Hard to know where to start with this one. I read this article in the VA pilot on my way home Monday night and I think it really sums up the overall conditions for the races on Sunday. The article describes the start of the race where we really had no idea what lay ahead of us. That part was so true. I left my hotel room in shorts and my singlet with an old throwaway fleece (carrying my dry bag) and as soon as I got outside I had to return to put on more clothes. I realized that I wasn’t prepared for the conditions, but I just laughed and shook my head. There wasn’t anything I could do about it.
The warm up was probably worse than the race itself: dark, pouring rain, alone, and straight into the wind. I heard the national anthem playing when I knew I still had about a half mile left, so I was a little worried about getting to dry bag trucks, taking my extra clothes off, etc and getting to the start before 7 am, but I made it. The energy before the race was more relaxed than usual, almost like everyone was just at the IDGAF stage. When the race started, I was literally weaving around people wearing trash bags. I’ve seen that kind of thing before races (never worn one myself… I usually opt for throwaway clothes) but never during.
My plan for the race from my coach was to run 6:40s through 8-9 miles and then try to pick it up for the last few miles if I felt good. The more detailed version was that the first 8-9 miles should feel more like a tempo effort, and the last 4-5 should feel more like a race. With the forecasted winds, I decided my best bet would be to not worry about my exact pace and just focus on keeping a tempo effort. I was hoping for a pack to run with to help break the wind, and after the first mile I found myself running with a pack of about 10 other runners. First 3 miles were into the wind and mostly in the 6:40s (splits for the race are here).
Just before the 3 mile split we turned onto Shore Dr. and the change of direction (and being a little inland with some tree protection) made the wind a non-issue for the next three miles. Most of our pack took off and I found myself running with Mary at what felt like a comfortable pace. We hadn’t planned to run together but we ended up running the remainder of the race pretty much stride for stride which was a stroke of really good luck (and a lot of fun). As we turned right into the gates of Fort Story, I prepared myself for what I knew would be the strongest wind gusts of the day.
I’ve been thinking about how to describe the conditions at this point. Somehow the winds were coming straight at us AND sideways. Some of the gusts were so bad that they felt like they’d blow us over. There were volunteers standing out in the worst rain and wind handing out cups of water and gatorade, and I almost couldn’t believe it. There was a runner pushing a stroller for Team Hoyt as part of the race running under 7 minute pace into the wind just ahead of us, and I was in awe knowing that even 9 minute miles with a stroller are hard. My legs were numb, my hands were numb. I kept looking down at my legs to make sure they were there. I didn’t look at splits in Fort Story because I was afraid they would be way off pace. When I saw the gates leading us out onto Shore Dr./Pacific I almost cried knowing that the wind would soon be at our backs.
Somewhere in the last 3 miles I knew I was going to have a good race. I started to gain some feeling back in my arms and legs and decided to try to take my soaking wet arm warmers off. I took one off and felt like I dropped a pound. The other was under my watch, and I took a minute to figure out how the hell I was going to maneuver this feat with numb fingers. I decided to just carefully take my watch off, remove the arm warmer, and then put the watch back on my wrist. Except I couldn’t feel what I was doing at all. So my watch slipped out of my useless fingers onto the pavement and I saw it happening in slow motion thinking “noooooooo”. It took me a second to stop and pick it up, but that kind of jolted me back into the race and I got back on pace immediately. My watch stopped when it fell, so my splits were off after that… but this ended up being a good thing because I didn’t bother to look at the splits and instead just focused racing.
Mary and I were still running together and passed a few other runners along the way, but neither of us were worried about place. I was starting to get tired, but knowing that I only had a few miles left I just let myself race and go to the pain cave. My last two miles were 6:24, and 6:10 (I didn’t know that during the race but noticed it later when I plugged in my Garmin). I saw the finish line clock as I was approaching and was almost confused when I saw 1:26, and then I kicked in the last .1 and crossed the finish line. My official chip time was 1:26:21 and I was 10th female. I reeeally didn’t want to do my full cool down but ended getting it done and finishing with 20 miles for the day.
I’ve been feeling pretty good since Sunday, with 4 easy days on the training schedule but a 24 miler looming ahead this weekend. I’ll have some more thoughts about Shamrock and my marathon training coming up soon.