The next morning was Saturday, the day of the Shamrock Expo and the 8K race. My mom and I enjoyed sleeping in a bit, and then got up for a little breakfast and coffee before hitting the expo.
The expo was held at the Virginia Beach Conference Center, an absolutely beautiful building! We lucked out with the weather on this day – it was sunny, a little breezy, with temps in the low 70s. Perfect for a day of walking around and exploring!
At the expo, we got our race bibs and shirts, and then were free to look around at the huge assortment of vendors, selling all types of running gear. We saw some pretty funny T-shirts- one of our favorites read, “Run a 5K and drink beer like it was a marathon”.
While we passed on most of the merchandise, my mom and I did make a couple purchases. We were looking at charms for running sneakers made by this company, BeeCause, when my mom spotted a charm that read “Mother Daughter”. It was too perfect to pass up! So we each got one to put on our sneakers.
We also purchased a couple of running-related coffee mugs, because well, we do enjoy our coffee!
After walking around the expo for a while, we decided to head over to the Virginia Beach boardwalk to walk around and take in some gorgeous views of the ocean. We tried to take some selfies too, but the wind made for some interesting hairstyles!
At least the photos of the scenery came out well! After walking along the boardwalk for a while, we decided to get some lunch. We both settled on seafood tacos – mine were made with grouper (a fish I’d never heard of before) and a chipotle sauce, and my mom’s were with shrimp and a sesame ginger/wasabi sauce. We were both so hungry that we ate them before getting a picture. Oops.
After lunch, we headed back to the expo to hear Runner’s World contributor Bart Yasso give a talk on the joys of running. Being avid fans of Runner’s World magazine, it was so exciting to hear one of our favorite writers speak about his experiences running literally all over the world (including places I don’t think I will ever want to run- like Antarctica!) It was very inspirational, and when we left, I was feeling pretty psyched about running the half-marathon the next morning.
That evening, we hung out and relaxed at the hotel. We had another secret package from my dad to open, so I did the honors…
More Snickers and peanut M&Ms! Got to get that pre-race fuel you know! After watching a little TV and enjoying our candy, we went to bed, knowing that we would have to be waking up early to take the 6:15 shuttle from our hotel to the starting area.
Before I knew it, my alarm was ringing and it was time to get ready. It was race morning! For some reason, I find getting up at 7 to get ready for class so much harder than getting up at 5 to run a half-marathon. Call me crazy! We made ourselves a little coffee and each had a Clif bar, and then it was time to go down to catch the bus to the start.
It was still completely dark out, but the atmosphere on the bus was cheery even at the early hour. We left a few minutes late, but I wasn’t too concerned. After a short drive, we were dropped off, about ten minutes away from the start. My mom and I started off at a brisk walk, chatting with a fellow runner. As we approached the buses where we were supposed to check our bags, I curiously checked the time on my mom’s phone – 6:56 and the race was supposed to start at 7!! Not wanting to panic my mom, I suggested that we jog the rest of the way. Luckily, there was no line where we needed to check our bags, and we were able to make our way over to the corrals as the National Anthem begun.
In hindsight, we definitely should have tried to get there earlier in the morning. It was a little hectic and stressful trying to make our way to our corral at the last minute. In the hubbub, someone even stepped on the back of my mom’s shoe, pulling it completely off! So she was hopping along on one foot, trying to put her shoe back on, while I was trying to find us a place to stand in the crowd (and regretting that there wouldn’t be enough time to use the porta-potties before the start). What I wish I had known, was that starting in corral 7, we did not end up going until almost 10 minutes after the first corral left! We had a little more time than my mom and I realized, but oh well.
Finally, it was time for our corral, and we were OFF! There were bagpipes, noisemakers, and music, and it was such an exciting and happy atmosphere! People had gotten very festive for the St. Patrick’s Day theme of the race, and it was like running through a sea of green. My mom and I both wore our new green race shirts, but they were covered up under some warmer layers, as the temps had fallen dramatically overnight, going down to the low 40s for the race. A little cool, but very comfortable for running.
The course itself was almost completely flat, which I was thankful for. After winding down some residential areas, we went down a road through a pretty, wooded area. Along one side of the road were signs with Irish-themed jokes and sayings. My favorite was “What’s Irish and stays out all night?”, the answer on the next sign read, “Patty O’Furniture”. Cheesy I know, but they were entertaining to read as the miles went by. This race also featured more entertainment than any other race my mom and I have done. There were DJs and live bands almost every 2-3 miles.
Apart from a little pain in one of my ankles early on, my mom and I were pretty comfortable through the whole race. Having had a rough winter training-wise, I was content not to push for a PR, and to just try to cruise along and enjoy the experience. I was surprised and grateful that I was able to do just that! Through the first 5 miles, my mom and I averaged just over a 10-minute mile. I was happy to see that I felt good enough to manage a negative split, running an average pace of 9:54 from mile 5 to the end. It’s nice when you’re able to finish a race feeling strong as opposed to crawling across that finish line!
I ran with my mom just past the 10-mile marker, and then surprised at how strong I felt, decided to push myself to run a little harder for the last 3.1 miles. We made plans for reuniting at the finish, and off I went. The crowd support near the finish was incredible! All the cheering really added to the fun of the whole race.
Near the end, I was starting to feel it, and I was thrilled when I rounded the bend onto the boardwalk, with the finish line in sight. It probably wasn’t more than three quarters of a mile long, but the WIND! It was awful; I could actually feel it pushing me. And not in a helpful, tailwind-type way. Ugh… I ran harder, just wanting to be done at this point, and finally crossed the line in 2 hours, 9 minutes. Not too shabby for my first race of the season! My mom ended up not being far behind, finishing in 2 hours, 11 minutes. We happily claimed our new medals, finisher hats, and some post-race snacks.
We got our bags from the truck, and then pulled on more layers, as the wind along the ocean was rapidly cooling us. Then, we went to check out the finisher’s party.
The tent was packed, a band was playing, and it was a happy chaos. We hopped on a nearby line and got some beef stew. The salty broth really hit the spot after running 13.1 miles. My mom then went to claim one of her free Yuengling beers (Yuengling was one of the sponsors of the race). Sadly, I was not able to join her in having a drink, as I was still TWO DAYS away from turning 21.
After hanging around for a bit, my mom and I decided to leave in search of a more substantial breakfast. As we walked along the main road, we cheered for the marathoners who were passing us at around mile 18 in their course and battling the cold winds. We quickly came upon a little diner that was rapidly filling with runners, and stopped in.
It felt great to sit down in the warm and cozy restaurant. We sipped our coffee and ordered some pancakes –banana ones for me, pecan pancakes for my mom. In my opinion there is no better way to celebrate a big race than with a nice, hearty pancake breakfast! We were served in no time despite the busy hour, and we devoured those pancakes in even less time. They really hit the spot after running 13.1 miles.
We caught the shuttle back to the hotel after, where we took nice hot showers and cleaned ourselves up. We also caught the weather report – it was looking more and more likely that another big snowstorm was coming, and this time, it was going to hit the midatlantic and southern states. And of course, it was supposed to hit the next day, when we were scheduled to leave and be driving all day. After consulting with my dad on the phone, we decided not to risk driving in the messy conditions and booked our room for another night.
Unfortunately, by this time the weather was already starting to get bad. A light rain had set in and it was getting colder. Not ideal for walking around and exploring. Instead, we decided to do a little shopping at a nearby indoor mall for my upcoming birthday. It was great, apart from all the walking (or should I say limping).
The following day, we were again somewhat stymied as to what to do as the bad weather continued. My mom and I finally decided our best bet was to go see a movie at the very same mall since it also contained a theater. After some deliberation, we decided to see Frozen. It just seemed fitting with all the weather drama we had experienced over the past days! Apart from two other families, we had the theater all to ourselves.
I had heard a lot of good things about this movie, and it did not disappoint! It was very cute and the songs were great! It was a really nice post-race day activity.
On Tuesday, we finally made the drive home. Again, it took us 11 hours, which is a long time to spend in a car, but at least the weather had cleared and the roads were fine. When we got home, there was a chocolate cake waiting, to celebrate my 21st birthday!!! (Thanks to my brother for picking out a good cake!).
It was a great way to wrap up our first big travel/half-marathon excursion. Despite some snafus with the weather and many long days of travel, this was a wonderful race, well-organized, and filled with friendly people. And, my mom and I are now one state closer to our 50 state goal! Woo!!