For the past few years I’ve been flirting with the idea of running an open marathon, but always choosing against it. I was unwilling to abandon triathlon training for an extended time, and I was not ready to commit to a running race that would require an extensive amount of recovery time afterwards.
This fall was finally the time to try, so after my abbreviated 70.3 campaign in the summer, I changed my focus and got back to my running roots.
Thankfully, my training leading up to the race went very well. I was cautious to put in too many miles in the lead up, since even on my “big” weeks of triathlon training, I would only record 50-55 miles. In addition, in 2013, my biggest running weeks had been only in the low to mid 40’s, so executing a high mileage approach would surely lead to some sort of overuse injury. So I ended up with 10 weeks over 50 mi/week, with 6 of those over 60 mi/week and a high week of 71 mi. I supplemented with three swims and two rides throughout the cycle, only tapering off the swimming and cycling in the last 3 weeks.
In case in anyone is interested, I’ll post a couple of my key workouts leading up to the race:
9/21 17 mi long run with mi 7-12 @ 6:15/mi, last 5 miles @ 5:27/mi
9/26 8x (2/3 mi @ 3:20, 2/3 mi @ 3:55)
10/6 Half Marathon in 1:11:26
10/19 10.5 mi @ 6:20/mi, 10.5 mi @ 5:30/mi
10/27 16 mi @ 5:30/mi
I supplemented those workouts with a variety of shorter, faster tempo runs, and 1000’s, 800‘s, and 400‘s on the track.
I was hoping if all went well on race day, I would be able to run around 2:25.
Running the Richmond Marathon was especially exciting for me after growing up in Richmond and closely following the race throughout the years. The plan was to be smart and cautious, especially the first 5k, and then find a rhythm in the low to mid 5:30’s and stick it for as long as I could.
Starting out, I was very fortunate to find a group of two guys from the DC area who were aiming to run in the low 2:20’s. With the front pack charging off the front, we settled into mid 5:30’s off the bat and worked together well. Oddly, my biggest challenge in the race came not at mile 22 or 23, but at mile 7.
For some unknown reason, I have had the absolute worst luck in getting side sticthes in races recently. My effort was totally within myself, I was controlled, relaxed, and not under any duress at all. And sure enough, here comes a cramp. So across the Huguenot Bridge I tried stretching, bending, breathing, whatever I could do to help it go away, but with no avail. So after coming down the exit ramp, I decided to stop and address the issue. Stopping seemed to help it a bit, so I carried on, albeit 20 seconds behind my racing friends. But it wasn’t done. It started coming back, and during the stretch on Riverside Drive I was in such a bad place. Here I was, 18 miles from the finish of a race I had been training for exclusively for 12 weeks, and I was practically just limping along with this debilitating anchor of a cramp. So as it started getting worse, I stopped yet again, tried bending downwards this time instead of stretching, and miraculously, that seemed to help quite a bit. I lost another 20 seconds to the group I was with, and at this point I could only see them on long stretches of road, but at least the cramp had subsided, and I was able to focus on my own pace. Thoughts of at least finishing the race returned, and after passing mile 10 in 56:50, thoughts of finishing the race well had returned as well.
Now why I keep getting side cramps in races (and none whatsoever in training runs, even race pace runs in flats drinking and eating gels) is incredibly frustrating and something I will spend some time in the off season investigating. To happen once is an annoyance, but for it to consistently happen (Colonial Half, Crawling Crab, Richmond Marathon), is worrisome, and I need to think about what might be happening in races to cause that pattern. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them!
I would say the best part of my race came from mile 11-15. I got into a great rhythm and started reeling off miles in the high 5:20’s. One of the guys I was running with had maintained pace, and he was well up the road, but the other guy was coming back to me about 20 sec every mile. So I spent the majority of my time on Forest Hill Ave focused on catching up with him, and that was very motivating, especially since there were no other runners around. I caught him just before mile 13, and then was able to keep that pace to the Lee Bridge. Once across the bridge, the race started catching up with me, and the loneliness of setting pace alone took its toll. My pace slowed to high 5:30’s-low 5:40’s, and I was able to keep it there until mile 24 where I tried to kick it in, and started running in the low 5:30’s again. Ended up finishing the race in 2:27:23, 6th place overall.
There’s no question that the final 10k of a marathon is a tough, tough time. I’m proud I was able to hold it together and finish strong. In January of 2013, I wrote down that I wanted to finish in the top 10 and run under 2:27:00. With the exception of that pesky preposition “under,” I was right there!
Thanks go out to everyone on Team Otstot– Tori, Cassidy, Bentley, my parents, the Snapple Triathlon Team, 3Sports, Mizuno, Rudy Project, Sweatvac, and Colonial Sports.