Sunday, November 14, 2010
(that's me in the middle in my white Charlotte Running Club singlet, just to the left of a smiling Aaron Linz. Just to my left Jay Holder checks his pace after 10 yards of the race...)
When I originally set out on the path towards Richmond my goal had been to shoot for my first marathon at an average sub 6 minute pace. However, after a really solid training block, some encouraging workouts and a huge 15k PR a few weeks back I was confident I could target a 2:35 showing (5:55 pace). Needless to say then I was really happy with how Saturday's race turned out. I ended up with a time of 2:35:10, enough for a 3 minute plus PR, 7th place overall out of 5,000 runners and first in my age group.
Before I launch into a recap of the race itself, I'll take the story back to the day before the race.
Thursday we had driven up to Lisa's parents house in Lanexa, VA, about 45 minutes drive from Richmond itself. Friday morning I got up and Lisa drove me to this really nice neighborhood where I was able to get my last pre race shakeout run of 4 miles including strides in. After lunch we all headed into Richmond. I picked up my race packet, saw Bart Yasso and checked in at my hotel where I was staying with Aaron and Jay. The hotel was ideally situated about a mile fom the start line. Aaron and Jay jumped in the car with us and Lisa drove us around the course as none of us had run it before. This was a great idea and proved an invaluable help. We were able to scope out the layout of the course and get a feel for what we would be facing the next day.
It looked like a good course- fast and flat for the first 9.5 and last 5 miles, with a solid 'grind' in the middle. Certainly if you could get to mile 21 in good condition the potential for a fast time was high!
We dropped Jay and Aaron back off at the hotel and headed out to dinner with one of Lisa's friends who lived in Richmond and her family. I filled up on my usual pre marathon meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and polished off my youngest's left over cheeseburger for some additional protein! Lisa took me back to the hotel room and I discovered that Aaron and Jay hadn't been as successful in their search for a good pre race meal- they were both making PB and Js as I walked into the room! Lisa and the kids left and I wouldn't see them until out on the course the next day.
Lights off at 9:30 and we were soon fast asleep. I actually slept a lot better than I thought I would! At about 5am I got up and made my breakfast of a bowl of Cheerios and raisins in skimmed milk, a cup of tea and granola bar and nervously got my race gear on. The three of us were nervously pacing the room, making idle small talk as we got ready for the task ahead. Bags were packed and repacked, laces tied and retied. With just over an hour till race time we walked down to the start area. The weather looked like it was going to be perfect! It was in the high 30s with little wind and not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was expected to rise to 60 degrees by the finish. The weather was certainly not going to be an adverse factor!
We warmed up in an office lobby just outside the start line and as soon as the Half marathon had cleared, we walked out on to the start line. I was amazed how we were able to just march right up to the start of the field! We did some jogging and light strides, stood for the Anthem and got ready to roll. I was able to start the race in my singlet and gloves that would be shed later on. The race started off right on time and Jay and I immediately locked in on an easy rhythm. The goal was to make sure we went out nice and easy and no faster than 6 minute pace! This is how the race played out, mile splits as per my Garmin....
This section was literally entirely flat! 2 miles up the main street, across one block and 2 miles up the next road. This was Monument Avenue and the tree lined street was beautiful. Lisa and the kids were at the roadside here cheering furiously and had made a poster for me. I veered off to the side of the road to give high fives and exchange "I love yous"! They cheered on Jay and Aaron (who had settled nicely in behind Jay and I on his goal 6:10 pace) and then headed off to breakfast before heading down to the finish line to see me later.
5 and 6 we had some rolling terrain at last which was actually appreciated after the completely flat first section. We passed over the 10k mat in 37 low which was right on schedule. Mile 7 was a significant downhill. It was at this point that I started to pull away from Jay. I was going to be running solo for the next 19 miles. This was unexpected but I was just going to have to keep running to plan and deal with it. I took on my first gu at this point and was trying to drink water at each stop (an art I still am a long way from mastering!)The lead group were out of sight.
At the bottom of the hill was the first 'party zone' on the course. There were hundreds of people camped out here, live bands and lots of noise. This was great! I acknowledged the crowds as I passed and continued on
This was the most beautiful section of the course. We crossed a (flat) bridge and ran down by the river. The mist was rising off the river, it was idyllic. The crowd support here was scarce for the first time so I just rolled along enjoying the scenery and listening to the pitter patter of my Fastwitch on the tarmac. Mile 10 included the first significant uphill of the race as we headed up and away from the river side. As I still hit this mile in 5:55 this was the first sign that perhaps I was being a bit too agressive early on.
I tried to dial back a little during these miles, took on my second gu and went through the half in 1:17:24, right on target for a 2:35 effort!
This section was rolling but fast along the main road heading back towards the city. I was feeling good at this point, running relaxed and hoping the faster than planned pace wouldn't bite me later. It was at this point that I had my first couple of little mishaps of the race. I dropped a gu that I was transferring from one pocket to another and was unable to get some water at one stop as the girl passing it to me dropped the cup. I had to make sure that these seemingly trivial matters didn't affect me.
At this point we hit the bridge back into the city. It was here last year that many a runner's race was ruined by the stormy winds that were swirling around at this section. I had caught a break with the weather and the wind was nothing more than a breeze as we headed back over. Still this was the section when the race started to feel a lot tougher than the fairly easy run it had felt to this point. I was starting to notice little things and it was getting a bit harder to stay on pace. My right hip flexor was a bit sore, my left calf felt a little tight and most significantly I had clearly tied my laces too tightly on my left shoe. The top of my instep was becoming sore and I was trying to move my foot around inside my shoe trying to loosen it- to no avail. However, at that point I didn't feel the need to come to a stop and adjust it. I just got on with it, telling myself I had less than an hour to go.
As we crossed the bridge I passed one guy who had faded from the original leaders and was gaining on another guy. We were back in the city now, the road was flat and the crowd support tangible again. I was able to put all my negative thoughts to the back of my mind and get on with the task at hand. I took on my third gu and headed over the last significant hill of the race at mile 21 ready to try and pick it up during the last section of the race. I saw a friend from Charlotte and got a little boost from this. 5 miles to go.
1:53 (0.34 miles on my garmin)
This was the point in the race my coach had hoped I would be able to really attack the race and bring it home in a bit of style. However, those earlier faster than planned miles were probably having a bit of an impact and it ended up with me trying to maintain rather than pick up the pace over these last few miles.
To make up for the gu i had dropped earlier I gambled a little and took on an Accel Gel that was offered at mile 22. The last few miles were played out on wide flat avenues. I had now caught up with the back markers of the Half so just tried to zone out, keep in a rhythm and count down the miles to the end. My left foot was now sore. during mile 24 I decided to come to a complete stop and adjust my laces quickly. It was a smart choice and I was able to get back on pace immediately.
After the 25 mile mark I could smell the finish line and luckily some fellow CRC runners who had done the Half were positioned along the road here. Their cheers boosted me as I headed to the final corner. A left turn and I could see the finish line at the bottom of the hill. My legs were trashed now so I let the steep grade of the hill take me down to the bottom. My name was called over the tannoy and I raised my arms out wide as I approached the finish line, celebrating the fact that I hadn't put all my summer's training to waste and had put down a very solid time despite running most of the race solo. For the most part I had executed the plan and met my goals. Chuffed to bits.
I gathered myself having crossed the finish line, chatted to the guy who had finished ahead of me and waited for Aaron and Jay to finish. Jay finished in 2:40 and change, a new PR and a great run in spite of some stomach issues. Aaron followed shortly after in a great PR for himself; the three of us who had trained so hard together for the past few months had all executed when it mattered most. Alejandro followed in 2:47 capping a great day for Charlotte runners- 4 in the top 20 overall! Another friend Tom Ricks ran a 3:04 PR to make a nap hand of great performances!
I can't finish this recap without giving a shout out to coach Budic without whose guidance and training plans I wouldn't have been able to achieve my goals. He is always spot on and intuitive with his advice and his guidance was a huge part of my success in this race.
Also to the Charlotte Running Club. Too many people to mention individually but whether it be for support during workouts or company on long runs or recovery days, I can always count on being to able to find some awesome people to run with.
Finally for my family who have to put up with me while I'm doing all my training!
So I'm done for a while! In fact I am unlikely to race again this year. In the mean time I'm going to make sure I recover well from this and get ready to set some new PRs in 2011. After all, my last two races have been faster than I've ever run at those distances previously......
Thanks for reading