Monday, March 22, 2010

Shamrockin' in VA Beach

The Shamrock Half Marathon
Virginia Beach
March 19-21, 2010

This past weekend was a blast! Way back in January I decided to join my brother and sister-in-law for their very first half marathon, and I paid for a charity spot to do so since the race had just sold out. It was worth the extra $$ because 100% of my registration fee was going to charity and one of the charities was United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation which raises $$ for research for the disease that killed my brother. Double win for me. A week or so after I registered my brother got word that his ship was being activated and going to Haiti for who-knows-how-long! Ahh. He might miss the race. (my Cornhusker blog post) ... fast forward to Friday the 19th (yes, 2 days before the race) when exhausted Captain Todd's ship returned home to Norfolk...

Mom and I had a heck of a day on Friday driving down to VA, it was sunny, warm and just overall beautiful. We broke up the drive with a ride on the Cape May- Lewes Ferry and sat outside on the deck in the sunshine, both in heaven. It was a fun ride, made more interesting by the Coast Guard running some anti-terrorism drills on our boat while en-route. Check out the gun on that little boat..

When we finally got to VA we headed right to
Todd's ship for dinner with the family. It was
delicious- they made alaskan king crab legs, shrimp, corn and kielbasa (not for me). I had never been on the ship so my nephews gave me the tour. Wow, its HUGE. The sunset was really nice and it was a nice end to a beautiful day.

From the stern of the SS Cornhusker State
(the crane pulleys look like hearts) :)
Looking out across from Captain's room

Getting the tour from the boys...

Todd's door, thats my big bro!!

Saturday morning we relaxed and just hung around, I went for a little 3 mile run with Simon (their awesome Standard Poodle). I goofed off with the boys and played until my sister-in-law Heather suggested I get on her bike to try out a real tri bike. I have never used clips before and was nervous, but I wanted to give it a try before going to a store to buy my new bike. Well... as I predicted, I fell over on my first try because I forgot I was clipped in and toppled right over. Ouch. I fell in the rocks at the bottom of the driveway and hurt my arm and cut up my knee. We laughed at my fall and as Heather turned around on her bike to help me, she also fell over. If only we had the video camera going for that one.
After the fall we all ventured down to VA beach to the expo and picked up our goodies. It was really well organized and we got a great tech tee and my bro was nice and bought me a Brooks shelter jacket in bright yellow, the one I've been eyeing for months!! I also got a free long sleeve tech shirt from a woman whose son also has a Mitochondrial disease. Very nice.

On to race day.... the exciting stuff.

The night before the race I did some prep and planned out my race.. I was not going to have a repeat of Coogan's where I miscalculated and missed my PR. I didn't want to worry about missing my splits because I forgot them either, so I just wrote them on my arm with a sharpie. My goal- a 1:43, that would be a 3+min PR from last year in Brooklyn. I knew I could do it, I just thought it was going to be tough.
I figured if I was on target at halfway (48mins) I would let myself pick up the pace and push it through the finish.

On the morning of the race it was chilly but the wind was at our backs at the start so it was comfortable in shorts and a tech tee. A lot of people were overdressed because it was still dark and they're wimps from the south. :) Many of them shed layers early on and I heard some regrets about losing good gear. The temp was actually warm (52 at the start) compared to my last few months of training so I knew to stay hydrated.
I relaxed at the start, excited and chilly but feeling really confident about the race ahead. I was in the first corral which was exciting for me, I'm usually in the 2nd corral at NYRR races. When the gun went off I took off with the crowd, determined NOT to take off too quickly. I let myself settle into a pace before checking the Garmin and thought "wow this feels easy, it must be around 8:00". I was shocked to see 7:43 flash before my eyes! It felt so easy. I made myself slow down a little, goal pace was 7:45-7:50. I tried to slow myself with thoughts of "you're going to kill yourself at this pace" but my legs and body wouldn't hear of it. I was feeling light and wonderful. I told myself that I could do this pace, it was FLAT.. no wonder I felt so good. At one point early on I looked down at my legs and thought "damn, I'm like Paula Radcliffe loping along!" No kidding, I compared myself to her. I was feeling awesome.
I breezed through the first half along shady Shore Dr that rolled through First Landing State Forest, hitting 6.2 just about 1 minute under goal time! Wow, good stuff, I thought. I knew I was going to kick out some negative splits for the second half and I latched onto a group of 3 other runners who were chatting and friendly. They were running right around 7:39 and that felt perfect! I was happy to have someone to chat with and even happier that I wasn't really out of breath at all. Weird.
It must have been around mile 9 that I noticed I was way ahead of pace and I began letting myself think about a 1:40 goal... was I really thinking about that??!!? I WAS! When I hit mile 10 nearly 2 mins ahead of pace I knew what I had to do. One of the girls from the group of 3 broke away with me and we stuck together until about 1.5 miles left to go when she started to slow and finally yelled "GO! I can't keep up!" I thanked her for the company and looked ahead, smiling because I was the one running ahead this time. I dug my heels in and gunned for that boardwalk. I hit mile 12 with minutes to spare on my goal pace and shed my reins. All during the race I had Josh's mantra in my head "there is no slower, only faster". I kicked out mile 13 at a blistering 7:14 despite turning onto the road with a big headwind and onto the hard concrete boardwalk with the wind blowing harder. I told myself "suck it up, there are no hills here, the wind is your hill..and you kick ass on hills." I had a guy near me that stuck close as we pushed through the final stretch but he pushed a little ahead so as I got close to the finish I was all alone! It was really cool because they had a d-tag mat a few meters before the finish line and were calling out the names of the finishers as they closed in on the finish... and since I was all alone with no one close behind he said "here comes Amy Cooper from New York, NY!" I threw up a little fist pump for the crowd and they loved it. hahaha. I saw the 1:40 on the clock as I crossed the finish and punched the air excitedly. WOW! a 6 minute PR!! No way!

What a race! I turned back after gathering my water, snacks (I told the cookie lady "oh I never turn down a cookie." she laughed) and finisher hat AND long sleeve tee and began to watch for Todd and Heather. I had no idea what to expect from them, but I expected to see them in under 2 hours despite 2 months on a ship in Haiti for Todd, 2 months home with 3 boys alone and a possible stress fracture in her foot for Heather. Sure enough, I heard their names called around 1:54!!! I was really excited for them! Here we are on the beach at the finish before getting a Yuengling and heading home.

Here we are hot-tubbing post-race back at their place.
Ohh that felt good.

And here are most of my goodies from the race! I definitely recommend this race for anyone who wants a flat, not too crowded, PR friendly half! It was well organized and beautiful.

And here are the numbers:
13.1 miles
1:40:26, avg pace 7:39
349 th overall/ 6205
83rd female/3756
26th in my age group, AG % 65.5

The splits are probably what I'm most proud of... consistent, consistent, consistent!! I've dubbed myself Pacemaster Jr (Elyssa is Pacemaster Sr.)


  1. Sounds like so much fun! I'm so jealous! :D AWESOME time :D Congrats on your PR and having your name announce...pretty sweet. A hot tub is a great way to end the race :D

  2. Awesome race and congrats on your PR Aimster. Beautiful splits and beautiful running!!

  3. Congrats on an amazing race, and what sounds like a totally fun weekend...

  4. awesome work on the PR and the pacing! too cool that your bro is a Captain. was he docked in Norfolk? i too love out of town races when they throw in that "from New York, NY!" are you rocking speed sessions tomorrow? I cant go, and its gross out anyway and i'm a baby in bad weather.

  5. Nice race, pacemaster jr! Was it a standing ovation? :) Shiny, new PRs rock - and i love the name on the bib thing. Happy recovery and on to the next PR to get destroyed:)

  6. Congratulations on your PR Amy! Pacemaster Jr fits your style quite well. Sounds like a very relaxing and rewarding weekend! Oh, and post-race hot tub time probably isn't too bad either. Awesome job!

  7. The human body is amazing thing ain't it. It's amazing how you can get locked into a pace and hold it for 13.1. Congrats on the new PR. 1:40 is friggin awesome.

  8. It sounds like we had the same races this past weekend!! Congratulations on the great feeling run and PR and a fun trip south!

  9. SWEET! Congrats on a great race and a PR!