I’m back to tell you about the second half of my St. Patrick’s day weekend in Virginia Beach. If you missed the first half, and you want to catch up, check it out here.
After the 8k, I walked back to the hotel. This year I was lucky to secure a hotel close to start of both races and not too far from the finish lines either. Last year, I had to walk about 20 blocks after the half in the freezing cold. Lesson learned.
After a shower and getting the kids ready, we celebrated with my sister in law. She is due to give birth to her fourth daughter. It was so great to hang out outside in the sun. The kids were able to play and ride bikes. I think they forgot what outside play was like after such a brutal winter.
As the sun went down we headed back by the beach to get ready for dinner. While I usually wouldn’t do a special carb heavy dinner for a half marathon, I thought it was a nice opportunity for a dinner with my friend Marion and our families. Looking for good Italian food in Virginia Beach can be a challenge, especially when you are an Italian from New York City. One year we waited an hour for service and then were presented plates of pasta with sauce that tasted like ketchup. In order not to repeat that experience, I checked all the local spots on Yelp and came up with Zia Marie. It is about a 15 minute drive from the strip and it is well worth it. It was busy because it was the nice before the marathon, but the food was great and the service wasn’t bad either. If you are ever in the area, definitely check it out.
Sunday morning Marion and I met in the hotel lobby at 6:45 for a 7am race start. Again, location is everything! Like everyone around us, we were tattooed with shamrocks, clad in green and ready to go. Sunday was colder than Saturday, but the pending rain held off so I was grateful.
With a very organized corral start, we were on our way within minutes of 7 am.
Unlike Saturday’s race, I was feeling quite loose. Coach Michele had instructed me to stay easy for the first 3 miles. She suggested a 9:30 pace, but even though I tried to pull back I was set around 9:20. I was feeling good and just enjoyed the experience. At mile 4, I picked up the pace to “comfortably hard” and stayed between 9:23 and 9:00 minute miles for the next 6 miles. It wasn’t consistent, but neither were the conditions. After a few miles on a road, we headed into the military base, Fort Story. It was open and extremely windy. Then it was windy and uphill. By mile 9, I found myself doing a sub-9 pace. I think I just wanted to get away from the wind. When I reached mile 10, I realized that I had the opportunity to get in under 2 hours. Although I didn’t have any time goals per say, a sub-2 is always a desired outcome. Plus, Michele had said the last 3 miles should be hard. And they were! I wasn’t sure I could keep the pace but I tried my best. I thought about my training and how all that speed work was for this moment. Around the last half mile we turn onto the boardwalk. I knew that meant we were almost there, but we weren’t there yet. I just wanted to stop and cry. I knew I’d regret it though. Instead I used every ounce of energy and stubbornness I had to keep moving.
I crossed the finish line exhausted and exhilarated. I was pretty sure that I had my sub-2 but my Garmin was teasing me of a PR. Once I could breathe again, I texted Michele. She was able to confirm my Brooklyn Half 2013 personal record of 1:58:53. Then she confirmed my new PR of 1:58:35!
I was so excited. My friend Marion arrived soon after and found out that she had also PRed by 5+ minutes.
After collecting two medals (for the half and the dolphin challenge), we celebrated in the beer tent with lots of Yuengling.
So if you ever wondered what the little shamrocks on the race bib are, they are the number of beers that you can have in the tent. There were live bands and a place to buy more race gear. We hung out for a while and celebrated a job well done.
It was a great weekend for us. The races and after parties were well organized and so much fun. Kudos to the organizers J&A Racing for that.
Sadly, we found out later that a 16 year old local girl collapsed and died after finishing the half. Cameron Gallagher and her best friend ran their first and last half marathon together. I have no words for how much that hurts my heart. I only thank God that she got to experience that feeling of accomplishment, runner love and friendship before she took her last breathe.