SHAMROCK MARATHON 2022- as a disclaimer, this is long. I enjoy writing this up as a mental wrap up so that I remember things, learn for the future, and it is always helpful to come back later and be reminded of different feelings, how I pushed through, what my paces were, etc. You are under No obligation to read this entire thing!!
I believe this was my 10th marathon! (not including the one in Ironman Lake Placid/2003)(speaking of, HOW DID I do a marathon at the end of all of that?!! Ahhh perspective…. That is for another day).
I am very happy with this marathon. I wasn’t sure what I was going to train for this spring, was looking for maybe a warm place to go, but with uncertainty, I decided to stay closer to home, and heck Virginia Beach is still at the ocean, even if it isn’t warm in March, right?!
I committed to begin training the last week in December/ January 1st. I had already been doing runs of 7-11 miles, so it was a quick ramp up to 13 and then I began creeping up my long runs right away in January. January and February proved to be ridiculous cold months. I had 4-5 long runs where it was teens or 20 degree weather, and I actually found that wearing a mask was magnificently helpful in being able to stand being outside for these hours of running. *one positive from covid! There were LOTS of treadmill runs overall, BUT- those long ones I just couldn’t commit to being on the treadmill for 2:30-3 hours this winter.
Overall, I committed to the plan I created for myself, increasing long runs, adding in intervals within long runs, adding intensity in various lengths for at least 1 run during the week, averaging between 40-50 miles/week during my build up (which was around 10 weeks- short for marathon).
Well, actually, night before. I slept none. NONE. N.O.N.E. It was ridiculous. I was nervous. I’ve had a few months of weird nighttime anxiety- usually for no reason at all, this time I guess there was at least a reason. Also, the road outside my hotel had ridiculous crazy cars screeching, needing mufflers, etc. It was stupid insane, but there was nothing I could do.
I got up, rolled, prepped my flasks of water and liquid IV, had a few bites of banana and coffee for sure. Off to start line. Interesting fact was how odd the set up was, in my opinion. I was actually standing on the WRONG AREA thinking the start line would be forming from where I was, but instead it was one street away! So, when I went to do my jog warm up, I was like Oh my GOOOSHHH here are all the people! Duh.
The worst part is waiting, I was so glad when it started. So, after running in Reston, this was like joyous to BEGIN A RUN ON FLAT TERRAIN! SO SO SO SO NICE and steady! HOWEVER, in my first mile, my breathing was still normalizing and I was like, is this appropriate, is this too much, but it seemed moderate pace and body relaxed until my breathing normalized. First 3 miles my pace was almost too good, so I kept telling myself, maybe relax more and ease off and trying to slightly--- as if I was turning the treadmill numbers down like .2-.3. My pace still hovered around the same. Mile 4 and 5 felt like there was a little incline- it looked this way at least, but I didn’t really FEEL it and my pace continued steady at around 7:30-7:40. This pace was faster than what I intended, but again- having not run on FLATS like this… ummmm…. Maybe ever?? I knew my intensity was okay and where I wanted it, so trusted to just settle into this and stop second guessing myself.
Mile 5-10- we went through Fort Story and it continued to be flat and I felt like I was holding a nice, relaxed but strong groove. It was so cool to once in awhile have a path to the side where you could see that there were sand dunes leading to the OCEAN!
Mile 10 I began to definitely notice my legs were working hard- my breathing and heart rate were absolutely still just easily sailing fine. However, I could tell this was some effort being done in legs here, which made me a little bit nervous and question my pace. But: overall, I felt comfortable that I was in a range that was right for me and was trying to get myself from mile 10-12 to stop questioning myself. My legs were feeling it, but I wasn’t sure if it would progress to being problematic, or just hold at this feeling. I was aware of just calmly managing a bit of discomfort here. I tried to notice it, but then not pay it more attention than it needed.
Mile 12 was first sign of distress. Ughh. Had to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, I knew there was one coming- they had them every 2 miles, so at least there was that positive. I ran in, was as quick as could be and prayed that was the end of my problems. That morning, I had what felt like a very smooth and not irritable stomach, so I had been very hopeful. This was my first indication that maybe things weren’t as happy as I had wanted them to be.
Once I went to the bathroom, I was able to get back into a decent run groove, now maintaining 8 min mile pace for the next 3 miles. (12-15). This began to be a definite EFFORT – the 1/2 marathoners had cut off for the finish line, which I kind of liked- as it was less people distracting me as I knew and wondered which of these people around me were almost DONE. We began running on the boardwalk which was CONCRETE and OH MY GOSH MY LEGS were now officially KILLED. It was nice being right next to the ocean, I kept letting myself glance out at the beautiful water to calm myself and be so happy to be at the ocean, but I was very well aware that literally each step felt like it was building up pressure in my legs. I had a mental “landmark” to get to mile 15, which would be when we veered off the boardwalk and it would then be an out and back with a little loop through a military camp from mile 15-22, so I was really just mentally aiming for 15 to both get off the concrete, but also to begin this out and back loop. I was SO RELIEVED to get off the concrete boardwalk, however, I was struggling with needing to go to the bathroom again. Luckily, I knew they were going to be available, so I was looking for it, ran into the next one and was quick (this mile was 9:12, so took me out of my 8 min pace, but it wasn’t an option to not stop). Mile 15- immediately out of the bathroom, I was passing people who had been behind me, so it felt appropriate that I wasn’t getting fully back to where I was, but that I was “back in it.” This whole time I was trying to eat 1 block or energy stinger every 1.5 miles. I had finished my liquid IV and had 1 flask left with water. LEGS were the biggest issue. I was trying to take it 2 miles mentally at a time 15-17, 17-19, 19-21, 21-23, and then I’d be back at the ocean/homestretch (concrete!!!)…
Mile 15-17: I had 2 miles in my groove going out- passing the aquarium, low 8 min pace, again happy with being able to PUSH THIS while honestly I was now managing SUFFERING, no more managing discomfort, this started to become PAIN. Mile 17-19- this was still out and back and I tried to just be calm and let the time pass while holding my cadence and focus and stay strong and steady through some hill sections. Then, INSANE. Mile 19. Again. Had to go to the bathroom. I had no idea if I may not be able to make it to the finish- it was like why do I have to go again????? I thought this could take me out of the race if it kept coming each mile? LUCKILY, I didn’t know this then, but this was my last stop! I don’t know how or why it stopped, but thank goodness. It was just irritating and distracting to keep having this problem.
Starting at mile 20, I knew my “race” was starting. During the 15-20 miles, I had thought, HANG ON TO THE EFFORT UNTIL 20 and if you keep this pace, you are “safe” and can back off and still be okay getting a decent finish time and maybe qualifying for Boston. I knew mile by mile, I was getting there to this safe place. HOWEVER, through these series of 5 miles, I had been (along with sightseeing the ocean and taking bathroom stops) I had begun to have an internal conversation about – WHY? Why was I making up this story that I had to die at mile 20 and just scrape through to the end? I had just gone through all of this mental prep in the weeks leading to my race to believe in myself, to be calm and run with courage, to set myself up for a solid run by not being scared at the beginning, trusting my fitness and training to go strong and not hold back. Why was this any different? I realized I had created this whole script that I was planning to not be able to finish strong. I wasn’t trusting myself at the exact time that I realized I have a hard time trusting myself- at the end. I know some people have trouble starting strong- they are too afraid it will blow them up, but that is not my “fear.” My fear is the terrible end times and not being able to have anything left, so I kind of plan to not have anything left. Hmmmm…. So, I had decided during these miles that if I was going to be preaching my little “trust” mantra, that I had best pony up and stop telling myself this story that I couldn’t also maintain my focus for a strong finish. I decided to not let up on myself once I hit 20, and to keep fighting with each step.
We were weaving through these back roads with military camp style housing it seemed like, and it was very sparse/ no crowds at all, the runners were pretty spread here. Mile 21 just seemed lonely, I definitely had a few audible grunts during this time, reminding myself to stay awake, be in the suffer, commit to what I had started. I started to see people walking, but kept my effort level. And I say that not as if I was plugging along like at the beginning, but I was now literally STEP BY STEP trying to not stop. My legs had HAD it. I passed a water stop where I guy said, you are running so smooth, and that was a nice word that I tried to keep my running really smooth and efficient, like I was trying to look the part even if I didn’t FEEL smooth. I kept that for about a mile as a mental focus. Next mile ticked off, I’m at 22, Now I decide, if I can make it to mile 23, I am going to let myself walk for .1 of a mile, before final 3 mile push to end.
We had to go back on the main street, I am seeing people that are just beginning their out and back loop and I am always so thankful to be on the way back when I see people going in the other direction. I always feel like- it is so much “easier” relatively to be a little bit on the faster side because you are just simply on your legs for less. So, I used that as a little bit of a motivation to try to get through. I got to 22.75 and was trying to make it to 23 to walk and honestly… I think my calf was SCREAMING at me. I literally thought it may explode with another step, and began my .1 walk at that point. I was on target and didn’t go past my .1, forced myself to begin again, as there is no sense in prolonging the race by farting around walking too long. Back to run. I was making it.
Made it to the boardwalk, nice cool breeze at the ocean, the water is so beautiful. Everything is short here. It isn’t mile by mile, it is step by step. Again, the concreate literally was just crushing my legs with each step, but I just knew, there was a turn off to go back through the town before the finish line, so I had 2 miles of concrete to just suck it up and shut up about thinking about it. There is no way around it, just through it, so get it done. Once we turned off, I had another walk of .05- I measured it because I honestly won’t let myself use it too long and just force it back, the clock tells me to go back to run and I do. I knew this was the end. A little over a mile. I am trying to do some math, I know for sure I’m going to qualify for Boston, but qualifying for NYC was in the mix earlier and I don’t think with how I’ve slowed down and had bathroom stops and 2 short walks it will happen… but, I am also not doing my best math in my head right now- there isn’t energy enough to do any math now, so I just go as much as I can. I realize the turn around to get back to the finish line is a few blocks further down than where I thought, shit. So that was frustrating because I am holding on by a thread now. Running block to block. Finally, we get to turn, I see the ocean, backtrack along the boardwalk again to the finish line. I can see the white flags where the finish is- I was trying to run with anything I had left, even if it was minimal to just get there. GET. FREAKING. THERE. There were ½ marathoners finishing on the left- mostly walking. It was helpful that they had it sectioned off for marathoners on one side/ half on the other because if I had to weave in between people at this point, I would not have been a happy camper. I finished strong, crossed, walked, and made my way down to the sand.
27. Finish .2: 8:52
What I learned/ was reminded of:
*last 10K of marathon isn’t just “one mile at a time”…. It is like ¼ mile at a time, 1 step at a time, 1 block at a time, it is just having a FIERCE COMMITMENT to STAYING IN THE PAIN.
*don’t take alleve before race next time. I’m wondering if that was a component of my bad GI issues which were actually worse AFTER the race than during.
*I am happy how I went through my goals very SPECIFICALLY before the race- if my goal was X time, I wanted to “save” a little bit at end, so didn’t want to waste time first 15 miles. I’m very glad I did this, I ended up executing the plan, whereas if I hadn’t set myself up for it, I don’t know if it would have happened.
*glad I had throwaway clothes for the beginning of the race, it wasn’t cold, but it was nice to have a sweatshirt that just kept me extra warm before the start.
*I am so thankful that I could get a late checkout- I cannot imagine not being able to get a shower and have a few minutes to get my things together after the race.
WHEW…. Glad I did this race. I would definitely do again.