Oct 27, 2009

2009 Marine Corps Marathon

Right to the heart of the matter, I ran 3:52:11 for the marathon. That is about what I had expected but a touch slower than I really wanted. Training went down hill the last 2-3 weeks. I'm content with my time and don't want to feel like I have to apologize for it just because I've run faster.

Now for the whole race. This is a bit long and probably not overly well written so enter at your own risk.

I was running the race with a friend (his first) and we arrived at the start just in time to use the port-a-potty, check our bags and head to the line. He hung out towards the back as I jogged up to the 3:20-3:40 corral. I was able to climb over the barrier with just a couple minutes to spare so I didn't have to spend too much time waiting around. There was a cool fly-over by a couple of these bad boys. Suddenly the cannon went off and we were moving. Well not really, it took me about 3 minutes to actually cross the starting line. Since I had decided not to really "race" the event I just tried to get into a comfortable pace. I didn't even look at my Garmin because I was afraid it would affect my pace. Then maybe a half mile in my shoe came untied. Really? Already? So off to the side it was to fix that. I had a couple early observations: 1) Why are all these slow runners and even a few walkers up here at the start of the race? It's not really a pet peeve or something that even bugs me a lot but just out of courtesy they should start within their correct corral. I may not have finished within the time of my corral but at least I was at the correct pace in the beginning. And 2) I noticed more women going potty by the roadside then I ever have before. In fact I don't ever remember seeing that before. They just pulled the part of their shorts between their legs aside and squatted a bit. Good for them but it seemed awkward. (I guess if Paula Radcliffe can do it...)

I seemed to settle in at around 8:00 minutes per mile. I knew the course had hills but they were a bit more than I had expected so I just took it real easy going up and let myself go coming down. I decided to use the latest "drink when you are thirsty" research so I bypassed a couple early waterpoints. Mistake? I don't know but I was definitely well hydrated from the previous couple days. Somewhere in the early miles we passed under a large American flag hung over the course and a few military personnel next to me pointed and said that's the only motivation they needed.

5k in 24:51. I decided I was happy that I wasn't trying to do a real fast marathon. It would have led me to do too much weaving through the crowd and work too hard on the hills. I had forgotten how crowded it was in such a big race. But I was enjoying it, lots and lots of runners around. Going up and down all the hills we caught up to and were passed by a fair number of the wheelchair racers. Usually the people with the ipods had to be tapped on the shoulder to get out of the way. I was feeling okay but had to go to the bathroom again. I always play the game of can I wait this one out? Will it go away? Should I just stop? Well, this time the question was answered for me as my shoe came untied AGAIN. So I pulled off to the side and doubleknotted it this time and got some relief.

10k in 49:57. I kept looking for the 7 mile marker expecting a large hill when I heard someone next to me ask "Have we passed 7 miles yet?" and someone said we had. I looked at my Garmin and it showed 7.5. Nice. At 8 miles I took a gel, expecting a water station soon since that was where it was supposed to be. Turns out it was closer to 9 miles. Oh well, no harm done. It started flattening out at that point and we neared our first pass of the Lincoln Memorial. I knew my family would be there so I started looking for them. They were yelling and yelling for me but I only saw them as I passed by, too late for high fives for my kids. The crowds were great through this point and offered a lot of energy and support. Saw the first of many signs saying "Your feet hurt because you are kicking butt!" Then we started to head out on an island and suddenly the crowds were gone. No shouting, cheering or cow bells. Only the constant rhythm of hundreds of footfalls to keep pace with. It was also around here that I noticed the fatigue setting in. Somewhere around mile 11-12 is definitely way too early for that. I knew I'd walk at some point but just wanted to keep running while I had the chance.

Half in 1:45:35. At the halfway point is a turn around on the island. Little did I know that we were running with a slight tailwind for the last 5-6 miles. Now a headwind, ugh. Now I was just trying to duck in behind runners as they were passing me. I decided to keep running until I saw my family again at mile 16. I was able to do that but unfortunately my family wasn't there. Evidently my son had a sudden case of needing to go to the bathroom right about that time. That was at the Lincoln Memorial again and we started our trek along the mall. We passed the Vietnam Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII, Korean war and of course some others that I'm missing. I distinctly remember thinking somewhere in there that I really thought I'd be more inspired when running through that portion. Someone held a sign saying "Run if you think I'm sexy." A lot of people were running so I guess she was. I stopped to walk for the first time around mile 18. Mostly my hamstrings/upper buttocks were feeling sore. Cardiovascular didn't seem like too much of a problem. Someone yelled at a couple Navy guys to get going because an Air Force guy was just ahead. "We're all on the same team" answered the man from Navy. At the end of the mall we did a turn around by the Capitol and as I passed a high school band was playing the theme to Rocky. Sounds corny but at that point in a marathon any sort of motivation is good and I got a little from that.

35k in 3:05:28. The "Your feet are hurting..." signs were getting tiresome because it felt like my butt was getting kicked. Saw several signs warning me "Don't poop your pants, self, shorts etc" What's up with that? Someone have a bad experience once? Somewhere in the last 10k the miles started flying by. Not time-wise of course by I was always further along than I though I was. I thought I was coming up to mile 20 and I was already at 21.5. Saw Death holding up a sign saying "The end is near." Mile 23 came quickly and it seemed just after mile 24 that mile 25was already there. Sign: "Toenails are over-rated."

All along the last bit I was just telling myself to keep up the effort and enjoy what I could because it would be over before I knew it. And suddenly there it was, the last uphill .2 miles to the finish. I had visions of charging up the hill like all the runners around me were doing but as soon as I started up the incline all along the back of my legs clenched. I was just trying to keep moving to avoid a full cramping breakdown. And finally I was done. It wasn't until then that I realized how thirsty I was. Maybe I should have started drinking from the very first water stops.

After we got back to the hotel my kids took enjoyment in running an ice bath for me. I could barely spend more than several seconds at a time in there and wasn't in for more than a few minutes total but it definitely helped. Not a miracle cure but more than I thought it would. The backs of my legs felt a lot better.

There it is, not much more to say. The marines run a good race but the mass of people is overwhelming at times. The finish area is long and difficult to get through. Text updates were very slow (didn't get the 30k update until after I finished) and only good for relatives following your progress from afar. The subway was incredibly packed at the end and I was in front of the big bulge. Truly though, it is a good race and I'm glad I did it.

Thanks for all the well wishes. No pity consoling comments saying I'll get it next time. I fully embrace my effort, the race and the time that it resulted in.

All in: 26.2 in 8:52 (26.56 by Mr. Garmin)


Beth said...

Great race report! What I like the best is that you went through the roller coaster of highs and lows throughout the race. I can identify with all of it, well... except for being farther along than you thought you were. Lucky you! Great job and you should be proud of all of your training, your race and your time. I'm glad that your heart rate was fine and that your family was there for you. I've heard so much about the MCM, it was fun to hear about it from someone who just ran it. Enjoy your recovery!

LBG said...

Nice job AZ! I was looking forward to your race report and it didn't disapoint. Sounds much more relaxed than PDX was.

Meg Runs said...

Thanks for the visual of Paula going potty, I've heard of it but never actually seen it. So...I liked your post and the many signs that you read over the course of the race. I don't think I've ever read ONE sign during a marathon. Your thoughts were amusing!

lindsay said...

enjoyed your race report! very touching comments by various military personnel throughout the race. i am always amazed at how much others remember about their race - i feel like i don't remember anything!

congrats on another marathon, and it sounds like you're keeping a good attitude about it. they "can't all be pr's and sunshine", and i'm glad you made the most of it. i'll be using the same approach for nyc this weekend as i am not sure how well my body will feel by sunday. not everyone can run marathons - we shouldn't take it for granted!

Jean said...

Way to go, AZ! Sounds like overall you had a good experience out there. Wow, the flyover by the Osprey helicopters would have been worth the price of admission right there.

Job well done. You ran a time that I would be able to run some day. Congratulations, and I hope you are recovering well!

Glenn Jones said...

Wow. Those Ospreys are pretty impressive!

Great race report! I throughly enjoyed it. And regardls whatyou say, a marathon is *never* an easy effort. It is a log way to go wit so many things that could go wrong. You ran a great race, and obviously enjoyed it. That's what it's all about!

Lucky said...

Great Post! I remembered my first marathon, A friend invited me and I was excited because its my first, we arrived early and used the porta-potties 3 times because there are plenty of time before the race and we have stretched as warm-up. It was so fun even though it was tiring. I like you're style of writing, great effort!

Jason said...

Cool race report. I enjoyed reading. You've got a great attitude! Good for you. Thanks for your encouragement to me and for visiting the new site. I guess we need to do an Ironman together in 2011!

Tony said...

Great job with the race. Keep up the work.

Runshorts said...

I actually saw someone poop their pants (I've seen the aftermath before, but Marine Corps 2009 was the first time I watched it happen live), so I guess she didn't see the sign! Great race report. I loved MCM, but it's not a super easy course to PB even when that's the goal. But in my opinion the amazing route, maraine corps volunteers, and crowd support make up for ending the race on a hill :).

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