Monday, March 22, 2010

Shamrock Marathon Weekend Experience

Here is a report on my first full Marathon experience.
Friday night we drive down to Virginia Beach. Traffic sucked on 95 but then again it always does.
We get to the hotel and check in. We find some friends and talk about dinner plans.
Saturday comes and I plan on taking it as easy as possible.
We look out our window and see some the runner who are participating in the 8k run by. We cheer from our balcony on the 7th floor. I know what it means to hear some cheering going on so I try to give back as much as I can.
We gather up some things and go downstairs for breakfast. We meet up with our friends/family and have small talk. Next up is packet pick up at the expo.
We are less then a mile from the convention center so we walk on down. It was a good walk.
We get to the convention center and sign our waiver, pick up our numbers and shirts and then walk around the vendors.
They had some dancers from An Cor Rud School of Irish Dance. They were very entertaining. My kids, ages 13 and 10, really enjoyed watching them. It kept them busy as my wife and I walked around the vendors. There were a lot of good vendors there with some good deals, bought my wife some new shoes. Of course I had too as I took her bag out of the car while I was packing, some day I will learn......
So we all gather up and start heading back to the hotel. The kids and I get our bathing suits on and head to the pool. My wife and our friends who aren't running go walking around. I sit at the pool reading the latest issue of runners world while my kids swim around.
Carbo loading dinner comes. As I mentioned I was there with some friends and family. My brother in law runs with Columbia Strider's and we had about 30 people at dinner. It was a good time. We talked and ate. Now it was time to get some rest. We walked back to the hotel and watched some of the NCAA tourney then I went to bed around 9 pm.
Race day. This is what it is all about.
My alarm goes off at 5:30 am. I want to be able to wake up and get some food in me but not too much. I have my standard that I have been using before all of my long runs, a nice bowl of Apple and Cinnamon oatmeal. I drink a couple of glasses of water and I almost had a cup of coffee. I usually drink coffee however I never had any coffee before any of my long runs. I was always told, "don't do anything that you didn't do during training".
So I did some very light stretching in our hotel room while my wife and kids got dressed. We go down to the lobby and meet up with everyone else where the hotel had some food out for all the runners. I was too nervous and excited to eat anymore.
Our hotel was about a mile away so at 7 am we start walking down to the start line. It was a nice cool morning, great weather for running. The sun was starting to rise and it was just beautiful.
We make it to the start and I must say that it was kind of nice not having to deal with a huge mob of people. My previous races have been the Cherry Blossom 10 mile and the Baltimore half marathon. These races had maybe 5 times as many people as the Shamrock. So I was able to find my way to the 5 hour pace group with out any issues.
8:00 am comes, temperature at gun time was about 50 degrees. It was nice. I passed over the start line and was looking for my wife and kids. Well I ran right by them and yelled as I passed. Gotta work on that, anyway. As I mentioned it was not too crowded so I was able to get into a grove early and stay with it. We start out heading south to Rudee inlet. I am feeling good. I am right with the 5 hour group. We get to the second water stop right after mile 2 and right before the Rudee Bridge. In hind sight this might have been part of my "downfall". There was some traffic and I got behind 2 girls with very curly hair. All I could smell was hair product. Not really sure how else to describe it. Well with that and the excitement of getting over the bridge, I picked up my pace every slightly. I told myself "ok calm down, you have a ways to go. Just get over the hill and slow down." When I got to the top of the hill I am sure I slowed a little bit but I was feeling good. So from Mile 3 to Mile 8 there really is not much to say. I was just cruising along without a care in the world. At about mile 4.5 we met up with runners coming the other way. I tried to look for my brother in law, who was going for a Boston Qualifier, and other friends. Well I did not see any of them.
At Mile 8 there are no words to really describe the atmosphere. We were on the grounds of Camp Pendleton. We come up to a line of soldiers cheering us on and give us high 5's. This gave me a boost. I was extremely pumped and started to speed up very quickly. I was able to catch myself and slow down. I made a comment to one of the other runners near me that we needed them, the soldiers, closer to the end and not here. She agreed with me.
So on we go, off of the base and coming up to Rudee Bridge and mile 10. All is still going really well. I can tell that it is starting to get warmer so I tell myself to take water at every stop, sometimes 2 cups. We get to the "boardwalk" and there is a nice breeze the kind of cools you off a bit. I am carrying my cell phone with me, pull it out and take a picture of mile marker 11 and send it off to my wife letting her know that I am getter closer. I did the same at mile 12.
As I run past the starting line I can here my wife cheering for me. I made me feel really good. She takes some pictures of me and as I run by we blow each other a kiss. This gave me another little boost. I come up to the half way point and I am feeling ok. Not as good as I did before.
The only thing that I can say from mile 13 to 16 is that there was great crowd support. Could not ask for anything better. Here is where I guess you can say that I hit the wall. From Mile 16 to 22 is fort story, and there is almost nobody there. There are 3 water stops, 2 djs and one band. Here is where I could have used the soldiers from mile 8. Anyway, I kept telling myself that this is my first marathon and it is a huge accomplishment. Not very many people have the courage to do what I am doing. I did not want to walk, but I did. I am not sure where it was but the 5 hour pace guy went right on by. I got down on myself because I wanted to do it in under 5 hours. This is were I came to reflect on my training and all of the words of encouragement that I received from friends, family and strangers. At mile 21 I took a Carb boom along with some Advil, had a "come to Jesus moment" sucked it up and started focusing on a structured run walk plan, because I was damned if I was going to let the sweep bus catch up to me. I started out with run 5 min walk 1. Then started to add a min to the run if I felt good. At Mile 23 I was getting into a well defined groove and by mile 25 I was not walking anymore. I knew the finish was close and what was there besides the finish? My wife and kids!
I started looking at people in front of me and saying I'm going for that one. One by one I would pick off runners. Then we make our turn onto the boardwalk and there it is. I can see the big green finish line banner. My focus is so clear now, and then I see him. The guy that was speed walking the course. I was bound and determined that I was going to cross the finish line before him. I come up next to him, he looks at me and says "come on, I'm walking here, your not going to let me beat you, are you?" Well that was all I needed. It gave me an extra pep and I darted to the finish line at 5:24:29. There is almost no better feeling then to finish what you set out to do, have your family there to embrace you at the end, and to top it off, you get your name called out as you are crossing the finish line. WHAT JOY!!! I did it, and yes a tear did come to my eye.
What an experience. Feeling the way that I felt at the end makes me want to sign up for my second marathon, only problem is that registration has not opened yet. Now if you would have asked me between miles 16 and 22 I would have cussed at you.
I have learn a lot and plan on putting that to good use in the months and years to come.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Well done, you did it! That is fantastic, finishing your 1st marathon! The time is not important, the finish is. Congrats!

  2. Thanks for sharing your race report. I'm sure this is the first of many marathons to come! Great effort!