“Today I don’t have to run. I get to.”
A DNS would have been easy, rolling over in bed would have been the safe (and sane) choice. At 5am Sunday, it was pouring rain with 30+ mph wind and even stronger gusts. Despite this being the actual worst weather (not involving snow or bitter cold) that I’ve ever run in, I’m glad it happened. I’m thankful for a couple winters worth of #weatherproof training in any and all elements which has made me not just a stronger runner, but a stronger person.
— Jonathan Levitt (@JWLevitt) March 19, 2016
Just a little wind around that final turn on Saturday’s shakeout…
This year’s Shamrock Half was an interesting race. The weather went back and forth many times in the week prior, from 40 and partly cloudy, cold and rainy, warm and rainy, and sun… And everything in between. Arriving at the start of the race, it was pouring rain and about 42 degrees. These were the conditions (maybe a little cooler) at Boston last year, so I was somewhat prepared, if not for the wind. Shamrock takes place right on the ocean, so we had some real nasty headwinds and crosswinds. I had a little bit of oatmeal and Generation UCAN as soon as I woke up, and then a serving of BeetBoost and a PickyBar (because I was a little hungry) about 30 minutes pre race. After that, and some coffee, I jogged over to the race wearing a couple of shirts and a trash bag for the rain.
We lined up, and I found a couple friends I had planned on running with. We got started, and I tossed the trash bag within a mile or so. Then came the first and second shirt, and then the singlet. Running shirtless in the rain is absolutely the best way to deal with it. The wind was a little tough in some parts, but I was much happier to not be wearing a soggy shirt.
The first three miles were into a brutal headwind, yet I managed to run roughly the splits I was shooting for. My friend Chris started dropping 6:20’s right around the first 5k and I wasn’t interested in that pace in those conditions. He took off, and I didn’t see him again until I finished. I hung with Mary and one of her friends as best I could, talking about whatever we could to avoid thinking about the wind. The two of them pulled away right around the 10k mark and I couldn’t seem to catch them. They stayed about 100 feet ahead for the rest of the race, which ended up being a good pacing target since they both are much more experienced runners than I am. My coach didn’t want me looking at my watch due to the conditions, so I ran the race more based on feel.
I raced past spots where I had some dark memories from Shamrock Marathon 2015… I had the chills while running past places that I remember throwing up at (miles 3-6 of the half cover mile ~15-18 of the full) or where I questioned if I had the mental strength to finish the race, when everything seemed to be falling apart. That point in the full last year was the most pain I had ever been in. Last year I maintained nearly a 3:05 pace through about mile 17, then it all fell apart. It felt incredible to fly past those spots and into Fort Story (a military base with no tree/wind coverage) at the 10k, which had some of the worst wind that whole day. At this point last year it was very much so run/walk and 10-12 minute mile stretches, compared to the first half which I ran at roughly 7:00. This time around I cruised into the head/crosswind, while also craving the tailwind I knew would be welcoming us ahead on the out and back course.
I’ve been experimenting with Honey Stinger caffeinated chews on longer long runs, and ate a half serving at mile 7. I had also put a loose Nuun tablet in my pocket, which started to dissolve because my shorts were soaked, so I decided to just eat it. From there on out, I negative split the rest of the race. Mile 8 seemed to be the hardest, as it was in that super windy section. I remember that mile in particular from last year being the worst of the entire day. It’s in a lonely stretch in Fort Story, and I was hurting… bad. This time, I was in between two groups of runners, stuck trying to decide if it was worth the energy to speed up and catch the pack ahead, or continue to work into the wind on my own. I ultimately stuck with the latter.
Coming out of Fort Story I caught up with a runner who I had been slowly closing on. He sped up as soon as I caught him, and we started talking. He said he lives down the road, and runs this race every year. This year, he had dropped 10 pounds and got serious about training and nutrition, and was gunning for a PR to beat his 1:30 from last year. I told him “we’re not there yet, but keep this up and you’ll have yourself a big one.” He asked what my PR was and I told him. His response? “You look like a 1:20 guy.” Thanks, I guess. He told me he was going to try and mimic my cadence, which he said would be easier for him to do since he was about 8 inches taller. I looked at my watch briefly after mile 9 and after seeing a solid 6:3x, I turned my watch over, knowing as long as I hang with this guy, I could maintain the pace I was at without needing to mind the numbers.
About a mile down the road came the most incredible feeling… A tailwind. I may have picked it up a bit early, but I was feeling good and knew the wind was in my favor. The inevitable cheers of “you’re almost there” started showing up around mile 11.5, which is the best/worst thing to hear at any time other than when you can see the finish line.
The random Virginia Beach dude said “don’t let me hold you back – go do work” to which I responded “this is work. I can’t go much faster… But just wait until we kick it on the boardwalk.” He said he couldn’t wait to see if he could hang on.
We turned off the main road towards the boardwalk and ran straight at the ocean for about 10 seconds. This part actually felt like we weren’t moving, the wind was so strong. Rounding the corner, knowing we had .4 miles to go I started to kick.
The last stretch at Shamrock is the most deceptive finish I’ve ever experienced. You can see the finish line, but it’s almost a half mile away. I surged a bit early, slowed down, then let it rip through the finish line, picking off 4 other runners in the last quarter mile.
I crossed the line in 1:27:09, good for an 81 second PR from 2015’s BAA Half in October. It wasn’t the sub 1:26 that I shared as my goal and that I know I’m fit enough for, but I was still proud of my effort on a brutal day.
Training has been going really well lately, and it’s definitely due to some changes I’ve been making related to nutrition. I’ve been eating more shellfish, more fiber and more coffee (yes, this was a real recommendation) and despite a decent increase in training volume as compared to my last three tests, my ferritin level has been trending in the right direction. The 3rd most recent test was after 5 days of total rest, and was one of the lowest values I’ve seen. Since then, it’s trended in the right direction due to some nutritional tweaks. The InsideTracker platform noticed my non optimal glucose and cholesterol and since I reported eating meat 3+ times a week and shellfish 0x/week, it suggested I switch a couple of those servings around.
InsideTracker has listened to the endurance community and created a panel designed specifically with endurance, energy, and recovery in mind. It doesn’t require fasting, and is half the cost of our most comprehensive plan. I plan on using this on a more regular basis as a way to figure out what changes have been working, and what else can be done to improve. Check it out at insidetracker.com/high-performance if you’re interested.
It’s been fun playing around trying new/different foods and lifestyle tweaks to see what has a positive impact on how I feel and what the data shows, along with the race results. Outside of the training benefits, the biggest improvement I’ve seen is that I’m no longer totally exhausted at the end of the day. Things seem to be clicking from a fitness and endurance standpoint. I’m excited to see what happens in the Boston Marathon in another fun day (not 100% effort, goal will be to enjoy it, not get hurt and run 3:16-3:20) and then again at Vermont City where it’ll be an all out attack on under 3:03.