My best laid plans seemingly, were not laid well enough. I went into the Richmond Marathon with what I thought were solidly prepared legs. Those "solidly prepared legs" yielded a time not even worth mentioning. I'll give a story of the unraveling below....
After some trouble finding parking (according to the website, there was plenty of it), bag was checked, bowels were taken care of, and I was standing at the start line 7 minutes before the start with nearly perfect weather for running in the low 40s.
The gun went off, and we were off. I had taken a spot right at the front, and was actually ahead of the lead group of elite women (6-7 in a tight pack with a bicycle leading them). I would eventually yield to them, knowing they were running just a hair faster and had no intention of getting mixed up with that. My plan early was simple, stay on 6:20 and ignore what everyone else was doing.
On my final two runs before the race, I had a problem with cramping in my mid section, cramping I haven't had all year. But, it picked a hell of a time to come back. Right from the start it was bothering me, but I ignored it and within 7 miles it went away.
I was pleased with my early splits...
Mile 1: 6:23
Mile 2: 6:25
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:16
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:29
The course was somewhat hilly, and a couple of times I got "locked in" trying to chase people ahead of me but made sure to stay largely in control. I was taking water from each stop and even through mile 6 had consumed some of the honey stinger chews I carry with me. It took some coaxing on my part to keep my stomach from rejecting them.
Mile 8 took us over a bridge to the part of the course that was not in the city itself. It was lonely out there but I didn't mind. I still decent to this point.
Mile 7: 6:20
Mile 8: 6:14
Mile 9: 6:30
Mile 10: 6:20
Mile 11: 6:29
I kept going, starting to notice that my body was overall very displeased with me. I never felt right from the get go but figured if I just kept going with it, I would be fine. After all, I was sticking to the plan.
I was trading places with various people as some dropped back, others went ahead, while I stayed as steady as I could. I was hoping, just hoping my body would cooperate with me if I just kept going.
Mile 12: 6:36
Mile 13: 6:34
I came through the 13.1 mark at almost exactly 2:48 pace. It was not a PR, but at that moment, despite slowing kept telling myself it was fine. I'd take a sub-2:50, I just wanted something to go right for once.
The number of people passing me began to increase as we headed for another bridge to return to the city itself.
Mile 14: 6:42
Mile 15: 6:49
Mile 16: 7:00
And then "it" happened. It was like deja vu to the NCR Trail Marathon last year all over again. Somehow, somewhere a switch in my body flipped, and I couldn't run marathon pace anymore, and could barely run easy pace in the aftermath.
I won't report the rest of my miles, but after 18 it was just a march of despair to the finish line. I'm so sick of dropping out of marathons that I forced myself to finish, regardless of how long it took. It certainly took a freaking long time... 3:19. You can do the math for what kind of positive split it takes to be at 2:48 at the half.
So here I am at the end of another marathon with more questions and fewer answers. I thought I did everything right, perhaps could have run more marathon paced miles, maybe a few more miles overall, but more importantly, was not over trained. I knew that's why I failed in 2011, and even if it wasn't hot in Boston, why I may have failed in spring 2012.
I can't point to any specific cause, but the best words of wisdom I heard all weekend were that even if you do everything right, things may still not come together on race day.
As for the future, there will be no "take 2" fall marathon. I'm taking a week off to clear the slate and will focus on shorter stuff for the rest of the year including:
My hometown 4 mile turkey trot
USATF cross country club nationals; 10K in Kentucky with a fast FRR crew
Celtic Solstice 5 Miler
I am not going to race a marathon this spring. I've trained for one every spring and fall since 2008 and have had it. I can really only take so much stuff going bad!! I'm planning on focusing my running at distances of 13.1 miles and under for the spring. I've got a 10 mile PR that I think I can crush. I also really, really like lactic threshold paced running so it's about time I do what I really want to do.
On the bike front, I'm going to start riding again. In fact, half marathon and under training is probably more conducive to bike riding anyway, easier to get in miles for both disciplines. I will still pace the Kentucky Derby Marathon for 3:10 in April. A small handful of easy 20 milers should have me more than prepared for that one.
I plan on revisiting the marathon in Fall of next year.
Outside of my horrible running experience, I would highly recommend the Richmond Marathon to anyone! Great well put on race in a pretty cool city.