Sunday, November 28, 2010

MCM Race Report or An Example of Poor Execution

Marine Corps was my target race this year after making the questionable decision to run Baltimore (as a last overly long taper) two weeks before. I had been hoping to cut another 30 minutes off my marathon to break 4 hours.

The short story is that while I think my training was generally on target my execution failed.

I got out of the house about 10 minutes later than I had been aiming for but still with what I expected to be plenty of time to spare. Parking was fine and it took 5-10 minutes to park and make it to Court House Metro. Just as I was passing through the gate I heard a train depart. I was expecting trains to be running on rush hour schedule unfortunately the next train to Rosslyn was show as being 15 minutes, from Rosslyn to Pentagon the trains were about 6 minutes apart and the wait was about 4 minutes.

From the Pentagon to the start is ~1.75 mi. I had a bag to check, 12 minutes to the start and I could use a trip to the can. Instead of trying to run to the bag check and start I decided to remain calm and make my best progress without going crazy. I got to the bag check just before 8am and with expected punctuality the race started. I was still about a mile from the start and could still use the toilet and I decided to spend the time before crossing the start instead of with my race clock running.

Both sides of 110 go to the starting line and the south bound lane appeared to have substantially fewer people. I crossed over and made my way up passing pace groups in the NB lane down to around (hand carried) signs for the 4:15 group before the field got too crowded to move further forward, after crossing the line the crowds remained tight. Even planning for a couple of slow miles with the crowds and early hills I still found myself getting frustrated after the second mile when I had trouble making good lines and the throngs of people seemed to be composed mainly of interlocking waves intent on randomly and dramatically changing pace.

Mile 5 was almost on pace, Mile 6 with the last real climb was about the pace I expected. Mile 7, a descent, was faster than planned while Mile 8 was again crowded, 9 and 10 were a few seconds behind and ahead respectively but having run the Army 10 Miler helped a bit here with lane selection around construction near the Kennedy Center. Mile 12/13 slowed as the roads narrowed getting onto Hains Point. I also paused for ~15s to stretch as my left glute and hamstring were starting to get tight.
I made the half at 2:04 and realized that given how I was feeling, the crowds etc that there was no way I was going to take 5 minutes off my half marathon PR to make a sub 4 finish. Around Mile 19 I gave up on a big improvement on my PR and decided I was just going to run it in at a relatively easy 10min or so pace thinking that if I could get space and get moving I could hopefully take off a minute or two.
Climbing onto the 14th street bridge and back into the wind I stopped to stretch a couple more times around 20.5 with wide roads I died a little inside and just decided that finishing was generally the new goal. I did eventually finish in 4:47:38, it was clearly not the result I was hoping for but I learned from this race.

Immediately post race the finish chute was very crowded and slow but getting the medals and water went smoothly and fairly quickly. However, trying to get out to the finish festival the crowd was very slow so I stopped and stretched a bit, took stock drank a bit more water and decided to move on. At this point there were further delays and on standing back up but not being able to really move around my calves and hamstrings started to cramp. I walked myself over to the medical tent to get checked out the staff was quite helpful and I quickly got a tylenol and some ice bags to chill my legs. Twenty or thirty minutes later I got up and headed for baggage check collected my things and walked two mostly uphill miles to my car.

Take Aways

  • I had water at every aid. I didn't have any real stomach issues but I was dehydrated at the end.
  • I ran with a hydration pack but drank only half of what I was carrying. I need to go back to wearing a second watch with an interval timer to remind me to drink.
  • I was worried about being cold at the start so I didn't want to allow too much extra time, instead I was late (Crossed the line at 8:13).
  • The large races are fun but I don't necessarily like crowds and the crowded course was frustrating. It was a good experience but I may not run it again.
  • Waiting in line 30s for a port-a-jon before crossing the start was making the best of a bad situation. Already being late two more minutes here didn't make that much more of a difference in the crowd density on the road, probably.

After I got home we had our traditional halloween gathering with a nice fire and chili, this years turn out was not as good as previous years it seems that cool weather and a Sunday are not the most conducive for halloween parties or trick or treat volume.

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