Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marathon weekend in review

On Saturday I ran the National Marathon here in Washington, D.C. I figured I would finish somewhere between 4:00 - 4:30, but secretly hoped to run a sub-4 marathon. I knew the course was very runable, but wasn't sure how doable a sub 4 would be since I wasn't training exclusively for this race, I usually include walk breaks (re: 1-2 mile hill climbs), and I'm not great at pacing. Unspoken goals, aside from the sub-4, also included running the entire race (no 9:00 run/1:00 walk; no walking through the aid stations), running a negative or very close to an even split half marathon, and successful pacing. This last goal was tied in with the second goal of a negative/even split race.

I didn't have the greatest sleep the night before, the best breakfast the morning of, or good karma getting to the race site with a decent amount of time. I like fat ass ultras in that you drive up 5-10 minutes before the start, get out of your car, and walk 20 yards to join everyone else right before or just as the organizer says "get the hell out of here! The sun has been up for 30 minutes."

I finally joined corral #6 about 12 minutes before the start and positioned myself nicely next to the speaker. Fantastic. I huddled with myself and shivered just enough to stay warm and keep from turning blue until we took off at 7am. I had a decent idea of the course and the course profile as well as the location of most of the aid stations. I carried a gel flask full of about 600 calories of Carbo Pro 'GU' (my own concoction), some Succeed salt tabs, and a 20 oz bottle of water just in case. To make a long marathon short, I didn't rely on any of these as often as I should have. Could've been a recipe for disaster, but I survived on fumes.

Read on if you care.

I ignored race 'rules' and donned an iPod with an earbud in one ear. I'm not much for conversation during a race and like to zone out. I was so zoned out and focused and missed a fellow VHTRC member numerous times as he took pictures of runners all over the course. I kept record of my mile splits and ran casually. My heart rate stayed under 140 BPM most of the early part of the race and I breathed easily.

I should've thought more about my nutrition and hydration plan. I carried a single water bottle and a 6 oz gel flask with my own GU-like concoction made from CarboPro and a little powdered Gatorade. I also had some salt tabs in my shorts pocket, but didn't take as many as I thought I would need. I knew water was every 2 miles and didn't want to deal with the chaos that can happen with everyone rushing to the FIRST table for water. I was fine with a few ounces and had my bottle for the in between miles just in case. I knew things would spread out more once the half marathoners finished. But I knew not taking enough early would hurt me later in the day.

I felt fine at the half way mark and kept plugging away. I made sure to grab a couple cups of water at each aid station but wasn't getting in any calories. It was hard and awkward to reach the gel flask from behind me, and then tough to put it back in its holder while still trying to run. A few times I slowed a few steps to make sure it was in properly. I did grab a GU (and one that I like!) around.. I don't know what mile, and that seemed to help. I knew miles 17-23 would be tough, but heading through my 'hood and seeing my sister around mile 18.5 was a good boost. I started to fall apart on the 'out' section of Anacostia Park seeing just how far we had to go, but felt better after making that turn.

My mile splits were starting to drop from 9:10-9:30 to 9:45. I was barely hanging on along Minnesota Ave and had to walk at the crest of one of the small rollers; it wasn't big enough to be considered a hill. I felt bad for stopping but my legs were dead and walking a few steps and rubbing them woke them up a bit. Hitting the ramp on to East Capitol meant I was heading home. RFK stadium was right in front of me.. yet never seemed to get any closer. I plugged away knowing the finish line was close and finally crossed the line in a chip time of 4:09.

I was done. Tired. Pooped.

My GF was right at the fence in the finish area and I just hung over the fence for a bit and tried to chat. I couldn't wait to sit down and when I did, I didn't want to get back up. I was hoping to find the ART tent, but heard the line was long and nixed it. I was shivering and wanted to go after drinking some water, eating a pretzel, banana, and orange.

I met most of my goals; I did not exceed them. I am happy with my time because I wasn't training for this race, yet still came away with my 2nd fastest marathon time.

10K, half marathon, and 20 mile splits are as follow with pace in parens:

58:48 (9:28)
2:03:08 (9:24)
3:08:20 (9:25)

Gun time was 4:13:55 and chip time was 4:07:19 with an overall pace of 9:26.

Early on

mid way. Not a happy camper

Finishing! Notice the figure 4; decent form til the end!

By no means is it a blazing fast time, but it's one I am proud of. There are so many changes I could've made to my race "plan" (*snicker), but I survived. I was fairly dehydrated and probably took in only a couple hundred calories (1 GU and a few ounces of my own gel), if that much. Lesson learned? Hardly. I'm sure I'll do the same thing during my next road marathon.. whenever that may be.

I won't say 'never again' since I'm close to breaking 4 hours and know I can. My only caveat is "proper training", which I don't really do; I tend to do enough to "get by", and it works to a point. Of course, now I'm paying for not enough road time pre-race, poor biomechanics, and new shoes with super tight calves and a sore Achilles.

Hitting the Massanutten trail for 17.7 miles on Sunday probably wasn't a good idea due to the state of my Achilles, but I still moved well and any pain subsided after the first 5 miles. I was off on Monday and iced while at home and keep an ice pack and roller in the office for a little TLC. So far it seems to be working, but I'm being cautious and careful and not pushing anything.


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