Monday, October 29, 2012

10/28/12: Marine Corp Marathon Race Report

Hello there BTR fans.  I apologize for not providing you updates in a while.  I know it must have been rough.

I am pleased to report that I have finally discovered the ideal race strategy.  Train inconsistently, do not taper at all, drink a few beers the night before, and run late on race day morning and nearly miss the race.  This ideal recipe led me to what is in many ways my best and most fun race ever.

I never fully geared up my training after taking much of the summer off.  My long runs were sparse, and my weekly mileage was much less than usual.  I did run some great speed workouts and some decent 5Ks, but that contributed to tweaking my hamstring and having to take some time off.

Moral of the story, my expectations were lower than a presidential candidate before a debate. I did not bother tapering or undergoing any sort of preparation.  I expected something around 3:15, and the plan was to go out slow and cruise along until I fell apart.

I started further back in the corrals and got stuck behind tons of people, which was just fine with me.  My first mile was almost 8:00, and my second was 7:20.  I was weaving around large crowds, and my legs were feeling a bit tired and stiff.  So far expectations were being met.

Mile 3 was downhill, and I could finally stretch the legs out.  I ran a 6:40 mile comfortably, which started a series of 6:50ish miles for the next hilly section.  Mile 8 was another great downhill mile in just under 6:40, and the next stretch coming up would be incredibly flat.  I was just enjoying myself so far and suddenly realized I was feeling pretty fantastic.

After not paying close attention to pace, I locked into steady 6:45s.  The crowds were thick at this point as we ran by the national monuments, and I was having lots of fun.  Around mile 11 I passed a big group of people blaring gangnam style.  There is only one thing to at this point.  Bust out the dance.  Oh yes, that's right.  There is always time for gangnam style.
I have never felt this good approaching the half marathon mark and started to realize that I might end up having a pretty good day.  I was still worried about the distance though.  With almost no long runs under my belt, I assumed I would hit the wall at some point ... hard.

Mile 13 confirmed my fears.  I slowed down this mile and figured that would be the start of a trend.  This four mile stretch through Hains Point has almost zero fans since it is nearly inaccessible.  The last 2 miles were also right into a big headwind thanks to oncoming Hurricane Sandy. 
I hit the halfway point at 1:31, which I was thrilled about given the lack of planning and slow start.  I was pushing through the headwind but despite that clocked a fast mile 14.  Something just clicked, and I made a decision.  It was time to drop the hammer. 

Mile 15 was also quick. I ran about 6:40 into a headwind.  Shortly after I saw some co-workers who came out to cheer. I was fired up and announced that I was going to run sub-3.  Probably not a wise promise with 11 miles left, but oh well.

We had another out and back with some serious headwind, and I kept clicking off 6:40s or faster.  I was dialed in and pushing hard.  We ran up and down the national mall for the next 3.5 miles.  I was starting to tire, but I still felt way better than I ever have before as I approached mile 20.  I was running strong and decided to lock into this 6:40 pace for as long as I could.

The miles kept clicking by, and I kept staying a bit under 6:40 pace.  I can't explain how miraculous this was.  In all of my prior marathons (including my 2:55 PR), I ran way over 7:00 in the last 10K.  Here I was with little preparation or expectations clicking off sub-6:40s into the late miles.  By mile 23 I was sure my watch was malfunctioning or that someone had switched the mile markers on me.

I finally started to feel it at mile 24 as we ran uphill into a headwind, but I was so close it didn't matter.  The race ends with a cruel uphill to Iwo Jima Memorial followed by a short straightaway.  I pushed hard up the hill and felt my legs on the verge of cramping.  I hit the straightaway and was greeted by the most lackluster marathon finish crowd I have ever seen. Come on people! I raised my arms in the air to pump the crowd up (they finally got their act together) and sprinted over the finish. 

Finish time was 2:58:10.  I got my medal from a Marine and started walking to find Jen.  I felt good.  Too good.  My legs were tired, but for the most part I was 100% fine.

I ended up averaging under 6:40 pace for the final 10 miles and miles 18-22 were run in 6:32.  I ran the back half 4 minutes faster than the front half.  Who knew?!

I have always gone out much faster in marathons and then died at the end.  I assumed that dying towards thet end was inevitable and that "time in the bank" would be a better strategy.  Today definitely proved that theory wrong.  Aside from the slow start due to weaving through crowds, I do not think I could have paced better or run faster. 2:58 was an insanely good run for me right now, and this was by far my best race performance ever given my fitness level. 

I also just felt really good all throughout.  It was so much fun to speed up throughout the race rather than kill myself early and slow down later.  Hopefully I can achieve this recipe for success again in the future!