Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Richmond Marathon Just Another Race or My White Whale?

Not too long ago, July 12th was nothing more than the day after my birthday and meant nursing the biggest hangover of the year and waking up (or coming to) on someone's couch, floor or front lawn. But, since 2003, the significance of July 12th has grown.

You see, in 2003, I decided I wanted to run the Richmond Marathon. At this point, Rachel and I had competed in countless 10ks and 5ks and we had completed 2 half marathons. I wanted to see if I have the metle for completing a full marathon. The year we moved back to Virginia seemed to be the best opportunity, so I signed up.

I have an unfortunate storied past with this race. My training program is 16 weeks long. It's called Less is More and it allows me to run 3 days a week with optional cross training and one full day spent on speed work. My goal from the beginning was to complete the race in less than 4 hours.

Here's a brief summary of my success:
2003 - For 14 weeks, I got up at 4:00 in the morning on Tuesdays to hit the track. Track running in the dark is scary. Track running in the dark on southside is scarrier. For 14 Thursdays, up again at 4:00 and laying down tempo runs from 4 miles up to 10. On Saturdays, up at 4 again and in the car to drive to Glen Allen for long runs. Running the roads there upon sunrise were some of my favorite mornings.

You'll notice I only ran 14 Tuesdays, 14 Thursdays and 14 Saturdays. That's because on Saturday number 14, I broke an ankle. I was across the street from the hospital, but couldn't get there on foot. I had to call in the calvary to pick me up and drive me a block. Race off!!

2004 - It was time again to think about running. In the winter of 2003/spring of 2004, I didn't spend much time planning for the marathon. In fact, my weight jumped up pretty high in that time. So, by July 12, 2004, on my first day on the road, I realized I was far too fat and out of shape and did not think I'd be ready in November. So, I quit.

2005 - This was the year. By July 12, I was slim, running a ton of miles per week and was ready to step it up. Training went well. I hit a few bumps on the way, like a serious thunderstorm during a 17 mile run with lightning and 30 mph winds. But that didn't stop me.

What did stop me? Work. Two days before the race, I was at a professional conference. We pulled an all nighter. I got home on Friday and had a few hours of sleep that night. I was able to start the race and at 13.1, I was on pace for a 4 hour marathon. But, it went down hill fast. Between 13.1 and 14, the exhaustion and dehydration set in and the intestinal troubles began. I finished the race, which I am proud of, in 4:45 But the elusive 4 hours began to haunt me.

2006 - I decided I wanted to give a 4 hour race another try. I signed up for Richmond and had a lot of fun training. Three weeks before the race, I started having knee problems. On a whim, I decided to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in DC. It was 2 weeks before Richmond. I was lucky enough to find a number from a woman who couldn't run. If you want to look up my stats, her name was Alana Lee. She is from California and was using the MCM to qualify for Boston. But, because of my knee and my failure to plan well for the heat, Alana didn't come close. 5hrs 15 min.

Then Richmond. The knee felt good and I had a good support team working on my behalf. Rachel met me every 7 miles with Morgan and gave me a water bottle, a power gel and a kiss. At mile 19, I began to wear down. The knee was bad. People I started well in front of were passing me. I wanted to quit. Rachel appeared out of no where and didn't let me walk off the course. I limped along to the finish with Rachel and friends Kim and Ed running with me and cheering me on. I finished. 5 hrs 20 minutes

I crossed the line and swore off marathons forever.

2007 - Still sticking to no marathons. Focused on running for no reason.

2008 - Challenge. Rachel wanted to run the Marathon. She wanted us to train and run it together. After a year off, I guess I forgot about how hard it was and eagerly said yes. I also signed up for the Marine Corps again. July 12th came along and, for once, I was way ahead of the game. I was already up to 13 miles on my long run. I took a different approach to the schedule this time. Instead of track runs, I did more neighborhood runs. I didn't focus on the 4 hour finish. I just wanted to run it with my wife and have something to do together throughout the summer.

This is the race I never made it to. In late September, I had a very unusual 15 mile run. I found it hard to breathe and thought the humidity was really bothering me. 5 days later, I had a heart attack, the reason for starting this blog in the first place.

Well, it's July 12th again. Last night, I celebrated my 38th birthday at the Festival of Fish at our neighbors house. Today starts training.

I'm a bit behind this year. Carrying more weight than I want to and lacking a solid 10 mile run in the past 2 months. Also, I've had a lot of breathing challenges in the heat. Still, I'm moving forward. My first long run for this training was 8.5 miles. It was slower than normal. Another problem I've had for about a month, but I did it. Hopefully, I'll be up to 10 miles by July 25th. That will keep me on pace with the training program.

No 4 hour race this year, however. My goal is to finish and to give up marathons entirely. Had I not missed last year's, I'd probably not be doing it this year. The accomplishment of running a marathon is something I've already checked off of life's list. This year is more about finishing what I was unable to finish last year.

I want to metion here our neighbor and friend Rich who has been getting back into running for a few years now. He has been hitting the streets in the early morning and banging out a few miles with our other neighbor and friend Jeffry. Rich volunteered at a water station during the Richmond Marathon a few years ago but was never interested in participating. This year, he changed his mind and began training with SportsBackers. On July 12th, Rich ran 9 miles with the training group which he says is his longest ever run. Way to go Rich.