“Running is just you, the work you put in, and the clock. You can’t cheat yourself. If you don’t put in the miles, you can’t go to the starting line thinking you’re going to pull a miracle out of nowhere. You get out exactly as much as you put in.” -- Des Davila
I got this quote from Mark Yost. And it sums up my experience at the Marine Corps Marathon: I didn't put in the training volume I needed, so I didn't run the time I wanted. No one to blame but myself. 4:20, when I hope to go under under 4.
As for the mechanics of the day… Well, this race was a little different from the other marathon I did. That one had 283 runners. This one had a few more than that. My wife, the kids, and I drove down on Saturday for packet pickup, and because the two older boys were registered for the kids' fun run. That was my first indication of just how different things were - before this, the largest race I'd done was probably the Baltimore 10-Miler. When I saw the line to enter the expo, I whispered a few choice words. The line moved quickly though, and I was out of there in less than an hour. It would have been shorter if I hadn't spent time trying to find the pace groups.
The boys had fun at the fun run - though the oldest is developing a competitive streak… Going to need to find him some races with actual placing.
Race morning started at 3:30 - too many of my longer races (the other marathon, and both half-iron tris) I have had to interrupt the run to find a port-o-potty, and I wanted to make sure I had time to digest everything well beforehand. Breakfast was a bagel with peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut spread. We took off around 5:40 (I had been aiming for 5, but with three boys, that's actually not too bad). It took far longer to get to Crystal City than I had hoped - more roads were closed, and my GPS is stubborn once it has a route in mind. My wife dropped me off near the shuttle point and went to park. By that point, the line for the shuttle went down into the garage and almost all the way around it… It was 7:40 by the time I made it onto a shuttle, and the race starts at 7:55.
A quick stop behind some trees, a long walk across the parking lot, and finally I got to the start line almost 20 minutes after the official race start. Needless to say, I never found the pace group I wanted to run with - they had a good head start on me, and I could not run with them, let alone fast enough to make up the time on them.
From the course profile, I knew I wanted to take it easy at the beginning where the largest hills were, but where I was in the pack, even if I had wanted to go fast, it would not have been possible - I was running in a traffic jam.
The first 16 miles were all in the 8:30-9:30 pace range. My longest run in the buildup to this was 16 miles. Then I had a series of 10+ minute miles. Coincidence…? I think not.
The Marines at the water stops did a great job, I thought, given how many runners were coming through there. But… the mess on the ground by the time I got there - I would not be at all surprised to hear that someone had slipped on the cups. And the stop with orange slices - even worse.
I'm not sure my nutrition strategy was quite right - I carried nothing with me, I tried to live off the course. I took Gatorade (one at the first few stops, two for all the later stops) and water at all the water stops, and whatever food they were handing out at the food stops. I even took a bit of beer around mile 21 or 22 - at that point I knew I wasn't having the race I wanted, so… 3 of the last four miles were back in the 9:15 pace, so maybe some extra carbs at that point helped. :-)
There are some very cool views on this race. It is hard to imagine anything much cooler than running past the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and up towards the White House. The best thing for me, though, was seeing my family around mile 18… except, of course, that my 7 year old thought it would be fun to climb on me.
Unfortunately, that was the only time my family managed to be in place to find me. With the 20 minutes between the race start and my start, they didn't have the timing quite right to find me anywhere. They apparently just missed me at mile 24, and then again at the finish line. And, did I mention this race was somewhat big? It took an hour and a half for them to find me afterwards.
I guess I can cross that one off my bucket list. Too much chaos, too many people. I'm glad I did it, I definitely learned from the experience, but once is enough for me.