Average pace: 6:45 min/mile
The Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half on Sunday of Labor Day weekend is a good way to end the summer and to start the fall racing season. This was my first race since Lake Placid IM and, despite the humidity, it was a blast.
My wife and I went alone for a change and, except for about 90 minutes Sunday morning, had a very relaxing weekend. Usually I take a boy or two, or three, or four… to my races but I try to save the Rock n Roll Half weekend for my wife alone. (The grandparents took two boys and our weekday nanny took the other two last weekend.)
Traffic to Virginia Beach was lighter than usual for Labor Day (four hours down Friday, about 3.5 hours back on Monday). Friday night, we found a good Indian restaurant (Nawab Indian Cuisine – near the corner of Laskin and First Colonial Road). After sleeping in Saturday (11 hours!), walking about 8-10 miles around the beach, we enjoyed the old standby Italian place for pre-race past on Saturday (Aldo’s, also on Laskin). Then Gail went to a concert, and I went to bed.
It is the Rock n Roll Half Marathon – and it lived up to its billing this year. The bands on the course during the race, and at the evening concerts, were pretty good this year -- the B52s were the main show Sunday night. My wife enjoys it – she’s come to accept my 9 p.m. bedtime Saturday as long as we have a good time Friday and Sunday. (She usually sleeps through the race and I meet her/wake her in time for a late brunch on Sunday….)
They changed the course slightly this year – it looped around in the military base south of Rudee Inlet rather than running more on the streets of the Beach north of 19th Street. (I think it was a traffic congestion compromise – better than the Annapolis “solution”). The change was fine, except you hit the bridge coming back (which the only hill on the course) later in the race when you are more tired. No big deal, particularly after running the hills at Boston, Centennial Lake and Lake Placid this year.
The other novel item was a new type of timing chip – a slip of paper really – it goes through the laces and sticks together with a self adhesive strip – not unlike a bandaid. The tape is a chip, and you don’t have to turn it in after the race. It seemed to work well, although my reported splits were about a minute faster than they actually were according to my watch. (I know I wasn’t running 5:59 pace for the first 5K – I would have been dead). The finish time was the same though. Whatever…it could have been me, but my watch matched the timing clocks at the mile and 5K/10K/20K markers.
This race is always well organized – they do wave starts based on corrals (about 20-24 corrals). It’s big, but you wouldn’t know it. Great start, good course, good music, Cytomax on the course this year, and a good finish area including iced towels, which I appreciated Sunday.
The race went OK for me. This was not one of my A races -- I did a “cut back” week rather than a full taper for the race. I planned to just run however I felt and see what happened. The weather was humid, but not hot (75 degrees and partly sunny). Except for the humidity, it would have been perfect. Usually I don’t sweat until about 1.5 miles in – Sunday, I was sweating while standing the corral waiting for the gun to go off. I couldn’t wait for that first water stop.
And speaking of the corral, I was standing next to this dude who looked familiar. People kept coming up to him and shaking his hand. He had the wrong bib number for our corral (by about 20,000 numbers), but I wasn’t going to say anything. They let him in the corral…not my problem, not my issue. My pace is my problem. Turns out it was some guy named Frank Shorter – the gold medalist in the marathon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. I saw him being interviewed after the race. (I have no clue what kind of a time he ran, but after the start and except for the TV interview, I didn’t see him again….or at least not from a profile I recognized).
My plan was to start off at 6:30 pace for the first 6 miles and see how I felt. It was hard work this year – and I was taking 2 cups of CytoMax at each water stop starting at the first stop, 1.5 miles in. I did not start fast intentionally – but too many people did and I ended passing quite a few in the first 8 miles… When I slowed after mile 10, only a couple caught up. It had to have been the humidity. I hit the first 5K at 19:52 (18:36 according to the computer) and the 10K just over 40 minutes (again, the computer had me at 38:50, which I know was too fast.)
I kept about 6:30 pace through 9-9.5 miles and then decided to throttle back. The humidity sapped me…and my back was starting to complain (I’m having piriformis muscle issues – which must be a 50-year-old thing). I took the last couple of miles around 7:15 pace and finished at 1:28:24, which was good enough for 3rd in the age group. In past years at the Rock n Roll Half, a 1:28 would have been well out of the top five “money” – but not this year – it had to have been the humidity. Not close to a PR, but I’ll take it.
This was a good race and it is always a fun weekend. I recommend it. For me, it’s sort of a “payback” to my wife – actually a bribe so she’ll continue to support races.