Monday, October 29, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 Race Recap

I started out the morning feeling fresh and strong.  I woke up at 5am, went through my morning ritual, and I was ready to head to the start line around 6:30am.  It was amazing to be able to literally walk to the start and finish line from my apartment.  The atmosphere in Rosslyn was electrifying!  Droves of people filled the streets, coming from all different directions.  It was still dark out as hand cycles whizzed by, music blared, people ran by (warming up I guess?), and DJ's tugged at the anxious strings of everyone's psyche.  I made it to the 3:40-4:00 corral by around 7am and found a spot in the median of the parkway to sit and try to keep my excitement at bay.  I found comfort in watching everyone deal with their obvious stress.  Some people stretched, some paced, some people jumped up and down.  Occasionally someone would mutter a comment and anyone within earshot would laugh with extreme over-exaggeration, anything to make them feel like they were out for a walk on any other morning.  I made it a point to stay off my feet and in my place until 10 minutes before the start.

Miles 1-4
The DJ announced "45 seconds to the start of the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon!"  All of the people in my corral started to surge forward.  We sped up, slowed down, stopped and continued that process until a few minutes later when I crossed the official start.  I felt claustrophobic in the sea of people as I dodged left and right to pass the WALKERS in the 4-hour corral.  We ran through Rosslyn and turned to hit the first, and largest, hill of the course.  This was even worse than the start as many people literally went from a ~9:00/mi pace to a ~14:00/mi pace.  I spent some time running on the sidewalk and mostly stuck to the outskirts to avoid getting trapped.  By the top of the hill the racers had begun to spread out a bit.  I was a bit slow on pace and was averaging around 9:15/mi at the 3-mile marker.  I decided to pick it up on the downhill and clocked a 8:07 mile putting me right were I wanted to be by mile 4.

Miles 5-12
I felt good at the faster pace and wanted to ride the momentum, but I knew I'd fall apart if I kept going that fast.  With the exception of a potty stop at mile 7, I kept all of my mile splits  between 8:39 and 9:03.  I was feeling strong and my legs felt great getting to run free.  The course was absolutely amazing, and the weather, despite the impending hurricane, was ideal for running.  It was overcast and slightly chilly, in the mid to upper 50's.  One thing that I found rather relaxing was that there were far fewer supporters and stands in this stretch of the race and the quiet allowed me to enjoy my marathon.  I'd spent so much time training, both mentally and physically, for this event it was nice to have some time for introspection during my run.  It was almost odd to be running with so many people around me because virtually all of my long runs were by myself on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Miles 13-20
I hit the half way point at 1:56:51, giving me an average pace of 8:55/mi.  Unfortunately my stomach wasn't exactly cooperating with my pace.  I had to stop for a longer potty break at mile 14.  I added about 5 minutes to my time there, but felt incredibly better afterwards.  After that pit stop I was back on track logging miles in the 8:55-9:15 range.  I definitely started to feel the fatigue setting in around the 19-mile-marker.  I had slowed to a roughly 9:30/mi pace at that point, but still felt comfortable.  It was really around this time that I started to appreciate all of the spectators.  People's cheers and signs seemed to really lift my spirits.  As soon as I felt myself really starting to fade, I'd read a sign like, "If this were easy they'd call it your mom!" or "No more Saturday long runs means more Friday night sex!  Yeah baby!"  I also decided to make a race shirt in honor of all the 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment marines who died while deployed with me from 2002-2006.  I signed all 27 of their names on the back of the shirt, and there were several times during the race that thinking of them really motivated me.  I'd be lying if I said that I was running this marathon for anyone else but me, but wearing that shirt made me feel like I was back in the Marine Corps where we did everything together and we relied on one another for support.  I truly miss those guys, and I think about them often.

Miles 20-26.2
As I said, I faded a little, but I was holding strong in the 9:30-9:45 pace range.  Other than my potty break at mile 14 I didn't log a single mile over 10 minutes.  It was around mile 22 that the miles seemed to really creep by.  I had to focus on the task at hand and keep telling myself to put one foot in front of the other, make it to the next mile marker, and that I'm doing exactly what I set out to do.  It was kind of a let down that, at this point, I realized that I wasn't going to break the 4-hour mark unless I picked up the pace.  I would have to run ~9:00 miles from there on out.  I sped up for awhile, but quickly felt my calves and hamstrings tightening and I got worried that I would cramp up like so many people around me and destroy my chances at a decent finish.  Ultimately I held my 9:30-9:45 pace for the rest of the race.  I finished strong up the hill to the Marine Corps War Memorial and crossed the tape at 4:03:55.  I was only 4 minutes shy of breaking the 4-hour mark, which was disappointing, but on the plus side I set a new PR by over 18 minutes!

After the finish we were herded through lines for medals, pictures, food, drinks, and finally to the finish festival in Rosslyn.  I can't begin to describe how much better I felt at the finish of this marathon compared to the 2009 Seattle Marathon.  This was truly a gratifying experience.  Thank you so much to the United States Marine Corps for doing all that you do and for putting on an amazing race.  Also, thank you to Arlington Parks and Recreation for awarding me a bib to participate in the marathon.  I am even more inspired to continue running at this point than I was when I started training several months ago.  With that, I'll take a few days off to recover and let Hurricane Sandy do her thing, then continue training for my next race...the DC Road Runner's 10K Bread Run on December 2, 2012.

Finisher Festival in Rosslyn
Rolling through the National Mall

UPS and USMC making it happen.  Good job!
Feeling strong around either mile 11 or 16...not sure

The Netherlands Carillon near the finish line

Training Summary for Last Week:

Monday:       Off
Tuesday:       Off
Wednesday:  Off
Thursday:      5.2 miles; 45:15; avg. pace 8:42/mi
Friday:          Off
Saturday:      4 miles; 36:15; avg. pace 9:03/mi
Sunday:        26.2 miles; 4:03:55; avg. pace 9:19/mi

Total Miles:      35.4 miles
Total Time:       5:25:25
Average Pace:  9:12/mi

Race Results:
Overall:          5090 out of 23515 (22%)
Male:             3773 out of 13520  (28%)
Division:         535 out of 1673  (32%)

Happy Running!