Shamrock Half Marathon Race Prep

Ten days. Ten days left until my favorite race weekend of the year (which is what I say in the winter/spring...ask me in the summer/fall and I might say Wicked instead), and I'm not feeling as prepared as I'd like to. This year I chose to run the half marathon Shamrock and while I do have a time goal (that I'm not at all confident I can meet), my main goal is to show up and run the best race that I can. So with ten days left, it's time to focus. I can do anything for 10 days, right?

How I prepare for a race depends on a lot of different factors. Sometimes I've been planning and training for months and I spend the week or two before creating a detailed plan for every aspect of it. Other times I sign up just 48 hours in advance and don't even get into town until 8 hours before I need to run. Most of the time I fall somewhere between, and I usually try to at least follow these simple preparatory steps that I'll be employing over the next 10 days as I get ready to run Shamrock for the 5th time.

Clean up my eating
My eating habits are never as good as they could be - I really like food, and not really the good kind, so that's the one area of being an athlete I've never really gotten on board with - but there are times when they're decent but lately has not been one of those times. I've basically been on a celebration tour for my new job - Ben and I celebrated twice last week, then I celebrated with my parents this weekend, last night I had celebratory dinner with a friend (to be fair, it was her birthday so  - and using that as an excuse to eat all the dessert and drink all the alcohol I want.

Not surprisingly, I've felt like crap for the past week. I don't have a solid plan for how to eat better over the next 10 days, but one thing I do want to do is cut out alcohol (except for a concert I'm going to on Saturday night) and the sweets. I'm sure that getting this is in gear will help my Shamrock performance (at least I hope it will), but if nothing else, I just hope it helps me feel my best when I get to the start line.

Read/watch something inspirational
I've been struggling with my mental strength and perseverance lately, and a couple months ago I picked up How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald. I read about half of it before I moved on to a different book, and I haven't picked it back up since. I really enjoyed it while I was reading it and found that the strategies and stories really did help pull me out of my funk. I also love a good running documentary, so I might pull one of those out a night or two before the race. I remember falling asleep to Spirit of the Marathon the night before Shamrock 2013 (which I PRed!), and I've never seen Spirit of the Marathon II, so maybe I'll put that on my list.

Remember my training
This one doesn't exactly apply this time around because, to be honest, I haven't really been training for Shamrock. Yes, I've been running and biking and boxing and strength training and doing lots of things that will help me succeed at Shamrock, but it hasn't been my focus because right now, that's Big Sur. It's my hope that having spent the last 2 months marathon training and having more miles under my legs than I would have if the Shamrock half were my goal will help me at the half marathon distance. When I line up at the start line at 42nd Street, I'll have over 300 miles under my belt just so far this year. I'll have almost run 1200 miles since the last time I toed the Shamrock line, and over 4000 since I started running just under 5 years ago (thanks, Smashrun, for all those numbers). I may not have been exclusively training for Shamrock over the last several weeks and months, but those numbers are there. They're miles in the bank and they matter. I have trained for this. I have run in cold and wind and rain and snow and up and down hills for miles and miles and miles and there is nothing Virginia Beach can throw at me on March 20 that I haven't conquered before.

Take the pressure off
I know, that's like the complete opposite of everything I've just said, but hear me out. I love goal races. Love love love 'em. I love laying it all out on the course, putting my training to the test, and finding out what I'm made of. I also know that I am human, and that I have a body and a mind that doesn't always align perfectly with my expectations and, because of that, above all else, I need to race with what I'm given on race day. There is no point in putting unnecessary pressure on myself if it's just not my day. The beauty of these races is that, although there are numerous constraints that just don't make it feasible to run one every single weekend, the possibility is there. If one race doesn't go well, there's always another one just around the corner. There's always another chance. Races are forgiving like that in a way that few other things in life are.

This is especially important to me this year because Shamrock is a race that means so much to me. I made a vow to myself earlier this year to stop looking back, and to stop comparing, but this is one exception where I want to look back. Shamrock was my first big race, the first true test of my will, not just in running but in life. This year is a special year for me - it's my 5th consecutive year participating in Shamrock weekend, but it's the first time in 3 years that I've done the half. The half starts at a different time than the full, in a slightly different location, and the atmosphere of it is so different that it almost makes the two distances feel like separate events. It's been a long time since I've experienced the half, and so much about me has changed since then - I've run twice as far as I could back then, I've taken 2 minutes per mile off my easy run pace, I've become a triathlete, just to name a few - and I want to do my best to honor the person and the runner I've become since then. I'm a better runner now that I ever dreamed I could possibly be the last time I finished the Shamrock half, so any part of my race that proves that - whether it's how fast I can run it or just how good I can feel running it - is a victory for me.


  1. Eating healthy is tough consistently but it makes such a big difference for an athletic event. I think you'll be able to buckle down in the next 10 days. Just tell yourself you can have EVERYTHING and ANYTHING after the race. Maybe take a Whole30 approach for 10 days and see how you feel.

    I know you are going to ROCK THIS RACE!!!!!

  2. You're going to do great! I think that taking the pressure off will allow you to relax and just have a really strong run. You just have to keep that in mind while racing! Or maybe I'm the only person that says "I'm just going to run this easy", and then takes off from the start guns a'blazing. Haha!

  3. Good luck Tracy! Even though Shamrock is not your goal race it sounds like your Big Sur preparation should have you well prepared for it.

  4. Good luck!! I love using this race in preparation to get ready for big sur and as a way to measure you progress and celebrate your success for the last five years of running! Eating properly to fuel my body is so tough for me as well, I love all the foods and drinks too much!

  5. It sounds like you have a good plan to get ready for this race! I'm with you on the not eating like an athlete should... I like food too much. But I do try to eat less processed food in the week leading up to the race & then do quite a few carbs the day before to try and make up for my bad eating the rest of the training period. Hope the next week flies by & that you're super ready come race morning :)

  6. yayyy love this so much, especially the last paragraph. sounds like your head is on your shoulders right.
    i know this isn't very encouraging, but i love that you love not good food too. i sometimes feel like there is something wrong with me in the 'athlete' world (not that i am hardcore by any means) because everyone is like i genuinely love eating kale all day every day and i'm like, pass the mac n cheese! haha. i mean, obviously i'd like to eat healthier, but i really, really, really love food. and you only live once and all that jazz.
    best of luck to you and i hope this race is a good one!

    1. sorry for the extra comment but i just also wanted to say i read your sunday sweats post (and i'm giving you another comment to keep up with but you don't have to respond!! swear!) and that teacher with the music, rude! i mean, how hard is it, really? rage. that would make me so ragey. totally understand what you mean about hills being entertaining, and yay for feeling better after cleaning up your eating a bit. i need to lose some bloat, lol. anyway. no need to respond to this, promise. sorry i am a comment leaving weirdo.

  7. I had a brief freak-out on Sunday when, whilst celebrating St. Paddy's with an annual parade and bar crawl, I thought it was Shamrock Day and hated myself for being a bad friend and not a) reading this post earlier or b) sending you all the well wishes I have for your race. Whew, I made it in time! :)

    With you on the food. I don't generally eat crap, but I certainly don't generally eat with running/fuel in mind...which I should.

    Remember your training. Yes. Even though I know the past few runs haven't been awe-inspiring for you, you've run them. You have them under your legs and if nothing else, they're proof that you CAN go further when you think you can't.

    And I really love your last point too. You can do what you can, but you don't always know the body that's going to show up that day. You don't know until you wake up on race day. And no amount of being yourself up will change what you can't control.

    No matter what happens Sunday, you're a champion. You're a marathoner, a Half Ironwoman, and on your way to that true IM status. You deserve a good, fun race. So try and go have one of those! I'll be cheering from here.

  8. You totally deserve all of the celebrating you've been doing & I can only imagine how hard it is to eat well up until your race days-- do you eat before you run? I've been wondering that lately... anyway, so excited for you as this race is just a few days away now. You always have such a good mindset/balance going into your races & I'm already excited for the recap :)