Monday, May 10, 2010

Shamrock On!

Shamrock Marathon Weekend - March 20-21, 2010

You couldn't have asked for yet another perfect race weekend in Va Beach weather-wise. Treated to back to back 60s-70s days with sunny blue sky's and just a slight breeze. On the first day we got to meet up with Leah's friend Pocket who just happened to be in the area for the race as well. She had concerns of being able to "go the distance," and was afraid "she'd slow us down" but it didn't bother us in the least. I'd be attempting my 2nd road marathon and Leah her first 1/2 marathon the following day, so no records were to be broken today anyways. While they chatted away I just trotted ahead, people watching. Listening in onto what other's are listening to through their blaring ear-buds (even though they are banned). After being worried about being slow, we cruised in well below our expected time. It's amazing what good converstation and/or just running with someone can distract you from how far and fast you can go. As we crossed the line they called our names out, which came as a surprised to them.
(Pocket, Leah, Me)

Several beers later, followed by a pair of spicy drinks, my dumb ass decided to run 2 miles barefoot down the (concrete) boardwalk to grab our fleeces because the breeze was picking up. My feet were almost scorched from the hot surface, but it was kind of fun non the less.

The Marathon itself didn't have the new-ness it had last year. I wasn't concerned about the long stretches like i was last year. I knew exactly where the water was, where the DJs would be, where to take my GUs. I felt ready this year. I was well trained, perhaps by my standards, OVER-trained. I knew i could just truck on and cruise in sometime around lunchtime. Enjoy myself 4 or more beers and relax in the sun. It's such a different beast, road running. There's no wash outs, no mud, no trail detours, no chance of running into a wild animal, the threat of slipping or tripping on a root or rock and getting hurt. It's just put your head down and shuffle along.

And shuffle along is all that i did. As the miles ticked past several times i tried to chat with fellow runners. "Hey, how are you feeling?" "Where you from?" "Have you done a marathon before?" Each and every time i recieved a grunt, or a one word answer. Or sometimes none at all, one woman was running with a single ear bud, but apparently must have been deaf in the ear where there wasn't one. Kind of depressing if you ask me. I mean, I'm not fast by any means, at the pace i run you SHOULD be able to carry on a conversation. And it wasn't like i was picking out the people that were struggling and didn't have any air to spare. I suppose part of it is my own fault. I KNOW people that run on the roads are generally solitary and aren't half as friendly as the folks i meet on the trails. I guess i had just been blessed last year to be able to run with so many friendly people that helped the miles pass.

At mile 12 i wonder if Leah's finished already. If I'll be able to see her before i head out on the second half of the figure 8 shaped marathon course. I scan the crowd as i jog along. Then i spot someone jumping up and down with a huge shamrock metal on her neck. Leah had done just fine, after being all apprehensive at the start, turns out she had an amazing race. (RR here)
I smiled, darted over to her side of the road quickly stole a kiss and raced back down the road with higher spirits. I forget how long this stretch of the course is and quickly settle back into a typical ultra shuffle. I pass people, people pass me, hardly a nod. The lack of companionship on the road is really starting to bum me out. Luckily the "tight butts" banner was flying again and that brought a smile to myself that carried me right up to the beer tent at mile 19.

With less then 6 miles to go you could see people starting to hit their "walls." I'd try to offer them words of encouragement, but just as before, all upon deaf ears. Hell even when one guy was 'peg-legging' (a term i use now based on the fella at the VT50 in 09) and i offered him salt and a drink from the water bottle that i hadn't even touched yet during the race he declined. "OK man, good luck." and i never saw that poor guy again. God knows he could have been one of the people i saw being removed by the ambulance a few minutes later.

Four hours is a long time to just be alone in your own head. And it was starting to wear on me. I downed another dixie cup of beer at the beer aid station again. Even those guys didn't seem too friendly this year around. I start to wonder if Leah had drawn a swastika on my face while i was sleeping or something. I certainly felt like an outcast.

As i come down the last stretch of boardwalk the heat was starting to get to me. I start to go into tunnel vision, without thinking about it i had given that guy a couple of miles back the last of my salt. I see Leah about 1/2 a mile from the end. Jumping up and down and yelling for me. I start to choke up. Then my legs start to cramp, then i started having a hard time breathing. I told myself, "if you pass out here you dumb bastard i'll never forgive you." So I forced a smile onto my face and gritted out the last few steps to the finish line. I was WAY off of my PR last year, but i didn't care. I just wanted to finish.
(Notice the guy behind me, he ran the whole marathon in his Vibrams. When i talked to him at mile 26 he said they felt amazing and had no qualms. I don't know if I'd ever be up for running that far on pavement with so little cushioning.)

Rocking Leah's Devil Horns in the final stretch

Smile for the camera
After making my way through the masses of people and into the beer lines i found Leah, we proceeded to drink the afternoon away with many of the free Yuengling beers.

One of the highlights of the trip had to be in the Aviary of the Virginia Beach Aquarium where a pair of pelicans were half asleep and watching us walk by with nervous glances. I encouraged Leah to jump around and wave her arms. Of course, she did so and these, once very calm beasts start going crazy. They perk up all big, wings flapping, clapping their bills and gasping for air. It had to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a long long time. That and of course Leah's freaking out.

When we left VA Beach this go around it wasn't with a promise to return next year. I think a year away might help re-spark what wasn't here this time around. Perhaps a big centennial year will bring out some happier runners, and with any luck, some fancier schwag. Neptune, you will be unchallenged by me next year, but I'll be back in 2012.

8k - 51:49
Marathon -4:30:42
Combined - 5:22:31

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