Race recap: We had a Shamrocking good time at this race! The 7:00am early start worked out well as we stayed at the Marriott right near the start line. Once off and running we experienced an odd sensation of runners literally sprinting past us for the first mile (this phenomenon happened in the Lake Mills, Wisconsin half too). I’m not sure how many of the eager beavers we eventually caught up with, but being a flat course a lot of people went out of the gate way too fast and burned themselves out. When we passed the mile 1 marker in 7:04, yes, 7:04 we knew the mile markers were off, but thankfully by mile 2 the markers were back on track. Just past mile 3 we turned onto Shore Drive, which was nothing like we expected in a beach town. This tree lined road was extremely pleasant to run on and we just smiled as we soaked in the scenery. Littered along the next 3 miles of the course were signs with a variety of St. Patrick’s Day and leprechaun themed jokes to keep runners amused (To give you a flavor: What do you call someone who swindles you out of money? A leprechaun-artist). At mile 6 we turned into Fort Story, a military facility used for shore landing practice and amphibious equipment training. Near this point we ran past a few Team Hoyt members (runners who push disabled children in racing wheel chairs), which was incredibly impressive and inspiring. Just past mile 9 we passed the Cape Henry lighthouse, which looked a bit like a black and white chess board. By mile 10 the heat and humidity (80-90%) were starting to slow down our legs, so we decided to take a gel at the next water stop. The gel helped somewhat, but the constant flatness of the course actually proved a bit difficult. I guess a few hills help to break up a run and work different muscles. At mile 11 we had fallen slightly off of our 1:45 pace, but were still running strong. With my green beard still intact, I figured there was no better time to grab a road beer than now! I slammed the beer mid-stride and managed to keep my beard out of the cup. The next mile or so felt fine, but were getting really hot and tired. With about 0.5 mile to go, the beer started to slosh in my stomach something fierce and I was very glad we were nearing the finish. As we cruised down the boardwalk we had a great time smiling and waving to kids in our fun get-ups and grinned straight through the finish line.
Highlights: Running in some sweet green costumes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – the yellow top hat and beard were fun, even if they were a bit toasty and Kristin’s shamrock shades and green garter (complete with a dangling shamrock) were fabulous darling, fabulous.
Tip: The post-race swag and after-party are both first rate and not to be missed. Once we finished we were each handed a medal, an embroidered hat (13.1 finisher on the back of the hat) and a finisher’s sweatshirt! The post-race party continued on the beach with a full concert, all you could eat beef stew and pretty much all you could drink beer (each bib was good for FOUR Yuengling beers)! Best post-race party yet!!!
Day 1 (Saturday):
When we arrived in Virginia Beach the weather was absolutely beautifully sunny and warm – which made our outdoor dining experience at Leaping Lizard Café even better. We both really enjoyed the homemade chicken salad sandwich which was light and flavorful. The side of sliced apples and roasted mini potatoes also complemented the meal very well. Great lunch spot.
We wanted to try some local donuts and read that Bliss Bakery had the best around. When we arrived at what used to be a jewelry store we were skeptical, and we were right. Unfortunately, the donuts here were a miss. Not very fresh and pretty boring. The green moon pie, which matched Kristin's nail color, was the highlight (fresh and spongy) but this place is a definite pass.
Not only is the race on St. Patrick's Day weekend, but the entire expo is a massive celebration of green, leprechauns and four leaf clovers.
Tip: The expo had some pretty cool race merchandise, but we ended up getting a free hat and sweatshirt at the finish line - so you may want to wait to see what goodies you get before dropping your own coin on race swag.
We drove out to Beach Brewing Company for a tasting of some locally brewed beers. The tasting room is very small, but the intimate nature is pretty nice. We chatted for a bit with the head brew-master as we enjoyed the Hoptopus Double IPA - dry hopped to delicious perfection. One of the only breweries in Virginia Beach and worth a stop.
Tip: The brewery is located in an industrial park, which is not very well marked, so make sure to keep an eye out for the surfboard logo on the large garage door.
Unfortunately the nice sunny, warm weather we had earlier in the day had disappeared as we went for a stroll on the boardwalk, but we still enjoyed our windy walk together - including a stop at the famous Neptune statue and a massive Shamrock Marathon sand sculpture (seriously, how cool is that 10 foot tall sand carving?)
The rainy cold weather was starting to get the better of our spirits, so we drew a figurative "line in the sand" and headed to Eat - An American Bistro with an agreement that we were going to have a great trip. The seating in the bar area was perfect - intimate, away from people and complete with two TV's with the NCAA basketball games (our Ama mater IU beat local fan favorite VCU to reach the Sweet 16). During our first trip to Pennsylvania we discovered Yuengling (America's oldest brewery) and we've been hooked on it ever since. We both paired a Yuengling with Spaghetti A La Mamma, a new-age twist on a classic served with Italian sausage and cremini mushrooms and topped with a meatball stuffed with mozzarella cheese. Very good food, and helped us to forget about the dreary weather.
Day 2 (Sunday - Race Day):
Post-race and post beach party we cleaned up and headed for a celebration at Citrus - one of the top rated local breakfast spots. There was a bit of a wait, but eventually we found a seat at the bar. I really wanted to try the biscuits and gravy but also wanted to sample the restaurant's famous orange glazed pancakes - so I compromised and got both! The biscuit was firm, but choc full of flavor with the generous scoop of sausage gravy on top. The orange glazed pancakes and scrambled eggs were a bit disappointing (nothing too special and the eggs were really running), but Kristin's carrot whole grain pancakes and scrambled egg whites were awesome. The carrot pancakes literally tasted like carrot cake - sooooo good! Even though my meal was a little bit of a let down, I would try this spot again because Kristin's pancakes were just outstanding.
Our next stop on the Virginia Beach adventure train was to the Military Aviation Museum. This museum, which is owned by one very wealthy yet completely discrete couple is home to two entire hangers of planes, mostly from WWII and a smattering of antique cars and other aviation equipment (90% of which is fully operational and showcased annually in May). We arrived about 45 minutes before the museum closed, which ended up working out perfectly as a volunteer guided us through the entire museum and told stories about a number of the planes along the way.
Fun Fact: We learned that the phrase "the whole nine yards" comes from the length of a belt of machine gun ammunition on Spitfire airplanes used in WWII. Giving someone "the whole nine yards" meant the pilot had emptied the entire machine gun belt on their target.
Tautogs is a gem of a restaurant that we would have just driven right by if we hadn't read about it before hand (it looks like a normal house). We split a Greek salad and a bowl of she-crab soup. The salad was very good, but the soup was completely awesome (a cream based soup with a ton of crab which was very well seasoned). For dinner we each had the flounder stuffed with crab meat and split a massive head of broccoli. The fish was extremely fresh (make sure to ask your waiter which fish is fresh before you order). The seasoned and roasted mini potatoes were also quite good on the side. This was my favorite meal in Virginia Beach.
Day 3 (Monday):
We took advantage of our beachfront hotel with an extremely enjoyable run along the boardwalk and beach. Running on the sand as the surf came in was just awesome, even if our legs were a bit sore. At the tail-end of our run we saw a school of dolphins swimming ~20 feet from us - which made our morning jog that much more memorable.
Located right next to Tautogs is Doc Taylors (same owners), a breakfast joint also located inside an old house. The wait for a table was a bit long, but again we were lucky to stumble upon the bar and get seated immediately. I think we are actually growing to prefer sitting at the bar - as we really get a sense for the local scene more at the bar more so than at a table. Kristin tried "The Deep South", which consisted of two scrambled egg whites, country ham, cheddar grits, raisin toast and half of a grapefruit. The cheddar grits were pretty tasty and the ham was very good. I tried Doc Holiday's Southwestern egg white omelet, with green peppers, onions, tomatoes and absolutely delicious spiced chorizo sausage crumbles. I really enjoyed this breakfast, but still think it ranked a close #2 behind the carrot pancakes at Citrus. Tautogs and Doc Taylors are two restaurants not to be missed if you are staying in downtown Virginia Beach.
After breakfast we made a quick stop at First Landing State Park (Virginia's most visited park). The park is right on the beach and offers some pretty awesome views. This would be a great place to camp or swim in warmer weather. There are also a ton of trails (running, biking, hiking) that leave from the main entrance which looked pretty cool.
We ventured onto the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a 23-mile bridge which connects Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore. The bridge itself is pretty impressive (you go through two separate tunnels which are about 1 mile long each, built to allow ships to pass freely through the Chesapeake Bay) and is one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.
Tip: Be aware the toll to drive the bridge is $12, but the return route is only $5 (with receipt within 24 hours).
Directly on the north side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is Eastern Shore Fisherman Island Bird and Wildlife Refuge. The weather was absolutely beautiful for a stroll to the marsh area and a quick stop by the WWII bunker. We didn't see any exotic animals in the refuge until we were walking back to the car and were circled by a ton of black vultures - it felt pretty eerie as they circled in almost a hunting sort of fashion.
What better way to finish our trip than a quick stop at a local winery? We stopped into the Chatham Winery for a complimentary tasting and then took the party outside where we enjoyed a glass of wine and split a cheese and cracker tray. Kristin made quick friends with the local wine dog, Wilber, who knows just the heart strings to pull in order to steal a few crackers. The steel fermented chardonnay was very good (smooth without a buttery or oaky taste) and the vitner's blend had a great nose (i.e. it smelled good) and had a refreshing taste.
Virginia Half Marathon Medals
March 18, 2012: Shamrock Half Marathon