My OTQ Journey (Part 3): Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon
In this ongoing series, elite marathoner Nick Klastava takes us on his journey towards a 2019 Olympic Trials Qualifier (OTQ) goal. Read Part 1 and Part 2 on his beginning. Nick is sponsored by rabbit running apparel and Megaton Coffee. Footwear is provided courtesy of Running Warehouse, featuring 90-day no-question returns and free 2-day shipping.
Who says you can’t go after a PR six weeks after having your second child?
Probably not the ideal situation, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a really fun adventure.
I initially signed up for Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia, because ultimately it was a race I always wanted to run but it had never worked out.
The race consists of an 8k, half and full marathon over a weekend usually in mid-march (this year it fell during St. Patrick’s Day weekend). The half marathon course is a semi-scenic course that basically starts and finishes almost in the same area, although the last half mile is a nice finish right on the boardwalk.
The course is definitely a PR type of course on a good weather day—it’s pancake flat, with about 10 feet of elevation gain over the 13.1 miles. Mid-atlantic March mornings can swing from 30 to 55 degrees from one day to another (not to mention the possibility of rain, snow, or sleet). However, this year we were blessed with great conditions, 45 degrees and clear at the start. It’s definitely a well-run race event put on by J&A racing from start to finish with an amazing after party. I would highly recommend it to anyone, and you can hear a little more about my thoughts on the race on the Running Around Baltimore podcast, episode 7.
If you’ve read my first two installments, you know my fitness was coming along nicely. Nevertheless, I wasn’t sure what to expect for this race. I ended up traveling down alone and staying in my first AirBnB private room. Race royalty right there!
I know a lot of runners tell me they like their solo time, but traveling to races alone is a new experience for me. It’s outside my comfort zone, but I’m always trying to keep growing as a person, so this was another step in that direction.
I ended up meeting some Instagram friends for dinner the night before the race and my AirBnB host was nice enough to drive me to the starting line at 6:30 in the morning. Tech company technologies for the win!
As I was warming up, I started to get some negative thoughts. Things like, “I haven’t raced in 4 months”, “I did not prepare mentally enough for this”, and “was my last half marathon PR a fluke?”.
I attempted to calm those thoughts as I walked to the starting line. Ultimately, I knew I did the work. I would give everything I had, and it would be perfect for March 17, 2019. On the starting line, I found my friend Hollie, who talked to me leading up to the starting gun, which calmed me down a lot. Finding a calming presence on the starting line does wonders for me, as I’m a ball of anxiety waiting for the race to start.
The gun went off at 7:30 and the first race of my OTQ journey began.
The first mile went out with three runners in the lead and a chase pack of about eight of us following behind, including my friend Patrick (not the Saint, but still a pretty cool guy). I felt comfortable as we rolled through in 5:30.
The first 5k clicked through nice and easy as we passed a bunch of fans and dealt with some wind. We had a good pack working together, 16:49 through 5k. So far, so good. As we made our first turn onto a long highway the pace quickened for the second 5k and I let the pack go.
Even so, I passed the 10k mark in 33:05 (which is technically a PR) and we entered the only part of the course I didn’t like. We wound through 3 miles of Fort Story, used to train troops on amphibious equipment and to practice the transfer of military cargo from ship to shore. Since it was a military base, there were very little fans. I tried to smile through the monotony and keep pushing but my splits were climbing a bit.
At mile 9 I saw a runner pull over to the side to vomit, so I was having a better day than that guy.
As I rolled through mile 10 for the first time ever sub 54 minutes, I knew a PR was possible and kept pushing down another long road. The downside? I don’t like to know exactly how much distance I have left, but numbered street signs told me exactly how many more blocks I had ‘til the finish.
As I turned onto the boardwalk within sight of the finish, I knew breaking 1:11 was possible if I gave it my all. I heard some friends cheering me on as I came down the home stretch, and BOOM- I notched a new PR in 1:10:56.
Post-race, I met some friends before driving the longest 7 hours (supposed to be 4) back home to Baltimore.
As I reflect back on this, it was so reassuring to me that I was able to reproduce the time I ran at Richmond, and that I started my 2019 journey off in the best shape of my life despite the juggling act of my life. Things will continue to get better, and I know life will change as the year goes on. Right now it’s just very exciting for me to be able to fit it all in.
Post-race I took a lighter week down to about 45 miles with no workouts before starting up a 35-day stretch leading up to Pikes Peek 10k in Rockville, MD. That should whip me into shape. The first week back of training I ran some monster workouts and have felt amazing and I am looking forward to all of this challenging training and for an exciting race on April 28.
It’s important to be self-motivated, but there are times when that motivation wavers. When it does, it’s important to have people or things in your life that can rekindle your fire. I continue to pull motivation and support from everything I can see, athletes that I coach, friends locally who are running amazing races, or even Instagram friends who are reaching their goals.
As we finish the third month of 2019, I can say I am so happy with my current fitness. I’ve even surprised myself with where I have gotten so far. Even so, I have a long— yet exciting— way to go.
If you’re interested in viewing my training runs, paces, mileage, etc., follow me on Strava.
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