Yuengling’s Shamrock Marathon Weekend

This was my first time at the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend in Virginia beach and I must say, it was a well-orchestrated event. My beau and I completed the Dolphin Challenge (8K on Saturday, Half Marathon on Sunday).

Flat & Full of Fun

There were plenty of water/gatorade points along both courses – which were also delightfully flat. Both races had phenomenal crowd support along the routes where locals provided anything from words of encouragement, cookies, and fruit to shots of beer. My favorite sign was the one made just for me … the perfect stranger.

perfect stranger

A Perfect Stranger’s Pride

The finish line included a large beer tent, with hot soup, a live band, good music, and a great vibe. That tent was also a welcomed retreat from the brisk breeze along the shore. Nevertheless, it was a welcomed change of scenery, I mean just look at that beautiful sky line.

 

 

I set a new PR for the 8K but took it easy on the Half Marathon. I must admit that one of my favorite moments of every race is to see a familiar face smiling at me as I cross the finish line. I have several Sole Sisters and my beau to thank for that. This weekend, my beau ran with me. Although my pace for the Half was slower than planned, he braved the wind and waited for me to cross the finish line (he runs ahead of me, for obvious reasons).

Bling and Goodie Bags

We were impressed by the bling and the goodies provided for both races: shirts (long sleeve for the 8K, short sleeve for the Half), a hat, a bag for each day, a beach towel, and a beer can sleeve.

 

Truly a Matter of Convenience

Packet Pickup

After driving nearly three hours from Northern Virginia, we were so appreciative of the quick and simple packet pick-up at the Virginia Beach Convention Center – despite the estimated 25,000 participants. We received an email prompt earlier in the week to retrieve our bib numbers via text message, which eliminated the need to print our forms.

The DoubleTree Hotel

The hotel amenities were very good (fridge in the room and free parking) but there was not a microwave in the room. This is likely because of the on site restaurant Max & Erma’s,  which we found to have excellent customer service and breakfast. We were granted a late check-out on Sunday and the hotel staff was nothing short of pleasant and professional. Lastly, with only a nine minute drive to the 31 Ocean Parking near the 8K start line and the finish line for the weekend, this hotel proved very convenient.

Crazy Enough to do it Again?

As we were leaving the parking garage after the Half Marathon my beau said, “Babe, we just completed our first half marathon of the year.” He paused, then said, “Just think, a month from now we’ll be running the LoCo Challenge!” “Yeah,” I exclaimed, “Another 8K and Half Marathon … babe, we need to find a different hobby.” He quickly looked at me and quipped, “I oughta push your ass out this car … you’re the one signing us up for all these races!” I laughed … then thought to myself … “well I guess now isn’t a good time to suggest we run this again next year?”

 

Going LoCo in Loudoun … Who’s Coming with Me?

Around this time last year I had this loco idea to run two races in one weekend!

Fast forward a few months to April 2017 … as office talk about weekend plans began on Thursday, I told my co-workers about my upcoming LoCo Challenge and almost every one of them slowly repeated back to me (as if I were unaware of what I said) “So, you’re running an 8K on Saturday … and a Half Marathon on Sunday … the same weekend?” “Yessss!” I said, slowly shaking my head, “It will be FUN!” Now, this was the first time I would attempt such an event so I was really aiming to convince myself with my conviction, but it was in celebration of my first “runniversary.”

Hotel Review

So there I was, driving to my Candlewood Suites on Friday. After reviewing the course maps I decided to stay somewhere that was nearly equal distance from the 8K (~4 miles) and the Half Marathon (~5 miles). I know this may sound weird, but I really appreciate a hotel where parking is free (charging me to park where I plan to sleep has never made sense to me); where there is a fridge and a microwave in the room (makes prepping for a race easier); and where the living quarter is spacious (a girl needs room to foam roll). The hotel was also close to several shopping centers, stores, and quite a few restaurants. Going in one direction led to Dulles 28 Centre and going in the other direction led to the Dulles Town Center. Additionally, there was a Wal-Mart and a Target close by. The location was definitely convenient.

Packet Pick-Up

The Ashburn Area Running Club did a great job producing this race. I elected to pick-up my packet Saturday morning before the race. It was very easy – there were plenty of volunteers to direct traffic and answer questions (although there were also plenty of signs … sometimes reading is fundamental … just sayin’). Parking was plentiful and once reaching the pick-up tent, I was in and out in a cinch (one bib for the LoCo Challenge and three good quality t-shirts).

The Races

8K on Saturday: It was cloudy and 59 degrees – which was perfect! I linked up with Monique, one of my sole sisters, at One Loudoun. She’s a fast runner, so a few minutes before the race began I wished her good luck as she moved towards the front of the crowd (that’s what the fast runners do … I tend to find a decent spot in the middle). Some of the runners around me complained about the overcast and the light misty rain that began moments before we started, but I couldn’t have been happier with the weather. I would characterize the course as “rolling hills” but I felt good throughout the race (and to be clear … I loathe hills). There wasn’t a lot of crowd support throughout the course (likely due to the course layout) but there were enough volunteers full of smiles and words of encouragement waving us in the right direction. I felt great the entire race and was happy to see my sole sister at the end waiting on me.

8K Course Map

8K Course Map from 2017 (courtesy of Loudon Half Races)

 

Half Marathon on Sunday: Getting to Broad Run High School was pretty easy, and by the time we arrived the roads were already marked off. The weather was beautiful; sunny with a little clouds and it was a crisp 45 degrees when the race started. There was more crowd support on Sunday and I must say the volunteers for this race series are among the best I’ve experienced. During all races I make it a habit to thank the police officers, transit cops, and volunteers for their service. It seemingly takes them by surprise, but without them running safely wouldn’t be possible.

This course also included a few rolling hills. But after Saturday I accepted my fate and just rolled with it! Miles three through seven were on the W&OD Trail and it was a welcomed change, there was a moment of serenity along that trail that I really appreciated. Oh, and a HUGE shout out to the awesome volunteers at the elementary school near mile 12! They had oranges! I’ve never appreciated an orange that much in my life, it definitely gave me the boost of energy I needed to finish strong. My beau was kind enough to drive up on Saturday night to support me and I was happy to see his smiling face at the finish line.

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Half Marathon Course Map from 2017 (courtesy of Loudoun Races)

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Finishing the Half Marathon / LoCo Challenge

BLING and Goodies: These medals are definitely on my list of favorites. The quality, the design, and the size are awesome!  The middle of the challenge medal spins, as does the the “13.1” on the medal for the Half. Bling bling baby!!

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Among my Favorite Finisher Medals

In addition to some great snacks, finishers also received a durable and spacious lunch bag courtesy of INOVA (I use this bag every day). There were also a plethora of photos of both races posted on the website to access.

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INOVA Lunch Bags (courtesy of Loudoun Races)

So Who’s Coming with Me?

I am excited to say, I will be “going loco” again this year on April 21st and 22nd! So…maybe I’ll see you there? Come on and register, it’ll be FUN!