Monday, May 10, 2010

Sooooo Close!

Shamrock Marathon 03.21.2010
Sunday morning I commented to my teammate that I don’t think we have ever been more ready for a race than we were for this one. I had gotten in some good workouts in the past week. We had a nice pasta dinner the night before with my friend David Swaim. Our spirits were bouyed by great runs in the 8K on Saturday. The weather had held up to the forecasts so we had brought the right clothes. And most importantly, I don’t think we forgot anything.

We stayed in a hotel only a few blocks from the starting line. When we checked in they offered us a free room upgrade as priority reward members. I declined because we had reserved one of their few rooms with a wheelchair shower. When my teammate checked out our room, it turned out they had assigned us a room without the roll-in shower. The only roll-in they had left was a suite that had to be the most spacious in the building. The room spanned the entire end of the building and overlooked the ocean from a balcony. So we got a free upgrade anyway!

At about 7:30 or so Sunday morning I made my way to the starting line. There was David Swaim. He must sleep at the starting line. I’ve never been to a race early enough to beat him to the start. There was also B- whom I recently met at the Crystal Coast Half. He lives in my county and is an avid handcyclist. Small world. Including a young man I met the day before at our hotel there would be four handcyclists, a Team Hoyt runner, AND a blind runner..

Beating 4 hours was my goal. I’ve done it twice but the last time was more than a year ago. I was feeling up to the challenge.

The weather was slightly chilly at that time of the day but otherwise absolutely perfect. I had added an extra shirt at the last minute. I somehow knew that would be too much. There was a slight headwind when we started the race. The others were gone in a flash when we started south through downtown Virginia Beach. At the Rudee Inlet Bridge, the runners had already overtaken me and Charlie stopped to wish me luck.

All the runners were taking the left lane. That made the right lane open for me. That was a good thing on the downhill side. It was not going to be a good thing in a few minutes when the faster handcyclists returned and needed the lane full of runners for their return.

I made my out and back through Camp Pendleton in an OK time at least to beat the 4 hour benchmark I had set for myself. The runners were great with their support and so far only a few iPod zombies wouldn’t get out of the way. The other handcyclists were having bigger problems, however.

On their return to the Rudee Bridge, the entire lane closest to the ocean was filled with outbound runners who were supposed to be in the lane on their right. Despite his shouts of warning, David collided with one runner and he wiped out, leaving a layer of his skin on the pavement. Despite his disaster, he went on to win the crank division.

I, on the other hand, continued my grind northward to defend my last-place crank division title. The extra layer I had donned just before the start was starting to make me a bit warm as the sun got a little higher.

The “slight” headwind at the start had freshened to a nice breeze behind me as I headed north along the Boardwalk. One of the spectators with a camera in front of his face called my name as I passed. I didn’t pay much attention since our names were on our bib numbers. Turned out he was a coworker from my office and neither of us knew to expect each other.

I saw my teammate with her bicycle along the Boardwalk where she snapped a few pictures. I met her again just before mile 13 where she helped me come out of a few layers to cool down. I refueled with a Snickers and an energy drink and got back in the race. At the half, my time was about 1:57. My 4 hour goal was still in my grasp.

The northbound lane to Fort Story was congested as all the outbound runners were squeezed into one lane and the elite marathoners and the slower half-marathoners mixed it up in the other lane. Once past the Fort Story main gate the congestion eased up along Shore Drive. However the many curves with their cross-grade bogged me down somewhat. Through this stretch, all the runners offered each other good support. A few DJs played music from their vehicles WAY too loud.

Once in Fort Story at the north gate I expected things to pick up. It was not to happen. I was beginning to get tired and the “breeze” I had enjoyed on the Boardwalk was now about a 20-25 mph headwind. At the main gate I was able to rendezvous with my teammate and refuel again with a Gu and a Red Bull. For the rest of the course back to the finish my pace slowly eroded as several pace groups passed me.

I got a little burst of speed toward the end and started making up some time during the last mile. I knew it was getting toward 4 hours. I drafted some runners to get some relief from the windy blast on the Boardwalk.

I finished with an official time of 4:00:47, successfully defending my last place crankchair title. I honestly don’t know where I would have made up the 47 seconds unless I had started out without the extra shirt or if I had drafted some of the runners along the return stretch. On the bright side, I finished 30th among 140 Whalers. All in all it was a good race, a good day, and my Shamrock PR.

For anyone wishing to do the Shamrock, it’s a good run, mostly flat. It’s a good course for wheelers. They offer good schwag (although I’ve never gotten any Irish stew at the end because you have to go down to the beach to get it). The caps they give the finishers are nice trophies you can wear year round. This year they had a great idea of giving the finishers a long-sleeve t-shirt you can actually wear and keep instead of the space blankets that end up discarded on the streets.

Hope For The Warriors

If you have followed this blog you know that I raise money for Hope For The Warriors as a charity runner. This year, the Shamrock is the first marathon I completed of five I had planned this year. I became too sick to start the Miami and the Myrtle Beach was canceled due to snow. I plan to complete the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon this fall.

Hope For The Warriors was founded by a handful of eastern North Carolina military spouses with the vision to provide a measure of hope for the wounded victims of the post-9-11 wars; hope beyond recovery, particularly for the severely disabled. Their cause has grown to national proportions in the past few years as they have provided aid and relief to service men and women and their families in terms of Direct Needs, Warrior Wishes, Caregiver Scholarships, Hope and Morale and many other inspiring programs. Download and read the inspiring accomplishments from last year alone:

4 Seasons of Hope

Hope, Inspiration, and a Promise

I call my fundraising campaign 2008 Miles of Hope. It’s an honor for me to dedicate my training and my races to the brave men and women who have sacrificed in the name of our freedom. Join me and follow this blog as I fulfill my three goals I call Hope, Inspiration and a Promise.

1. Hope:
I plan to complete the Marine Corps Marathon as part of Team Hope For the Warriors for my third straight year.

2. Inspiration:
Also for the third straight year, I plan to handcycle over 2008 miles in training, races, and fundraising events to raise awareness of, and money for Hope For The Warriors and their mission.

3. A Promise:
I plan to fulfill my pledge to raise $26,200 ($1,000 for every mile in a marathon) for Hope For The Warriors. This is where you can join me.

Join me and thousands of other grateful Americans by honoring our wounded warriors with a tax-deductible donation to Hope For The Warriors. You have two easy ways to donate. If you prefer to use a credit card, you can donate online using my secure donation page at

2008 Miles of Hope

If you prefer to write a check, download a donation form and mail your donation to the address on the form.

Donation Form

Learn more about Hope For The Warriors at

And join us at the 5th Annual Run For The Warriors May 15, 2010, in Jacksonville, NC.


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