Marine Corps Marathon

And so, for the first time in six months, I don't have any workouts scheduled on my calendar.

6:08 am race day: Just made it to the metro. I decided to Lyft to the metro and ride in. I couldn't imagine subjecting my wife and kids to a 5 am wake-up call and then have Jenn entertain cranky kids for 4+ hours in the rain.

The ride over was perfect. My Lyft driver came right on time. He commented as we were leaving the neighborhood about how crummy the weather was, as it happened to be pouring at the time. Normally I don't talk much to drivers, but I'm pretty excited about running the Marine Corps Marathon, so I told him that's where I was going. It turns out that his son has been in the Marines for 14 years. He's done two tours in Iraq as a sniper, worked down at Parris Island and is currently in Hawaii.

It's just a reminder of how awesome the military is and what a sacrifice they make for the safety of the country.

I made it on the first train and was set to get to the Pentagon metro stop at 7 am.  Plenty of time to make it to the start line.  Or so I thought.  I had one transfer to get to Pentagon and I nearly didn't make it - the train, unsurprisingly, was packed.  I was one of the last people to squeeze in.  The station itself was also packed.  People were huddled inside getting themselves ready to brave the heavy rains that awaited them on the mile plus walk from the station to the runner's village and the additional three-quarters of a mile from the runner's village to the start line.

Before venturing out, I cut a hole in my trash bag and put it on.  I also had some plastic grocery bags I put on my shoes.  That worked well for the first quarter-mile and then they started to come off, so I just took them off since the rain was abating by that point.  Well, suffice it to say that the rain came back with a vengeance (multiple times) and by the race start, my shoes were already soaked through.

The corrals were too packed to make my way past the 4-hour corral.  If I had more time, I would have worked a bit more to squeeze my way through, but alas, I had no more time, so I just started moving forward when the crowd started moving, and a couple of minutes later I crossed the start line and started running marathon number three.  Other than a two-minute break to eat a peanut butter sandwich and put on my trash bag poncho at the metro stop, and then one wooded restroom break, I literally did not stop walking from the time I left metro.  Talk about cutting it close. 

Before I get into the actual running of the marathon, I thought a lot about how I would run this race.  My previous PR was 3:15 and I thought with my training load that I'd be able to reasonably do 3:10.  My training was using paces that would correlate to a 3:05 time, and my watch, with the updated FirstBeat algorithm, said I could do it in 2:58.  I kept waffling about what time I should aim for.  I ended up loading PacePro in Garmin (which is a cool feature that tells you how fast to run each mile split to hit a target race time, factoring in elevation gain/loss, hill-attacking strategy, and how big of a positive/negative split you want) for a time of 3:10.  The course that I loaded in, for better or worse, was 26.75 miles, which changed the average pace from 7:15 to 7:06.  The course I loaded ended up being accurate and I did run that extra half mile or so.  I guess I should have done a better job of scoping out the course for the most efficient line.

Mile 1-7: Just ran as fast as I could.  That's the advice everybody gives, right?  Go out as hard as you can?  Luckily for me, the fastest I could go for the first mile was 8:06, well below my target pace.  I made up for that during the next six miles and I ended up averaging 7:07 for the first seven miles.  PacePro says I should have averaged 7:09 for those first 7 miles, so I was 14 seconds ahead of my target time.

I split out the first seven miles because it was at that point that things finally started opening up.  Around mile nine there was a turnaround and it was at that point I could see the throngs of runners behind me.  It looked like the runners with the 4-hour pacer were still back at the start of the race with how packed they were.

Miles 8-10 were great.  I felt strong.  I continued going faster than the 7:07 PacePro suggested for those miles, averaging 7:02 instead.  That put me 29 seconds ahead of my target time.

Miles 11-14 was the start of my demise.  The start of this segment put the course right by the water on Hains Point.  There was no protection from the wind which was blowing at a steady 15-20 mph.  I wish I had a Stryd with Wind to quantify that, but the Garmin weather on my activity shows 15mph winds for the day, so I don't think I'm far off base here.  My issue was that I was having a great race and I was feeling strong, so instead of accepting a slower pace due to the headwind, I powered through.  I was able to keep that up for two miles, averaging 7:01 compared to the prescribed 7:08.5.  Mile 13 is when I started feeling the effect of that extended exertion and my pace dropped to 7:24 for those next two miles, which thankfully got me out of the wind.

However, I knew at that point that my race was over.  Sure, I would finish, but not under 3:10.

Miles 15-18 each mile slower than the last.  My gut was acting up.  I took a bathroom break on the National Mall.  It cost me 1:40 against my chip time (though I paused my watch).  Average pace 7:50 if you go by watch time, 8:14 if you factor in the break, which apparently the "official" results do.  Go figure.

Miles 19-24 My gut was feeling much better, but my legs were not.  Hello Wall, my old friend.  This is the existential crisis portion of the race.  Why am I running?  Why did I waste all of this time training?  What went wrong in my training?  How many blisters am I going to have? Average pace 8:54.  Now I'm just mad at my watch and the taunting PacePro target pace just sitting there laughing at me.

Miles 25-26.73 Why won't this stupid race be stupid over.  Ugh, and there is like a 20-foot hill to get to the finish line.  Ugggh.  Average pace 10:07

Total time, excluding bathroom break: 3:31:59.  Official time 3:33:27

I was completely wrecked after the race.  I had to sit and nibble on pretzels for about an hour before I was well enough to actually do anything.  Multiple medical staff came up to me and asked if I was OK.  I waved them all off, but apparently, I just looked that bad (as confirmed by my sister).  Now, three days later, I can finally walk down stairs without leaning on the rail, though it's not exactly comfortable. 


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