I am usually much more on top of these race reports! Now that I have a backlog of two races, I need to get my butt in gear. After a few months of mediocre training (self-imposed), marathon weekend was suddenly here. Although the race wasn't until Sunday morning I decided to drive down Friday night. I wanted to hit the expo for a while, have some quality time by myself, and use Saturday to just chill with my feet up. The trip down took a little longer than expected, so I felt pretty rushed at the expo. On the upside, R had driven up from NC to race the marathon as well and we got some quality time together. We took a few laps around the expo, picking up some fun goodies, and then decided that we were in need of dinner. Cold beer and tacos at a hole in the wall 5 minutes from the expo center were the perfect end to my first day in VA Beach.

After sleeping in a bit at the hotel, I headed back to the expo for another trip through, more just to kill time and wait for my sister and brother-in-law to arrive. I spent money on a few things that I definitely didn't need but I was having a good time just being away from all the stress at home. Not ready to go back to the hotel, R and I went out to lunch and then grabbed some crucial pre-race fuel.
My family ran into a fair amount of traffic on the way to VA Beach and I was ready to put my feet up for the rest of the day, so R and I parted ways and I headed back to my hotel. Spent a few hours just relaxing, watching movies and messing around on the computer. Once my family arrived and got settled in to their hotel, I headed over for dinner. Between a grumpy baby and tired travelers, we decided to order food from the hotel restaurant and chill in their room. Food was okay, nothing special, but sufficient for what we needed.  Before long it was time for me to call it a night and head back to the hotel. I had a cold beer and more water, then climbed into bed. I slept better than I expected and was able to get out the door and on the hotel shuttle without incident.

Unfortunately, the shuttle got me to the start time really early, so I walked to my sister's hotel and napped on one of the beds while my brother-in-law got ready to go. Before long, it was time. As soon as we walked outside, it became apparent that the weather was not what we had been planning for.  The temperature was low, which isn't a big deal, but the wind was just brutal. I had a feeling that my throw-away jacket was not going anymore. My sister said her goodbyes and headed back to the hotel to get the baby back in the warmth. A and I huddled together with a few other runners against a building and then begrudgingly headed to our corral.
BRRRR. The race began with little fanfare and we were off. A and I separated fairly quickly, we had different race plans to execute. The first few miles passed pretty quickly and I didn't experience any of the usual issues that tend to creep up on my runs. There was not a lot of crowd support to be had, but I'd spent the majority of my long runs totally alone, so I was prepared. The course was flat, another reason why I signed up in the first place. The temperature didn't change but the wind backed off a bit around mile 8 or so, and I was tempted to lose the jacket. I opted to keep it on a little longer and it was a good thing I did. Once it was time to run back over the bridge on onto the main street again, the wind was in full force. The course diverted onto the boardwalk for a while but if anything that just made the wind worse. I couldn't look up from the ground, my hat was threatening to blow away, and I could only see the next step in front of me.

This was such a different experience from MCM. The crowds, the course, the weather, everything. I felt like I had to dig deeper and fight harder. It was much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I think my favorite part of the race was somewhere around mile 18. At this point the course was really quiet. There were a fair number of runners but we were strong out along the road. I was starting to feel a little lonely, and suddenly these road signs started to appear. Every few feet, for I don't know how long, these signs with riddles and jokes were planted on the side of the road. They were all St. Patricks Day/Irish-themed and so bad. I started to looking forward to each one, laughing to myself and pushing through. It took my mind off the race for a while and that was greatly appreciated.

Rumor had it that once we got through this particular stretch of course, running on Fort Story and through to the Lighthouse, that the wind would finally work in our favor. Being the sucker that I am, I believed. The rest of the course is a straight shot down Atlantic Avenue until you're shuttled on to the boardwalk once more for the final .2 miles. I was so tired, and experiencing a good amount of general pain and discomfort, so I wasn't sure I had anything left. I definitely didn't have a great kick in the end, but I finished strong and was immediately relieved. My sister was waiting for me, with my nephew, and it was great to see them. I staggered, best as I could, down a few stairs onto the beach and into the warmth of the post-race tent.

Beer in hand, I met up with my brother-in-law and we exchanged quick race recaps. This was his first marathon and he really killed it. After the beer and some hot soup I was ready to retreat to the hotel. We limped (SWAGGER) back across the beach and into the hotel. So glad that they were staying pretty much at the finish line. One long hot shower later, I started to feel human again. My feet didn't fare quite so well. I'd been getting blisters throughout training and I thought I'd done a good job of bandaging the trouble spots before the race. Unfortunately, my feet blistered anyways, in all the bare space around the bandages. I was so annoyed. I had intentionally packed a pair of really comfortable flip flops in my race bag, so I was able to slip them on and get some relief. Little did I know I'd be spending the next week in them, as I couldn't wear normal shoes without pain. C'est la vie.

I think I was already looking ahead to the next race before I'd even ran this one. The training hadn't gone as planned and I'd had to adjust my expectations accordingly. There would be no PR and I was eventually ok with that. I came to VA Beach with a specific race plan and I executed it perfectly. At the end of the day, that is definitely a win. Now I need to buckle down hard, because the 50k is coming fast and I want to nail it. Stay with me, I've got another race report coming.