This was the second year in a row that I have run this race. Last year it was the longest distance that I had run until I did my first (Richmond) marathon. As with most firsts you tend to learn a lot on your first time around. This race, although it is very flat does have a few challenges that must be dealt with. First off, the heat and humidity which was a definite issue last year. Second is a concern for the steady wind. Overall last year was a pretty nice experience. This year, I placed much more pressure on myself because I wanted to see improvement. This summer has been pretty rough training wise because it’s just so hard to gauge your level of running fitness with the heat and humidity.
I headed down the day before the race and a trip that should have taken 3:45 took 5:30 because of holiday traffic. My friend Dr. Jim and I got down to the convention center about 4:30 to pick up our packets. VA beach ½ has put on the best pre race expo that I have seen. There are many vendors and items that you just can’t buy at the local running or sports super store. I picked up a pair of $20 sun glasses that last about a year which is usually how long a pair of $200 Oakley’s last for me. I also picked up a magnet for the back of my SUV that say’s “Will Run For Beer!” Just seems perfect for me… After a little time in the expo we headed on down to the beach house to socialize and try to relax before the race.
Most of my friends that were down there had run this same race last year and I think this is going to be one of our yearly races. It’s nice not having to pay for a hotel room and being in close proximity to the race itself.
Our plan was to leave the house at 5:30 so we could be at the race by 6. We had to take 2 vehicles because we had 8 runners and 2 drivers to drop us off then park the vehicles. We made it in plenty of time so we all headed to the already long porta John lines. After failing to get things moving I figured I would just try and do the race and hope I wouldn’t have to stop during the race. All but 2 of the other runners in my group are “fun” runners. What I mean by fun runners is that they are not at all worried about their time. They run to have a good time. Their motto is “A finish is a win.” I think that if things work out the way I would like with Philly and I do qualify for Boston, I may just become a fun runner also. One of the 2 more serious runners is the brother of one of the regular fun runners. He was visiting from Montana and is trying to do a marathon in every state. He will do 6 marathons by the end of this year and I hope to run a marathon with him in the future. So we did our personal business and headed to our corals. I don’t know if I mentioned but I signed up for this race quite some time ago. My predicted finish time was 1:30. Going into yesterday I thought I was in for a major miss on that prediction. I was thinking more like 1:45. So I find out that I am in coral #1…. Oh no!!! Believe me, I received no shortage of ribbing from my friends for that…
The starts were staggered yesterday which meant the wheelchair participants went first. Then the elite women left about 10 minutes later. As the start drew near the elite men were announced and lined up in the front of coral #1. With the completion of the National Anthem the race was set to start. I’ve never been this close to the front of a big race so I must say “it was a little intimidating.” Due to the fact that there was a problem with the race gun the group just started moving without much notice. My plan of attack going into this race was to try and stay just under a 8 mpm pace. For the most part I felt like I belonged in this group by the end of mile 1. My pace was 7:26 and I felt pretty good staying with it. My breathing was not labored and my legs felt great. I think the temperature was in the mid 60s when the race started. As we turned to corner to head south on Pacific Avenue there was a surge of runners from the second coral that had caught up and began to pass some in the first group. Through the whole two miles the streets were packed with cheering friends and family. The town has this race down pat and you can tell that they really know what they are doing. One of only two hills in this race is located around mile two. It is right at the edge of town and it’s not even a hill per say but a bridge that takes you over the Rudee Inlet. I actually got a chuckle out of someone complaining about how bad the bridge sucked.. This race ranks right up at the top of flattest races I’ve run. So as you head over the bridge you start to get into a more residential area with about a half a mile of trees lining the right side of the road.
Now for a moment, I’d like to take you back to last year’s race. Many of you may remember my infamous beer on the head story.. While heading back into town I grabbed what I thought was a cup of water from a lady along the road. I then made a terrible mistake. I dumped this cup on my head because I thought that it was cold water. Well as you know by now it was a cup of beer. For the next mile and ½ I tried to get the beer out of my eyes. Well this year had another special event but at least it didn’t affect me directly. As I we headed down the stretch of road with the trees on the right I began to smell something unpleasant. At first, I suspected a group of Johnnies ahead. But I soon noticed something peculiar. The runners ahead of me were parting like Moses parted the Red Sea. It didn’t take long to discover why they were parting .Now keep in mind that this was not the Iron Man I was running here. It is mile 2 ½ of R&R half marathon. Well much to my surprise a fellow runner in gray shorts was running up the middle of the road with plenty of room around him. It turns out that this fellow had a GI mishap and either didn’t know that he had loaded his shorts or he just didn’t want to stop running. In any case he had a nice brown spot in the back of his shorts and both rear thighs were colored brown. I can only imagine how sore this guy was even if he didn’t finish the race.. Now I know this is hard to believe but I lost site of this guy. I guess he was running faster than I was. “Thank God!”
Besides the stinky guy I just described Miles 2 thru 5 were fairly uneventful. My splits went like this, mile #2 7:26, #3 7:54, #4 7:36, #5 7:21. My breathing was very steady and my legs continued to feel great. With water stops after every other mile marker I walked the first 2 and the 4th. This has worked very well for me in the past. Walking briskly through the early water stops seem to really give me that extra boost I need later in the race. Mile 6 through 7 takes us through Camp Pendleton. Throughout the race at every mile marker there are local bands playing during the race. Once again, this year we did not make it back up to see the main headliners, INXS. We just do too much drinking after the race to drive back into. At about mile 7 ½ thru 8 ¼ we run past people heading the other direction. Most of these people were walking or just barely running. As we head over the bridge again into the city, you probably guessed there were more people complaining about the difficulty of running up the bridge. I feel like running hills are my strong point. It’s were I get my edge. Passing people going up hill really gives me a shot of confidence.
My splits from mile 6 thru 8 were #6 7:34, #7 7:24 and #8 (the bridge) was 7:45. From miles 8 to 10 ½ we are heading up Atlantic Avenue. This is the last bit of shade we get. We also get a little added cool down from the cross wind blowing between the buildings. I often find someone that is running close to my pace and try and stay with them. At this point I notice a guy wearing a US Coast Guard Running shirt and just focused on him. He seemed to be a little shorter than me and he had a few pounds on me. He maintained very good pace and was the perfect rabbit. I continued to keep a sub 8 minute pace with #9 7:25 and #10 7:45. At mile 10 ¾ we turn down 37th street and at 11 we start heading down the board walk. This is the big trap of the race. It makes you feel like the end is closer than it really is. At this point you have 2.1 miles left to run. The sun beats down on you while you get a pretty stiff cross wind. Last year I was guilty of starting my kick way too early and then struggling to finish. This year I watched others do the same. The guy in the Coast Guard shirt had disappeared into the other bodies heading down the board walk. Now it was all me. I waited until just before the #13 mile marker and then gave it all I had left. Unlike last week I didn’t pick as many people off but I did get 3 or 4. They also called out my name which is also a first. My last splits went like this, #11 7:43, #12 7:38, #13 7:38 and #.1 6:45.
My final chip time was 1:39:43 and the clock time was 1:39:58. This race has really given me a shot in the arm. I don’t want to be over confident but I feel like I’m right on target with my training. I’ve got a plan for my training and despite the past two weeks of racing I think they actually helped me. 11 weeks to Philly… Thanks for enduring this long winded report…