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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shamrock Race Report

On Saturday it was pretty certain that we were going to have nasty weather for the race on Sunday. Rather than stress about it, I hovered over a jigsaw puzzle trying to keep myself calm and occupied.* After dinner I went through my routine of setting everything up for the morning and was in bed watching TV around 8pm. Lights were off by 10 and while I woke up several times, I actually got a fair amount of sleep.

Woke up Sunday morning to rain…a lot of rain. And wind. Close to 30mph winds that picked up through the morning and gusts up to 40mph. Oh and real feel temperature in the 20’s. So not what I had hoped the weather would be. We were a short walk to the start so I hung at the house as long as possible. The half started at 7am but the full marathon didn’t start until 8:30am. It was really hard sitting around waiting for such a late start but I thought it may give the rain a chance to clear out. No such luck though.

When we left town for VA the forecast was not calling for such cold temps but thankfully I packed a crazy amount of clothes and had tights, long sleeve shirts and gloves. I also packed an old space blanket which kept me dry and somewhat warm on the walk up to the start. I headed up around 8:10 with just enough time to hit the bathroom before I got in my corral. People were already so wet that some girls were holding their socks up to the hand dryer in the bathroom. Wasn’t sure what the point of that was because we were all going to be soaked in a matter of minutes.

I was in corral 1 and placed myself right between the 3:25 and then 3:35 pace groups. I knew the place in between these 2 groups would be lonely without a pace group for 3:30 but 3:25 was too aggressive and I knew I had more in me than 3:35. Right from the get go, I felt good. I was shocked at how quickly my legs settled into pace. The start of the race headed south so we had the wind at our back and it would stay this way until just after mile 5. My splits were right where I wanted them for these first few miles: 8:06, 7:59, 8:02, 8:02, 8:05. My heart rate was higher than I wanted but the effort was where it should be. I felt great, was easily able to talk, was not breathing hard, etc. I was just cold and my body was working to warm me up.

Just after mile 5 we hit the turn around and oh mamma! Wham! The wind was hard. My pace immediately dropped to around an 8:11 and I held that for a few miles. As we were going through the military base, I knew I would not be able to fight the wind and maintain this pace alone through mile 16. Yes, we had head wind from mile 5 to 16. I made the decision around mile 8 to pull back and wait for the 3:35 pace group. I typically do not like to run with pace groups but I knew it was the smartest thing to do given the conditions. When they reached me, I tucked myself right in the middle of the pack and let the pacers fight the wind. This worked great and was the best way to handle the boardwalk where I thought the wind would be the fiercest. Once off the boardwalk, my plan was to stay with the group until mile 20 when we would start heading straight south to the finish or if things weren't as bad on the street, I'd leave them even earlier. My plan was working well until…

Around mile 15 we hit a water stop. I had my cap off my water bottle and tried to run ahead a bit to get a head start. I asked several volunteers to refill my bottle and they literally stood there. This had actually happened at 2 earlier water stops, too so I really needed to get water at this one. They just stood there with their arm out, almost like they didn’t know what I was asking. After getting one cup poured in, I took off trying to catch up to the back of the pack again. But I couldn’t get them. The wind on this stretch was horrific and it was now sleeting and snowing. Outside of the pace group, there were no small groups to catch on with so I just had to put my head down and fight alone. I didn’t give up but that one mile did me in and my pace slipped to an 8:21 then my next mile, 9:07. Ugh.

When we turned northwest at mile 16 and had some shelter from the trees, I tried so hard to regroup and get back down to pace. I could not feel from the waist down and felt like I was running on stumps. My feet hurt so badly every time I landed. I was able to get my pace back under 9 minute miles for the next 4 miles but then we had an open stretch where the wind was brutal again. Coming at me sideways, I was pelted with sand and literally was pushed around. I was tired from fighting against the gusts and knew there was no PR happening so I pulled back.  

At mile 20 the wind was now a strong wind at our back but it wasn’t enough for me to make up any time. My last 6 miles were anywhere from 9-9:20 and I had resorted to some walk breaks to give my feet a break because of the pain. Turning onto the boardwalk for the final stretch to the finish was a welcome site and I crossed the finish line in 3:43, 6th in age group. No PR and not what I wanted, but it did quality me for Boston 2018.

There were tears as soon as I saw Andy and Katie. Tears of frustration. You work so hard and then shit like this happens and there’s no easy second chance. They immediately got me to the post-race tent and I stripped down. Yes, right there I took it all off with a small towel as coverage. I could not wait to get the cold wet clothes off. I shivered like I never have before, biting my own tongue a few times! I even went as far as putting my hands in the post-race Irish stew to warm them up. Gross, I know. But so necessary.

Once things settled down, I smiled. I was happy I finished. I wasn’t thrilled with the finish time but I ran smart and I executed the best I could. My nutrition and hydration was spot on. I had fun even though it was miserable out and I never, ever got negative or in my own head. I thanked all the volunteers and cheered on other runners. We were all suffering together and being negative about it wouldn’t have helped a thing. I kept in the forefront of my mind the entire race that being out there was a gift and I was so grateful being able to run long again. I didn't realize just how much I missed racing until this weekend. I'm so happy to be back!

On Monday we woke up to sunny skies, 40 degrees and no wind. What a difference a day makes. When I finished on Sunday I swore Shamrock off. But this course will not beat me and I have a strong feeling I’ll be back next year to attempt my revenge…once again.

*I finished that 1000 piece puzzle J

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Time for revenge

The hay is in the barn.
The work is done.
You are ready.

I know it’s true but there’s this little voice deep inside my head that whispers, “Did I do enough?” “Can I hold this pace?” As I go through the motions this week leading up to the race, my job has been to quiet any negative thoughts. When I start to wander and go to that place, I immediately change directions and think about all the quality runs I did to prepare. All the runs that I ran at race pace or below. All the times I pushed myself, embraced the suffering, and let it hurt so it wouldn’t hurt as badly on race day. I reflect on all the tangible evidence that has set me up to race well on Sunday and think about all the reasons I want this.

I haven’t run a standalone marathon since Shamrock marathon in 2011 (my marathons since have been during Ironman races) and I’ve missed it. A lot. In 2011 I was going for the same goal time but came down with the flu a few days prior to the race. I gave it my all on race day but came up 5 minutes short of my goal and relapsed with the flu horribly. I was crushed; I had worked so hard and wanted it so badly and then it was all out of my control. I promised myself that I would be back to the Shamrock course to get my revenge someday.

My plan was to get my revenge last year but instead I walked the 8k sporting my back brace just 5 weeks out from back surgery. I was told before surgery “you’ll never run a half marathon again” and “you’ll never run competitively again.” This made race weekend last year that much harder. Being on the side line is never easy, but being there and not being sure if you’ll ever get off it, is petrifying. Especially when you love something so much and have built a career around it. I never believed the doctors, but deep inside I was scared that they were going to be right. Thankfully, it turns out they were wrong. Very, very wrong.

In 3 short days I’ll toe the line at Shamrock and prove just how wrong they were. I have 3 goals which I’m putting out there:

A – sub 3:30
B – sub 3:35 (new PR)
C – smile and be grateful for every single step

I can already tell you that “C” is in the bag! No matter what happens on Sunday, I am so thankful to be back out there running and I am not taking this for granted. Yes, I want that “A” goal, badly, but this race is about more than a finish time. Yes, I am nervous. I am excited. And on Saturday, I’ll be emotional (I always am the day before a big race). But on Sunday, a confident calm will come over me and I’ll fight with all I have to get my revenge and smile along the way because being able to do this is, well, it's awesome.

So, as my coach said to me earlier this week, “It’s time to burn this mother down.”