I survived! If you follow any runner on social media that ran Shamrock, then you already know that this weekend’s weather turned out to be pretty brutal. I had personally expected wind since this race is right on the coast, but King Neptune didn’t quite get in a good word with Aeolus. Going into the race, I hadn’t heard one negative comment about it aside from weather of past years. I was a little nervous the race wouldn’t live up to the hype because I’ve had that happen to me before. Grab a blanket and get comfy, this is going to be a long one.
Katie and I woke up Sunday morning to torrential rain and high winds. The night before we had both accepted that the race would be what it would be, but that didn’t mean we were looking forward to heading out in the conditions. Katie even made a joke that maybe the Gale winds would blow the rain over. We had our pre-race breakfast, got geared up and ready to go. I had purchased a new hat at the expo and a new pullover at Old Navy the day prior (nothing new on race day, right? 😉 ) because I wasn’t happy with the ones I had brought. We both had throw away sweatshirts and emergency ponchos so we were hoping to stay a little bit dry before the start. Side story: The night before I pulled out my wall charger for my Garmin so that I could charge it up, only to realize that instead of my Garmin charger, my husband’s electronic metronome (#marriedtoamusician) charger was plugged into it. I was so mad! (But not steaming, more annoyed mad.) I only had 2 bars of battery life left in my Garmin and wasn’t sure it would survive the race. I had really wanted to wear my heart rate monitor during the race so I could better assess my fitness afterward, but I knew it would suck out the battery life so ultimately I had to ditch it.
Our hotel was around a mile from the start so we were able to get in a good warm-up mile. This was probably for the best because it kept our time in the rain a little bit shorter. We both dropped dry bags in the UPS bag check and then decided to head under an overhang to stay out of the rain before heading to the start. Unfortunately, we were both pretty soaked. My hat was pretty drenched and I hadn’t thought keep my gloves off and dry prior to the race, so they were already soaked through. On top of that, the winds were gusting at 25+ mph so by the time we headed to the start I was pretty cold again.
We were in separate corrals so we parted ways and I chatted with some people in my corral until it was time to go. Mostly, we tried to laugh about the weather. They were great about promptly starting the race and we were off. I had accepted that, given the weather, this would be a slower race than I had even anticipated earlier in the week and didn’t want to push too much in the first few miles since we were running into the wind.
The course is an out-and-back and is very flat and straight. I had decided to keep on my throw away sweatshirt and poncho to try to keep myself as warm and dry as possible for as long as possible. My watch was covered for most of the first mile and I just sort of hung with the crowd and tried to get warmed up. My watch actually beeped in shortly before the first mile marker and I was surprised to see a 8:27 split. This was about where I wanted to be pace-wise and I was surprised that the wind wasn’t affecting me as much as I had anticipated.
But then the second mile happened. I can definitively say that the second mile was the most miserable mile of running weather I have ever experienced. And hey, I’ve run in a -14 degree windchill before. The wind gusts really kicked in during this mile, the rain was pounding, and it was just horrible. I was really happy for my poncho and began to think I would be wearing it for the entire race. My hands were freezing because my gloves were just so wet. I decided to take them off, but they were so soaked that it took me a good minute or so to tug them off each hand. Meanwhile, the wind gusts were making it really hard to move in a forward direction. At one point, a gust of wind pulled my hat off. Luckily, I had tucked my french braid through it and my hair kept it from completely flying off my head. I continued to run, but slowed down a bit to adjust it. I was trying to remember when the course made a slight turn that would give us some relief from the wind. When my second mile beeped in at 8:37 I wasn’t surprised, but at the same time, these weren’t the paces I am used to hitting so it was still disappointing since it was so out of my control.
Heading into mile 3, I reminded myself that I was almost a quarter of the way done. Physically, I felt good. My body had warmed up, my hands actually felt better once I removed the wet gloves, and my core temperature felt pretty controlled. I had worn my Nike Shield Structure and the additional waterproofing along the sides was helping to keep my feet a bit drier than they would have been otherwise. I didn’t have squishy socks yet, so that was a plus. If you’re a Nike wearer, I highly recommend getting a Sheild version of your shoe for rainy days. I hit the second water stop, grabbing a cup to take a sip, and we finally turned after mile 3 rang in at 8:31.
I was starting to accept that this race was going to be even slower than I had anticipated. I was running at my regular effort, but the elements were just killing my paces. I continued on down the really scenic Shore Drive. This was probably my favorite part of the course. It was just us runners on the road with some beautiful wooded area to our right. At this point, the rain tapered off a bit and we were no longer running into the wind. It was such a happy moment when I realized it wasn’t raining. I started to feel good, really good. I decided that with the much lighter rain it was time to ditch my poncho. I tore it off and carried it for a bit until I reached a volunteer at the mile marker and tossed it to him, asking him to throw it away for me. He thanked me for not throwing it into the woods. I hit mile 4 at a 8:09 pace, much more what I had been expecting. At this point, I had gotten a tiny bit ahead of the mile markers, probably from weaving at the water stations. I took my gel shortly after this.
I continued down Shore Drive and was enjoying the scenery, break from the wind, and super light rain. I was finally getting into a rhythm. Everyone was moving along at a nice pace and there was plenty of room to pass without weaving. All the runners seemed well aware of their surroundings and we all pressed on. Plus, my hands were finally dry despite holding my soaked gloves. Miles 5 was probably the least eventful (in a good way) of the entire race and I hit a 8:04 split.
I hit a 8:00 split as we finally reached Fort Story and the mile 6 marker. My leg was bothering me a little bit at this point. I’ve been struggling with some overuse issues that are likely a result of the switch from super flat training terrain in Ohio to rolling hills in Virginia. My leg hasn’t been tracking correctly, though I haven’t had any big issues with it the past few weeks. With 7 miles still to go, I decided to back off my pace a little bit in hopes that it wouldn’t blow up. This didn’t end up being an issue since we had entered the second of the race with bad random crosswinds. At one point there was sand blowing off of a spot and runners would prepare by pulling up their hoods and shielding their eyes as they passed. This was my slowest mile of the second half with 8:19.
Then we finally hit the tailwind! Weeeee! But seriously, at the beginning of mile 8 there were gusts of a tailwind and it was literally pushing me forward. I called out, “Wooooo tailwind!” and the runner next to me laughed. This was a nice little break in effort and I was back down to a 8:02 pace. Unfortunately, this didn’t last the rest of the race like I had hoped. After mile 8 it was back to work.
Mile 9 was also pretty uneventful as we headed out of Fort Story and I always tend to get a little tired at mile 8 and 9. I just kept telling myself to get to mile 10 and then there would only be 3 miles to go. This was really my mental strategy the rest of the race, just count down the remaining miles and keep pushing through them. Mile 9 was a 7:57 and I was surprised because I was pretty drained from the first half of the race. I realized my “Low battery” warning had come on my watch and I dismissed it, hoping it would hang in there for the last few miles.
Back into the neighborhoods. I hadn’t taken off my throw away sweatshirt yet and it was at this point that I realized that it was very, very wet and my arms were very uncomfortable. I decided it was time to shed that layer and I dropped it near a couple standing on a corner hoping they would collect it. Once I took it off, I realized how heavy it had become with water and I suddenly felt super light again. It was beginning to rain again, but with just a few miles to go, I knew I had dry clothes waiting for me at the finish. Mile 10 was a 8:02 and I finally felt like I was hitting the home stretch!
Miles 11 and 12 were much of the same. Just running and pushing to get myself to the finish. I was starting to get a little cold and it was raining again. I ran past a woman wearing a sports bra and shorts which I honestly did not understand. In the days leading up to the race, the forecast was calling for temperatures in the very low 40s, rain, and wind. Of course running in the rain will make you wet, but it didn’t seem smart to just be out in a sports bra and shorts. I started to push on the gas a little for mile 12 knowing I was almost finished and really looking forward to warm, dry clothes. Miles 11 and 12 beeped in at 8:07 and 7:53.
I rounded the corner back onto Atlantic Ave, eyeing the spot where we had started the race. I had heard from numerous people that finishing on the boardwalk stunk because you could see the finish for a long time, but it was still pretty far away. I’m not sure if they have changed the course since years past, but we didn’t actually get onto the boardwalk until about the last half mile or so. As we rounded the corner to the boardwalk access, there was a group cheering runners on. I began to pick off runners and push ahead as I turned and could see the finish. I passed a girl who didn’t seem happy that I passed her, and she stepped on the gas and ran past me. “Ok, let her go,” I thought. I just focused on King Neptune, zeroed in, and ran as hard as I could to get to the finish. I could see the clock near the finish and knew what I has assumed, that I had finished under 1:50. I knew from my first 3 miles and last 3 miles that I would not PR, but I didn’t even care at that point because I was just so happy with how things went considering the conditions.
Mile 13 clocked in at 7:39 and I finished up the last little bit (0.18) in 1:19 – my watch didn’t die, whew! I saw my watch time was 1:47:xx and felt pleasantly surprised to come in so close to my PR.
My official time was 1:47:02. This is only 50 seconds slower than my current PR. This training cycle really threw me for a loop and I didn’t train quite how I had intended, but it seems all of that slow, easy running paid off anyway. I finished really satisfied with how I ran and felt really confident that, had the winds not been so insanely crazy for the first 3 miles, I likely would have gotten a tiny PR.
After I finished I got my medal, my finisher’s hat, beach towel, snacks, and draw-string bag. Oh yeah, this race offers some pretty great swag. Then I headed over to the UPS truck to grab my bag of dry clothes. I walked over to the changing tent to get out of my wet clothes and laughed with those around me as our hands were too cold to open our bags and peel off our soaking wet clothing. It probably took me way longer to change that I realized. I was so happy I had packed dry gloves.
I headed out of the changing tent and it was pouring again! I walked across the wet, uneven sand into the finish party area, but I was already wet again and now I was freezing! I went straight for the Irish stew and stood along the food area sipping on the hot broth hoping to get warmed up. I sent Katie a text to let her know where I was, figuring she had probably finished while I was changing. I chatted with the girl next to me who was wrapped in her towel, drinking broth and explained that she had been running late and didn’t check her bag.
You know that scene in the spring break episode of Gilmore Girls where Paris and Rory are trying to get Yale students to sign a petition and they get caught in the rain and go back to their room and run to the heater and talk about how all they can think about is getting warm? That is exactly how I felt in the moment, even mentioning that to the girl next to me who apparently had no clue what I was talking about. I had turend up the heat in our hotel room before I left and now knew that had been a very smart decision.
Katie quickly found me and was beaming – she had hit a HUGE PR! She has been working hard in preparation for the Flying Pig Marathon and her training is really paying off. She had her stew and we took a selfie before heading back to the hotel to get warm. We skipped our 4 free Yeungling’s because it was just too darn cold.
Whew, that was a long one, folks! Despite the horrible conditions, I really enjoyed this race. It lived up to the hype and I now understand why people love it so much. It’s a fast, flat, scenic course and the entire Virginia Beach area loves and embraces this race. Everyone we met in the two days leading up to the race spoke so highly of the race, most having participated at one point or another. Even on race morning, everyone was in high spirits and the positivity of the Virginia Beach community really shone through.
I would love to do this race again next year, even if the weather ends up being bad again! It was definitely a fun weekend at a great race.
A huge shout and congrats to anyone that ran the marathon. Had I been registered for the marathon, I would have seriously considered taking a DNS to avoid the conditions. I know a few people that ran the marathon and absolutely rocked it (I’m looking at you, Meredith!). Great job to you marathoners that braved that weather and threw down a strong race.