It's still hard to believe that after 4 months and almost 600 miles of training, it's over. I completed my first-ever marathon yesterday, running with 23,000 of my closest friends through Arlington, Virginia and the streets of our Nation's Capital.
All week, it was the threat of Hurricane Sandy and how it was going to affect the race - was it going to be pouring down rain? Was it going to be windy as all get-out? How would we handle it? As it turns out, we got no rain at all. The temperature at race time was about 58 degrees, and it was overcast. Negligible winds at the start, so it was all good.
The race started off ominously for me - my Garmin had powered off during the wait to cross the start line, and I didn't hear the beep with all of the commotion around me. So when I went to hit the "Start" button as I crossed the line, nothing happened. I had to power on again, wait for it to capture the satellite, and then start. As a result, my first 2 miles was run just by feel. Which was OK, since I wanted to start it off very easy.
They said there was a nice big hill in mile 2, but because I train in this area, it wasn't that daunting. I took it easy going up, and was rewarded with a nice downhill until the next little hill in mile 5. We crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown and went up Canal Road. I passed the 10K mark in 10:02, just about according to plan. Once we passed mile 7, we were rewarded again with another nice downhill back into the heart of Georgetown. I was settling into a nice groove - not breathing hard, conserving energy, and going with the flow.
We entered Haines Point around mile 11, and that's when the winds picked up. Haines Point is flat, but the winds coming out of the north as we were exiting the peninsula made it tougher than I thought. Still, through 20K, I had speeded up to a 9:51 average pace, and was still running rather easily. But I was starting to feel the effects of relying on aid stations for my hydration.
[I had brought a water bottle with me filled with Nuun. That bottle lasted me through mile 6, which was about what I expected. My fueling plan was to drink once a mile until my bottle ran out, then to rely on aid stations afterwards. I took a GU at mile 4, and then another one every 3.5 miles or so afterwards, or at the closest water stop to 3.5 miles. In between, I was taking Gatorade. I avoided the crowds at the first tables and waited until I got to the last table to grab my Gatorade, but the cups weren't filled enough for me - I wasn't taking in enough electrolytes, but was doing OK...for now.]
We exited Haines Point and were greeted by litereally thousands of spectators as we ran along the National Mall. I was still doing fine, although I started to feel a little tightness in my quads at around mile 16. A high-five from Bart Yasso as I made the U-turn back down Independence Avenue was a welcome sight. As I approached the US Capitol, my left quad started getting tight. I passed through the 30K mark still at a 9:51 pace, and was still hoping for a 9:45 finish.
I passed the hydration stop just past mile 19, and the quick burst of electrolytes helped my quad. But after I made the turn to the 14th Street Bridge, it felt as if I had a softball in my thigh, and slowed considerably to about an 11:00 pace. As we came off of Route 27 and went into Crystal City at mile 22, I had had enough. I switched at that point to a 5:1 run/walk, just to relieve some of the pain. I kept that up until mile 25, at which point I decided I wanted to finish this thing running. I passed the 40K mark at 4:15, a 10:16 pace, and was just puttering along.
The run up the hill to the finish line was tough, especially since now my calves were now barking at me as well, but I picked it up the last 1/10 mile, and made it through the finish chute with my head held high. 4:30:47 was my finish time. My goal was simply to finish my first marathon, but in the back of my mind, I was gunning for a 4:15. Didn't quite get that, but I am not at all displeased with my performance.
The entire environment surrounding the Marine Corps Marathon was unbelievable - from the crowd support, to the course, to the professional way this race is run - I am thrilled that my first marathon was MCM.
So now it's some rest, and back to normal training runs for now. I may try for a 10K on New Year's Eve, but my next focus will be trying to get into the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April via lottery. Wow, a ten miler? That should be a piece of cake!!