Sunday, November 6, 2016

First Marathon as a Father: Return to the Marine Corps Marathon

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I ran my first marathon as a father. My son Miles is two-and-a-half months. This also was my first Marine Corps Marathon in 11 years: my first two marathons were the Marine Corps (2004 in 4:10 and 2005 in 3:29). Earlier this year, I broke 3 hours (2:59:31) in Houston, so I am pleased with how far I have come. Also, one note of my first two marathons: I walked portions of them. So, the Marine Corps Marathon was the only marathon I hadn't ever run the entire way (my first Boston, 2012, was so hot that there were stretches I had to walk, but in subsequent years, I have not walked at all). With my 3:08:31, not only did I finally qualify for Boston in my adopted city of DC, I ran the whole time. Plus, with warm temperatures, this was my best time on a day that didn't provide ideal conditions.

Coach Miles ready to cheer on Daddy! I received my Boston confirmation a week earlier. Sammy is photobombing us.

First, a note about the expo. I rarely comment on the expo, but it was a terrible idea to host at National Harbor. When I went, the traffic was terrible and congested getting into the parking garage. There were long lines of cars trying to exit the freeway and find a spot in the parking garage. The DC Armory and Convention Center seem much more convenient for people - why make us endure going out of our way to get our packet and visit the expo?

Race day started early. Alex picked me up at my house at 5AM and we drove to Shawn's so his wife, Kate, could drop us off at the Reagan Building. From there, we took a bus to the Pentagon, and then walked a good mile to the Netherlands Carillon where the DC Road Runners Club partnered with Hope for the Warriors to host a tent. We relaxed and prepared for the race there. I was a bit worried that I had walked too much prior to the race.

Pre race awful photo due to the lighting
A little better, but not by much.

With a half hour until race time, we trekked down to the start, visited the bathrooms once more, and found our place in the corrals. I was annoyed by the number of people who were toward the front that clearly have no business being that far forward. In Chicago, Alex and I were separated at the start because they accidentally put me in the B rather than the A corral and a gentleman was intent on not hearing my logic. I did sneak into the A corral, but I didn't find Alex. This time, we almost were separated, not by a corral bouncer but just through the large crowds. As we stood waiting for the howitzer, we chatted with Kyle from our running club. We were all hoping for a good race.

The three marathoners prior to the start of the 2016 MCM!

At the start, Alex and I stayed close together most of the way. We had to weave and dodge through a few people that just did not belong so close to the start line. The first few miles through Arlington are quite hilly. I remember thinking that it was more important to hold even effort, not even pace, but I did feel like we were pushing it a little bit.

Running with Alex Albertini in Georgetown

We were able to hold a steady pace as we crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. I remember thinking as we ran through Georgetown that the pace didn't feel very comfortable. For about a mile, I considered letting Alex go and adjust my goal to 3:10. When we hit the 10K mark on Rock Creek, I wished Alex a good race and told him I was pulling up and changing my goal from 3:05 to 3:10.

A great shot of us running through Georgetown

While I let Alex go, he never really got too far ahead of me. As I ran up and back Rock Creek, he was probably never more than a minute ahead. Shawn cheered for me as he crossed the 10K mark while I was on the other side of the road coming back under the bridge into Georgetown and headed for Hains Point. I remember that his wife and kids greeted me from the steps leading to the Lincoln Memorial and then I was in West Potomac Park.

I joined the 3:05 pace group around Hains Point for the company and to draft.
I was caught by the 3:05 pace group near Hains Point and joined them. They were probably close to thirty strong and helpful for companionship and drafting. I noticed that my pace felt even and I began to feel strong for the first time all race. The idea that I was going to be able to finish sometime between 3:05 and 3:10 seemed plausible as I hung with the pace group. Prior to the new African American History Museum near the Washington Monument, I let them surge ahead as they seemed to be running sub sevens, and I didn't need to go that fast, especially in anticipation of the warmer weather. At the Natural History Museum on my left were my in-laws who cheered excitedly for me. As I looped around the Capitol, Scott Cunningham was cheering with two friends - he later told me they had arrived minutes earlier - and he was surprised that I called out his name. Around the American Indian Museum, I finally caught Alex.

Running along with Alex next to the Mall

I told Alex that we were in great shape and that all we had to do was hold this pace and we'd be in under 3:10 with lots of time to spare. We both passed my in-laws again who came to see us pass, and I got a boost seeing them. I wish Laura and Miles could have joined us, but logistically, it wasn't possible. I tried my best to encourage Alex to stay with me, but on the 14th Street Bridge, he faded back and I didn't see him the rest of the day. After finishing, I found his wife at the tent and she said he had to drop out around mile 23 due to overheating. He didn't have a good day, unfortunately.

Another photo with Alex taken by his wife, Britt

The final 10K in Crystal City was a slog, but I was able to motivate myself to hold the best pace possible. Michael Pryce-Jones and his wife, Kathy, and newborn baby Isabella were there to cheer for me. I had given up the hope of breaking his 2:59:55 from last year, but with ideal temperatures, I could have made a run at it this year. The last few miles usually are a blur. The road back from Crystal City to Iwo Jima is dull and there are not many fans. I was grateful that with less than a mile to go, Big Guy, Steve Easley, a fellow coach, ran alongside me to give me that encouragement I needed. He probably saved me those few seconds that kept me in 3:08 range and from crossing over in 3:09. The final climb was a lonely one even with thousands of cheering fans, but I was ready to be done. I made one last sprint to overtake another runner and then the race was complete!

My splits

My splits and place: 7:13/6:59/59/45/7:03/00/00/04/02/02/6:54/58/50/52/7:06/11/07/07/04/19/26/23/25/29/36/37/ 2:59/7:19 (.41) - 5K = 22:06; 10K 21:39; 15K 22:12; 20K 21:16; 1:32:11 Half 25K 21:50; 30K 22:06; 35K 23:01; 40K 23:38; 3:08:31 Finish Division 32; Gender 172; Overall 186. This was my ninth time qualifying for the Boston Marathon in thirty-seven marathons. It was my fastest warm weather marathon and only BQ on a day without ideal conditions. I'm glad I am already registered for 2017 and now know that I am a good bet to make it into 2018. I will try to improve upon my time, but for now, I am not sure when my next marathon might be.

Miles and my medal and the sign the Goldins brought to the race.

I was very pleased with my effort. The temperatures were 60s to begin and 70s in the last hour with some sun. I had a good day in spite of 1) Inconsistent training since Miles was born 2) Inconsistent sleep since Miles was born and 3) the warm weather. I last ran this in 2005 in 3:29, so I will take a 21 minute course PR after an eleven year hiatus. It was nice to wake up in my own bed the night before a marathon for a change. Along the course, I saw the Zellers, the Goldins twice along the Mall, and Scott Cunningham as well as MPJ and Kathy, Brian Danza, and Steve Big Guy Easley who paced me for half a mile down the finishing stretch. To celebrate, I brought Miles to Brookland Pint to watch the Patriots beat the Bills - I won a bet with my associate who is a Bills fan and wore the Patriots jersey at work on Monday.

Miles at Brookland Pint. Kid can't hold his drink!

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