So I had mentioned in the last post that living in a new state brings on new races. An 8k a week after you move, a 1/2 marathon 2 weeks after you moved, why not?!
Sunday was the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon in Hampton, VA, put on by J&A Racing. So Saturday I headed up to Hampton for the expo and packet pick-up, not knowing quite what to expect. J&A has put on races in the area in the past, but this was the Inaugural Crawlin’ Crab. 5 of my 6 previous 1/2 marathons had been put on by large companies in large cities (Rock n Roll x3, Nike Women’s and Carlsbad 1/2), so I was excited to see what difference a smaller company could make.
The expo was about 40 minutes away (with no traffic), and I had to make it through the dreaded “tunnel” that I kept hearing horrible things about. Luckily there were no accidents or gas breakdowns, so it was smooth sailing. The expo was held at the Hampton Road Convention Center, was easy to find off the freeway, had ample parking and there were no lines to pick up my packet (change #1). It was much smaller than the other expos I had been to, but they had swag to purchase with the race name on it (see my last blog post for awesome pictures) and the purchasable running gear was made by Brooks, so how could I refuse?! There were 2 rows of vendors (change #2) representing local chiropractic clinics, running stores (yay for Fleet Feet!), nutritional items, and of course vendors selling stickers, shirts, headbands, socks, hats, you name it. One thing that I would have loved to see what a booth selling different gels, bars, drinks, etc. Honey Stingers are few and far between in these parts, so I had to drive about 30 minutes out of my way to find the Honey Stinger gels for race day. But since that’s the only thing I can eat during a race, it was worth the drive. I also snagged a pair of Brooks shorts and a long sleeve race shirt, also by Brooks.
Sunday morning I made the drive up to Hampton again, and this time it was raining. They had forecasted a high of 60, thunderstorms and 80% chance of rain… fabulous. As if last weekends 8k in the rain wasn’t enough, let’s add on another hour and a half to that, and then take away about 10 degrees of warmth and all the humidity. I was doing a reverse rain dance in the car for the drive up. It was more than welcome to rain the entire drive, as long as it promised to stop once the race started and not start up again for 3 hours.
Now let me just say that the organization of this race was fabulous (take notes RnR!). Since it’s a smaller, local company, they can really focus on the participants needs, take (and welcome) advice, and don’t skimp on, well, anything. The expo was organized, they answered question quickly via Facebook, updated their page with picture from the expo to get everyone excited. Race day proved to be no different. There was ample parking, tons of volunteers, enough port-o-potties (they call them port-o-johns here, crazy kids) to go around (and the convention center was even open for us to use their restrooms as well!), corrals were clearly marked, etc. I honestly don’t have any complaints about the set-up of the race. It was the perfect size, capping out at 5,000 participants, split between the 1/2 marathon and 5k.
The route was really beautiful, and being new to the area, I honestly think the best way to get to know your new town is through running. I looked at everything I passed, I read signs on building (talk about history), I admired the architecture of the houses, and really enjoyed the fantastic views of the Hampton Harbor during that stretch. Despite the weather, residents along the route came out to the sidewalk still in their pajamas to cheer us on. Some brought out chairs, some carried steaming cups of coffee, and others came out with their whole families. These people didn’t know us, didn’t know anyone in the race, but lived along the race route and wanted to cheer us on. It was such a great feeling. They also placed crab-themed jokes along the race route to entertain us 🙂
Seriously, if I’m still in VA next year, I will be doing this race again, no questions asked. And if all the J&A races are half as good as this one, I’ll be doing them all (I’m already registered for their Blue Moon Wicked 10k at the end of October). Virtual high-5 for those at J&A. You took everything that’s wrong at those big company races and made it all right. No not just right, amazing.
And about the race itself:
I don’t sleep well normally. I’ve been sleeping even worse since moving to Virginia. Before, I would wake up a few times during the night, but usually can go back to sleep pretty quickly. Even though I’m not awake for long, the disruption makes for a really tired day. Since moving here, I’ve been waking up every hour-hour and a half, wide awake like I’ve been asleep for 8 hours and I missed my alarm. Then I freak out and grab my phone to check the time. It’s only been an hour?! What the! The night before the race was no different. Even though I had a quiet house (aside from the cat that kept waking me up), and got in bed at 8:45pm for a 4:40am wake-up, I woke up at least 6 times during the night, so I was ti-yerd the next morning. Luckily I already had everything set up and packed up.
I went to the bathroom before the race, like any well-hydrated runner does. It was about 40 minutes before the race, and since it was FREEZING outside, I went back to the car to attempt to stay warm until a few minutes before the race started. Big mistake. I should have just parked it next to the bathrooms, just in case.
The gun went off at 8:00am with Corral 1. Since I had no idea how I was going to do, I put myself in Corral 5 (aka the last one), so I had a few minutes to look around while waiting. I should have gone to the bathroom while waiting! But instead I parked myself alongside the 2:30 pacer. I knew if I wanted a PR, I had to stay in front of her, so I figured I’d stay with her until my legs warmed up and then take off. For the mental aspect, I break my 1/2 marathons into 5k’s to stay sane. Sometimes I’ll also randomly yell out “we’re 1/4 of the way done, you can do this!” I apologize to anyone I’ve annoyed 🙂
Mile 1: 10:12
That plan quickly changed when 1/4 of a mile (yes, that fast), my bladder decided I still had extra nuun to discard. Luckily there were port-o-potties just after mile 1. Unluckily there were only 5 and there was a line. I’m not going to pee on myself, so I fell in line. 4 minutes later I was off and running again, knowing I had to make up A LOT of time. My goal was to catch up to the 2:30 pace group at least.
Mile 2: 13:56 (DANG YOU BLADDER!)
Mile 3: 10:40
Mile 4: 10:20
Mile 5: 9:51 (yay finally loose legs)
At about mile 5.5, my throat started to itch and tickle. I had woken up Friday morning with a little sore throat, but was hoping it was just the weather change, or maybe I had slept with my mouth open (attractive, right?) Not so much. I woke up Saturday morning with an itchy throat and so much pressure in my head. Hello DayQuil, please work FAST. Then I woke up Sunday morning with the itchy, tickly throat (that also kept me up the night before, drinking water or trying to clear my throat to get it to leave me alone). Unfortunately it was like this on and off for 4 miles. I’m sure it was really annoying to those running around me, because I wanted to punch myself in the throat. I had to cough every 4-5 breathes, so it really threw off my breathing 😦
Mile 6: 10:37 (finally passed the 2:30 pacer and not all hope was lost… and then it started to sprinkle)
Mile 7: 10:20
I really wish I would have run with my phone so that I could take pictures of the scenery along the harbor and the houses. But I decided that morning that I 1) didn’t want the extra weight in my SpiBelt (in a previous 1/2, having my phone in there had actually bruised my tailbone or whatever shifty bone is right there), and 2) I didn’t want it to get wet or have to fiddle with a plastic bag if I wanted a picture. Mental pictures, all mental pictures.
Mile 8: 10:34
My knees were really starting to hurt at this point, and I realized that I need to spend a lot more time with my foam roller. I had a fabulous sports masseuse in San Diego, and while at times it felt like torture sessions, all my best runs were after sessions with him. I really miss that guy!
Mile 9: 11:06 (I had to chew and digest my Red Vines, duh. Oh and it was mile freaking 9 and was raining at this point)
I came to the realization that with the sky darkening, the rain wasn’t going to let up. All the races I had run in CA were dry (Bay to Breakers doesn’t count because we were people watching and not actually racing) This was my 2nd race in VA, and the 2nd wet race. Time to get used to it, I guess. Good thing I put on a hat and long sleeve over my tank, otherwise I would have been miserable.
Mile 10: 10:29 (realization that if I could somehow maintain this pace, I had a shot at a PR)
Aside from knowing that if I even had to stop to walk once that my PR would be gone, this was probably the toughest mental mile. This is my wall. In previous 1/2’s, my brain and body just want to stop at mile 10. I’ve had to walk in previous races. Some I’d only need to walk the water stops, others I would need walk breaks once or twice in the final miles. To pass mile 10 without needing this was SUCH a huge relief for me and the mental boost that I needed to get me through the rest of the race.
Mile 11: 10:42
Mile 12: 10:40
I knew it would be close to my PR, and I REALLY wanted it (especially after the heartache of missing it by a minute at this years RnR SD, when I was on pace for 3/4 of the race and making stupid mistakes that cost me the PR). I wasn’t going to walk. I wasn’t going to give up!
Mile 13.1: 13:05
BOOM SHAKA LAKA! PR time! It was a fabulous feeling coming into the home stretch, looking down at my Garmin and knowing I was going to do it. It was also a scary feeling because my Garmin isn’t always trustworthy. At least on current/average pace side. I had the top line set up for overall time though, and based on that, I had a PR. I wasn’t sure how accurate it was, so I was going to wait until official results were up before getting too excited.
Since I was getting sick, and it was still raining, I had to skip the finish line festivities and that totally bummed me out because those J&A kids love to party! Peroni beer, chowder in bread bowls and all kinds of goodies at the finish line, but even though they made one hell of an effort, even they couldn’t control mother nature and had to pack up early 😦 You better believe I still collected my awesome medal (all J&A medals also double as a bottle opener. I told you they love to party!), banana, pretzels, Gatorade and Powerbar at the finish line. I didn’t want to turn down all the free food!
Turns out it was a PR by 1 minute and 51 seconds (Final official time: 2:22:24). On the one hand I was really excited to finally PR (my previous PR was set during my 1st 1/2 marathon in June 2011. Crawlin’ Crab was my 7th 1/2 marathon, so there have been quite a few “almosts” in between). On the other hand, I was 1) really sad that I was there alone, and had no one to share the excitement with. I just went back to the car and drove home. Running is as much an individual sport as it is a social sport. I miss running with friends, and I miss my Saturday morning sessions with Team in Training, and 2) Even though it was a PR, I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t stopped to go to the bathroom, it would have been over a 6 minute PR. It would have been a sub 2:20 1/2 marathon, and that absolutely killed me. I’m still not over it, but I’m trying.
Next up is the Wicked 10k in a couple weeks. I plan on trying to PR for that distance, and I need to think of a runner friendly costume idea. Since I just moved here and don’t have a lot of my things (and let’s face it, am not a huge costume person), can I get away with black running tights, a sparkly running skirt, a football jersey and eye black and pretend I’m a football player?