2014 Shamrock is in the bag and so is a brand new PR! 1:39:09! With a goal to break 1:40:00, I’m very happy, even more so since that’s 9:32 faster than last year’s 1:48:41 and 4:23 faster than my previous PR, 1:43:32, from last fall’s Rock n Roll Philly. Race Weekend was great, and here’s my recap:
The weekend kicked off with a fun-filled afternoon volunteering, and shoe shopping, at the Shamrock Expo on Friday and a relaxing Saturday you can read all about in this post. Pre-race swag included my volunteer t-shirt, my Shamrock Half Marathon technical t-shirt, a Shamrock logo emblazoned drawstring bag and, of course, my number.
Race morning began around 5am for the 7am Start with getting dressed in my race gear and eating a big bowl of cereal. Doug and I barely hit any traffic, arriving and parking with plenty of time to spare at the bustling Oceanfront around 6am. I threw in a pre-race foam roll and little warm up while I wrapped up my hydration strategy with a GPS E2 and enjoyed the line free restroom at work. I made for the Start around 6:40, walked the three blocks to Corral 1 in some chilly winds and barely had time to retie my shoes before the national anthem was sung, Team Hoyt was off and, two minutes later, so was I.
Miles 1 and 2 were pretty uneventful. I was getting a feel for the traffic around me, settling into my pace and reminding myself to run my own race and not get caught up with the people passing me. My first two miles were 7:44 and 7:40, respectively, which is exactly where I wanted them. Easy. A handful of cheering fans and a mass of smiling volunteers at the Mile 1.5 Water Stop made me smile as the first 2 miles passed in a blur. Turning onto Shore Drive just before Mile 3, we passed another full staffed Water Stop and entered the tree-lined portion of the course. Here, there was plenty of protection from the wind, and I settled into a comfortable, 7:35/mile average pace. Right where I wanted to be.
Back to boring for Miles 3 and 4. I ran a course I’ve run often easily and steadily, hugging the woods and staying in the flattest part of the road, the bike lane. A DJ, a band and another well manned Water Stop were the extent of scenery through this portion of the course, and by Mile 5, I was feeling really good. My split was 37:44, and with an 8K PR of 37:12, I took a deep breath and actually sang along with the band at Mile 5.5, who was playing the always enjoyable Hey, Jealousy. Just past that, I made the turn off of Shore Drive and towards Mile 6, stepping onto Fort Story. Hello, wind.
I knew heading east and north would be heading into it, but some of the gusts were stronger than I expected. I brought my pace down a bit, to somewhere between a 7:38 and 7:42, for Miles 6 and 7, knowing I’d get a tailwind as soon as the course turned south again and that it wasn’t worth using all of my energy at the halfway point. Similar to those first two miles, there were small groups of fans cheering us on throughout this portion of the course and they definitely helped keep me smiling in less than ideal wind conditions. I ran past the Water Stop at Mile 8, but did get a solid, power-up high-five from an excitable volunteer. Fighting through gusty headwinds for 3.5 miles wasn’t very enjoyable, and sometime after Mile 8, but before Mile 9, I got a little light-headed and wished I had stopped for a gulp or two of water back at the Mile 8 marker.
As the course turned south past the Mile 9 sign, I was feeling better and bypassed the next Water Stop at 9.5 miles. At Mile 10 I noticed a friendly tailwind, but also the slight, 1-2% grade I would be climbing for the near future. I usually increase my pace for the final 5K, and I did a good job, with the help of that tailwind, dropping my pace down to a 7:30 until reaching the next Water Stop. I took a walk break to chug down a few ounces of water at the well staffed Mile 11 Water Stop. That did the job and I knew I could hit my goal with a little room to spare. I maintained my faster pace, clocking Mile 11 in 7:30, with plans to kick it up a notch and run hard to the Finish once making the turn onto Atlantic.
The turn from Atlantic Avenue on the Boardwalk just past Mile 12 was awful. A gushing wind tunnel almost blew my visor off. Luckily, that was short-lived as I turned right onto the flat Boardwalk steps later and caught sight of the Finish. I turned my pace up and had a smile on my face as I breezed through Miles 12 to 13.1 at 7:10, feeling surprisingly good, knowing I had exceeded my goal by at least 30 seconds. Crossing the line, I heard my name, pressed the Stop button on my watch and took a look (1:39:09!?!) before walking on and retrieving my post-race swag. First was a big, heavy, shiny medal, then water, Gatorade, bananas, granola bars, Shamrock cookies, pretzels, a Finisher’s beach towel (awesome, and super handy on a windy day), a Finisher’s hat and finally a Finisher’s photo in front of the Shamrock step and repeat.
I took another look at my watch, which was definitely reading 1:39:09 and was very excited. New PR? Time to Party! The Shamrock Crew makes that easy. I slid on flip flops and ate a banana as fast as I could to ease a suddenly crampy foot while Doug and I made our way to the tent. Finishing early meant no lines for ID check, beer or stew and as we waited for Half Marathon runner friends to join us, we enjoyed the spacious, wind free tent and great tunes from The River Boyz. I also had the opportunity to meet Hollie, which was awesome and who I’m excited to see again in three weeks at April Fool’s. Two hours and lots of friends later, we left the now very crowded tent, used Port-a-Potties that had no lines, and went to have a delicious lunch at Pi-Zerria. After lunch, I went back to the tent to congratulate a few friends who had run the full marathon (crazy kids), then called it a day and started for the car around 2:00.
2014 Shamrock was definitely Shamrockin’ and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Well, maybe less wind. It was great to be in Corral 1 and I had little traffic to contend with in the first two miles. Past Mile 2, I had open running room for the entire course, except for when I was trying to hide behind someone and have them block the wind for me. I did an excellent job of stick with my race plan and accomplished exactly what I set out to. My official, overall results with a finish time of 1:39:09 were 452 of 8936 overall, 116 of 5510 ladies, and out of all those women, I was 21 of 984 in the 30-34 age group.
J&A always does an incredible job putting on an event, and this year’s Shamrock was no exception. The Start was right on time and smooth as could be, course support was wonderful, there was never a line for port-race Port-a-Potties, every volunteer was smiling, finisher swag was great, lines for beer when the tent was crowded were reasonable, the bands rocked and the only thing I’m left wondering is why we don’t do that more often.
Did you Shamrock this year? Have you in the past?