Monday, July 02, 2012

2009 Richmond Marathon Race Report

This is an old race report.  I'm going to post some of the ones from my older races as a bit of a clearinghouse.  I chose this one first, because it represents my PR in a Marathon.

Richmond Marathon 2009 race report

Or, how a chick named Ida really but a downer on my day . . .

I'd been watching the weather for Richmond for two weeks, while at the same time hearing from LOTS of people about Tropical Storm Ida, which was slamming into Virginia, sheeting rain, flooding, and generally causing havoc.  It missed the race itself, but the remnants of the good ol' Nor'Easter was still pretty obvious.  The James River was near flood level, prompting race organizers to plan a detour if necessary, the middle miles were awash in debris from the rain, and . . . it remained windy as, well, a Nor'Easter.  Not good.

After my Half in September (a 1:55), the MacMillian pace predictor said that I should run about a 4:03 marathon.  I figured that if I started training for Richmond in October (rather than my standard training for the January Dopey) I might be within striking distance of a sub-4 hour marathon.  Based on my training numbers, I think I was close, especially if conditions were ideal.

Hi, Ida.

Richmond was a fine course, and I really don't have a lot to quibble with them about.  But because of Ida, we had some oppressive winds, which we had to deal with at some pretty inopportune times. 

The first few miles (rougly 4) were right into a headwind, and I began a pretty earnest effort to avoid puddles, of where there were plenty.  I'm not sure how Richmond pulled off the race, actually, because the Governor wasn't THAT far away, inspecting disaster-area damage!

Anyway, by mile 6, we'd gotten out of the wind for a welcome respite, only to hit the first of quite a few significant hills on the course.  They don't LOOK horrible, but they feel especially awful in the later miles, and it just plain sucks to have an invisible hand pushing you in your chest while you're already trying to keep on pace AND climb.

Regardless, during my stretch from 7 to 12, I was back on pace, but not by a lot. We were down by the James River, and it was amazing to see (1) how high it was (it apparently missed flooding by a foot or two before the rain stopped), and (2) how much debris was everywhere.  Lots of felled trees, sticks, and mud.  Oh, the mud.  I was laughing to myself as a I saw how many people had mud on them, and wondered what they were doing, only to discover post race on the ride home, that the backs of my calves were LOADED with it.  Anyway, I was ahead of pace enough that I was thinking I might come in under 4, but was still worried about the later miles.  We'd had some climbs during 7 to 12 that were NOT fun, but I took a little solace that we were at least out of those winds for a bit.  Ida couldn't find us in the trees.

We came out of the woods, hit the halfway point, and turned towards the infamous Mile 15 Bridge of Doom.  This is where we met the winds AGAIN, and it was ridiculous.  Just gusting, blowing winds that you couldn't get away from.  My Garmin informs me that I pushed through it barely ahead of a sub-4 pace, but that illustrates the Hobson's Choice you have -- push through the wind and expend energy you need for later miles, or ease up, get pushed slower by the wind, and then have to expend a LOT of energy later to catch up.

After pushing on the bridge, I lost time on 16 catching my breath by easing up the pace, and had to work to make back some time from 17-18, even through they were hilly.  But, I re-caught the 4:00 pace group.  Just in time to again turn North into the headwinds, and life started to really suck again.  At this point, "option B" of the Hobson's choice showed why it is ALSO the wrong answer.  I had spent so much energy trying to get back on pace after slowing in the winds, that I was getting mauled by them again, and couldn't do much about it.

I continued to lose some time, and then, at mile 20, we had an uphill overpass, again with a strong headwind.  I was now a full minute off pace.  By mile 22, as we were out of the wind (I think?) but I was off-pace by a COUPLE of minutes, and had developed a pretty rough knot in my right calf.  It felt like a baseball under my skin.  My Garmin was going absolutely haywire trying to get a handle on my pace.  I'm not sure if it was the cloud cover from the storm, or my erratic pace, but it would go from the mid-7/mile, up to 10 minutes, back to the low 8s, and back to 10s, all in a short stretch.  I quit looking at it for pace guidance by that point, since I just couldn't trust what I was seeing.

So, I took my first walk break at 23, pretty much sick of my chest being buffeted, and literally laughing in disbelief that, despite my phone telling me the winds were supposed to be ONLY coming mainly from the North, we ALSO now had headwinds to contend with as we headed SOUTH.  The winds were truly a swirling mess out there today.  But, for a moment, when I started running again, I thought I could make up time and pull a rabbit out of my hat.  But as I quickly found out, I had just been beaten down with wind over the course of the race.  I lost even more time, as we had winds right up until mile 25, when ol' Ida finally cut us a break.  I skulked away with a finish just a few minutes over 4 hours.

I'm profoundly disappointed, but unlike a lot of past races, I'm not nearly as upset with myself.  You can't control the weather, and while we didn't run in the MIDDLE of a Nor'Easter, Ms. Ida definitely overstayed her welcome.  So it's like waiting to go to a baseball game, and then it's rained out.  The Dopey will not be an option for breaking 4, since I will have done 16 miles over the 2 days prior to the 26, so I'll settle for 4 and change and thank you all so very much for such kind e-mails and inquiries about my time. 

The results indicate that I finished exactly in the top 30% of all runners, which I'll take, although I wish the Chinese would hurry up with their reported weather control abilities.  I could have used a tailwind!  ;-)

One important lesson learned was this:  I ran though almost all water stops. I'd grab a cup, get a mouthful, toss, and then get another cup towards the exit of the water station for another cup.  I learned later that taking in not enough liquid likely had a great deal to do with my calf seizing up.  I won't make that mistake again.  Hydration, hydration, hydration.