Monday, November 17, 2014

Anthem Richmond Half Marathon

Edz and I drove south to Richmond, Virginia on Friday afternoon so that I could participate in my first road race since ever since.  Billed as "America's Friendliest Marathon," the Anthem Richmond Marathon festivities include an 8K, half marathon, and marathon.  I've been training for three months for the Disney Marathon in January, so I opted for the half.  No need to get ahead of myself.

Our first stop in Richmond was the health and fitness expo to pick up my race bib and commemorative t-shirt.  While Edz went overboard collecting towels, pens, noisemakers, and posters, I did a body composition test.  They expectedly told me I was fat, but high-fived me when I told them I've lost 30 lbs. in the last three months.  The machine also told me I had higher muscle mass than the average person.  Now what guy doesn't like hearing that?

We checked into the Crowne Plaza and we were pleasantly surprised to find we'd been upgraded to a suite.  That sort of thing always seems to happen when I travel with Edz.  You're supposed to eat pasta before these races, so after I laid out my racing gear,  I called the local Italian restaurant and they had room for us at 8:45.  After dining on gnocchi and chicken we went straight to bed.

I dreamt of running all night -- and snow.

A photo posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on

It was 27 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning of the race.  I wore a long-sleeve shirt under my CNMI Men's National Team jersey (represent!), long pants, warm socks, gloves, and a hat.  During my warm-up I also wore a long-sleeve fleece jacket and my grizzly bear hoodie (no real bears were harmed).  I've had a bum achilles for the last, um, decade and it was bothering me, and my right bum also felt a little tight (too much sitting on airplanes last week), so I spent a good 30 minutes stretching out.

About 20 minutes from the start, Edz and I left the hotel (which was two blocks from the start).  Edz gave me a good luck kiss and I headed off to join my wave of runners.  She walked in the other direction so she could cheer me along the race course.

The wave of 2:00 runners was so large that the organizers split us up into two waves: I was in the second.  The elite runners were several thousand racers in front of me.  Their starting gun went off at 7:30.  Every two minutes another wave of runners started.  At 7:38 I started my run.

I started the race standing next to the 2:00 pace team.  These experienced runners try to maintain a pace that finishes at a specific time.  I spent the first half mile or so jogging next to them.  I was so pumped full of adrenaline the pace felt like a brisk walk.

Edz was right down the road.  I unzipped both jackets and tossed them at her.  Mentally it was like shifting into fifth gear.  I left the pace team behind and ran.

Now my goal at the onset was to run 2:00.  My training pace is usually around 10 minutes per mile.  Sometimes I push a little harder and will run 9 minute miles.  My longest run prior to this race was 9 miles.  On November 3, I ran 9.1 miles in 82 minutes.  The way I saw my race in my head was that I could push through nine miles at that pace and then coast the final four miles.

As I passed the first mile marker I looked down at my watch to record my split: 8:35.

Uh oh.  I wasn't pushing it, but adrenaline was getting the best of me.  I was already concerned that I was going to burn out.  In high school my coaches told us to run our long training runs at conversation pace -- a speed where we could comfortably talk to our team members.  I felt like I was running at conversation pace, so I decided to just go with it.

As I passed the second mile marker I checked my split again: 8:33.  Still too fast.  At this point my toes were still freezing.  I weighed my options between freezing now or exhaustion later and decided to keep my pace.

After the second mile I really hit my stride.  My next four splits were 8:16, 8:07, 8:10, and 8:11.  Then I crossed a mental barrier as I passed the 10K mark.  This was now my longest race ever.  After seven miles, I knew I was more than half way done. And I was tired.

The next four miles were hard.  My splits were 8:23, 8:20, 8:28, and 8:26.  Even so, this was my favorite part of the race.  Locals lined the streets holding signs and cheering us on.  Some were giving out cans of beer and shots of whiskey.

Mile 10 was another mental and physical barrier.  I hit the wall hard.  My next two miles were slow, but I kept them under 9:00.  Remember, my goal going in was to run all of my miles at 9:00, not under.  Mile 11 and 12 both came in at 8:57.

Mile 13 was nearly all downhill, which was both a blessing and a curse.  I could have loosened up and let the gravity take me to the bottom of the hill, but if I let go too much I would hurt myself.

My final split was 8:18, and then I cruised into the finish line.

I finished 149 out of 424 for my age group and 910 out of 2901 male finishers.  Overall I was 1479 out of 8452.

The Disney Marathon is now less than two months away. I'm glad I did the half because it gave me a reality check on my training. I'm not ready for a marathon, but with two months to go, I don't think a four hour 26.2 miler is out of the question.

After the run I stumbled around looking for Edz. I took a lap of the post-race festivities and found her smiling next to a tree. Photos, pizza, powerade, beer, coffee, and a corn dog followed. Afterwards we hobbled back up to the hotel to clean up and check out.

Eating at the bar I worked at in college. Really enjoying this beer. #richmondmarathon #richmond

A photo posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on


Our car was trapped in a garage until 4 PM, so after checking out we went back to the finish line to watch the other finishers. I've been training for just over three months now, I've run 400 miles, and burned off 30 lbs. I can really appreciate the accomplishment of finishing a marathon now. So could every person crossing the finish line -- and every person cheering them on from the sidelines. It was very inspiring.

Also, there was a guy who juggled all 26.2 miles of the marathon, and seeing him finish was worth the drive to Richmond.

This guy juggled the whole #richmondmarathon

A video posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on


And because I'm me, I've laid out my splits into this handy chart, you know, so that one unnamed friend can tell me I did great, and another anonymous friend can tell me I can do better.

Mile Split Overall
1 8:35 8:35
2 8:33 17:08
3 8:16 25:25
4 8:07 33:32
5 8:10 41:42
6 8:11 49:54
7 8:23 58:17
8 8:20 1:06:38
9 8:28 1:15:06
10 8:26 1:23:33
11 8:57 1:32:30
12 8:57 1:41:28
13 8:18 1:49:51
Stretch 0:43 1:50:34

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