Race Review: 2014 Anthem Richmond Marathon

Overall: Good Race. I probably won’t do it again… but never say never.

Expo:  I did not make it in time for the Expo, so can’t comment on that.  It is GREAT that the race mails your bib to you ahead of time.  Take advantage of that if you won’t make it to the expo.  I also heard from my friends that did go the expo that they met Bart Yasso and sat through his pep talk…I was jealous of that!

Race Tips: You will not need to pack your own hydration for this race.  This race had the BEST organized support stations that I have ever seen.  Water and Powerade ever 2 miles until Mile 20, then EVERY MILE after that.  They were well stocked and never ran out of anything.  There is dry and wet towel stations at two mile markers toward the end of the race.  “Junk Food” stations at Mile 17 and 22.  Also Gu along the way.  That said, you may want to train with the nutrition they use if you choose to shed the fuel belt.

Course / Elevation:  Someone told me that Richmond was relatively flat… I should have asked “relative to WHAT?”  It. Was. NOT. Flat!  No giant hills but rolling hills.  Then of course there’s the infamous “hill” at Mile 19.  I think to call it a hill is being generous – it’s nothing but a slight incline onto an overpass but at Mile 19, it might as well have been Mount Everest.  I was well prepared for it so I ran up it, no prob… but everyone I passed was walking.  I lost my running partner on this hill…  Bottom Line: DO HILL WORKOUTS.

One more thing.  The finish line is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill.  I guess it’s good to finish down hill – but DANG, it was a sharp decline for Mile 26…  My knees actually hated that downhill finish.  BE CAREFUL if it’s the same course.  You will be inclined to spring down that hill but you may risk injury.  I had to slow myself down about halfway down the finish stretch.

Logistics:  BOOK THE HOTELS EARLY!  I tried to book the hotels 6 to 7 months in advance and the hotels were completely booked.  I ended up in a hotel about 7 miles from the start line.  It actually worked out well because the parking wasn’t too terrible at the start.  A couple of tips:

  • HOTELS: Check a week or two before the race.  A running friend did and booked the hotel right at the start line – which was great.  We hung out in her room until 10 mins before the start and used the nice, warm restroom in her room instead of porta-potties.
  • PARKING: If you stay a little ways from the race, do not fear.  Race day morning, drive in and park in garages about 3 blocks NORTH of the starting line.  We did that and had no problems but saw the traffic jam of cars completely stuck in the road about 1 block or so from the starting race route.

Anything Else? This Marathon is termed the “Friendliest” Marathon.  And it was friendly.  But I was told by another runner that had ran previously in Richmond that the spectators weren’t out in full force because it was freakishly cold (read: Polar Vortex) this time around.

They put the runners in “waves” but it’s all one start.  Meaning, no separate gun starts for each of the waves – which was great because you didn’t have to wait, standing around in the cold, to start 50 mins after the actual start time.

The stretch along the River… Gorgeous.  If you do run this race, enjoy that stretch 🙂

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Nutrition Strategy: Richmond Marathon 2014

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

This is a quote that I have seen many times on social media and it definitely holds true to Marathon running. Race day nutrition can make or break your race experience. As Richmond approaches, I have settled on a race nutrition strategy.

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This is my first time running Richmond so I don’t have experience with the support stations along the route. By looking at the course map (here) it looks like there will be a water station every 2 miles on the even miles, then every mile after mile 20. And they will provide gel at mile 14 and 17. There is also a junk food station at mile 16 and 22 (not gonna lie, this was one of the deciding factors for signing up for this race!).

That said, I don’t plan to partake in the nutrition provided on the course. I am more of a BYON – bring your own nutrition kind of gal. And water. For a couple of reasons. I’m SLOW. Meaning, in past races of this magnitude, by the time I get to the stations, they often have run out of Gatorade or sometimes even food. Though, this race looks pretty well supported and may not be an issue. Secondly, if you’ve read my other posts you know that I struggle with my blood glucose as a prediabetic. A lot of the gels and nutrition provided are all carbs and I prefer to take my calories as a mix (carbs+protein+fats). For some that upsets their “system” for me it works (VERY IMPORTANT: everyone’s different. I’m just sharing my experience)

A note on the junk food station. I love the idea. Like I said, it was one of the reasons I decided to sign up. But… No, I will not be taking part in it. Miles 16 will be one of the toughest miles. It’s a tough segment of the marathon (physically but especially mentally), there’s also a big hill in this mile, to mix in junk food, if you didn’t train with it, may spell disastrous stomach trouble! And mile 22? I will hopefully by in my “don’t talk to me, touch me, or even look at me”-focused, hard to the finish zone.

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Here’s my plan:

– take nutrition roughly every 5 miles (equates to every hour for me)
– alternate between honey stinger chews (all carbs) and chia bar (mixed)
– take the picky bar at mile 20 – this is when I get hungry. So something more substantial helps me feel better.
– bring my own water but partake in the powerade as needed in the second half of the marathon
– avoid water stations as much as possible and the slippery paper cups on the course!
– I probably will skip the pizza at the finish line too

Man. I sound like no fun! But I’m Richmond Ready.

Have a great race everyone!

Pacing Strategy: Richmond Marathon 2014

Four days until the 2014 Richmond Marathon and my “taper crazy” phase of marathon training is setting in. For me, this phase is often filled with self-doubt, nerves, and this insatiable need to DO SOMETHING. This is also the phase where I freak out and start bothering my running coaches with a million questions and ignoring their reassurance that I am ready.

This time, I have decided to try to channel my energy into a more positive exercise – planning my pacing strategy for the marathon.

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I was texting back and forth with Laura, my running buddy also running the Richmond Marathon, about different pacing strategies for the race. Specifically we were discussing whether to try to start out slow and shoot for negative splits or just to keep a consistent pace. Based on experience, negative splits plan may not always work, especially in a marathon. In previous marathons, we both have started out slower thinking that we will speed up later… But once we hit that 20 mile mark, the fatigue inevitably sets in and the “speeding up” never happens.

Our goal time is 5:30 (12:35 mins/mile avg). Laura mentioned that she is going to try to stick to that pace the entire race. And fortunately, our friend Kim had ordered all of us Marathon Pace Bands for wearing during the race so we can make sure we are on track:

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When Laura and I got done texting, I felt good about that plan… And now, 24 hours later, I am re-thinking it.

Looking back at my last two races, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon and the Leesburg 20k, I noticed that I ran negative splits in both. I also felt great in both races. I know it’s a long shot for the marathon distance but why change a pacing strategy that is working for me.

For both of those races, I mentally divided the race distance into 3 mile “chunks.” I told myself to conquer each chunk at a time and progressively increased my level of effort (not pace).
First 3 miles: super easy (able to carry on full conversations)
Second 3: easy-moderate (able to speak in short sentences and/or phrases)
Third 3: moderate (one or two word answers)
Fourth 3: moderate-hard (please don’t talk to me)
The Finish: give it my all running

So after all the pacing discussions and the cute pink pace band… I have decided not to wear the pace band and to stick to my “race by feel” strategy.

Planned Marathon Chunks:
First 5 miles: super easy (full conversations)
Second 5: easy but focusing on quicker turn over with my foot strikes (can still speak in sentences)
Third 5: moderate (able to speak in short phrases)
Fourth 5: moderate (without a doubt, this will be the toughest part of the marathon. There is a huge hill at Mile 16 and in my training runs, this is where I fade mentally. So while the level of physical effort remains the same as the previous chunk but the mental effort will need to be increased.
Fifth 5: moderate-hard (please don’t talk to me)
The Finish: IT IS ON!

I guess in four days, I will find out how this “pacing” strategy works out! I’m ready.