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.)

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