As written and run by Chas Willimon, and originally posted on his blog.
Those that know me are aware that I keep a pretty regular two-month training cycle between big races. I nearly doubled that training period for Ridge-To-Bridge, but having already signed up for Anthem Marathon in Richmond–a brief fourteen days after R2B, I was not about to let a perfectly good registration go to waste. So this race was an experiment in quick recovery/quick preparation, and seeing what effect two close marathons might have on my body. I’ve been racing and writing a lot lately, so I will keep the recap brief and then go on to what worked and what didn’t.
It was a beautiful Autumn day in Richmond. The starting race temperature hovered around 40 degrees, and the leaves were in peak color change. My two-week recovery/taper had me feeling good and fit, but not necessarily fit enough to shoot for another sub-3:05 or sub-3:10. However, when I saw fellow DARTer Brian Helfrich at the start and he affirmed his goal of 3:05, I figured I might as well try and hang with that pace and see what happens. I lost Brian halfway through the first mile, but I latched on to the official 3:05 pacer. Miles 2-6 were positively beautiful. A long stretch on Monument Avenue surely was the backdrop of many of the event’s promotional photographs. Shortly after the 10k timing mat, I had to drop out of the 3:05 pace group to use the restroom.
A sustained downhill allowed me to make up some lost time and bank a couple more quick splits. We crossed the James River on the traffic-free Huguenot Memorial Bridge and looped around onto Riverside Drive. Here lay the setting for the rest of the promo photos. Riverside was serenely shaded by trees and detached from the urban backdrop of Richmond. I made conversation with a couple other runners: Butch, a teen running his first marathon; and Scott, a wiry Jesus look-alike running his seventy-sixth marathon. On a residential uphill leading away from the banks of the river, Scott fell behind and Butch pulled away. It would not be the last I would see of either of them.
I crossed the timing mat at the 13.1 mark on pace for a 3:07 finish, but I knew that the second half of the course was bound to be more challenging. I figured 3:10 was possible, but I wasn’t going to kill myself to reach for it. At mile marker 15, I really started to feel the effects of having run a hard marathon two weeks before. It was as if all of the post-race soreness from R2B suddenly awakened. To exacerbate the situation, I was feeling as if my fuel stores were running low at a very early and inopportune point in the race. More on that later.
After mile marker 16, the course brought us back to the North side of the James River via the Lee Bridge. As I had been told to expect, the entire length of the bridge was a gentle climb that was fully exposed to the wind. It was not the worst hill or bridge I had run, but I certainly wanted to be across it. I gained the North side of the river, made another necessary pit stop, passed the ever-freindly Scott again, and tried to split some more miles in the mid-low 7 minute pace. 3:10 was looking unlikely. Does anybody have 3:15?
Miles 18-22 were just plain not fun. The day was heating up quickly, and Broad Street was not nearly as scenic as some of the more photogenic stretches of the course. In fact, it was reminiscent of the second half of Thunder Road, when you’re just ready to be done. Butch was having harder day than me. He was seated on the curb at mile marker 20, shaking his head in exasperation. At mile marker 22, I asked myself, “What the hell are you doing? Aren’t you supposed to be having fun?” So, I walked a hundred yards and caught my breath.
I picked up my running pace again just in time to jump into the 3:15 pace group. It was easier to run in a group, so I figured I would hang on to these folks for a while. The next couple of miles went by quickly but not easily. I allowed myself another short walk break at mile marker 24 and then resolved to run the remainder of the flat/downhill end of the course. As I navigated the last few turns through downtown Richmond, I tried to kick into a hard pace for the last half mile. Bad idea. I immediately felt my chest shut everything down, so I settled back into a jog and waited for the finish line to approach. The last 0.2 miles of South Fifth Street lead straight downhill to the river, and I found my kick in time to muster a sprint for the finish. I threw my arms out to the side and screamed, doing my best Mo Farrah impression. I can’t wait to see how that photo comes out! Final time: 3:15:50. Hey, I’ll take it!
7:11, 7:07, 7:04, 6:53, 7:04, 7:03, 7:50 (potty break #1), 6:49, 7:09, 6:55, 7:04, 7:19, 7:10
First half: 1:33:29
7:11, 7:10, 7:13, 7:31, 8:58 (potty break #2), 7:30, 7:27, 7:49, 7:54, 8:50 (walk break #1), 7:17, 8:40 (walk break #2), 8:01, 0.2 mile in 1:28 (6:25 pace)
Second half: 1:42:21
Things that worked:
Socks: Feetures Elite. Not. One. Single. Blister. Period.
Compression: Zensah calf sleeves and Nathan Reflective Arm Sleeves. The Nathans fit better than any arm sleeve I worn so far, they have grippy bands on the upper cuff to hold them in place, and one of them has a little gel-sized pocket. Nice.
Gels: I went back to GU for this marathon. I still prefer the taste of Clif, but GU tends to work just as well for me. Also, even though GU is a bit thick for my liking, I find that if I hold the gel packet in my warm hand for a minute or two before shooting it, the gel softens up to a nice, thin consistency.
Pace Teams: I don’t do a lot of big city marathons, so I don’t often have the luxury of latching on to official pacers. I hung around a few pacers for a couple of times during this race. The pace team leaders at Richmond were spot-on accurate with their splits and very supportive to their followers, especially in the late stages of the race.
Walk-breaks: All in all, I did not lose a whole bunch of time to my walk breaks. I walked quickly, maintaining a 15-minute pace or better, and I saved a lot of energy in the process. On my second walk break, I actually passed a couple of people. Never underestimated the benefits of walking!
“Gangam Style:” I heard this song THREE TIMES during the race, and it pumped me up each time. Hooray for Korean hip hop!
Things that did not work:
Shoes: New Balance MRC 1600. Don’t get me wrong. I love these shoes, and they’re a great, go-fast racing flat…for a Half. During the last 10 or so miles of the marathon, I found myself wishing for a little more underfoot protection. I ought to have stuck with the Brooks Green Silences that carried me through R2B.
Pre-race Nutrition: As with most races, I have my final three days before go-time scheduled out meal-by-meal, and almost calorie-by-calorie. However, while hastily packing my gear into the car before going to work on Friday morning (from whence I was headed straight to Richmond), I accidentally left my lunch bag at home, and it contained many of my snacks and such that would continue my scheduled carbo-loading in the 4.5 hour drive North. Therefore, I had to substitute my pre-ordained feeding plans with pretzels, bagels, and other high-carb treats I could get from gas stations and convenience stores along the way. I had no reliable way to monitor my caloric intake or carbohydrate ratio. I don’t know if I overfed, underfed, or just ate the wrong stuff, but I did not go into the race feeling effectively fueled. A couple of necessary potty breaks during the race also were indicators of a less-than-optimal nutritional plan, and they probably cost me a couple of minutes altogether. Lesson learned: As Treebeard would say, “Don’t be hasty!”