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&…). 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, 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.


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.