Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Rock n' Roll Virginia Beach

Lets get all the stats out of the way first:
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes (9.25, 9.24, 9.27, 10.18, 9.19, 9.27, 9.33, 9.22, 9.34, 9.25, 9.35, 9.37, 8.37). I was 109th out of my age group of 709.
The Expo: This race was huge. Apparently 16,000 people were in town for it!! It coincided with the American Music Festival which made Virginia Beach even busier. As I'd mentioned we arrived late on Friday evening so I went to the expo on Saturday. It was in the massive Virginia Beach Convention Centre.
Trying to beat the crowds we arrived a half hour before the expo opened. It mostly worked we had no trouble parking, getting my number or shirt.....or shopping!! After an hour I was happy to be out of there because then crowds had built up and it started to feel like a cattle pen.
Since I don't really walk around expos, because Martina is usually outside with Boomer, I wanted to make the most of this one. After getting my bib and shirt, I got on a little shopping high he he. I've been debating whether or not my PureConnects need to be replaced. I don't feel like they have a huge number of miles on them but the left shoe was starting to look funny (I'll put up some comparison pictures later in the week) I went ahead and got a new pair at 10% off. I really wanted a new color but they only had the same blue as my old ones. I don't really like the t-shirt from this race (I'm turning into a t-shirt snob) so I saw a cute racer back top that Brooks had made for the Rock n Roll series and bought that. I now have three sleeveless t-shirts in my rotation for summer.
BTW so much free stuff. I think we picked up 4 beer cozies and a whole bunch of free samples etc. I even nabbed a pair of sunglasses!

The Race: 

Did you look at the elevation changes? A beautiful flat course except for two very short hills. I probably should have looked at this map before I came to Virginia Beach as the Half course went right around the KOA where we were staying. All the roads were closed the next morning but luckily we found out the night before that the city transport authority were running a bus from the campground to the race start. Even better as we had no worries about parking or getting lost. So we arrived early, two hours before the race started, as the buses were running at 5 o'clock. This made for a bleary 4am wake up. I got dressed and spent what felt like a half hour fighting to get my contacts in (I am getting better but it was 4am) and then ate half a bagel with PB on the bus.
I spent the time waiting by talking to some other runners who were very entertaining or going to the millions of port-a-potties. Right as I lined up in my corral I needed to pee but it was too late. I was also hungry but a bite of banana was enough to help with that.
The corrals were based on your predicted finish time (I put in 2 hours) and I somehow ended up in corral 5 which was super close to the start. Each corral was released after a 2 minute delay designed to space the runners out. It was still pretty crowded and of course I was passing walkers in the middle of the road within two minutes (please move over). 
The first couple of miles had loads of spectators (with signs etc) and lots of bands (two in the first mile). I left my music at home as I really wanted to enjoy the on course music so this abundance of bands was much appreciated. It got a little quieter as we left the downtown area but there were still bands every mile or so. I also managed to stay in the vicinity of what I dub "the guy with the loudest voice in the world", every so often he would shout out "lets go runners" etc. It was very motivating, like having my own drill sergeant :)

From the start I loved this race, every 1/4 to 1/2 a mile there was something, be it a band, cheerleaders, aid station or just a big bunch of lovely locals. The only section that was a bit boring was through Camp Pendleton and even then I think it was because the area was so open you could see exactly where all the runners ahead of you went.
   For a half marathon I thought the course support was more on par with a marathon. The aid stations were frequent and well stocked and a few extras like cold oranges and gels were available at different points. Did I mention the heat index was 107 that day....I was drenched in sweat even after the first mile, the humidity was so high. Additional course support included a misting arch and icy cold water sponges at one aid station to help combat the heat. I even saw a number of "runner cooling stations" aka buses with the AC on so high there was condensation running off the side of the bus.

I'll be honest there were some extras that I couldn't tell if they came from good Samaritan locals or if it was official course support, for example small cups of gummy bears and then ice pops at mile 11. The little cups of beer at miles (roughly) 8 and 10 were from a hiking association, that was awesome and my first time drinking beer while running. I do know a lot of the water hoses were coming out of peoples back gardens so regardless I think this race had the best spectators. I fully took advantage of all of these things to stay cool and appreciated it...thank you. At the finish icy cold wet cloths and really cold air blowers also helped with the heat. When I was done running you could have wrung out my clothes they were so wet from water and sweat. I have some unusual chafing as a result...the waistband of my shorts left a nice little belt line around my waist.
I didn't find the heat that bad and I don't know if it was because of all my efforts to cool off but I didn't overheat at all but then again the heat and humidity didn't feel any different to most of my training in SC. It was probably a lot harder for folks from parts of the country where its already began to cool off, I saw a few runners being supported on their way to the medical tent.

My strategy for this race was to run conservatively i.e. not race. This was about going on vacation and running a fun long training run. So I picked my pace 9.30-9.45 which is 30-45 seconds slower than my marathon pace (predicted). My other aim was to walk as little as possible. Most of my runs are punctuated by train crossings, traffic lights etc. etc. so I don't often get to test myself continuously.
 I probably took off a tiny bit too fast at the start but I was hyped up and ready to go. I stayed that way for most of the race, it was hard to hold back. Eventually my need to pee caught up with me and I dipped into a port-a-potty at mile 4 (another first) and that resulted in a slooow mile. I felt great after that and had to rein myself back in. Somewhere around the middle of the race my right knee felt a bit of IT pain (yes it decided to switch back to my right leg) but I concentrated on correcting my form and it eased off again. 

With regards to walking, I walked three times, twice I was forced to at aid stations that were really crowded and I got boxed in for maybe 10 seconds. The third time I walked for 10 seconds to douse myself with the sponge. All in all I was really happy with that, none of those were significant breaks and they weren't because I was flagging. 
I decided as I was approaching the 12 mile mark to run a fast final mile to see if I had any go left in my legs. I didn't go flat out...nowhere to hide on the boardwalk if I got sick and I didn't want to jeopardize the coming weeks training. However, I was really happy that I could drop the pace to a sub-nine minute mile with very little effort and hold it until the end. 
 I went across the finish mat and besides cold towels, I got so much stuff I had to hand things over the fence to Martina. Water, chocolate milk, granola (random), powerade. I did hold onto the ice pop and eat that. I can't remember seeing other solid food but I'm sure there was. When the barriers finally opened we went down onto the beach and I did some stretching and got a beer (Michelob Ultra--not my favourite) and after I'd used my beer ticket I realised further down the line Barefoot were there with wine that I could have had instead, doh.
We then walked down the boardwalk, stopping occasionally for me to stretch. I found some restrooms and got changed (my sherpa brought clean clothes) and we went and got breakfast (along with some Mimosas) on a nice beachfront patio. 
After food and two drinks I was a) slightly tipsy (only slightly, its the bubbles I swear) and b) very sleepy. We splashed out on a taxi back to the campground and I crashed for 3 hours before we went back out for the biggest amount of (veggie)sushi I've ever eaten. My bib would have gotten me free entry into the music festival that night but since I didn't know any of the bands and had a long drive the next day I gave it a miss.

I'm a bit stiff after the weekend, but I was before the trip and then throw in two 6 hour drives and you have some tight hips, so I don't think its down to the race. In case you can't tell I really enjoyed this race..I now have my sights set on Rock n' Roll Las Vegas at some stage in the future.

Do this race. Just expect the heat and to splash some cash. They didn't have my favourite t-shirt or medal but those things don't really matter (who am I) it was worth it for the experience.

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