This is the second (and very overdue) Richmond marathon blog post that I am writing. The first post didn’t consider any of the personal issues that I was dealing with before, during and after the race. Rather than reviewing the race, this post will describe how I fared during my 26 miles.
I had been absolutely loathing the week leading up to the Richmond Marathon since the beginning of our training. That week was unfortunately one of only two weeks every year where my job will require exceptionally long and stressful hours. In the days leading up to the race, I knew I would be challenged to keep my hydration up as well as keep a consistent eating and sleeping plan. In the end, I fell well short on some of those goals.
I don’t think the reality of the marathon “hit me” until the morning of the race. When I woke up, I looked out the window to see the 8k and half marathon runners headed to the start line. Looking at the runners in the rain, I think I audibly sighed and possibly said aloud, “I have to run 26 miles today?”
Despite the drizzly and somewhat chilly weather, I dressed in my normal running clothes with two changes: slightly thicker Brooks socks for padding and my new Mizuno Breath Thermo Arm Warmers. I picked up the arm warmers from Running Warehouse for $13 (marked down from $30).
Within the first mile, it started raining. The longest that I had ever run in the rain was maybe 4 miles and that was in the heat of the summer. My first thought was to protect my iPod shuffle. I would be in a world of problems if that died (in fact I am so dependent on my Shuffle that I was carrying an extra set of earbuds). The rain soon stopped, but it continued to lightly drizzle for most of the race. The storms were unfortunately enough to keep the road surface wet the whole time. It wasn’t a major problem, but there were parts of the race on Riverside Drive where the pavement felt noticeably slippery.
During the week leading up to the marathon, my hydration was not great, so I utilized almost every water station on the 2nd half of the race. I’m so thankful that I decided to run with my handheld Nathan bottle because I honestly don’t know I would have completed the race without it. I estimate that I drank about 80-90 oz of water/Powerade during the race (way more than I typically drink per mile). Moral of the story: make time to hydrate the week before your marathon! It is not like a weekend training run.
In addition to all of the water that I drank, I also had 2 Accel gels, a pack of PowerBar Energy Blast gummies, a piece of banana and a couple ibuprofens. I was a little worried about trying the PowerBar gummies for the first time during the race, but I needed caffeine after a week’s worth of limited sleep.
The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for in Richmond was its hills. Unfortunately, I really disregarded the recommended “hill days” during my training and our normal running routes in DC are very flat. Miles 5-19 were littered with a mix of hills, from short and steep to long and gradual.
Not far into mile 17, I felt a searing pain in both quads – specifically the vastus medialis (see below). At this point, I decided to start walking through the water stations to give my legs a break. It didn’t really work. The quad tightness caught me completely off guard because I’ve never had this type of pain. Typically, my tightness goes straight to the hip flexor or achilles, so I wasn’t really sure how to handle the quad problem.
I started running again and had to pull up within half a mile because it honestly felt like another step would tear a muscle. I spent the next mile trying to figure out if it was the hills, the week’s stress, or poor hydration that was causing this. After a few minutes, I realized it was only putting me in a negative mindset. Frankly, it really didn’t matter what caused the pain; what mattered was figuring out how to run through it.
During the final 7 miles, I experimented with various stretch/run/walk patterns to find one that kept me loose enough to finish the race. It was pretty frustrating because I couldn’t find a long-term solution. After mile 23, the tightness started to shift to the back of my leg/hamstring. Again, very unusual for me.
I don’t think I ever hit a mental “wall” because I was too preoccupied thinking about what stretches would work best for my legs. Around mile 23, I realized that I was going to miss my sub-4:00 goal. Surprisingly, the reality of missing my targeted time didn’t bring down my morale. Although I was a little disappointed at first, my mindset quickly transitioned to thinking about the general accomplishment of completing a marathon and how far I had come in 9 months of competitive running. A marathon is such an unusual and unnatural thing to put a body through, so it’s hard to be disappointed knowing that you can physically complete one.
I finished the marathon in 4:09:12 (9:31 average pace) with some pretty inconsistent splits in the second half. Based on my Nike+ GPS watch, I estimate that I had to slow to at least a 12:00 mile about 14 times in the final 9 miles. I’d say I came to a complete stop to stretch in 10 of those. The quad issue was brutal. My splits are listed below.
The next morning, my left foot started to hurt in the same spot that I hurt in October (the title is now a little ironic). Every part of my body was pretty sore, so I decided not to over-think it. While my muscles all recovered in the following days (including my quads/hamstrings), my foot pain did not improve. Before the end of the week I saw a new podiatrist recommended by multiple running publications.
Long story short – the x-rays were inconclusive for a stress fracture (which apparently is not all that uncommon). Considering the October injury and the fact that the marathon was my “trigger”, my podiatrist suspected it was either a refracturing of a previously undiagnosed stress fracture or one of several possible tendon issues. Regardless, the treatment would be the same: a walking boot until the second week of January followed by a gradual reintroduction to running once again.
So I can look at it in two ways
1) I ran a marathon so hard that I fractured my foot.
2) I ran a marathon with a fractured foot.
I think I’m okay with either of those stories!