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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Mile 21.4

I love reading race reports by other runners, so I set out to write one for the 3/15/2014 Rock N Roll USA Marathon. As I began to write, I realized that “I started slowly, ran slowly, stopped for the porta-potty, and finished the race slow” wasn’t exactly an exciting read. Instead, I want to share a race moment – Mile 21.4.

I had signed up for this marathon as a part of my post-baby running goal of doing a full marathon before my baby boy turned one. I signed up for a distance training program with Potomac River Running (an awesome local running store) to prepare for the marathon. A few weeks out from the marathon, I completely freaked out… as one can see from my previous post. I needed a mental kick-in-the-butt but instead I got an email from RNRUSA a week before the race with the subject: “Course Time Limit.”

The course time limit, according to the email, was 5.5 hours. It was stated clearly on the registration page and it was stated again in this email but somehow I managed to miss it. My goal time was around 5.5 hours! A week before the marathon, I was just informed that I may be picked up by the sag wagon and not finish the race. The email outlined various cutoff time and locations:

Mile 12.3 (Full/Half Marathon Split) by 10:40 am
Mile 18 (S. Capitol St./Nationals Stadium) by 11:50 am
Mile 21.4 (Anacostia Roller Rink Loop) by 12:35 pm

Panic set in.

I remember having conversations, in person and on twitter with my PR Running coaches Shannon Scalan (@ShannonScalan) and Adam Lesser (@ajlesser, lesserismore.blogspot.com). Shannon helped me strategize: the course limit is 5.5 hours from the time the LAST PERSON crosses the starting line. If I get into an earlier corral, I can start earlier and “beat the roller rink loop” by 12:35pm. Adam’s post on “taper crazies” helped me get into a better mental state.

With the support of my family, friends and coaches, I got to the starting line. I focused on pacing myself and made sure I stayed off to the side and didn’t block any faster runners. I met an awesome mom runner at mile 14 and ran with her for 6 miles. I smiled at all the cameras (hoping that all of them were official race photographers). Most of the race was a blur. But there was one vivid moment, captured in the photo below: Mile 21.4.
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I remember looking down and seeing 21.5 on my Garmin and thought, “I did it.  I am going to COMPLETE a marathon.”  I started to choke up  with tears but stopped myself. (Note to self: do not cry while running, it makes it very difficult to breathe. #runningtip).

It is one thing when others doubt your abilities but for me, my biggest enemy has always been myself.  And this is the moment that proved me wrong and will stay with me from now on in every race I run.  I CAN finish a marathon.  In fact, I picked up the pace.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that helped me achieve this goal.  My husband, for staying with the kids every Saturday morning so I can do my long runs.  Adam and Shannon – the best running coaches EVER. And all of my friends that encouraged, supported me even when I wanted to quit.  I couldn’t have accomplished this goal without you.

What about you?  Have you ever had a memorable, defining moment in a race?

Race Review: Rock ‘N Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon 2012

Overall: Awesome race.  Great energy.  One of my all-time favorite races and courses (yes, I liked it even better than the Kailua, HI half marathon).

Race Tips: The hotel that is connected to the Philadelphia Convention Center is nice and where most of the runners stayed.  It is also convenient since packet pick-up is in the Philadelphia Convention Center.  However, in the two years that I’ve run this race, I’d recommend staying at a hotel off of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  It is much closer to the start and end of the race (at the “Rocky” steps).  I’m not endorsing any specific hotels, just like to point out that logistically it was much more convenient on race day.

If you’ve run in any of the Rock N Roll series races, you know that there are 10s of thousands of runners.  I usually like to put myself in a slower pace group to start, but I’d recommend not doing that here due to the sizes of the corrals.  I got stuck in the back for quite awhile and took me 2 miles of weaving in and out of people to get to a good pace group for the rest of the race.  Another note about corrals, if you’re in the later corral, you will not start the race until a good 30 mins AFTER the official start.  Just so you know to keep warm.

Course / Elevation: Flat as a pancake!  That’s probably why I love this race so much.  The bands and the cheerig crowds were also great.  The start is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the steps in front of them are from the movie “Rocky” which also makes it kind of cool).  The two years I’ve run this race, the course has changed, but generally you do the first 1/3 of the race downtown Philly, then the race circled back to the start and goes up Kelly Dr. and comes back down W. River Drive.  Miles 5 through 11 are along the River – beautiful and nicely shaded.  I can’t remember any big hills.

Logistics: All great things.  I always love Rock N Roll races.  Very well organized.  Lots of gatorade, water and gu at the dedicated, well-placed and well-manned stations.  As with any race, just becareful not to slip on the cups at these stations.

Anything Else? Both times I ran the Rock N Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, I beat my personal record (PR).  It’s just that flat and fast.

If there is one negative thing, it’s not even about the race.  The race ends and starts at the same place.  And for some reason, the park where the race ends has a lot of dirt.  Who cares?  Well, after running 13.1 miles and just sprinted the last 0.25 mile to the finish, the dirt area (with all the spectators and foot traffic) stirred up quite a bit of dust and dirt into the air.  The air was literally cloudy from it.  Breathing it in at the end of the race was NOT fun.  I used my shirt to cover my nose and mouth and quickly made myself to the bag check area, which was paved.  If you are planning to meet famiy or other runners, I’d recommend you meet somewhere paved and get out of this dirt area ASAP.  I know, I’m probably just being a wimp.

Rock N Roll Philadelphia Half Medal

Race Review: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon 2012

Overall: Good race, I would run it again.

Race Tips: Highly recommend staying at the National Harbor the night before the race.  My running buddy and I opted to drive the morning of the race.  Bad idea.  Not only was it a super early day (I was up at 3:30am) but with the amount of cars leaving the garages after the race, we were stuck in our parking spot for 35 minutes.  After 13.1 miles, cold, wet, and tired, sitting in a car for 35 mins is not fun.

Another race tip, add trail running into your training.  the last stretch between mile posts 12 and 13 are on unpaved, gravel with occasional decent sized rocks.  The race organizers called it their ‘achille’s heel.’ A little trail running will help you adjust to hitting that patch at the end of the race.

Course / Elevation: Rolling hills – and that’s an understatement.  The course went from Mt. Vernon, VA to National Harbor, MD across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (hence the name of the race). Miles 1 – 9 is along the GW parkway and very hilly, but gorgeous along the Potomac River. Miles 9 – 10.5 is across the bridge.  Going up the bridge was a challenge, but coming back down and running on the board walk to National Harbor was flat and pretty.  I found the most challenging part of the course to be the gravel between Miles 12 and 13.  I was not used to running on gravel and plus the course narrows and made it difficult to pass or allow others to pass me.  I walked most of this section.

Logistics:  Other than the parking situation that I mentioned earlier, they also ran out of Gatorade at some of the stations.  I was running at about a 10min/mile pace at the time and was surprised to find that they’re out of Gatorade.  There were still more than half of the folks in the race behind me.  Also, since the race started and ended in different locations, runners were shuttled to the start.  Given the road closures, the buses were running super early.  So we were dropped off at the start of the race 1.5 hours prior to the race start.  It’s not good or bad, but something to be aware of.  We made friends with other runners and kept warm by jogging and, of course, hitting the porta potties.

Anything Else? 2012 was only the 3rd year they did this race.  I suspect it will only get better as the years go on.  It is a smaller race (compared to the Rock N Roll marathons that I am used to).  As brutal as the course was, my friend PR’d the course by finishing it in 1 hour 34 mins.  I was on my way to PR the race before I hit the wall.

Race Medal