Going For The Duece

If you don’t have the time or desire to read a fairly long post from me, let me give you the short & sweet: don’t try and run two marathons in two weeks time. More importantly, the next time you hear me talking about doing something like that, slap me and then make me read this first paragraph.

Okay, on to the rest of this entry…

So, I felt that I was able to recover from the MCM fairly quickly. I had a sports massage the day afterwards and within just three days of running, virtually all the soreness was gone. A week ago (Sunday evening), I went out and ran a fast five-miler and my legs felt good (other than chafing from the cold wind, but that’s easy to correct for). That evening, I made the decision to go ahead and run Richmond this year. Thursday evening, Angela and I went down to the James Center to pick up my race packet and our t-shirts1. I also got my Sportsbackers Training Team race singlet, which although I’d have preferred a t-shirt to prevent some of that nasty chafing I had during last year’s marathon, I figured I’d just put it over a thin t-shirt. The next day I picked up an iPod arm-band and sport headphones, both for cheap, so I could have that during the race if I felt like I needed some extra boost. I ate well and got to bed early that night, although I’d been a space-case at work all day and was glad just to be able to get ally things in order for the following morning.

Angela dropped me off near the James Center (where the race finishes) so I could make it to get in the group photo for my team. I found a few friendly faces I hadn’t seen in over a month (since my training schedule had to be altered for an earlier race). I headed up to the start area and got my bag all checked in. That morning was great weather for a race, but we all knew it was going to get a lot warmer (the previous year we had to start in jackets and wearing gloves). I saw some more familiar faces in between the 4:00 and 4:30 pace2 groups that I decided to begin in and having some people to talk to always makes the race go by faster.

The Richmond Marathon Course

The course of the Richmond Marathon as recorded on my wristwatch GPS unit.

Before long, we were all heading across the start line and down Broad Street. The first few miles of a race like this are so filled with anticipation and adrenaline that they go by very quickly. I remember looking at my Garmin every few seconds to force myself to a 10:00/mile pace. After a few miles, my pace becomes steady enough I don’t have to check so often, but in the excitement at the beginning, it’s too easy to run fast and burn out too early (not that it was going to make a lot of difference today). At around mile four, I came up on Angela who was taking photos with the D50 and cheering everyone on. I felt really good at that point and was so glad to see her. She was waving her "Go Jason" sign and rattling a noise maker, both of which she’d gotten at the expo. I stopped for just a few seconds to discuss where she’d be next on the course (Main and Boulevard). I headed on down the street, passing our friend Karen (who was acting as a course marshal). Karen’s the one who convinced Angela and me to sign up a couple of years ago for the training team, so it was good to see here out there as well. The training team coaches, many of whom had been acting as pacers for us, dropped off at mile five. That’s right about where my right foot started having some pain, just under my shoe laces. It’d happened at the MCM, just three miles later into that race. I decided I’d take some ibuprofen after the mile six water stop to deal with it, hoping my first energy gel would help to offset any nausea associated with ibuprofen on an empty stomach.

Downhill on River Road to the first ‘party stop’ at the Starbucks and the first really large crowd since the starting line. It’s an amazing feeling for your neighbors to come out and cheer for you like some sort of rock star. While the crowds seemed a little thinner than last year, I appreciated all the people calling my name out. A little later in the race, one fellow runner asked me if I was the mayor or something because so many people kept shouting my name. I just pointed out that it was written in large letters across my (brightly colored) shirt. I caught up with some fellow team mates on Riverside Drive and kept up with them for quite a ways, until I stopped to stretch out my calf muscles on Forrest Hill Road. I was hoping to avoid the nasty muscle cramps I had gotten at the very end of last year’s marathon and that had plagued me during the last 10k of the MCM. Around the 14 mile mark, on Semmes Boulevard is where I (and apparently many others) began to feel the day getting warmer. I had put on my headphones at this point and could even notice the heat around my ears. I had made the decision before the race to up my intake of energy gels to one every 30 minutes, but by the beginning of the Lee Bridge, just past mile 15, I could barely even get half of one down. Having the pain killers along with extra doses of energy gel (which is like cake frosting with the consistency of honey, if you’ve never had one) was beginning to make my stomach turn and the heat only made it worse. There’s almost no shade for nearly two miles while heading back north to Main Street, and that’s when I began to feel the sense of exhaustion that would beat me down for the next two-and-a-half hours.

Cruising Around The Corner

The smile’s not fake, but the look of running hard sure is. Glad to be able to ditch that t-shirt with Angela, I tried to recover from fatigue at mile 18, but it was short lived.

I was having to stop and walk a block or so at every mile at 17, and Angela busted me in a couple of photos coming around on to the Boulevard. I was able to jog a few steps to fake it, but it was more of a joke on me than anything else. I was looking beat and I felt it. However, after running that far, you sure can’t just give up just because you see a pretty face cheering just for you. I stopped and stripped my t-shirt, stretched, and got a pep talk from Angela. We cheered some fellow runners together before I got back on the road up the Boulevard. I luckily grabbed a handful of pretzels from a guy on the sidelines a couple of blocks away and shoved them in my pocket. After all the sweet stuff all morning long, some salty pretzels were a perfect source of energy. I trudged on for a couple of more miles, finally catching up with one of the fellow teammates I’d ran with for three miles earlier that morning.

"I had a plan." Ruben quipped, "But that got dashed today. So I’m just going to walk for a bit here and there. I’ll still get my same medal."

"Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just walk some with you."

…and that’s just what Ruben and I, along with some other training team members we caught up to along the way, did for the last 10k of the race. Many of the team coaches were there along the last couple of miles, running along side people and cheering them on (and cheering them up, in many runners cases). As tired and lousy as I felt, the last half mile in Richmond is really awesome. You can see the finish line from quite a ways back and it is down Cary Street, which for those who don’t know, is quite a steep hill. I did my best to pick up some speed and finish as best as I could muster (having long since blown away my hopes of finishing under 4:30).

My final time was 4:52:16.

Heading For The Finish Line

Heading to the finish line, and home.

I could barely even keep standing after crossing the finish line. I found someone to remove my timing chip, hoping I wouldn’t ruin their day by vomiting on them. The volunteers at these events are likely to be blissfully unaware just how quickly they could regret their decision to help out. I got my medal placed around my neck and, while very proud of what I had just done, it really hit me all of a sudden just how different I felt from the previous two marathons. Rather, how I didn’t really feel nearly as much. The first race was filled with a sense of pride of accomplishment that I had really fulfilled a life goal. The second was a sense of awe and respect for my surroundings, fellow runners, and the Marines putting on the whole affair. I simply didn’t have the emotional investment in this race as much as I had previous ones, and that simply cannot be discounted. You’ll hear it time and time again: running a marathon is a mental effort as much as a physical one. I simply didn’t have the desire which gives me those little adrenaline rushes throughout a race that keeps me pushing on this time. Maybe just as much as the heat affected me, my heart just wasn’t into this one.

Angela found me at the exit area for runners and walked me to get signed out (the training team keeps track of all their runners on every run). I grabbed a slice of pizza and once I got my bag back, changed shirts and shoes. Afterwards, it was home for a shower and a nap with the dogs. Angela took me to get a sports massage that evening and then out for a reward dinner at a local seafood and steak place. I can’t say that really did anything to earn any of that, other than just being bull-headed. However, it sure did make me feel nice. Having people in the city come out and cheer me on was great, but having Angela around during and after the race was even better.

  1. Part of signing up for the Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team is the entry fee to the Richmond Marathon, even if you plan on running a different race. Lot’s of people here use the training team to get ready for Chicago, New York, Marine Corps, and even races as early in the Fall as San Francisco. So, even if you don’t run Richmond, you can still get a nice, long sleeve t-shirt, so Angela got hers even though she didn’t run this one. That smart girl. []
  2. That’s total time for the entire race, or four-and-a-half hours for the entire marathon. That boils down to about a 10:15 minute mile on average. Hopefully that will give some background on the two different "pace" meanings I use often. []