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November 13, 2012 / fionarwbl

Richmond Race Recap: I Sucked

If you enjoy reading about epic race failures (and I’m sure that there are some of you out there), then grab yourself a cup of tea and settle in. This is the tale of a race disaster, which, if I’m being honest, I’m still reeling from today.

We all know the story of the NYC marathon cancellation. Was I ready for NYC? Now, I’m not so sure, but I felt ready. My last long run was pretty decent, my tempo runs were feeling good, and my head was getting into place. I was visualizing success. I was excited. So I jumped on the #TeamRichmond wagon and signed up. I heard it was a great course (it was!), and I didn’t worry too much about the consequences of last minute decisions. I just figured that because in my personal life I’m a pro at rolling with it and adjusting to changes, I figured in my running life I would be as well. This is not the case. (Learning #1).

The drive down to Richmond was as fun as 9hrs in the car can be – 5 girls (Jess, Ashley, Christy, Laura), lots of running talk and gossip, and a general sense of unpreparedness and incomprehension that we were running a marathon the next day. Instead, we snacked on peanut butter filled pretzels, pop chips, drank tons of water, and got stuck in traffic. We spent 90 minutes stuck in DC traffic looking longingly at the HOV lane which we were never getting near, despite being at maximum occupancy, and finally made it to Richmond at about 8.00pm. We headed to the expo, which was surprisingly busy for the late hour. Having been at one of the biggest race expos in the US last week, none of us was really in the mood for shopping (apart from Ashley and Laura who seemed to buy out the entire headband selection), and we headed over to Katherine’s for a delicious pasta / pizza dinner. It was awesome to meet her and she was so super sweet and gave lots of great tips about the course. Then we headed over to Katie’s house where her parents had set us up in the basement for an awesome runner girl slumber party. Bib pinning, random stressing, and then bedtime around 11pm. Rock n roll.

 The start was at 8am, so we woke at 6am. Normally before a big race I eat some almond milk oatmeal with peanut butter and banana. Instead, I had a bagel with peanut butter, and a banana. (You can tell where this is going, right?). Katie drove us over to the start line, and we checked our bags and lined up in the corrals. We literally arrived 10 minutes before, which was kind of fun. Just time for a quick photo stop and we were off!

#teamrichmond 4eva

I had a vague plan – 9 min/miles for the first 3 miles, and then hover around 8:50-8:45 until mile 16, go 8:30s from mile 16-20, and then hell to high water from 20 until the end. I stuck with Ashley, Katie, and Chrissy for the first couple of miles, and then pushed on ahead alone after mile 3. I was a little nervous about being on my own for the whole race, but figured I had run NYC alone last year, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Ashley and I both had a couple of creaky first miles, where things felt harder than they should have, but we put it down to race adrenaline, and put it out of our minds. After mile 3 I settled down and found a steady 8:45 pace. The course was pretty going through residential areas with gorgeous tree lined streets and colonial style homes. We were wearing our NYC bibs on our backs, and everyone was so warm and welcoming and had lots of NYC marathon stories to tell. It was definitely a lot of fun and a great way to meet people.

At about mile 8 my 3:45 pace band fell off while running over a pretty bridge overlooking fall foliage. I just shrugged and figured I was still going with the flow. The course was becoming even more beautiful as we ran along some rolling hills and along the river. However, at around mile 11 my stomach started to feel rough and I needed, to put it frankly, go to the bathroom. I kept my eyes out of portapotties, and thankfully they appeared at the halfway mark, because I was getting worried, and it was affecting my pace. I had hit the 13.1 marker at 1:56, which was a little behind my 3:50 goal, but since I was hoping to negative split, I was okay. Now, I had a bathroom break which cost me at least 4 minutes, and I could feel the determination drain from me. I had never had to stop in a race before, and only once during a run. This was bad, bad news for me. Even though I went back to running 8:45s, instead of feeling easy and strong, they felt heavy and hard. And heavy and hard isn’t what you want your legs to feel like at mile 14.

Miles 13-15 were about me trying to get back into the race, but mentally, I felt so checked out. Instead of feeling race adrenaline, I felt the tedium and frustration of long runs. I tried to take in the surroundings and get excited by the crowd. I desperately tried to “stay in the mile I was in”, but the overwhelmingness of having another 12 miles to go seemed huge. I stopped to put on some music at around mile 15.5 which is just before the Lee Bridge. The Lee Bridge is long, but not a huge gradient, and nothing like the Queensboro Bridge. I wasn’t afraid of it, but I could feel it draining the energy, and therefore my confidence, out of me. I was passed by the 4:00 pacer group on the bridge, which knocked the wind out of my sails. On the bridge I was holding a steady 9ish pace, but I guess my bathroom break had cost me more time than I thought, and I could feel my energy drain out of me.

At around mile 16, my stomach came back to haunt me, and I had another bathroom break at mile 18. At this point though, I didn’t care. The only thing keeping me on the course was the fact that I didn’t know Richmond, so I couldn’t just stop. I figured the fastest way to be done was to just get through the damn thing. Between mile 18 and mile 24 I walked a lot. I just had no fight let in me. While my legs were tired, I didn’t have crazy tempo cardio effort going. My stomach was pretty grumpy and every time I went to run it would be incredibly uncomfortable and kind of take over my whole body demanding that I stop.

Trying not to fall over, hence the crazy backwards lean

After mile 21 I knew it was all downhill, so I tried to coast the downhills and keep running as much as possible, but it was really a death march to the end. The last half mile is a steep downhill, which is good for getting the runners to do a sprint to the end, but serious hell on your quads. I ran down that hill and over the finish line in a miserable, flat funk. Although Dori takes a damn fine photo that makes me look otherwise.

I had a ton of stuff waiting for me back in NYC on Sunday, so instead of hanging out with #teamrichmond I had speed walk through the crowds, grab my bag, crab walk to the station, showerpill myself clean, and sit on a megabus for 9hrs to get myself home. My knees loved me afterwards.

This race was a disaster. There is no nice way to put it. I did learn a lot about myself during the race, and there are plenty of mitigating factors that I can blame for running a slower marathon than my first. But there is no two ways about it; I underperformed and I didn’t fight enough. I can work harder, and prepare myself better, and fight more for my next race.



Leave a Comment
  1. David H. / Nov 13 2012 3:34 pm

    Having had several bad races, including Saturday at Richmond, I can say there’s no reason to dwell on it. Things happen that are beyond our control. Be proud of finishing – it’s an accomplishment like no other no matter what happened out there.

  2. Dori / Nov 13 2012 3:35 pm

    I was so worried about you because I was signed up for your splits and I knew something went wrong. Now I know how everyone felt about me last year during NYCM. But I knew you’d finish and I am so happy I got to see you cross the finish line at your second marathon! I can’t imagine running so many miles in that much discomfort – you should be proud of yourself. And you still finished faster than i could! I know it wasn’t the race you wanted or trained for, but you learned a lot and there will be other marathons!

    • fionarwbl / Nov 13 2012 3:56 pm

      Thank you so much. I was mostly keeping running because (a) I knew people were tracking my splits and (b) I figured it was the fastest way to get out of there. If it had been in NYC, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have just walked off the course and taken the subway home… There are other marathons, and I know you could run a 4:15 or better marathon if you wanted to – my half marathon time last year was 1:56…

  3. Stephanie / Nov 13 2012 6:33 pm

    This is the race where you learned what you need to know to compete at your best. Now you know you can push through the discomfort and still throw down 26.2. Next time, when things get hard, you can remember this race and know things have been much harder and you still made it through. I believe in you.

    • fionarwbl / Nov 13 2012 6:42 pm

      thanks girl! I definitely learned a lot during this race, and I’ve got a lot of other marathons to run in my future, so I’ll just chalk this one up to the books. Thanks for the support!

  4. thethinksicanthink / Nov 13 2012 8:14 pm

    A marathon is a lot of ask of your body and a lot has to go right to get it right – dont be so hard on yourself! It was a crazy few weeks for sure. Finishing a marathon is always impressive.

    • fionarwbl / Nov 13 2012 8:15 pm

      Thanks girl! I think I might have to take a few tips from you though – maybe leave the watch behind?

  5. runshorts / Nov 14 2012 3:03 am

    Finishing on a tough day is so much harder than finishing fast on a great day – congrats on toughing it out to the end!


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