Ten days ago I ran the race that I spent all summer training for. After having attended the expo the morning before the race, and then having spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach, I went to bed very anxious about what lied ahead of me. I was nervous about pushing myself hard enough to reach my A goal – the sub 2:30 half finish time that I so badly wanted.
Since Preston’s volunteer shift started at 5:00 a.m. and we were staying about 20 minutes from the start line, our alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. I quickly showered and got dressed, and by 4:30 a.m. we were on our way to the start line at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Although there wasn’t any runner parking at the start line, Preston had access to the VIP parking lot because of his volunteer assignment. It was very convenient to park right at the start line, and as he headed off to check in with the volunteer coordinator, I relaxed in the car and ate my regular pre-race breakfast: a peanut butter sandwich and a banana.
Around 6:00 a.m. I made my way to the porta potties, figuring that I should use them at least once before the lines started to form. It was so nice to walk up to one and not have to wait in line. I returned to the car for about half an hour, before I went to check my gear bag and return to the porta potties for a second time. By this point, there was a line, but I don’t think I waited more than 10 minutes. After taking the car key to Preston, who was holding the rope in the front of Corral 17, I met up with Pam and Christine from We Run Disney. Both Pam and Christine were very encouraging, and gave me a last second pep talk before the start of the race.
The race started at 7:00 a.m. As the race announcer got ready to send the first corral off, he reminded runners of the unideal race conditions – that hot and humid were not a recipe for setting a PR. Little did he know since I proved him wrong!
I was in corral 11, and just after 7:15 a.m. crossed the start line. Having run the 5k last year, I was very familiar with the first three miles of the race. The course takes you from the convention center east towards the beach. During the first three miles near the oceanfront, the crowd support was incredible. There were several groups of cheerleaders out cheering us on, as well as a couple of bands.
Around the one mile mark I ran past the area where last year I had seen a guy on the ground receiving CPR (who later died at the hospital). Running past this part of the course was a reminder that I needed to pace myself if I was going to push myself later on in the race and reach my A goal.
After the third mile marker, we headed over the Rudee Inlet Bridge and headed towards Camp Pendleton. Running on General Booth Blvd (which you run on a second time after you exit Camp Pendleton and head back towards the oceanfront), I saw several of the top finishers. It was amazing to see just how fast they were moving, especially given how hot and humid it was.
My plan was to start the race using 2:1 run/walk intervals, and to increase my intervals to 3:1 if I was feeling good. At the Leesburg 20k (which was my test race for this race), I increased my run interval for the last four miles of the race. By the time I reached the mile 7 marker in Virginia Beach, I was feeling good and wanted to see what my body was capable of. For the last six miles of the race I increased my run interval from two minutes to three minutes.
As I got closer and closer to the boardwalk, I knew that I was going to be cutting it close to reach my sub 2:30 goal. Less than a mile from the finish line, while running on the boardwalk, several parents were not keeping control of their children. The boardwalk is only fenced off during the last quarter mile or so of the course, as well as through the finisher’s chute, so people were able to be right on the course path. Several children ran right out onto the boardwalk, in the way of runners running. I had to yell “Move out of the way” several times, which I’ll admit wasn’t my finest moment, but it was the end of the race and I was trying to finish strong!
At 2:30:14, I crossed the finish line of my third half marathon. While I was initially disappointed that I was 15 seconds off from my goal, I quickly realized that I did in fact reach my goal pace for this race. I got to celebrate my accomplishment at the finish line with Pam and Christine, Megan, and Preston (he had walked from the start line to the finish line after his volunteer shift ended).
After chatting with Pam, Christine, and Megan for awhile, Preston and I retrieved my gear bag and I changed out of my sweaty clothes. We met up with Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness, as well as Heather, on the sand and chatted with them for awhile before we headed back to the start line where our car was parked.
Overall, Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach was a very positive race experience. Some of the positives of the race included:
- There were plenty of water stations (about every 1-1.5 miles). Although I was wearing my hydration belt I didn’t finish all of the water in those bottles.
- Volunteers were holding hoses at water stations to help cool us off which helped in combating the heat and humidity
- There were wet sponges on the course, and wet (and very cold) towels at the finish
- I heard earlier corrals also got orange slices early on in the race, which I never saw, but would have passed on them anyway since I’m not a fan of oranges
- There were more than enough volunteers at the start, finish, and along the course
- The crowd support was incredible, especially during the last couple of miles of the race (people were holding their own hoses to help cool runners down, as well as handing out food, beer, and leis)
- Team RWB handed out ice pops around mile 10
- The course was super flat, parts were shaded (although on other parts we had the sun beating down on us)
- There were lots of finish line treats, including Popsicles!
- The start time was moved up to 7:00 a.m. (last year the race started at 8:00 a.m.)
Of course, there were also some cons to the race:
- The corrals weren’t enforced (I saw somebody with a corral 17 bib two people away from me in corral 11, and Preston said that the volunteers were told to not stop people from jumping corrals)
- While there were lots of post race treats available, I didn’t have enough hands for all of them! I needed a bag at the end of the race!
- Runner tracking wasn’t working properly (I only got 5k and 10 mile splits, and Preston only got my 10 mile split)
Not every race is going to be perfect, and I realize that. Overall, I found Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach to be a very positive experience, and I would definitely run this race again. Preston and I debated signing up for next year’s race (the preregistration special for $45 was very appealing), but we decided to pass on it for now. There are other races that we’re interested in exploring, and we didn’t want to commit to Virginia Beach a year in advance.
QOTD: How far in advance do you register for major races?