2018 Richmond Marathon Race Report

date November 13, 2018 location Richmond, VA

Race information
What? Anthem Richmond Marathon
When? November 10, 2018
How far? 26.2 mi
Race Website
View my Run on Strava

I finally gave into the hype and tried Pfitz' 18/55 plan for the first time during this training cycle. This would be my 7th marathon ever, and for each of my prior races I did some form of a Hal Higdon plan. I labeled all of my training runs on Strava which may be helpful for someone with a similar goal following the same plan. Pfitz suggests both heart rate and pace benchmarks for each of the training runs. I generally tried to match his suggestions by pace (I based the plan on my original goal of 3:10), though for nearly all of my runs I wore an HRM and was mindful of my zones. Based on his suggestions, my training guidelines were as follows:

Pace (min/mi) [Heart Rate]
Lactate threshold (~7:00) [162.275]
Recovery (9:00) [136.55]
General aerobic (8:19 - 9:02) [141.695]
MP runs (07:14) [156.395]
Long/Medium run (7:58 - 08:41) [146.105]
VO2 max (06:30) [176.975]

In addition to the running, I did lower body and core weight training twice a week in addition to some injury prevention exercises (PT band/proprioception). I did no cross training.

It was an emotional week leading up to the race. On Wednesday morning I got a call from my Mom that my grandmother wasn't doing well and was in the hospital. I went to visit her that morning in what would be my last time with her as she passed away on Thursday morning at the age of 92. It's been a sad few days for my family, but I'm grateful that my grandma lived such a long and happy life. She has been on my mind for much of the weekend, and memories of her got me through some of the tough miles during the race.

In addition to a new training plan, I paid a lot more attention to my nutrition during this training cycle. Having read Matt Fitzgerald's The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition and Racing Weight, I followed much of his advice. First, I lost a few pounds and got myself down to about 150lbs(68kg) - I'm 5'10"(178cm) - by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy meats, nuts and seeds, whole grains and reducing my intake of sugar and other processed foods. I also eliminated caffeine starting 10 days before the race to maximize the benefits of the drug during the race. Finally, I did a 10 day fat-load (66% of calories from fats) followed by a three day carb-load (75% of calories from carbs) before race day. While carb-loading before a marathon is a well-known practice, fat-loading is not. While carb-loading maximizes the body's glycogen stores, fat-loading optimizes the body's ability to burn fat. According to Fitzgerald, studies have shown that combining a fat-loading phase with a carb-loading one gives endurance athletes both maximum glycogen and fat-burning power. While I felt confident in the science behind the practice, I violated one of the most important rules of racing, never try something for the first time before a race. I woke up the morning before race day with some bad GI distress. This sucked, both for the obvious reason that I had a race the next day, but also because I had a flight followed by a two hour drive to get from Chicago to Richmond. When we finally arrived in Richmond and settled in, seeing me suffering, my wife urged me to get some Imodium for my stomach issues. I made a pre-race evening jog of it, and ran to the drugstore securing some Imodium which would end up being my savior for the trip.

I'm still not sure what caused my sickness but my suspicion is that either my body did not react well to carb-overload after carb starvation, or I just overdid the carb-loading portion of the diet. I always like to have just a few extra bites of pasta two days before the race to make sure i've gotten all the energy build-up I can and that might have just been too much food for me this time.

Having taken a 5:30am flight into Richmond on Friday, I was so tired that I managed to fall asleep around 9pm the night before the race. I woke up at 4:45am (3 hours before the race) and immediately had my pre-race breakfast of homemade oats/nuts/raisins cereal with almond milk. I drank a total of about 750ml of water starting from when I woke up until an hour before the race. I added two more Imodium to my drug cocktail which would also include 200mg of caffeine an hour before the race and 500mg of Acetaminophen 30 minutes before the starting gun, the latter two at the suggestion of Fitzgerald. Lastly, I had my first gel 2 minutes before the start of the race.

My plan was pretty simple, stay with the 3:05 pace group, and if I felt like I still had some gas in the tank towards the end of the race, try to get a bit of a buffer to ensure qualification for Boston. Prior to the race, the 3:05 pace coaches sent an e-mail to the pace group stating their plan which was to go even splits the whole way.

Miles 1-3: The pace group consisted of 20 or so people, and knowing that it was a very windy day, I selfishly tried to run behind someone at all times though I would end up doing my share of wind-blocking for a a good portion of the race as well. In 2010, when I bonked in a marathon, I knew right away that my pace was just too fast but ignored the early signs. While I didn't feel like I was going to bonk at this pace, it wasn't super comfortable either. As long as my stomach held it together, I figured I had about a 50/50 chance of hitting my 3:05 goal.

Miles 3-11.5: The rolling hills of the Richmond course were...rolling. I kept my thoughts positive though, really making sure I wasn't taking the brunt of the heavy winds which were in our face for most of these miles. Despite this adversity, I was starting to feel pretty good.

I Qualified for Boston

Mile 12: By this point in the race, I had come to find myself drifting ahead of the pace group several times, having to remind myself to get back with the group. Having mindlessly drifted to the front one last time, it was at mile 12 that I decided I had the fitness to hit my goal and it was time to step on the gas and leave the pace group behind.

Miles 13-18: I was finally on my own and now and just running by feel. I stepped it up to about a 6:50/mi (4:14/km) pace. It was during these miles that I learned that I had definitely had the fitness to hit my 3:05 goal. There were several brutal stretches running into the wind including one particularly bad one over one of Richmond's bridges. I kept the thoughts positive. My legs felt great, my breathing wasn’t too heavy, but I had some brutal intermittent bouts of cramping in my sides and upper stomach. Cramps are rare for me so i'm guessing the pains were related to my stomach issues or some combination of the drugs I was taking. Focusing on my breathing seemed to get the cramps to subside enough that I was able to put them out of my mind.

Miles 19-26.2: At this point in the race, I was flying and feeling great. In hindsight, I probably could have been more aggressive with my pace, and could have even broken 3 hours if I had set out to do that from the beginning. With a 3:05 BQ as my goal, I knew that I just had to cruise into the finish to seal the deal and that’s exactly what I did.

I Qualified for Boston

I wasn't nearly as tired following this marathon as I have been for the others. I'll chalk that up to the adrenaline from running my first BQ, the fact that I underestimated my fitness, and my maturation as a runner. My wife and I celebrated the race in Richmond with a few adult beverages. The next day we drove through Shenandoah National park and I even managed to get in a short hike before flying back to Chicago.

I Qualified for Boston

Reflecting on the success of this race, I don’t think any single change I made was the catalyst for hitting my goal. Rather, as I have gotten older, I have come to respect the sport of running more than I used to. This means reading books on training, nutrition, and anatomy, not expecting unreasonable improvements in fitness, and spending time at the gym to improve muscle strength, balance, and injury prevention. As I did for my previous race report, here are some thoughts on practices that I should start, stop, or continue for my next training cycle.

*Practice running at specific paces to improve my ability to pace myself
*Bring the whole medicine cabinet to the hotel

*Over doing the carbo load

*Tune up races during training
*Weight training and injury prevention exercises
*Pfitz training plans - 18/70 next?
*Destination races