Monday, March 18, 2013

Race Report: Shamrock Anthem Half Marathon

People often give me crap for being a pessimist. But here's how I look at it: when you have high expectations about things and then they don't go as well as you'd hoped, you'll be pretty disappointed. However, when you have low expectations and then things turn out even just ok, you're thrilled. It's just easier to be thrilled than to be disappointed, wouldn't you agree?

My expectations for this race were low. Very low. Given that my training plan was basically the easiest plan you can do and that I missed two long runs during the most critical weeks of the plan, I think that my low expectations were more than justified. 

So, you can only imagine how over the moon I am over what actually happened yesterday. The running Gods smiled down upon me and I somehow managed to pull out a 1:51:52 - a big time PR - besting last year's time of 1:59:05 by almost 9 minutes! (Is that right? My head hurts too much to figure out math right now... at any rate, that's a lot of minutes!)

Not much about the race itself changed from last year, so I'm not going to write up a full race report. Expo, course, and finish, were all basically unchanged. If you want to know more about them, check out last year's report. Instead, here are some highlights (note: none of these pictures are mine - they are courtesy of Greg, Gretchen, and Sheila).

Race Outfits 
Because we know it's really all about the clothes.

Generally, I am not the type who likes to wear extra stuff when I run. However, since the race was actually on St. Patrick's Day this year, Sheila convinced me that we should wear tutus. We got ours from Amazon and they were surprisingly comfortable for the duration of the race. In fact, I forgot that I had it on until spectators (usually little girls) yelled, "I love your tutu!" I also made an interesting observation in that the further up Greg and I worked in the pack, the fewer people were wearing any kind of festive gear. Apparently serious runners don't wear tutus. Guess I missed that memo.

The rest of my outfit included a Lululemon Cool Racerback in Gingham Frond, Lululemon Run a Marathon Crops, arm warmers, neon green Reebock socks, and my pink Brooks PureCadence. Oh yes, and how could I forget my BIC Band in sparkle apple green? Sheila borrowed the lucky Lululemon Stay on Course tank that I wore to this race last year. I told her that if she wore it, it would help her get that sub-2.

Well, it didn't rain. But it was cold. Very, very cold. During the first 6 miles of the race, we were thankfully sheltered from the wind by various object (trees, houses, etc) but during  miles 7, 8, and 9 we were on Fort Story and the wind was just terrible. I actually had goosebumps throughout this portion and felt genuinely cold and as a rule, once I get going into a run, I am NOT cold. Ever.

I look happy, but I'm freezing to death.
Thanks to a lack of planning and communication, I had a hard time finding Jason after the race. Therefore, I was standing at the finish area for at least 20 minutes without the benefit of a jacket and I got very very cold very very fast. Sheila and her guy Roel found me first and Roel immediately started taking off his coat and wrapping me up. Apparently, my lips were blue.

So yeah. It was cold. Thank GOD it didn't rain because I probably would've gotten hypothermia!

The Run
The plan for this race was to stick with Sheila through mile 3, then take off with Greg in hopes of a sub-2.

Somehow, we all started in Corral 2. I have no idea how this happened. Sheila and I both put our expected finish times at 2:00; Greg put his at 1:50. While respectable, these aren't super fast times and with 10 corrals, I was really surprised at our placement.

The worst moments of the race were the delayed start. We all stood shivering and huddling in our corrals while the announcers repeatedly apologized for the delay while they "cleared the course." I'm not sure what the total delay was, but it was somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Personally, I just wanted to start running because I was freezing to death. As a result of the standing around, I'm pretty sure my legs were tighter and I couldn't feel my hands for at least the first 2 miles and no, I'm not exaggerating.

Despite not feeling my hands, the first three miles felt almost casual. We were those  annoying people who laugh, joke, and take photos while running.

At mile 3, Sheila told us to go for it. We high fived and with that, Greg and I picked up the pace slightly. My right thigh, still sore from too many lunges a whole week earlier, started to feel tight but I wasn't going to stop or slow. Everything else was great: the appendage-that-shall-not-be-named was a non issue, my cardio felt awesome, my stomach was fine. Greg and I passed the time by goofing off, singing, telling dirty jokes, etc. Greg even updated his Facebook with on-the-run photos, for which I admonished him, "You know, we are  running a half marathon right now!"

Throughout miles 4-9, we somehow maintained a pretty much on-the-nose 8:30 pace. I was thoroughly impressed with us, especially considering that I am generally the world's worst pacer. So Greg and I had a the following conversation about who was in control:

Me: Greg, how are we doing this? We are rocking this. Thank God you're here to.
G: What are you talking about? I'm pacing you!
Me: Nuh uh. I'm pacing YOU.
G: But are you?
Me: I dunno. Who is in charge right now?
G: You are - or am I?
Me: Alright seriously, who is running this show?

We never agreed on who was in charge.

At Mile 11, my legs really started to ache. I know that I had not stretched enough in the corral... I had been so cold that I spent most of my time huddling with Sheila and wishing we could just start running.

At 11, Greg and I had dialed things up. His goal was to PR, meaning he needed a 1:52:00 or better. Considering our pace to that point, I knew that I was going to PR no matter what so when my legs really started to sing at Mile 12, I told him to kick it and that I would see him at the finish - I didn't want to be the reason he didn't get his own PR that day.

The last mile was tough for me. I was hoping to get the same boost that I got last year once the spectators started to cheer, but it just didn't happen. I wanted to tear it up as soon as I hit the boardwalk but my legs weren't going to allow me to go any faster than I was going. About 20 feet from the finish line I spotted Greg waiting just on the other side for me and I finally found a tiny bit of reserve in my legs, propelling myself over the finish and immediately giving him a huge hug. We had done it - we had both PRd.

My splits:

After leaving me and my slow legs, Greg really kicked it. His last mile was a super speedy 7:18 and he finished with a time of 1:50:41.

Sheila also totally rocked it - her first half marathon and she got a 1:59:30! I'm so proud of her.

Lucky Lulu strikes again!

How did this happen?
I still kind of feel like the entire race was a dream. The fact that my right calf has been howling at me all day is the only thing telling me that yes, in fact, I did run a half marathon. And not only did I run it, I kind of totally kicked its a$$.

Being me, I've been trying to figure out how I did this. By all accounts, this should not have been a PR. Three months ago, I was still run/walking. Even before the injury, when I thought I was in the best shape ever, I was not running this fast. My training for this race was not nearly as intense as the plan that I followed last year. But here I sit with a 1:51:52 (official time) half marathon and the best news is that the appendage-that-shall-not-be-named does not hurt. Not one little bit.

So how did this happen?? A few theories.
  • First and foremost, running with Greg. Not only at the race, but also during all of those training miles. Running with someone else just makes it that much easier. Though Greg definitely has far more stamina than I do, I think that we are both in the same pace boat (which is why we can never agree on who is running the show) and are very good for each other as running partners.
  • Cross training. Running just 3 days a week and with low mileage to boot, I have to attribute my speedier pace to the miles of biking and swimming. 
  • Pure dumb luck.
I guess I should just stop theorizing and take it and run with it, right? 

Actually, this one is my photo
and my metal! =)


  1. Congrats on the huge PR! Some year I need to run this race.

  2. Great job! Wish I could run that fast! That's awesome!