I’m not exactly sure why or when, but sometime over the summer I decided to register for the Richmond Half Marathon on November 11.
It’s a convenient local-ish race and one I have quite a positive history with. While I’ve never run the half marathon distance, I’ve run the Richmond Marathon a total of three times. It was the site of my very first marathon (in 2009) and the third time I ran it (in 2014), I achieved a pretty big PR. Because of that, Richmond has always held a special place in my heart. Richmond is also known as “America’s friendliest marathon” and while that may be a bit of hyperbole, I have always appreciated the tremendous course support at the race.
Registering for the half distance this year created some training challenges, as I’d be coming off the Cloudsplitter 50k, just 5 weeks earlier on October 7. Suffice it to say, training for a trail 50k and training for a road half couldn’t be more different. The former requires a strength/endurance focus, while the latter, speed. I didn’t have much turnaround time – just three weeks – once I factored in recovery after the 50k and taper for the half. My training largely consisted of some of my “favorite” Team HPB speed sessions on the treadmill and one two-hour tempo run outside two weeks before the race. I was able to nail that tempo session, which made me feel fairly confident heading into Richmond, but you never know how you’ll feel on race day.
Speaking of race day, the weather leading up to race day was a bit of a puzzle for me. I usually run hot, but with temps predicted to be in the 20s, I wasn’t sure how to approach dressing for the race. I ended up packing three outfits with progressing levels of warmth – (1) capris and a lightweight long sleeve; (2) tights and a lightweight long sleeve; and (3) tights and a mid-weight long sleeve and a very lightweight wind vest. More on that shortly.
Richmond is always a Saturday race, which I normally love because you have Sunday to recover. However, this year, it presented some challenges for me. I had a work event the day before and it wasn’t something I could skip or leave early. My normal eating would also be thrown off, as lunch would be catered in and there weren’t any vegan options. I should have packed a PB&J, but hindsight is 20-20.
In any case, by the time I left the event and drove down to Richmond in rush hour traffic I was tired and starving. I’ve never, ever, moved so quickly to get in and out of an expo. I probably spent a total of two minutes running in, grabbing my bib and teeshirt, and running out. My bib number was 12666, by the way. Not a good omen.
After I left the expo, I checked into my hotel (the Candlewood Suites, which I highly recommend if you’re doing this race!), ate spaghetti I packed from home, laid out all of my gear for the next morning, and went to bed.
On race morning, I settled on the medium warmth outfit – tights and a lightweight long sleeve. I followed my standard race morning routine with regard to breakfast, got in my car, and drove the ten minutes into Richmond only to realize that I didn’t have cash to park in the parking garage. #racemorningfail
Luckily traffic was light and I was able to scoot back to my hotel, grab cash, get back to the parking garage, and run to the start just in the nick of time. It definitely wasn’t an ideal way to start the morning.
By the time I got to the start line I was feeling really hot. I normally leave on a layer of throwaway clothes – at least a light shirt – at the start when it’s cold (and in this case, temps were in the low 20s), but I was so warm, the only extra layers I wore were gloves and a headband. I ditched the rest of my layers in the coral. I assumed I was warm because I had a bit of a frantic morning, but it ended up that I was coming down with a stomach bug – more on that in a bit.
My race strategy was similar to what I did at the Rehoboth Marathon in December 2016. I set my Garmin to only show my pace and distance for the mile (lap) I was in and as soon as the mile past, I put it out of my mind. I tried to focus on staying relaxed and getting into a rhythm, but I just didn’t feel right. I didn’t know I was getting sick at the time, so it was a mystery to me, but I just tried to focus on my cadence and nutrition. I’ve learned over the years that you can only focus on what you can control during a race.
At one point, the half course has an out and back section and I noticed there were some speedsters heading back as I was heading out. I figured I would probably see Alyssa during this stretch, so I moved to the right so I had a better line of sight. I did end up seeing her and I was able to give her a quick cheer. It gave me a boost, too, to see a familiar face.
I ditched my gloves and headband in the park (at about half way) and in retrospect, might have been better off in a tee shirt and arm warmers because it was warming up (or, I was warming up). I definitely should have worn sunglasses. It was really perfect fall racing weather with the brisk temps and sunny skies.
My only physical issue during the race was a tight left hip flexor, which I paused to stretch, but was otherwise able to work through.
The half marathon course was definitely not as scenic as I remember the full course being in my three prior Richmond Marathon experiences. Maybe that is true, maybe I am remembering incorrectly – OR, more likely, maybe I’ve been spoiled by all of the trail running I’ve been doing over the past year. In any case, between that, the cold temps keeping the spectators away, and not feeling quite 100%, I can’t say this was quite the usual Richmond experience for me. That being said, I kept my head in the game, focused on my nutrition, and ended up crossing the line in 1:56.28.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to celebrate a solid race because after I got back my hotel and showered, I ended up getting quite sick with a stomach bug. I will spare you the details, but it was unpleasant to say the least and definitely not the ideal way to recover after a race effort (especially with a full marathon on the schedule just three weeks later).
The stomach bug was mostly better in about 24 hours, but I didn’t feel right for several days. With the short turnaround time to the Rehoboth Marathon, I didn’t have much time to rest and recover. Just one week post race I did a 3:30 easy effort so that I would get in at least one long endurance run before the full. That run actually went decently well, which was a pleasant surprise. I was even able to go to a “Friendsgiving” and have fun that evening, which is pretty good considering I ran over 21 miles.
Now, I’m tapering and focusing on nutrition, rest, and recovery for the next two weeks as I prepare for Rehoboth on December 2. I also want to keep stretching out the hip flexor so that I don’t have to worry about that on race day, and foam rolling to make sure I can stay injury-free for my last race of 2017. My goal in Rehoboth is to run a 4:10 or faster, which will be a challenge, but is certainly within the realm of possibility, as I ran a 4:11 and change there last year.