Monday, November 07, 2011
Race report: Marine Corps Marathon 2011
I'm exhausted just thinking about prepping for the MCM. Still one of my favourites, but the three in a month was a bit much. The weather, almost perfect if not three or four degrees cooler than I'd like. Still, compared with a hot day, not going to complain at all.
I left R's place at 6 to catch the 6:20 train at a subway near by. Cutting it that close to the 8 a.m. start pretty much meant I was rushing my way through the walk to the bag check, portapotty and start line. Knowing the race layout, I knew to rush it and found myself with plenty of time to line up around the 3:40 - 3:50s. As usual, the Marine and Navy show was pretty awesome, especially when they did a low level flyover of some two helicopter/plane hybrid.
My wrist band had a 3:45 but I knew I would just be running by feel. I had switched to tights the night before given the cold morning so that was one unknown (i've never run a marathon in tights).
We set off and I just tried to keep a very comfortable pace, taking care not to go out too fast. The heel that's been bothering me was in okay shape, but enough feedback to tell me it wasn't fully healed.
The MCM's first 5K aren't easy, as it has a lot of rises. I've gone out at 3:10 pace and those hills really don't help you when you're trying to manage energy expenditure. Just tried to keep warm and paid close attention to my breathing. I'll have to say that my cardio and legs were not too happy to be running with effort again. What do they say, for every mile you race you should take a rest day. Well, I had raced two marathons before this point.
Usual MCM, big crowds, decent paced groups, inspiring wheelchairs and lots of guys (and some gals) ducking into the sidelines to take a pee break.
We get a little break from the uphill with the gradual descent until we cross the bridge into Georgetown and I absolutely recall how crappy (not in the sick way) I felt at the 5 mile mark. It was cold, and I wasn't feeling the 'easy' early part of a marathon. I just told myself to keep it up and get ready for the next hill after Georgetown. It's a very long one.
10K: 52:24 (with a projected 3:41)
At the top of the hill, somewhere after the 7 mile mark, I'm glad to have the two major rises over with. The sun was bright and I was feeling nice and warm. Coasting down the hill back toward Georgetown, my heel was reminding me not to go out too fast.
I love the part back into Georgetown. You see the other runners behind you like the 5 hour group, and you appreciate how much pain you are in while feeling a little for the group that will spend more than an hour longer than you will. The crowds really help too.
Finishing the turn to hook up with Rock Creek, past the Kennedy Center and the orange slice station, I was settling into that rhythm of running. In retrospect, I probably should have slowed down a wee bit to a more comfortable pace.
Into West Potomac Park, I spotted another runner who I passed with a Chicago Marathon hat. I thought about my little streak and had this distinct feeling of blahness. What do they say about racing a marathon? That the first 13 miles should feel almost easy. Did it? Nope. Was starting to feel that tiredness that I should have been feeling around mile 18, even as I was continuing to fuel with gels and take my water.
20K 1:43:15 (with a projected 3:37)
That split should have told me I was going out too fast. Oh well, keep going, I thought. My goal in my head was to make it back around the mall and well into the highway before I would even think about how tired I was.
So I pounded out the miles. Tried not to think about how long I had to go. Tried to keep up the pace, which for some reason, I was able to do. The Mall was fun. A few years ago, I had hit an early wall at mile 18 while still in the Mall. It was a month after a 3:10 marathon attempt where I again tried to go out at 3:10 pace. My body wasn't having any of it.
30K 2:35:00 (with a projected 3:38)
Smashed through that point and into the highway and bridge. It was getting a little warmer by now. There have been years when i've gone out slower that I've actually sped up in these miles. If you see my splits after mile 20, you'll see this wasn't one of those years.
Hitting the 3 hour mark, I was mentally done, so I resigned myself, or even treated myself, to walk breaks. Walk breaks, of course, are my pace killers. You give yourself one, it's addictive.
And by the time I hit the Crystal City out-and-back, I was in full out exhausted mode. It was cold, I was tired, and my left calf was starting to cramp. I had no way to actually speed up so I just took whatever pace I could manage.
40K 3:33:59 (with a projected 3:45)
And this the sub-11 minute miles. The marathon reminds you that it demands respect, both in how you train for it and you race it and how you recover from one (or two). Thanks 26.2.
The final stretch my goal was to come in under 4 hours. I knew I had that, but at some point I wondered if I'd come under 3:50. My slowest marathon was NYC last year, the last of another month long streak of three marathons. I remember that one as a little more joyful. This one, I knew R was there and soon after that, the freaking hill.
So as I was jogging along and taking many stretch breaks so my calf wouldn't fully seize, I finally saw R and went over to her for a kiss. Then I ran on for bits, followed by walk breaks to calm the calf. It was a little ridiculous as other runners were streaming around me, so I started to run again the final turns, and up the stupid little hill where I could literally feel like I was moving in slow motion. I find it hard to jog slower than a certain speed, but this hill and my legs simulated the feeling of running with leaden legs, like those dream sequences when you're running away but can't move.
But with a real life marathon, the beauty is the finish line. I wasn't any happier to see this one.
The rest: 4:46.8
Final time: 3:49:02