Date: March 18, 2012
Goal Time: 3:05 (trying for Boston 2013)
Actual Time: 3:00:31, (personal best by 8 minutes)
Pre-Race: I initially signed up for this race after trying to qualify at the Marine Corps Marathon and the Richmond Marathon back in the fall. After 2 failed attempts, I decided I would take another stab at it in the Spring in hopes of qualifying. After my failed attempts in the fall, I turned to Marathon Nation and guided my training by this plan… I trained at a VDOT of 55 the entire season and felt great every week leading up to the race. I had heard good things about the Shamrock Marathon, most of which being that the course is flat and very fast, and that the winds could be terrible. My training leading up to this race was great and I felt more prepared than any other race I have ever done. With that being said, I hit 2 major hurdles, one 6 weeks out and the second 3 weeks out. I had a heard back with about 6 weeks of training left and it left me a little beaten, then I found out that I partially tore my quad tendon with 3 weeks to race day.. This killed me as I took 2 solid weeks off, did a lot of physical therapy, lots of ice, a lot of cussing, and a lot praying.. For a couple days, I saw all the training going down the toilet.. I followed some sound advice from Coach P and listened to my body and not the training plan. As soon as my sports doc told me I could start running, I fell into the last week of my taper and kept my mileage less than 10 miles knowing that my fitness was as good as it was going to be and I couldn’t improve on it and anything too crazy would further hurt me.
Race Weekend: For anyone that has never done the Shamrock Marathon, it is a good race weekend. I picked up my packet on Saturday afternoon and the expo was well-organized. There were a lot of people there, but it was a good expo. I had hotel reservations at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront, which was approximately 6 blocks from the start line and 9 blocks from the finish, so I was convenient to the race festivities. On the night prior to the race (Saturday), my wife and I went to an easy dinner down at the beach. (If anyone is ever at Virginia Bech, you have to try Tautogs Restaurant, I highly recommend it). I got a good night’s rest the night before and planned on getting up at 6:00 a.m. for a 8:30 start.
Race Day and Plan: On race day, I had previously set out all my equipment and had my plan mentally in my head. The weather on race day was approximately 54 degrees at the start and 61 degrees at the finish. It was partly cloudy and there were forecasting winds of approximately 7 – 15 mph, depending on where you run, to include running on the boardwalk. My plan was the following:
Projected Time: 3:00 with a 5 minute grace period for anything that could go wrong. (6:52 overall pace)
Projected Plan: Miles 1 – 5: 7:07 pace (6:52 + 15 seconds)
Projected Plan: Miles 6 – 20: 6:47 pace (6:52 – 5 seconds)
Projected Plan: Miles 21 – 26: 6:52 pace (6:52)
Nutrition: I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt and wasn’t sure how I was going to be my nutrition in a place that was not cumbersome. My wife was going to plan on being around mile 13 so I gave her part of it. I have transitioned away from gels and have been using the Honey Stinger Gummies. They are good and 10 come in a pack. They are 160 calories and I have been in the habit of taking 5 at a time (80 calories). With this, my plan was to carry one pack with me and I gave my wife the second pack for the back half of the marathon.
Race Execution: I arrived at the start line about 30 minutes before the race and it gave me ample time to check my bag and stand in line for 15 minutes to use the bathroom. I was a little anxious about my paces for the first few miles as I have always been the one to jump out of the gates.
Miles 1 – 5: I was in the first coral and was able to move freely and stretch as I waited for the announcer to send everyone off. As soon as the clock started, I took my time and my first miles was extremely slow. I hit a 7:24 and it felt awkward and I knew that I was behind the clock to begin. This all worked out okay as it set my tempo for the next 4 miles. During my previous races’, I have always hit the wall around 18 or 20 and I wanted it to be different this time and I knew I had to trust my training and my plan.
My next 4 miles, my paces were as follows: 7:01, 7:08, 7:01, 7:00. After the first five, I was feeling pretty good, my heart was where it needed to be (156 bpm).
Miles 6 – 20: I knew that in order to survive this race, I was going to have to stay true to my paces during this portion in order to make it past 20. I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to gradually make it my projected pace of 6:47 and didn’t want to just spring into the pace as I was scared of what was going to happen. When I hit mile 6, I was feeling good and strong, I wasn’t thirsty, although, I was drinking at every other aide station (every 3 miles), but I had to use the bathroom. I juggled this in my mind about whether I should stop or if I should just carry one and I thought that the risk of waiting was too big and I preferred to waste the 30 seconds. I didn’t start eating my honey stinger gummies until I hit mile 9.5. I was able to store the other 5 gummies away for mile 14 and that way I had an extra 10 pack for miles 18 and 23. As I hit mile 18, I felt very strong and confident in my pace and my plan. By this time, I knew a lot of the hard work of maintaining my pace was over with and I had battled the wind and won that battle. When I reached mile 19, the race takes you onto a military base and it was brutal.
My paces for Miles 6 – 20 were: 6:56, 7:10 (bathroom break), 6:47, 6:51, 6:46, 6:45, 6:51, 6:46, 6:45, 6:51, 6:44, 6:46, 6:45, 6:49, 6:53, 6:47, 6:40, and 6:45. (Heart Rate: 159 – 165 bpm)
Miles 21 – 26: This is the part of the course that I was dreading as I knew it was the part that I always had the most difficult time with. As soon as I hit mile 20, the course puts you onto a military base and they don’t let civilians on the base, so there was very little support.. God bless the troops that were out there cheering us on. I was feeling pretty good around miles 20 and 21 and started hurting a bit around 22. I knew that as long as I could make it off the base, I would be okay. The course dumps you off the base around mile 23 and it revived my spirits a little bit. Between miles 18 and 23, I had another pack of Honey Stingers, which taste great and give you a pretty good burst of energy. As I headed south back towards the finish line, there were marathon runners on the right side heading north towards the base and it was good seeing other people and it made me appreciate the fact that I was heading south and not north as my race was ending. When I hit mile 24, I knew I was getting close and my legs were cooperating.. My calves hurt (I was wearing calve sleeves), but I thought I could make it.. My brain suggested walking a couple times but I was able to fight that urge as I looked at my watch and realized I was within striking distance of a Personal Best and qualifying for Boston. With these incentives, I maintained my form, focus, and pace. As soon as I hit mile 25, I passed my hotel, which was a great feeling because I had walked to the finish line the day before and remembered it was not that far. This course is really neat because the last quarter mile or so is on the boardwalk and the wind I battled from miles 10 – 20 was now at my back. As I hit the boardwalk, I look at my watch and knew I was 2 minutes from a 3 hour marathon. Instead of going all out, I just stay focused and finished strong.
My paces for Miles 21 – 26.2 – 6:41, 6:46, 6:43, 6:46, 6:50, 6:43, 6:09. (Heart Rate: 168 – 174) (Cadence: 89 spm)
Lessons Learned: 1. Marathon Nation works. Everybody on this forum is the best. I had a training plan that I trusted and I knew that I could run at the paces as I trained with them for more than 16 weeks. 2. Trust your plan. 3. Listen to your body. I had several injuries during the most critical phase of my training, which were due to some over-training toward the later part of the training regimen. I was topping out between 60 and 70 miles a week and this led to some fatigue later in my training, which ultimately hurt my overall progress.
I highly recommend this marathon and the post-race festivities are a lot of fun.. The marathon was not my favorite. The marine corps marathon is still my favorite, but this is a great place if you are looking for a BQ or personal best. The weather was ideal for a race. Thanks to everyone on here for all the advice and support over the past several months.