This was our 3rd Shamrock…we love the post-race party, love going to VA Beach with a bunch of MMTC friends, and oh yea, the race is pretty good too. We’ve always done the half… but 6 months ago, with a goal of qualifying for Boston on our bucket list, we signed up for the marathon. Flat & fast would give us a good shot at a BQ…although it can be very windy (more on that later).
So after our REV3 Cedar Point last September, we decided to put a marathon in before Shamrock (suggestion: have someone supervise you after an Ironman…you’re so fired up on endorphins, you’re liable to sign up for pretty much anything!!) So we signed up for NCR in November. A major bump in the road when Danny developed severe plantar fasciitis and couldn’t train for or run NCR…so I was on my own. Training went great and I was on pace for about a time in the low 3:30’s (which would be a huge PR). At 10, I felt a twinge in my right IT Band, which was totally new…at 16 the twinge was severe pain…and the rest of the way, I was lucky to be able to walk/run/drag my leg. Fortunately, I had been so far ahead of my necessary BQ pace (3:55), that I still finished with a PR of 3:41. It was bittersweet; I had my BQ, but I felt at least on that day, I was capable of more. And of course, now I was hurt and finished a great 2012 on the sidelines.
So I recovered…as did Danny…and we got some great (although time crunched) training in for Shamrock. (For those interested, we use Don Fink’s book, “Mastering the Marathon for the 40 plus Athlete”, as well as a plan from Smart Coach at Runnerworld.com – both are excellent). I was excited to run the marathon because Heather B, Kim S, and I had decided we would run it together, to help pace Heather to the 3:45 she needs for Boston. But the injury gods have been unkind this year. Both Heather and Kim are injured and had to pull out of the race weekend. Danny would be running ahead of me in his goal for a 3:25 BQ. And several other friends pulled out of the marathon as well. I had been looking forward to a large group to finish with (the half starts at 7am, the marathon starts at 8:30…so our friends who were doing the half would be long done and have had their fill of Yuenglings in the post-race tent by the time we even crossed the finish line). It was just Danny, Chip, and me that would miss the early festivities.
Race morning was cold and WINDY!! Very windy. But luckily, the rain they called for held off. We actually watched the half go off from our hotel balcony, soon after waking up (the one good thing about the later start…I got outta bed at a reasonable 6:45). When it was our turn, Danny joined the 3:25 pace group – good luck kiss and away he went to line up with them. I decided what the heck, I’d start with the 3:35 pacers and see if I could hang on. Since I was on my own, I might as well try for a PR.
The 1st 13.1 miles goes south, the opposite direction of the half. It loops back around onto the far south end of the boardwalk…and the wind was mean!! I had kept the pace group in my site, but was a bit back, on my own. So I sprinted a little, to get back into the middle of the group and allow the pack to help shield me from the wind and not have to work so hard. Turned out to be a very good move. I felt great thru 13, as we went through town and now joined the half marathon course. Maybe it was because I knew that part of the course, maybe it was bc I knew the tent was right there and all my friends were done, maybe it was the wind….but as good as I felt thru 13, now I felt tired and in survival mode. I’m a GU every 45 minutes runner, and water only thru the water stations, while still running. I don’t run with hydration belts in races bc they annoy me and I don’t stop to drink. I alternately fell off the pace group slightly, would recover, then fall slightly off. But they were always within sight and I always have a good kick at the finish so I didn’t worry about it. There wasn’t much I could do anyway, as I felt I was giving all I had – I just felt like I was running steady. The group running with the pacer had thinned out a lot anyway. Interesting side note…at about 21, they steadily came back to me (or I to them?) and there was about 5 women running with him including me. I don’t talk in marathons (no extra energy to expend!) but I like to listen to all the chatter, so I don’t get bored So a girl calls him out on the fact that he has all women running with him. He said it was his 11th Shamrock pacing at 3:35 and it is the most coveted job to have. Why? A group of 30 something year old women trying to get into Boston…so he typically ends up running with all women. He even said, “Stick with me ladies, I’ll get you to Boston”. (I won’t tell you what I wanted to say back to him at that point!)
Anyway, I slowed down a little to stay with the pace group, but then decided to just run what I was comfortable with…so I pulled ahead for awhile. I was running blind bc I had given my Garmin to Danny; he had forgotten his and I wanted him to know his pace all race long. (Yes, even after all these races, we still apparently need a checklist to make sure we have everything…at least it wasn’t shoes this time!) At about 21, my quads started to tell me they were ready to be done. It’s a flat course with only 3 slight elevations – but what it lacks in hills, it makes up for with wind resistance. I was thankful there was no downhill that I would tumble down! So as my quads burned, the pace group (which was down to 3) came back to me, then passed me. I was afraid to push any further, in case my quads completely seized and I couldn’t finish, that close to the end. Turned out to be a good move, bc at 24, a girl who had been with the pace group all race and I’m sure was going after her BQ, pulled off to the side and stopped. I hope she finished but I’m sure her quads had cramped and it may have cost her a BQ. I looked at my cheap $40 watch…and knew that with 2.2 miles to go, I was actually still ahead of 3:35 pace and could still make it, even though I was no longer with Mr. “Stick with me ladies”.
The finish of Shamrock is cool – you come back into town, turn onto the boardwalk, see the huge Neptune statue, and think wow I’m almost there. But I knew enough NOT to sprint when I saw the statue…too far from the finish still! I just steadily picked it up, started to pick off a few people, and went into 5th gear at the statue (yes, I really enjoy a strong finish, trying to pass as many runners as I can in the last several hundred yards – I’ve never been one to just cross the finish line if I had more to give. I did pray my quads wouldn’t pick THAT time to seize up…that would have been embarrassing, falling on my face 100 yards from the finish line!) I crossed the line in 3:34:14…a new PR and improved my registering position for Boston by another day or so…very exciting! Finishing 3rd in my AG is out of my control but still made me happy.
So as I ran, all I could think about was how was Danny doing. I knew his foot must have held up bc I never caught him. And I knew he must have been close to his BQ, based on how I finished. I saw him almost immediately…ran over hoping and praying he had made it. I was already just amazed…6 weeks ago, he was in a walking boot for 2 months and not running. In 6 weeks, he had gotten himself into marathon shape and able to make a serious run at a BQ. He missed it…by 18 seconds. A 3:25:18. Which 2 years ago, would have qualified him. But now, they don’t give you the extra 59 seconds. I was crushed for him. But he was amazingly positive. He felt he learned a huge lesson. He had felt strong, and at 16 when a few runners pulled away from the 3:25 pace pack, he went with them. It left him exposed to the wind and made him work harder than he would have in the pack. When the pack eventually caught him, he couldn’t quite hold on, and when he asked his legs to sprint to the finish, they refused and had nothing left to give. So lesson learned – stay with the pace group, let them do some of the work for you on a windy day, and have something left to give at the end. He has his next shot on May 5th at the Potomac River Marathon…I have no doubt he (and Chip) will get their BQ that day.