MAMFAY Race #2 Ė Age = 50.12 years old
Saturday, November 15, 2008
How about a Personal Worst sub-3 hour marathon . . .
Guess I kind of spoiled the story a little. But this way folks donít have to read all the way through if they donít want. Oh, and for those who just look at the pictures, there wonít be any for this race. The LOML did the half marathon (Renate PBRíd it with a 2:42:11 . . . way to go sweetie!) so she wasnít out on the course taking lots and lots and lots of pictures of me. Bruceís lovely wife Patty did take some, so maybe I can get copies and put them in for the ADHD amongst my reading public.
Ok. I have permission from Bruce to include Pattyís pictures in my report. So, unless otherwise attributed, all pictures are courtesy of Patty.
The original plan for my November marathon was to go to Huntington, West Virginia for the Marshall University Marathon early in the month. That way I could knock West Virginia out of the state rotation. But, Useless Airways decided that a direct flight to Huntington, West Virginia from Philadelphia was no longer necessary so it was cancelled. Not wanting to take a roundabout, and expensive, way of getting there, I started looking around for a different November race. After some discussions with my on-line (imaginary?) friends, I decided to head south, to Richmond, Virginia, and run that run. I wouldnít get to chalk up another state, but Iíd get to see if some of these people really did exist outside of Al Goreís world. I was looking forward to that part. Plus, Iíd get an extra two weeks to recover from Chicago. Of course, Iíd lose two weeks of recovery for Kiawah Island, but you canít always get what you want.
I might as well do things a little differently . . .
So, Iíll start at the end . . . quaffing a pint at the Sine Irish Pub on Saturday night to end the weekendís festivities.
Oh, wait, thereís something that happened more at the end than the final pint. Renate and I had opted to take Amtrak down from Wilmington, Delaware, instead of fighting the I95 traffic around Baltimore and then Washington. A nice relaxing sit on the train while reading and watching the countryside go by sounded like fun. Well, Renate had a Thursday meeting she couldnít get out of, so I made the trip down by myself with Renate following on Friday. My train ran into signal problems and we pokeyed along at about Renateís race pace. Well, maybe just a little faster. It ended up being 45 minutes behind schedule by the time I got off in Richmond. Not really the end of the world, just another reason why I prefer to travel two days before a race and not the day before.
Now, for the train ride home. We have a 10:17 AM train on Sunday. Weíre there in plenty of time. And no security to go through. A little after 10 AM an announcement comes over the loud speakers saying that the train is on its way and we should stand in line near the platform door. Like the dutiful lemmings everybody is, we all get up and stand in line. And stand. And wait. 10:17 comes and goes and the train does neither. About 10:35 the station attendant gets an announcement over her walkie-talkie thing that the train is running 15 minutes late. Well, itís already 20 minutes late. Is it going to be another 15 minutes? She doesnít know. Of, if she does, sheís not saying. She continues reading her Readerís Digest.
We continue standing. And waiting. And standing. And waiting. Finally, a little over 30 minutes after the train was scheduled to depart it arrives and we go aboard. From that point on itís fine. The ride is a little tedious, thereís lots more passenger noise. Cell phone use, a couple behind us watching a movie on their portable DVD player and talking (I mean constant, non-stop, talking) about everything under the sun including whatís on the DVD player.
We land in Wilmington and get off. The Amtrak parking garage was full when I tried it on Thursday so Iím around the corner a block or so in a different garage. Renate got into the Amtrak garage so a kiss and a ďIíll see you at homeĒ and I head off. I turn the corner and . . . what the heck? (I used a different word.) My garage is gated up solid. It looks completely deserted. I call Renate and tell her not to leave as I have a potential issue. I peer into the office of my garage. Down at the bottom of the sign, in little letters, is a comment saying the garage is closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. Well (insert more swear words here). Obviously I didnít notice that as I was parking. Thereís a little card reader thingie. I try sliding my parking ticket this way and that, muttering abracadabra under my breath, but nothing happens. I neglected to say ďopen sesameĒ I guess.
Well, Iíll cut to the chase so this story doesnít bog even further down in the muck. There was a phone number on the door, so I called that. I got a recording telling me to call another number. Since I wasnít prepared to write down an additional number, I had to get pen and paper ready and call the original number back. Then, when the recorded voice started giving me the number, my connection went south. Hell, I have Verizon Wireless. Where (swear phrase) is that geeky looking Verizon guy? Finally Iím able to get the second number Iím supposed to call. I dial and get a guy who asks me which garage Iím at. There are no (swear word) street signs anywhere. I have no idea where I am. I tell him the garage next to the train station. He asks me which one. How the heck do I know? How many are there? Finally, he seems to understand where I am and says heíll be there in 15 minutes.
It all works out. I shove my money into the cash machine and get my parking ticket validated. I give the guy $20. And I go on my way. For better or for worse, I get to listen to the Eagles-Bengals play to a sister-kissing ending. Then I switch the radio over to the NASCAR race and listen to the good old boys beatiní and banginí on each other. Finally I make it home. I grab a beer and chug it. Needless to say, Iím not sure the train is going to be an option for future travels.
Now, I can see you all. Everybody is shaking their heads, wondering what the heck any of that has to do with a marathon race report. Well, the more experienced (and hasty) readers have already scrolled down to the actual race. To the neophytes Iíll only say that I write these as much for myself, for my memories when Iím older and grayer, and, as a result, I tend to write towards the overkill. They might better be described as a race weekend diary rather than a report of a particular race.
Some times these races are as much about the people you meet . . .
Back to my pint of Guinness at Sine Irish Pub on Saturday night. (Did I mention that itís the first pint of Guinness Iíve had since Thursday dinner? Some issues with that Iíll cover at the appropriate time back in the earlier past. Or maybe youíll just have to take my word for it.) I had some good conversation with Dave (AgelessDave) and Mark (old_dude). I think Ageless said heís actually 41, while old_dude is a young 46, so, obviously, thereís no truth in the Internet names that we select for ourselves. Well, Iím not really a Barkeep, either.
Anyway, that turned out to be the last of a pretty great social weekend. Iíd have stayed for another pint (or two), but the rest of the gang was tired and we said our goodbyes and headed in our separate directions.
That nightcap followed a terrific dinner at the Richbrau Brewing Company where I helped my rehydration process with a Big Nasty Porter. Which was tasty. I could have had a few more of those, but I decided to drown my Fish and Chips with their Dark Lager. And I finished up with an Old Nick Pale Ale as my desert choice. I probably went in the reverse order as is proper beer drinking protocol. I have this vague idea that one is supposed to go from light to dark, and I did the opposite. Ah, heck, I stir liquids counterclockwise and I twiddle my thumbs the opposite direction from normal, as well.
One of the things that came up over dinner was how many marathon finishes we had as a group. I think the number reached 195 amongst the eleven of us, and it didnít include any ultras. (Renate will be able to contribute to that number after Disney in January.) And we further calculated that weíve completed marathons in 43 states. David might remember which ones are missing, but I donít recall.
Oh, speaking of David. Heís a fish eating vegetarian. Well, he ordered some kind of fish for dinner, different from my fish and chips. He gets a real meal. The kind of plate that had a hunk of fish, some kind of potato/pasta, and some green beans. He eats the beans first and then the carbo stuff before tackling the meat. I thought he was going to pass on the fish and I commented. ďNo,Ē he said, ďI just do worst to best when I eat.Ē I said, ďLet me get this straight. Youíre a vegetarian and you consider the green beans to be the worst?Ē He didnít have a good answer for that.
The dinner gang at the Richbrau Brewing Company
Clockwise from 9 oíclock: Ritchie, Anne-Marie, Wally, Andrea, Renate, Steve, David, Bruce, Mark, Dave. The empty chair is Patty.
(I think Iíll change my forum name to Einstein.)
Prior to our dinner at the Richbrau Brewing Company, we crashed the hotel suite where Wally and Andrea were staying. Wally had just turned 50 two days before the race (Hot damn! Another person in my age group to beat!) and we were there for a little birthday celebration. Lots of laughs and a few beers. A bit of rehashing of the race, moaning about the weather and such. That was where I was able to add AgelessDave to the list of Forumites Iíve encountered. I think Iím up to 21 such individuals. Oh, wait, I forgot. Ritchie brought over some pint cans of Guinness, so I had a couple of those. Please disregard what I said earlier about what happened later.
Ridden hard and put up wet . . .
Ah, post-race lunch back at the Marriott. A room service burger for Renate and some french fries and a bottle of Yuengling Lager for me. Itís not the Guinness I was hoping for, but the little market a block away from the Marriott didnít have the greatest of selections. And it was nice that I was getting a little bit of an appetite back. The TV is on and I notice the little weather warning scrolling across the bottom of the screen . . . tornado warnings. Seems to be covering all of Virginia including the city of Richmond. Weíre on the 15th floor. I wonder if Iím going to see the wicked witch go pedaling by. I drink more Yuengling and eat more fries.
Immediately after finishing the race, I was pretty much one big ball of cramp. Well, the legs, anyway. I tried to sit down so I could change out of my soggy socks and shoes and both legs seized right up. I jumped up and did the stiff-legged stagger to try and get things to loosen up. I tried again and managed to get one dry sock halfway on before meeting failure. I donít think the band was playing at the time, so I couldnít pretend I was just doing some sick form of dancing.
Eventually wet clothes got exchanged for dry ones and I tried to eat the bagel I had picked up post-race. I got one little bite into my stomach and was informed that any more would be returning from whence it came. Ok. Guess Iím not all that hungry anyway.
Renate was all bouncy and happy and smiley. Heck, she nailed her half marathon, fast walking and slow running to a 2:42:11 PBR and I was so wrapped up in my misery that I didnít properly acknowledge her fantastic achievement. Well, Iíll do it here . . . Way to go sweetie!!! You did great!!! Youíre going to have a most excellent marathon in Disney in January!!! Youíre going to kick the Mouseís butt!!!
There was no beer at the finish line. That meant there was really no need to hang around. As soon as I was semi-mobile, we started semi-moving towards the hotel. Which, it seemed, was all uphill. As weíre going past the line, Bruce finishes in a great 3:50. We backtrack and chat with him for a little bit. We make plans for meeting later in the afternoon to head over to Wallyís and Renate and I resume shuffling. I see Wally and Ritchie finish. Iím not backtracking again. Remember, thereís no beer at the finish area.
From a Thursday evening reconnaissance walk, I know thereís a British Pub, OíNeillís Penny Lane Pub, on the way back to the hotel. Iím more than willing to sit down for a pint or two and then hoping to get a six pack to go. One minor problem. Itís closed up tight. Well, that rots. Iíve been hoping for a beer since I skipped the one near the 22 mile marker. Guess I wonít be doing that in the future.
Renate vaguely remembers a market near the hotel that, she thinks, sells beer. Itís there and it does. And, finally, weíre back in the room. I grab a shower while Renate checks on-line for results. She hasnít finished when I get out of the shower. I mean, she hasnít finished the race. She hasnít even started. There are no times for her. Thereís a note at the top of the web page mentioning difficulties due to the weather.
She checks the full marathon results and those appear to be up and accurate. Iíve finished 27th overall and second in my age group. I knew it was no better than second since I was chatting with a guy at the finish area who got there before I did and when I asked his age, he said he was 51. Well, all things considered, second wasnít too bad.
We check a little further and it looks like Iím third in the Masters category. Hot damn! Thatís worth some money. Guess Iíll be getting a check in the mail.
Renate is getting a bit hungry and weíre still not sure about the plans for Wallyís gathering. So she orders room service, a burger, and I tell her to ask for extra fries. And thatís where this section picked up, with the fries and Yuengling. So, itís time to move to earlier in the day, to the actual race. The end of the race since Iím still going backwards.
Somewhere up ahead is a finish line . . .
Iím running down Grace Street and I see the 25 mile marker. I thought Iíd be done by now, under the worst of conditions. Well, conditions may have even been worse than worst. It wasnít pretty getting to this point and I still had a bit more than a mile to travel.
That guy earlier in the race said a sub-40 final 10k was possible. Not really sure what he was smoking. Or maybe if it was a stand alone 10k. Today was going to be question of limiting the damage. Both to my system and to the clock.
I had seen the 20 mile marker and the numbers on the big clock meant I was in fairly big trouble, goal-wise. Iíd been running on Hermitage Avenue for about a half mile. Then, at the intersection with Laburnum Avenue, I see it. The big monument to A. P. Hill. (Ambrose Powell Hill for those that really care about such things . . . David did you see it? Heck, heís not even astride some massive horse.) We had turned on the local NBC channel pretty much as soon as we woke up as that was the station carrying all the race hoopla. There was a segment, actually several segments spaced over the morning, that showed what was where along the course. One of the things mentioned during the segment I happened to catch was the monument to A. P. Hill. Its big claim to fame, as near as I can tell, is that itís the only one of itís type in the city of Richmond (according to Wikipedia, known as the City of Monuments) ďunder which the subject individual is actually interred.Ē And, thatís what the announcer was saying. Basically, itís a big grave maker in the middle of an intersection. I wasnít entirely sure where on the course it was supposed to be, but, hot damn!, there it was and I gained a little history. I wonder how General Hill feels about a bunch of cars driving around him as he rests. I still had to run the last 10k, but, I was reasonably sure, I wasnít going to keel over and have a monument erected over my decaying body here in the city of Richmond. Being a Northerner after all.
Shortly after seeing the A. P. Hill monument, thereís a right hitch, through a stone archway, and onto Pope Avenue. Iím not really sure about the significance of the stone archway. But, Pope Avenue seems to be some kind of private road because when I go to the street view of Google Earth, I donít see any of the little cameras for Pope Avenue. So, maybe the stone arches are camera free zones. I did just check the other end of Pope Avenue with Google Earth and I didnít see any stone arch. Just some Do Not Enter signs.
So, Iíve made a right turn off Pope Avenue, no arch at this end, onto Crestwood Road and Iím heading predominantly south. This will be the direction for the final four to five miles of the race. Directly into (according to my weather.com printout) a 20 mph wind. Oh, and itís about 73į with 73% humidity and the sun is shining. A good day to be flying a kite at the beach. Not a good day to be running a marathon.
Well, maybe running is too strong a word. I am, have been for awhile, reduced to a shuffling gait. Cramps are full bore in my calves. Iím able to continue what could very generously be called running through them. But when the hamstrings threaten to solidify, and then when they actually do, Iím reduced to a fast walk. And even a couple of stops to try and get them to shake loose.
Right around mile 21, a friendly, number counting spectator tells me Iím in 32nd place. (Hmmm . . . wasnít I 232nd at the spectator counting point in Chicago?) Actually, he said I was 32nd gentleman, so I wondered if he was counting ladies as well. And how many times was I being chickíd? This was about the time I started mixing in some cramp induced walking. I began to wonder when, exactly, it would be that Wally would pass me, a pass for position in the age group.
I semi-remember the beer stop. Well, I vividly remember that it existed. Iím just a little unsure about itís location. Iím going to say it was just a bit after the 22 mile marker, somewhere on Fauquier Avenue. I really wanted to just pull up a stool and drink lots of those little cups of whatever flavor they had. But, I exhibited some restraint. Well, I analyzed, if thereís beer out here, there must be beer at the finish. Boy did I screw that up, as youíve read.
The full marathoners are sharing the course with the half marathoners at this point. Weíre on one side of the road, theyíre on the other, with cones down the middle. Their mile markers are a tenth of a mile after ours. I donít generally process their markers, but I like the 10 mile one. It means I have exactly a 5k left to run. And, supposedly, the final mile is all downhill. Iíve certainly heard those words before, about many a course. They hardly ever come true. But, I was holding out hope. Not that my cramping legs would necessarily allow me to run the downhill.
Iíve been going back and forth with a guy Iíll call Nate. Good thing as thatís his name. At least thatís what it said on his bib, Nate. Nate Spong. Thatís a manís name. Just say it out loud. Nate Spong. Now, I didnít know his last name until the gathering with the gang at Wallyís, but he knew me. Or, was aware of me.
I went by this guy trying to walk off some cramps. He caught up to me and said something like, ďHey, you just ran Chicago, didnít you?Ē Iím reasonably brain dead, blood flow has been diverted, and I said, ďYeah. Did you?Ē He shook his head and said his friend Mark had pointed me out in the corral before the race. Now I had to try and figure out who the heck was Mark. Turns out it was old_dude from the pre-race FE and he and Nate were friends. Nate eventually kicked it in gear and finished about a minute in front of me. I looked at the results and found his name. Spong, Nate Spong. Not quite as good as Spack, Brock Spack, defensive football coach at Purdue, but a good, solid name. And, of course, thereís always Bond, James Bond. But, Noone, Steve Noone just doesnít quite cut the tonal mustard.
Oh, let me take this random opportunity to jump back to a clothing issue. I wore new socks for the race. Well, not brand new. I had worn them on a couple of training runs, but this was the first race for them. They come in gray, my favorite color, and they have a buzzard on them and are called ďLooking For Lunch.Ē I thought they might be appropriate as I hunted down roadkill towards the end of the marathon. Little did I know that it was I who would become the roadkill. Guess I wonít be wearing those socks for any more races. Though it really wasnít all that bad, I was only passed by a couple of guys in this final 10k and I, despite my condition, passed more than passed me.
The next couple of miles, on Brook Road and then Lombardy Street, are pretty much more of the same. Mostly just shuffling as fast as my shortened muscles will allow. Trying to deal, as best as possible, with the wind. And I make the left onto Grace Street. I know thereís a right at some point and then a left onto Cary Street and then the finish line. I donít know where the first turn is. I remember the finish being 9th and Cary. Iím not into the numbered streets, yet.
This trying to write backwards is giving me a headache . . .
So, Iíll start back at the beginning of the race and write towards catching you all up to this point. Try and remember whatís happened so far.
The original race day forecast called for rain with temps in the 60ís. And, even possible thunderstorms. Not the greatest of conditions. But, if it was going to rain, a bit on the warmer side was probably better than colder. I packed all kinds of clothing options, just in case.
I woke up about 2:45 AM on Saturday, race day, morning to what sounded like thunder. Oh, joy. I rolled over and, surprisingly, fell back asleep. At 5:30 AM, the alarm sounded and it was time to start the day. I went to the window and looked out. It was dark, and I couldnít really tell what was going on. Then, I looked down at a big puddle in the middle of the street. At that point I could tell that it was raining. Hard. Well, now, this is going to be fun.
I turned the TV to the local NBC affiliate as they were broadcasting live on-site and in living color. That stuff started at 6 AM and when the screen showed the on-site race reporter, it wasnít raining. Sometime between when I first looked out the window at 5:30 AM and when the talking head came on the TV a little after 6 AM, the rain had stopped. They gave a weather update and it sounded like there would be a window of no rain. Lasting all of an hour, maybe two. Then it was supposed to start back up again and rain steadily for a few hours. It sounded like it would be dry until we actually started running. Ah, well. So it goes.
Renate was doing the half, as much as a training workout for the Disney Marathon in January as anything. Her race started at 7:30 AM, thirty minutes before mine. So, we had the pair of us in the hotel room working towards different race starts and trying not to trip over each other. Sheís a morning person and Iím not. Sheís all smiley and happy before a race and Iím not. Makes for a potentially tension filled little hotel room. Fortunately, we were able to avoid any pitfalls. Well mostly.
Our hotel was at 5th and Broad. Renateís race started at 9th and Broad while mine started at 7th and Broad. In other words, we had a prime hotel location for the start. Weíd have a little hike after the finish, but that's usually a good thing.
Anyway, my body wasnít totally functioning properly, so I sent Renate off with a kiss and an ďI love youĒ as she headed out the door to get ready for her start. I will be the first to admit that I am a tad selfish when it comes to my racing. I am very proud of Renate and Iím thrilled that she enjoys the races, but I may not be as supportive as I should when it comes to race morning.
Daisy ready for some fun.
(Renate did take off the
long-sleeve shirt prior to
leaving the room.)
(I took this picture.)
I did get things sort of under control and I ventured down to the basement, actually the lower lobby, of the hotel for a pre-race FE. (Thatís Forumite Encounter for those not up on the lingo.) I was kind of surprised the place was as empty as it was. I guess if the weather had been truly rotten, it would have been more of a mob. As it was, I found Bruce and Patty with no difficulty and I met Ritchie and Mark. There was a quick picture before I headed back up to the room with more issues. Then it was time to head out so I could watch Renate as she started off on her half marathon.
And Iím trying to pick her out of the mob going by. Then I remembered her pink visor so that allowed me to narrow down my looking. Well, youíd be surprised at the number of pink headgears that went by, but I did spot her. ďWay to go Daisy (her race name)! Have fun! I love you!Ē
Then it was off to the baggage check UPS trucks to check in my gear bag with some post-race clothes. It was kind of a pain negotiating my way through the crowds, but I managed. Going back towards the front, towards the first corral, wasnít quite as hassling as I went through the mostly empty corrals on the one side of the street instead of all the milling people on the other side.
Pre-race FE in the lower lobby of the Marriott.
rlavene, old_dude, Barkeep, The Beast
(I do seem to be a tad overdressed.)
I had a few minutes of semi-quiet time before things started to fill up. The Greater Richmond Childrenís Choir was standing just outside the barriers and I chatted a bit with the director. She mentioned that the kids had already sung the National Anthem twice, before the 8k race and before the half marathon. Wally introduced himself to me and we wished each other luck. The kids did a nice rendition of the National Anthem. (According to the next dayís newspaper, it was done at march tempo instead of waltz tempo and Iím sure Ritchie could tell me what that means. If I really cared.) We surged to get right behind the elites. And then we were told, ďEverybody with a number higher than 30 move back!Ē Well, that really wasnít going to work, but we tried to take a few steps back, not wanting to force the elites to get too close to us.
Then the commands . . . ďRunners ready . . . get set . . . go!Ē
Runniní down a dream . . .
As often as not, that Tom Petty song will enter my head as I start my run. Today was no exception.
Itís warm, right about 70į, but itís not raining. Well, technically itís not raining. The humidity is close to 90%, so the water isnít actually falling from the sky. Itís just sitting there. Itís going to be a squishy run, thatís for sure.
But, the start goes well, not a real huge crowd of participants, and Iím running smoothly pretty much right from the beginning.
Thereís the first mile marker. I punch the split button on my watch and see a 5:45. Yeah, ok. Somethingís definitely not right here. Misplaced mile markers really bother me. But, on the other hand, maybe this is going to be a short, quick marathon. Right about this time I see another one mile marker. Ah, thatís right. The half marathoners started a couple of blocks east of where we started. That first marker was theirs and not ours. A more realistic 6:16 showed up on the big clock. (You know, Iím going to go ahead and put in the actual mile splits that I got for each mile. I knew things close enough while racing, but I have the numbers from my download, so I might as well use them.)
The split was realistic as in time elapsed. Not so realistic as in optimal pace. I was already soaked. There was no place for the sweat to evaporate and the 12 mph breeze wasnít enough to help me out. I opted to back the pace down a few notches and get through the first half and then re-evaluate. I figured if I could hit 6:30s Iíd still be in a position to go sub-2:50. A PR was not going to happen today. Iím kind of surprised at myself for accepting that so early in the run.
Next up was the two mile marker. The half marathon two mile mark. (There was also an 8k race and that went off an hour before our race. The 8k started at the same place as the half marathon, so for the first two miles, there was a pair of markers together, one for the 8k and one for the half marathon.) I was still mentally sharp and didnít get a useless split. I waited a couple of blocks before clocking a 6:27.
That didnít feel all that bad. Itís not nearly as crowded as Chicago was, but there are plenty of fellow runners around, keeping me company.
Thereís really not much to write about. Miles three, four, five, and six are about the same (6:26, 6:29, 6:29, 6:31). Itís just your basic city running. Iím doing ok. Not great. But, the miles are consistent. Which is kind of surprising since the terrain has been trending up the whole time. Well, let me take that back. I just looked more closely at the elevation chart and the gain has been about 75 feet over the first six miles of the race. Guess thatís why I didnít really notice anything while I was running.
The aid stations are about every two miles and the first thing I notice at the initial one is that this certainly isnít Chicago. Here, in Richmond, the aid stations are a couple of tables long. Get it quickly, or donít get it at all. In Chicago they approached a block in length (just your basic runner exaggeration) and there was opportune aplenty to sip and douse and repeat. Here, I was lucky to get two cups of water before I was through. Now, I donít want that to sound like a negative about Richmond. Chicago had ten times as many runners. It was my fault that I didnít do a good job of getting hydrated and cooled. Which is kind of surprising since I thought the conditions were worse than in Chicago and I recognized that pretty much immediately. I have no valid answer as to why I wasnít more patient, more diligent with getting fluids at the aid stations.
Letís back up a mile. Or at least to the clock. With a 6:30 pace, the target for the five mile clock was 32:30. I was happy to see a 32:05. I know 6:30 pace is just slightly over a sub-2:50, but I was still hoping to be able to finish a little bit stronger. If I could keep things under control, that is.
The seventh mile is all downhill. Not a screaming, hold onto the brakes downhill, but a steady, let gravity do the work downhill. For the last couple of miles there had been a loose pack of five of us running together, including a girl. We split up a little on the hill, Iím comfortable running downhill relatively quickly, and I ended up with a 6:03 split. (The seven mile marker wasnít there, one of the guys mentioned that it had blown over when he caught back up, but I got the time from my GPS download.)
Let me get back to that little pack for a minute or two. One of the guys kind of leading, John, seemed to be a regular on the course. He was giving some bits and pieces of info as we were going along. I asked if it was a negative split course, could the second half be run faster than the first. John said it was possible and that the last 10k could be quick, it could be a sub-40:00. That sounded pretty good to me. A few steps later, I asked his age. Thatís probably frowned upon, it is a tad gauche. Particularly at mile six. I could say I was just making conversation, but, hell, I wanted to know if he was competition. When he said he was 47, I was relieved. I wasnít worried about the other guy leading the pack, Blake, as he was a youngster. I did apologize for the line of questioning, but John said he understood and, sometimes, it was good to get it out of the way. Still, Iím going to resolve not to do it in future races. Iím just going to run my run and let the age group chips fall where they fall. (Not for the first time, I was wishing for triathlon rules, where the age is magic markered on the calf. Makes it easy to see who youíre racing from an age group point of view.)
We crossed the James River by way of the Huguenot Bridge. This might have been the stretch where I noticed the wind as being a little more than a nuisance. It was pretty stiff and definitely impacting pace. The 6:37 for mile eight kind of confirmed that. Part of the issue was that mile eight was mostly south, right into the wind.
The next couple of miles, nine and ten, may have been the most scenic, if I had bothered to look around at the scenery. They were in more of an easterly direction, so the wind wasnít as much of a hassle. Plus, they were flat. Well, right up to the right hand turn at the end of mile ten. And there was the mile marker, at the top of a mountain. Miles eight, nine, and ten were 6:37, 6:24, and 6:31. Still pretty consistent, all things considered. And my ten mile overall split of 1:04:11 had me more than 45 seconds ahead of 6:30 pace. That 6:03 downhill mile did wonders!
Little did I know that was going to be the end of a potential sub-2:50 marathon. John and Blake had put a little distance on me, the girl and the other guy had fallen back after the bridge. Mile 11 was all uphill (6:41), mile 12 had some downhill followed by the steepest uphill of the day (6:40), and mile 13 was just a sloggy mile (6:40). I crossed the halfway mat at 1:24:53. I pretty much knew sub-2:50 wasnít going to happen. I thought a low 2:5x was still possible, though. But, I was feeling a bit beat up. It was soggy out. The temperature was relatively stable, still around 70į, and the humidity might have gone down just a little. The problem was that the winds had picked up, and were now in the 20 mph range. It was a tough situation, only halfway through, knowing things probably wouldnít improve any. I wondered how Renate was making out.
Half a Richmond done . . .
As you all surely remember, Renateís race had started thirty minutes before mine, so she was right around two hours into her day. And, knowing her, still with a big smile on her face. Renate was hoping for a 2:45 so she had about 45 more minutes of steady forward progress. I was looking at ninety, or more, until I reached the stopping point. It was a definite low point for me.
And it might have been when I started questioning this whole Marathon A Month For A Year idea. Iím already committed to the next two, to Kiawah Island in December (heck the East Nantmeal Township Supervisor meeting has been rescheduled . . . semi-long story that has no real place here) and to Disney in January (where most of Heechís Heroes are doing battle in one way or another and then . . . THE SECOND EVER EPCOT SHUFFLE). But, do I really have to follow those two up with New Orleans in February and Georgia in March? Maybe taking a break before Boston would be a good idea.
Squish . . . squish . . . squish . . . I trotted along. I tried to avoid analyzing the future. ďJust get through the dayĒ I was telling myself.
Miles 14 and 15 trended downhill and the 6:31 and 6:24 splits showed that. And also boosted my spirits a little. I hit the 15 mile clock at 1:37:07, still close enough to sub-2:50 pace to be mildly delusional about getting it, never mind what I was thinking back at the halfway point.
I had been warned about the 16th mile bridge, the Robert E. Lee Bridge over the James River. If thereís any wind, it can be brutal I was told. Well, there was wind aplenty. Fortunately it was a tailwind for the bridge.
This was a pretty substantial piece of construction, three lanes of traffic in both directions and on and off ramps. It wasnít entirely shut down for us, we only had one lane. We runners were heading north on the southbound side of the highway, coned off from the cars and trucks and buses. There were cops at the ramps preventing wayward traffic from running us over and, surprisingly, a fair number of spectators on the actual bridge. Well, most of the spectators seemed to be folks dressed up in yellow shirts with ďCOACHĒ on their race bibs. I forget the name of the local group they were working with. (Checking the newspaper, it was the ďSportsbackers Training TeamĒ in the yellow singlets.)
I had ďSteveĒ on my bib. Lotís of ďGo SteveĒ cheers. I hear a ďGo SteveĒ when Iím quite a ways from an encouraging fan. Then I get closer and she says, ďAnother Steve! Thatís a Steve right in front of you! Go get him!Ē Maybe some other time, I thought. I did the half-hearted wave motion.
I trudged across the bridge, momentarily distracted by the rushing water underneath. Despite the tailwind, maybe because of an uphill trend, I clocked a 6:41 for mile 16. And, I was surprised by Bruceís wife Patty, out there taking pictures. Caught me completely off guard. You might notice, from the picture she took, that I donít have a whole lot of ďlook aheadĒ going on. Iím focused intently on that little stretch of pavement six inches in front of me.
|After crossing the Robert E. Lee Bridge, the 16 mile marker, plus or minus . . .|
Barkeep looking (very closely) for potholes.
The Beast putting one foot (very closely) in front of the other.
Bruce came through this point about 30 minutes after I did, roughly 10:15 AM to my 9:45 AM. Some of the more observant of you will notice that he has a shadow while I donít. Well, by the time he does, I also do, but not at this particular location. Ok. Iím being a wise-ass. You might also be able to tell that he has some dry road whereas I donít, so the sun has probably been out for a little while. Iíll tell you what, when it came out, not only was it a total and complete (to be redundant) surprise, but it also boiled us up a bit. The rain a lot of us had been praying for had become steam. Instead of moisture falling from the sky, it was rising from the road. Burn, baby, burn. But, Iím getting ahead of myself a bit. Or behind myself. I forget where I am. Letís just say I got sunshine round about mile 20.
And, I think it was somewhere in this section, on West Main Street after the bridge, where some guy pulled his car out from a side street pretty close in front of me. Iím not sure Iíd have been able to take any evasive action, I was limited to straight ahead movements. Fortunately, I didnít have to. But, all the spectators right there on the corner werenít happy with the driver. I donít recall if a cop was around or not. I do remember another situation, later in the day, or earlier, where a guy made a screaming left turn in front of a cop and a few of us runners. I vaguely remember it as being a spot where we, the runners, were running with traffic. We had the fast lane, so to speak, with cars heading with us on our right. There were two lanes on the other side of the divider heading in the opposite direction, with the usual left turn lanes. Some guy just got overly impatient and, despite the copís hand in the stop position, made the left turn in front of us and almost broadsided a car heading in the opposite direction. Was a bit more excitement than I needed.
I will add here that the traffic control was great. To be able to run through a city the size of Richmond, to inconvenience a bunch of drivers, to test the patience of lots of people, and to do it with no major issues (at least from my point of view) says a lot for the organization. I know I didnít do a very good job of thanking the folks that were out there while I was running, so Iíll say thanks to everybody now.
And, while Iím talking about race stuff, but not actual running, Iíll mention that I thought it was decently spectated, but not great. There were several SunTrust/NBC 12 Party Zones and those seemed to attract quite a number of families, friends, and assorted hangers-on. And there were pockets and gatherings of cheerers scattered hither and yon and the odd (or even) folks also out and about. There wasnít all that much music, probably because of the dire weather forecast, but what was out there was pretty good. I include all this for those who may rely on cheers and music during the course of a marathon. For me, itís nice, but not necessary. I get pretty tunnel-visioned and I can get by with mile markers and aid stations.
Miles 17 and 18 trended up, mile 19 was mostly flat, and mile 20 had some uphill. Splits of 6:51, 6:51, 6:37, and 6:50 popped that delusional balloon I had, partially, inflated back at mile 15. And that kind of brings me to the final 10k that I sort of started the report with. Seeing 2:10:57 on the big 20 mile clock, a minute behind that delusional 2:50 target, and knowing that the sub-40:00 final 10k that John said was possible way, way, way long ago was, in all realistic actuality, not possible. Well, there was nothing to do but trudge it on home. I really wasnít too worried about the sub-3:00, though maybe I should have been.
But, you read all about those miles, 21 through 25, back at the beginning. I donít believe I gave the splits earlier, so Iíll post them here . . . 6:59, 7:13, 7:23, 7:56!, and 7:26. Cramping issues, some sunshine, and 20+ mph headwinds certainly put a damper on any speed I might have had.
And, now Iím back to the ending . . .
Iíve gone past the 25 mile marker and Iím looking for the numbered streets to start. Iím just under 2:48 and Iím pretty certain of the sub-3:00, I havenít had any eight minute miles to this point. Still, Iíd like to get to the point where the streets start to incline. At least number-wise. Theyíve actually been slightly on the decline, terrain-wise. And, then I see it. A lovely sight to see. No, not a tree. 1st Street. I know there are a couple or so blocks between Grace and Cary, but at least I can start counting down numbers. A quick glance at my watch shows that Iím just under 2:53. Can I do the eight numbered blocks and the indeterminate number of intermediate blocks faster than seven minutes? Will I break three hours? How big is a city block? Where the heck is that right turn?
Itís on 3rd street. Now, how many blocks to get to Cary? Iím not sure Iíve counted down a marathon like this before. Turns out to be just two . . . Franklin, then Main, then Cary. Six blocks to go. Just over five minutes to three hours. Iím feeling confident that Iíll continue my streak of sub-3:00 marathons. It is downhill, after all. But I am thinking that the pace group Ritchie is leading, the three hour folks, may go streaming by me before I can reach the end.
|The corner of 3rd and Cary, one final turn . . .|
Which way to the beer? That way? Thank you.
Iím cutting that last tangent pretty well . . .
Iím running as fast as I can and still remain upright. I canít quite see the finish line, but I know itís up there. A few more blocks and I can stop. I see the big finish line clock. Itís at 2:56 and change. I end up with a 2:56:47 chip time. Well, it is a sub three hour marathon, my 12th in a row, but it is my slowest sub-3:00, besting, so to speak, the 2:55:52 I ran in Boston in 2004.
For what itís worth, Blake and John from way back when, finished a couple of minutes behind me, I had passed them in the last couple of miles, just before turning onto Grace Street. But the runner in the background in the above picture on the left just edged me out in the last block or so. Upon crossing the finish line, he made a sharp left and sat down in the wheelchair that was parked there. I shuffled off in search of a beer. Well, first I got my medal and my space blanket. Which I actually needed, what with the stiff wind blowing on my sweat-soaked body.
As Iím leaving the finish area to join up with Renate, I notice up through the road was some bubbling water. Just a little gurgle, not an old faithful type of thing. Thereís a volunteer there to keep people from going back in and I comment about the water to him. He says itís been going all morning, probably a broken water main. Later, as weíre walking to dinner, the Richmond streets department is there with a backhoe or two, digging up the street, and water is rushing all around. Well, it was nice that they waited until the race stuff was all done.
That kind of concludes race day . . .
I was, still am, pretty disappointed with the finishing time. I thought the weather was the biggest negative factor of the day. The terrain also contributed, there were a few more climbs than I anticipated. Iím sure Chicago five weeks earlier was another negative issue. But I honestly donít believe the earlier marathon was that big a deal. My legs felt pretty snappy. Iíd almost say they felt like I was doing a Goofy Challenge marathon the day after a hard half marathon.
In hindsight, I was obviously fairly dehydrated for that last 10k, the last 6.2 miles. It was warm, particularly when the sun came out and steamed everything up. And I was in and out of the aid stations before I knew it. I really should have taken my time and made sure to fluid up. At some point during the race, volunteers started handing out wet, cold towels. They helped me, but not significantly. Conditions were worse than in Chicago (lots more humidity and wind in Richmond, though temps may have been similar) and, with the shorter aid stations, I just didnít race smart.
Iím actually contemplating carrying a water bottle for Kiawah Island in December. Iím going to anticipate there being shorter aid stations and having my own water supply would help me stay hydrated. Plus Kiawah Island is trying to position themselves as a ďgreenĒ marathon, asking runners to BYOB Ė Bring Your Own Bottle Ė so as to cut down on the number of cups used during the race. (There is a note on their web site . . . ďdonít worry . . . weíre still supplying the post-race beer.Ē) Ok. I just went and got my water bottle belt out of the closet and I put it on the packing pile on the guest bed and I'll bring it with me. I can always make an executive level decision about whether or not to use it in the race at the race. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Or something like that.
Anyway, back to my finishing time. The second race into MAMFAY and Iíve already lost my top of the line goal. I wanted to run all 12 marathons in sub-2:50. Probably too aggressive a goal, but I was hoping to at least make it through the first few with it intact. Instead Iím back to my fall back time goal, going sub-3:00 for all of them. Iíll have to see how that goes as the racing year progresses. How it goes as I get more beat up with the legs. How it goes when I start dealing with the heat of summer. Especially since I seem to be struggling a little with the heat of the fall.
And, with the goals, I do have some performance based ones to supplement those that are time based. The top of the line performance goal is to be in the top 1% of all finishers. That might get to be tough when I do some of the smaller races. As well as for Boston. The fall back performance goal is to be in the top five for my 50 to 54 age group. Again, that may be pretty tough in Boston. Guess Iíll just take all this one marathon at a time. Or, at least Iíll try to.
A final note on the finishing time . . . Though it was a personal worst sub three hour marathon, it was still my 12th consecutive one. Itís kind of weird, but theyíve gone like this: three 2:4xís, a 2:5x, three 2:4xís, a 2:5x, three 2:4xís, a 2:5x. Says to me, if I believe in semi-regular patterns, that Iím due for a string of 2:4xís. Iíd be wise to not count those before theyíre actually run. So, I guess Iíd better get in another training run or two. Am I recovering from Richmond? Or am I tapering for Kiawah Island? Iím so confused.
Oh, and I need to make sure I get my pre-race pint (or two) of Guinness. The Marriott we stayed in decided to replace the Guinness that was on tap with Yuengling. I have no idea why. I did have a couple pints of Guinness Thursday, sitting at the hotel bar for dinner, but when I tried to get one at Friday lunch with Renate and then again at Friday dinner with Bruce and Patty and David, I couldnít.
As always, thanks to everybody for reading. Iíll see you in a few weeks. I didnít write much about the days before the race, Iím under a little bit of a deadline what with Kiawah Island coming up quickly. I do have notes and scribblings and I may get around to adding an additional section at some point in the future. But, again, mostly just for my own rememories.
Charts and Graphs and Links (Oh, My) . . .
The Richmond Marathon doesnít get me credit for a new state, Iíve got Virginia covered with the Marine Corps Marathon, as well as two 50 mile trail runs. It was my 35th marathon (19 road, 15 Ironman, 1 trail) and, with the 10 ultras, my 45th marathon or beyond finish.
Hereís Patty's photo album of the race on shutterfly.
I'll include a table of the mile splits for Richmond. Here's a link to the mile splits for all my sub-3:00 marathons.
November 15, 2008
|Miles 1-5||Miles 6-10||Miles 11-15||Miles 16-20||Miles 21-25||Miles 26-26.2|
|First Half||1:24:53||6:28.8||Second Half||1:31:54||7:00.9|
|Total Time||2:56:47||6:44.8||Second Half as % of First Half --- 108.27%|
|Career Road Marathons|
Event and Year
New York '00
Marine Corps '05
Rocket City '07
Thanks, everybody, for reading. Hope you had a good time. By the way, if anybody has any comments, queries, suggestions, corrections, etc., please pass them along.
Return to Noone's Saloone & Golf Club.Originally published on December 1, 2008.