A Simple Running Log

March 18, 2019

Whale Challenge recap

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 12:02 pm

The Shamrock Marathon went almost exactly like last year — solid first 15 miles, followed by an increasingly slow final 11 miles due to some bad stomach cramping after I had to stop to use the bathroom — and I didn’t even beat last year’s time, let alone PR.

But still, I managed to successfully complete the Whale Challenge for the seventh time, and the rest of the weekend more than made up for those awful miles!

Friday afternoon, Clark and I dropped off Pepper at Clark’s parents’ house, much to Pepper’s horror, and then made the long, boring drive down the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We got to the expo sometime after 6 p.m. and quickly picked up all the necessary race bibs and event shirts.

About a month ago, I got an email from the race directors with an offer to pre-order a Whale Challenge finisher T-shirt, so I jumped on that. It turned out really well:

whale shirt front

Everyone registered for the Whale Challenge by the end of February had their name printed on the back. It’s in alphabetical order, so I’m easy to find:

whale shirt back

Obviously, I did not so much as try this shirt on until I was an actual finisher, because that would just be asking for it.

Next stop was our hotel. This year, we were in the Clarion Inn and Suites on 26th and Atlantic streets. It wasn’t my favorite location, but it was fine. The 8K started within sight of the hotel’s back door, so that was nice, and it was a relatively short walk from the end of the finisher’s chute both days. But it was a pretty long walk to the half/full marathon start Sunday morning, and there was no ocean view. After waking up to ocean views in the hotels I’ve gotten the last few years, I’ve become spoiled.

The Clarion was about all that was left for this weekend when I booked it LAST JUNE, however, so I guess I need to get on that even earlier for 2020.

We walked to The Bunker Brewpub for dinner, the restaurant opened by Young Veterans Brewing Co., whose original brewery/tasting room location we first visited five years ago. I only had to run five miles in the morning, so I had a few beers with Sriracha tuna tacos.

Saturday morning, I didn’t have to get up too early for the 8K, since, as I mentioned before, the start line was so close. It was a really nice day for a run, other than being a bit on the breezy side.

I walked out of our hotel five minutes before the start, and got into my assigned second corral just before it moved up to the start line.

My plan for the 8K was to take it slower than the past few years, when I’ve let myself get caught up with the faster runners and wound up running not a whole lot slower than when I actually race that distance. I was trying to save my legs for the marathon.

I did a pretty good job. I only picked it up at all for the last stretch to the finish line on the boardwalk, and I finished in 41:45, an 8:24/mile average.

Once again, there were no free photos this year, so all I have are little screenshots of proofs.

8Kmile 4

Making the last turn onto the boardwalk around mile 4.5.

8K finish

At the finish.

I got my first medal of the weekend and the beer koozie they give to 8K finishers, and went straight back to the hotel.

I changed into dry clothes and then Clark and I headed to the post-race party.

8k party band

Live band in the party tent.

This year, I split my four free Yuenglings with Clark, instead of drinking all of them myself, which I thought was a good first step toward not overindulging, and not experiencing the same digestive issues in the marathon the next day.

8K party

With my medal and koozie.

sand sculpture

Dude working on this year’s sand sculpture outside the party tent.

In the early afternoon, we met Emma, who I first met at this race in 2011 but hadn’t seen since this race in 2014, and her husband, Bruce, for lunch. She was here for the half, her first race in quite a while after some injuries. It’s great to see her running again!

lunch with emma

Bruce snuck this picture of us.

I was being good here too — I only had water! I also had a chicken sandwich and some fries.

Later that afternoon, Clark and I did a little shopping. He got some more Goodrs (we are up to six pairs in this house now) to go with a specific look he’s putting together for the L.A. Marathon next weekend, and some Rock Tape (like KT tape) to hopefully get his foot through the race pain-free. Then we went to Reaver Beach Brewing Co. to kill some time, where I had one wheat ale and more water.

Then Randy got into town! We met him at the hotel. It was time for dinner by that point, so we walked to Abbey Road Pub and Restaurant. I had ONE more beer, a Paulaner Hefeweizen, plenty of water and shrimp scampi.

I am listing all the beer and water because I honestly thought I was doing a good job of not drinking too much alcohol while taking in more than enough water. I had to pee all day! I did not feel the least bit dehydrated.

We went back to the room and watched some college basketball and listened to a bunch of REO Speedwagon and Gordon Lightfoot (who doesn’t get pumped up by “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“?) OK, I had a little more beer just before bed — Randy had brought us a couple crowlers from his favorite local brewery and one of them was a really good IPA — but again, I drank way more water.

We hit the lights around 11 p.m. Except for when I had to pee around 2:30 a.m., I slept right through the night, unlike the night before this race last year, when I had to get up every hour with an upset stomach to poop.

My annoying alarm went off at 6 a.m. Sunday. I had some Belvita breakfast biscuits and a banana and MORE water.

Sunday was cooler than Saturday had been — the “feels like” temp at race start was in the upper 30s with the breeze, well below my minimum temperature for racing in shorts. I went with cropped tights and a long-sleeved quarter-zip.

I also made one of the smartest decisions of my life. Last week, I went to Goodwill and paid $4 for an old bathrobe that turned out to be the hands-down best throwaway I’ve ever had for a race.

throwaway bathrobe

I loved this thing. It was warmer than any old sweatshirt, trash bag or heat sheet, and big enough I could wrap myself up in it. It was also very easy to take off to discard just before the start. I gotta hit up some more thrift stores and make a stockpile for future races.

Randy and I left the hotel a little before 7. It was a 16-block walk (I first typed 16-mile there haha) to the start line on 42nd street, head-on into the wind. It wasn’t the strongest wind I’ve ever had to run in for this race, but it felt cold when we weren’t running. At least, it seemed cold on the little bit of exposed skin on my face and lower legs. The rest of me was pretty cozy in that bathrobe.

Again, my timing was impeccable and we got there just before they sang the national anthem. (Yes, I am patting myself on the back for that. I hate standing around in the starting corral for hours if I don’t have to, especially when it’s cold.) Randy got in the second corral and I made my way back to the third, just behind the 3:35 pace group. A few minutes later, the bathrobe was draped on the railing along the side of the corral and we were off!

marathon beginning

Somewhere in the first couple of miles.

The first half of the race felt pretty good. I didn’t take off as slow as I’d said I would, but I wasn’t keeping up with the 3:35 pace group right off the bat either. By the time we hit mile 3, I was nice and warmed up, so I closed in within sight of it. But I never joined it — it was massive and it looked like a pain in the butt trying to grab a cup of water in the middle of it at the aid stations.

marathon mile 8ish

Running by the lighthouse in Fort Story around mile 8.

My splits for the first half were all between 8:05 and 8:22 (I slowed a few seconds at every single aid station to drink some water, and I ate GUs around mile 5.5 and 9.5.)

I wasn’t so lonely after the half/full split at mile 12.7 this year, since I wasn’t far behind that pace group. I crossed the halfway timing mat in 1:48:25, a minute behind goal pace, but I could make it up. Uh, lol.

There was another aid station just before we turned on the boardwalk at mile 13.5-ish. I’d thought the course map said there’d be more GU at that aid station, but I didn’t see anyone offering it. As I was running by, I heard one of the volunteers very faintly say “vanilla,” as in, vanilla GU. But I was already past and didn’t want to backtrack. Fortunately, I’d put one emergency GU in my shirt pocket.

Anyway, we ran south to the end of the boardwalk. Looking at the splits on my Garmin, I was already starting to slow — miles 14 and 15 were 8:28 and 8:25.

Then I felt like I had to poop. It wasn’t bad yet, nowhere near emergency levels, but I decided I’d take advantage of the next port-o-potty I saw and take care of it. Once in a marathon isn’t bad (for me.)

That port-o-potty appeared around mile 15.3. I ran in, took care of business, came out to the aid station, ate the one GU I’d brought with me and washed it down with water, then started running again, up and over the Rudee Inlet bridge for the first of two times. Mile 16 was 10:57 with all that.

All the pressure was off my guts, but I had a TERRIBLE side stitch in my right side. I dug my fingers into it and tried breathing out when I landed on my left foot. It eventually went away, and my mile 17 split was 8:33, but then I had a new problem.

For the last 9.2 miles of the race, my entire stomach was one big cramp. I tried drinking water AND Gatorade at every single aid station, but there wasn’t much else I could do. I felt like I might puke every time I tried to speed up. I was basically running my everyday easy run pace, just trying to keep putting down one foot in front of the other.

Mile 18 slowed to 8:50. We made the last U-turn and headed back toward downtown Virginia Beach. Mile 19 was 8:49.

We passed mile 20 as we were running into a little state military installation. That one was 9:05. Mile 21 was along the road in the military installation — 9:01.

Five miles to go. Every year I get to that point and think how I wish there was an option to give back the 8K medal from the day before and count those miles as the last five in the marathon haha. But then I couldn’t wear that sweet Whale Challenge finisher’s shirt… never mind. I trudged on.

There was another big aid station just before we ran out of the military installation. I took one last GU, some water and Gatorade. We finished mile 22 as we ran out — 9:33.

We had to go up and over the Rudee Inlet bridge again. Mile 23 was around the corner. 9:13.

Then we were back on the boardwalk. I just kept slowing, trying to keep my stomach in line for just a few more miles, please! I passed the mile 24 marker in 9:25. For some reason, it dawned on me right then that I was signed up to do this all over again in L.A. in exactly one week. Uggggghhhhhhhh.

The boardwalk section finally ended and we were back on Atlantic. Mile 25 was 9:29. This will never end, will it?

There were a ton of spectators in the next half-mile, as we ran back through downtown toward the final turn onto the boardwalk. I tried to look happy for them as they yelled my name, which was printed on my bib.

Oh, that reminds me — there was one spectator around mile 14 who’d noticed my challenger bib and said “Abby is a WHALE!” as I ran by, which made me laugh, because any other time that would be pretty insulting, but at that moment, I appreciated the acknowledgement haha. That’s right, sir! I ran yesterday too and I AM a whale!

Then I was on the boardwalk for the homestretch! I could see King Neptune and the finish line arch about six blocks away. I tried to pick it up as much as my stomach would allow, but my mile 26 split was pretty pathetic — 9:12.

marathon coming to the finish

I don’t know why I wear “throwaway” gloves, like these purple ones I got from Walmart for $2. I never throw them away.

By my Garmin, I ran the last .35 in 2:57.

Officially, I finished 26.2 miles in 3:49:21.

marathon finish

Someone was feeling even worse than I was there at the end!

That was 27 seconds slower than last year, so I didn’t even hit my C goal of beating 2018. I did run my D goal of sub-4 at least!

I had to book it for the hotel. They’d let us extend our checkout to noon, but by that time I only had a little more than a half-hour to shower, pack and get out. So I gathered my marathon finisher’s medal, food and water, finisher’s hat (green this year) and fleece blanket and finally my Whale Challenge medal and just kept walking.

I was only a few minutes late getting out of the hotel. Clark had to leave the post-race party and meet me at the car because he’d accidentally taken the car key with him. As soon as we got the stuff loaded, it hit me how bad my stomach felt, and I had to sit in the car for a few minutes there. I was starving but the thought of eating anything was gross.

I eventually got down a little jug of chocolate milk Clark had bought me the day before, plus a banana and granola bar I’d taken in the finisher’s chute. I felt a little better.

We both hit the hotel lobby bathroom once more and I finally felt well enough to go celebrate my 21st freaking marathon finish in the party tent.

Randy had run the half in 1:36 (after two poop stops, a personal worst — apparently whatever I have is contagious so he’ll probably think twice before sharing a hotel room before a race again haha) so he and Clark were already several beers ahead of me when I got there.

By that time, there were several empty-cup beeramids under construction around the tent. We watched this woman stand on someone else’s shoulders to carefully top off the tallest one I’ve ever seen. Everyone pulled out their phones, ready to catch it on video if she slipped up and knocked the whole thing over. She did knock a few off the top, but it mostly stayed intact. I was impressed!


We left the party a little early so we could get some more substantial lunch than the beef stew in the tent before we all had to drive home. We went back to the same place Clark and I’d had lunch the day before, Dough Boys, for pizza. As usual, my appetite had not really come back yet — the day after a long run or race is when I am a bottomless pit — but I got down a couple slices.

We dropped off Randy at his car and said goodbye. It was a short visit, but I’m really glad he got that race entry at the last minute and got to come hang out with us!

I like taking the slightly longer way from Virginia Beach to the Bay Bridge Tunnel because it covers the first five miles or so of the marathon course. That came in particularly handy yesterday, because Clark and I both had to pee within minutes of leaving. Race port-o-potties to the rescue!

mile 4 port o potties

They even still had plenty of toilet paper in them.

See you in 2020, Shamrock!

When we were in the beer tent yesterday, Clark’s brother — the one who ran a 3:26 marathon the weekend before and wants to BQ — texted asking which area fall marathon I thought would be the best to go for it. I suggested Steamtown. I think we’re both running Steamtown now.

That race in 2011 remains my only perfect marathon experience — it’s not my PR anymore, but at the time, it was a HUGE PR after I nailed my goal pace. I’ve always wanted to go back.

The only thing that concerns me is that it’s a mid-October race. In 2011, the weather was perfect, but the last couple of years it’s still been hot and humid. So, if we do run it, fingers crossed the weather cools down earlier than it has.

But that’s a long ways off. Right now I’m just thinking about getting through L.A. in six days!

I think it’ll be fine. My upper body is way more sore from all the cramping than my legs are after yesterday’s marathon, so my legs should be more than recovered by Sunday.

I’m not racing L.A. anyway. I’m running it with Clark, who, as I’ve noted, has not really been able to train at all due to his foot issues. He said he’s just hoping to beat the 5:55:06 we ran in that race in 2016, after he, again, did not get to train due to a foot issue.

Anyway, to wrap up this post, here is all the swag from the weekend:

bibs and medals

Bibs and medals.

race shirts and giveaways

Event shirts (the 8K’s is now a short-sleeved tech shirt, instead of the long-sleeved cotton they used to do), 8K finisher’s koozie and marathon finisher’s hat. The pin I got for being a legacy runner (at least five consecutive Shamrocks) is also on the hat, with my Bobby Labonte 2000 Winston Cup championship pin.


Marathon finisher’s fleece blanket. (Broke the streak of beach towels every year since 2014!)

pepper with blanket

It’s become tradition to take a picture of Pepper trying out the new blanket.

And finally finally, my race stats:

TowneBank 8K:

  • 41:45
  • 36th/730 F 35-39
  • 211th/4,733 women
  • 779th/7,759 overall

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon:

  • 3:49:21
  • 15th/136 F 35-39
  • 124th/718 women
  • 432nd/1,673 overall

Whale Challenge:

  • 4:31:06
  • 2nd/22 F 35-39
  • 4th/110 women
  • 29th/228 overall


  1. SO glad I was able to hang out with you and Clark for Shamrock. Two poops is a PR for sure. I hope to never break it.

    Comment by runeatralph — March 18, 2019 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

    • Never say never! My record for a half marathon is three. My record for any race is six, in my first 50K. There’s always room to “improve” haha.

      Comment by aschmid3 — March 18, 2019 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  2. Oh man! Where do I start… First off, that ROBE! Effing Genius!!! I will certainly have to remember that one.
    I’m sorry you had to make poo stops but it’s still a GREAT finish time – especially for a D goal! And still better than my PR 😉
    Would you consider switching from GU? I know you’ve used it for a long time but I honestly believe there are better ones out there – and maybe your stomach doesn’t like it after 15 miles? I just wonder if it’d help your tummy. The two I’d recommend are Huma (yum!) and V-Fuel. Skratch has some pretty great stuff too.
    Shamrock’s swag never disappoints and that blanket is great! I really hope to make a return next year – I definitely felt a bit of FOMO this weekend. It really worked out that I wasn’t able to go this year because I ended up having to take all of last week off because my grandfather passed away and I was in NC.
    Good luck this weekend! I hope at least that your stomach cooperates and Clark’s foot holds up.

    Comment by Chris Bouldin — March 18, 2019 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

    • I really want to try Huma gels when I use up my GU! I’ve heard they’re easier on the stomach. Skratch or V-Fuel could be worth a shot too.
      I’m so sorry about your grandfather, but I’m glad it worked out you got to be at home with the rest of your family!
      I am signing up for Shamrock 2020 TODAY. Clark deferred this year so he’ll be back for sure too. That would be so awesome if you come back!

      Comment by aschmid3 — March 18, 2019 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  3. Congrats!! Even though it got tough toward the end, I think that’s still an awesome time! And congrats on the Whale Challenge! Love all the shirts and swag! I didn’t realize they had legacy items — that’s cool, too!

    Comment by Vanessa (She Runs by the Seashore) — March 19, 2019 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

    • Thanks! I like the legacy thing — they just started it last year. Nice to be recognized for showing up year after year!

      Comment by aschmid3 — March 20, 2019 @ 7:08 am | Reply

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