November 18, 2014

Richmond Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday just a few minutes past noon, I crossed the finish line at the Richmond Marathon about 15-20 minutes later than planned, with Mom off to my left on the edge of the finish chute and wearing a sweatshirt that my Mom found on the side of the road around mile 19. I guess you can say my race didn't go as planned. It was the best of times (literally), it was the worst of times...and thus begins the story of my third marathon.
Ready for race day! 
Saturday morning, I headed out to the starting line around 6:45 for the 7:50 start.  I was dressed very warmly and surprisingly didn't feel cold on the 15 minute (or so) walk from the Omni to the starting area.  The 8k was starting just as we arrived and I was anxious to figure out exactly where the marathon started. We wandered around for a bit, figuring out the location of everything. I checked my bag, and then we stopped in a cafe for Adam to get some coffee and this was also a nice opportunity to get out of the cold!  Then it was a final stop in the porta potty and I was heading to my corral.
My "down on my luck" in my hobo-chic outfit!
(Oh the irony…)
I elected to move up to wave 2 as I was hoping for that precious sub-4:00 marathon time. I started at the very back of the wave, which was nice since I had tons of space around me. I also think this was a good decision as I avoided any extra time at the starting line feeling cold.
Yes I'm wearing a wool coat at the start...
Miles 0-6: The start was very anti-climatic although I loved hearing Bart Yasso's name over the loud speaker as he sent us off. The first few miles ticked off easily and I enjoyed running down Broad Street.  I was able to spot my Dad around mile 2.5 and it was fun to have some cheers. By mile 3 or so, I warmed up and took off my hoodie sweatshirt. Not knowing how I would feel, I tied it around my waist and ran with it for a few more miles. Around mile 5, it was annoying me, so I ditched it. I remember a few small hills in the beginning but it was mostly flat. We ran past stunningly gorgeous old homes - I loved this stretch of the course.
At mile 6.5 (or so), there was a huge downhill section just before we crossed the James River. I remember feeling all alone, being totally in a groove and having the strange sensation of people behind me. I looked over my left shoulder and could see a wall of people descending around me. I had gotten swept up in the 4:00 pace group. I immediately checked my Garmin and noted that I was still ahead of 4:00 pace and had started ahead of the pace group so they appeared to be banking time on the front half of the course. I debated staying with them but elected to run my own race.

Beautiful Richmond!
Photo courtesy of my Dad
There was one of the spectator "party stops" just before we crossed the river and it was INSANE!  I swear there were spectators on both sides of the road for at least 1/4 mile and their energy was contagious. I really loved the funny signs and support.

Miles 7-14: We crossed the river at around miler 7.5 or so and the remaining stretch until mile 14 was spent on mostly flat ground (with some rolling hills) winding by the river. It was peaceful and serene. I remember noticing leaves falling and hearing the thud of feet all around me. The fall foliage was magnified by the river and some beautiful homes. My only complaint about this section of the course was the crowds. I constantly felt boxed in, probably due to being with the pace group and this made the water stops difficult to navigate. I told myself over and over to stay calm and not get worked up. This mostly worked...

I fell into a very dark place during this section of the course, which was abnormal for me. Somewhere around mile 8 or 9, I got very down and started to doubt myself. A few miles later, I was able to dig myself out of this hole but I never felt "right" again, mentally speaking. It's worth noting that up until mile 12 or 13, I was still under 4:00 pace and slowly banking a few seconds against this pace every mile. And with the exception of the hills, the pace felt comfortable and at times, even a bit slow. I also noticed that I started to blow through fuel way quicker than normal during this stretch and was very conscious of how thirsty I felt. This was clearly an omen of things to come.
Adam took this gem!
Miles 15-17:  At around mile 15, I gave myself a pep talk to deal with the upcoming 3 mile incline.  I was starting to feel fatigued but I kept telling myself that if I made it to 18, I was in the home stretch from a course difficulty standpoint. Mom had told me she might try to run the bridge with me and I was eager for company. I didn't see her and made my way (slowly) across the bridge. I think the bridge itself was close to a mile long, and if it wasn't it sure felt like it! There were massive winds to deal with the entire way. My pace slowed dramatically (to 9:40 or so from around 9:05ish) and my mental game was failing me. Soon enough, I saw Adam and he ran with me for a few minutes. I told him I was hurting and my goal time was in jeopardy after seeing my pace increase so dramatically on the bridge. He told me to keep fighting (one of my mottos) and that I could do it. I'm not sure I believed him. I was just willing the wind to stop and the bridge to be over.

A little while later, Mom and Dad were on the right side of the course just over the bridge. I waved and could barely muster a smile. I told Mom I needed her and she jumped in to run with me. At this point, the plan was for her to run a few miles with me and get me to mile 19 or 20.

Miles 18-21: At around mile 18.5 or so, the unthinkable happened. I got cold. Not just cold, a kind of cold that couldn't be ignored and one that was mentally debilitating. It was a scary cold. I was already struggling to regain control of my race from a pace standpoint and this was the last straw. I don't exactly remember what I told Mom other than I was cold and scared and might need medical help. A minute or two later, she grabbed a sweatshirt that was on the side of the road, clearly discarded by another runner. I put it on and noticed it said "Old Dominion University" on it, which happens to be a University near where I live. What luck! This sweatshirt would save me! She also asked every police officer we saw if there was a medical tent. No one knew. She asked other runners. No one knew. Finally, a guy who was standing next to a police officer told us he thought there was medical a mile up the road. Mom asked if I could make it there and I nodded that I could. Away we went!

We never found any semblance of a medical tent or medical crew on the course. Luckily, I warmed up a mile after getting my (savior) sweatshirt and was able to regain a bit of control over my race. I felt pretty crappy but I kept telling myself simply to finish. Every step hurt and was truly a battle. I swear, miles 17-19 felt like they lasted for hours.

Once we hit mile 20, we were back in a beautiful residential section of town that was mostly flat. There was a split clock and I noticed that we hit mile 20 at 3:12, which was only 7 minutes over my 20 mile split estimate for my sub-4:00 attempt. Not bad, actually. This gave me a little mental boost and it was at this moment, that I decided I would still PR. I told Mom that I wanted to finish and PR and she said she would carry me if she had to. She also told me she was running in to the finish with me. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. I needed a running partner more than I needed air at this point...or at least that's what my brain was telling me.
My new race outfit! Mom is just out of the photo to my right.
Miles 22-24: I finally found a bit of a groove during this time. I knew Dad and Adam would be waiting for us somewhere in this stretch and that was a big mental boost. They were awesome cheerleaders, offering us bananas, water, or shot bloks. Adam ran with me for a minute, offering words of encouragement and I mustered up the energy to tell him that while I wouldn't meet my goal, I was going to PR. I gave him a high five and Mom and I pressed on.

We also passed by some great spectators and a fun little area where a group had set up a bunch of Christmas blow-ups and were blasting Christmas music. "Santa Claus is coming to town" happened to be playing as we approached and Mom and I laughed about how much we love Santa!  It's crazy but it kept me going.

Miles 25-Finish: Somewhere in here, another major obstacle occurred. My right knee exploded with pain...I can think of no other way to describe it. The pain was pronounced and felt like my knee was on fire. It was like nothing I had experienced as my left knee is usually the problematic one. I kept thinking it would go away but it got worse. Eventually I found myself limping as I ran and I had to stop to walk to regain my gait and composure. The downhill to the finish was pure agony on my achy knee but I was determined to make it to the finish without stopping again. Mom told me she would see me in to make sure I got into the Medical tent but would move off to the side so I could have my own finish line moment. I got pretty teary as I told her how much I appreciated her running TEN MILES with me (after her 8k earlier in the morning), knowing full well that I would likely not be poised to cross the finish line without her. I cannot remember feeling more relief after crossing a finish line...relief that the hell of the marathon was over, relief that I could stop running, relief that even though I didn't meet my goal, I still PR'ed (by 13 minutes with final time of 4:18.01) after months of hard work.

Bart Yasso was cheering in the runners at the bottom of the hill just past the finish line. I waved as I walked by but was too tired to really talk to him. I had one thing on my mind - getting warm in the medical tent. I collected my medal and a very sweet volunteer directed me to the medical tent. I spent about 20 minutes with a warm blanket wrapped around me and ice on my knees. I took off my arm warmers, realizing they were soaking wet with sweat...and potentially a culprit for getting so cold on the bridge. Mom and I made our way out of the tent and I wanted to say hi to Bart so we got a quick photo and he gave me a big hug after I told him this was the hardest race of my life. He is so awesome!

The post-race festivities were excellent! I collected my bag from bag check and promptly stripped off my wet shirt and sweatshirt and threw on a dry shirt and jacket and Dad offered me his coat. I put on a fleece headband and was finally feeling a little warmer. I was eager to get some food at this point. The options included bagels, bananas, and pizza. I handed Adam my banana and housed a slice of cheese pizza from Papa Johns. I'm fairly confident it was the best piece of pizza I've ever had. I didn't hang around long and regrettably didn't feel like taking any finisher photos. I think it was a combination of feeling disappointed in my race and wearing an awkward oversized coat that wasn't even mine, although that would have matched the tone of my race day.

As a coworker reminded me yesterday, not all marathons will be good ones and "you aren't really a marathoner until you have that really, really hard race and prove to yourself that crossing the finish line means more than a time." I couldn't have said it better myself.  "…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…" Let's end this race story there, shall we?

From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate the support throughout this training cycle and race day.
{Christine}

P.S. I'll be sharing more race-specific info in another post…this one had to capture my emotions.

39 comments:

  1. Great post. I'm sorry to hear that the race didn't go as you had hoped. That must have been a scary moment when you were so cold and there was no medical tent around! Enjoy your downtime after this training cycle and know that you are definitely capable of that sub 4 (when the temperatures aren't subarctic!) :)
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Yes, definitely not my favorite or most enjoyable race moments but it will make me stronger, right? ;)

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  2. Wow, great job on finishing! Your mom is a rock star :) .

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  3. Wow-my heart was hurting for you while reading this but I love love love what your co-worker said about finishing being more important than your time. You are not a quitter-that's for sure. Great job on your PR!! Oh and btw-you and Adam make a really cute couple :)

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    1. Aw thank you for your sweet comment, Monica! :)

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  4. Congrats on your PR! You and your mom are inspirations to me! What a great support system you are for each other. And how amazing are you not even just crossing the finish line but getting a PR after how things went.

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    1. Thanks Bonnie! Yes, we have become quite a team and I was so grateful for her support/presence on Saturday.

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  5. Oh Christine, I'm so sorry this race didn't go as you hoped! As we talked about, it's so frustrating when the weather messes with your race since it's really one of the only things that you can't control or train for!

    I feel you with that bridge though...that's how I felt in New York - it just felt like mile long bridge after mile long bridge, every time I got to one I'd be like, "are you kidding me?!? Another one?!" And I really can not believe you couldn't find a medical tent on the course! That's actually really scary that you felt like you needed some medical help and there wasn't any available!

    I'm so glad your mom was there to run with you and help you make it to the finish line - you guys are really lucky to have each other as running buddies! : )

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    1. Those damn bridges! They suck! There will be more marathons…maybe we can run a "fun" one together?! ;)

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  6. Great job on completing Richmond and reaching a PR, even with your knee bother you (mine did this weekend too).It sounds like it was a tough race.Glad you found an extra sweatshirt to help get you through! -L

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    1. Thanks Lacey! The knees seem to be problematic for us runners…so inconvenient! ;)

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  7. Great job on finishing when you were having such a tough race. That is so wonderful that your mom jumped in with you for that stretch when you really needed her. I did the half in Richmond that day and the cold and wind absolutely made it a tougher race than the course would suggest.

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    1. Thanks Chiatali! Yes, Mom was so helpful for me…I wish everyone could have a great racing buddy like her! :)

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  8. Great job on finishing, Christine! As your coworker said, crossing the finish line is often more important than the finish time itself, especially when its been a difficult race. The weather wasn't ideal on Saturday, but you fought hard, and you refused to give up. That is a sign of a true athlete.

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    1. Thanks, Kathryn - you are sweet! It definitely wasn't my day but such is life…and marathon racing I suppose!

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  9. Christine! I am so proud of you and so sad for you all at the same time. It sounds like what happened to me in NYC is exactly what happened to you with the cold situation -- isn't it so scary? The one big difference is that you pushed through! You persevered, finished strong, and PR'd! You are incredible! I'm so sorry the race didn't go as planned, but you did it girl. And I have no doubt that you'll go sub-4 one day!

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    1. Thank you, Jen! I keep telling myself that even though the race wasn't fun or the time I wanted, it was still an improvement and someday I'll get to that goal time. :)

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  10. girl. what a day, right? that cold affected so many of us. so sorry that it wasn't what you hoped but you did PR which is amazing. sending you an email :) xx

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    1. Ugh, I know! It just wasn't the best day for a rockin' Richmond race! :)

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  11. Wow. My heart was all over the place as I was reading this Christine. I'm sorry it wasn't what you had hoped for, but I am also thankful you were and are okay. Way to finish strong and throw another Marathon under your belt. Way to keep going and not give up!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I am reminded that crossing the finish line at a marathon is always a gift, no matter how you get there.

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  12. Great recap-you did an awesome job! Things dont always turn out how we hope but they turn out well! Now time to rest and recover and enjoy that PR!

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    1. Thanks, Juliana! Yes, I am definitely enjoying my restful evenings with wine!

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  13. I got teary for reading about this - such a gutsy performance and such a beautiful bond you and your mom have. Congrats on finishing a tough race!

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    1. Aw, thank you so much. Yes, I am so unbelievably blessed to have her as my running buddy.

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  14. Such a great post - my heart ached when you hurt, but I'm still celebrating your PR with you! Congratulations, even if it wasn't the goal you wanted! <3

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Megan. Yes, definitely happy with a PR and slowly processing the race and feeling a bit more ok with it. :)

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  15. Congratulations!! A big PR like that is amazing even if you did not meet your A goal, and you should be super proud of yourself. There will always be more races so you can use this one as a learning experience, and just remember you cannot control the weather, no matter how hard you train and you can control diet, mileage, recovery etc, the elements are just out of our control :(. You ran the best race for you, on this particular day, and that's what matters.

    That's a really interesting quote from your coworker about being a marathoner. My one and only marathon was like that, it was a real "struggle bus ride" for me, and I haven't run another since and don't plan on it, honestly.

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    1. Thanks, Amy! In all honesty, if this was my first marathon, it would likely be my last/one and done. I'm sorry your first wasn't terribly fun. Try another race…maybe with a friend/buddy? I'm convinced my first two were much more enjoyable because I had a running buddy for the entire race. It made a huge difference for me, mentally speaking.

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  16. Congrats on finishing your third marathon and for your PR! I am sorry to hear that your race did not go as planned, it seemed horribly cold - where did our fall go? I am so glad you had your mom, father, and Adam out on the course and that you were able to run with your mom for the latter portions of the race. It can get scary when you are not feeling well and I am glad you were able to eventually get the medical attention you needed. Congrats again and I know you will get our sub-4 :)

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    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Jennifer! Yes, having spectators and a running buddy were so helpful during this race. Definitely makes me grateful for my crew that accompanied me on race day.

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  17. Oh Christine, you know I am totally there with you on this one...while we had different races, there are a lot of similarities. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? And your coworker that said "you aren't really a marathoner until you have that really, really hard race and prove to yourself that crossing the finish line means more than a time." She/he is so right...I learned that very same thing. Great work my friend! Congrats on your PR!

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    1. Thanks, Sue! As frustrating as it seems, I know a lot of people were in the same boat with their fall races. There will be more marathons…and hopefully PRs!

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  19. Glad you made it through! My friends that did the Richmond Half also said it was a hard run this year. This compared to last year when it was cold and raining. Glad you made it through. Hope your knee is better, that down hill finish can be rough. Would you do it again?
    @heatherlas

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  20. Congrats on your PR. It is a true testament to pushing through and not giving up! It's awesome that your Mom was able to run with you and support you through those last miles.

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  21. I think you should be really proud of yourself for overcoming all those obstacles and still setting a PR. It was a tough race and you did it!

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  22. I'm a new reader to your blog and am just now reading this (I am running the Richmond Marathon this year). What a tough day, but way to be tougher! Not everything can go as planned but the only thing you can do on race day is run your best race GIVEN THE DAY. It seems like you did just that, and I hope that your best race given the day this weekend aligns with whatever goals you have :)

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