This race last year was the inaugural event, I had bailed on the race 1 week before it was scheduled due to achilles tendinitis, which I now know was from lack of proper stretching (i.e. none). Needless to say, this happened to also be the weekend of the first big crazy snow storm in Central Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic, which was heavy rain in the Virginia Beach area. The race was still held but with lots of standing water on the course. I just HAD to go back the next year to make things right and to complete the race.
I headed out for the 3 hour drive mid afternoon Friday so that I would be off the roads before nightfall and freezing temperatures, and a more exciting driving experience. I stopped halfway to have dinner at an Olive Garden and continued on, ended up a little lost in Virginia Beach as I had not read directions thoroughly and drove to the Convention Center not the the VA Beach Resort and Convention Center, each about 10 miles apart. I briefly pondered paying for the boardwalk Christmas light drive but did not have enough cash (it was cash only) and it was getting late (but the lights looked neat from what I could see from the road). Got checked into my hotel room, picked up my race stuff and got settled in for the night. I was tired and decided to wait until the morning to organize my gear. Up early as always, got dressed, headed out to a Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast, back to the hotel room to eat and keep warm, then the short drive to the starting area to check in (again) and get the timing chip.
|Race morning view of the Atlantic from my hotel room|
|Starting area 15min until the Start|
Overflow parking ended up being right at the start line, so I lucked out with that roll of the dice, especially since the ground was quite icy. 8am and we were off! Starting with about 1 mile on the road until we got onto the trails. First Landing State Park where the race was held is remniscint of Louisiana with the swamps, Cypress trees and Spanish Moss that I am amazed each time I am in the park, I feel like I was 1,000 miles away and not in Virginia. Weather was in the low 30's, overcast, with a dusting-1 inch of snow on the ground, perfect day for a long run. I had studied the map beforehand, but I got all turned around when the direction that we were taking on the trail did not match the map drawn out in my head, and I am pretty good in general with a strong sense of direction. Luckily the course was well marked with orange streamers, including wrong way side trails marked with yellow caution tape. Volunteers were stationed at any trail junction where there might be confusion, and the aid stations were well manned and stocked. I of course took no pictures the entire time, but the park was quite magical with the snow and ice.
My goal for this race was to finish in about 6 hours, that would be a previous 50k PR of 1 hour and a good strong pace. However, I started out at about 9:30 min/mile pace and held it without too much effort and as the morning went on, I realized that I could make 5.5 hours, then I realized if I could hold on I could flirt with breaking 5 hours, crazy!!! I felt good all day, spend minimal time at the aid stations, and cheered on almost every runner I saw in the out/back sections. Later in the race an older gentlemen responded to my cheers of encouragement with "hey cheerleader!" Nice.
I held on to my pace for a few minutes over 5 hours, picking up a guy walking towards the finish with a simple "come with me" comment. After the finish he thanked me for pulling him along. I finished 12th female overall and 51st (later results show me at the 52nd runner) overall out of 238 runners that finished.
I hope to run this again next year and bring a group from our trail running club. The wild card in all of this was how my body was going to deal with being on Amoxicillin four times per day to prevent a dental infection after having a tooth pulled 2 days before the race and if the removal site was going to throb and be painful (or not). This was unplanned but due to the snow and subsequent appointment cancellations at the Dental office, I was able to get the procedure done. You see, due to genetics, I have 2 baby teeth as a 30 year old with no adult teeth behind them to grow in. So, once they either get a cavity or the roots dissolve, you need to have them removed and have either a bridge or an implant in it's place.