This is one of my favorite races, for many reasons. It was impetus for Kim and I meeting, it is very well organized, excellent expo, excellent swag, sponsored by Yuengling (translation – free beer), in Virginia Beach (translation - visit with my brother), ends on the beach and has a great post-race party.
This year I not only had a score to settle from last year but had to break my half marathon block of not breaking 2 hours and my 2:07, 2:01 repeats. My time for my first half marathon (VA Beach Rock n Roll) was 2:07, second was Shamrock 2:01:57, next was Rock n Roll again 2:07 (but this was after a 53 mile fast flat ride the day before), the fourth was the Shamrock at 2:01:58….so I was hoping this one would NOT be a 2:07! Also last year I hit the wall at mile 8 and felt heaviness in my legs that I have never before experienced. Time to show this course who was boss.
My training through the winter was very different than it had been in the past. I ran almost exclusively on the treadmill, lots of zone 2 training, more intense intervals and worked a little on the evolution running technique.
I kept wondering if my coach was going to give me a race plan: e.g. run zone 2 for the first 5 miles or the first 60 minutes, then Z4 for the next 40 minutes….etc. No such luck. In the weeks leading up the race, I kept mulling over my training, how I felt during each run, trying to get a race plan together.
I felt very ready for the race physically but more importantly felt much more prepared mentally. My goal was not only a PR, which would be anything faster than 2:01:57, but I wanted to break 2 hours.
The night before the race a bunch of MMTCers met at a cute little restaurant and had a nice group dinner. We treated ourselves Dairy Queen (don’t tell my coach) and got to see the incredible moon over the ocean. This was the night of the fullest moon in 18 years and it was breathtaking to see it reflecting over the water.
Kim and I retired to the hotel and I tried to relax. This was a first for me and was a real treat. Usually I am at my brother’s, busy playing with Thomas, and going nonstop until I crash much later than I want.
We got up and had time to have a cup of coffee and try to figure out what to wear. It was over 70 degrees just 2 days ago and now it was 39 degrees with 20 mph winds. We did not pack the right apparel and I was worried about being too cold. I would much rather be hot than cold during a race. Ate half a banana and was out the door just 40 minutes before the race. Another big treat, as I usually have to get up early, drive from my brothers, try to find parking and take a long walk to the race start. A few of us met up in the lobby and headed to race start just 20 minutes before gun time. It was freezing and windy. Hats and race bibs were littering the streets. Everything was blowing around – thank goodness for mental toughness and hard training….otherwise I would have listened to the little voice in my head telling to me turn around and crawl back into a warm bed.
General race plan – Z2 for first 60 minutes, then work my way through Z3 up to Z4 over a mile or so. Then Z4 for rest of race, with a kick into Z5 the last 1.1 miles and negative split the race.
It was great to have Mike and Kim with me at the start. We were huddled together for warmth. As I crossed the start line it was like everything melted away. The wind, the cold, and my anxiety about if my training prepared me. I got in the zone and stayed there for 13.1 miles. I was focused on 1:59:59.
At no point during the race did I struggle enough to make me wonder if I could actually break 2 hours. I felt like my training was right on, despite my pre race doubts about whether all the Z2 running would have me ready enough and despite the fact that the training plan had me running no more than 11 miles before the race.
I kept right on track, stuck with the plan and felt great during the race. Don’t mean to give the impression that I wasn’t working hard. It was the endorphins kicking in, mental high, and pain/pleasure type of feeling great.
I raced using a combination of heart rate, RPE and pace. Since I had been training for 10 weeks on the treadmill using heart rate, I had a very good idea of how I felt and what pace I was at in each zone. I had my Garmin set on overall pace but it was very helpful to have Mike occasionally calling out our instant pace. This helped rein me in when the adrenaline would cause me to go too fast and would help motivate me when I needed it.
The race was a huge success on many counts: met and exceeded my goals: was stoked when I crossed the finish line at 1:56:25 with an 8:53 overall pace and was even more stoked when I looked at my mile splits:
First 6 miles: 9:09, 9:04, 9:07, 9:05, 9:05 9:01
Next 7.1 miles: 8:46, 8:46, 8:49, 8:39, 8:31, 8:32, 8:19 and for the last 0.1 – 7:12
This victory was due to a combination of great coaching/training plan (thanks Mike Matney), dedication and a new found mental toughness on my part, support from great training partners, (thanks Kim and Mike C) and lots of hard work. So worth it all!
The post-race party was the best ever! Lots of singing, dancing, drinking beer and hanging with great friends: Heather, Jim, Kimberly, Mike C, Deb, Danny, Kim and my brother. I don’t usually hang out for too long after a race. I need to do “changing of the guards” and turn my focus to Thomas. Terry and Thomas come to every race and I know it can sometimes be a little challenging to keep a very active little boy occupied for a long time while I am racing. A huge shout out to everyone mentioned above, but especially Mike and Danny for helping entertain Thomas and make him feel a part of it all. Was fantastic to celebrate with my friends!
This one will be on my race calendar again next year – highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, flat, half marathon!