There were a lot of things going on at once that added to the stress and worry about doing something like this for the first time. I'll skip the details on that but by the time I arrived in Virginia Beach Saturday afternoon to pick up my packet, I was already pretty frazzled. Thankfully, one of my brothers lives in nearby Suffolk and he met me at the convention center. He followed me to the hotel, helped me get my stuff up to the room and then proceeded to be my tour guide and chauffeur for the rest of the day. We drove most of the route except for the parts that were on Camp Pendleton and Fort Story. Then we drove back to his house to meet up with his wife and daughter and we all went out to eat. DB dropped me off at my hotel around 10:00.
I tried not to let nerves get the best of me and went to be around 11:00 but something woke me up at 2:30 and I never went back to sleep. I got up at 6:00 and had a cup of coffee and a bagel. I got all my gear on and packed up the car and walked about a mile to the start line very slowly. Once in line I found the 4:30 pace group and talked to the pacer about his strategy. He said the plan was to try and maintain even 10:18 splits throughout, hitting every aid station at a walk but then jogging back out right away and back up to speed. I had hoped to skip some aid stations and enjoy a little longer walks but with the warmer temps I knew that I would need to take in water every chance I got. Gatorade kills my stomach so I had 6 Espresso Love Gu packets in my pockets and I planned to use one every 4 miles.
I tried to take mental notes about how I felt at different parts of the race but I can't remember most of those. I remember that I noticed one of my nipples hurting at about mile 6. I checked and found that one of the bandaids that I put on had fallen off. Having vivid memories of the pain of chaffed nipples I decided to "go caveman" for the rest of the race. The race passed by my hotel and I considered tossing my shirt there in the hope that I could pick it up later but decided that I would probably want a shirt to wear for pictures after the race so I just carried it. I stayed right with the pace group easily for the first half although there were a few times that I got behind at water stops because I wanted to drink two cups of water. Each time I would just do my best not to panic and keep them in sight and slowly reel them back in. According to the text messaging service that I signed up for, we hit the 13.1 mark at 2:13:54, beating my own half marathon mark by
Somewhere around mile 14 I started to notice pain in my foot. I was pretty sure it was blistering. I guess it was the heat making my feet sweat more because I was wearing the same shoes and running socks that I trained in without a single blister. I did my best to ignore it and keep pressing on.
I got left behind at water stops at least two more times between miles 15 and 21. Each time I just tried to be patient and not use it too much energy catching up. As we approached mile 20 I couldn't decide if I wanted to slow down and play it safe or try to keep up with the group. At about mile 21 I decided to let them go and just go at my own pace. That decision held firm for about 2 minutes when I looked up and saw that green 4:30 sign waving back and forth in the crowd. I thought, there goes your 4:30 goal, are you going to let it get away? I tried to reel them in one more time. When I caught back up again at mile 22 I had brief delusions of holding steady until mile 23 and then passing them.
We hit mile 23 and I started to fade again so I let them pull ahead. The rest is kind of a blur. I trailed behind the pace group for pretty much the rest of the race. I kept trying to catch up but I didn't have much left in the tank. I started gaining ground again at about mile 25.5. I don't remember passing the marker for mile 26 but it had to be at or near the last corner turning onto the boardwalk. I could still see them up in the distance but they were further ahead than ever and the finish line was in sight. I picked up the pace as best I could until I felt like I was in sprinting distance then I gave it all I had. I ended up crossing the finish line about 5 seconds after the pacer at a 7:25 pace according to my watch.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I also want to thank all of the experienced runners that post to the RWOL forums. I have learned so much from reading your replies to my questions and to those posed by others. You guys rock.
Also thanks to my awesome brother Bruce and his family. They took great care of me before and after the race and Bruce even took pictures from the finish line.
Splits are from my watch. My watch and the mile markers agreed pretty closely early on but then they got a little off. I guess I need to cut those corners a little sharper. :-)