RR: RnR VA Beach HM (more of a blog than a RR)

The RnR VA Beach will always stand out as the race that infected me with the running bug. One boring May morning in 2009 Active.com plopped a marketing email into my work inbox. Beach? Sold! My friends and I formed a group and signed up. Although we rarely trained together directly, we shared tips and encouragement.
I responded really well to the training schedule. At the time, I was dating a boy deployed in Iraq and he signed up too. Committing to a race together soon after he returned home seemed to give me a light at the end of the tunnel and kept me in line all summer. Come race day, I bombed it. I haven’t felt so horrible about a race since, not even the painful Niagara compares to how bad I felt that race. I spent the last 2 miles plotting my Half Marathon revenge before enjoying the rest of the weekend with my friends.
After the 2009 Expo with Julie and Shannon
One month later that boy broke my heart so badly that I still haven’t fully recovered. However, running kept me focused and was my therapy. I kept thinking towards the next goal, rather than looking to the past.
So, VA Beach one year later was a ghost town of memories. The unchanged landmarks and experiences gave me a lot of flashbacks. I guess that explains why I spent so much of this race inside my head.
My friend Julie and I got to VA Beach Expo around 12:30 Saturday. RnR’s are so organized and packet pickup went as planned. The Expo was crowded and claustrophobic. I dragged poor Julie through the vendor maze looking for some flip flops I tried on in Nashville, but failed to buy or remember the name. Mission accomplished!! From there we checked into the hotel, changed into our swim suits, and hit the boardwalk!
Leaving the Expo I had to get a pic with the Elite Corral
Lori, Megan, Paul, Don, Katie were all on the beach about 18 blocks from us but as time went on Julie and I decided to grab some lunch. The timing was horrible and the group left to the Expo by the time we got to the area. But the beach was awesome and I soaked up some sun (not sure how smart that is the day before a race – mistake #1) before we headed back to eat dinner.
There was a pizza place next to our hotel and we assumed a pizza restaurant would also serve pasta (mistake #2) and I probably ate more cheese than carbs but it was yummy so I cant complain. There was also prime VA Beach townie watching at this place as well as the start or what I can only imagine was a pretty good chick fight. Julie and I left before anything went down. I was out pretty quickly and, while I dont always run well, I typically sleep like a champ. Julie wasn’t so lucky and was woken up by drunk people returning home from the bars and our next door neighbors either watching the adult channel on top volume or trying to top it. Poor girl. I’m luckly to be a heavy sleeper 
The 5 am wake up call was not fun. I ate my clif bar and drank some water, but for some reason forgot my pre-half ritual of a small coffee (mistake #3). We walked the 1.3 miles to the start rather than take a shuttle. The morning was cool, but slightly humid and I had to take off my long sleeved t-shirt shortly into the walk. It def felt a lot cooler than last year.
I was happy to have my bag checked and gone through the port-a-potty line by 6:30, the planned meet up time for the group. However, the meet-up landmark had been moved, and the spot was on the other side of the corrals. I peaked around to see if I could find anyone but no luck. Boo. However, I was pretty confident that I would be able to meet up after the race.
The start was almost identical to last year – A little girl sang the Star Spangled Banner so well it gave me goosebumps. People were tossing beach balls waiting for our corral’s turn to go. The only thing missing was the music (there were two guys who sounded like cruise ship directors giving commentary – I thought the music was better) and my friend Shannon, who started in the same corral as me last year. I remembered how nervous she and I were last year and smiled at how calm I was now. This being half #9, I knew I’d beat my last course time. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull a PR (I am so much better in the cold) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for a pleasant surprise.
The sun was rising as my corral was finally released. We ran straight into it and it was was blinding, even with my hat and sunglasses. I ran with my head down for most of this mile. I wanted to run it soley on feel so I didn’t look at my Garmin. I felt like I was at about a 10 min mile but I clocked in at 10:28. Hmmm. This wasn’t normal for a race. Mile 2 wasnt much better at 10:39. Followed by mile 3 at 10:49. I didn’t get it…I was running training paces and they felt hard.
This continued for the rest of the race. I spent a lot of time in my head. It didnt help that the crowd support is pretty much non-existent from miles 3-10, and even then it seemed that a lot of people just look for their friends/family. Typically in races I’m the annoying one heckling spectators into cheering and thanking volunteers. However, this race I was pretty silent while I prayed for Not authorized to view the specified thread 108540 and thought about last year.
Although I was slow, and pretty frustrated at myself because I knew I was slow, I stuck to running based on effort rather than killing myself for a time. It felt good to stomp on the exact spot I fell apart last year feeling strong, even though I found the Camp Pendleton section of the race to be every bit as depressing and long as I did last year. Technically, this was a training run for the Marine Corps Marathon and if I had really thought of it as training run then I would have been happy with my time. My 10 mile and half splits were almost identical to Nashville. Finished in 2:28:47 – 15 min and 30 secs slower than PR. On the flattest course ever and in decent weather. Oh man was I pissed!
I felt fine at the end although the final sprint felt hard. Pretty much the whole race I felt like I could go farther, just not faster. My Garmin died around mile 9 but I wore my polar HRM  too (I dont like the Garmin’s chest strap or the display). My Polar’s been really reliable and I saw a disturbing number that my max HR was 205. I’ve seen my HR go up to 100% before…but never 107%. I was feeling a bit light headed while attempting that push.  My average was 166 (87%), which is way higher than normal for the pace I was doing…so if the result of that push is any indication of how my body was responding that day, I guess that explains why I backed off everytime I sped up. Given than another young man died after finishing this race (a 23 year old kid died in the final mile on the boardwalk last year – both men were runners with no known heart issues), I’m glad I didn’t push it at the end – although at the time I was mad at myself for not being able to kick out the last mile.
Me, Meg, Lorie, and Katie. Pretty ladies with pretty medals!
Post race I finally got to meet up with the crew! Woohoo! This made it all worth it. Of course everyone was awesome and they kicked some serious butt. I wish I hadn’t been soo annoyed with myself at the time and I hope I did a good job hiding my grumpiness!
Julie strolled up a little later, having kicked her time from last year’s butt! So proud of her! I chased PacMan down the boardwalk to get this pic
No joke – he ran a 1:50 something in this!
Post shower hang out with Snowman and Megs
In all, I’m a lot more satisfied with this race than I when I finished. It was a training run…and with that I’m ready to tackle the “Monster” Month ahead of me for MCM. Hopefully with cooler weather comes the return of my happy race reports. I miss those a lot!!
Lessons Learned:
  • I really listened to my body rather than be a slave to my Garmin. I should do that more often. I was pretty steady the whole race, with no burnout
  • Slower training paces during a hot summer have a huge effect on race day (duh!)
  • I have to lose weight. When I stopped full marathon training I didnt stop full marathon eating. I’m sure the extra weight effected me
  • I need to get out of my head and enjoy the race – make my own fun.

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