Hard to believe that we have made it to this point. The race before “THE RACE” as it were. The Anthem Shamrock Half-Marathon this Sunday in Virginia Beach.
It’s not often that I would travel more than 1,500 miles just to run a half-marathon, but this training cycle for Boston was put together with a lot of thought and planning.
Four weeks before Boston I wanted to run a half-marathon that would simulate my Boston “race weekend” as close as possible to complete the process of dialing in for perhaps the greatest road race in the world.
I wanted to travel, go to a large expo, manage a case of the pre-race jitters, line up in a huge event, stand shoulder to shoulder with talented runners and go blow for blow with them mile after mile.
Even our race shoes for Boston will be taking their maiden voyage on the streets of Virginia Beach. Getting broken in for race day in Boston.
The Texas Half in January was a great event and a solid test of my training to that point on a windy, winding course in Dallas, TX.
The Livestrong Austin Half-Marathon was an even better test, tackling a hilly monster of a course and coming within :01 seconds/mile of setting a new PR at the distance executing a near-perfect race.
But to say that there was very little “race day pressure” at either event would be an accurate statement.
The race in Dallas was a smaller event, coming off of a high-mileage training week where I did not have huge expectations for a fast race. Then on race day we received freezing temperatures and winds gusting between 20 and 25 mph off of White Rock Lake – it turned into a tough event, but one where the experience of it was far more important than any personal achievement would dictate.
Any Age Group award is a great achievement, no matter the situation – but I felt at the time that I ran a very “average” race – which was good to get out of the system as we continued to march toward Boston.
The Livestrong event here in Austin was a much larger race, with a much tougher field of athletes, but I enjoyed a lot of the comforts of a hometown race that I will not be able to lean on at Boston.
I cooked my own pre-race dinner.
I slept in my own bed.
I patted our dog on her head as I drove to the race start in my own vehicle, parking less than 1 block from the finish line.
I ran through familiar streets on a race course I had navigated 11 miles of just one year prior at last year’s Austin Marathon. I was never out of my comfort zone and I raced well, finishing in 1:24:07 and taking 3rd place in my Age Group.
My final mile was the fastest of the day in 6:06. I ran a near-perfect event.
But the Shamrock Half-Marathon is going to be the closest “simulation” to what I will experience at Boston from the time I arrive until the time I cross the finish line on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk.
I will arrive on Friday, make my way over to the expo and pick up Bib # 5157.
I will seek out a quality dinner on Saturday night that will fuel me well for the next morning’s race, and with thoughts of mile splits and race course twists and turns playing over and over in my head I will try to get a good night’s sleep in a strange bed.
On race morning I will wake early, obsess over the right race gear, make my way to the start area and find my place among 10,000 runners.
At Boston that number will be more like 25,000.
Although I have looked over the course map, with the exception of the finish to the race which I will cover on my 2-mile shakeout on Saturday morning, I will race down streets and terrain that I have never seen before.
I will navigate water stops and aid stations jostling with other runners for position and in the end, try to negative split the course and run a faster second half than first.
I will thunder to the finish line, hoping for a fast time, one that will be our final indicator as to our capabilities at Boston.
If the weather is “neutral”, neither helping nor hurting our finish time, we will double it, add 12 to 13 minutes and that will be our goal time for Boston.
A time of 1:23:30 places us right at our goal of 2:59:59 for April 16th.
A time of 1:24:30 and we are more than likely on the outside looking in at a 3 hour marathon by a minute or two.
A time of 1:25:30 and well, we will be disappointed to say the least.
The Shamrock Half is a flat course – there is no question about that. The elevation chart shows a very gradual ascent to the half-way point, less than 20 feet net total and a return South down to the finish line.
We will do less climbing in Virginia Beach over the entire half-marathon than we did just going up the hill on S. Congress Avenue on mile 3 in Austin.
Oddly, the flat course does not play to our strength as a runner. We have spent the last 6 months running hills, hills and more hills. We have been preparing for the downhill start of the Boston Marathon from Hopkinton to Newton and then the climb up and over the 4 Newton Hills to the top of Heartbreak Hill – all so that we can come off of mile 21 at Boston and race the final 5 miles to Boyleston Street.
That is what this training period has been about. Not building static speed for the flats. But for becoming a strong hill runner – both up and down – so that the climbs and descents become our allies on race day.
It will be interesting to see just how well we handle the flat course in Virginia, and whether our strength and endurance training is enough to hang with some of the speedsters that we will be battling with out East.
Virginia Beach is home to some tremendous runners. It is a city much like Austin with a strong running community. This is one of the signature events of the year. Competition will be fierce.
Just like Boston.
Time to Sham ROCK this thing.
Lookout Va. Beach – we’re not traveling all the way out there to mail this one in.
Sunday morning. Boom goes the dynamite.