Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marine Corps Marathon 28 Oct 2007

The Marine Corps Marathon...One of the fourth largest marathons in the country...The Peoples Marathon...A must do marathon in my books...30,000 signed up…about 24,000 showed up…and less than 21,000 finished. The marathon starts at the Arlington Cemetery, winds through Rosslyn, across the Key Bridge to Georgetown, through Washington DC, looping around Haines Point, back to the Virginia side by crossing the 14th St Bridge, then looping through Crystal City, passing the Arlington Cemetery again, looping back up to Rosslyn and back and finally charging up the hill to finish near the Marine Corps Monument Iwo Jima. Packed with sights and sounds of our nation’s capital and surrounding cities and it was all that it's billed to be.

I've wanted to do this marathon way back when I was still in the Navy…I was a Navy Corpsman for 23 years and served with the Marines (the Marines…a Department of the Navy…use Navy Corpsmen and Navy Medical staff) as a FMF corpsman for the first four years of my career and again with them during Desert Storm. Some don't know that one of the six men raising that flag on Iwo Jima is a Navy Corpsman...'Doc' John Bradley. I first started training for this marathon about six years ago, but a knee injury, while cross training on rollerblades, ended that hope then. With some self-rehab and slow, steady progression in running, I was finally running, knee pain free for the last couple of years. I picked up a registration form from the Shamrock Marathon in March to ensure that I would be registered. I mailed in my registration in April and in June got my confirmation email stating that I was registered in the MCM...Oh Happy Days! The last week of June started my MCM training cycle which was filled with ups and downs all coming down to this day...Sunday 28 October 2007...the 32nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon.

I booked a room in Alexandria...about six miles from the start of the June after receiving my confirmation. My wife and family were not making the trip so I shared my room with another runner, Brian. I drove up to the Expo Saturday morning with rain coming down in buckets, but half way there, the rain stops and the sun comes out. I went to the Expo first, which is in the Armory in DC, and got my race packet and shirt and then wander through the vendors picking up free things...sports beans, couple of different flavors of Clif Bloks...the one I was interested in was the Margarita flavor because it has extra sodium because I cramp a lot in long runs and I need all the help I can get...and it was there were other free stuff and samples. Then I drove around the starting area trying to find places to park for the next day and checking out Metro stops and parking areas next to them...I wanted to have a plan to get to the race the next day. I got back to the hotel at 3:00 in time to meet Brian for check in and we are told our room isn't ready for another 20-30 minutes. He gives us both complimentary parking because of the wait...Yeah, it was normally $10 per day for parking...amazing...having to pay to park at the hotel that your staying! We also find out that the hotel is providing transportation to the Pentagon...where the start is...and back from Pentagon City Metro when we are done. We finally get our rooms and Brian has to still go to the Expo and I have a dinner get together (FE) with a bunch of runners from the Runner's World forum. I have printed Google maps with directions and head out to find the place. I make two wrong turns, the first one which takes forever to find a place to turn back around and the second takes me to a traffic backup near the Kennedy Center with the river on the left and no exits to the right. I call and tell them I'm stuck in traffic and not to wait for me...45 minutes later I tell them there is no way I can get there before it's even over. Finally I get out of the traffic jam and go back near the hotel to find something to eat, get back to the hotel around eight and start preparing for the next days run.

Sunday dawns...well it was actually still dark at 4:45 in the morning when two alarms and the phone wake-up service wakes us up...we wanted to make sure we got up in time. The temperature forecasted for the day is in the low 50's in the morning with it warming to the low 60's for the high, with a bit of wind 10-12 mph in the morning building to about 15 mph around noon. It's not going to be hot and it's not going to be raining...what more could we ask for?

We get showered and dressed and go down to catch the van. We were told the service would start around 6:00 but we find out they have already been running since 5:00, but no big deal...the race doesn't start till around 8:00. We jam into the next van and which takes us the Pentagon City Metro and are told we should take the Metro to the Pentagon but we convince the driver to just drive us to the Pentagon and he lets us off there. We get out and join a long line of people walking around the south side of the Pentagon to the east and then north. It seemed like ages before we get to the staging area with tents, UPS trucks for our gear drop off and of course the all important port-a-lets...hundreds of while we were there, there were no long lines. We explore to find the starting area and finally after asking directions find it. Both sides of a four lane road next to the Arlington Cemetery are roped off into corrals according to expected finish times. We go back to the UPS trucks and dump off our warm jackets and was cold with the wind and low temps...and then head back to the starting corrals. Brian wants to run with the 3:40 corral and I want to run with the 3:30 corral so we get in the middle so we can start together. It's about 7:40 now and we decide we need to make a pit stop so we walk back about a hundred yards to some port-a-lets, do our thing and get back to the corral. The wheel chair's go off about 7:45 and I get the urge to go again so I climb down to the trees on the right where a whole bunch of other men are 'watering' the trees and bushes. I get back in the corral and at about 7:55 I feel the urge again and go back to the trees. I get back in the corral just as the ropes separating the corrals are being released and everyone surges forward crowding together.

The starting gun goes off...well, I don't even remember if there was a gun or horn, but the runners start walking forward towards the start line. Near the start line we start to trot and then stop again, then start walking and then trot again. We finally get to the start line in a trot and I start my watch as we cross the beeping starting mats and we're off...still jogging, dodging, slowing down, speeding up...but we're on our way. Brian and I stay together for about the first half mile and I tell him that he will probably catch me later if I should cramp up. I then steadily make my way to the 3:30 pace group...I can see the balloons in the distance about 200 yards away and by the first mile, I had caught up to them. The first mile stripe, I hit the pace button on my watch and it says 9:19...and I am puzzled that it is soo slow, even with the slow pace at the start line, and everyone else is too...we think it was a long mile. About the one mile mark we even passed a woman doing it on crutches and we give her encouragements as we pass her. I see the balloons for the 3:20 pace group...which is the one that I really want to be with and I steadily made my way over a period of about 3 miles to them. The first 8 miles had two hills that even challenged a few of the wheelchair/hand bike participants as we passed a few who were struggling. At the 10 mile mark we pass the road that goes between the Kennedy Center and the Potomac River…the same place I was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes the night before…imagine that…I’m running faster than I was driving the night before. We loop through the Washington Mall area with the Washington Monument and all the other monuments, historic buildings and the Capital building. I pass the 13.1 timing mat in 1:37:38…faster than my Rock n Roll half time just two months ago, but still at the pace that I wanted to be and still feeling good…but I had to go…even with all those pre-start pit stops…I needed another and bad. I had been searching for a spot looping around the mall area but didn’t really want to stop and water a tree with our Nation’s Capital in full view. I finally see two port-a-lets just before the 14 mile mark and wait about a minute till one is vacated. It seemed like every thing slowed down at that point…I couldn’t find my pace…the stop seemed to have messed me up. By this time we are entering Haines Point and I feel my lower legs telling me that they are not happy…I try to alter/slow my pace so they won’t cramp, but after making the turn at the far end of Haines Point, the calves start cramping bad. I stop to massage and stretch and continue on for about a quarter of a mile and cramp up again. I have to stop to massage and stretch about four more times coming out of Haines Point and I am asking myself why I am doing this…I swear that this is the last marathon I do…I can’t stand cramping every time and that I am just going to stick to half marathons and shorter races…No.More.Marathons…then I hear the roaring crowds where the road circles around to get on the 14th street bridge. The crowd makes me want to get my pace up and I do a bit but when I am almost to the top of the ramp to the bridge, my legs cramp again. I do my stop to massage and stretch the cramps out about three more times on the bridge. At about the 20 mile mark my roommate Brian catches up to me and he is having ITBS problems too. We run together until one of us has to stop to massage/stretch and then catch up to each other as the other has to stop. We finally get off the bridge and again into a roaring mass of crowds lining the road looping Crystal City. We can also see all the runners coming back from the Crystal City loop on the other side and the line of runners seem to stretch out into the distance…with no end in sight. We finally make the turn around at the 22 mile timing mat and head through the cheering crowds out of Crystal City. Exiting Crystal City I am having my doubts and self pities again and plan to just jog it in…heck I’m barely running as it is! Just then Jon yells Charlie and tries to give me a bear hug as were running. Let me tell you about Jon. We ran our first marathon last year…Richmond…I was trying to find a person to drive with to Richmond for the marathon because I didn’t know if I could drive back after. We drove up together ran the marathon…well, he ran and I had to walked most of the last half…I was ill prepared to run a marathon and it was really hot that day…and of course I had cramping problems. We have been marathon running buds since. We ran Shamrock and when I ran Frederick, he was having leg problems but was up there as a volunteer with Kale Running. He had told me he was doubtful for MCM and I didn’t know he had even registered. Now here he was full of joy and enthusiasm…just what I needed. I found new energy running with Jon and Brian was still with us and the pace quickened a bit. Even Jon was having leg problems so now here the three of us are each with their own problems, each stopping now and then to massage and stretch and then catching up to the group. We run pass the Pentagon and back to the Arlington Cemetery…where we all had started a little more than three hours ago…it seemed so surreal…the starting corrals were gone, the starting mats and huge air filled red starting gates were gone…but we had been here before. I cracked that we were being force to do the marathon again because we were too slow…it was the Marine way…Do it again! But we knew we only had two more miles to go. We lost sight of Brian during the down hill loop that takes us to the morning start line…the down hill makes his ITBS worse and he has to stop to stretch. Back up to Rosslyn we go and do the final loop and finally head back to the finish. We get to the right hand turn going up hill to the finish and Jon starts yelling as he charges up the hill…THIS AIN’T NOTHING…We make the final right turn and see the finish line and charge to the finish, giving each other a low five across the first set of timing mats and then raising our arms in victory as we cross the finish. A great ending to a great marathon! We get our medals from the Marines and then are herded to the food/beverage line. We want a picture at the Iwo Jima Monument and realize we have to go back the way we came to get there. We are like salmon going up stream as we try to weave through the runners coming the other way through the food line. We finally reach the monument and get our pictures taken and head to Rosslyn…he to find his father in the crowds and me to the UPS truck and to find Brian. I also want to get back to the finish line to see if I can see the finish of some of the people that I was hoping to see around the 4:30 mark and get there just as the announcer is saying the 4:30 runners are coming through…I don’t see them and wait another five minutes or so and still don’t’ see them and think I must have missed them. I go back to the UPS trucks to get my stuff and see if Brian is there but I miss him too and with all the runners and crowds, it’s hard to meet up with anyone. Later I found out that Brian was only about 20 seconds behind us when we finished. I make my way to the Rosslyn Metro and find it crowded with people trying to get back down to the Pentagon area or Crystal City. It takes more than 45 minutes to get through the pass gates and to the escalators. We get to the escalators that take you down to the tracks…looking down it looked steep and seemed to go down into the bowels of the earth. We get on the escalators and had just started down when it lurches to a stop. The up escalators are still running but ours…the down escalator was stopped dead. We had to walk down the steps…when you have just completed 26.2 and your legs are cramping, the last thing you want to do is go Down some steps…especially down a lot of steps. We make it down but find we still need to get to the lower level of the tracks to get to our ‘Blue” line to take us to the Pentagon City Metro stop. So down we go again.

My watch splits and timing mat splits are as follows:
Mile 1 in at 9:19...I think was a long mile
Mile 2 I don't see the mile marker
Mile 3 in at 22:37
Mile 4 in at 29:15
Mile 5 in at 36:43…Timing mat time was 37:15
Mile 6 in at 44:25
Mile 7 in at 51:34
Mile 8 in at 58:55
Mile 9 in at 1:06:26
Mile 10 in at 1:13:50…Timing mat time was 1:14:22
Mile 11 in at 1:21:31
Mile 12 in at 1:28:53
Mile 13 in at 1:36:46
The Half in at 1:37:38…Timing mat time was 1:37:50
Mile 14 in at 1:46:36...I had to take a pit stop
Mile 15 in at 1:54:49…Timing mat time was 1:55:22
Mile 16 in at 2:03:22
Mile 17 in at 2:12:15
Mile 18 in at2:23:18…Timing mat time was 2:23:51
Mile 19 in at 2:35:02
Mile 20 in at 2:45:41
And then something went wrong with my watch and I have no other splits from my watch but the 22 mile timing mat was 3:07:10
The finish is in 3:47:28.

I think the discrepancy between the timing mat splits and my watch splits was the difference from gun time to actual chip time...the mat times seemed to be gun times...except for mile 18…and I think it was here that the Marine that was calling out the time said the time on the clock was wrong. But anyway...overall pace was a disappointing 8:40 per mile. But the finish although 12 minutes short of a BQ was a new 8 minute PR from my best of 3:55 at to be pleased about.

Race results:

There were 1147 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 20631 total finishers.

Overall finish place was 2837 of 20631

Age group finish place was 120 of 1147

Time: 3:47:28 for an overall pace of 8:40 per mile

Next stop...Richmond? or OBX?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fleet Week Half Marathon 14 Oct 2007

Haven't had any new posts since my last half marathon...haven't really had anything to post about but Sunday I ran the Fleet Week Half Marathon. This race is a significant mile stone in my running because it was the first race that I had ever entered...which was only one year ago...besides my MCM training schedule had me running 13 miles at marathon pace, and what a better way to run at marathon pace than a race with hundreds of other runners and people to cheer you on. Last year I ran this race in 1:45:58, 5th in my age group, 132nd overall with a pace of 8:05 minute miles...not bad for a first race ever being a half marathon. My best half marathon since then was a 1:32:26 in April's Dismal Swamp Stomp Half. My last half marathon was the Rock n Roll Half just completed six weeks ago in a disappointing 1:38:27...but it was on a bad leg. So my goal for this half I wanted at least something between the 1:32 and 1:38 and with a secret...wishing, if all goes extremely well...1:30 or better...which I knew wasn't likely because my training hasn't been what it should have been the last couple of months.

The race takes place at the Naval and Air Base here in Norfolk. The race course is a large loop consisting of running through the air base, down and back to Breezy Point...a recreational area, by the helo pads, by the base marina, by the monuments to the USS Cole and USS Iowa, along the piers with the massive carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other ships and finally back to the start finish. Quite a tour of the base. It even went by the building where I work on Morris Street! There was also a "Spirit on the Course" competition where different commands come to cheer on the runners and the top three winners would win cash prizes for their Moral and Welfare Recreational committees...these are people who organize fun things for the command to picnics, dinners and other fun events for the whole family. Well, SPAWAR...which is the command I work for, decided to enter competition to win some funds and of course have fun cheering the runners on.

The temperatures were forecast to be in the mid 50's at the start (8:05) with it going up to around 65 by (10:00), sunny with a bit of a cool breeze from the northwest. A perfect day for a race in my books. I get up at 5:00 and do my normal routine...had everything laid out the night before like normal. The thing I was still contemplating was what shoes to red Kayanos where the right shoe was rubbing just under my right ankle or my blue Kayanos where the left shoe was rubbing my left ankle...or do I wear my new NB 767 that only had 3 miles on them. Then I had this strange notion to wear the blue one on my right foot and the red on my the end I went with the red Kayanos with a sports Band-Aid on my right ankle to protect it. I head to the Naval base around 6:30 and arrive at the gates to the base around 7:00 in a slow stream of traffic of cars trying to get in and parked. I get parked and get my chip and start my warm-ups by walking/running around a track where the event is setup. Last year there were about 600 runners and this year they expect over a thousand. Also last year there were a few Kenyans but this year I didn't see any...even though there was cash prizes but only for 1st and 2nd. I hit the port a potties a couple of times and the last time I have this rumble in my lower abdomen and feel the urge to go and it's almost I am a bit I go scout out where all the port a lets are located along the course map in case I need to use them...and there seems to be plenty of them...and fortunately, I didn't have any problems during the race. I head to the start line and find the 1:30 pace group and get behind them and complete my stretches before the National Anthem is sung and the gun goes off at 8:05 starting the race and I start my watch as I cross the start line. I fall in behind the pace group going through the first half mile and then head to the front and past...the first mile comes in at 6:28...not bad and feeling really good...but that's normal for me to start fast...and I'm going to do what feels good to me...even though I probably will fade at the end...we'll see how it goes but i reign myself in a bit and the second mile comes in at 6:55, and that is where I find my SPAWAR cheer leaders cheering me on. Mile three comes in at 6:50 and the first water stop...I am disappointed that they are using plastic cups and not paper cups, but I grab a water and try to squeeze the plastic cup down so I can drink without it going all over doesn't work...I get half of it down my shirt. On the way to the turn around point at the Breezy Park, I get to see the leaders coming back and upon my turn around I get to see the runners going by behind me and also size up my competition to see where they are...most seem to be quite a way back and I can't remember any being in least the ones I knew were in my age group. I don't remember seeing the four-mile marker and time and so I didn't punch in my lap time on my watch either. About the 4.5 mark I again see my SPAWAR cheerleaders which gives me a boost and mile 5 comes in at 13:46 (miles 4 + 5), which is still at about a 6:53 average for the two miles. Mile 6 comes in at 6:56 and seven in 6:48...these miles I am running with a guy who is running at my pace but he is going through the water stops really fast and I have to expends some energy trying to catch up...I think I was having problems with the plastic cups and had to slow a bit to squeeze them down so I could get a decent drink. So even though it is nice to pace with someone going your pace, at the next water stop, I let him go rather than try to catch up to him. And it showed on my next time at mile 8, I dropped down to 7:18, picked it up at mile 9 to 7:09, dropped down to 7:23 at mile 10...and they finally had paper cups instead of plastic one... 7:27 at mile 11, 7:29 at mile 12, picked it up some for mile 13 at 7:13. I try to sprint to the finish and as usual...I forget to punch the lap time at the finish, but I see the race clock at 1:32: something and feel satisfied. No 1:30 but the 1:32 did feel good. My final official time was 1:32:24...a whole 2 seconds faster than my best at the Dismal Swamp a PR!

The last half where I had come in at 1:32, I came in first in my age group and I don't remember being passed by any "old guys", so I waited around for the posting of the race times...anticipating a first in AG...but not to be. A guy from Albuquerque, NM came in before me...and...I think it was the same guy that took my 1st place AG in a 10K I ran in the spring! Why can't he stay in Albuquerque? Turns out I meet the guy at the score sheet. He was up at the score sheet at the time I was looking for my name and it said I came in 3rd and the guy for Albuquerque had come in 2nd but we couldn't see a name or time for the guy who came in 1st...There wasn't any! WTF...I mean Hay? I told him it must be a recording error and that he was sure to be first and I was second. Then talking with him, he said he had flown in the day before to race...I jokingly told him next time stay at home so I could win. Next time he comes back I will be waiting for him...yes, I want him to come back...He came in at 1:27, and I have a way to go, but it will be nice to run with him next time. So we wait around for the awards he with his family and me with my SPAWAR cheerleaders and wait for the announcements. He does get 1st in AG and I come in 2nd...we get our awards and get our pictures taken and congratulate each other. My SPAWAR cheerleaders take second prize for the Spirit on the Course...they should have taken first but a group in cheerleader outfits took first.

In all a good leg was still sore at the beginning of the race but wasn't too bad at the end. This morning there are some aches but nothing way out of the ordinary. So hopefully I will be able to give my best for the next two weeks training and the Marine Corps Marathon on the 28th.

Race Results:

There were 42 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 880 total finishers.

Overall finish place was 52 of 880

Age group finish place was 2 of 42

Time: 1:32:24 for an overall pace of 7:03 per mile

First 5 mile split was 34:01 for a pace of 6:48/mile

Second 5 mile split was 35:34 for a pace of 7:07/mile

Last 5K split was 22:48 for a pace of 7:21/mile

A typical race for me...start off fast and fade at the end...but I did take 6 minutes off from my last race (RnR Half) by running it this way...I need to find a solution to end the last half stronger. When I tried to start off slow at the RnR half, I just ended up going slower still at the end.

Two more weeks of training and on to the MCM!