Sunday, March 11, 2018

Rock N Roll DC Marathon - My second sub 3!

I always feel a sense of joy when I can write that the latest marathon was my best one to date. That is certainly true of yesterday's Rock N Roll DC Marathon (the old National Marathon). Training mostly by running my son in a Bob's Ironman stroller to and from daycare or with a backpack to and from my new office in Bethesda, I wasn't really sure about my fitness. However, the added miles seemed to pay off as I was able to hold my marathon pace, stick to the plan, and run a smart race - good for my second sub-3 marathon, just one tiny second off my PR set two years ago on the pancake-flat course that is the Houston Marathon.

My training routine became 2-3 week days I would run with my backpack to Bethesda cutting across DC on Irving by the Hospital Center through Columbia Heights, down Klingle and up Porter then straight up Connecticut Avenue to East West Highway where my gym was right across from my office. The other 2-3 days I would run Miles to daycare then Metro to Bethesda. It is the only way I can get in my run now, and it gives me the ability to really get in a lot of mileage. Some days I could get 14-18 miles, and really the lowest I would get would be 9-10. Almost every day is a double. On the weekends during the winter it is too cold to take him in the morning for a run, so I have been running during nap time. On Saturday, I was likely able to get in 90-120 minutes with Shawn. And those Saturday runs we usually doing some sort of speed or tempo work. For example, three weeks before the race, we ran 16 miles at tempo with a short warm up. That gave us the confidence to know we were ready for the marathon. On Sunday, I would get in 60-90 minutes, usually easy miles.

My race day gear

On race morning, it was a cold but perfect 30 degrees with sun. Usually, I like 40-50, but I prefer cold to hot. There wasn't too much wind - we were generally happy with the weather. Alex met us at my house and Shawn's wife drove us to the start. We timed it well as we didn't have to wait outside too long before the start. We hit the bathroom, checked bags, and went to the start where we did our warm up. I had a few throw-away clothes to stay warm for the first few miles. Mile one was crowded and we were able to stick together and to the plan. Mile two was a little better and we were running well as a team. Mile three and four we continued with our pace and in formation, but as we hit Rock Creek Park, Shawn began to put a few seconds between us. I tapped Alex on the arm to indicate stay back since we were doing fine. We climbed Calvert and lost 20-25 seconds, but we knew that we would. Over the next three miles, we back it back and established our pace again as we went through AdMo and Columbia Heights, up Harvard, down passed the reservoir and Howard University. As we hit North Capitol, Alex and I felt good and the plan was intact. We turned onto K Street and passed the former CQ Roll Call building where I worked with Shawn and Kate. Kate and their kids were out and I handed her my Red Sox beanie since I didn't need to wear it anymore but didn't want to throw it away. We ran by H Street and saw Adam Siple, my friend from GW and a fellow Bay Stater and runner. I was with Alex through the mile twelve marker but then I felt good and had some wind at my back and a slight downhill so I thought about catching Shawn. I sped up, leaving Alex, and hit the halfway point on East Capitol in 1:29:28.

Can you see Alex and me on the right?

Mentally, I was in a great place and my body also felt pretty strong. Right by the mile fourteen marker, I caught Shawn and we stayed together - for the next 2-3 miles. Within a mile of catching Shawn, we passed a water stand. I tried to grab two cups and hand one to Shawn, but he didn't want it. He didn't drink any liquids in the race. Before the mile sixteen marker, I had left Shawn a few seconds behind. At 17, he was further behind - he was holding a great pace but I had dropped mine slightly and was feeding off positive thoughts (I felt good, I figured I had an hour or so to go and knew I could hold this pace) - I really felt like sub 3 was going to happen no doubt and a PR or 2:57-2:58 was possible. I was able to hold this mindset through Anacostia Park and passed mile 21 ready to tackle the Fort DuPont hills.

Alex and I climbing Calvert with Christie on our tail

Looking at the course elevation, I knew this section was going to be challenging. Pre-race, I was prepared to lose a minute on Calvert and a minute in Fort DuPont. I didn't try to tackle the hill, just survive. As I was climbing, my left hip flexor started hurting. I figured it was just the hill and in the back of my mind wondered if it would end my race. That was a tiny thought that went away after the hill and my hip stopped hurting. It never was pain, so that was good. With about 5K left, I had 22-23 minutes to get under 3. I hoped I could get that 2:58, but there was another climb up Minnesota before a slight downhill on the straight away to RFK. But, at the 40K mark, a strong wind blew me back - wind tunnel! That took away my ability to find a 6:45 pace that could have gotten me 2:58. But, with my 2:59 safe in hand, I was able to finish strong and respectfully. In fact, I was only one second off my PR. Had I realized I probably would have tried to sprint to get under my PR. But, I don't feel regret since I know I gave it all I had.

At night, Shawn, Alex, and I drank a few beers at the new Tastemakers in Northeast DC and had their famous ice cream sandwich (two of their cookies with two scoops of ice cream in the middle) and recapped the race. Shawn should have stayed with us and drank water and taken more than two Gu. Alex said, "Great race! Those mile splits are a thing of beauty - a perfect race on a tough course!" And, I congratulated all of us on PRs and a well run race. Now, time to recover so I can try to run strong in Boston in five weeks!

DC Road Runners Club Members smile with new PRs and a great race!

2nd Place Age Group 40-44 (Shawn won 3rd) out of 145
33rd place overall out of 1882
31st male finisher out of 1152

My splits:

6:54; 6:42; 6:49; 6:42; 6:49; 6:50; 7:11; 6:39; 6:33; 6:29; 6:44; 6:48; 6:33; 6:21; 6:44; 6:51; 6:36; 6:41; 6:48; 6:52; 6:52; 7:28; 7:02; 6:33; 7:07; 6:53 (.48) = 2:59:32 for an average pace of 6:51.

First 10K = 42:35 Pace = 6:52
6.9 miles to the 1/2 = 46:52 Pace = 6:47
6.9 miles to 20 mile mark = 46:18 Pace = 6:42
Final 10K to Finish = 43:52 Pace = 7:04

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