Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rise Up

Yes.  My wife and I listened to a lot of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" on the way to and from Virginia Beach, but that's  not the point. 

The point is that Shamrock weekend is, for me as a runner, a "Mountaintop Experience".  The phrase refers to the biblical account of when some of Jesus' inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John, went to pray with Him on a mountaintop at which they saw Him revealed in all His glory.  In modern context, it's often used to refer to an event of spiritual awakening or a high point, contrasted to "the valley", everyday life in which someone lives and works and struggles every day.

I mean no disrespect to the religious connotations of the phrase, but I think the concept can apply in other walks of life.  Last summer, my company's sales meeting felt like a mountaintop experience of sorts to me.  I presented in front of a group for the first time and felt like I brought the house down with wit and good humor; watched a highly respected colleague present about (among other things) the importance of my role and how I had helped him; and left the meeting feeling more excited, valued, and connected with my coworkers than I had in years.
A few days later, I got a rude awakening when I realized that our new CEO, who sat through both of those presentations, had no idea who I was or what I did.
As a runner, Shamrock Weekend is a mountaintop experience.  It's the place where in 2011, I ran my first marathon, and where the 8K has beecome my favorite race of all, a beacon of hope and fun in running years lost to injury and malaise, and finally, where I finished the half this year to be a participant on both days for the first time.  In addition to the happy memories surrounding the event, Virginia Beach is a place Chris and I have come to feel very at home.  We always have fun and leave Shamrock Weekend feeling proud of our running accomplishments and looking forward to next year.
Now I have left the mountaintop, excited and motivated, but also realizing that over the past 5 years my motivation has died in the summer heat. I train for Shamrock -- or at least gut it out on race day -- have a blast at the parties, and then it's over in a flash.

If a Fall half or full marathon -- or my goal of a long-delayed return to the 26.2 next year at Shamrock -- is to be a reality, I must stay more focused.  Get up earlier.  Run more.  Get stronger.  Believe that I can do this again...and turn that belief into reality in the valley of the post-Shamrock everyday non-beach world that I have struggled to train in for the last 4 years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brian's Terrible Race Photos -- 2016 Edition

I was really happy after Shamrock Townebank 8K!  I mean it.  Happy with my finishing time, happy with my level of effort, happy with the weather.  

So, why do I look like a Tyrannosaurus?  Does my face always look like that?  

Don't say anything!  Just don't say anything!!  Because I'm the most terrifying predator to ever walk the Cretaceous Period!  ROOOOAAAAAAAAAR!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Race Reports: 2016 Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon and 2016 TowneBank Shamrock 8K

Another year, another successful running trip to Shamrock Weekend in Virginia Beach.  For the first time, I competed in the Dolphin Challenge consisting of both the 8K and half -- except since I didn't register for it in time, I was really just separately running both races.  But the point remains...success!

TowneBank 8K

Don't tell the half marathon, but I think this is my favorite race of them all.  Year after year, this race has been a fun, flat, fast (definitions of fast vary by year) race with a great after party.  This year, I busted my a** for a sub 55-minute finish, my familiarity with the course helping me come in well under my pre-race goal of 60 minutes.

Conditions were near perfect for me: high 40s and dry, and I attacked the course more aggressively than I intended.  This race really is the best parts of the marathon course, boardwalk and downtown Virginia Beach, without any of the long quiet sections south or north of town.   Visibly excited, I pumped my fist excitedly as I passed Neptune for the finish before meeting Chris and enjoying a few more Yuenglings than I should have had.

I often say that while I enjoy being runner, I don't really actually enjoy running.  This race always reminds me that this really can be fun.

The after party was a blast, especially when TowneBank's hilarious mascot, Town E. Bear, went up in stage with the band.  After an 8K and X number of Yuengs, this was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

Anthem Half Marathon

This one was not fun.  Everything J&A can control always goes perfectly, but they can't control the weather (Everyone knows that's Pudge the Fish).  The weather at the start of this one was MISERY.  Gale-force winds and a driving rain.  I love to inspire Chris and I (Chris hates it) with Aragorn's speech from "Return of the King" bit I really did think this was the that the courage of men (at least this one) failed.

But...running in a cold rain is actually a slight improvement over huddling helplessly against a tiny tree to get out of the wind.  The first two miles up Atlantic were tough, but the rain slacked and conditions were nice as we ran through the woods along Shore Drive.  Then...Fort Story happened.  It was amazing how little of the Fort I remembered from the marathon in 2011, but both times I have run this section, I have found it to be challenging as the winds buffeted us again.  After leaving the base, I gratefully partook of cookies and beer offered by kindly spectators. 

The long trudge back down Atlantic was challenging and at times absurd, but the finish on the boardwalk was worth it as always.  It felt great to -- after 5 years -- earn a finisher's hat again.
The after party was again a blast, with more Yuenglings and Buckshot, a fun country cover band.  I'm not dancing because I'm cool...I'm dancing because I'm freezing and to keep my legs from cramping.
Honestly, I just can't write enough about how much fun J&A makes this weekend, and I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.

(This bear is the funniest mascot ever after a race.)

(The haul for the weekend.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Race Report: 2016 Under Armour Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K

I hate this race.  Every year, I blog about how much I hate this race.  The crowds, the lack of pace signs, too-long beer lines at the postrace party, the crowds.

And every year, I come back to this race, mostly for the post - race celebration we always have at a local pub.

I've put down some good times here.  26:14 in 2010, our first crack at it, was my best.  Tapered to a 30 minute finish in 2011 a week before my first marathon, and came back strong with a 26:42 in 2012 while recovering (so I thought) from what turned out to be my compartment syndrome.  This year, I ran a 32:55 and said afterwards that "I ran the shit out of that race".  That’s not one of my best 5K times by any means, but it's quite a but faster than I've been in training this year, when I've pretty consistently been a 12 - minute miler.

It helped that most of the first mile is downhill, and the last mile mostly flat.  There's some hills in the second mile and beginning of the third (coming back up Key Highway toward Light St.) but I felt strong...or at least "not weaker" on the hills.  Thanks, Mt. Wolf.

I did have the feeling at about halfway that I was running this faster than I should have and wouldn't be able to finish without a walk break or two, but the cool weather helped me hang in to the end.

I'm very happy with a time that I would have been pissed about 4 or 5 years ago, but that's something I can work on.  I would like to get myself back under 30 minutes in the 5K this year, but I need to balance that with an overall focus on base mileage and long runs for a possible marathon attempt in the fall.

Whether or not that happens, I'm pretty sure you'll see me at the start of this race next March.

Fast course, great crowd support, the crowd of green-clad runners heading down Charles St. is a cool sight, you can watch the parade afterward, and sometimes the Oriole Bird is in the parade.

Crowded course, lack of pace signs, the name of the race is annoyingly long and I can't call it "Shamrock 5K" when so many people are familiar with the Shamrock races in VA Beach the next weekend.