Sunday, March 30, 2008

National Marathon – LBRR

Yesterday I ran in the Suntrust Wirefly National Marathon.

Overall, I thought it was a fun race. 26 miles is a long distance to run, and that .2 at the end doesn't help anything. But I had a good race. I was pleased with my time, enjoyed the course, and generally, things went well.

As an excursion, the whole thing was a bit much. DC just isn't that close, and the drive down was a hassle (getting out of Philly took forever). The expo itself was totally lame, made me worry about the race itself. Helen's been to far more expos than me, and she agreed that it was a lame expo. I'd say that the single biggest improvement they could make to the race would be mailing out chips/race numbers.

Ok, on to the race.

We got there bright and early. I was totally spazzing out! Real case of the nerves. Cold. I had on my grey sweater over my running jacket, gloves, that weird hat/tube thing, tights, wool socks. Not what I was planning on wearing to a March 29 race!

The race start was corral-based, and I was in corral 3. Truth be told, I could have started anywhere I wanted, as there were no corral police, but 3 seemed right – basically, it was for people running in the low to mid 7s. The website said that there were pace teams, so I wanted to start with the 3:10 pacers, but neither of us could see them. Helen suggested I move up some, so I started to do that, but then the whistle went off and we all started trudging to the start line.

She was right – I was a bit further back from where I should have been. A fair amount of weaving at the start. I tried to take the first mile easy, as I'd been kinda beat-up lately and it was cold. 1st mile at 7:35 ish, which I knew was ok, but still bugged me. But when I saw the 3:20 pacers start to pass me, I knew I should speed up. OTOH, I now knew what the pacers looked like - no signs, just young guys with crew cuts and orange shirts.

The next few miles were the real "welcome to DC" miles – past the Library of Congress, National Gallery, etc. (We did them twice, actually; 1-4, 14-18). This part was nice, but I didn't really find my groove. My times were ok, but just wasn't feeling good – one thing after another kinda hurting or feeling tight. I didn't feel like I was banking miles.

Around mile 4, I caught up with the 3:10 pace group. This was right around the point that the largest climb started. I kept up with them well. I didn't find running in the pace group that fun, though. Helen had really liked it in Philly, so I figured I'd give it a try, but being crowded with people who weren't really talking didn't help. The pacers kept a steady pace up the hill, which kinda surprised me, esp. as they'd banked 15 seconds in the first couple of miles. Finally, by around mile 7 or 8, when the downhills started, and they kept the steady pace, I decided to go ahead of them. I saw no reason not to use gravity to speed up a bit.

The next miles were when I really felt like I hit stride. It was one of my favorite parts of the run, through the 'transitional' areas of NE DC. A fair number of observers, although the highlight was at around mile 9 when I passed the Howard University marching band. That was awesome.

Full disclosure: I originally took this to be a high school marching band, showing how little I know.

My miles from 8-12 went well. Felt good. Probably ran a bit too fast – some were sub-7, although those were downhill. As mile 13 approached, a lot of half-marathoners started passing me, but I managed to stay calm. I think I passed the halfway point at around 1:34 or 1:35? Something like that. Website doesn't have the splits.

At mile 14, the marathon winds up back at the first miles of the marathon – the Tourist DC part this time. It was different the second time around, though, because, well, I was more tired, there were far fewer runners on the course… and because Helen joined me! She met me at mile 14, and would run with me for the rest of the marathon, except for the final stretch.

This was not without a certain controversy… not only because of standard banditing issues, either. I'd done the same with her at the philly marathon (or kind of – I didn't go for nearly as long). But I was just some guy. Helen was woman #4. Except, she wasn't. Although she would have been, had she run it… But people kept telling her that she was #4, and she'd say, no I'm not… knowing that she could have been.

Meanwhile, we kept running mile after mile. The part of the run across the Potomac was really nice, if a bit sparse. Scenic. Although by this point I was getting tired. Helen started keeping splits, which had been around 7:12, and then started getting down into the 7:20s. I'd taken some advil around 2 hours in, which helped some, but it was getting rough. As we entered the home stretch we were pretty much on our own… I was running down, and struggling. I knew that I ran better when angry, and tried to get Helen to piss me off. This was a bit more psycho-drama than she'd been hoping for, I think, but finally she managed to convince me that this guy we'd been running with a few miles back had been checking her out. That helped.

In the very last stretch, Helen dropped off and I entered the crowds gathered in the 100 yards or so approaching the finish line.

Boy, were those crowds weak! Totally silent. I was counting on their cheers to give me energy, and that just wasn't happening. So I had to yell at them! They at least had the decency to yell back. On the plus side, my right calf, which was on the verge of cramping up for the last mile, never did. I made it across the line in 3:08. 20 minutes faster than Ocean Drive last year, 7 minutes faster than I needed for Boston,

That's right, I'm now a Boston Qualifier. Never thought that would happen.

Today, I'm sore as hell. I don't think I'm quite as sore as after Ocean Drive last year, but it's close.

So thanks to Helen, not only for running with me and coming down to DC with me, but for all the advice and all the training runs and for everything, esp. encouraging me to not worry about getting hurt during taper week; thanks for all the wanderers who ran with me over the last few months; thanks to Deb, who put us up in DC. For anyone who wants to run a marathon, the National Marathon is a good race, esp. if you have a chance to take advantage of what DC has to offer.


Helen said...

It's hard work to piss you off on the spot! Though it's not as hard as running 26.TWO in 3:08.

Anonymous said...

that's a big improvement !! BQ too !! congratulations !!
any TASTYKAKE ? or better without it.