Saturday, 11/12/16, I ran (and walked… spoiler alert) the Richmond half marathon. It was a race I had looked at all year, debated doing the full until the summer heat set in, and didn’t commit until about a month ago. My girlfriends and I decided to throw together a “Girls Weekend” for our teammates from college (the Army Crew team), and we figured Richmond was not only a central location with tons to do, but the weekend we selected had the marathon, half marathon, and 8K—to give us something to do 😉
I planned for this race as a training race, so not racing it all out. My friend Pam did the same, so we said we’d run together at a goal pace of 9:15/mile. I caught a cold this past week, so after a very (surprising!) successful tempo workout on Wednesday, I took Thursday and Friday off completely to rest up for this race and try to kick the cold. Friday I took half a day from work, and we made the 3.5 hour drive to Richmond in the afternoon. On the way up, I realized I had forgotten my running shoes! doh! So I planned to buy some new ones at the Expo. I had to squelch my anxiety over forgetting the shoes. We got to the Expo (at Arthur Ashe Athletic Center) around 4:30ish, so we made great time, AND got to meet Desi Linden, Olympic marathoner who placed 7th in the Rio Olympics this summer. We met up with friends Abigail & Brian, so Abigail came with me to meet Desi. I was so nervous to meet her, I had a “fangirl” moment and didn’t know what to say, so I just said “I loved watching you in the Olympics this summer!” She told me good luck on my race.
I picked up my race number and shirt, then thankfully found some purple Mizunos in my size and model (Wave Riders). *Whew* Disaster averted! I also bought a race belt to hold my number, since I thought I’d be running with my new North Face jacket on and didn’t want to put holes in it. In hindsight, should have gotten one with a pouch. Katie joined us, hooked us up with a stroller so we wouldn’t be struggling all weekend (Thank you Katie!!), and led the way to our hotel.
We checked into the hotel, which was the next bummer—I couldn’t get a roll-out bed + crib in our king size bed room (fire hazard?), so I had to settle for a room with 2 double beds… not bad for the kids (who take up 10% of their bed), but tough for J and me (who take up 95% of our bed!) The city was packed with runners, Garth Brooks fans (concert), and other events going on. We found a sweet hole-in-the-wall pizza place for the boys to get dinner, and created some shenanigans while the food cooked…
…then Katie and I headed out to pick up Pam and go to dinner. The Italian place we wanted to eat at was booked, so we headed to Zzaam, the Korean place across the street. It had a Chipotle feel, and the food was delish! I tried to minimize the amount of veggies/fiber I had, and kicked myself for not asking for extra rice. I thought it went down OK though, and bought some Immodium just in case.
Later, wrestling with the forecast of 30*, I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to wear, but settled on this, with jacket optional:
Went to bed at 9, woke up at 5 to eat a Kind bar, ¼ of a bagel, and a banana, with Gatorade. I didn’t have nerves too much since the race was a training run for me. I left the iPod behind, figuring I’d be chatting with Pam the whole time. We met at 7 AM in the lobby, for the 7:30 start time.
Pam was in corral E (and I in DB), so I dropped back to E to start with her. I ended up wearing pants instead of capris, and left my jacket with J and KS and the kids. In hindsight, I could have probably worn my shorts and compression socks… and would have had storage for my GU, which I ended up carrying in my hand—not convenient.
Pam and I started off a little slower than goal pace, then settled in at goal pace. We stopped for the bathrooms at mile 4, and I felt fine at that point. But as we started running again, I began feeling the rumblings of a GI issue. I ignored it, hoping it would go away, but at mile 6, I needed to use the bathroom again… I kept running, and we were into Joseph Bryan park at this point. I was feeling worse and worse running thru the park, but didn’t say anything because I thought I could keep ignoring it. Finally at mile 8, I told Pam I had to stop for the bathroom again, and she should keep going. She said she’d shuffle along and wait for me to catch up. Unfortunately, when I got into the bathroom—sorry this is kinda TMI—and nothing happened… I couldn’t go, and I felt absolutely awful. I had taken the Immodium at 7, and sometimes it has the effect of sorta “freezing” everything in the digestive tract, so…. I had the urge, and desperately wanted relief, and…. Nothing. I exited the porta John and knew… it was going to be a long 5.1 miles to the finish.
I tried (in vain) to catch Pam and keep telling myself “Don’t give up, you got this, just get to Pam” but… I just couldn’t. I had to walk, the discomfort was too much. At mile 8.5 I stopped again, praying I could get some relief, but nope. I texted Javi “Stomach cramps bad. On my third bathroom stop.” And he texted back “Sorry baby.” Depressed and downtrodden, I resigned myself to having to walk the remainder of the race. Quite discouraging, but not the end of the world. I kept reminding myself that this was a training race, and sometimes bad things happen. I still have strong legs, and there’s no shame in walking. Unfortunately, there was a small part of me that really wanted to quit. I have never “DNF”ed (did not finish) a race, and I thought, no not today. My family is waiting, I paid to do this, and the least I can do is walk to the finish. It’s only 4.5 miles, for goodness sake. I realized the boredom combined with the discouragement, and a little embarrassment and bruised ego, created the feeling of wanting to quit, so I forced myself to be in the moment and accept that this just wasn’t my day.
I had plenty of time to ponder what went wrong. Dinner last night, or breakfast? I didn’t eat early enough (I usually do 3 hours prior)? I took the Immodium too soon? The caffeine from the GU? Didn’t drink enough water? I had no idea. Maybe a combo. I looked down and did my best not to feel ashamed and upset, and kept walking. I tried several times to do a slow shuffle, but when I did, it made it soooo much worse, so I’d end up walking again. I came to recognize the other walkers, as we were on the right side of the road. There was a girl that kept leap-frogging with me, and I almost struck up a conversation with her, but I didn’t feel like talking much. Another one had the same (new) shoes as me. Lots of people kept stopping and stretching, so again I felt thankful that my legs felt fine. I felt cold, without the exertion of running, so I put my gloves back on.
I had stopped my watch at the 8.5 mile stop and accidentally hit save, so I started another run workout on the watch, but my brain couldn’t comprehend how far there was to go. It just felt like forever. Each mile marker seemed so far away. I had a small bright spot when I saw the Oiselle cheer section, around mile 11, near the intersection of Broad St. and Lombardy St. The lady said “Awww I see a bird who’s not having a great day, do you need anything Vanessa?” (my name was on the race bib). I said, “No, thanks I just have some awful GI distress!” She said, “Oh, story of my life, I feel for you!” So that made me feel better, knowing I wasn’t alone in this. I pressed on, doing a shuffle now and then when I could work up to it. I wanted it to be over in the worst way. I saw another bathroom and figured, ah, why not. Maybe I’ll get lucky and feel better. No such luck. Argh!
Check out the loooooong stretch that I walked (from mile 8 to 12):
Finally, a little after mile 12, I realized I was almost done and started shuffling again, trying to see if I could finish while quasi-running (not walking). I spotted another Oiselle teammate, but didn’t feel like talking. Thankfully, she came over to me and struck up a conversation. Her name was Liz, from Richmond, who was using this race as a recovery from the Marine Corps Marathon. We ran to the finish together. She was a Godsend, who took my mind off the GI troubles, and made the last mile so much more bearable. The downhill part was another Godsend, as was the crowd support. All along the way, I received encouragement, and though I felt silly for walking during a race, the cheers and kind words made it a little easier.
I had visions of finishing strong (maybe next year?) and finally crossed the line with Liz, got my medal, a blanket, and a hat, and we got a selfie together and exchanged IG names:
The finish shoot was quite long, and I felt beat, more mentally than physically, with tight legs and feeling I had to use the bathroom, but knew I still couldn’t. I finally saw my family and friends, and promptly plopped down on the ground next to them, after giving some hugs and kisses.
They let me rest for a bit, then we started the long schlep back to the hotel. I had a banana and drank some Gatorade, and felt a little better. We stopped by some cool murals, and then split off so the girls could go back to their place and we could go to the hotel.
I got over the disappointment pretty quickly, telling myself to chalk that one up as a non-victory. On the bright side, we were on pace for the first half of the race! My “A” race is in 3 weeks, so I’m hoping that I can execute the rest of my training plan and have a great race on 12/3. After that, December will be a month of mostly unstructured training, so it’ll be nice to have a break.
The rest of the weekend had some excellent meals, fun murals, and smiles and laughs with friends and family—read my travel post on Richmond here (after I publish it!). I loved the city and hope to return again! Maybe I’ll end up doing the full marathon someday, once I get these GI issues under control.
Enjoy the week!!