VA Beach Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Last year, I ran a local half-marathon event which was relatively small (300+ runners). Angela, having work conflicts, didn’t run any formal event, but did run 13.1 miles with me on what was dubbed the First Annual Angela Dyer Birthday Half-Marathon, which actually took place last Labor Day (e.g. – not her birthday). This year, we thought we’d give a much larger race a try. In fact, this would be the largest event any of us had ever run in: The Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

We weren’t going to be running this one alone, though. Stacie Johnson and Matt Thomas were running as well, and they’d be joined on the trip to Virginia by Stacie’s husband, Jason for both moral support and logistics. This race has around 20,000 participants, and so logistics were going to be very important, as it would turn out. We all met up at the hotel the evening before1, after going to pick up race packets (including bib numbers and time chips) at the nearly complete VA Beach Convention Center. After getting some recommendations from a local friend of mine, Scott, we all went out to dinner at a little mom & pop Italian restaurant for some proper pre-race dining. Since all of us take photos to at least some degree, that along with exercise, was the topic of discussion for most of the evening. After Matt had treated us all to our hearts content of pasta, Scott treated us to some ice cream at a local drive up joint. We did our best to turn in early and said our good-nights to Scott.

The next morning was a quick get-ready for the race, where Jason dumped us off just in time to make it to the start line. Just in time to stand around and wait, that is. Races this large start in waves, and ours were all back in the middle at best. Some 20 minutes after the first start gun fired, Matt and I were off. He wisely observed the crowds were way too dense on the course to have any hope of running the race together, so we each did our own thing, bobbing and weaving around the course for several miles (truth be told, all the way to the finish line).

The course, being all at sea level is about as flat as race courses get. The only hill is the bridge over the marina, and that isn’t even exactly very steep or challenging; and this coming from a guy who trains in Richmond, VA. There is enough variation on the course to make it go by relatively quickly, at least, until the end. The last two miles (give or take) are along the boardwalk. This is explained in the brochures as some sort of romantic selling point for the race. In truth, as Jason J. described it, the boardwalk is much more accurately described by slab-walk as this was two miles over hard concrete under the baking sun. You’re about as East as East gets in VA, short of running along the wet sand, so to say the least: there’s no shade. Running through the many misters (pipes that spray water mist, not actually male humans) provides some relief, but the only real relief came in the form of ice cubes handed out at the end of the race, placed inside of the wet hand-towel also doled out there.

I had a time I could be fairly happy with (2:06) and wasn’t throwing up anything (probably because there was nothing in me…), so I felt pretty good. I found Matt not too long after the race. We got some more ice and got in line for our free beer. While it was an effective way to get some quick carbs, after two hours of strenuous exercise, it doesn’t take too much alcohol to push me over (though, as things turned out, I had some time before I would need to drive anywhere). Jason found us standing near the agreed meeting spot (the names-beginning-with-X,Y,-or-Z sign; it seemed like such a good idea the night before). Angela and the Stacie came along very shortly there-after. We began our walk to the bus pick-up to get a ride back to Jason’s car, which he had smartly parked within a block of one of the bus stops. After walking about 12 blocks and then waiting in a line that wrapped another block-and-a-half, we packed onto a bus. Too bad this bus was heading the wrong way: out to the VA Beach amphitheater. You may not know (we certainly didn’t): that’s no where near downtown VA Beach, where Jason had parked. Well after a long, but eventually restful bus ride back to our car (no thanks to a rude bus driver who only brought us back after being told to do so by her superior).

We managed to get back to the hotel and eek out some quick showers before finding a nice restaurant nearby to celebrate. We did so in style, with good food and some good microbrews (as well as a waitress who was really, really friendlychatty). Afterwards, we grabbed some coffee for the drive to Richmond, where our two-car caravan headed for to enjoy a couple more evenings of rest and friends.

  1. Angela and I were held up in traffic on the way over to the Beach and ended up taking the long way there. []

On The Move

Well, first, I honestly feel like I owe the world an apology for not writing more. It has been insanely busy the past week at work for a variety of reasons I’m not going to go into, mainly becuase I’m not at work now and I don’t want to think about it. I’ve got some free time and I’m going to spend it writing about other things.

Last weekend, Angela and I took a short trip to Nag’s Head, NC to spend with some friends of ours. We left after our long run on Saturday morning and it was an insanely long drive to get over there for some reason, but gave us a chance to see how we liked our Escape on some longer trips. Well, we couldn’t be happier. The beach was fun, although I did manage to lose two pairs of sunglasses in as many days. This was due partly to the fact that I can’t seem to learn that wearing sunglasses in the ocean might be a bad idea and also the fact that the Atlantic was being particularly chopping and ferocious that weekend. Oddly enough, I managed to hang onto them even when I fell off of Ross’s Honda watercraft twice in a row.

Sunday was a frenzied drive back to Richmond to make it just in time to pick the dogs up from doggie Summer Camp at Holiday Barn (yes, there really is such a thing and yes we paid $30 for them to get to play in activities with other dogs). It’s always nice to get away for the weekend, but of course we were exhausted on Monday morning. Turns out, this was a bad week to be exhausted for (I know I said above I wasn’t going to get into it, but breifly&hellip). My office manager (and the Richmond branch’s head structural engineer) was on vacation all week and when there’s only three of us engineers, it increases the work load of the others when one of us takes off. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way things are when you work for a small company. That coupled with a few unexpected project-related suprises this week made for some frantic days. Anyway, I had worked enough extra I was able to leave early yesterday to begin our trip for this weekend.

Last night we drove down to Cookeville, TN to help Angela’s parents move across town to a smaller one-story house just north of TTU. We just came back from checking the home out and meeting the neighbors (who happen to be some old family friends of the Dyer’s), and it’s really terriffic. Now the reason we’re here is so that Angela can go through all her old things and decide what needs to go back to Richmond, what goes to the new house, and what gets tossed out. I’m favoring the last option for most items, but it’s not my call. Anyway, we’re also here for some muscle, and I’d like to put out a APB to all our friends here in town for some help in that manner. In return, you’ll recieve some beer, dinner, and the love and adoration of us. Who could ever need more?

Oh, also, Angela and I are still on our training schedule and we’re planning a 10-miler for Sunday morning. We’ll start out at Derryberry Hall at 7:30 am if any of you fast-footed folks are interested in going the distance (or even just 3 miles of it) with us. We’ve planned a nice route that will provide some good hills, but also three nice little breaks for sports drinks and snacks (yes, we run like it’s a party). Anyway, we’d love to have anyone who’s interested come out for a good run (rain or shine). We’ll be running only about an average pace of around 12:00 min./ mile, so you’ll have no excuses for not being able to keep up.

Otherwise, we’ll be in town through Tuesday morning. We’d also like to go out Sunday evening (tentatively) for my 30th, if anyone’s up for that. We probably party more during runs than when we celebrate birthdays, so don’t expect anything too wild. We’d really just like an excuse to spend time with our friends and family, even if means lifting our feet for running, lifting furniture to move our parents, or lifting a beer for my 30th.

Like Living In An Oven

Well, it’s around 5:30 pm here in Richmond, and it’s still 100° outside. I haven’t been posting much at all here or even to Flickr in the past few weeks. I wish I had a good excuse, but for right now, I’m just going to say that it’s because my brain is melting.

I’ve been suffering from some lower back problems for several months now, and the pain is getting bad enough that I’m looking for just about anything to help. I’m not big on taking heavy medication for that sort of thing (odd, given my wife’s chosen profession, huh?). I do have a great doctor, but even he was at a bit of a loss as to where the pain was coming from. He ruled out spinal problems as the root cause, which is good. However, he recommended seeing a physical therapist, which I have yet to do but plan to begin seeing one. In the meantime, I’ve been going to a weekly yoga class. It’s actually a pretty tough workout; all about balance and focus. Sounds easy, and the people who do yoga make it look easy enough. However, when you start trying to extend your arms out in front of you while sticking one let straight back behind you and balance on one foot all while remaining still and breathing slowing… well, it’s pretty tough, let me tell you.

I have been running, although not nearly as often as I did this time last year. Again, it’s hot as hell here and I really got burned out on running so much about a month prior to last year’s marathon. I’ve been just trying to maintain a fair level of endurance while also working on my speed and strength. I’ve been doing some hill workouts on Thursdays after work, although I nearly threw-up from the heat last week. After reading the article in this month’s Runner’s World on a young man who died of heat-related stress last summer over in Charlottesville, I’m going to pay special attention to not getting sick or dying out in the heat. I hope all of my friends and family out there be sure and look after themselves in this heat as well; it can be remarkably brutal on your body to exert yourself in it for very long.

On a related note, even though I tell people to save a few bucks on their energy bills by keeping the thermometer at 75° in the summer, make sure you’re not keeping it too high, there, cheapskate. None of this environmental stuff is worth cooking your brain over. A good idea is to get an electronic timer thermostat that will let the place warm up when you’re not around and cool it back down around the time you arrive home.

Well, our air conditioning is out currently and the high today is supposed to be 104° (without factoring the heat index in, which is more like 119° – no, seriously). Our biggest concern is the dogs, who don’t have cushy air-conditioned jobs. We’ve tried to get them boarded for the day, but no one had room. Currently, their doing their best under a ceiling fan in the most shaded part of the house. Angela’s going to try and check in on them at mid-day.

August 3rd Forecast


Google Search Anomoly

Now here’s something really weird. I read about the fitness tracking site WeEndure a couple of weeks ago on Lifehacker and signed up for an account. I’ve been using it regularly. I just happened to do a google search for weendure to see if there were any other articles on the site (I am in constant need of reassurance) and low and behold, my user page comes up second, ahead of the Lifehacker article!

Back In The Saddle (Sore)

Angela convinced me that we absolutely needed to do the marathon training team again this year. It would be difficult for me to put down in one post just how much we learned doing this last year. In short, we went from people who go jogging occasionally to runners. Here would be my top list of things I took away from last year:

  • Good equipment (clothing, shoes, GPS, hydration, etc.) won’t make you a good runner, but bad equipment will make you a miserable runner.
  • Training is a never-ending process. Training never ends after one race, it just peaks and then ramps down between races.
  • Mental conditioning really is that important. Your mind will make you stop long before your body will.
  • You have to pay attention to what you’re eating. You can’t eat too few or too many calories; you have to find the right balance.

That only scratches the surface, but there some of the key things I’m trying to keep in mind going into my second marathon. We’re signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. / Arlington, VA at the end of October. We wanted to have a change of scenery this year and give a sort of test run to the idea of running vacations. Angela and I had talked about doing marathons in other cities or even other countries, and then just a couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor about how that same thing is getting to be very popular1 Anyway, it seems like a great way to see more of a new city and meet some of the local people. Of course, Angela will tell you that I’ll stop every 100 yards to take a photo and be worthless as a result.

By joining the training team, we are also signed up to run the Richmond Marathon as well2. It’s only 12 days after the Marine Corp, so you’ll have to ask me later if I’m going to run it for sure. Right now, I’m planning on it, but there’s really no way to predict how I’ll be doing then.

Also, I’ve signed up for a free account at WeEndure.com, which is a handy way for me to log all my miles online. I’ll try and keep it going during the whole training. I’ll also add all the races on there for anyone interested. If you’re thinking about visiting us sometime, why not making it a running vacation?

  1. One of my new things on my life-to-do list is visit Antarctica and run a marathon there. A training team coach of mine did that last year and became the youngest women to run a marathon on all seven continents in one year. []
  2. It’s included in the fee for the team. After you subtract out the $65 marathon registration, the $15 for the team color t-shirt, and $20 for your marathon racing singlet, the training team only costs $30. That means that you get six months of running advice, access to physical therapists (new this year), free clinics, snacks and energy gels, and more. I mean, I used $30 in energy gels alone last year. Seriously, it’s one of the coolest things in Richmond. []

Running a Successful Failure

I finally finished reading the last 20 pages or so of Dallas Smith’s Falling Forward: Tales from an Endurance Saga on Friday night. This should have been perfect timing, as Angela and I were to run the Monument Avenue 10k the very following morning. Dallas’1 book is loaded not just with stories of his 100mi./100mi./50mi. adventure, but also with his quest to set records for shorter road races in the state of Tennessee. I tried to keep all those in mind but there were two things wrong with that.

Dallas’ book also ends on a note warning against the main cause of failure in runners: giving up. Runners’ bodies don’t fail them as much as the runners fail themselves. This was my case on Saturday morning. Actually, it goes back for over a month before, when I should have been thinking much more seriously about my goal.

Last year, I flirted with the 50 minute mark in a 10k race for the first time. Had I just shave 7 seconds off of each mile I’d have broken it. I knew I’d do it the next year given how well I’d been progressing. Having now run a marathon and several other races, I had even more confidence this would be my year to do so. Of course, your body will only prepare for what you make it get ready for. I simply hadn’t been running and when I was running, I was only doing 3-4 miles at a time.

I ran a relatively fast 5k, at which my body just felt completely out of energy. I ended up walking at every mile marker past then until the finish. The weather was warmer than we’d had in the past few weeks (at 9:00 am, anyway) and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of heat, either. That being said, it wasn’t so hot as to keep me from running fast. That was a result of not preparing. I ended up with a respectable time of 54:28, which was nearly 4 minutes slower than last year. Angela, on the other hand, took about 3 minutes off of her first 10k last year.

It’s not a matter of not finishing the race, such as in a long distance or ultra endurance race. I’ve been running enough over the past few years that the hurdle of simply finishing a 10k is far behind me (although still a very real challenge for many and well-worth working towards). However, a goal of running 8:06 minute miles is one that I can’t approach lightly. I’m not that fast and it takes real training for both speed and endurance to make that. I know I can do it, but I failed miserably this past Saturday. However, it’s a failure that will stick with me and make me work harder next year.

  1. Okay, I confess, I have always referred to him as Dr. Smith since most of my contact with the man has been through the academic setting. However, first names will do here, regardless of how I actually address him in person. []

Still Running

This morning I ran my first race since Thanksgiving. Sad to say, I haven’t kept up my (self-)promise to run at least one race every month of the year, as I didn’t do any last month. What’s worse, I really didn’t run much at all last month.

Well, Angela and I have at least started the new year off right by trying to run 3-4 days a week. This morning, I ran the 22nd Annual Frostbite 15k. I’ve been wanting to run this race ever since moving to Richmond, but never had the guts to go out and run 9+ miles in the cold. Well, after learning a great deal about running over the past year, I knew I had it in me this time. I certainly could have been better prepare; I haven’t run more than a 10k since the marathon, which was 2½ months ago! However, it still went about as good as I could have hoped for. I was shooting for 80 minutes and ran it in 1:21:33. Not the fastest I’ve ever ran, but I felt okay upon finishing and Angela still let me back in the house upon my return.

Now, I’m going to go enjoy some well earned breakfast and be lazy until noon.

Running The Marathon

My mind, in a matter of seconds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

Last Saturday morning was the 2005 Richmond Marathon, which was the first marathon for both Angela (my wife) and myself. We couldn’t have possibly asked for a better day to run a marathon, or for that matter, better conditions in which to have prepared for the marathon over the past six months. We’ve been members of the Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team, which is an outstanding organization here in Richmond which has become one of the largest of its kind in the country. I thought, since I’ve spent so much of the past six months posting updates on the blog, I’d write a final recap of the event, including what I was thinking at the time and what I’ve learned in doing this.

Pre-Race

I had a good night’s sleep on Friday, save for the three times to get up to use the bathroom (I’ve never been so well hydrated in my life was already looking forward to drying out). I’d been told I’d be lucky if I slept at all, but any nervousness I was feeling wasn’t really keeping me up. I was forcing myself to only concentrate in getting to the start line in order to prevent the overwhelming thought of having to run for hours on end. I’d worry about the immediate step and just wait for the next one to come.

Angela at the pre-race get together - courtesy of Angela Robinson

Angela bundled up in the cold as we take some photographs of the training team groups (photo courtesy of Angela Robinson).

Angela and I left to meet with the training group before hand for some large group photos. She was able to locate her running buddy but I kept losing her all morning. The last time I saw her that morning was as we were finding the UPS trucks serving as bag checks to hand over everything we weren’t running with. I tried hunting around for my wife right up until the mass of runners began surging forward as I wanted to give her some last words of encouragement. It turns out she didn’t really need it, but I had the next four-and-a-half hours to feel bad about it.

The First Half

The course represents most every part of the city (save the East side) and is really very great scenery. Since I had lost my usual running partners (the ones who made the race, at least) while looking for Angela, I was on my own for most of the whole race. That was okay with me, since running has always been my "me time." I am usually perfectly content to just enjoy the views along the way. I ended up seeing a few familiar faces along the way, both runners and bystanders alike, which was good enough for me.

Mile 17 - Main Street (courtesy of Brightroom photography)

While running in a tank-top and high-steppers seemed like a good idea, it resulted in an uncomfortable run (photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography).

The temperature had warmed up so much in the sunshine that I ditched my jacket and gloves after only a mile or so, while still on Broad Street, just in front of the Science Museum. I had been wearing one of those throw-away Tyvek jackets and a pair of cheap cloth gloves which I wouldn’t feel bad about not returning home with. My race dress consisted of just a team singlet and high-cut shorts for the entire race. Since these are essentially what the elite runners wear, I felt good about wearing these. As it turns out, that was my biggest mistake of the race. Looking back over my training, I think that correcting for that was quite obvious. However, I had convinced myself that if that’s what the fast, elite runners wore then it must be beneficial.

My body chemistry is such that my sweat leaves behind an extraordinary amount of salt crystals. You remember that steamy Heart Shaped World video for Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game; the one where they rolled around in the beach sand? Well, I look just like that, once you’ve removed all the sexy and cool. That being the case, I had brought along a small stick of Body Glide to help ward off the skin friction. I stopped just past the half-way point, and even again at 18 miles, but to no good. Dragging a waxy stick across gritty, raw flesh just only makes the problem worse. Also, running and sweating only makes the problem worse, but that’s just what I had to do for another 13.1 miles. I figure wearing a pair of tight, spandex shorts and a t-shirt would have prevent most, if not all, of these problems. It was far too late to do anything about that now, though.


Running By The Crowds (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

The crowds cheering for me and all the finishers near the end of the race felt incredibly great (photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography).

A simple little running hack I learned from other members of the training group who had been through the program before is that many runners in the "rest" of the pack write their names across their racing shirts. It is really hard to describe just how great it feels to have strangers in the sidelines cheering you on by name. There’s that small drip of adrenaline that comes from having your named called out that lifts your chin up and makes you run tall. Running through a large crowd with people standing rows deep on each side can shave miles off of the run already behind you. Of everything that I did just before the race, taking ten minutes and a Sharpie had the highest dividend. I can’t imagine really doing this on just a 10k, but I honestly don’t know how I’d finish a marathon without doing it. It really is that encouraging to have so many people out there cheering you on in the cold and treating you like the hero of the, if only for just a split second.

The Twenty

Angela runs along Riverside Drive (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela enjoys the views and the sunshine along Riverside Drive, just before reaching mile nine (photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography).

Somewhere around mile 15 (I think), I saw one of the coaches for the training group who worked with Angela’s group (her name is also Angela). She recognized me and told me she had talked to Angela just a short while ago and that she was looking great. That was a great boost. Just thinking about my wife’s smiling face when she’s around people always cheers me up. Of course, I’d soon find that thinking about my wife too much was going to bring up too many emotions.


Lee Bridge - Mile 15

I stopped just before running onto the Lee Bridge at about mile 15 to take a snapshot of the runners spread out ahead of me.

I carried my camera-phone with me to take a few snapshots of the race course along the way. I stopped at either end of the Lee Bridge and took some photos. I didn’t need the break too much at that point, but to see all those people running across that bridge was kind of an awesome sight. I don’t think my little camera quite captured the moment, but then again, there’s a lot of things that are hard to even describe about the race. I did realize, though, that I wasn’t there as a journalist but as a runner. Of course, there were other people snapping photos all along the way and I can understand why. This is a huge deal for most of us, and we want to remember it and share it with others. One thing that amazed me was the fact that so many people were talking on their cell phones during the race. While it’s easy to dismiss this as cell phone addiction, I can appreciate the idea of hearing from some distant family or friends to bring some encouragement during the course. My brother, Dave, even tried calling me but I didn’t hear the phone ring since it was buried down in my Camelbak.

I had essentially been walking at every water stop along the course, just long enough to get down a cup of water and then run on. Stopping for a potty break at mile ten had added some more time as well, but none of those had really been because I needed a break from the run. After about mile 16, though, I began needing walk about a block during the water stops, which were about every two miles. I kept telling myself to just run a little bit further; just to the next water stop and then take a break. Then, I had to fall back to taking a break every mile. This was becoming sort of a mental challenge now, and I needed to prevent myself from having to take any more breaks than necessary.

The Last 10K

I had reached the 20 mile split at just under 3:30 minutes, which was faster than I had run any of the three 20 milers during training. That was a great feeling that picked me up for just a bit. I had managed to maintain a fairly even pace for the first 20 to keep on track for finishing in my goal time of 4:30. However, I still had 6.2 miles to finish. While I had run further on my own, prior to this training a 10k was the longest race I had ever run. I knew I was going to finish, the only question was how many walking breaks. I would need for between here and then end.

One of the things I really hadn’t expect was the emotion component of the run. A friend had told me how he irrationally sobbed for nearly a mile while running past the 22 mile mark on his second marathon. I imagine when a person’s body starts reaching this level of exhaustion, it can be expected that their nerves start to become a little raw. It effects everyone differently, some people not all, I’m sure. I found myself suffering from a next-day soup of emotions any time I though about Angela. From having a overwhelming sense of pride in what she was doing, concern for her since she’d had some problems with shins and cramps earlier, as well as regret for not seeing her immediately before the start; it was all starting to wear on me. I was having to force myself to concentrate on other things, namely the task at hand, and not on her. However, making one force their wife out of their mind can be equally emotionally troubling. So much so, in fact, that my eyes began welling up several times uncontrollably. I did my best to refocus and in fact, running by several crowds helped to take my mind off of it long enough to calm down.

Other than the emotional troubles, there was also the fact that the flesh on my legs and and under my right arm was looking increasingly like raw meat. The cold, wet hand towels being passed out at mile 23 were like a soggy piece of heaven. I was able to clean off the Margarita rim like salt crust off of my forehead as well as try and wipe off the salt crystals in some of the more damaged areas causing trouble. Then, I ran out of sports drink in my Camelbak just before mile 24. Not too much of a problem, in reality, but there’s nothing like sucking on an empty water hose to fill you full of that "you’re done for now" feeling. I was drinking two cups of red sports drink at the mile 24 water stop to reassure myself when one of my coach friends from the training team came running up beside me. He asked if I was doing some sort of run/walk thing, which was no doubt a sincere question and he was simply checking in with me. My raw nerves took this as a accusation (of what, I don’t know) and I answered that yes I was walking the water stops to give my body some short breaks. However, it jolted me into the realization that with just over two miles to go, now was not the time to be walking. He also asked if I had had any muscle problems during the run. I had been extremely fortunate in the fact that I had not had any sort of muscle cramps for over four hours, but I was beginning to notice some in my calves. I took one last moment away from running on the Belvedere bridge over I-95 to stretch both legs and then ran the remainder of the race.

Crossing the finish line (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Crossing the finish line in just under 4:40. My final chip time was 4:36, just a few minutes more than my goal (photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography).

The last half-mile of the race (maybe more, actually) is all downhill into a funnel of cheering fans and blaring commentators. Hearing those people shouting and then the announcer call my name and number as I came up to the finish line was like having blinders taken off. Had I really just done all that? My mind, in a matter of seconds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

After The Race

Finish Line - Mile 26.2

Runner’s receive medals and are covered in foil blankets after crossing the finish line. They’re also handed a bottle of water and have their timing chips removed from their shoes before heading out of the corral.

Upon crossing the finish line, you’re given a foil blanket, a bottle of water, and a finisher’s medal. The medal is the sort of thing that normally would feel somewhat cheesy to me. I didn’t exactly come in for bronze, let alone first place. However, having some 20 year old kid put that chintzy piece of steel around my neck felt special. If a person can actually have a huge smile at the same time they’re cringing in pain, then that’s exactly what I was doing. The achievement pales in comparison to what so many people ran that day, including a winner with a new course record. However, the achievement was mine. I just needed one last reminder of that.

Just as I was leaving the chip removal corral, I saw the owner of one of the local running stores. This guy has treated my wife and I like crap every time we’ve gone in his shop (and most friends tell similar stories). I felt like telling him "You know, I just ran a f^@*ing 26.2 mile race, so next time I come in, why don’t you at least treat me like a customer, huh?" But why? I didn’t run it for him, or anyone one else. I did this to prove to myself I could do it. I had to know, and now I did know. I was capable of going further than I had ever before. I just walked on past him. He will probably never consider a guy like me an athlete. However, I don’t have shop at his place and frankly, I don’t consider myself an athlete, either. I’m just a guy who enjoys running and just learned his limits are way beyond where he ever thought they were.

I walked down to the UPS trucks which had held onto my bag for the past few hours. I found a small sidewalk edge near an alley to sit down and put on some pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. I put all my things away, but kept out the medal and my race number. I wanted people around to know that I belonged. More than that, I really wanted to enter the runner’s food tent for something solid and not sugary. Luckily, they had pizza and bagels. I sat down for a while eating my slice of pizza and drinking some more sports drink. After all the sugar I’d had all day, I really didn’t want anymore, but at least this was a different flavor. I found myself obsessing about brushing my teeth.

Angela smiling as she approaches the finish line! (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela is just beaming smiles as she runs towards the finish line. You did it, baby! (photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

After a while, I got up to walk back uphill to the finish line. There was no way I was going to miss Angela coming across that gate. I cheered for the runners who were still flowing down the hill. They had all been out struggling just as much as I had with the same course and and been enduring it for even longer. They deserved to have people cheering for them, too. After a while, I saw Angela running down the hill. Her coach had said she looked great, and she did. She looked so cool and collected; as if she’d just been out for a casual jog and not the six hour ordeal she’d just been through. Her running pal, Heather, was running along the far side line cheering her on and we both met Angela down outside the corral.

After having some time to collect myself earlier, I was much more stable emotionally than I had expected to be. Angela checked back in with the training team tent and found some food to eat. We walked back to the finish line to cheer on some of the last runners and then headed home. We’d both successfully run the race and had one another together again to congratulate ourselves. It was a long journey, which really lasted six months, not just six hours. The feeling of knowing a little more about what we carry inside of us is going to last a lot longer.

Marathon? Check.

Well, Angela and I both completed the Richmond Marathon this afternoon. We both finished in (nearly) our goal times; Angela a little bit faster and me just a hair slower. However, the important part is that we finished.

After running, we cheered on some of the last folks coming across the finish line and then headed home to get cleaned up. Angela had kindly booked a couple’s massage for the two of us, which was absolutely fantastic (hey, two another first for me today!). Then we met some friends out for dinner: Angela’s running pal, Heather, and her fiance and our friend, Robert, who ran a great 8k this morning.

We’ve had a great day of running in some beautiful weather, but it’s time to go to get some rest. I’ll update this post soon with all the gory details, but I just wanted to say thanks to our friends and family who encouraged us and a special thanks to all the Training Team staff and runners who really made this so much fun. You’re all terrific.

Marathon Preparedness




Marathon Preparedness

Originally uploaded by super_structure.

Well, Angela and I are as ready as we’ll ever be. In less than ten hours, we’ll be on the way to running 26.2 miles. It’s been a long time coming (well, six months) and we are ready for it.

We went to the pre-race pasta dinner put on at the Presbyterian church just down on Monument Ave this evening. The pasta was some of the best I’ve ever had, too. Angela’s got her stuff all ready, her plans to run with her buddy for at least the first ten miles, and her iPod loaded with fun songs.

Me, I run at least half the time alone and just looking around at all the sights. One of the best parts of running is getting to notice things at street level you’d never see even from a car. Tomorrow, I’m going to take in the city of Richmond and love every minute of it. All 270 276 of them.