Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Race Report

I decided to run the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon this weekend in lieu of a training run. I was scheduled for an 18 miler, but frankly, I didn't think I'd do it. For one thing, my training group was only running 13 miles. I'd need to do 5 miles on my own either before or after the group run. And it's been years since I've done a training run that long. I usually do marathons more frequently, so I never need to run longer than a half marathon in between. So, I thought I'd register for the race in Virginia Beach and maybe try to push myself beyond training pace. Fewer miles, but more effort... in theory, anyway.

My plan was to drive to Virginia Beach late morning or at least by noon on Saturday for the race on Sunday. It should be a little more than a three hour drive. It took five hours. I expected some holiday beach traffic slow-downs, but I did not expect to sit in the exit lane and ramp in Richmond from I-295 to I-64 for an hour. I knew I was going to miss the race expo. Luckily, my friend Letty was able to pick up my packet for me. She had volunteered at the expo and still had her volunteer shirt. That was very fortunate. After the long drive, I briefly stopped by the King Neptune statue on the beach for a photo op with Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo. Then I headed to Letty and Nick's house for the night. They had family in from Indiana, so it was a full house. Most of them were going to be running the half marathon.


Magenta and Neptune on Saturday evening

Eight of us were up early and off to the starting line. We found some fellow Half Fanatics and jumped into a pre-race picture or two.

Half Fanatics photo

Our group before the start: Sara, me, Nick, Letty, Sid, Lydia, Tina and Stephanie (I don't know what kind of goofy crouching pose I was trying to assume)

Nick and Letty got special bibs and beer mugs for being 15 year legacy runners

With Sid before the race; he was the only one of us who thought to bring a trash bag to wear as a poncho before the race

I was feeling well-rested, properly fueled and hydrated, and certainly more than trained for a half marathon. I had high hopes of doing well in this race. The weather was overcast and there was a little sprinkling of rain before the start. The forecast called for possible showers. The good news was that there wouldn't be any of the scorching sun that had plagued this race in years past. Corral 10 took off, and I was running.

Most of the ladies in our group wore tutus; here they are doing final race prep

Corral 10 about to run on this overcast, misty morning

I felt pretty good for the first couple miles. Then I made a port-o-potty stop. After that, it started sprinkling and I lost my momentum. Still, I did my best to stick with my run/walk intervals. At the second aid station I saw fellow Marathon Maniac Maria, a local volunteer. It was good to see a friendly face and that helped to propel me up the first hill of the race (an overpass). But I could tell that the humidity was getting to me, and I wasn't sure why. It wasn't unbearably hot, but it's true that the temperature was a good 25-30 degrees above my ideal race temperature. It was humid because for the entire race we either had a fine mist of rain, or the thick, wet air loomed over us. I felt my body dragging and had to take more frequent walk breaks. When I tried to pick it up, I began to feel that little chilling, prickling feeling that tells me to slow down and not allow myself to overheat. I heeded it, but at the expense of my pace.

We were going across the bridge the first time (left, lower lane), and the lead runners were already going back toward the finish (right, upper lane)

I've seen this inflatable RNR dude before; this was at Camp Pendleton

After the start, I didn't see any runners I knew on the course. There were lots of people I knew there, but they all must have been ahead of me. Many of them started ahead of me, and those who didn't probably passed me when I was in the port-o-potty early in the race. I don't mind running alone, but sometimes it's nice to see people I know. Instead, I took in the sights. Some of the course was similar to that of the Shamrock Marathon. We also ran past the entrance to Letty and Nick's neighborhood and onto the base at Camp Pendleton. There was one beer stop, so I took a little cup of beer. It was cold! The water on the course wasn't cold, so this was refreshing.

Beer guy; so happy to see him and his friends!

Selfie with day-glo yellow ice pop, which made my day

After Camp Pendleton, my body was shutting down. It was a godsend at mile 11 to be given a frozen ice pop. That's what I needed: something cold. I had taken in plenty of fluids and calories from gels and chews. But none of it was cold. That artificially flavored and colored (neon yellow...really?) ice pop was cold and long and beautiful. I walked as I ate the whole thing. And then we had to go back across the causeway, the second and last hill of the race. I was able to pick up my running again. I still wasn't going fast, but I was walking less. The last half mile was on the boardwalk, which is a misnomer because it's concrete, not wood. Maria was finished with her volunteer duty and was there to cheer me on to the finish. Awesome!

A mile to go, and a nice misting arch to run under courtesy of title sponsor Humana

On the "boardwalk" finally with about half a mile to go

As soon as I could see the finish line, I decided no more walking no matter how sluggish I felt. I ran it in to my worst non-trail half marathon time. But I was done. I picked up my medal and some snacks, and made my way to the beer line. I stopped on the beach to take my shoes off and dip my feet in the surf. I love the ocean, and wished I could have stayed. But I had to get back to the meet-up location.

Finish selfie with beer and beach

Feet in the sand (that's my green KT Tape still on my leg and foot)

At bag claim I found Nick who said that the ladies took the first car back home. Nick was waiting for me and Sid, who finished a little later. Sid ran with his flag and in honor of a fallen service member, as usual. He has a half marathon next weekend. And then the following weekend he celebrates his 200th full marathon finish at Air Force Marathon. I won't be there for that one, but Scot will.

There has been a lot of talk about Rock 'n' Roll marathon series, put on by Competitor Group. Many people love these races and many people hate them. There are some good reasons for this. My friend David wrote a good blog about this race series earlier in the year. I have run a few Rock 'n' Roll events but I will review this one independently. I thought the race in Virginia Beach was well organized and supported. Obviously, I cannot rate the expo. But everything from the starting line to the finish line seemed to be done well. I would have liked some colder water on the course, but this is hard to do for a summer race. Otherwise, there was plenty of food and drink along the course, several medical tents and of course, the live music that the race series is known for. The course itself was good, and spectator support about average. This is one of the more established of the race series (this year was the 15th running), so it makes sense that they should have things in order. No complaints really.

I still don't know why my body rebelled the way it did. Two weeks ago I did a 16 mile training run with a much better average pace. I ran on hotter and muggier days this summer and didn't feel as beat. Sometimes it's just not your day, and that was my race in Virginia Beach.

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