Charlottesville Marathon Recap: Up, On & Over

“It’s not your grace in victory that defines you, but your response to defeat.”

MC {So wise, this guy.}

—–

I crossed my fifth Marathon finish line, felt more defeated by those 26.2 miles than any other race to date, and processed the ins and outs for 48 hours. Now that I’m over the little tantrum that is accepting a race-gone-crazy, I realize those miles taught me quite a lot.

learn from failure dream a little bigger

cvillemarathon_eve.finishline

This marathon neither hides nor spares nothing. The hills of Charlottesville will sprinkle salt on your ego and chew it right up! In no review of this race will you hear anyone saying “it’s so easy!”, but rather “be ready” for what’s ahead. “It’s a beast.” Know that yes, you can have a great day on any course, including this, but it won’t be handing out any favors.

It WILL hand you a unique and picturesque college town conducive to great eats, beautiful scenery and runners with a lot of heart.

—–

I went into this race with a few goals in mind, but training the way I did left a lot of room for questions.  The Coach and I decided that, if nothing else, I needed to start easy (because that’s what you do when there are at least three hours of running ahead of you!), and see how all systems responded to the course.  Because I’m no newbie to this whole shebang – I know what it’s like to blow-up, and I can expect that and accept it and hope-with-all-hope my legs put up with it – it was also okay to have a lofty time in mind.

After what has felt like the longest winter EVER, we had a 50* and sunny morning for race day. The high was 65 – essentially this was perfect. For a system used to a few more layers and a lot less warmth? This was, uh, new. But that’s what you get with Spring marathons and that’s what we took. No gloves, no ear-warmers, no sleeves – exactly what’s expected when you think of “wonderful Spring” mornings.

cvillemarathon_before   cvillemarathon_startLine

Elevation Chart_Chartlottesville Marathon

“Easy” for today meant sticking right around the 8:45 min/mile pace for at least the first 10K. The course is split by the following sections, though: 1-5 with the half-marathoners, 6-12 loop, 13-18 out-n-back, 19-20 too close to the Finish Line area downtown, 21-23 out along the river, 24-25 UP up up, 26-26.2 finish with whatever juice you can squeeze out of those legs.

I’m at the base of the mountain running uphill
You’re either running for the top,
coming down,
or you stand still.

Miles 1-4: told me very quickly that if an 8:45 felt like this, it would be tough to drop down to 8:15s, but maybe not impossible once I warmed up. Miles 2-4 felt like a pretty steady climb, and my calves started to fight me. We’ll call that Sign #1 that this day would not be totally mine.

Mile 4 was the first family sighting, as we approached the Full-Half split (mile 5) and headed towards our own separate challenges.

cvillemarathon_mile4.2  Marathoners took a turn towards the UVA campus and started up another climb.

Miles 5 – 12 took us around the University, into a neighborhood and back. It was rolling and I fell into a stride and everything seemed A-OK. The photographic-memory knew things would be tough from here on out but I was still in a place of peace with that. Will this be a PR? Absolutely not. But it’s a marathon day, so you fight the battles in front of you.

Mile 13 couldn’t come soon enough – I needed that “halfway point”. When it did show up, I quickly saw “Mile 18” on the other side. And shortly after that? We started down Down DOWN a paved trail that twists and turns and drops you off into another neighborhood. I witnessed Elites coming up the other side, struggling. And a few stopped for water. And I thought, “Holy Whoa, this won’t be easy.”

Way up, way on
Way UP, ON and OVER

Miles 14 – 18 almost broke me. Look at that chart and you’ll know why; it was hard to swallow that we’d have to run it all TWICE (out-and-back). There were switchbacks and long miles and the sinking feeling that you still have 12, 11, 10, 9…miles to go. And that you’re counting.

Then, after that loop has snot-rocketed your ego to the dirt, you still have EIGHT miles to run. And those eight miles ain’t easy either, yo!

Are you sensing a trend?

cvillemarathon_mile20

In more moments than I cared to count, I considered stopping right here at mile 20. I knew I’d see the crew, that he would be ready to hop in with me (after running a freaking killer 1:34 half + hangin’ out for an hour), that Meg would be cheering and that we were only blocks from the  “Finish” area.

Ambivalence defined these moments. I couldn’t even project to an hour after the race, or that evening, or tomorrow and assume that I’d be disappointed. I felt I wouldn’t be. I’m almost always able to convince my mind that it’s worth fighting the moment’s fantasy of fatigue to get the satisfaction later. Not today. There was no fight, no goals, no oomph. It was just the matter-of-fact that I hadn’t trained for this course and it wasn’t “my” day. That happens. It’s fine.

And after all and all and all
It’s just a wheel we’re spinnin’ on.

What’s not fine is totally dropping the ball, anyway.  C’MON SYSTEM, we’ve gotta see this through.

He hopped in here (mile 2o) to join the party that is the last 10k…

This last loop was also the end of the half-marathon, so I got his insight – what to expect and where to expect it. We stopped briefly at the mile 22(ish) water stop, and I did a little mental check. I also got his stories for a much-needed distraction, and his pacing efforts for a much-needed boost.  One thing I knew to be true no matter what the race-day conditions: my legs have been trained for these miles. They’ve been tested over and over and taught to run through fatigue and resist with all they’ve got! Every recovery run after a Long Run, followed by the “one hour easy” Monday run brought me to these last 4 miles. I may not be flying up or down the hills, but I can absolutely run.

Miles 22 – 24 were the flattest of the entire day. We ran right along a river – with shade and cool air from the water, but without crowds – and I passed people as I let the muscles do what they could. We maintained somewhere around an 8:50 – 9:00 pace and that was that.

Miles 24-25 were demoralizing. This is THE HILL. Any glance at this race’s course chart provokes one of those “What the…” reactions – are they really throwing this in at the end?! Rude, man. So. Rude.

Me to him: “And the worst part? You can’t even justify this by telling yourself it’s the last hill. ‘Cause it’s not!”

I walked up this beast (probably just slightly slower than I would have run), until I was passed by the 4-hour pacer. Nope! That wasn’t going to happen. I picked up my feet and convinced them to push off and we ran. And we rolled over the remaining hills and listened to the crowd saying “Almost there!” and “one more hill!” and “just around the corner!” and we kept going until finally there were NO more and that Finish Line was crossed.

cvillemarathon_mile26 So close so close so close SO CLOOOOOOSE.

——-

And just-like-that, it’s over. Relief pours into every muscle fiber to tell them they’re done, it’s time to relax and put on some flip-flops, and they’re still alive.

Charlottesville Marathon – 4/5/2014

3:58:31

Funny story: after grabbing some food, water and other life elixirs, I heard them start to announce AG winners. My name was called for F25-29 2nd place, and I started laughing -  there’s no way – and thinking, that’s your clear sign that this course is no joke!

cvillemarathon_done.us cvilledone_certificates

Left: what?! …I ran a…how is this…HUH?!
Right: Man, what a weird day.

As it turned out later, those announcers were pretty far off! I was actually 7th in the AG. Our AG winner ran a 3:40:xx.

—–

cvillemarathon_Crew   cvillemarathon_watch

Would I do this course again? Definitely not the Full, but maybe the half just for a good hard challenge and an excuse to hang out in Charlottesville again!

I’m glad the box is checked. As I’ve been reminded in the days that followed, it’s not how you respond to success(es) that define you, it’s how you handle, and perhaps admit, the days of defeat. Learn the lessons, take them with you on every subsequent training run, and then the race(s).

Fuel the fire that will light up your legs for
whatever limit you plan to push past next.

Up, On & Over – Bronze Radio Return

9 Comments

Filed under challenges, learning, marathon, race report, Races, running

9 Responses to Charlottesville Marathon Recap: Up, On & Over

  1. Amazing!! I can’t believe you came in under 4 hours with all those hills. Too bad about the AG awards though, way to build you up and then break you down.

  2. joslynn

    Wow! That course looked a bit hilly! Well I am glad you finished another one! So proud of you! I love to read your race highlights. Spring marathons are tough because training is during cold weather. When is the next one???

  3. First, every single person that ran on Saturday deserves a gold metal. There is a reason why people who live in Charlottesville don’t run that race. We train hard here, constantly feel defeated by the hills, and travel to flat areas to finally feel like we can actually achieve something. Just showing up and taking the challenge in front of you takes guts. That course is HARD. Be proud of yourself for finishing!

  4. Morgan

    Yeesh, it sounds like “tough course” doesn’t quite do it justice. So proud of you for pushing on and persevering. When the course nears the finish without finishing it’s always so damn demoralizing.

  5. Congrats! I’m the slower 1/2 of “Twins Run in Our Family” and I was humbled by the hills of Charlottesville (where the faster 1/2 lives and BQ’d in 2012). I hoped to BQ, too, but I realized that dream would not come true around mile 20. I was disappointed but I kept running and I was grateful to finish in 3:56:14 – a PR and 2nd place in age group (40-44). I’ll try to BQ again in Philly where it’s flat as a pancake in comparison! ;-)

  6. So sorry it didn’t go exactly as planned, but I hope you’re really taking to heart what you said – the course was ROUGH, a marathon doesn’t hide anything, and sometimes we just have those days! It totally sucks, and I feel your pain, but I think 3:58 is pretty awesome for a “bad day” – very impressive!!!!

  7. Pingback: {MCM} Endurance Training Tales: Different Long Run Options | Dietitian On The Run

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