I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. Besides the chance to trade a weekend in DC for a weekend in Virginia Beach, I was excited about traveling to and running a race with Stef, my training buddy and one of my closest friends. (I can't imagine what this weekend would have been like without such fantastic company.) I was also excited about running a race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.
The race series is well known for lining its courses with live bands and cheerleaders. From what I can tell from the interwebs, runners have mixed feelings about these races. Competitor Group, which owns the series, often buys out local races and turns them into behemoths. The group is taking over the Suntrust Marathon and Half-Marathon in DC, which I ran this year, so I was especially curious to see what a Rock and Roll race looked like. I’ll admit that the experience did feel a little corporate -- it’s very clear that Dodge was a major sponsor of the Virginia Beach half, for example -- but I thought that the race was organized very well.
The Full Recap –-
I’ve decided that it cannot be a race weekend unless I run into some kind of problem getting myself there. I woke up early Saturday morning with plans to arrive at the train station by 7:20. With no Metro, I called for a cab at 6:45 – anticipating that it would arrive by 7:00. It should have been more than enough time. When the cab didn’t arrive by 7:10, I started to get a little worried and decided to walk to the main road and try to flag down a cab. I arrived at the train station at 7:30, printed my tickets, and did my best Home Alone impression through Union Station and boarded the train five minutes before it pulled out of the station. (The cab that I requested called me at 7:30 to tell me that it had arrived.)
The train/shuttle to the beach was great. I sat with Stef, switching between chatting, reading (I finished The Help and appropriately moved onto Born to Run), and napping. When we arrived at the beach, our first stop was the Convention Center to pick up our race packets and check out the race expo. My only purchase was the most amazing headband that five dollars could buy.
After the expo, we walked along Atlantic Avenue, stopped for lunch, checked into our hotel, and headed to the beach.
I took a nap before dinner at Dough Boy’s, which had an all-you-can-eat pasta and salad special. I couldn’t have imagined ordering more, since the first helping was already more than I could eat.
On Sunday, the day of the race, Stef and I were out of our hotel at 6:00 AM (well before the sun decided it was ready to start its day) and picked up a shuttle to the starting line. One of first things that I noticed, speaking to the organization of the race, was that there were tons of port-o-potties. This was a welcome change from a lot of the races I’ve done where you stand in line forever to tinkle before the race starts.
Stef and I parted the corrals. (She was assigned to corral five, and I was in six.) Going into the race, my goal was to break two hours, so I positioned myself as close to the front of my corral as possible. As a point of strategy, I told myself that the only thing that I had to do was stay in front of the two-hour pace group.
I always get caught up in the emotion at the start of the race and run much faster than I should. I really shouldn’t be surprised that, even though I said that I would start the race slow and gradually increase speed, I floated around a sub-8:00 mile (Thanks Garmin!) at the start of the race before settling into a hard but doable pace. Occasionally, I would check to make sure that the two-hour pace group was behind me. By the third mile, it hit me that I may have started the race too quickly. (Oops...) I slowed down and fell behind the two-hour group.
I ran the miles four, five, and six, closer to a 9:30 pace, hoping that I could pick up the pace again. I learned during these miles how much of a difference having crowd support can make. The first three miles were along the main strip of hotels, so there were people out cheering in addition to the bands and cheerleaders that RnR schedules; miles four through 11 (a significant chunk of the race) were through more residential areas/Navy barracks, so it was a little quieter – and maybe even a little boring.
My worst splits came during miles seven, eight, and nine. Around mile nine, I started to feel what a baby must experience when he can’t burp on his own. Let me tell you: it’s not fun. I slowed down a lot and ran (walked?) close to an 11-minute mile on one of my splits. Clearly that was not part of the plan. I couldn’t wait until the next fluid station, hoping that I could drink out whatever extra air was floating around.
Over the last three miles, I was able to pick up the pace again. The crowd support at the end of the race was perfect – lots of families were out to cheer on the runners and pass out ice pops and snacks. The last stretch of the race was long the boardwalk, and I wished that more of the race could have been along the ocean. It was beautiful. I crossed the finish line, picked up water, my race metal, cold towel (best thing ever!). Then, I met up with Stef for post-race photos.
Stef, who is much more of a baller, finished in 1:52!
My race by the numbers…
Previous Record: 2:09:33, National Half-Marathon 2011
Gun Time: 2:13:39
Net Time: 2:08:14 (New PR)
Average Pace: 9:47
I’m only slightly disappointed that I didn’t break two hours, but it does open up the opportunity to try to reach that goal next month in Baltimore.
After the race, Stef and I treated ourselves to brunch at Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle Shop. The meal was incredible and much deserved.
Victory pancakes (and bacon and home fries because I could)!
I had great weekend, and I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation before jumping back into training on Tuesday!
Tuesday: 3 Miles
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: 4 Miles
Saturday: 12 Miles
Sunday: 3 Miles