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. []