This past weekend my friend Niki and I had our second out of town race weekend and went down to Virginia Beach to run in the Yuengling Sham Rock On races.  Our first was to Philly for the Philadelphia Distance Run in September and we had a lot of fun and met Troy Aikmen’s private pilots – it goes without saying that we knew this would be a fun race weekend.  The races were Sunday but we headed down there Friday so we wouldn’t be rushing around to get our race packets and carb-y foods.  We set up a hotel for Friday with the intention to join up with another friend for Saturday and Sunday.

We arrived around 6:30pm and were impressed with the hotel I booked barely a month ago, when a lot of hotels were full.  The room had a great oceanfront view plus a fridge and microwave.  Not what I was expecting for the $70 a night AAA rate!  We did dinner at Waterman’s and then went to Murphy’s Pub for a couple beers.  Murphy’s is where we planned to go after finishing so we wanted to check it out.

Saturday we watched the 8k racers along the boardwalk from our hotel room balcony, laced up our sneakers and went out for our own 5-mile run.  It was a good way to get used to how flat it would be for our race and the warmer temps.  We saw it get to 70 degrees Saturday and the Sunday forecast was looking the same.  We decided to stay in the same hotel the rest of the weekend and after cleaning up we grabbed breakfast – I got awesome banana pancakes which made a great breakfast Sunday morning too – and then went to the race Expo to get our race packets and bibs.  I had registered for the half and Niki registered for the full, but planned to switch to the half at the Expo.  Well, the half was filled up so all of a sudden, Niki was doing a full marathon, even though she hadn’t trained quite enough.  Out of everyone I know though, I knew Niki could get through it and still be smiling at the finish line.

The rest of the race expo was pretty neat – Irish step dancers were performing, there were some good/some bad food samples (cheese!) and I picked up a Spibelt to hold stuff while running, a Running Skirt in the TNT purple to wear in San Diego and some new hairbands – Sweaty Bands.  I don’t think I’ve ever bought so much stuff at a race expo!  We went back to the hotel, grabbed lunch and then borrowed bikes (free!) and took a ride around town.  Saturday’s weather was so amazing and walking and bike rides were a lot of fun.  Neither of us felt like going out to eat so we ordered delivery and loaded up on carbs and water while watching HBO in the hotel room.

The race start time for me was 7am, for Niki 8am – made no sense but whatever.  The first alarm clock went off at 4:30 and the second at 5.  I ate up my leftover pancakes, moleskinned my feet to prevent blisters, and used the Body Glide.  By 6 we were ready to go and walked to the start line.  We had corrals for the half so I crossed the start at 7:05am.  The course was flat as expected, very little change in elevation.  There were funny jokes and motivational messages along the side of the roads and the Hashers had a beer check at the 2-mile and 10-mile point.  Running through Cape Henry and the boardwalk later was pretty cool – it was neat to see the ocean to my left and finish at Neptune’s statue.  I finished in 2:29, placing 4,434 out of 6,546 runners in the half marathon.  Not my best!  But I enjoyed the race and feel good for finishing.  I wound up not using Body Glide in the right place on my upper arms and wound up with some chafing and also a couple blisters on the feet.  Blister prevention is my new project so I’ll be doing a post on that later this week.

After finishing they hand everyone their medal, a nice wicking hat, a long-sleeve T-shirt and the requisite goodies – cookies, bananas, pretzels, granola bars….  Walking back to the hotel after I finished I got to see and cheer for Niki around mile 12 – she was doing great and running with the 4:30 pace group.  I took a shower and walked down to the finish line festival to grab a beer and watch for Niki to finish.  I’ve never seen a finish festival like this – beer, beach, sun – it was a big party with live bands and runners playing flip cup on empty tables.  I loved watching the marathon finishers – so many of them looked strong and excited.  She finished in 4:45 which I’m so impressed by – her longest training run was only 17 miles!  I can only hope to finish with that time in San Diego.  After she got her shower we went back to the Finish festival to enjoy a few more beers.  The crowd had filtered out a lot and it had gotten cloudy so the sun was gone.  We talked to a couple who came from Atlanta and some people from Lancaster who’ve been to some of the races in Reading that we know of. 

After the beer kicked and the hunger set in we walked over to Murphy’s for food and some more beer (not free).  My friend Ryan who lives in the area met up with us and as usual, we randomly meet more fun people and had a blast dancing along to the live band and talking to our new friends.  My new friend Steve lives in Virginia Beach and is from Minnesota – he ran the 8k on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday!  He wore those sunglasses through the entire marathon – maybe I shouldn’t have tried them on…. 

Sham Rock was a great race – as a runner it had a well planned course and amenities, and the party-like atmosphere made it relaxing and rewarding.  I was not anxious or nervous going into this race like I am for others.  It was a great ramp-up and tune-up for San Diego, and meeting so many other runners was inspirational to me.