Sometimes you have the day that you've been dreaming of, the one that's always in the back of your mind during every track workout and long run. The one where running at goal pace is hard, but manageable, and you execute the race plan just the way that you laid it out beforehand. And other times you find yourself someplace you hoped you'd never be.
I did not finish the Richmond Marathon on Saturday. My legs just felt a little off from the start and I started burping up my first gel shortly after taking it at mile five. I was still right where I wanted to be at that point, holding a nice relaxed pace for the first 10k. So I tried not to be worried and hoped I would settle in soon. There was a nice long downhill shortly after the 10k mark that made it pretty easy to pick up the pace. But when I reached the flatter and rolling sections after that, my pace started creeping up. I tried Honey Stinger chews at mile 10 when the thought of another gel made we want to gag and barely managed to get them down. I felt like I was working significantly harder, but was running slower than I had in the first 10k. It's one thing to feel that way in the 20s, but at 10 it was rather concerning. I spent the next few miles debating my options and trying to pull myself out of what I hoped was just a rough patch. But by the time I hit halfway, I was pretty sure that I was done. I decided to get to George and the CAR cheering squad at 17 before making any final decisions, but I more or less knew what I was going to do. An excruciatingly long mile 16 on the Lee Bridge only further cemented my decision and dropped out just after mile 17 when I reached George.
Obviously I was extremely disappointed, but I know that continuing on for those last nine miles would have been even worse than stopping. I've done that before in a race I knew that was over at halfway (in Baltimore in 2010) and run/walking the second half, while watching my pace get slower and slower, was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I didn't cry and while watching the rest of my teammates finish I never once wished that I was finishing too. Dropping out was the right decision on that day.
I could spend hours trying to figure out what happened or if there was anything I could have done to have prevented this, but in the end that's not worth my time or energy. It was simply a bad day with extremely unfortunate timing. We all have them during every training cycle and it just so happened that this one fell on race day. I know that it says nothing about how I trained this fall or my abilities. Nor does it make me a quitter. Sometimes things just don't break your way.