Sandy has declared that my marathon weather curse is OVER! Having now run three marathons in a row that had pretty decent weather she lifted the curse as we shivered in the cold waiting for the start of the 39th Annual Shamrock Marathon (sponsored by Yuengling). Running a marathon close to St. Patrick’s Day that is sponsored by a beer company was pure genius. I don’t remember who thought of it but THANK YOU!
Though I spent more time in Virginia Beach than in Jacksonville last month, it was still a very short stay. I arrived Saturday at around 1:00 pm and left Sunday at 5:40 pm. Al, Sandy, and POJ (who got there the day before me) picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to packet pick-up. From there it was off to Zero’s Subs. I bought a foot long, ate half, and saved the other half for breakfast (the race started at 8:00 am so I knew my typical bagel or poptart wouldn’t cut it). We went to an awesome Italian restaurant on Saturday night. Franco’s in Norfolk. I highly recommend it if you’re in the area and hungry for spaghetti!
I was in bed and sound asleep by about 11:00 pm…at 12:15 am all hell broke loose in the room nextdoor. I heard several adult voices and at least two children (one a crying baby and the other a toddler). The initial conversation was between an adult male and the toddler arguing over who was cooler…Spiderman or Superman. After about 45 minutes, once I was convinced that they wouldn’t be settling down anytime soon, I called the front desk and had them move me down the hall. Luckily, since the race wasn’t starting until 8:00 am, I still got a pretty good night’s sleep.
It was pretty chilly and very windy Sunday morning. The temps were in the low 40s and the wind was howling from the NNE at about 10 mph (gusting to 20 mph). We sought refuge inside a hotel that was right on the water and waited until the last possible minute to venture out towards the starting line. We didn’t wait long enough…as they delayed the start of the race to 8:15 am. The delay wasn’t a big deal as the temperature wasn’t supposed to get much higher than 49 degrees at any point during the day.
I looked at the course profile the night before and noticed that there were two “humps” in the first half (one just before mile two and then coming back over it just before mile 10). The course climbed slighly from 10 to 19 and then turned and dropped by the same from 20 to the finish. I figured I’d go out slow, try to run effortlessly to mile 19 or 20, and then see how much I could speed up to the finish.
I’ve only run one long training run (18 miles) since Jacksonville. I had a 20 miler on the schedule for a weekend that my brothers wanted to go fishing…fishing won out over running long and I never made it up. My weekly mileage stayed up in the mid 40s but I was a little concerned about the lack of running long and the three week taper (I usually do a two week taper). Carrying about 10-15 extra pounds (gained since October) was adding to my worry as well. To ice the training cake, I didn’t get any runs in after Tuesday of the week leading up to the race. If recovery and rest are the key to good marathons…I’m set!
I actually ran a race almost exactly according to plan! It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve felt so good so late in a race. I felt like I was in complete control from mile 20 to the finish line. I passed literally hundreds of people in the final 6 miles. After mile 23 or so I was having the strangest thought or sensation that I was a running vampire sucking the life force out of everyone I passed. I even caught myself making a slurping sound and thanking them for their sacrifice as I went by. Crazy, right?!
One of the guys I caught apparently did not want to be passed by a 225 lb vampire so he sped up right as I moved up behind him. We were still a ways out, maybe mile 24, so it was too early to throw down. He gapped ahead of me by 20 meters then grabbed his right hamstring. He walked it out until I caught him and then started running again. He put about 10 meters on me before pulling up again. This time I put on a surge (a la Corey May) and passed him with some velocity. I knew I couldn’t hold that pace through the end…but he didn’t! I settled back down after about 50 meters not really knowing how far he was behind me. I made the final few turns of the race and the course is now on a wide promenade that runs parallel to the shoreline. It’s very long and very straight. From here you can see both the 26 mile mark and the finish line but both seem very far away (and about equally spaced). I sped up just a touch and decided to hold that pace, as best I could, through the mile marker.
Once I pass the marker I realize I’ve just run my second fastest mile of the entire race at mile 26! I’m completely dedicated to not getting passed at this point…there are also about a dozen people within striking distance ahead of me and I decide to fuel up on as many of them as I can (remember, I’m a running vampire).
I’m running about as fast as I can to cover the final .2 while reserving just a little in case anyone (like Sandy) decides they’re going to sprint for glory at the fat boy’s expense. I cruise through the finish and am pleasantly surprised when I see my watch…3:52:47. Back under 4:00:00! I remember going through the half in 1:56 but can’t remember the seconds. Either way, there is a good chance I ran a negative split (runner speak for the back half being faster than the front half). According to the official splits I ran a 1:56:26 first half and a 1:56:21 second half so I did, indeed, go negative. Second time ever.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did stop for a potty break and a photo op during the first half so the deck was stacked somewhat in my favor. The shot below of me, Chekal, and Rumble was snapped at mile 12.
Shamrock was my 23rd marathon and my 5th fastest ever. It feels good to get back under 4 hours.