Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: David Orton
Race: Shamrock Marathon
Date: Sunday, March 22, 2009
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 3:08:00
Overall Place: 73 / 2555
Age Group Place: 9 / 193
Comment: BQ

Race Report:

Full race report with photos: http://projectbq.blogspot.com

Pre Race
Everything leading up to the race went according to plan. The three hour drive to VA Beach was uneventful, packet pickup was smooth, and the pre-race weather forecast had low 40s and little wind. We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was within walking distance of the start and finish line. This allowed Karolina and me to stay in the warm room (with my own bathroom!) until 15 minutes before our respective races. Karolina was running the half marathon which started one hour before the full marathon at 7:00 AM while the full marathon started at 8:00 AM. Our alarm went off at 4:45 and we started our regular pre-race routines.

Breakfast was my usual balance bar with a cup of coffee, followed by a banana, and then bottle of Perpetuam. With breakfast out of the way, I suited up and go back in bed and just relaxed. The horizon was just starting to show light when Karolina left for her race start. I wished her well and told her to hammer the last three miles of the run. We'd both completed a perfect taper and she was ready for a big PR. I now anxiously waited alone in my room, taking four or five trips to the bathroom. It was so nice having my own bathroom and not waiting in the porto lines. I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and then went downstairs to meet Craig and Scott 15 minutes before the start.

We moved near the front of the start line, just ahead of the 3:10 pace group. I asked the lead pacer how he planned on running the race. He said it would be mostly even, with maybe a 1 minute positive split from the half way mark. I planned on running my race but I also wanted to have an idea of what the pace group had planned. I 'checked myself' a few times, making sure everything was set. I tied a double knot on my Nike Lunar Racers and made sure my Fuel Belt was tight and in the right position. As we waited, I killed the final moments trying to relax and get my HR down. Scott, Craig, and I gave each other one last handshake and we were off.

Start - Miles 1-3
The start was surprisingly smooth. There was no bumping, dodging or mass passing of people. At one point, Scott joked that we were "holding everyone up" because it seemed like no one was passing us. Nearing the first mile, the 3:10 group went by on the far side of the road. I was very surprised since my Garmin showed us at low 7 min mile pace. We passed through mile 1 at 7:07 and motioned to Scott and Craig that we should slow up a bit. The pace group did the same and we hit the next mile at 7:21 which evened things out. Around that point we passed our cheering section which was a great boost and we gave them a wave.

Rudee Bridge - Miles 3-7
Around mile 3 we made our first pass over Rudee Bridge. I hadn't seen it before, but I knew it was the main climb on the course. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared, a 200 meter steady rise and drop. My focus going over the bridge was to keep my HR down and not lose a Fuel Belt bottle. When running uphill, I tend to bump the bottles which can cause them to eject. I shorten my stride, focusing on fast feet and kept one hand near my fuel belt. The three of us went over easily and gently cruised down the backside of the bridge. This led to a long flat stretch of road going out to the first turn around. Up to this point, the three of us stayed together and didn't say much. Craig thought this is was a good time to crack a few jokes. It helped keep the mood light and relaxed and we cruised along holding 7:14 pace. At the turnaround near 5.5 miles I started drinking from my fuel belt and took my first swig of Hammer Gel. I wanted to move through my Fuel Belt and give it to Karolina at the half way point. I wasn't thirsty yet, but I'd trained to drink at miles 5, 10, and 14 and I wanted to stick with my plan.

Camp Pendleton - Miles 7-10
By the time we entered the army base, the race had really thinned out. We passed a few people, and a few people passed us, but for the most part if was very spread out. The base had a number of 90 degree turns which caused our pace to fluctuate a bit. I think this also contributed to our pace dropping a bit. By the time we left the base we were running sub 7:10 pace. Things felt great and I did a few self checks to make sure my HR was down and I stayed relaxed. As we left the base I took down some Endurolytes. Scott and Craig were letting me dictate the pace and Scott mentioned that I was "sweating a lot" so I wanted to keep enough salt in my system. I've always been a big sweater and knew the Endurolytes would be critical to keeping the cramps away later in the race. We crossed back over the Rudee Bridge and hit the 10 mile mark in 1:12:06 - 24 seconds ahead of pace. This was my first real check of our overall pace and it showed that we were right on track. I grabbed water at the next aid station and threw it on my face - only to discover it was Gatorade. I'd keep the sticky face until the next aide station.

Boardwalk - Miles 10-13
We then made our way to sea and turned left on the boardwalk. As we approached, Scott remarked that this was the point when we'd "feel the wind". At the start, there was no wind but it was scheduled to pick up during the day. If it was bad, this would be the worst section of the race. We made the turn, and thankfully, there was no wind. We spread out across the boardwalk and enjoyed the awesome view of the sea and Virginia Beach skyline. Our pace was still in the 7:08-7:10 range and everything felt good. Scott and Craig both said they felt good and we maintain our steady pace. Shortly before turning off the boardwalk, Scott came up next to me and reminded me to hold back and relax. We were about to pass back through the start/finish area and the crowds would be big. Scott reminded me to hold steady and not get excited with all the cheering. It was at mile 12 when we saw the Team FeXY section. Shawn Clark ran out of the crowd and kept us company for 400 meters while Sam and Karen shouted us on. Shawn gave us some inspiring words before pulling up. About 400 meters later, I saw Karolina. The plan was to drop off my empty fuel belt and gloves while grabbing a new bottle of HEED and Hammer Gel flask. The complicated handoff went surprisingly well while Karolina ran along with me for a few seconds. She told me she had a great half marathon race and PRed. It was just the motivation I needed. After a few seconds I told Karolina I had to go and she pulled off.

Atlantic Ave. & Shore Drive - Miles 13-19
Scott, Craig and I regrouped and hit the half marathon mark at 1:34:13 - 47 seconds ahead of pace. Up to this point, the race had gone exactly to plan. No surprises, no issues, no bathroom stops, no tripping, no cramps, nothing! We made the turn onto Atlantic Ave. which was a long straight three mile stretch that seemed to go on forever. I felt really good and tried to lock into a relaxed but strong pace. Scott and Craig lined up behind me and we started a paceline down the road. At mile 14, I we had about 8 guys following behind us in a straight line. I felt great and ticked off 7:05 mile pace. We then turned left into a wooded section along Shore Drive at mile 16. For some reason, my Garmin started showing weird data and said we were running 7:25 pace. At first I thought I had slowed down and quickly picked up the pace. After a few seconds Craig asked me what the hell I was doing? I'd completely blown up the paceline and Scott quickly came to the front and told me to back off a bit. I settled back down, but was still concerned about the numbers I saw on the Garmin. At that point, I stopped looking at my watch and got split data from Scott at each mile marker. We continued running along shore drive, reading the interesting motivational signs posted by the race organizers. At this point I noticed that we were passing people at a steady rate. We ticked off 7:10 and 7:07 splits and then Scott gave me the news that Craig had fallen back. We both talked about whether we should hold up and I was conflicted with what I should do. Craig was shooting to go sub 3:15 and we were well under the pace to hit that time. I ultimately told Scott that we should keep going. I felt bad but I also didn’t know what lay ahead for me in the race.

Fort Story - Miles 19-23
We finally made the right turn into Fort Story which marked the 19 mile point in the race. This was a mini milestone in the race and point to check my pace and nutrition. Everything felt good as I took down more gel and Endurolytes. My feet hurt a little but calves felt great with my 2XU compression race socks. I started to pick things up and bit and got down to near sub 7:00 pace. At this point Scott came up to me and said I should hold back a little. There was still 7 miles to go and I should control my effort with a gradual build. I agreed and slowed our pace through mile 21. At mile 22 I finished my bottle and gel and ditched them at the aide station. Suddenly, at this point I started to feel the effects of my efforts. I was hurting and slowed down to 7:14 pace. Scott could see I was slowing down and provided some motivational words as I bared down on what lay ahead. This was where the mental toughness would come into play. I thought back to all the hard workouts and the moments when I pushed through the pain. The pain and discomfort was spreading from my feet to my quads and I tried to focus on the straight line ahead of me. Five more miles….four more miles…hang on…bend, don't break.

Atlantic Ave. Part II - Miles 23-26
We left the army base and got back out on Atlantic Ave. at mile 23. I told myself I had 5k to go. Come on, 5k is so short…I can run 5k with one leg. I tried every mental trick in the book. At mile 24 I started to feel a bit better and put myself in a running trance. My stride was locked in, I just continued the exact same motion over and over, trying to hang on and not blow up. Amazingly, we were still passing people. I was watching people blow up all around me, stopping to walk, stretching calves, sitting on the curb. Scott kept me focused, saying motivational phrases and counting down the miles. I continued my trance like run until suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt something kick my left foot. Scott was following right behind me and he accidentally got too close and kicked my foot forward. I felt my hamstring tighten up and begin to cramp. No! I yelled and tripped forward catching myself before locking up my hamstring and falling down. I was wide awake now from my trance. Scott was apologizing next to me but I heard nothing, all I could hear was brain screaming for me to stop. We hit mile 25 - one mile to go. The course snaked left and right and the sudden change in stride caused my right calve to twitch dangerously. I was moments away from my calve locking up and I needed to hang on for another 8 minutes. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, a cyclist pulled out in front of us, nearly hitting Scott. Scott provided some colorful commentary as we put our heads down for the final turn onto the home stretch.

Boardwalk - Mile 26
The final stretch was a .3 mile straight shot down the boardwalk. We made the final turn and could see the finish banner in the distance. I asked Scott if I was close to hitting 3:10. "We got it" was his reply. All I remember thinking was OK - don't cramp now. Just hang on for another quarter mile. The crowds grew as we approached the line. I could hear the sound of the announcer but it slowly became drowned out in the screams from the crowd. I looked over and saw Scott next to me. I could see he wanted to drop the hammer but I couldn't go. Part of me was scared of cramping up, but deep down I really just wanted to enjoy the final moments of the journey. It was running down the final stretch smiling from ear to ear. I couldn't stop smiling, I was so happy. It was going to happen. I was going to qualify for Boston. In the final steps I extended my hand to Scott. A final handshake to the guy who helped shepherd me home to the finish. We did it.

A few moments after crossing the line, I stopped my watch and hunched over. After a quick self examination, I confirmed I was OK and started my slow hobble down the finish shoot. I walked a few steps and then stopped to look at my watch. I still wasn't 100% convinced I'd done it. I saw 3:08:something. OK - confirmed. We received our finishers gear (a nice hat, medal, and beer cup) and made our way to the exit. Reid was the first to find us followed by Karolina, Dan and Shawn. About five minutes later we heard that Craig was finishing. He hung tough after mile 18 and also qualified for Boston with a 3:13. The three of us all hit our goals. It was an awesome conclusion and all the more special being surrounded by my friends and lovely wife.

Looking back on the day, the one thing I can say is "everything clicked". From pre-race, to race, to post-race, there was nothing that could have gone better. Everyone who ran on Sunday had a great race. Dan, Reid, Shawn, Ally, and Karolina all had PR races. The three marathoners all hit BQs and had amazing races. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.