Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Crawlin’ Crab half marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Since having kids, getting away for a weekend has become the easiest way to take little breaks from the daily grind. Runcations have been a nice excuse to check some states off of my racing checklist, but it doesn’t always mean the best time for my family who don’t necessarily want to run a half marathon. As my kids are 4 and 6… I can’t blame them.
I’ve already run a half in Virginia, so the state wasn’t necessarily on my list to repeat. However, after googling Hampton, Virginia, the excuse for a beach trip, and the thought of lots of crab for consumption… I didn’t need too much convincing. Even better was the fact that this race offers a 5k and kids 1k on Saturday, followed by the half marathon on Sunday. My husband had been talking about doing more 5ks so this seemed like a great opportunity to include him in the fun. And ever since the Great Smoky Mountain 5k and half marathon last month, my kids have been asking to ‘do a race.’ Oh… and the course is flat.
So once again, when BibRave mentioned their partnership with J&A Racing, I was ready for this one!
I’ve been in the midst of training for the New York Marathon in November, but I have still been eyeing a half marathon PR. The sad fact is, my fastest half marathon was in the Fall of 2016, a 2:09 PR on the Bull City Race Fest course. I haven’t been able to get close to that time since as my focus turned to marathon training so my half paces just got slower. The closest I’ve come since was at Rock N Roll Raleigh in 2018 with a 2:20. But I’ve been stubbornly stuck and unable to break the 2:20 time. Granted, I haven’t had a lot of focus on it as I continued to run marathons and even my first ultra. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to get faster again. I briefly worked with Endure Strong at the beginning of the Summer, but I needed a plan tailored specifically towards my crazy full-time work, part-time group fitness instructor, mom, and wife life. I started working with Jess in August and immediately felt a change in my training and mindset. Again, my current goal is surviving New York (ok, maybe with a somewhat decent time as well), but she knows I’m itching to get a sub 2 half marathon.
The Thursday before the race, Jess called me to chat about my race strategy. We talked about taking it easy for the first couple of miles, then pushing it for the next few, easing back for a mile, and then progressively pushing it for the final distance. This was going to be a training run for New York still, but we were going to treat the race as a workout. Some speed work and seeing how I could react physically and mentally to race day strategies. My previous race day strategy has always been ‘try not to start too fast but then run as fast as you can until you cross that finish line.’
Let’s just say that hasn’t been super successful.
But I was excited to go into this race with a plan. With some hectic stuff going on in my personal life right now, I found myself suddenly really excited for race day.
Friday after work, we picked up the kids from school and set off to Hampton, Virginia. It was a little over 3 and a half hours driving, but we stopped for dinner at a nice little Mexican restaurant about an hour into the drive. By the time we arrived at the race recommended hotel, the Hyatt Place in Hampton, just minutes from the race headquarters, we were all ready for bed. We set the alarm and planned to be at the bib pick-up at the start line shortly after 7:15. The first race wouldn’t start until 8am on Saturday morning.
After a lovely night of sleep (which is shocking considering how excited my kids get when we stay in hotels), we headed downstairs for the free breakfast. The kids and James loaded up on pancakes, eggs, and sausage, and I found some gluten free options as well. We then walked the short distance to the start line. A cold front had come in so the race temps were going to be perfect. Mid-60s for our walk though a little windy.
The bib pick-up took us 5 minutes though the kids wanted to run around and look at the various crab hats and merchandise for sale at the expo. The full expo wasn’t open, but the whole race merchandise space was. They had some really cute shirts and accessories, but we knew we’d be back a little later in the day to get the whole experience. We walked out the doors and right into the starting area of the 5k. The kids and I wish James luck and rang our cowbell as loud as we could when his corral took off. We then promptly made our way to the other side of the street… to the finish line. Very convenient for us though the 5kers had a few miles in between.
We headed to the post-race area that included a beer garden, various signs for photo opportunities, some outdoor patio furniture for seating, and a few games including table tennis and giant Jenga. The kids were happily entertained while I kicked back on one of the sofas. Soon enough, my husband was crossing the finish line and we ran over to the side of the road to watch him do so. He said the course was great and was telling us about some of the sites including a petting zoo that had a giant turtle hanging out course-side. The kids were fascinated. I grabbed his swag bag and ran back to the hotel across the street to drop everything off. We had both planned on running the 1k with the kids, though at the last minute my eldest declared that he ‘wanted to run alone’. We donned our guardian bibs and lined up with them at the finish line. The starting horn went off and my eldest took off sprinting. I started easy with my youngest and James stayed behind for photos.
The 1k was the longest race either of my boys had either done. I could see my eldest in the distance the whole time and he was doing great. I tried to help my youngest pace himself but soon enough he was ready to walk. We did a few run/walk intervals but at the final entryway into the finisher’s chute he was totally over it. The fence alongside us was packed with people cheering so I told him ‘if you stick your hand out, every one of these people will give you a high five as your run in.’ He gleefully did so and sure enough, everyone was giving him a continuous high five into the finish line. He had a giant grin on his face the whole time as he sprinted to the finish.
After a successful morning of racing, we headed out to grab some lunch for a picnic on the beach. It was a bit windy, but we let the kids play in the sand for a bit with toys that we had brought. They were blissfully happy and were only content to leave when we promised them the next best thing: swimming in the hotel pool. Forget the fact that we have a pool at home; hotel pools are so much more exciting!
After some (much warmer) pool time, we went to the expo for the full experience. The vendors were close to wrapping up but we were able to do a little window shopping and picked up a couple of items from the two running shops in attendance. For a small expo, there was a good variety of vendors and selection of merchandise. After the expo, we went to check out the little petting zoo and public park around the corner from the race.
The boys were in bliss on the playground and seeing the animals, and I was amazed by the giant garden on site. We stayed until close to closing time then headed out to grab dinner and an early night in. I laid out Flat Christine and double checked my race gear, then set the alarm for 6:30am. It may be the latest I’ve ever been able to get up for a race! But I knew I could be dressed in minutes, be downstairs for the complimentary breakfast, and at the start line right after 7. I swear, staying as close to the race start really can be worth the extra cost sometimes, though in this case the price was pretty comparable to the rest of the hotels in the area. Convenience is definitely something to consider when factoring your hotel and any additional cost.
Race morning arrived and everything went according to plan. I was at the start line at 7:10 and people were slowly approaching the various corrals. The race wasn’t huge, and I loved the fact that I never felt ‘crowded’ at any point, though I also generally felt like there was a decent amount of people by me throughout. I think the race really deserves credit for how they managed the corrals. I was in corral 3 and I positioned myself in the back, in front of the 2:15 pacer. I never saw him during the race and I didn’t feel like I was excessively passing or being passed by people throughout. Once the starting horn went off, the corrals were released a couple of minutes apart. I went out with my easy pace and within the first quarter mile we were turning towards one of the only inclines on the course: an overpass that we would take at the very beginning and very end. I think there was one other overpass during the race but aside from that it was flat as a pancake.
I had my Garmin cued to my coach’s prompts and was able to take the first couple of miles easy. I took in the sights around me and then at mile 3, I started to begin my first push. There were a couple of stretches during the race that had signs telling crab jokes and puns. They were hilarious and awful but I loved reading each one as I made my way through the miles. By the time mile 7 hit I was easing back and gathering up my energy… and started my next push at mile 9. I admit that miles 8-10 were a bit of a struggle. Around that point we were running alongside the water, which was beautiful but unprotected from the wind. Just when I was totally over it though I saw the sign for the popsicle pit stop. Yup, volunteers were handing out otter pops along the course. I inhaled that popsicle which helped me cool off a little (the temps were a little higher than Saturday), and we turned off of the waterway and away from the wind. Now the 5k left pep talks took hold.
I started doing the math in my head. I knew I was within or close to the ranges that my coach had specified. We hadn’t talked about a final end time, but I was hopeful to be under 2:15. At this point, I knew I had that in the bag (and I was thrilled that I hadn’t caught sight of the pacer once). I started wondering if I might even be able to beat my PR of 2:09. After enough math (at least a mile of distraction right there), I realized my legs didn’t have that kind of push in them… but I bet I could get close. So I dug deep. I started recognizing some of the area from our sightseeing the day before, and I had a general idea of how close I actually was from the finish. Then, I saw that last overpass. I tackled it like my neighborhood hill during hill repeats and flew down. I was turning the corner into the finishers chute! Then, I saw my kids sprinting towards me! I told them we were going to go as fast as my legs could take me. They were basically like ‘peace out’ at that point as they ran out of steam, so I made my last dash to the finish. I was thrilled as I crossed that finish line and my Garmin prompted with the text of official race finish time: 2:11:44. Just two minutes off from my PR time and the closest that I’d been to it in the three years since I hit it.
You couldn’t wipe that smile off my face.
I shuffled through the finisher’s chute picking up my medal, a stainless steel solo cup (for all the free beers in the after party area!), some Wegman’s popcorn, a banana, and a granola bar. I met my family by the party area and had them hold my things while I headed straight for the free crab soup. I asked the server if he needed the ticket from my bib and he said ‘nah, I can tell you just raced.’ That might give you an idea of how sweaty and gross I was. But I was happy, and was soon filling my belly with that soup. The perfect post-race treat! We all headed back to the hotel so I could take a shower and we could pack up the car to head back home to Raleigh.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better race weekend. The whole family had a blast. James and I talked about what a nice trip it was and how we all enjoyed our various races over the weekend. The kids loved their 1ks, and James’ knee cooperated even with his first 5k in about a year. The race itself was well-organized and thought out. There were plenty of things to entertain the whole family, or just grown-ups if you wanted to hang around and enjoy the live music and drinks. I would definitely do this race again, especially if I was trying to PR.
You can find my separate review on BibRave here: https://www.bibrave.com/races/the-neighborhood-harvest-crawlin-crab-half-marathon-5k-reviews/13072
What’s your favorite family friendly running event? Or your favorite race for a PR? Tell me in the comments below.