Sooooo…. Sunday was the big day. I had a lot of mixed feelings about this event (more on that here), but was bound and determined to follow-through and finish strongly. I had also decided not to take many photos and not to even try to attempt to take pictures of each mile marker like I had at Disney.
Alarms went off at 3:50 AM, and we quickly got ready and headed out for our long drive back to Virginia Beach. We had just been there for the Shamrock Expo (recap here!) the night before, but luckily we got there early with no traffic and were able to park on 19th Street. We had enough time to take a quick nap in the car before getting ready. I ended up changing what I was wearing when I took one last glance at the forecast for the day. I was thankful for the cold temps but a little weary of the rain in the forecast.
During one of our 13 snow days off from work this winter, I was able to decorate a race shirt revealing my pregnancy with our second baby! We are due in September!!
On the front it says “Running for 2” with a baby leprechaun. On the back, it says “Baby’s 2nd Marathon” with a little 3-leaf footprint clover I freehanded after finding a similar one on Etsy. Even though I was also pregnant at the Disney Marathon, I knew that this one would be much more difficult after 7 straight weeks of
morning sickness 24-hour nausea, throwing up, and very haphazard training!
Once outside, I decided to replace my shorts with long pants (later, I really regretted not wearing my calf compression sleeves and PowerCore capris). It was quite a bitterly-cold hike to the starting line. A lot of people were taking refuge in the McDonalds near the parking lot, so we followed suit for a few minutes before making our way to 30th and 31st Streets. We took lots of pre-race photo ops at the starting line and on the beach, then spent our final few minutes before the race warming up in the lobby of a hotel with hundreds of other runners next to the start line.
J&A released the corrals in waves just a few seconds apart, and I was excited to hear that my husband’s corral had started. He ran this same race last year injured, so I know he was hoping to chop a huge chunk off of his time from last year. He has been training so faithfully, and I am so proud of him. About six minutes later, my corral was off as well. I started my RunKeeper app as well as the timer on my watch, just in case something malfunctioned with my phone – I would be very grateful for this later!
Soon after starting, I found myself running with a girl of about my same pace named Kelley. We managed to talk and stay together for 13 miles, including water stops, GU shots, and porta-potties. We took several pictures together at Mile 13 before crossing the 13.1 split timer. We kept each other motivated on the 2 big hills and through Camp Pendleton and long stretches of roadway. The temps were frigid, but the headwinds were worse, especially out on the boardwalk oceanfront early on. It felt like we were trying to run with our legs underwater! It was so cold that it was difficult to breathe or even drink cold water. My doctor had advised me to stay very hydrated, so I only skipped a few water stops on the course, and I got Gatorade at every stop, sometimes mixing it with water.
Not long after the halfway point, I began regretting not just doing the half marathon. It was mentally challenging to think that for all the time I had been running that morning, I still had the same distance left in my race – 13.1 more miles. I watched dozens of half marathon finishers walking back to their cars with their medals and finisher hats and beach towels. I have never felt like that during a long training run or race before.
My legs began to lock up – they felt wooden, and I wished I had opted to wear my compression sleeves instead of checking them in my dry bag for post-race recovery. After stopping against a bright orange cone on the road to stretch my calves, there was a large gap of distance between me and Kelley, so she gave me a thumbs up and headed on, while I finished up stretching and picked up my pace again. I was glad that baby & I would not be holding her back! I was getting text notifications of where my husband was on the course (I had registered to track him using a ChronoTrack race timer), and he was getting further and further ahead of me as well. At one point, the road was divided around Mile 14 (map here), and runners on their way to the finish began passing us on the right side of the road (we were on the left). It was crazy to know that they were on Mile 24.5 while we were on 14! I began scanning the crowds of runners for my husband, and that kept me occupied for awhile. I finally spotted him and yelled his name several times before he saw me.
Then it was time to continue the long trek to Fort Story. I knew I’d have to run all the way up, circle the base, and run all the way back down again. Much different than all of the attractions, characters, and landmarks I looked forward to during the Disney Marathon!
Once I hit Mile 17, I was relieved to know that there were only single digits left in the marathon, albeit 9 miles! That was very encouraging, and I continued on. I knew that I would be able to finish at this point. I stopped briefly near a wooded area to rub Biofreeze all over my calves and lower back. I had a spinal fusion in 2001, and my lumbar was too stiff to move. The Biofreeze provided instant relief.
Let’s talk about race ports-potties: None of them had soap, most of them lacked TP, and they were gross. But when you’re running, you don’t care. Although I did choose to skip the one where urine was literally flowing out of a clogged urinal onto the floor like a fountain. And one time, I tried about 10 doors before I found one that had TP.
Around Mile 20, I hit a wall. An absolute wall. But I knew that with only 6.2 miles left, I would finish. I began wondering about the rain. I checked my watch, checked the clouds, checked my watch, checked the clouds. No rain, just dark clouds. Around this time, I received some really encouraging texts from family and friends, and that kept me both motivated and entertained. A lot of runners around me were commenting on my shirt and asking about it, and that was encouraging as well to hear their congrats, as well as those from the spectators. I’m always interested in reading people’s shirts and learning about why they run… everyone has a story.
I kept up with my intervals using my RunKeeper app. I was taking regular GU shots at my normal intervals… Mile 4, 9, 13, 17, 22. At Mile 22, they passed out banana halves, pretzels, and Jelly Beans. I stopped at the porta-potties there, so I left all my snacks out on a table and hoped they wouldn’t blow away in the high winds. I ended up saving all the snacks for later, so I poured them into a ziplock bag in my SPIBelt and carried them for the last 4.2 miles. It made my belt bounce all over the place, but the JellyBeans and pretzels were worth it on the drive home!
And honestly, I have the best sister. She kept me moving forward with texts, quotes, jokes, and even thumbs-up pictures from each of her kids. She is the best! (And is also a marathoner!)
I found myself walking a lot more than running during those final 6 miles, which was not normal for me and not the way I trained at all for Disney. I have never hit a wall before. I began to get worried about the baby (the worry was all in my head) and didn’t want to overdo anything. Intervals of racewalking felt soooo good on my sore legs and hurting feet, but I did try to run whenever I could even though I knew my goal time was shot. Every time I saw a mile marker off in the distance, I would run to it. Same with photographers and other landmarks. When I finally began to start feeling better, mother nature reminded me that I hadn’t seen a porta-potty for MILES, and I absolutely could not run another step until I found one. I had stayed overly hydrated with the cold temps and not sweating. I totally blame the baby for this desperate need to stop! I kept thinking I saw some, but we were in a residential area and there was nowhere to go and no spectators to beg. It was miles before I finally spotted one around Mile 24 or 25, and I was fine to run after that. There were a lot more spectators out near the final stretch of road before turning onto the boardwalk, and you could tell that the other runners were also kicking in everything they had.
26.2 miles is a loooong distance. I had to rely on my stopwatch for my time, because my RunKeeper app paused about halfway through the run and I didn’t notice for awhile. I took my headphones out at Mile 23 and put my external phone charger back in my belt. Time to get back in the zone and finish strongly!
My RunKeeper app tracked my course!
I loved finally turning onto the boardwalk and spotting the Neptune statue just before the finish line. It was still a ways to go, but in perspective, just a drop in the bucket during this race. The flat boardwalk always makes the Finish line appear closer than it is.
The runners had thinned way out at this point, so I felt like I was running solo. I did manage to pass people, but I was definitely the only runner as I approached the finish line. They called my name and read where I was from, and I happily crossed, once again forgetting to stop running after passing under the finisher archway. I heard my husband calling my name. He snapped lots of pictures!
And then, my absolute favorite part of the entire race weekend… I even recorded it in my pregnancy journal:
I was awarded two finisher medals. One for me, and one for the baby! We plan to hang the baby’s marathon medal in the nursery. We didn’t get an extra medal at Disney, so this one was really special. The photographers ate that up, taking lots of photos of me and my baby bump with our medals – I can’t wait until those are posted! And I was so happy the rain held out until after I finished!
Mommy & Me Finisher medals!
I am so proud of my husband! He ran such a great race and was very happy with his finishing time!
He started out ROCKING it well ahead of his anticipated pacer and finished strongly!
I was a little discouraged by my final time (if I had stuck with Kelley, I would have more than met my goal, so I was very happy for her!), and I finished before only 2 women in my age group, but
pregnancy circumstances considered, I’m happy to have finished!! And the baby has been moving a lot ever since, so that has been a huge relief for me! I always worry.
3 medals! We got a few brief pics in the sand while it was still sprinkling but did not get the beach pregnancy announcement shot we had originally planned.
Shamrock is known for its post-race party, but it began clearing out quickly because of the freezing rain that started soon after I crossed the finish line. I was able to get my dry bag, snap a few quick pictures on the beach, and head into the warm finishers tent before it really started coming down. I enjoyed a bowl of Murphy’s Irish stew and shamrock cookies, but held off on the post-race snacks until later. I also declined the FOUR Yuenglings I was entitled to as a race finisher. Good grief – I don’t think the baby would have liked that too much!! By the time we started the hike back to 19th Street, the cold rain was pelting the beach, so we donned our finisher’s hats and beach towels provided as race swag! But it was still cold, wet, and windy! It was nice to get back to the car and change into dry clothes before the traffic-laden trip back to Williamsburg and the dangerously snowy/icy/foggy/late 3.5-hour drive home!
Our Facebook pregnancy announcement, taken inside the finishers’ tent:
And my little Shamrock on St. Patricks Day during another snow day off from school Monday! Wearing a 3T shirt that’s way too big for him over his jammies! It was definitely a stay-in-PJs and foam-roll kind of day!