Way back in July, I posted a (too) long summary
of various marathons I'd done in the first half of the year. My goal had been
to do 55-60 marathons this year, speeding up as I went. Everything was going
according to plan until August 18th, when the Cancer Fairy paid a visit to my
family. I stopped racing, I stopped training, I gained about 5 pounds while
helping... and it was totally the right thing to do. I started
running again sometime around the middle of October. Ugh.
I had placed Richmond on my schedule (with prepaid flights and prepaid hotel) a long time ago. Things are going reasonably well at home, as good as they can I suppose, so I decided to come.
I flew into Dulles and then drove to Richmond. Interesting drive, crazy traffic. My favorite part was passing through Spotsylvania (home of vampire dogs! Who vanht to hump your leg!). Went to the expo, looked for people I knew, found none, and ate some fine hotel food. Mmmm. Marriott food.
Now, I last ran the Richmond Marathon in 2002. That was a way different time in my life. I was just getting into the whole multiple marathoning thing and I was still learning what it meant to live/train post-cancer (the Cancer Fairy likes my house, you see). I ran a robust 4:56 that year and I remember a serious death march in the last miles. But I got a free hat.
The Richmond course is an interesting figure-8 design. It's pretty roly poly, but unlike most roly poly courses I know, it has a lot of flat sections mixed in. For example, there are two pancake flat bridge sections, each about a mile long. It also has a nasty hill at M17. Not steep, but loooong and unshaded. A few more roly polies in the last miles and then a mondo screaming ass kicker downhill in the last half mile.
About 4500 people do this race. There are pace teams. There are aid stations every two miles until M20 and then every mile. There are junk food stations. There's entertainment. And today... it was a hot day for most people... there was ice, lots of washcloths, and misting tents.
Did I say it was a hot day? It was. But, oh joy, for Island Boy. Running in the 70s is what I like most. So let's talk about my day.
As mentioned above, I'm still trying to come back from a forced running layoff. Mind you, I've never been fast. If you want to read fast people's stuff, go read Amy Yanni's report or Fiddy2 Dane's report. Before the layoff, I was running 3:40ish. After? My times had been on the wrong side of 4:15. Egad. It's all relative, of course. But I lost 25+ minutes while playing chemo boy ("Use your bucket, dear!").
Today was a workout day for me. I wanted to put in 16 fast but consistent miles... and then I knew the last 10 would be more about talking to people and soaking in Richmond. And believe me, this is not a good racing strategy. It goes by the name "going out too fast" as a racing strategy. Do not follow srlopez's example if you are racing. Do not follow srlopez's example if you are new to marathoning and want to finish upright and happy.
I decided to stick with something around 8:30s for the first 16 miles. There's some science-y stuff regarding why 8:30, but I'll leave it out because this is already too long.
I learned right off that the layoff took away my sense of pace. I decided to stay a little bit in front of the 3:45 pace group. That helped. A lot. So did having some great spectators and having "Stevie Ray" printed on my bib above the big MARATHON MANIACS (which, oddly, many people misread... and cheer for "Marathon Man", or today one guy called me "Marilyn". Really.)
I saw one Maniac, just after we started. I think his name was Jim... sorry if I got this wrong, though! It was crowded. I didn't see another Maniac during the race, but the calendar tells me that they were there.
Here were my splits through 16:
8:32, 8:22, 8:19, 8:18, 8:27, 8:26, 8:07, 8:14
8:17, 8:25, 8:40, 8:33, 8:38, 8:42, 8:25, 9:21
Hmm. Not so consistent. The course rolls, so I didn't expect metronome precision, but I have a long way to go with my training. And I guess it was more of a 15 mile workout. Ooops.
The 3:45 team passed me on the long bridge around M16 as I went into jog mode. Interestingly, jog mode started about the time we lost all our shade and the temperatures were climbing. Nice planning, ace. I noticed people going into Death March mode really early. I passed lots of walkers, lots of people doing the "hands on hips" thing. And by the early 20s, people were literally dropping. I stopped twice to check on folks. One guy was apparently named "dammitdammit". At least that's what he said when I asked him his name.
Somewhere in here, we passed a spectator who was blasting Amazing Grace on his boombox. Key tip for any spectator reading this: please don't play funeral music for the marathoners. Mahalo plenty.
I hit M20 at about 2:55. Now, I had no particular time target for this race, but I usually know that if I get to M20 before 3 hours, then I'm going to break 4. Usually. And this, my friends, is a lesson about going out too fast. That 8:30 plan, which really had a few too many 8:20s in it, got me. Because I was taking it easy and having fun, there was no threat of hitting that danged ol' wall... but there was also no way that I could get my legs moving fast again if I had wanted to do that. And keep reading, because it would turn out that I really would want to do that.
M23 at 3:28. Still could have beaten 4. Wasn't gonna happen. But interestingly, I wasn't being passed by anyone.
4:00 pacer passed me at M24. He seemed to be running alone. Uh oh. At least he still looked fresh. Exciting. But not so inviting to me.
There was some large group of people in lime green shirts running this race. Like TNT, they had coaches. At M25, a coach jumped in to help pull this one poor guy to the finish. He started being "encouraging" in that particular loud tone that is neither encouraging nor friendly to other people around him. You know this tone... you hear it on Amazing Race. "YOU ARE GONNA DO THIS! YOU ROCK! YOU ARE GONNA DO THIS" over and over again. And again.
Folks, this right here is the one time during the event that I questionned my early go-fast plan. Because I really really, no REALLY wanted to pull away from TheIncredibleMotivator.
M26 at exactly 4:00. The spectators were lining the course, whooping it up, but making the running path really skinny.
At M26.001, TheIncredibleMotivator was joined by a second coach who proceeded to pull in side-by-side with the others, forming a wall... while they all slowed down. Having none of that, I found a little bitty kick. Hey, hey hey! Get outta my way!
Finished at 4:01:27.
In retrospect, I feel kinda lousy for sprinting past this guy who was really hurting at the end. It was selfish, but I could standsnomore of the coach. Blah blah blah. I have really mixed emotions about that... but I don't think I slowed him down and I didn't get in his way, whilst they DID get in my way.
Looked for my Maniac friends after the race. Talked to Hippo for awhile. Ate some pizza. Drank some tea. The band was playing some Monkees.
And then I drove 4 hours to Harrisburg. I was supposed to run the Harrisburg Marathon on Sunday, but when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was obvious to me that I'm not in double shape yet. I have a long way to go. Besides, the weather was quite nasty.
I am sooo happy to be running.