Wednesday, November 2, 2011

36th Marine Corps Marathon, October 30, 2011

Arlington Virginia and Washington DC
Weather forecast: clear, mid 30s at the 8am start, mid 40s about noon.
the numbers:
Finish time 3:32:30. overall place 1339 / 20991, males 1128 / 12409, males 55-59  24 / 671.
mile splits according to my watch (26.31 miles)
8:43, 8:30, 8:17, 7:51, 7:48, 7:57, 8:14, 7:51, 7:50, 8:16, 7:50, 7:50, 8:01, 8:10,
7:48, 7:59, 8:01, 8:01, 8:03, 8:08, 7:59, 8:12, 7:56, 8:34, 8:07, 8:03, 2:34 (8:20 pace)
5k splits according to MCM
26:13, 24:42, 24:42, 24:42, 24:52, 25:01, 25:11, 25:56
1st half 1:45:48, 2nd half 1:46:42
the long story:
One hour before race time we met in the hotel lobby for a picture and the mile walk to the race start.  "We" included me and running friends Crystal, Kristal, Jill, Laurie; family supporters were my wife Rose, our son Matt, Jill's sister Lisa and Kristal's daughter Lindsey.
The walk included chatting about the impending challenge of 26.2 miles, encountering increasing crowds, security checks, Marines in uniform, parachutists bringing in the flag, a military flyover.  We stopped near the start line when the national anthem was sung and I choked up as usual.  Then it  was time for handing over our warm outer clothes, finding a place in the crowd of runners, peeling off the throwaway clothes.  On the start signal of a howitzer blast, we began shuffling forward until the crowd spread enough to begin running.  Upon reaching the start line, I started my watch.
My plan was to stick with the 3:35 pace group at least through the hills before deciding whether moving ahead of them would be sustainable.  I had a problem right away because I couldn't see the pace group.  So I did my own pacing, avoiding too much effort on the early hills.  In this section a large flag was suspended just barely over the road surface.  Many runners reached to touch it but I thought it was against flag protocol so I went around the flag.  My watch was set to track my progress compared to a pace of 8:10 per mile.  On the downhill following the first set of hills around mile 3, I went by a group marching in uniform and carrying packs.  The had signs showing USO DOC.  Then I caught and passed the 3:45 pace group and was not far behind my goal pace.  Soon I decided to not try to wait out my bladder and stopped for relief.  When I resumed running I was behind that big pace group and had to work my way around them again.
After crossing a bridge to the DC side of the river, we approached then entered the C & O Canal Park area.  I saw the escort vehicles and the race leaders coming the other way on a section where we passed - around mile 5 for me and mile 8 for them.  Soon there was another uphill that slowed my pace.  Along here I saw a lady running in a Santa's helper outfit.  There were other costumes including a guy running in a business suit and a Batman.  Beyond the hill was a downhill which helped me in catching up to my target race pace.  It was enjoyable to remember these parts of the course from the prior year and to think about what was coming soon.   When I got to the 8 mile mark or so, I tried scanning the oncoming runners for any of our runners though it seemed unlikely they would be that far behind.  And the bright sunshine made it a difficult task.
By now I had removed my earwarmer headband and was planning to take off my long sleeve top that was under the short sleeve shirt with my race number.  My knit gloves would stay on for the entire race.  And I was nearly done with my throwaway bottle of sportdrink.  I had figured it would last about 6 miles, then I would take a gel at miles 6, 12, 17, 22.  But it was at mile 9 that I finished the bottle and took my first gel, so I adjusted the fueling plan to take a gel at 5 mile intervals as water stops allowed.  The support plan was for our group to watch for us around mile 10 and 16.  This would be where I would drop my shirt since I didn't want to throw it away.  I watched the crowds on both sides for several minutes before I saw Rose waving on the left side of the road.  So I made the quick change, leaving the shirt and running while putting the other shirt back on.  My glasses came off but I managed to catch them with a little bobbling.
My pace was fairly comfortable and steady.  Occaisionally I had to slow down, but never needed to push my pace to stay on plan until late in the race.  We ran along the river awhile before coming to the halfway mark and a turnaround to head back toward the mall.  I saw the 3:35 pace group here and followed for a few minutes before deciding not to slow down to stay with them.  I hoped I wouldn't need to work to keep ahead of them later.  As I saw that mile 16 was coming up, I began watching for our crew again.  Finally I spotted them along the mall and stopped to ask how our other runners were doing.  I was told that they were fine and to keep moving.  I prayed some for each of our runners and for some other local runners I knew were doing MCM.
I began to look forward to "the bridge".  This bridge is a challenge and discouragement to many MCM runners.  The bridge has a series of slight uphills, little crowd support and seems to go on forever.  Last year my race plan fell apart on the bridge and I started walking off and on till the last mile.  This time I was running a lot faster and feeling a lot better.  It seemed like it took longer to get to the bridge this year.  I had forgotten what to expect through these miles.  At last I came to the bridge and continued on pace.  I had been thinking sometimes about how I was doing and whether to play it safe and ease up to just meet my 3:35 goal.  My decision was to not make any deals or compromises yet.  I reaffirmed that decision on the bridge.  My legs were tired and my calves were sore, but everything was working.  The bridge ends at Crystal City about mile 22 with lots of crowd support and places where the course bends back onto itself allowing one to see the runners ahead of them, and later those who are behind.  I kept busy looking for Laurie and Jill ahead of me and Kristal behind me.  I also realized that I had to work to stay on pace as I was beginning to slow down.  Just near the end of the doubled up race route I heard my name and was able to wave at Kristal.  She looked to be doing well.  I got a boost mentally from seeing someone I knew.
About 2 and a half miles remained and I was feeling good about how the race was turning out.  I was ahead of plan by more than 2 minutes and decided that I could and would try to maintain my goal pace of 8:10 or better.  I was hurting quite a bit especially my calves and wondered if I would get full blown cramps like so many other runners I had seen who stopped to stretch and or walk.  Dunkin Donuts was offerring Munchkins but I wasn't interested.  A lady in a red shirt passed me and I tried to stay with her for the last mile and a half to the finish.  Mostly this went ok until she picked up the pace near the end.  I had not seen the marker for mile 25 and was concerned about how accurate my watch was.  I didn't want to "kick" too soon.  I could see the last straight stretch but not the place where we turn up the hill to the finish.  The red shirt was pulling ahead.  Finally I saw the turn and began to push myself while the hill worked to make me slow down.  My breathing became heavy and my legs were really protesting the uphill.  I looked for the finishing arch but it was a long time before I could see it.  As the hill leveled out before the arch it seemed I could only maintain pace and continued on to finish.  Everything seemed to hurt and yet I was happy with a new PR.