Monday, March 28, 2011

National Marathon Race report: the good, bad and ugly!

Time to rehash my second third marathon!  (I always get confused when people ask me…I rand Rochester ‘08 and this marathon…but I usually forget I also did a marathon as part of a little race called Ironman.  Duh Smile with tongue out)


This past weekend I had the pleasure of running the National Marathon in DC, the only marathon run entirely within DC.  It has about 20,000 runners, but most (17,000) do the half.  I arrived in DC to enjoy rush hour traffic on Friday afternoon and picked up my bib and shirt at the expo-they had shirts designed specifically for the half and the full, which was cool. 


After fighting the traffic again (love how it took a half hour to go two miles!)  I finally made it out to Fairfax, VA to stay with my buddy for the night.  We had pizza for dinner 9an old high school Friday night stand by AND my go to pre race meal!) and then turned in by 10pm. 

My alarm went off at 4am, but I didn’t need it.  As always, I was up at 3:45, nervous and ready to go! (sort of Smile with tongue out)  I had a huge knot in my leg (blame driving 400 miles the day before) so I did my best to rub it out and grabbed a quick shower, dressed, and made some pb english muffins for the road! 



I left the apartment by 5, wanting to get ahead of DC traffic.  As I neared the city, I  noticed that my fuel was on E.  Crap.  After plugging in my fuel app, I found 3 gas stations, none of which were open.  Not good.  I was about 6 miles away from the stadium, fuel read “low” and its 5:30 in the morning of a marathon!! WTF???  I started to panic, got hopelessly stuck on DuPont circle (later I would find this amusing a la “The American President”) and wondered if I would get mugged or shot WHEN I ran out of gas in a strange city.  I suppose my gu and powerade would have fetched a lot on the black market Open-mouthed smile 

By sheer luck and another wrong turn post tears, I found a gas station open for an amazingly low price of 3.95 per gallon.  At this point I would have paid a hundred bucks, I didn’t care.  I filled it up, drove over to the other side of town, and waited in traffic to get to parking.  By 6:30, I gave up, parked illegally,and shivered to the start.  Breakfast in my tummy, throwaway clothes on, headphones, gum, visor, gu, check!  I hit up the potty, then made my way to my corral.  I was in corral 4 out of 10…later I realized this made no difference.  Pre race organization as HORRIBLE, but what can ya do.


At 7:00, we were off.  Other than the obligatory people dodging for the first 3 miles, I felt awesome.  I skipped the first aid station, and then hit up the second.  It seemed like they played a game with these aid stations throughout the course, so trying to figure out which side of the road to veer toward was a crapshoot.  After my first quick walk break through the aid station at mile 3, I took off again.  Miles 4-6 were hilly, but nothing too terrible after training in Gananda.  My only qualm was…where were the mile markers?  NOTHIN’.  They also had no gu’s at the aid stations, which sucked because I only carry 2, as I live off the course.  I ate my first one at mile 7…late, but I was nervous about potentially not getting another one! 

FINALLY at mile 10, I saw my first mile marker.  The crowds were awesome up until then, and there were so many runners, it was easy to keep a good pace.  I checked my Garmin at mile 10, and was at 1:28, a decent pace.  I know not to “put time in the bank”, but I felt good, so I kept it up. 


At mile 13, the half marathoners veered off to their finish, and the course thinned considerably.  I FINALLY saw gu’s at our half mark, so I stocked up on two and stopped to stretch for a second.  Half time:  1:57.  Sweet.

At mile 15 is where I fell apart.  Mile 14-15 was all uphill, and the crowds that watched the half marathoners were crossing our course like it was nothing.  one cop allowed a whole bunch of people tp cross right in front of about 4 or 5 of us.  One of the guys cursed them out, and they looked at us like we were nuts.  WTF.  We bi^&tched about it for a few minutes, then shook it off.  I came on mile 15 at 2:14, not bad.  Then I came to mile 15 at 2:16..what, what??  Yep.  Two mile 15’s.  Neither coincided with my Garmin.  (This would be the case again at mile 21, 23 and 25).  Talk about a mind screwing.  NOT COOL, guys!!  In spite of that, I shook it off and continued on.  Mile 16 and 17 were beautiful, we were right in the middle of DC without the crowd of the half and could really appreciate the beauty of the course:



After getting out of the heart of the city, we circled around the Potomac for the last 10k.  We hit the 20 mile mark on a bridge (kudos for the timing mat AND a mat at every turnaround to avoid course cutters!) but it was an open grate bridge, which was rough to run on tired legs.   20 mile time:  3:03.  At this point, I knew a sub 4 would be rough, but I hung on.  I saw the 4:00 pace group and hung with them for the next mile or so, but then slowed.  I decided my B goal would suffice, and shot for a sub 4:10, more specifically, sub 4:05!


The last 5 miles were really rough.  They are in any marathon, but the inaccurate mile markers and rollers really got to me.  I did a 5 minute run, 30 second walk to try to hang on.  At mile 25, I saw 3:54, and knew I could d a sub 4:05.  Then…I saw mile 25 at 3:57.  WHAT???  I cursed out loud and checked the Garmin:  25.3  Oh s*&^t, I give up.  I pushed it with all I had for 10 minutes, ran around RFK stadium and blasted (well, kind of) to the finish line.



Finish time:  4:08:54

Garmin:  26.8 miles

pace:  9:15


Wait, what??  I know that any marathon course is a bit longer if you don’t run the tangents, but a quick chat with two finishers near me revealed a 26.65 and a 27.02.  I thought it was just me, but later fond out that they changed the course mid week and that it was most likely long (the winners of the race had slower times, too).  It might sound strange, but I am almost glad I didn’t miss my sub 4 by a minute or two or I would have been PISSED!


Marathon 3 in the books.  Still on a sub 4 quest, which I WILL do!!


A few lessons learned:

1.  Don’t drive for 8 hours the day before a race.

2.  Turn my phone off (I spent way too much time on the phone with work.  I don’t need to stress myself out right before a race).

3.  Have a Sherpa!  I used way too much energy freaking out before the race about gas and parking, and had to run the whole race with a key in my pants.  Not cool.  Plus, I had no support during the race (well, some fun bloggers!)which really helps for a longer race.  Need the hubster for this one Smile


Now, with that said, lest you think I am a crazy person, I took 30 minutes off my 2008 marathon time and am TICKLED with that!!!  A 4:08 is a great stepping stone, I think I just needed to be a bit more realistic with my goal, especially given the fact that I had to work all weekend (yeah, that conference and drive home was fun.  not so much for a 20 hour day after a marathon!!)


So now…whats next?  Of course I’m looking for another marathon, but not sure yet when or where.  Stay tuned!@


  1. That is a great time! Sorry to hear about the course confusion -- I had a similar experience last year during a 1/2 marathon and that was tough enough. I can't imagine running a marathon and having a course like that.

    I think you did great! And shaving off 30 minutes is no joke!

  2. Wineglass in October! a bunch of the Nice Tri people are doing myself...

  3. oh, it is Dale posting the last post...

  4. 30 minutes is incredible.. great effort and even better recap. I have resorted to going without a GPS for a number of reasons and you sited a few above.. but its hard to go bare wristed.. somewhat freeing though. Great job again,

    Gotta Run,

  5. Thanks guys! Mike, I usually don't GPS, I am extrememly minimalist, but I thought getting splits would be fun. I kinda wish I hadnt known now :-P