I signed up for the Whale Challenge, which is the 8K on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday, back in the Spring of 2013. I heard many people doing 13 races for 2013, and I thought that running 30+ miles the weekend before I turned 30 was a great way to ring in the next decade of my life.
Training going into the weekend was a rocky road. The beginning of 2014 saw severe winter weather which made it hard to run. Between the snow, ice, slush and frigid temperatures, days that did allow outdoor running were treacherous. I’m not exactly a fan of a treadmill, and have limited access to one, so when we got snowed in, there was only so much I could do to compensate. Overall, in my 16 weeks of training, I ran more mileage than I had going into Columbus last October when I PR’d. But two big factors bothered me. In February, I only ran half of the monthly mileage I had run in September 2013, the months preceding to each marathon. Also, because of the weather, I did not do a single speed workout.
Since I wasn’t feeling very confident with my training, I plenty of race recaps because I wanted to feel as prepared as I could to make up for the flimsy training. However, all the race recaps did was scare me even more.
The 12 hour drive on Friday was tiring on limited sleep. We hit traffic after passing thru DC, and it was when we were in standstill traffic, I was tweeting about the sea of 13.1 & 26.2 car magnets, when I got a response from with Runner’s World CRO, Bart Yasso! That was pretty awesome. Our first stop in town was the expo, then it was onto the hotel to check-in before hunting down dinner, which ended up being Thai followed by frozen yogurt. Despite the long day, it was still the night before a race, so I was really shocked when I slept a full 8+ hours Friday night.
I didn’t want to race the 8k, so I was trying to treat it like a normal Saturday run and not do any of my pre-race routines. My hotel was a mile and a half from the start, so I left late enough to prevent standing around for too long. I did a mile warm-up and leisurely stretched and walked to the start, making it into my corral just in time for the gun to go off. My first mile felt slow and easy, so I was shocked when my pace was 7:42. Since I had never run an 8k before all I planned was to break 45 minutes, with breaking 42 minutes as Goal B, but if I was feeling great and ambitious to break 40 minutes was Goal A. With racing a full 26.2 the next day, I wanted to stick to the plan and not aim for a Goal, so I tried to reign it in, but mile 2 came in around a 8:10 pace. Mile 3 wasn’t much slower at 8:14, but with the wind hitting on the 4th mile I slowed to 8:28. I finished the 8k at 41:17. Immediately after the race, I found my mom who handed me my long sleeve Shamrock 8k t-shirt and I headed off to the Hilton to do a group shake-out run lead by Bart Yasso.
A mile warm-up, 8k, and a 2.5 mile shake-out run might have been a bit too much before a Marathon, but I couldn’t say no to the shake-out run. And I’m glad I didn’t. I met so many great people! After the run, we headed to grab coffee. And I ended up spending most of the time chatting with M, Christine, and Bart. Eventually it was time to part ways, which was good, because I needed more to eat than just the banana I had at the finish line! Saturday I didn’t want to get too crazy, so I ate my left over Thai for lunch, grabbed a bit of frozen yogurt, then took a slight nap before heading with mom to get my pre-race dinner of Sushi. Then it was back to the hotel to review my race day outfit, gear, and go over my plan one more time before bed.
Once again I slept a beautiful 8+ hours before a race, which is unheard of for me. I headed down to breakfast for my usual pre-race breakfast meal: Coffee, Oatmeal, O.J., Banana. I woke up 2 hours prior to start to let this digest. I took my time getting ready, and since I wasn’t sure of the porta-potty situation at the start I took care of business one last time before I headed out at 8:10am for the 8:30am start. The day before when I was heading to the 8k a bit late the streets were full of other late arrivals, but today it was a ghost town, which made me nervous. I took my pre-race GU and my last sips of water then I did a 10 minute slow jog warm up and stretch on the way, once again arriving just in time to slip into my corral for the start. Goal A was to PR, hopefully breaking the 4 hour mark. Goal B was to run my training pace of 9’26” for a 4:07 finish, while Goal C was a sub-4:15 finish.
I didn’t really notice the wind, but it was a bit chilly. Although the course seemed crowed early on the streets were wide enough to accommodate, and when the roads narrowed around mile 3, the pack had already thinned out. The wind at this point wasn’t too unbearable. After mile 4, you got a glimpse of the elites passing by, and I saw a few runners in position to draft once they hit the winds. I took my first GU at mile 5.
Average Pace: 8’37”
The turnaround during mile 6 was a bit of a sharp u-turn and it’s definitely a feature I dislike in some courses but I know it can be unavoidable. I hadn’t been wanting water, but after consuming my fuel I knew I needed some, so I grabbed a cup of water at the next station. When we made the right turn onto Birdneck Road approaching mile 7 and Camp Pendleton was the first point where I thought “oh this was the head wind they were talking about.” And it was not pleasant. There was a little reprieve when we turned into Camp Pendleton, but it didn’t last very long. Around mile 8 we had a group of Soldiers lining the road for a few high-fives, and I think I might’ve heard a “Go, CPT Taylor,” but if I did, I’m sure it wasn’t meant for me. Regardless, those words made me dig a little deeper. The winds didn’t seem to let up once we left Camp Pendleton. I took my second GU at mile 10 and tried to mentally prepare for the boardwalk.Average Pace: 8’59”
Making the turn after mile 10, you get a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean before you hit the boardwalk. The sight of those waves, which weren’t the calm ones I had been seeing the past two days, made me nervous. The headwind was already heavy and turning onto the boardwalk, I dropped my head and just tried to charge through the next miles. I saw my mom outside of our hotel, and I’m sure I didn’t look too happy at this point. I was hoping that once we got off the boardwalk the winds would be blocked by the buildings, but that was false hope. I took my third GU at mile 15.
Average Pace: 9’36”
I knew I slowing more than I wanted to. I had expected this by analzying my paces during the Columbus Marathon last fall, so I was mentally prepared not to let it bother me. But running into the headwind fatigued my muscles, which at this point felt like they had reached muscle failure, even thought I knew there was so much more left in me. The wind had calmed a bit so I tried to focus on the scenery along shore drive, which was gorgeous, but not quite enough. I was just about to take a walk break when a lone truck was parked playing RunDMC’s “It’s Tricky.” That carried me a little bit farter, before I succumbed to my body’s demand and instituted my own version of the Galloway Method. I made a contract with myself that at a mile marker I would be allowed to walk for one full song but then I had to run the remainder of the 3 miles. And I kept this even when we made the turn into Fort Story and the headwinds hit you like a wall. I took my fourth and last GU at mile 20.Average Pace: 10’53”
This was the point were I wanted to give up. I was beyond cold and began scanning the ground hoping someone had thrown a pair of gloves I could pick up, and again wishing that once we left Ft. Story that the wind would be calmer. Right after mile 22, I realized that it was the last stretch and I just couldn’t quit now and if I pushed myself I could break 4:20 despite my last stretch of miles. Somewhere before mile 23, I saw a guy who I had seen most of the race and he was just starting to jog after a walk break, so I pointed to spot next to me and yelled for him to get there. I took out my headphones, and we played a short little 20 questions for the next few miles.
Average Pace: 11’26”
Turns out my new running partner was running his 3rd Marathon, hoping to PR. This motivated me to run a little bit faster, because I knew that the pace I was on, we may not make it. Also turns out, he was 17, and the two kids on bikes I had seen for most of the race were his friends. We chatted on and off, which helped me ignore my legs that were screaming to slow down. When we made the turn by the Cavalier Hotel, I knew we were almost there. At this point he told me I could take off without him, but I said no he was going to finish with me. We made the final turn onto the boardwalk with the finish in sight and tried to stretch out our strides and make it.Average Pace: 9’09”
We got our Marathon medals and I found my mom and got my shirt before proceeding through the rest of the finish line. I was unbearably cold that I could hardly force a decent smile for pictures. Somewhere I had lost my newest running buddy as we were trying to find his two friends on bikes. But I proceeded through the line to get my 2014 Finisher Beach Towel and my Whale Challenge medal before reconnecting with my mom.
Official Finish Time 4:17:03
Average Pace 9’48”
I was having a hard time moving, so I decided to head back to the hotel and make it to the finish party later. In the mile and a half that it took to walk back, I stopped a few times to sit and stretch, regretting not getting a room closer, but after a mile my legs were feeling much better. I contemplated running the last 1/2mile just so I could get back sooner and start warming up. It took almost 90 minutes for me to warm up enough to shower once we got back, and I admit I laid in my bed wrapped in a blanket not moving for all of those 90 minutes. My mom went to get Subway when I finally showered, and since it was too late to make it to the finishline party, we hit the road to do a scenic tour of the course via my car. Once we returned, we discussed our trip home for the next day and then headed downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner and a celebration drink.
I’ll admit, my foam roller didn’t get any love on Sunday or in the week after the race. I didn’t ice or heat either. My usual post-race recovery will consist of heat if available, ice if I want, and I wait a day or two to foam roll. I don’t use compression before, during or after. Less than 20 hours later, I was back in my car for the 12 hour drive home.
Overall, the Shamrock was a great experience. It was the flattest course I have ever run for a long distance race. And for the overall size of the race, the Expo was nice and the race was well organized. Thanks J&A Racing!