Monday, March 17, 2014

Race Review: SHAMROCK (& FLOCK) ON

"Birds of a feather are flocking outside."
~ Trey Anastasio

This past weekend I flew down to Virginia Beach to run the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon with my Oiselle teammates.  I was excited about the race.  But I was way more excited to meet the 40+ women from my team that were coming in from all over the country; women that I have connected with through social media, for months, and in some cases, years but have never met in person.  I had also hoped to meet up with the Loopsters, another group of runners that I have connected with over the past few months via Runner's World (sadly, I couldn't make this one happen for reasons you'll see below).  In order to get down to VA, I had to fly through Atlanta, which makes absolutely no sense, but was my only option with my Delta frequent flyer miles.  I arrived in GA sporting my Oiselle (okay, fine, every day) uniform of a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers.  Within minutes, I was pegged by a teammate who was headed down to race the 8K, which was being held on Saturday.  Unlike myself, Asher was put together in a totally chic outfit, perfectly coiffed, and looking nothing like the scrubby runner that I did.  Her husband, Dallas, who I met a few minutes later, looked just as dapper in his wing tips and button down shirt.  I wanted to be annoyed with them for making me look and feel like the 39 year old mom that I am, but they were just too damn nice.

Asher &, funny AND crazy fast runners.
We hung out together and chatted as we waited for our flight to board.  Four hours, 2 broken planes, a new flight crew and 2 meals later, we took off for VA.  Let's just say we got to know each other pretty well within a very short (or long, depending on how you look at it) window of time.  I finally made it to my hotel around 11:45 and bee-lined it up to my room to hit the hay.  I was sharing a room with KMet, our Oiselle team leader, who I’ve gotten to know through email since I became an ambassador in 2012.  Turns out, there would be no going to bed (my fault).  I was completely wired and stupidly excited to be there.  We stayed up and talked for another hour before we finally nodded off.  Unfortunately, KMet's alarm would be going off at 5:30am.  Yikes.  In addition to Asher, several other Oiselle birds would be running the 8K the next day and she needed to be there for the start.  I got a little more sleep than KMet, but not much, as I wanted to get over there by 8:00am to watch my teammates fly through the finish line.  The ladies who were not racing had made plans to meet at 7am the next morning and head over to the race, which was a 15 minute drive from our hotel.  In my sleep deprived state, I thought they had said 7:30 and as a result I completely missed my ride.  After a minor freakout, I cabbed over to the beach, asking my driver, a lovely woman named Sheila, to step on it so I wouldn’t miss the end of the race.  She got me as close as she could and then I ran the rest, making it just in time to see all of the Oiselle runners cross the line, several of them totally crushing it, including these four lovely birds who run at the elite level.

Asher Henry, Heidi Greenwood & Aubrey Moskal
After the 8K, I had a chance to head over to meet the Loopsters at the beer tent and I really wanted to, but I could not keep my eyes open.  Literally.  A few of us grabbed a quick bite and then KMet and I headed back to our hotel for some much-needed shut-eye.  The only bummer here being that it was beyond beautiful out…sunny and 60 degrees…something I haven’t seen or felt for over 4 months living up in the Boston area.  It felt almost wrong to hole up in the dark cave of our hotel room when it was like this outside.  But in this brief mental battle between sleep and nature, sleep took the win.  At 4:30pm (yes, 4:30) we headed over to Bravo, an Italian restaurant, to have dinner with our whole group.  There were about 50 of us total, including ambassadors, along with several friends, moms, babies and significant others of ambassadors and, of course, our fearless leader, KMet.  We easily took up half the restaurant.  It was awesome.  For two hours we all got to know each other, or know each other better.  It was pretty incredible to be surrounded by a group of people who are as passionate about running as I am from all walks of life.  All of us so different, but at the same time, a lot alike.

The Oiselle Birds
After dinner, I headed back to the hotel to get to bed early as the half marathon would be starting at 7:00am, which meant I'd be getting up around 5:00.  I always get a good kick out of the fact that I’m likely going to bed before my 7 year old when I have an early race start like this.  It was not easy to turn off the light and will myself to fall asleep in the 8 o'clock range, particularly when my nerves were starting to kick in, but somehow I managed to fade out.  Two minutes later (more like 7 hrs, but if felt like 2 minutes) I was up and at ‘em.  KMet dropped myself, and my new buds, Ashley and Nicole at the race with about 30 minutes to spare.  As we walked along, we noticed that none of the other runners next to us had their race bags.  We quickly realized that we were late for the bag drop off and that there was a good chance we would be running with our bags if we couldn't find the last truck.  Fortunately, the volunteer on the last shuttle took pity on us and took our bags despite the fact that we were at fault for messing up the system.  Bless her.  After this debacle, we booked it over the start line, but the race was already underway and we had completely missed the start.  Not good.  I still had to use the bathroom and there was no chance that I had time to make that happen.  There was nothing I could do but jump in and head off.  I’m going to venture to say, that despite the good company, this might have been one of my worst race starts to date, as we totally botched it.  I tried to relax and settle in, but within minutes I knew that my urge to pee was going to break me down.  I had to go.  Much to my chagrin, there were no port-o-pottys for the first 3 miles and when I finally made it to a row of them, there was a line.  WHAT??  There was no chance in hell I was going to wait in line to pee. (men are so freakin' lucky in this regard)  So I continued on, stressing about my situation but trying not to think about it.  Eventually, I came up to a wooded area and, out of pure desperation, I ducked behind a tree, er, um….large shrub, to relieve myself.  I pretended not to care in the least as I watched the other runners fly by, several of them noting my presence in the woods.  Finally, I got back on track and attempted to find my groove again.  Despite my rocky start, it was a great race.  The course was lovely, nice and flat, and our weather was perfect.  We had some wind against us for a few miles, but otherwise, we lucked out.  Fortunately, once I had gotten myself together, I felt pretty good through the rest of the race.  I turned up my level of intensity at about mile 9, but it was too late in the game to hit the goal time I was aiming for.  I finished with a strong push, coming in at 1:36, but had way more in the tank than I should have, and was annoyed with myself for being too conservative.  It’s always something, dammit!

Finish shot with tractor and man in green.
Instead of dwelling on it and moping around like I typically do, I found my teammates who had raced and the ladies who had been cheering for us and quickly moved on, asking them about their own races and discussing where we were going to go for breakfast.  Originally we had grand plans to go to the beer tent and celebrate over a well-earned brew, but the wind was whipping like mad, making it so cold that none of us could muster up the enthusiasm for this idea.  All we wanted to do was get inside and get something warm to drink.  Thankfully, we all felt the same way, so we bagged the finish tent, thus missing my final shot at finding and meeting the Loopsters (total bummer), and headed for Java Surf Beach Cafe, a little hole in the wall right off the main drag.  This place was heaven.  Hot, delicious coffee, awesome staff, cozy, and WARM.  All of us squeezed in (this time taking up the entire restaurant) and picked up where we’d left off post-race or from the night before.  Again, awesome.  After about an hour, a few of us had to head back to pack up for the airport, so we said our goodbyes, promised to keep each other posted, and agreed to visit each other whenever possible.
KMET, aka Daisy Duke
The car she thought she was driving.
KMet offered to give Ashley, Nicole and I a ride in the General Lee, er, um, rental car.  Not quite sure on directions, she was not at all afraid to u-turn in oncoming traffic at high speed as she figured out where we were going.  Turns out this is not the first time she’s done this maneuver and while we thought it was slightly risky, she thought absolutely nothing of it.  I think her exact words were, "Relax ladies. I’m going to get you there without killing you.”  That made us feel much better.

After a pretty quick turn around, Nicole and I headed to the airport.  Huge shout out to her for giving me a ride on her way home.  In return, I gave her a sweet pair of Oiselle arm warmers as a token of my appreciation, which I shamelessly mooched off of KMet in order to bribe Nicole for the ride.  Thanks, Kristin.  At the airport I hung out with Dallas and Asher again as we were headed back to Atlanta on the same flight.  At this point, my disappoint in regards to my race performance started to seep in.  I know I am capable of so much more and I have been working so freakin' hard over the past few months, but my results did not reflect any of this.  Dallas suggested I look at it as a “test-tempo” run, a tune-up for Boston and to be satisfied both in knowing that I had the ability to turn it up and finish strong and that I'll be hungry for more when the time comes.  He also offered me a detailed half marathon race plan based on my ability, which I thanked him for while also yelling at him for not giving it to me BEFORE the race.  Come ON, Dallas!

Post-half, Oiselle birds looking fresh on the beach
...especially Ashley.
As I reflect on this week-end, I am realizing that, yes, I went down to race.  But a good finish time was not my priority.  Perhaps it should have been.  But it wasn't.  I love training and racing.  But I love the running community as much, if not more.  And (forgive the high cheese factor here) I love my Oiselle running family the most.  I love that everyone in this group supports each other no matter how fast or slow, how old or young; no matter what.  I love that very few of us knew each other before we arrived in VA and by the time we left we’d learned about upcoming weddings, moves, military agendas, favorite grocery stores and plans for the future.  I love that there was not a negative vibe in this flock for the entire 72 hours that we were together.  And I love that I left VA wanting to do the whole thing over again as soon as possible.  FLOCK ON, fellow birds.

Listen to this:
Kick - Colour Coding  


  1. That was some kind of adventure!

  2. You looked so strong finishing on Sunday! It's never fun to finish a race feeling like you had more left to give, but maybe it's best to save it for Boston. Hope to chat with you at the meetup there!

    1. Thx, Mollie! I felt strong, just wish I'd turned it up sooner. Now I know. Boston or bust! And, yes, can't wait to chat with you more!