When the alarm went off at 4:00 AM, it was race day.
Our plan was to get up and dressed, and then walk, with little man, down to my brother-in-law’s hotel, where we would drop him off with his aunt and cousins and then hop a shuttle to the start line.
Everything went just so.
After saying our goodbyes, we walked across the street to the long line of waiting shuttles. There was no shortage of transportation, and our bus headed off to the convention center with less than a dozen passengers. I can only assume they kept going back and forth until start time.
We scoped out a bank of portapotties and a curb, and sat down to wait out the minutes. It started sprinkling and we had to get under cover of a tree. Boo.
Somehow, we were on the backside of all the action, so I’m not really sure what was going on as more and more people started arriving. I had to wait on lines for the bathroom twice, and I’m going to be honest: we cut it REALLY close to race time. As in, we were en route to our corral as the National Anthem started. Yikes. That is not at all how I like to do things and I was starting to feel a little anxious.
It took us a moment to find our way into the corrals, which had already started moving. We were assigned to 12, and I think we popped into the crush close to where we should have been. A glance around showed that we were surrounded by the same corral number, as well as some higher and some lower. No one really seemed to be paying attention or checking, so we just went with it. It was certainly crowded, but very laid back.
Each corral was sent off with some music and good luck wishes, and we patiently waited our turn. I wasn’t thrilled that the rain started up again.
However, the precipitation quickly passed and in no time, it was our turn to start.
My race day strategy was pretty simple: stay in step with Mr PugRunner. This was his second half marathon and his special request that we run together. I spent the summer training at his intervals of :60/:30 so that my legs would be used to the quicker starts and stops, so we were ready to go.
The first four miles of the race were uneventful, except that Mr PugRunner started mentioning that his Achilles was acting up. I was a little concerned, and when we passed the turnoff for the 5K runners, I mentioned that he could turn off and end the race early. He wanted to keep going, and so we we did.
The sun was staying hidden, and it was actually a little breezy. The humidity was higher than expected but way lower than back home, and to be honest, I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. In fact, a runner on the course pulled up next to me to tell me that what sweat I did have had formed a heart on the back of my shirt!
We wound through some city streets before a long straightaway on Atlantic, parallel to the oceanfront. And then, I pretty much lost track of where we were altogether. There was a point where we hit upon two bridges, a lower one that we had to cross, and a higvher one for the return, which the leaders were already dominating! We kept up with our intervals pretty uneventfully though mile 5, and then Mr PugRunner announced that he needed to break and stretch.
We got in about another mile before he had to pull up to walk. He was having pain in both Achilles now, and he just couldn’t shake it. I felt awful for him – it’s a terrible feeling to be hurting and know that your options are to drop out or keep pressing gone, with still half a race to go. He felt that if he just took it easy, he could finish, so we kept moving forward.
So we sat back and just did our best to try to enjoy the atmosphere. I insisted that we take a band selfie – the music was great. There were stages roughly every mile and a half, and it was nice to have the live entertainment. I hadn’t even packed my iPod for the race, although I did tell Mr PugRunner that it was ok if he had to plug in his earbuds to help take his mind off things for a bit. He works much better with his music, while I train with and without (I prefer to have my tunes, but I can make do without), so I wanted him to have as easy a time as possible, considering the circumstances.
There was a beautiful stretch of wooded area, full of rolling inclines (for us, they were hills, but for everyone else they were wee little speed bumps). I truly enjoyed all the greenery – it was one of my favorite parts of the whole course and such a nice change from the routes we normally run back home.
Right before mile 8, Mr PugRunner had to stop at a Med Tent. One leg was feeling better, but the other was still plaguing him. He explained what was going on and they took note of his bib number and wrapped his ankle with an ice pack. While they were working on him, I noticed that there was a empty portapotty sitting a little ways behind them. I asked if they would mind if I popped in while I waited, and they were very gracious to allow it.
And then we were off again.
Perhaps the hardest part of the race was when we branched off to run through the military barracks. There was no shade, very little in the way of entertainment (although there were some very enthusiastic cheerleading groups at the end of the area), and aside from small houses and buildings, not much in the line of scenery.
Except for this guy.
We picked up a friend: a young woman who was running (and unfortunately not loving) her first half marathon. She was having some pain and cramping, and we invited her to stay with us as long as she wanted to, as kept alternating between straight walking and intervals. She was game until we got out of the barracks area, and was then worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. We got her to the next med tent and advised her to get some salt to help with the cramps, wished her luck and said goodbye.
I was so ready to be done at this point, but the spectators and crowd support were starting to pick up again, after the virtual desert of the barracks. We were able to snag cold, wet towels at one stop, and not one, but TWO otter pops! This girl LOVES otter pops during long races. I may have started skipping at that point. I don’t even know.
Just after mile 11, we faced the higher of the two bridges from this morning. Fortified by my popsicles, I really enjoyed the view.
The last mile of Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach was on the boardwalk along the water. And, oh my, was it the longest mile.
We could see the finish line in the distance, but we kept running and running and it never seemed get any closer. At that point, the course was pretty fully lined with cheering spectators, and it was such great and encouraging ambiance.
It was really nice to see that even though we were hot and tired, we were still having a great time with each other.
We were done!v
After the finish line, we headed straight for the med tent to get Mr PugRunner some more ice. I needed to keep walking – my calves were getting tight, and my plantar fasciitis was making itself known,
But, we still had to stop for our water, snacks, and a picture with this guy. Because he juggled those deflated balls throughout the whole race.
We started moving down the boardwalk, to the Beer Garden.
The crowd was crazy, but it was worth the wait.
And then it was time to walk all the way down to meet up with little man and the rest of our family. We stopped for this picture.
And then it was time for food, glorious food!
Half marathon number five (for me; number two for Mr PugRunner) in the books!
I loved the Rock ‘n’ Roll experience. It was well organized and fun, full of entertainment and course support. The volunteers at the water/fuel stations and medical tents were encouraging and enthusiastic. It was great getting to race in a new city, even if it was a little hillier than what we are used to, and I was thrilled to get to do it with my favorite running partner. Having toed the line at a variety of races, from small local events to huge runDisney-esque
The only, incredibly mild, complaint I could even make was that they didn’t supply Biofreeze at the aid stations. It would have made a world of difference for Mr PugRunner. The volunteer with whom we spoke said a lot of people had asked along the way, so hopefully they would have it for next year.
I don’t know if this is something we could run every year (it’s a long trip on a holiday weekend, when little man is already back in school), but I hope we can do it from time to time. I am also excited to check out other Rock ‘n’ Roll events.
Have you ever run Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach?
What’s your favorite “big name” race?