Shamrock Sportsfest 2012

I have had the Dolphin Challenge on my bucket list for a while. For those not familiar with the Shamrock marathon they have an 8K on Saturday and then the half and full on Sunday. When you do the 8K and the half it is called the Dolphin Challenge. When you do the 8K and full it is called the Whale Challenge. When Megan and Gracie deferred their entries from last year I knew this was my chance to go and do this race with some good friends in tow.

We arrived Friday evening and hit the expo. Packet pickup went very smoothly except that I couldn’t find my number. I went to the Runner’s Relations booth to try to change my corral. They had me in 7, which I was worried was going to be too far back and hold me from my race goal of doing a sub-3 hour. I walked up and asked if a 2:12 would be enough to move me and the guy pulled out a sheet. I was so sure he was going to say “no” that I started to walk away as soon as he responded and he said, “I said yes it was enough.” Embarassed I walked back and he used a sharpie to color out the 7 on my bib and right Corral 6 above it (yes, he did include the smilie). We headed out for some pizza and water and then it was back to the hotel so I could rest for my 8K.

Alarms went off around 6ish the next morning and I got myself ready for the 8K. I was the only one participating in the challenge but my wonderful support team came down and hung out at the start with me then cheered me on the entire race. I lined up in my corral and noticed lots of really young children around me. I tried to prepare myself mentally for running with lots of little kids which typically requires lots of dodging as they often stop short or cut across the course when you least expect it. The first corral is off and we shuffle our way towards the start line. They call for our corral to take off and we start picking up our pace to the start line and then the stop us and announce the corral behind us. There was no really split between the corrals to the announcer was just winging it as to when he thought he hit a new corral and in the process he combined much of corral 5 with 6. So the horn blows and we again speed toward the start line. I cross the start jog two steps and then stop short realizing I am in a complete sea of walkers. I waved at my awesome support team and then set out to try to pass the walkers so I could get into a comfortable groove with my intervals. Little did I know it was going to take me nearly 3 1/2 miles to pass the bulk of the walkers and even then I was still dodging pairs of them here and there. The race etiquette for those involved in this race was extremely poor. It was making for a very frustrating race for me. I tried to relax and keep my eye on the prize which I finally spotted at about 3 miles – the finisher’s medal. I wasn’t sure there was a medal, so when I saw it I tried to focus on it. In the end my pace wasn’t too horrible. The race course was great, it was just the corraling and the race etiquette that needed to be worked on. If I were to try to do this race again, which I don’t think I will, I would have seeded myself in a higher corral.

After the race I met up with my support team and we headed off to get some pancakes. On the way back to our hotel we noticed that the kids races and Marathon Kids final mile were running so we hung around with our cow bells cheering some pretty awesome kids on as they ran their races. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, hydrating and fueling for the half marathon on Sunday.

The alarm went off a little earlier on Sunday and I tried not to make too much noise so that our marathoner, Lauren, could get some more sleep. I had a goal for this spring to get a sub-3 hr half, which has not happened for me since April of 2010. I wasn’t sure this was the race. I did not really hyrdate as well as I should have. I ran the 8K the day before. I haven’t been getting the best rest in the last few weeks. I joined Jen, Megan and Suzanne in my new corral and we waited for the start. The horn blew and we started making our way to the start line. I actually think we may have taken off with Corral 5 this time, but unfortunately I started to see some of the same issues I had the day before. Lots of walkers seeded in front of us making for lots of dodging and weaving to get past them. Megan wanted to see what she could do on her own so we soon saw her ponytail bobbing out of sight as Jen, Suzanne and I worked to pass people and still stay together. After about a mile and a half the course started to open up for us some more and we were doing less weaving and more focusing on our goal. It took a couple miles for a tight left calf to loosen up on me and that finally made it easier to pick up the pace a little. When we hit the 5 mile marker we were at about a 13:51 pace. Slightly behind my virtual partner (running a 13:40), but not completely out of reach. We lost Suzanne somewhere around mile 5. Soon we picked up a new friend, Cammie, who was fun to talk to. She had done the Shamrock before in ’09 as her first half. We told her to stay with us and we would try to pace her to a new PR. We were jogging along and in the sea of green in front of us I saw a flash of red. I stared through the crowd and saw a familiar looking person but wasn’t sure till she turned her head and I once again saw the flash of red. It was Monica! We caught up with her and ran together for an interval or two. Soon we were on our way again through Fort Story. The miles were ticking away faster than I thought. The sun had come out and we were beginning to look forward to the breaks in the dunes where the sea breeze could reach us. We left the Fort and found ourselves back in the beach down making our way towards the finish line. Cammie was trying to stay with us but we unfortunately lost her somewhere before we got back to the boardwalk. We had pulled off some awesome splits but really wanted to try to make sure we had something left in the tank. I was keeping an eye on my VP and we had gone from being a minute behind him to a minute in front of him so both Jen and I knew we had that sub-3 in the bag if we could just maintain our pace. We jogged into a water stop and walked out, then decided to take the next interval as a walk instead of a jog to make sure we had something in the tank for the finish. We made the turn onto the boardwalk and the finish was in sight. It is decieving looking down that boardwalk because the finish looks so close but feels so far away. We took one last walk break in our approach and then went for it crossing hand in hand.

I stopped my watch and it read 2:58:53! We had our sub-3! Couldn’t have done it without my RP. And yes Joey, now I can sign up for my marathon.

We headed to the finish to wait for Lauren. This race is a little odd in that the marathon starts and hour and half after the full. I started running some numbers in my head and realized I was going to have to leave soon after she came in. I ran back to the room to shower and pack so that I would be ready to head out after Lauren finished. I soon realized we could see the turn onto the boardwalk from our hotel room so I opened the curtain and watched people come in as a packed. I then headed downstairs to cheer Lauren on at the turn before walking back to meet up with them at the finish.

We headed into the tent to meet up with Kevin and chit chat for a little bit then headed back to the room to get everyone cleaned up. Soon I was on the road driving back home. What should have been a 5 1/2 hr drive was closer to 6 1/2 thanks to some bad traffic, but I hung my medals from my rear view mirror to remind myself the drive was totally worth it.

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