What you’ve all been waiting for… the final part of my Yeungling Shamrock Dolphin Challenge race recap! Part two captured the 8k on Saturday and this blog will sum up the experience, focusing on my awesome performance at the half marathon on Sunday.
Sunday was another dark and early morning for us. We still dressed festively, but not quite as over the top as we had for the 8k. The vibe around us was a little different… still excited, but you could sense that some of us were feeling nervous. We were preparing for the big race, with big goals.
My main goal for the half marathon was to run the race without run/walk intervals. I planned to walk at aid stations because I just haven’t mastered drinking out of those little cups and running yet… but those walks would be brief and I wouldn’t be taking regular walking breaks. I honestly didn’t care much about time. A PR would be awesome, and I did think a PR was possible, but it wasn’t important to me. Getting a good time was something I could save for the Owens Corning Half Marathon at Glass City.
We made the 45-ish minute drive from Kat’s house to Virginia Beach. We grabbed McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffins for me and Jenny on our way there. I was messaging my friend Tiffany to let her know where we were – I was getting really excited to finally get to meet her!
Side bar: Tiffany is a friend of mine that I have known online for about 15 years and we have never met in person because I live in Michigan and she lives in Virginia. She runs the Yeungling Shamrock races every year and I have been telling her forever that I would run it. Well, 2019 was finally the year! We offered to pick her and her husband up to take them to the race since their hotel was a little bit of a hike to the start line.
We arrived in Virginia Beach to pick up Tiffany and Zac. That started the day on a funny note because as Tiffany approached the van we were in, she said “I really hope this is them, otherwise this is really creepy.” Because we had pulled in and opened the doors to the van as we saw them crossing the street.
From that point on, it was “go, go, go.” Kat dropped us off and we hurried to the gear check trucks to drop off our bags. We made our way from there to the porta-potty line. Tammy messaged us to find out where we were – she was planning on running with me. She said, “What are you wearing? And don’t say green.” Haha! She was smart and wore orange, so she was easier to spot. Jenny found her and went to grab her while we waited in line. Once we all did our business, it was time to get into the corrals. We somehow planned well and the porta potties we used were right by our corral!
As we waited for the race to start, Tammy asked me again what my goal was. I told her that I just wanted to run without doing intervals. She asked me what my PR was and I told her it was 2:37 something, 12 minute miles. She said, “You’ll get a PR today, no doubt about it after watching you run yesterday.” And I said, “Yeah, but that was only 5 miles! This is 13.1!”
The sun was shining – it was another beautiful day. It was a little cooler than Saturday, which was absolutely fine. I was happy because I was able to wear my favorite Bay Area Runners Club St. Patrick’s Day long sleeve shirt. I was once again sporting my green lipstick, but this time I left the green wig at home. Jenny wore her traditional Irish girl Ink n Burn outfit. She was running with Kendra, another Disney running friend who she had just met in person for the first time that weekend, too. Time flew by and before we knew it, we were almost to the starting line, our corral next to go… and then it was time, and we were off!
I had set my watch to alarm if I went faster than 11:30 pace. I didn’t think I had a sub 2:30 half marathon in me, so I didn’t want to push the pace and get tired, and I was really determined to run the race without having to walk much. The alarm was going off right away – typical race start adrenaline giving us that push. Tammy and I pulled back and slowed down – the alarm really helped! First mile: 11:29. Perfect! Not too fast, and if we kept up that pace I would be able to get a PR.
We kept the pace pretty consistent for the first 4 miles – 11:29, 11:21, 11:31, 11:19. I did take sips of water at each aid station, but Tammy kept me pushing forward. That girl is a PRO at grabbing and going at aid stations. She really helped me to keep moving and not slow down for too long when I grabbed water. Mile 5 was a little slower because that was when I took my first gel. It ended up being a 11:42 pace, but I quickly recovered from that. Mile 3-5 were also on a road that got pretty banked at times. It was a beautiful area though – lots of beautiful trees. It reminded me a lot of the Riverbank Run 25k course.
Around mile 6 we entered into Fort Story. It was really cool to be running through a military base, passing barracks, homes, training areas, and historical sites. I think the excitement got me pushing, because we had our 2nd fastest mile at 7 – 11:07 pace! This was also when we started to be able to see the ocean again. There was a good breeze in Fort Story, so I was glad that I had kept my long sleeve shirt on. At mile 8 we passed the two lighthouses and I stopped for a second to get a picture – lighthouses are my mom’s favorite so whenever I see them I think of her and get a picture. I took my second gel around that time, but it didn’t slow me down nearly as much as the first one had… we maintained a good pace at 11:24 for mile 8 and 11:28 for mile 9. By mile 9 we were leaving Fort Story and I was thinking, “Wow, only 4 miles to go… and I am pretty sure I am getting a PR today!”
I think it was around this time that I also started to get a little pain in my left ankle. I couldn’t tell if it was a joint/tendon/body part pain or if it was my sock rubbing. Quite honestly, I didn’t care, as long as the pain didn’t get worse… I was too focused on continuing to run and not stopping! Soon we saw Kat and her friends at their unofficial aid station and we grabbed some “fuel”. I decided not to take my last gel at mile 12 after having that and just continued to get water at the aid stations. Mile 10 was 11:18 pace, mile 11 was 11:30 pace and mile 12 was 11:33 pace. At mile 12, Tammy said to me, “Yep, you’re getting a PR today. And I’m pretty sure you’re getting a sub 2:30.”
What!? I looked at my average pace. She was right. I was on target to get a sub 2:30 half marathon if I could keep up the pace or better. Not long after the mile 12 marker you pass by the race start and hit the turn to go back towards the boardwalk. This is where I grabbed my last water and I pushed the pace.
When you turn onto the boardwalk, you can see the King Neptune statue and the finish line looming in the distance. I always thought that the finish line at the Bay Area Runner’s Club St. Patrick’s Day races was the worst – we all swear it moves. Well, that finish line has nothing on the one at the Shamrock Marathon. You can see it coming for what seems like forever and it just seems like you’ll never get there. Although I think its worse for the 8k because you actually approach the finish line, thinking the distance is going to be short, but just before you get there you make a turn and do a loop around only to stare that finish line down again.
I hit mile 13 at a sub 11 minute per mile pace. I sprinted the last tenth of a mile to the finish and saw that finish time clock reading under 2 hours and 30 minutes! YES! I DID IT!
I can’t even explain to you the feeling I had crossing that finish line. Before we hit mile 12, I told Tammy I might cry. I couldn’t believe what I was doing that day. And I didn’t feel like total crap… I mean, I was definitely feeling pushed and tired, but not completely destroyed. It was emotional crossing that finish line. Once again I accomplished something I wasn’t sure would EVER be possible. I ran the whole thing without run/walk intervals. I got a PR. And I finished a half marathon in less than 2 hours 30 minutes.
Tammy and I headed down the finisher’s chute, grabbing snacks and our swag. Let me tell you guys – the swag for these races is just awesome. You get a shirt for each race, a medal for each race plus a challenge medal, a blanket, a hat, and two drawstring bags. We also got lots of free drink koozies! Once we grabbed all of our stuff we headed down to the beach and got in line for me to ring the PR bell. We found Jenny and Kendra in line – I had asked at some point in the race if Tammy had noticed that we passed Jenny and Kendra, and she said she didn’t think so. To me that meant that Jenny was definitely getting her goal of a sub 2:30 half – and she did! We waited in line together and rang the PR bell.
We went to the after party on the beach after that and enjoyed our free Yeungling beverages. I headed out of the tent to try to catch Tiffany’s finish, but unfortunately I missed her! We reunited on the board walk and hung out there for a little while before going back into the party tent. We had such and awesome time together – buying more swag, drinking the beer, eating our snacks, sharing stories. It was like we were old friends who had known each other our whole lives – and I mean really, I’ve known her for almost as long as I haven’t known her, it was just our first time meeting in person. At the end of the day I wished that Virginia wasn’t so dang far away!
Overall, this race was an incredible experience. From the amazing people that I had the opportunity to meet from Jenny’s Disney running groups… to meeting Meb and enjoying the expo… to the awesome weather (apparently we Michiganders were good luck!)… to the sweet swag… to getting my best half marathon time and completely exceeding my expectations… Yeah. This was an amazing race. I had a great time and would highly recommend the race to anyone. I’ll definitely be back again someday!