Nov 9, 2011

Race Report: Marine Corps Marathon - 4:48:53 (PR)

This report has been sitting as a draft for weeks. What you'll read is a report from a ten-day-later perspective, not a month-later perspective. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Well, it's a full ten days since the Marine Corps Marathon, and I'm just now getting around to writing a report. The result was great - sub-4:49, which is a lot faster than my previous PR of 5:31. I reached my sub-5 A-Goal so strongly that I wonder if I didn't set it too modestly. The race just went really well, so well in fact that I find myself reluctant to write about it - there just seems so much more to write about in a mediocre result, where I can address topics such as what happened? What didn't work? What can I do better? However, in this case - where a race works itself out almost perfectly, I really have little to say. I guess all I could do is play-by-play? And when I have a successful race, anything I find to complain about just seems to be hunting and pecking. Nitpicking.
That was a long paragraph to say.. this will be short. So let's just do the Play-by-Play.
  • I ran the entire first mile - keeps the streak alive.
  • I quickly started walking after the first mile, in the sometimes steep hills of Rosslyn.
  • The "Jog-a-mile, walk a minute or two" plan worked nicely with the early hills, provided I was flexible on the mile part. If a hill happened 0.75 miles after my last walk break, I walked. No big deal.
  • There was a long hill around the Georgetown Reservoir that I probably walked for 3-4 consecutive minutes. Again, no big deal.
At this point I'd like to reiterate what I said in the "Stating My Intentions" post - sub-5, which is about 11:30 per mile. Plan for a positive split, aiming for 10:45 miles in the first half-marathon. Then ease off a bit, and hang on to that sub-11:30 pace as long and as late as I can.
  • My average pace through the first half was right where I said it would be - eleven of the first thirteen miles were within 20 seconds of 10:30, about half above, half below. The two exceptions were a 10:54 in mile 2 (mostly uphill), and a 9:56 in mile 4 (downhill.)
  • I made a conscious effort to ease off at the half-marathon point, and mile splits started varying more widely on the flats of the national mall. Until mile 24, every mile split was within 30 seconds of 11 flat - some were down near 10:30, others were as high as 11:27 - but all were below the 11:30 required for a sub-5. Again, they were evenly distributed within that 60 second range of 11+-30.
  • It became obvious to me by "The Bridge" that not only was I going to break 5 hours, I had a shot at 4:45. But when we got to the very crowded out-and-back portion in Crystal City, I knew that I was starting to slow down more dramatically.
  • Mile 24, on the way back to the Pentagon, was my first mile below 11:30 - it was 11:54. Mile 25 was 11:38, and mile 26 was my slowest at 12:11. Good enough though! Can't complain about that!
So that's how it played out. Pretty much as good as it gets for me. I was able to just zone out and run without issues. I would have preferred not to drop off my pace so much in the last 5K - but, like I said - that's just hunting and pecking.
Post-race, with a PR and a smile.
On Big City Marathons

No doubt about it, MCM is a popular race - to the point that it's crowded. I've heard people talk about this before. There were always people around. 20-30 within a 20-30 foot radius of me - constantly. And, in the last ten miles as people started struggling - slowing down, walking - there was a lot of jockying for position and weaving my way through the groups who were sometimes moving 5-6 abreast. It got really bad in Crystal City with the two-way traffic. I know this reads like I'm complaining and I guess I am, but to complaint is really not my intention. I just feel like it's important to point out - the course and field is such that a mid-pack runner will have a lot of company at MCM.
These are some tough MoFos, who did the entire marathon with these packs. Notice the crowds  - this was at mile 5.
But also, that's one of the draws of these races. I had not run a big-city marathon in a couple of years. Big City Marathons (BCMs?) are .. a pain in the ass, but a worthy pain in the ass. Logistically, they're a nightmare. Took us three hours to get back to our car after the race. You have to deal with hotels, and expos, and a million people.. Plus they're expensive.. It's just so much easier and more pleasant to run on the trails, or to run a small low-key event. But there's something about a BCM that I crave.. to the extent that I start to feel a void if I go long enough without one. Taken in moderation, the crowds are exhilarating. The crowd support at MCM in particular is really good - more so than Chicago. There were people lining the course pretty about 80% the entire race after Rosslyn. And they were all cheering and holding up signs and having a good time.. I really llike that.
In an uncharacteristically non--crowded moment. of the race.. What a course! 
But, like I said, it's just too much effort to do that all the time. It's been two years since my last BCM, and that is probably a good interval. So far, among the BCMs, I've done Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and now Washington DC. My next BCM will likely be NYC in 2013.. which is perfectly timed for that two-year interval.
Awesome medal! Maybe second-best after Big Sur!

05K 0:33:26 33:26
10K 1:06:22 32:56
15K 1:39:17 32:55
20K 2:12:22 33:05
25K 2:46:46 34:24
30K 3:21:46 35:00
35K 3:56:50 35:04
40K 4:32:39 35:49

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