Friday, April 13, 2007

The National Marathon. Review: The Last Six Miles.

The National Marathon Review. The last 10K was...a chore.
If you do marathons, you gotta do this race.

My splits.
MP Split Time Notes
1. 7:49 (7:49)
2. 7:45 (15:51) Down Capitol Hill.
3. 7:57 (23:49)
4. 8:11 (32:49)
5. 8:11 (40:11)
6. 8:11 (49:12)
7. 8:12 (56:35)
8. 8:14 (1:04:50)
9. 8:33 (1:13:23) Up the hill on M Street NE.
10. 8:04 (1:21:28) Half Marathoners split off in SE.
11. 8:38 (1:30:06)
12. 8:28 (1:38:30)
13. 8:40 (1:47:10) Over the Frederick Douglass Bridge.
14. 8:35 (1:55:46)
15. 8:42 (2:04:28) Through the 9th Street Tunnel .
16. 8:51 (2:13:20)
17. 8:53 (2:22:14) Passing Lincoln.
18. 9:49 (2:32:03) Up Rock Creek. Gu stop.
19. 9:31 (2:41:35) There's an incline in Rock Creek Park!
20. 11:04 (2:52:39) Walking the Calvert Climb.
21. 9:49 (3:04:51) My last walk uphill.
22. 9:48 (3:12:07) Up past the McMillan Reservoir.
23. 8:46 (3:20:54) Downhill.
24. 9:15 (3:30:09) The pace group passes by.
25. 9:15 (3:39:25) I attach myself to the pace group.
26. 9:12 (3:48:37) Looking for RFK.
.21. 1:59 (9:04) My pace for this two tenths.
3:50:22 (8:48) My National.

The first twenty miles. I arrived at Milepost 20 in Adams Morgan, with its cheering throngs of spectators (Adams Morgan turned out, bless them) at 2:52, an 8:38 pace so far. (Left: We went from down there to up here in about 200 yards during the Calvert Climb.) My pace had fallen a lot in the last seven miles from my halfway pace of 8:15 down by the new stadium. (Right: We ascended these heights by climbing up the Calvert Climb.)

The old saw goes that a marathon is a twenty mile warmup for a 10K race. RFK and the finish line was 6.2 miles away. The race was strictly business now, the business of finishing it without wrecking it. It was no longer fun and the next hour would tell. (Below: After the Calvert Climb we still had to climb that up ahead. The view up Calvert Street towards Adams Morgan from the Duke Ellington Bridge.)

Gone was my hope of breaking 3:45, left behind on the incline in Rock Creek Park. Still within my grasp but fading quickly was my hope of beating 3:50. Still beckoning was breaking my PR at last November's NYCM of 3:52:34, although it would be close. More realistic, but not a certainty, was meeting my new standard of beating four hours.

The last 10K.
MP 21-12:12 (3:04:51). I had walked up the Calvert Climb out of Rock Creek Park on 24th Street NW. The climb on Calvert Street to Columbia Road was much less severe and I had managed it pretty well because I was familiar with the road, having run it several times. Turning left on Columbia and running past MP 20, I left behind all familiar terrain. I had never run up here before and didn't know what to expect. It was uphill, that much was plain to see. (Left: Turning up Columbia Road after The Climb and the climb up Calvert Street. A few more hills waited up here.)

I debouched from Columbia onto a long uphill stretch on Harvard Street. Its length was visually intimidating and I broke down into a walk for the second time. After 50 yards I started running again. I was going to wreck my race right there if I started to cycle in walking breaks. I went by the Red Bull Energy Drink stand but didn't take any of the proffered elixirs. I remember thinking it was odd they were handing out energy drinks here at the top of the race at MP 21, rather than at the bottom of the race at MP 19. I missed the milemarker so at 12 minutes I punched my Timex to keep my splits correct.

MP 22-7:15 (3:12:07). I ran by the McMillan Reservoir. I had never seen this body of water before, nor even knew it existed. Running past it was uphill, as always seems to be the case when running by water is involved, but then I crested a slight ridge and started down Michigan Avenue. It was rolling hills up here but I knew from studying the topographical map that a two mile downhill stretch was half a mile away. I couldn't wait for it and its promise kept me moving forward. I took a right onto North Capitol Street and the slight downhill grade lay before me, enticing me onwards like the Sirens of Titan. This was a short mile because I missed milemarker 21, so I had no idea how I was actually doing in terms of pace.

MP 23-8:46 (3:20:54). Downhill is better than uphill. I had wanted to fly down this long decline of North Capitol Street but now my feet were striking the pavement hard, keeping my speed in check. I was too tired to do anything with the downhill. In several places the roadway dipped under an overpass, presenting an uphill section on the other side. Runners around me were walking up those short stretches. I was tempted also, but here is where I took back my race. I powered through those uphills and just kept looking for mileposts. I knew one stretch of a series of turns was coming up and then I'd be in the vicinity of RFK. This stretch was the dogs days of the marathon.

MP 24-9:15 (3:30:09). I turned onto K Street NE. From the elevation chart I knew the long downhill was over and there were several rollers down here. I was really fading, thinking that I could walk it in from here and still do all right, get my 3rd best time even if I missed breaking 4 hours. I had given up on breaking 3:50 because I knew I couldn't do two and a quarter miles in 20 minutes. I had no oomph left. The 3:50 pace group ran by. I recalled reading running blog accounts where runners late in marathons had let their opportunites slip away and just a few minutes later they were ruing the irreversible effect of their momentary hesitation. This group was led by three Naval Academy students and had five or six men with blank expressions hanging on within it. It was a moving wedge working its way down the tail end of the race, destined to hit the finish line in three miles at the appointed time of 3:50. My desired time. I stepped into the spot right behind and between two pace setters. I watched the back kick of the end one and tried to stay where her heels had just left the air on their swing forward. I was so close it probably bothered the hell out of her. I was in her space. But I was desperate that no separation occur, otherwise I was afraid I'd lose her and the group and miss my PR by seconds after almost four hours of running.

MP 25-9:15 (3:39:25). We ran silently on. Ghost runners in a ghost group. We were definitely running past people though. I ran by my only spectator in the whole race, Jeanne, who had come from her hospital bed to encourage me on at H Street NE and 4th, just past MP 24. Her hail to me boosted my spirits. Thus energized, I hung with the pace group another half mile. Then I let them go. I was spent and couldn't keep up anymore. They had served me well, ensuring my PR. I hadn't squandered the opportunity the pace group had presented to me. There, near MP 24, stepping it up when they went by me and hanging with them for five or six minutes, was the key to my successful marathon. (Above: The 3:50 pace group at MP 24 on H Street NE at 4th Street NE. Look at those roller hills in the background! Photo credit Jeanne.)

MP 26-9:12 (3:48:37). Running alone again, I was trying to pick up my pace near RFK, anxiously looking for the stadium. I was back in an area where I had run before so I knew I wasn't far away from the finish. Determination was powering me now because my training hadn't been long enough or good enough or hard enough to take me this far. I kept thinking, Last mile. Keep at it.

.021875-1:59 (3:50:22). In sight of RFK, I passed the final milepost on the last long curve around to the plaza fronting the stadium where the finish line was. I thought about how long it would take to do one turn around the track at Washington & Lee High School in Arlington on the club's speed workout night. I could run a lap in 88 seconds there. I did the math. I wasn't going to break 3:50 in this race. I still brought it home as hard as I could to assure myself of meeting my bronze standard of a PR. I ran across the finish line in 3:50:22 net time, 3:50:39 gun time, bettering my NYCM mark by 2:12. (Left: Finally finished. So, umm, do you think my running shorts are too baggy? My good friend S gave me my Red Chili Pepper Socks as a present at the NYCM Expo. They're hot at least.)

After the race, I had some pizza and Stella Artois in Capitol Hill with my running buddy A and her friend L, who had PR'd in the long Half. That was some good recovery repast. A, good friend that she is, patiently listened to my long boring account of the morning's run while I unwound, even though she was tired from having stayed up late the evening before to attend the Snow Patrol concert at the Bender Arena.

Man, I liked this race. Three weeks later I have come to the conclusion that, aside from the NYCM (I grew up on Staten Island where it starts), this was my favorite marathon. I liked the way the course took us through all four quadrants of the city. Of the scenic urban marathons I have done, Columbus was nice and flat and I had family there, Twin Cities was beautiful being on the Mississippi and running by the lakes and all, Baltimore was, well, hilly, and MCM was nice but it doesn't actually go through the city a whole lot, but this marathon occupies a dreamy part of my mind already, right there alongside New York. (Right: DC Mayor Fenty finishes in 4:08.)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Of course I'd listen to the recap! Just sad I missed you out there (guess you were just too fast)! Sorry 'bout this morning-groggy and in no shape to run. Took me half the day to wake up and realize that tomorrow is actually your birthday! -A

Just12Finish said...

I think I've seen that pic before of the pace group, but I still got a chuckle. Zombies, all of you!

Those shorts are baggy, it's the legs that are too short.

Funny how you grow fond of a marathon AFTER you've finished, eh?

Just12Finish said...

Those shorts AREN'T baggy, it's the legs that are too short. Damn, I messed up my line.

jeanne said...

those are shorts? i thought you were wearing a SKIRT!

marathons are like childbirth...the pain fades and only the high points remain.