Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Beast is Conquered!

The Richmond Marathon...Billed as "America's Friendliest" marathon...My very first marathon, which was just last year...A race where I finally knew what running a marathon meant...and failing miserable the first time because of lack of training and being unprepared...I foolishly thought I could conquer anything and 26.2 would be a challenge, but I could do it... even though the furthest I had run before then had only been 13.1... and Richmond last year showed me different. Oh, I finished last a miserable 5:35...of course I walked about a third of the last half. Since then I have completed three other marathons...Shamrock in March for my first under 4 hr marathon, then Frederick in May, still under 4 hrs but barely, then the Marine Corps...just two weeks ago...with a PR of 8 minutes, but...what I still considered a failure, because I didn't meet my goals and felt I hadn't run a race that I am fully capable of running...mostly because of muscle cramps during the later stages of the race. In each of the previous marathons, I was stopped short of my goals because of these painful, unwelcome cramps. Cramps that stopped me in my tracks and took time to stop, stretch, massage and start slowly up again only to cramp again after a few more miles. At MCM...around mile 18...I was so disappointed and tired with the cramping that I swore I would never run a marathon again...I would stick to half marathons where I knew I could do well and improve, but of course crossing the finish line...I knew there was another marathon out there just calling my name and my running buddy Jon reminded me of it...and I answered. So...I kept my training going as if MCM was just a long hard training run.

The Richmond marathon takes place...of the city of Richmond...the capital of Virginia! A city of tall buildings, narrow streets, quaint old houses as well as majestic stately homes. A city with undulating hills beside the mighty James River. The marathon starts off in downtown Richmond going up Broad St and Monument Ave, crossing the James River on the west end of the city by way of the Huguenot Bridge. Then we go down and run along the James River while climbing and descending a couple of hills before crossing the James River again over the long Robert E. Lee Bridge going back into the city. We race west on Main street and then north on Boulevard looping back towards the heart of the city, making twists and turns on the city streets until we race to a down hill finish on Cary St. A mostly spectacular view of the city and the James River in the fall with brightly changing autumn leaves.

Jon and I decide to drive together early Saturday morning, since we still had to pick our race packets up before the race, so I got my stuff together the night before. When the alarm went off at 3:45 I was up, got a quick shower ate breakfast and was just finished getting my stuff together when Jon arrived at 4:30. We drove up in drizzling rain that turned into a downpour when we were only 20-30 miles away...not a welcome sight. I had checked the weather radar before we left and it did show heavy rain over the city of Richmond and nothing behind it and I was sure by the time we reached the city it would be gone. As we neared the city, the rain did stop and we got parked near the Omni where the packet pickup was...also near the finish line. We got our packet and went back to the car to put our bib and chip on and final preparations for the race.

We finally headed to the starting line, in the cold and wind, which was about half a mile away. I made my final pit stop in the port-a-lets near the start line...I only made two bathroom breaks instead of the usual 5 or while we were in the Omni and this one...of course I had forgotten my morning cup of that might be the reason. We get into the coral that Jon had registered for and waited for the starting gun.

My race plan was to take this marathon slow and easy since we had just run the MCM two weeks prior. This was just to be a fun race! We started off slow enough...the gun goes off...well, where we were near the middle we didn't hear anything...just the people in front of us started walking towards the start line. About three minutes later we finally get to the start line and start jogging...I start my watch and we are off. Up Broad St we go and I mean up, since in is a slight incline for the next four miles. By the first mile marker I punch my lap button and notice that it is almost 8:30...nice easy pace and still very crowded...but I feel warmed up and ready to cruise. Jon had decided to run even about a 9 minute mile pace and was by now a ways back. I gradually start increasing my pace until mile marker 2 shows I'm at a little over 16 minutes, which feels really the back of my mind I keep telling myself...slow and easy. We make a turn south to Boulevard and then go west again on Monument. Mile 3 comes in at a little under 24 min which tells me that I'm right around a nice 8 mpm pace and it feels really good...and decide to keep this pace...but later looking at my lap times, I noticed that my pace was actually around the 7:45 or better pace. After the 6 mile mark, I'm looking for the timing mats...usually at the 10K mark...but I don't see any. Around mile 7 we start going over the bridge that takes us over the James River to the other side of the city. The roads are still wet from the morning rains and some parts of the bridge are really slippery. About the time I'm saying to myself to be really careful of my stride, I hear this thudding sound behind me. Looking back, I see a runner that has slipped and came tumbling down on the roadway...I see he is getting backup and running again but I'm sure he would be really sore for the rest of the race. Mile 10 brings us to one of the hills on this side of the course and I am still cruising and then mile 11 brings another hill, back down a bit and then it seemed like a steady climb from 12-15. By the halfway point the clock at the timing mats said 1:44 something. I'm still feeling really good and the first visions of a 3:30-3:35 finishing mark fills my head...but I'm not all that optimistic because I know that I will be cramping around mile I try to relax and just enjoy the run. We reach the long Lee bridge taking us back to the city and the wind is pretty strong...but I don't care...because last year this time I was cramping and hobbling/walking across this bridge...and now I'm cruising. We enter the city again and mile 17-18 takes us west on Main St back to Boulevard and north for the next three miles...the most boring part of the race going north out of the main part of the city...except for the pockets of people cheering you on. Let me tell you the people were great. Here it is in the low 40's with probably a 12-15 mph cold wind and they are out there on all parts of the course cheering you on...some offering their own water, bananas, cookies, donuts...they were amazing! Just before mile 20 there is a bridge that goes over I95/64 expressway and it seems quite steep...but I just give it even effort and I'm up and over with the 20 mile timing mat in view in the distance. The clock at the timing mat reads 2:38 and change as I go across. 20 miles down and my legs are still feeling sign of muscle twinges or cramps...I am amazed...but I caution myself that there is still the last 10K to go and anything can happen. All along I have been steadily passing runners...just one here and one there. As soon as one is passed, I set my sights on the next and continue on. At this point I notice that a young woman in pink, that I passed just before the Lee bridge, is still with me but staying a few paces behind. After the 20 mile mark we pass this older least older than I...but this guy apparently doesn't like to be passed and he passes us back at the next water stop when I slow a bit to get a cup and drink. We do this for the next four miles and the girl gets dropped during this time. By mile 24...2.2 miles to go...I know I have a nice PR and BQ in the cramps and I've been actually picking up speed since the 20 mile mark...mostly because of this old man that I've been playing leap frog with and we have been passing a whole bunch of people. I think to myself that I could actually just walk the rest of the way and still make 3:35 and it would be a shame if one of my wicked cramps came on and stopped me in my I slowed a bit. We finally make the final turn onto Cary St with about a third of a mile to go. The street has a steep downhill with it leveling off near the finish. Each step down hill jolts my quads and I thought they were sure to go into spasms...I tried to slow a bit to ease my foot falls and when I reached the flat, I take off. I was pumping my arms up and down to get the crowd to yell louder as we entered the crowd lined finishing chute and they responded. I cross the finish line with the time showing 3:26 and change, with a very big grin on my face...I look down at my watch and it says 3:23 something. Oh Happy Days!

I had conquered the beast...My past demon had turned into a Boston Qualifier! Not a..."Just making it" BQ, but I crushed it by 12 minutes. How ironic that I missed my BQ at MCM by 12 minutes, yet 13 days later I make BQ by 12 minutes, which means a 24 minute PR from MCM.

My splits:
Mile 1 in: 8:28
Mile 2 in: 7:42
Mile 3 in: 7:43
Mile 4 in: 7:35
Mile 5 in: 7:42
Mile 6 in: 7:39
Mile 7 in: 7:24
Mile 8 in: 7:23
Mile 9 in: 7:34
Mile 10 in: 7:40
Mile 11 in: 7:58
Mile 12 in: 7:50
Mile 13 in: 7:36
Half in: 1:41:10 Timing mat total time: 1:44:20
Mile 14 in: 7:24
Mile 15 in: 7:31
Mile 16 in: 7:54
Mile 17 in: 7:56
Mile 18 in: 8:05
Mile 19 in: 7:59
Mile 20 in: 7:56 Timing mat total time: 2:38:14
Mile 21 in: 7:51
Mile 22 in: 7:45
Mile 23 in: 7:36
Mile 24 in: 7:41
Mile 25 in: 8:01
Mile 26 in: 8:00
Mile 0.2 in: 1:28
The finish is in: 3:23:26...First half in: 1:41:10...Second half in: 1:42:16 Almost even halfs! A race where everything seemed to come together nicely...and in my mind...I know I can do better.

Race results:

There were 249 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 3682 total finishers.

Overall finish place was 335 of 3682

Age group finish place was 18 of 249

Time: 3:23:26 for an overall pace of 7:46 per mile

What's my next marathon goal? Well, I know I can increase my pace to 7:30...even a 7:15 could be possible. Am I dreaming? Dreams are made from planning, training and effort.

Boston, Here I Come!

BTW...Here is a photo I found that the Richmond Times got of me on the final turn to Cary St before the finish...their caption says I'm hamming it up but actually I was acknowledging the crowd and trying to get them cheering louder.


Nat said...


Big fat Cheer!!!!!!!!!!!

Charlie I am so happy for you! For all your hard training you have been due a great race. What a fantastic time. Congrats on the BQ. I knew you had it in you.

I ran into an old friend at my marathon who had also done MCM but he ended up dropping out a little after half way on Sat from achilles problems. When he told me that I thought of you and was worried. So I am relieved your story is a happy one!
No Boston this year-- maybe 09--for me but I'll be there eventually-- just gotta keep up my Bqing ;)

cymrusteve said...

Oh my! What a fantastic race! I'm really pleased for you and so glad your persistence has finally paid off. Congratulations Charlie!

Gotta love your attitude too. You just run a 24 minute PR and right away announce you know you can faster - tremendous!

Good luck with your planning and training for Boston, but for now, enjoy the PR!!


David H. said...

Great race report. Congrats to you! Keep up the great work. As a first-time marathoner yesterday, your story is truly inspiring!

Charlie said...

Hey Ms Natalie!

Thanks...I'm still floating on a cloud!

You put up a great time on your Chickamauga Marathon and a third BQ and 1st in AG...I peaked! Congratulations and a Great Job, I don't think BQing is a problem for you. I wasn't planning to go to Boston until start saving! ;o)


Charlie said...

Hey Steve,

Yeah...I love setting goals...that's what keeps me going and makes running so exciting for me. At the finish, I still felt fresh. With the Furman plan I was using 7:20 as my marathon pace, so that's why I'm sure I can do 7:30 or even 7:15 pace.

Thanks again Steve...and be seeing you at the local races.

Charlie said...

Hi David,

Thank you! I read your race report and sounds like you did really great for your first marathon. Congratulations on a great finish and time.

Thanks for stopping by,

cymrusteve said...

Great photo! I was just about to send you a link actually. I spotted you on the Richmond Times-Dispatch slideshow about halfway through:

What's it like to be famous eh? :)


Charlie said...

Steve...Yeah! Pretty neat photo...usually I look so out of it, eyes closed or grimacing...I must be smelling the pizza at the finish...actually I knew I had the BQ in the bag and I couldn't keep the smile off my face and was trying to pump up the crowd.

I think the first photo in that series has you just left of center...Running with the Kenyans!


Nat said...

He he, that lady in the background looks like the is sneaking up on you. I know the tag line is referring to you but I actually think she looks much goofier.