Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Anthem Shamrock 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

Let me begin by saying that leading up to race day I was very impressed with the organization and communication involved with this race!  I followed them on Facebook (here) where they posted regularly leading up to the race and I also received emails communicating information that was needed. Facebook was a great way to stay motivated and also a great place to get information. In the final days leading up to the race the posts built up the excitement and helped get me ready for race day!
Before going to bed on Saturday night I got all of my gear laid out and ready to go. I got a pretty good nights sleep but race day started bright and early! I was so glad that we had decided to get a hotel room in the area of the race because we had to get up early enough even being this close. We got dressed and I had a banana and some water for breakfast. About 5 AM Chris and Christine texted that they were there so they came up to the room and we put on our temporary tattoos, took a few pre-race pictures, and got ready to head out.
All ready for the race!

Me & Julie

Chris, Julie, and Me
Christine & Chris
After getting our pre-race photos done we headed out to walk the 16 blocks to the start line for the 1/2 marathon. It was chilly and windy but the walk wasn't too bad - there were people everywhere and the atmosphere was energizing! We got to the start and the next task was to figure out the corral system. I have never done a race that had this. I was to start in corral 4 and Chris was in corral 5 so we made our way back to the general area and ended up at what we think was the very end of 4 and beginning of 5. In looking around the crowd of people around us it didn't seem to matter as much as we thought it did. There was a mix of people around us. We tried to stay warm off to the side until after the National Anthem. At that point we tried to make our way into the mass of people. They announced that they had members of Team Hoyt running and they got them started. Before we knew it corral 1 was off and little by little we began to move forward. At this point I noticed my stomach growling - my banana and water were not enough for breakfast but it was too late to worry about it now!

my view towards the start line
the view looking behind me
photo courtesy of Christine Gage
As we began to move forward I started my music. I always have music on training runs but this is the first race that I have listened to music - usually my husband is next to me and we talk through the race. Because of this he worked very hard making me a special play list. I hadn't run with this play list yet but on the trip out I flipped through it to see what songs were all included. I have to say he did a great job and had the perfect songs timed out to hit in the perfect spots! 
We got closer and closer to the start line and before I knew it we were off! We were spread out across four lanes of the road but it was still pretty congested. Chris and I stayed together for the most part as we zigged and zagged our way through all of the people. It was at this point that I realized that I forgot to tell him about my weirdness of needing people that I am running with to be on my right side. Each time he ended up on my left I managed to find a way to get back to his left side. As we knocked out the first few miles I was feeling really good - strong and in the zone! I think it was at the 3 mile water stop that Chris and I lost each other. I forgot to discuss with him that I don't like to stop at the first few water stops (I need to re-think this in the future). As we came up on the water stop I moved off to the left side to avoid everyone stopping and he opted to stop and got stuck behind a wall of people and  I didn't even realize it until later.
Miles 3-6 we were down to running on two lanes of the road. It was a nice stretch as it was tree lined on both sides so some of the wind was blocked. There were also signs along the side of the road with St. Patrick's Day jokes on them. There would be a question on one and then a little ways down the road would be the answer to the joke. I have to say that I really enjoyed them and some even made me laugh to myself! It was also during this point that I came upon some Team Hoyt runners. As I moved to the side to go around them I had tears in my eyes - I was amazed by them and was honored to be running with them!
Right before mile 6 we turned to the right and entered Fort Story and hit the wind again. As I came up on the 6 mile water stop I was starting to feel very thirsty. I took a Carb Boom energy gel and put it in my pocket for later and then grabbed a cup of water and tried to drink it while I kept running. Good thing there was only a small amount of water in it because I nearly choked on it. It was about this point that I started to "feel it". I am not even really sure what "it" was- I think it was all mental because my legs felt great but there were times that I wanted to walk. Looking back I think it was the lack of my normal breakfast and the lack of water leading up to the race.
I tried to focus on enjoying the race and my music. I could feel myself speeding up with certain songs and slowing down a bit with others but I think that was good for me. My husband did a great job of placing songs to help me get through the tough points.
Just before mile 8 I moved over to the side and walked while I opened my packet of Honey Stinger Chews and ate a couple of those. Then I ran until the water stop where I walked through the stop and grabbed water. Once it was gone I started running again. I still felt pretty good for the most part but I was starting to feel myself slow down.
We left Fort Story and were back in neighborhoods where there were more spectators again. I walked through the next water stop taking Gatorade and was feeling ok until about mile 10. This is where one of the songs got me! Little Things by One Direction came on my iPod and it made me cry and I ended up having to walk to control myself! This is a special song that my husband says is just for me and it couldn't have come at a better time because I was struggling! I regained my composure and started to run again.
 I walked through the mile 11 water stop and took a cup of Gatorade and water. Once through the stop I started running again but I continued to struggle. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath and like I was starting to get a side ache. There were more spectators along this area so that helped but my mind got the best of me- my legs felt fine so I don't know what was going on! At the 12 mile point I told myself that I was going to run it out. As we came around the corner where we turned to go up on the boardwalk Team Livestrong lined both sides of the route! Seeing them gave me the energy that I needed to keep going but it also brought with it more emotion! There were several times (from mid-December until early January when I got all of my test results back) that I wasn't sure if I was even going to be able to come on this trip or do this race! Through all of my surgery there was always doubt in the back of my mind! I hated to get excited about the trip because of all of the "what ifs". What if... the cancer had spread? What if ... I needed radiation? What if... I needed chemo? I used this emotion to help push me to the finish!
As I came onto the boardwalk I could see the finish line in the distance but it felt like I was never going to get there! I usually try to have a good kick at the end but I could feel that it wasn't going to be there. I still don't know what it was. I know it was mental and maybe a bit emotional because my legs really did feel fine. I had been so worried about my left knee in the few weeks leading up to the race but it never once gave me any problems during the race! I pushed myself to keep running! I crossed the finish line and it felt amazing! My watch said 2:07:27. Not exactly the 2 hours I was shooting for but still pretty close to my past times. I collected my medal and finishers hat. Once I had those there were several more sets of volunteers handing us bananas, pretzels, granola bars, cookies, water, Gatorade, and even an amazing fleece blanket. Just when I was thinking, "oh my gosh my hands are full" a volunteer handed my a sinch-sack bag to put it all in. Then there was the finishers photo area where there was a volunteer just to hold my stuff! I felt like I was treated like a queen going through this area! They really knew what they were doing. After getting through the finish chute and collecting all of my goodies I made my way to this area where I had tears in my eyes as I called my husband!
I did it!
2:07:28 official time
I was proud of myself for doing it by myself without him to push me but I was also kicking myself for not pushing myself harder during those tough miles. It was really hard to have such an emotional run and not have him at the finish. I was freezing at this point so we talked briefly and said our goodbyes. I had no idea where Chris and Christine were or how I was going to find them so I headed in the direction of the hotel. Thank goodness for Smartphones (I wasn't thinking earlier to get either of their cell phone numbers) because Chris posted on my Facebook wall that they were looking for me and told me where to find them. I headed back to the tent and was able to find them right away. 
Chris and me post-race
We stood in the tent for a while discussing the race. My stomach is always a little off after a race but I was starting to get very hungry so I enjoyed my pretzels and eventually my cookie. Even though we were inside the tent it was still freezing. I was soaked from being sweaty and I was shivering so hard that my stomach and back were starting to feel crampy and our legs were starting to get stiff from standing and not stretching. I got my text message update that Julie was at the 13.1 mark of the full marathon so we decided to get in line for the Irish Stew and head back to the hotel room to get warmed up and to stretch a little until Julie would be closer to finishing.
This baby came in handy as we were freezing in the finish area!
Love the bling!
The walk back to the hotel actually felt good- loosening up my legs. I spent some time stretching and then changed into warmer, dry clothes. It wasn't long and we got another text update that Julie was at mile 18. We got ready, turned up the heat in the room, and headed back to the finish line to watch her come in.
We found a great place at the Half Marathon 13 mile mark to see Julie in.

Christine (our MVSP- Most Valued Support Person) and Chris

Crystal- A former middle school classmate that lives in Virginia Beach
We were able to meet up with her briefly the night before the race
and she joined us to see Julie finish.
It was very windy and cold waiting for her to come. We enjoyed cheering on everyone as they were coming in. It was amazing to me how good so many of them looked with .1 to go of 26.2 miles! There were also some who didn't look so good but you could see them gain energy as we cheered for them. The longer we waited the more I started to shiver again. I was starting to move around a little trying to keep myself warm. Julie had been saying that her goal was to finish as close to 4 hours as she could. I also knew that her first marathon was 4:25ish. We saw the 4 hour pacer come and go. Then the 4:15 pacer and the 4:30 pacer. I was starting to worry about her. I was praying that she was ok and that she didn't have an injury. I had the camera all ready to get a picture of her as she came towards the finish line. Then, someone commented on how strong these two girls that were running together looked. They had just pasted me when I saw that Julie was right behind them- we almost missed her and I wasn't able to get any pictures! I said, "There she is!" and we all headed to meet her at the finish area. She looked really good! Turns out she decided to have fun with the race and not worry about time!

All of us in the finish area
We met up with her after she collected all of her goodies. She was amazing and inspires me so much! You would never have guessed that she just ran 26.2 miles! We got one group picture and headed to the tent to warm up and get her some food!
4:37:35 - official time
She earned that beer and Irish Stew.
By this time the tent had started to clear out some. There was actually room to move around and enjoy the great bands that they had playing. If it had been a nicer day out there would've probably been more people sticking around to enjoy the entertainment and the beach. We were all freezing so we decided to head back to the room.

We spent some time discussing the race while we stretched and then said good-bye to Chris and Christine. Julie and I showered and decided that we needed to move around so we didn't get stiff. We knew there was a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods in the area (we don't have either by us) so we headed out to find them. We walked around Trader Joes and checked it out then decided that we needed to find somewhere to eat. We found a Denny's and decided that it was our best option. Julie ordered a burger and I ordered an omelet. We also had to have the "pancake puppies" as an appetizer and they were amazing! They were bite-sized pancake balls that you dipped in syrup (Original Pancake Puppies) or cream cheese frosting (Strawberry Pancake Puppies). After we had our fill we were off to walk around and check out Whole Foods.

It was fun to check out these stores but it was also nice to get back to the room to relax. We packed up our stuff and got everything ready so we could be on the road bright and early on Monday morning and then we just lounged around and went to bed early.

Monday morning we got up and were on the road by 6:30. It was hard to believe that it was already time to make the trek home but at the same time we were ready to just be home. The trip was much quieter and we made more stops! I am sure we both looked great as we hobbled from the car. Julie was such a trooper! I was stiff and sore but how could I complain (well, I did anyway) when she ran twice as far as I did! Once again I have to say she is amazing! On the trip home I started to question doing the Green Bay Marathon. How am I going to do it when this half marathon made me this sore?

We talked off and on during the trip home but on this trip there were quiet times. We did still manage to have fun on the way home. We let Genevieve Penelope Smith (the G.P.S.) guide our way. There were times that we questioned what she was doing- like taking us to an "interesting area" in downtown in Dayton, OH but then we agreed that she knew what she was doing when she led us to Golden Corral (we had planned to eat at one pre-race since we don't have one near us but we opted for the homemade meal when it was offered). Once we had our bellies full (we realized that we never really ate that first day driving home) we had enough energy to get through our goal of Indianapolis. We found another great deal on a hotel in Lebanon, IN and settled in for the night.

Tuesday was another early morning on the road and once again it was a fairly quiet drive. We were both just ready to be home! We made it back to Julie's house right at noon, transferred my stuff to my car, said our good-byes and I was off to finish the journey on my own. I arrived home, unloaded the car, started some laundry and then went to get little man from daycare! He was so cute and all he wanted to do when we got home was snuggle in the chair. I think he missed me! Before long Riley got home from school and Tim got home from work (Isaac was at Disney World with Grandpa and Grandma and wouldn't be home until Thursday). It was an amazing trip but I was so happy to be home and to get back into a normal schedule!

All-in-all I have to say the Anthem Shamrock 1/2 Marathon was an wonderful race and an amazing experience! J&A Racing really knows what they are doing when they put on a race. I would love to travel to the area to do another one of their races again in the future.


  1. Awesome! I did that half too (I live in VB) Congrats. SPA <3

    1. My husband and I are working on getting back out that way for another race and to visit his brother and family. It is such a beautiful place and the race was awesome! Congrats on your finish as well!

  2. AWESOME JOB!!! Ok, you've inspired me! Time for me to find a half marathon soon :-) I need another medal, I can't just stop after one.
    Happy Easter!!!

    1. Get signed up for that half- you will rock it! You are such an inspiration to me and I love that I can pay it forward and inspire you as well. It is exciting to be training for something and working towards a big goal! I also love showing my boys that anything is possible with a little hard work. Happy Easter!