2011 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon
In short, there's nary a bad word to be said about the event. Communication prior to the trip was clear and instructive, the expo was well-organized, packet pickup was fast and easy, a good selection of merchandise was available, and Virginia Beach is a fun destination.
On race day, other than the race being pushed back 15 minutes (terrifying at the time but really not a big deal), everything about the event seemed to go well. The starting area was well organized despite the absence of official corrals, announcements were easy to hear, and the waves went off smoothly.
The course itself mostly lived up to its billing of being flat, although like I said in my review most of the last third of the race was a gradual uphill. Volunteers with water and Gatorade were cheerful and abundant, support from the crowd was great, and J&A racing and/or volunteers tried to make even the more desolate parts of the course less so through joke signs, DJs, and even a band. The boardwalk provided some great scenery in the middle of the race and then served as a terrific finishing spot.
The post-race party was great, by far the best I've ever been to. (At least at Baltimore you get free beer, too!) Great music, great food, and FREE BEER.
In summary, the marathon turned out to be a lot more fun that I thought it would be, and I credit a lot of that to having this one as my first one.
Grade: Significantly Exceeds Expectations
I laid out my goals for the race: To finish, to run the whole thing, and hopefully to finish around 4:30. Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled with the race and happy with my performance, but I didn't meet all of my objectives.
I didn't run the whole thing, which was important to me, which led to not finishing when I thought I'd finish, which wasn't as important to me in and of itself. Like I said, I'm not kicking myself and I'm happy with my effort. I just think there are some things I can do differently if there is a next time:
- Get in more, and longer long runs. My best runs were a 17.5 at the end of January and an 18 at the end of February, right before my taper. If I could have gotten in a few more of that distance and 1 or 2 20 milers in, I think I would have had a better chance. Not to make an excuse, but I missed on these because of my knee -- before my IT band flared up I was right where I was supposed to be on my long runs. Hopefully, with better stretching and PT exercises I can keep it from acting up again.
- More speed training -- this is the one thing I really can say that I didn't work hard enough -- or at all -- on. I just didn't make it down to the track workouts with the group or make them up on my own. Maybe that would have made me faster, and more importantly maybe it would have helped build up leg strength for when I really needed it on those last several miles.
- Better nutrition -- Sport Beans have been my standard in-race nutrition, but it seems like they didn't really help me on Sunday. I'm not sure if I should have eaten more of them (I brought 3 packs and ate only 1), started eating them much earlier in the race (I don't think I started eating them until mile 8 or 9 -- since on a run of less than 10 miles I don't usually even bother with them), both, or if I should try GU or Clif Bars or some other food while I run. Maybe I can fill my running pouch with penne ala vodka.
- Strength training -- As running has taken up more of my time, I've neglected other exercising, such as the lifting I've done on and off since college and pretty consistently for the last six years. Even then, there wasn't a lot of leg work -- that's what's running is for, after all. I'm doing the exercises I learned in PT to strengthen the knee and add core strength, but I wonder if more strength training for the legs would made the difference.
- Better pacing -- Based on watching Garmin, I think I probably was going too fast from miles 6-15 when I was running with my new friend Ralph, but then I pulled ahead when he started to get into the zone a bit more. I felt great at this point, was super confident, and I think I neglected to notice that maybe things felt so easy because the course was subtly downhill, not because I'm awesome. I think I need to do a better job watching my pace and reminding myself to go slower during the middle part of the race when I'm deep enough into my run to be warmed up and loose, but not so far yet to be exhausted yet. Ralph caught and passed me later in the race, probably due to due to the combination of better endurance and better pacing.
- Strategic walk breaks -- I don't want to walk at all. To clarify, if I walk my water breaks or while I'm filling my bottle or if I have to use the port-o-potty or even stop to stretch, that's ok. But, I walked more than I wanted to. However, I wonder if once I decided that a walking break was unavoidable, if I could have avoided the excruciating 3.5ish mile run/walk and gotten back some strength in my legs if I'd just walked for 10 minutes, or 1 mile. I'd have made that trade if it would have allowed me to run the rest of the way. I ended up walking most of 24, but it was too late at that point.
- Technology -- I debated between my beloved watch and my not-so-beloved Garmin, and in the end chose Garmin, since I could watch my pace. Really, I'm not so sure it helped, and it's always infuriating when Garmin is out of sync with the official distance. Perhaps I should have just worn my watch, which has brought me luck in two half marathons.
More clearly, though, I should have brought my Shuffle. I'm used to running without it, since visibility is a concern in my usual running spots, and I elected not to bring it in my pouch so that I could carry all the extra Sport Beans that I didn't eat. On one hand, I wanted to be able to chat with other runners if they're so inclined, hear and interact with the crowd and entertainers, and experience the atmosphere of my first marathon. But on the other, when I was running through Fort Story, out of gas and far from the crowds, it would have been nice to be able to crank up Blink-182.
I don't think there's a Boston Qualifier in my future, and I'm very ok with that, but I think I can take what I've learned and get myself down around 4:30 and keep in an approximation of running for the whole race.
Grade: Meets some expectations.
*Though this the last intended part of my race report, I do reserve the right to post pictures from Virginia Beach or of post race swag if I run out of things to blog about now that my marathon is over -- "Earn Your Donuts" gets pretty boring when it's just "I ran x miles in Manchester" over and over.