Monday, March 19, 2012

Race Recap: Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon

2012 had gotten off to a slow start for me. A plantar fascia injury meant a reduction in my training and not starting in two races I had signed up to do in February. It was definitely not the way I wanted to start off the year, but that's running. Things happen sometimes and you have to respect your body, or you're asking for trouble.

Sitting out my first two races of the year meant that the Rock 'n' Roll (RnR) USA Marathon in Washington, DC would be my first test. Not racing in February was a smart decision and enable me to focus solely on my training and conditioning so I would be ready for RnR. Thankfully, my foot got better and my long runs were positive. So positive, in fact, that I thought I might be able to better my marathon PR I set back back in October at the Marine Corps Marathon (3:49:10).

As race day approach, I noticed I was bit more nervous and anxious then usual. Even though my foot was feeling a lot better, it was definitely still a concern of mine. In addition to RnR being a home race for me, it was going to be the 26th time I would be toeing the line for the 26.2 mile trek. To most people, the number 26 means nothing. To a marathoner, it means everything. So, being my 26th marathon, it had a little extra meaning to me.

Finally, race day morning was here and I was ready to go! After hanging out with some of my friends from my running club, I headed to my start corral. 7 minutes after the gun went off, it was time for my corral wave to be unleashed onto the course.

The forecast called for temperatures to be near 70 around the time I expected to finish, but that didn't worry me much. However, something I didn't take into account was the humidity level. Being mid-March, humidity didn't cross my mind. One mile in, it was abundantly clear to me that the amount of moisture in the air was high. I made a mental note to be sure to drink a little extra at each aid station.

I started the race off at a 8:50 mile pace. My strategy was to ease my mile splits to an 8:30 by the halfway point. Having run this marathon in the past, I was very familiar with the course and used this to my advantage. Besides sweating like crazy, this first half of the race went well for me. I had reached my intermediate goal of running 8:30 splits by the halfway point, but now the real race began.

Mile 15: My splits were down to 8:20. I felt that this was a bit too fast at this point in the race. Yet, mile after mile, I found myself holding steady at this, I decided to go with it. At mile 20, I was still feeling pretty good, but the temperature was starting to affect me. Over the last couple of aid stations, I was dumping water over my head to keep cool, but a lack of shade meant it didn't take long for me to heat back up.

As I started mile 22, I felt myself starting to lose the wind in my sails. I wouldn't go so far to say that I was hitting a wall, but I could feel that my pace was slowing.

Mile 21: 8:22
Mile 22: 8:34
Mile 23: 8:36
Mile 24: 8:50
Mile 25: 8:52

Things were not going well and I felt my PR goal was in jeopardy. Then, I bumped into a fellow coach at mile 24 that provided me with some much needed encouragement (thanks Kyle!). We ran together for a bit and his support was much appreciated. After crossing the mile 25 mark, I looked at my watch and realized all was not lost. I was still under my PR pace. While this came as a relief, I knew I needed to keep pushing to ensure I didn't lose anymore time.

Most non-runners would think after running 25 miles, how hard could it be to run one more? Let me assure you, mile 26, especially when you're hurting like hell, is a real bitch. Yet, when you are so close to your goal and the finish line, you find some underlying strength you didn't know you had.

Mile 26 - 8:23
Mile 26.2 - 3:47:51 and a new PR!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, my left quad locked up and greeted me with a friendly dose of pain. I was about to drop to the ground (stupidly) when Kyle came up to me and told me to keep walking. Eventually my quad loosened up and after pouring an icy cold bottle of water over my head, I finally began to relish my PR!

My 26th marathon will certainly be a memorable one! This race gave me a much needed boost of confidence. I have a couple more marathons lined up this spring, but I have no intentions of trying to best my PR at either of them. I'm a bit of marathon maniac and enjoy immersing myself in the marathon atmosphere as much as I can! My next marathon, the Blue Ridge Marathon, claims on their website to be "America's Toughest Road Marathon" with it's 7,200 feet of elevation change! Looking forward to the challenge!


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