Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Clontarf Half Marathon Race Report from Dublin!

Submitted by Heather Stewart, @captainstewie

Running the World
Clontarf Half Marathon
Dublin, Ireland 7/7/2012

Never in my wildest dreams did I think my passion for running would take me all over the world. Let’s be honest, if you had asked me a year and a half ago if I wanted to go for a run I would have laughed in your face. I’ve said it a hundred times: running has changed my life and it now it’s given me the chance of a lifetime.

My friend, Nicole, is at University College Dublin finishing her MBA. When she left for school, I made the goal to come and visit her and see Ireland (and flirt with cute red-headed boys with sexy accents). She discovered a love of running while living in Dublin and signed up for some races. I decided that I wouldn’t feel as guilty taking a long vacation if I threw a half marathon in there (it’s how my wacky brain works) so I did the research.

Lo and behold, there was a half marathon that Nicole and our friend Sara could do… ON MY BIRTHDAY… IN DUBLIN!

I signed up for the race.

I didn’t know if I would make it to Dublin. I didn’t know if I could afford a plane ticket but I figured what the heck? If I don’t make it, I just donated 30 euro to a great charity. (Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries.) But I made it happen. Graduating from college helped. (Thanks family and friends for the duckets!!!) And on the Fourth of July Sara and I took off on Aer Lingus to the Emerald Isle!

Carry on!
NOTE: Always carry on your running clothes. This is a lesson I learned the hard way for my first half marathon in Las Vegas when Southwest Airlines proceeded to lose my luggage for about 18 hours!

We got to Dublin on Thursday and race day wasn’t until Saturday. I organized this on purpose to give us time to acclimate to the time zone and get our bearings. It totally worked. Friday night we found some Italian food to carb load! It was delicious!

Saturday morning came without a hitch. We walked almost a mile to the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) Station, stopping for coffee along the way. It was a great warm up, but a word to the wise, Dublin doesn’t open until 9am. No seriously, it’s virtually impossible to get food or coffee prior to 9am, especially on a Saturday when people are still sleeping off their Friday night pints. We managed to find a 24 hour petrol station about half way to our destination, thank goodness!

Once on the Dart, we enjoyed the view!

My friends Sara and Nicole are a pretty awesome view too!

This was a “there and back race” and the start/finish line was conveniently located about 2 blocks from the DART station. We picked up our bibs and T-Shirts. The t-shirts say “I Did Battle at Clontarf”. We were running at the site of a famous battle in 1014… yep 1000 years ago!

View from Start/Finish line. Much of the run looked this gorgeous!

We stretched, used the porta-potties and got ready to run. We even met some other Americans who were running the race! Nicole was super nervous as it was her first Half Marathon, but I knew she would rock it. She was going to run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute. Both Sara and I tried to keep her calm as we were old pros… I can’t believe I can say that now!

Of course before the race, I borrowed a marker and wrote #run3rd on my arm! It’s become my tradition. What I didn’t know is that marker was industrial and my arm would say #run3rd for 3 more days!!!!

And the race began. I started with my friends, but my pace is about 1-2 minutes slower, so I let them creep ahead and suddenly realized I was at the back of the pack. You might say, “Didn’t anybody walk this race? Surely you run faster than a walker.” But this race did something I had never seen before. The people who wanted to walk the half marathon started a forty minutes before the runners. AND APPARENTLY IRISH PEOPLE ARE FAST!!!!

The first 1.5 miles was along a board walk. The running gods had smiled that day because what was supposed to be scattered showers throughout the morning turned into sunny and breezy. Not a drop of rain, not too hot, not too cold… perfect running weather. I enjoyed the breeze in my face and relished the sunshine! I didn’t even mind being last… much.

About mile 2 you hit a bridge and ran over to a small island called Bull Island. This is a lovely place with dunes where people come to the beach to fly kites, collect shells and play with their kids… oh and run a mile and a half on hard packed sand. Holy moly, I realized that I was going to run on sand when reading the description of the race and it was hard-packed, but it was still sand. I train on concrete and asphalt, this was a BIG difference!

There were only 3 water stops for the race (I’m used to waaaaay more) and one chance to use the restroom. I have yet to finish a half marathon without having to use the restroom. I got through the first water table, took some advil (a first stop staple for me) and ate my shot blocks and kept moving….
And that’s when I stopped.

You see, this group also puts on a 5 mile race that finished at the same finish line, but started where the porta potties were. I lost almost 7 minutes in line for a bathroom, but I had to go and I’m no diehard… I like a potty. After 5 minutes, I asked the folks if I could cut since I was doing the half and the lady in front of me said in the sweetest Irish accent, “I was wondering why you were already so sweaty.”

And I was off… I felt really good, so I decided to push my pace to the turn around. I knew I could make up some time. I also knew that mile and a half on sand on the way back would take its toll. So it was now or never. This is when I saw my friends. Nicole, who was convinced she wouldn’t finish, was in the lead (of our little group!) and looking AWESOME! Sara came up next, she looked great too! So I kept going.

By this time, I was definitely in last place. I blew it by stopping to use the restroom, but I was determined. I got water at the turnaround and made my way back. Hit the last water table at mile 10 and conveniently forgot to take my last shot blocks… oops.

Then came the sand. I just did the best I could. I would look at my Garmin, calculate how much further I had to run and chant that number through a song. If I hit a kilometer marker (no mile markers here…) or the song ended. I started my math chant over. It worked for me. It’s funny the things you find to get you going.

I hit the bridge and caught up and passed someone…OMG!!! I’m not going to be last!!!! Yippeee!!! I passed someone else too, but she was doing intervals and her run pace would push her past me every time.

I just kept going. There was a point about mile 10.5 that I thought about walking, but I told myself to run to the next kilometer marker and I would have permission to walk IF I HAD TO then. I never really had too. I kept a strong enough pace through the end of the race to finish with a sudden burst of energy when I saw Nicole and Sara waiting for me!

We did it!!
And then… VICTORY! You know what they handed me when I finished? Not water, not a Gatorade, but a delicious, sugary donut. No, I’m not kidding. I got a donut, then a medal and then directed to the water! It was fantastic!

On Saturday July 7th, I ran first for me – it was my birthday. I ran second for my family – my friends are my family too and I ran for Nicole and Sara. I #run3rd for you – for those who made dedications, for those who were supported by this race and for those who can’t run. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful race and a beautiful experience. One I won’t soon forget. I plan on doing more destination races in fun and exotic places, but I need to let my bank account rebound a bit first!


“I can’t believe I’m still alive” —Nicole , Finish Time: 2:34:29
“I would’ve gotten a better time, but it was so pretty and I needed to pick up a seashell.” —Sara, Finish Time: 2:45:41
“Someone buy me a pint!” —Heather, Finish Time: 2:53:33

PS For those of you who didn’t see, I commemorated my race and my trip with some fresh ink!

1 comment:

  1. FAN-TASTIC! What an awesome experience! I love your quote- I have a feeling I will be saying something like that when I finish too. :)