Monday, March 21, 2016

DC Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Quick Recap

I took a break from my string of ultra races to take part in the DC Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.  Right after the 2015 marathon was over, they had a promo deal for the 2016 entry, so I went ahead and signed up since it was such a low price ... even though I had just barely started running again at that point. In retrospect, I would've rather been at the TJ100K. Oh well.

Here's a quick recap.

Race Details

The DC RnR is your typical behemoth commercial road race. About 25,000 participants toed the line for the 10K, half marathon, and marathon on March 12th. The race route weaves through the District, with the first half meandering around the Mall and Northwest DC before heading into the Southwest Waterfront and Anacostia for the later portions of the race. The sights are less than impressive once you exit the National Mall area, and there are large portions of the race where your view is nothing but empty dirt plots and industrial buildings ... Yippee!  All in all, I'd rate the experience a D-.

My Race

Knowing I had the Terrapin Mountain 50K the next weekend, my goal for the DC RnR was to give it about a 95% effort, figure out where my fitness was after 500+ miles of running in the previous 10 weeks, and finally BQ.  My A Goal was 2:55, My B Goal was sub-3:00, and my C Goal was ... ummm ... to not roll my eyes too much at the mass-marketed road race experience.

I had a general plan to run 6:40-6:45 miles, coming into 20 miles right at 2:15, and then I'd try to pick up the pace and complete the final 10K in 40:00, for a clean 2:55.  If that didn't pan out, I'd hopefully limp along for something under 3:00 and finally BQ. Either way, anything less than a 5 minute PR was simply unimaginable.

Stream of consciousness race report:

The Starting Line -- There are so many people here! Ughhh! I hate this. Crap, the race is about to start and I suddenly have to pee again, but there's no place to go ... at a trail race I could just walk over to the nearest tree and take care of business ... I don't understand how road runners live like this!

Mile 1 -- Woah, this start feels awfully fast. Look, it's Mike Wardian cheering everyone on! "Hey, Mike Wardian! Thanks for coming out!"  ... I don't think he heard me.  6:15?! Shit, better slow it down!

Mile 2 --  Wait a tick, everyone around me is wearing a blue bib! No wonder I'm too fast, I'm keeping up with the half marathoners.  6:12?! "What the hell!" (yeah, I said that out loud) How did I slow down and yet still run faster?!

5K -- 19:59 -- Ok, I'm getting closer to 6:40 pace.

Mile 5 -- Why do so many people have hip belts? There are aid stations every 2 miles. This isn't the Sahara Desert!

Mile 6 -- I finally settled on my pace. 6:30-6:35 is faster than I was planning, so hopefully I don't pay the price later. Man, this feels easy.

10K -- 41:05 -- Perfect pacing! Right where I wanna be!

Mile 7 -- This climb to the Connecticut Ave bridge is a piece of cake. ... Why is that other marathoner running by my so quickly, he's going to pay for it later. See you in the final 10K, buddy!

Mile 8 -- First gel. Huma Lemonade. Yum!

Mile 9 -- First deep breath. Everything before this felt like an easy training run. HR down to 172, hmm, should I pick up the pace?

Mile 10 -- 1:06 -- Hey, a new PR!

Mile 12 -- Why is that other marathoner running by me so quickly? I'll see you later!

13.1 -- 1:26:57 -- Hey, another PR!

Mile 14 -- Just passed First Place Female.  "Keep it up, you're doing great!" ... No response ... Road runners are too serious! Word of advice to non-elite males: Be good enough to run alongside lead-of-the-pack women, spectators cheer like crazy for them and it makes you feel like you're special, too ... even though you're just average.

Mile 15 -- Huma gel #2: Blueberry!

Mile 16 -- An odd out and back portion with wonderful views of empty dirt plots! Why on earth didn't they tout these amazing views on the website?!  "Way to go, First Place!" He looks like he's running a lot harder than me. I think I'm about 10 minutes back.

Mile 17 -- Finishing the odd out and back portion. "Keep it up, you're doing great!"... again, am I the only one out here cheering on other runners?!

Mile 18 -- Have I really been running for 2 hours? This still feels like a training run. Look, more people to pass! This bridge into Anacostia looks like it belongs in a 3rd World country.  Oh, hey random runner pissing on the side of the road! Props!

Mile 19 -- The Anacostia Waterfront isn't covered in trash?! Does that 5-cent bag tax actually work?!

Mile 20 -- 2:12:30 -- 2:30 ahead of schedule. Awesome! Should I still finish this out with a sub-40:00 10K?  I'll dig in a little deeper, but there's no point in going overboard.

Mile 21 -- Huma gel #3: Apple Cinnamon!

Mile 22 -- I've passed like 10 people in the last 4 miles. This is fun! HR still under 175, I guess that's good.

Mile 23 -- A big hill! More people to pass! Oh the carnage! It's that dude from Mile 7! I knew I'd see you again! 5K to go ... breathing is still under control ... let's pick up the pace a little!

Mile 25 -- Oh hey dude that passed me at Mile 12! ... You're not looking so hot ... Almost there, keep it up!

Mile 26 -- 6:15 pace. This feels comfortable. Breathing still steady. No point in pushing it. Nice easy run into the finish.

The Finish -- I get the finishing chute all to myself ... Nice! Okay, should I jump across the finish line? Sure, why not! JUMP! ... and ... High Five to the dude dressed as the Geico Gekko! 2:53:31. Not bad for a hard training run.

The Aftermath

The marathon had a separate finishing chute from the half marathon, but after that, all the runners had to merge together to get to the heavily commercialized celebration area. It was a mess. I don't think I'll ever run another road marathon that's co-mingled with a half marathon.

I ran a top time! I shouldn't have to fight my way through a crowd at the end of the race! Also, the line to the free beer tent was INSANE! Again ... I ran a top time! I shouldn't have to wait in line for 20 minutes for my free beer!

I picked up my cheaply made finisher jacket -- what the hell am I going to do with this? -- and then started my cooldown jog back home.

All in all, it was a pleasant personal experience -- I got a better understanding of my abilities, I wasn't worn out at all, and I'm pretty sure I could knock out a 2:48 marathon if I really wanted to. What a difference a few months of hard ultra training can make!  That said, I don't think I'll be signing up for another road marathon any time soon. After all, I think I failed to meet my C Goal of limiting my eye-rolling.

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