Race Report: VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon

This weekend I raced the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon.  Overall it really was a great race for me and I’m extremely happy with how it all panned out.  While I didn’t exactly race it as planned, the outcome was even better than I was aiming for and I learned a lot about myself.

i love seashells, i love this race medal!!

So, without further adieu here is my race report!

Race: VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Date: September 4, 2011
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Weather: Hot and *very* H U M I D.  Even at 6:00AM the air was thick and clammy.  I was grateful for the cloud cover though – I am sure if the sun had been beating down on me I would have had a very different experience. When I ran this race two years ago it was very sunny and hot.
Course: The course starts at the VA Beach Convention Center up maybe 3/4 of a mile from the Ocean Front at 19th Street.  It heads toward the beach and then turns south along Atlantic Avenue all the way out to Camp Pendelton.  There are lots of spectators, bands and cheerleaders along the course, especially this portion and at the end.  Miles 3-10 are largely through Camp Pendelton which can be pretty boring and hot, with very few spectators other than the bands/cheerleaders and not much natural beauty to look at through this section.  We run over a bridge (up and then down hill) on the way out to the camp and then again on the way back.  These are pretty much the only hills.  The last 3.1 miles of the race get more exciting again as you near the oceanfront and then finish right on the VA Beach boardwalk (which I LOVE).

Logistics: This is the second time I have run this race (I ran it in 2009).  Both times, I took the free shuttle bus from 57th street without a hitch.  This is the stop furthest north and I recommend using it because hardly anyone else gets on this far north apparently.  Buses run from 4:30-6:00AM from various points along Atlantic Avenue.  I walked to the bus stop (with a flashlight) and hopped on at 5:30AM.  There was NO line.  It was so easy and I was at the start by 6:00AM with plenty of time to use the porta-potty and check my bag before the start. 
me at the start, happy and ready to race
I found the gear check to be super-easy and reliable.  I used to be funny about leaving my bag but I am over that now – it makes the start and finish of a race so much more stress-free for me, especially because I’m usually heading to races without my husband/family and I have nobody to hand off my things to before the race starts.  Picking up my bag at the end of the race was simple as can be.  
In general, I have to say that the Rock n Roll series does a great job with logistics for this race, as far as I can tell.  The expo was organized and easy (I even changed my corral with no problem), the transportation was simple and smooth and everything along the course from start to finish was excellent.  The wave start was smart and because I was in the right corral I had no problems shuffling around slower paced runners or feeling like I was in the way of faster folks.
So, let’s talk about how the race went for me.

I was planning to start slower for the first three miles, go faster for the middle chunk and then really gut it out for the last 5K.  Well, it didn’t exactly happen that way…
Miles 1-3: 
7:24, 7:46, 7:59
Ok…so I was NOT anticipating how incredibly anxious/excited/emotional I would feel when that gun went off.  I was cool as a cucumber until the race started, but that first mile was so crazy for me.  It was like my heart was trying to jump right out of me, I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  I knew I was running too fast, much faster than planned, but I couldn’t worry about it.  For that first mile I had to calm my nerves down.  By the time the mile was over I had slowed down considerably (I looked at my watch maybe 1/2 mile in and saw a pace in the 6’s, so to come in at 7:24 shows I really slowed down!).  I continued to try to calm my nerves and finally by the end of mile 3 I was at about an 8:00 pace.  At that point though I was hoping to pick it up to the 7:50s… I was feeling good so I decided to try to keep it there and see what happened.  At mile 3 I ate one Power Gel Blast (raspberry).  I was drinking water from my hand held water bottle throughout the race so I wouldn’t have to worry about water stops.
Miles 4-10
7:44, 7:54, 7:57, 7:54, 7:52, 7:51, 7:49
I really wanted to try to maintain something close to a 7:50 pace for this stretch, and it was coming quite easily to me to do so which I was really pleased about.  I was wearing my iPod and around mile 4 I decided to turn it on.  This was after the hill and as we headed into Camp Pendelton.  I really debated whether or not to bring music, especially for a RnR race, but in the end decided to bring it just in case.  I was so glad I had the option to use it because this part of the race is mentally challenging since it’s pretty desolate back through there.  I continued to drink my water and ate a chocolate Accel Gel (which I carried with me in my running skirt) at the halfway point.
Miles 11-13.1
7:34, 7:54, 7:13 and for the last .28, 8:08 pace
I kept telling myself that once I hit Mile 11 I would “switch gears” and push harder.  I picked it up for Mile 11 and then went over the hill during Mile 12 which I guess is why my pace was slower for that mile (the effort was the same!) and then I kicked it into higher gear for the last mile.  When I made that final turn onto the boardwalk and the finish line was in sight, I got really emotional.  I knew I was going to PR and that I was going to get my 1:44 and I was just so happy and excited.  It sounds silly, but my emotions REALLY got the better of me and then I got a stitch in my right side!  I pushed through it – it did slow me down but there was NO way I was going to let it stop me! – but I think my finish would have been stronger if I could have gotten those emotions under control.  My husband was just past mile 13 and he called my name and I saw him there and at that moment I was just flooded with all sorts of feelings.  I was so grateful to see him!
coming into the finish!!
Bottom line: I did what I came to do.
I finished the race with a (PR!) time of 1:43:02.  This is almost a 13 minute PR for me and is 17 minutes faster than I ran this exact course 2 years ago!  How could I not be completely stoked about that!?  I ran the race in almost even splits and crossed the finish line feeling strong and as though I could have physically kept on going.  This makes me think that I can certainly do even better in the half marathon distance and that all of my hard work is paying off.  My performance yesterday makes me feel proud, grateful and excited.
Here are the official stats:
691 out of 11,219 Finishers
29 out of 996 in my Division
146 out of 6,385 Women
Not too shabby!!
So…what did I learn about this race other than that PRs and achieving your goals is totally awesome?  A few important things:
  • Dreaming big is the only way I know to dream.  Period.
  • Having my husband at the finish line of a race is worth more to me than any finishers medal.  I could not be training for a marathon if it weren’t for his love and support.  I’m sure that being married to a crazy runner isn’t always easy for him, and I appreciate him more than I can possibly say.
his smile makes me smile
  • Emotions when racing are hard to control.  I have been working a LOT on not letting negative thoughts mess me up, but the uber-positive ones can be crazy too!  I need to figure out how to get a handle on this.  At times I felt so overcome with emotion (gratitude, happiness, excitement!) that I was really sort of helter-skelter if that even makes sense.  I felt like a loon!
  • My sister Megan is amazing!!  Megan had a tough race (you can read about her experience here) but she came out of it with her own lessons and is stronger because of it.  I am so proud of her for all that she is, and for all that she is accomplishing with her running.  I just know she is going to love every minute of her first 26.2 this fall!!
yay for running sisters!
I think that about sums it up at least for now.  After the race was over I went home and cuddled with my baby and then played on the beach with my family before hitting the road to drive home.  We have a big day tomorrow – my daughter starts first grade! – so today we got settled back in at home to get ready for the week ahead.  It’s going to be a good week!

16 thoughts on “Race Report: VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon

  1. Wow oh wow! Sounds like you have something to celebrate for sure! Way to wrap up the summer with a bang girl! This is amazing. What a great race report too. Congrats!!! And yes, emotions play a huge role in how we do as athletes. So tricky. I am so happy for you Jessica!

  2. Yay! I am so excited for you! The first mile is the trickiest to me…I always go out to fast and then end up in trouble. You definitely did not end up in trouble. Congrats!!!!

  3. Great Race! Yes – we must have been right near each other! So funny. Our paces are very similar. I would love to run sometime. I am training for the JFK 50 miler and have back to back long runs every weekend – always looking for company. I will be doing the MCM as a training run. Let me know your schedule!

  4. THAT is an awesome race! I'm so happy for you that you got the time you were hoping for. Big congrats. I need to go back and read some of your older posts and learn from your training. :^)

  5. so proud of you, Jessica!!! You killed every last bit of that course. You deserve that PR and that incredible race. I have an issue with emotions too!…so weird because I don't consider myself someone who is super sappy. Congrats! You are so inspiring!

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