Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Marine Corps Marathon Report

It has been a week and a half since the marathon and I think I am finally getting back to normal. My gut was a mess for days, but it has also taken a while for my legs to feel okay. I was sore for a few days and walked a bit funny, but nothing major. It wasn't until I tried to run this past Sunday that I could tell that I wasn't quite right still. I had terrible shin splints in my left leg and my right knee has been achy since then. I took a few quick laps around the parking garage today and feel better, so I might just try to go for a jog tonight.

Anyways, so for the marathon. Support from friends and family raised my spirits leading into the event, but I could have used a tow truck to get me through the last few miles. It was an amazing experience, hands down. I guess I knew it would be, but I imagine that one doesn't walk away with the sense that it was "amazing" if the marathon you ran was a smaller scale event, with less pomp and pageantry and far fewer spectators. I don't like big races, but MCM might have changed my mind. I've seen estimates that there were 100,000 people lining the course. I don't know if that was true, but it certainly felt like it. I hastily wrote my name on my shirt prior to the start and it turned out to be a very good decision - I got cheered for 26 miles straight. Lots of "Go Dave" and "Looking strong, Dave" get the picture. It really made my day and kept my chugging along whenever I started to lose focus. I also met a number of really friendly runners and was able to have conversations with them during the race, a big reason never to wear an iPod to a marathon. Those folks just isolate themselves, but the rest of us got to bond and make friends, even if for just a few miles. And, the Marines themselves were really, really supportive. They had somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Marines participating in mostly support roles and they were the most vocal, most enthusiastic, and most helpful people on the course. So, long story short, they don't call this the "People's Marathon" for nothing.

It was cold in the morning, but it wasn't hard to get around or to get into a Porta-John or anything. I just waited around until things got close to start time and then I moved up in the crowd to try and get near the Clif Bar Pace Team that was shooting for 3:40. I think they were too far up in the pack, frankly, but more on that in a minute. In any case, I got into a good conversation with a guy named Marc from Brookline, MA and we ended up chatting for several miles until we got seperated at a water station later on. The crowd was thick for several miles, in fact I think it was fairly think up until about mile 10 or so. That is what you get with 34,000 registrants. I found that hanging by the Clif Bar Pace Team was problematic since so many other runners wanted to be with them. It created a logjam on the course and it was difficult to run comfortably next to them or right behind them. I think a fair number of runners who started behind these guys were running faster races and had to work their way around the crowd. So, after a fair amount of frustration, I took off around the side figuring I'd be better off trying to just stay in front of them. Even if it was just by a 100 feet or so, it would give me some room.

I was drinking, but I don't think I was drinking enough. I ate my first pack of Sports Beans (a "special" version of jelly beans for energy and salts) at about 6.5 miles and a second packet around 13 miles. For some stupid reason, I never ate another thing after that - I really regret this. I know better, but the Sports Beans were turning out to be a real pain to eat this time around. I've never had an issue with them in the past, but the chewing was making it a bit harder to breath right and after I went through that twice, I just didn't want to do it again. Of course, I had no gels and I didn't grab anything along the course. So, instead, I switched to drinking Powerade when I got the chance. But, as I said, I don't think I drank enough fluid along the course and I am pretty certain I got dehydrated. I get fooled by cool weather and my thirst mechanism doesn't often kick in until it seems too late. I hydrated well prior to the marathon, but I'd be surprised if I took in much more than 50 oz of fluid during the race itself and that wouldn't be enough to even get me through 20 miles in one piece. The wind on the course was a killer too. But, I didn't really lose much time during the windy stretches. I did lose energy though and could feel myself running out of gas as I passed over the bridge and worked my way towards Crystal City.

By my calculations, I ran my fastest miles from 20-23, at a 7:40/mi pace. This was the stretch Audrey and Noah were going to be in, so I guess I just got excited and took off looking for them. I was rewarded with a chance to see them twice, but I hit the wall not long after that and ran 10:00/mi pace for the last 3.2 miles or so. I bet it was more like a 9:00/mi pace that quickly fell into an 11:00/mi or worse. By the end, I felt like hell and kept wishing for it to just be over. It was at this time, and only this time, that I thought about never doing another marathon. Oh, and that hill at the end just sucks. It is short, but it is like the final little torture, one last reminder that a marathon just isn't a walk in the park.

Here are the general splits from the race website (I didn't do my own and my math skills break down dramatically when I run):

Mile 5: 42:30
Mile 10: 1:23:44
Half: 1:48:40
Mile 15: 2:04:23
Mile 20: 2:46:45
Mile 23.5: 3:13:41
Finish: 3:43:36

I'm a bit disappointed in that I think I was on pace for more like 3:36 or 3:37 and I believe I could have done that if I had been smarter when it came to energy and fluid. I know I got dehydrated because I was stumbling like a drunk at the end. I was totally coherent, but very dizzy and I needed to lay in the grass for several minutes before I could move on and head for home. That has only happened to me a few times before - always on long runs when I got dehydrated. I think I dropped 6-8 pounds in weight during the race and I usually get light-headed (or worse) in that range. The wind didn't help and I wonder how much of an effect that ultimately had too. But, it was my first and I had a wonderful time overall. So, after this soreness wears off, I'll be back running and it will be time to plan how to do a faster marathon. I think I learned a few lessons and I can only get better. Oh, and those guys running with the Clif Bar Pace Team for a 3:40? It looks like they paced properly and got it. Their pacer, a guy named Greg, came in at 3:39 and change. So, maybe I should have just stayed with them.

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