Monday, November 12, 2012

Richmond Marathon: Race Report

Well, that sucked.

Yesterday, I ran the 2012 Richmond Marathon, which was my second marathon in 5 weeks, and my second marathon overall.  It did not go well.  I can come up with a myriad of excuses for why the race went poorly, but honestly, I didn't take the race seriously.  I ran Freedom's Run well, and thought I could just waltz through the Richmond Marathon, which is an "easier" course.  And by waltz, I mean PR by 7 minutes.  In the end, I anti-PR'd by almost 20 minutes.  Apparently I am not super woman, and I learned this the hard way...AGAIN.

This was my most critical mistake:

Richmond 3:45 Pace Team
I should not have made friends with this man.

I thought I could run a 3:45, and therefore went out WAAAAAAY too fast.  By mile 4 I knew I was in trouble, yet I refused to slow down.  I held on until mile 13, and then started to fade badly.  The 3:45 pace group was out of sight by mile 14, and dejected, I started to plod.  And then I started to walk.  I walked/plodded for the rest of the race.  I wasn't wearing my Garmin (it died in my bag and I forgot to bring my charger; just an indication of how things would go that day!) so I have no idea how slowly I was running, but I was so upset with my pace, I would stop and walk out of frustration.  No, this was not a mentally strong race for me.

I also walked because my hips were killing me.  This has been an issue for the latter half of my training, but my left hip was so sore that my left hamstring started to cramp.  Walking eased the pain somewhat. I really need to see a PT about this.

I finished in 4:10:12.  25 minutes slower than my A goal (3:45), 20 minutes slower than my B goal (3:50), 17 minutes slower than my PR (3:53).  I'm mad that I didn't run sub-4:00.  But I am damn proud that I finished.

A bad race is really a blessing in disguise.  Its important that you take the opportunity to learn from a bad race.  So for the rest of this post, I'm going to turn my frown upside-down, and tell you about the highlights (because there were some!) and lessons I learned along the way:

  • Meeting another Freedom's Run marathoner before the race.  She was running the Richmond Half-Marathon, and it was fun to rehash the Freedom's Run event.
  • Santa Claus was out cheering for us around mile 11/12(?), and he invited all of us to run the North Pole Marathon next month.  Hahaha!  I loved it!
  • All the little kids cheering for us along the way.  I tried to high-five as many as I could; I was so thankful that their parents were introducing them to this (crazy) sport at a young age.
  • DJ Research and I planned a handheld swap around the half-way point (I like to carry my own water since thats how I train).  The hand-off went perfectly - a little too perfectly!  DJ Research was so intent on switching out water bottles that he forgot to offer words of encouragement!  He made up for it though...
  • I saw DJ Research and Nugget again around mile 21.  I wasn't expecting to see them until the end of the race, so it was an awesome surprise.  He asked me, "Do you need more water?"  Almost in tears, I said, "I need a hug!!"  I buried my face in his shoulder and said, "I'm having such a bad race!"  "You're doing great!" he encouraged me.  And even though I knew it wasn't true, those words picked me up and helped me to keep going.

The DJ & Nugget were wearing
dinosaur hoodies while spectating.
Did you see them?

  • At mile 23, I saw a sign that said, "You are about to finish a FREAKIN' marathon!"  Even though I  was waaay off my target goal, I knew I was still going to finish this race and have another 26.2 under my belt - and that is still quite an accomplishment.  That sign helped put things in perspective and I yelled to the girl holding the sign, "Thank you! I needed that!"
  • As I rounded that last corner and started the surprisingly long downhill to the finish, I pulled up next to a runner who blurted, "Where is this darn finish line?  This the longest .2 miles of my life!" to which I quipped, "Oh they just keep moving it farther back."  We both had a laugh and I crossed the finish line with a smile, which was a redeeming way to end this race.

Lessons Learned:

  • On starting out too fast:  Don't.  Seriously, don't. (I know this is a cardinal sin in racing, but also one of the most difficult rules to follow).  I ran too fast for the first half of the race, crossing half-way at 1:51:55, and then got my butt handed to me.  And if you do realize you've started to fast, listen to your body and SLOW DOWN.
  • On following a pace group:  I didn't like it.  Granted, I was following a pace group that was much too fast for me, but even if I had been following a pacer more my speed (like the 4:00 pacer), I still don't think I would have liked the experience.  I felt too much pressure to run within the group's perimeter--as arbitrarily determined by myself--so I found myself speeding up if I felt I had fallen behind, or slowing down if I felt I was going too fast.  I didn't feel like I was running my race.  Also, there were too many people trying to run with the pacer, so I felt like we were tripping over each other.  (That said, the pacers were awesome.)
  • On fueling: I took a GU gel every 4 miles, as I did in training.  Normally I'm ok with it, but by mile 20, I was disgusted with the stuff.  I forced it down since I knew I had to.  Next year I'm going to experiment with glycogen depletion training and taking salt tabs.  Also, I think I need to mix my gel intake with other fuel sources so I don't get sick of the same thing.
  • On not meeting your goal:  More experienced marathoners will tell you, just adjust your goal and enjoy the race.  I didn't enjoy the race: I couldn't run hard, and so I didn't let myself run happy.  And that was a problem.  Next time I miss my target goal (cause I know its gonna happen again), I'm gonna make sure I just have a dang good time.

I also learned: THE RICHMOND MARATHON IS NOT A FLAT COURSE.  I had so many people tell me "Richmond is flat and fast - you'll love it!" that when I looked at the elevation profile and saw hills, I thought, "Well, they must be really small hills since everyone keeps telling me that Richmond is flat."  Granted the hills were not large hills, but when you are expecting flat, any hill is an unwelcome surprise.  In the end, its my own darn fault for not being more prepared.

Richmond Marathon 2012 Elevation Chart
These hills were not insignificant.

At the end of the day though, I still ran 26.2 miles and I still finished a freakin marathon.  And at the end of the day, even after a bad race, this kid still makes me feel like a superstar.

Have you ever had a bad race?  What did you learn from it?  How do you recover from a bad race?  

How do you fuel on race day?  

Whats the best sign you've seen during a race?



  1. Sorry the race didn't go as expected but hey, you still completed your 2nd marathon!! I've had issues in the past where races have been a bit humbling to me!

    1. Thanks! Yup, I'm still proud of this accomplishment. Thanks for your encouragement along the way!

  2. This sounds like my Nashville marathon last year. At the end I was like, "Screw it. I might as well have fun sense I'm so bad at running today." So I just started making friends on the course to pass the miserable time. It worked a little. Still didn't feel great about it, but I was smiling at the finish.

    And I'm glad you posted about pacing. I'm trying to decide if I should go with a pacer for my next race. I was trying to decide if I should opt for the slower or faster pacer (5 minutes difference), but I think that makes me want to go with the slower group to start. But then I feel nervous that if I lose it with the slower group, I will be completely demoralized. Whereas if I lose it with the faster group, I figure I have until the slower group catches up to be demoralized. Decisions, decisions.

    1. I would definitely discourage running with the faster pace group. Maybe position yourself midway between the two pace groups, so you're not really following either, but still staying on target? (But I dunno, still learning the pace thing).

  3. Wow, what a great accomplishment! My worst marathon was in Napa when I limped for the last half and finished in 4:45. But like you said, it was still a marathon! I have a feeling you learned from this and will get a massive PR on your next one :)

    1. Yup, can't win 'em all! Definitely learned some important lessons here. On to the next one! :)

  4. I was probably one who said Richmond isn't "too hilly." It definitely has its moments.

    Great lessons learned in this race. Coming off a fairly miserable experience on Saturday, and having fallen short of goals in the past, I realize more and more that it's all about applying those lessons to the next race.

    1. Sorry that your Richmond race wasn't what you hoped either (and thanks for commiserating with me! :) We'll get 'em next time! :)

      And the description "Richmond isn't too hilly" is perfect. Lets future runners know that the hills aren't crazy, but they're definitely there. Thats how I'll describe it from now on.

  5. First off, congrats! Like you said you still finished a "freakin marathon."

    This was my first marathon and I don't know if I would say it went "bad" but it didn't go as planned. I did learn that I need to do some longer runs, ha. By about mile 18 my legs were cramping up!

    For nutrition, I drank two cups per station: 2 powerades or 1 powerade, 1 water. I've used this plan for other endurance events, and it seems to work for me! I didn't feel bad nutrition wise.

    As for the best sign, someone had one that said "Look alive, the morgue is right around the corner!" And she pointed at me, then to the sign...I must not have looked to well at that point..ha!

    Thanks for your report and good luck in your future endeavors!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Congrats on finishing your first marathon as well! Wow, two cups per aid station. Thats a lot of liquid for me. But glad it worked for you!

      That sign is hilarious. I'm surprised she didn't jump on the course and escort me towards the morgue...I was feeling pretty miserable!

  6. I enjoyed reading this race report.

  7. I enjoyed reading this race report.