Race recap: Richmond Marathon

15Nov15

I drove out to Richmond the night before, and met some running ladies for a pasta dinner. I went out early, and spent some time kickin’ around the Short Pump mall, which was probably not the greatest idea, as I really didn’t need the time on my feet, and the tree lighting ceremony on November 13 put me in a bah humbug mood, and didn’t make me feel like buying anything.

Dinner was great, and it was so nice to catch up with the gang. We headed back to the hotel and agreed to meet in the lobby at 6. At 6 sharp, we were off! Long story short, we got a bit waylaid by street closures and by the time I finally found a lot, I wasn’t sure how close it was to anything. It was nearing 7am, and with a 7:45 start I was panicked. Turns out, I was just a few blocks from the start and then had plenty of time to wait in line for the porta johns. Of course when I made my way to the starting corrals, there were miles of porta johns with no lines.

And then we were off! It took about 10 minutes of shuffling to get to the start. I hit my watch, and worked hard on taking it slow. I am proud to say that mile 1 was, in fact, my slowest mile at 11:53. Go me! All my other miles were between 10:09 (mile 7 – very nice sustained downhill) and 11:45 (crossing Lee Bridge). My number one goal was to beat 5 hours. And I truly mean that – 4:59:59 would be acceptable and joyous; 5:00:00 would be crushing. I knew that if I had a good day that 4:50 was within reach, and I knew that running a conservative first mile would ultimately help me have that good day.

The weather was cool, but by the end of mile 1, I had shed my throwaway fleece and was feeling plenty warm. The wind wasn’t as bad as I had imagined, and the first few miles passed comfortably. I had created a pace chart specific to Richmond, that I had “laminated” with packing tape. I tucked it into the pocket of my hydration vest, and referred to it at the mile markers. Just a few miles in, I was a little bit ahead of pace for a 4:50 finish. I knew there were some tough miles in the last half, so I was happy to have the cushion.

I bypassed the early water stops, since I carried my own water with electrolytes, and stuck to my strategy of having 3-4 Honey Stingers chews every 30 minutes on the dot. I think I got water for the first time at mile six. Despite not feeling hot, I poured some on my head – dark brown hair in sunny weather really soaks up the heat.

Miles 7 and 8 are almost entirely downhill. The 8 mile marker is near where the course follows along the river, and it was a beautiful day for it. Mile 10 is a brutal uphill, and the uphill continued into mile 11. I cruised past the halfway mark at 2:23:14, and was ecstatic. I was pretty certain that my pace would suffer with the uphill and dreary surroundings of the miles in the high teens, so knowing that I had a big cushion for finishing in under 5 hours was good for my spirits.

Miles 15 and 16 were not nearly as terrible as I remembered, but mile 17 was every bit as awful as I feared. The wind was a gusty crosswind across the bridge. I tried to appreciate the view of the river and of downtown, but really what kept me going was knowing that if I stopped to walk, I’d be stuck on that bridge just that much longer. On the other side of the bridge is a perfectly positioned junk food stop, and I was so grateful for the dixie cup of coke, and for the goldfish crackers. Perfect.

I expected the wind to die down once the river crossing was done, but it actually felt stronger over the next few miles. Mile 18 was almost a direct headwind, and where I finally turned on some music. Somewhere in those high teens were some spectators in a residential neighborhood who were having a great time hanging out by their firepit. Oh, that smoke did a number on me. As if being rained on by tree pollen near the river wasn’t enough, now I had smoke following me for a quarter mile. My eyes and lungs stung.

The Diamond is around the 20 mile mark, and is a depressing area to run through, including having to travel an underpass under the interstate. I was super excited when the course converged with the half course, and we re-entered a part of town with good spectator support and trees.

My feet were killing me, as expected, and I walked through all the water stops – one per mile after mile 20. I didn’t want to take any other walk breaks because walking didn’t actually feel better than running at that point. Somewhere in the gusty winds of mile 19, my pace chart had blown right out of my hands, so I didn’t know what (if any) buffer I had to make five hours. As I got closer to the finish, I realized I had done well! I was going to break five hours!

Back in the more populated areas, I was buoyed by spectators giving out jellybeans (yes, please), pretzels (oh hell yes), orange slices (the best thing ever) and beer (not for me, but I appreciated the effort and the raucous spirit of people who’d been imbibing the whole time I’d been running). There were official music and party zones, and plenty of unofficial ones as well. I couldn’t hear my own music for the last few miles, which was fine by me!

There’s more uphill than you’d expect in mile 24-ish, and I slogged through it. By mile 25 I was home free. Spectators shouted out the number of blocks left to the three turns at the end and I literally could not believe I was that close. Three turns, and then off a cliff.

When the race organizers advertise a downhill finish, they are not kidding. It’s so steep that I was too afraid of falling to really use it to gain speed. I spied Jack and the kids in the crowd, and stopped to give them quick hugs. And then I saw my mom! The finish was up ahead, and I knew I would be very close to 4:50. Once I was close enough to read the finish clock, I realized I was extremely close to having a sub-five hour clock time as well, and I booked it for all I was worth.

I finished in 4:49:43 chip time, with 4:59:40 on the clock. I was so happy and emotional. I got my (beautiful) medal, but what I really wanted was the hat, so I could pull the bill down and cry a little bit. How is it that there are people who don’t cry at the finish? I also got a lovely fleece blanket, that I was warm enough not to need right then. I picked up my bag from the bag drop, and headed to the finish party for food and to meet my family.

I could not have been happier with my day. I ended up with a big chafed spot on my arm from my sleeve that surprised me, and my shoulder is really sore. I have an old injury that mostly doesn’t bother me, but decided to talk to me during the marathon. Otherwise, no blisters, no pulled muscles, nothing really hurting.

And miracle of miracles, my car was actually quite close to the finish.

Splits are below – keep in mind that I didn’t run the tangents, and ended up at about 26.4 total, so that last .2 is really about .4.

Mile 1: 11:53

Mile 2: 11:21

Mile 3: 11:00

Mile 4: 10:44

Mile 5: 10:38

Mile 6: 10:50

Mile 7: 10:09

Mile 8: 10:42

Mile 9: 10:32

Mile 10: 10:34

Mile 11: 11:11

Mile 12: 10:49

Mile 13: 10:43

Mile 14: 10:52

Mile 15: 10:43

Mile 16: 11:10

Mile 17: 11:45

Mile 18: 11:07

Mile 19: 11:18

Mile 20: 11:24

Mile 21: 11:21

Mile 22: 11:18

Mile 23: 11:06

Mile 24: 11:17

Mile 25: 11:10

Mile 26: 10:35

Mile 26.2: 3:36

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