the remainder of the race.
By this point, I was not running according to my plan. While my first water bottle lasted the entire first half of the race, I was finished my 2nd water bottle by mile 20 so I was having to rely on the water stops for the rest of the race. I was taking walk breaks a lot more often and having a hard time getting back into a run. I was so happy to finally cross back over the overpass and head back to the boardwalk. Only 3-ish miles left and there was more crowd support (although still less than I expected). I was also running into the wind now which was really tough. I just wanted to be DONE! I headed back out to the street for the last time and saw Steven and Gabby at 25.2 miles. Apparently they were really starting to get worried. They hadn’t gotten an update since the 18.4 mile update at 11:18 and it was now going on 1:00. I LOVED seeing them, but I didn’t stop for hugs this time. I just wanted to finish and knew I’d be seeing them in a mile. At this point I knew I would break a 5 hours. As bad as I wanted to sprint to the finish, I actually had to walk 2 more times. I was so exhausted! I finally could see the finish line and gave it everything I had! It was great having Steven and Gabby cheer me into the finish! My official time was 4:52:13 / 11:10 min pace.
I collected my medal, beach towel, hat, snacks, water, and then headed to find Steven and Gabby. Such an awesome feeling! We headed to our hotel room so I could charge my phone a little and drop off a bunch of my stuff. Then we headed back to the finish festival to hang out. I rang the PR bell, got Steven and I a beer, some stew, and then we just hung out and took some photos.
We didn’t stay too long. We headed back up to the room so I could shower and then we decided to get some dinner and take Gabby to see the new Tomb Raider movie. I could already feel the sore muscles setting in.
We stayed the night and then headed home on Monday morning. My quads and shoulder muscles were really sore. Sitting/standing was so tough! But it was worth it!
I have now completed 2 marathons and have had something stand out at me at each one. During my first marathon, I passed a building (not sure if it was an auto repair or something along those lines) that was called “Bubba’s”. During this marathon, I passed a sign that said “Bubba”. I can’t help but think that was more than a crazy coincidence. I get so far in “the zone” that I don’t generally notice a whole lot so the fact that I noticed that particular sign seems crazy. I really wish I would have stopped to take a picture. I just know he was with me in spirit!
On another sad note, last week on March 20th (ironically, 5 years since Bubbies death), our entire community faced another tragedy. The shooting at Great Mills High School left many of us feeling a sense of sadness/helplessness. I highly suggest running (or some other form of exercise) to anyone who is having a hard time coping with this tremendous loss. I truly believe that it is good for the soul (sole).