National Marathon Review. The first half was nice and smooth...
It’s been three days since I ran the National Marathon. My quads are still on fire, and the toenail on the long toe of my right foot is sore and slowly going from mottled purple to black. Motorists are still outraged over Saturday’s road closures.
MP Split Time Notes
1. 8:06 (8:06) Goal–eight minute miles
2. 7:45 (15:51) Downhill
3. 7:57 (23:49) Steady
4. 9:00 (32:49) Missed the marker
5. 7:22 (40:11) Short mile
6. 9:01 (49:12) Missed the marker
7. 7:22 (56:35) Short mile
8. 8:14 (1:04:50) Steady
9. 8:33 (1:13:23) Uphill
10. 8:04 (1:21:28) Competition
11. 8:38 (1:30:06) Bucolic running
12. 8:28 (1:38:30) Bucolic running
13. 8:40 (1:47:10) Very Scenic-The new ballpark
14. 8:35 (1:55:46)
15. 8:42 (2:04:28)
16. 8:51 (2:13:20)
17. 8:53 (2:22:14)
18. 9:49 (2:32:03)
19. 9:31 (2:41:35)
20. 11:04 (2:52:39)
21. 12:12 (3:04:51) Missed the marker.
22. 7:15 (3:12:07) Short mile.
23. 8:46 (3:20:54)
24. 9:15 (3:30:09)
25. 9:15 (3:39:25)
26. 9:12 (3:48:37)
.21. 1:59 (9:04 pace for this bit. 1:36 would require a 7:19 pace.)
The night before. While watching some NCAA tournament basketball I laid out my gear for the marathon. In my waist pouch I put my cell, a throwaway camera, some commemorative quarters and two twenties, my work ID (in case I wanted to use the bathroom when we ran by my building at MP 3), a metro fare card (you never know), two Advils and three GUs (non-caffeine flavor). Because I was worried the pouch was becoming too heavy (it starts bouncing as you run), I didn’t put in my little tube of vaseline. Shortly after midnight I set the alarm for 5 am for the 7 am race start and fell asleep.
An early morning run. I arose by 5:10 am, taped on my nip-guards and dressed in black compression shorts, long baggy shorts with zipper pockets, Asic shoes, socks and a dark blue short sleeve technical shirt. Then I ran around my block in the dark to loosen up. It was warm enough, 46 degrees and getting warmer, but threatening to rain.
Breakfast in the car. I threw my breakfast and my gear bag into the car at 5:55 and drove off. I ate some cantaloupe, two cups of diced fruit in heavy syrup and a banana enroute to RFK, arriving in parking lot 7 by 6:30 am. It had rained during the entire drive.
At RFK. By 6:55 I was on the starting line near the front, wearing a throwaway sweatshirt for warmth. The rain had stopped for good. A friend who was running the half, M, saw me and came over. M. is cool and did a handstand at the Army Ten Miler's finish line after completing it last year. Given the severity of the ATM security regulations (I'll never sign up for that race again), it's a wonder she wasn't thrown into a cell at Guantanamo for violating one of their rules. When the gun went off I tossed my sweatshirt aside and we went out together. (M. training for the National Half on Constitution Avenue by the Mall during the long cold winter.)
The Race. The National course lay entirely within DC this year, unlike last year's course which branched out into Prince Georges County in Maryland. My goals for the race were threefold: break 3:45 (8:35), break 3:50 (8:46) , or break my PR of 3:52:34 (8:52), set in November at New York City.
MP 1–8:06. The time included the seventeen seconds it took us to cross the start line. We ran down darkened East Capitol Street getting our pace established. I told M. I was going to do eight-minute miles as long as I could as I tried for my goal of a time of 3:45 (8:35). M. wanted to break 1:50 (8:24) so she said she’d hang with me as long as she could. She got ahead of me early and I started to feel like I would have to let her go, but then we got settled down into easy running and our ragged breathing normalized.
MP 2–7:45 (15:51). We encountered the first of several inspiring sights, the Capitol Dome straight ahead of us lit up in the dim early morning light. We veered left to Independence Avenue and started down Capitol Hill. I looked for my NYCM running buddy who said she was going to come out to cheer us on, but she got delayed in traffic and I never saw her.
MP 3–7:57 (23:49). We ran past the Capitol to Constitution Avenue and then passed by my work building. M. dropped back a little and soon I was running alone. (M. posted an excellent time of 1:51 for her first Half-Marathon.)
MP 4–9:00 (32:49). Running alongside the Mall, we passed the Washington Monument on our left, another inspiring sight, and the White House on our right. (Two of the historic sites we ran by, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.) We turned for a short distance up Virginia Avenue. I missed mile marker 4 somehow, so I just punched my Timex at 9:00 to keep the number of splits correct. This was flat running in the heart of our nation’s capital, supported by a few spectators clapping in the early morning.
MP 5–7:22 (40:11). This was a "short" mile because I missed the last mile marker. I was running a little over eights here, which is about where I wanted to be. We backtracked on Constitution alongside the Mall and I noticed the large marker signaling MP 16 behind me as I ran by. It was a sentinel telling us that we would be back running this stretch later. I had run this part of the course as a training run half a dozen times recently, getting ready for this race.
MP 6–9:01 (49:12). Three quarters of a mile after we ran by the Washington Monument a second time, we turned off Constitution and went across the Mall southbound on 7th Street towards the DC waterfront. There were a couple of dips and doodles in the road as we ran by L'Enfant Plaza, the first intimation of some hills to come. I missed the mile marker again so I pushed the button on my watch at 9 minutes.
MP 7–7:22 (56:35). Another "short" mile. My friend Bob ran by sans shirt and with a heart monitor strapped around his chest, chasing after his BQ. He had gotten caught up in the back of the pack at the start but he went on to achieve a PR. I waved hello as he departed with a quick glance backwards to see who was calling out to him. We hit the waterfront and turned up M Street. I knew from training runs that the first hill awaited us down M Street.
MP 8–8:14 (1:04:50). We were cruisin’ down M Street. There was lots of new construction down there. It was turning out to be a good day for running, overcast, warm but not hot, slightly humid but not muggy. My glasses had steamed up so I had zipped them away in my trench pocket. That's why I missed some mileposts. The water stops were ample and I was eschewing gatorade so far and grabbing water on the run. However, I was steadily slipping off my desired eight minute pace.
MP 9–8:33 (1:13:23). We ran up the hill on M Street, the equivalent of Capitol Hill which we had run down at MP 2, and then zig-zagged up a couple of side streets until we hit Pennsylvania Avenue. We turned right, away from the Capitol.
MP 10–8:04 (1:21:28). (Running eastbound over the Sousa Bridge and looking southbound down the Anacostia at the bridges we would shortly run under.) We ran down Pennsylvania Avenue and across the John Philip Sousa Bridge over the Anacostia River into SE. I was running near an acquaintance of mine whom I always try to beat. We never speak. He was doing the half. Across the bridge the halfers would split off and turn left (north) to go up Minnesota Avenue towards their finish at RFK, whereas the marathoners would turn right. I pushed a little harder and reached the juncture ahead of him. (My half marathon time would beat his.) Two years ago, before I ramped up my training, I would have killed for a 1:21:28 ten-miler. Now I noted how I was already 88 seconds off an eight-minute pace (1:20:00). Still, I "only" had 16.2 miles to go.
MP 11–8:38 (1:30:06). We were running down a waterfront parkway by the Anacostia which was totally deserted. My friend J. passed me. He is one of those runners who makes beaucoup noise as he runs, one of the grunters and sighers. I can always hear him coming up behind me from a long ways off. We called out greetings. I was running alongside a runner who was busy telling me how he was back from injuries and this marathon would be a test of his fitness. He would either DNF or have a great finishing time, he explained. Then he noted a porta-potty alongside the road and said it was the first one he’d seen for quite awhile. I told him I had seen plenty recently. He asked me where so I pointed them out to him. That tree, that tree and that tree over there, I said. He laughed at my witticism and thus reminded, I ran over and stopped momentarily behind a tree for my only pit stop of the race. Aside from runners, a couple of cops and some course marshals, not a soul was in that pretty riverside park in SE as we ran through it.
MP 12–8:23 (1:38:30). This was further pleasant running along the water on flatlands. I am doing a three-mile race in May along this roadway and I reflected upon strategies for that race as I ran.
MP 13–8:40 (1:47:10). We ran back over the Anacostia on the Frederick Douglass Bridge. Somehow we gained the bridge’s height on a curving access road without seeming to go up too much of a hill. My perceptions would alter dramatically very soon. I kept passing a walker who would thereupon run some more and pass me again. This was maddening, especially since I had to listen the whole time to the patter of another runner who had attached himself to her and was busy trying to pick her up. Approaching the District again on the bridge, I was treated to the majestic sight of the structure of the Nationals' new $611 million baseball stadium arising from the fog along the river. I had never been across this bridge before and I hadn't seen the new stadium construction yet. The steel skeleton was fully up and some bleachers had been already added. I saw the stadium was oriented away from the water and towards the Capitol. It was too misty too see the Capitol from where I was but I hoped there would be a nice view of it from the stadium when the ballpark was done in time for the 2008 season. Studying the new park as I traversed the bridge was preferable to looking down at my feet. The bridge had several long steel grate sections that, at speed, gave a clear view of the river several dozen feet below and seeing the dancing water underneath, sunlight glistening off the eddies and swirls, induced a strong sense of vertigo in me. Once off the bridge, I noted that the halfway mark was coming up. I quickened my pace because I wanted to see if I could run my half faster than the finish time of my friends who were doing the Half. We ran up South Capitol Street and came back to M Street where we turned left. We had just closed a five mile loop over the river and back.
MP 13.1–1:48 (8:15 first half race pace). I ruefully reflected that during my marathon relay race with Bex two weeks earlier, I had hit the Half mark four minutes earlier at 1:44, a significantly faster time. Of course, then I only had a mile and a half remaining. Here I had another 13.1 miles to go, which would take me two hours and two minutes to run for a 9:19 second half race pace. Leaving the race was Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde was about to enter.
Next: From the Halfway Mark to Milepost 20. The Hills Were Waiting...