For those people who are here to prep for the 2016 race here are a few items:
1. It seems the course changes every year so this recap may be of minimal use.
2. Even so, it will be a hilly course no matter what. The trail part isn’t hard-core trail, but it isn’t asphalt either.
3. The Pig rocks! OK, that isn’t limited to this race but is vital information.
Now that I have run off most of the readers, here is my Marine Corps 1775k Race Report:
I woke up on Saturday at o’dark hundred to get ready to run the Marine Corps 1775K (1775 was the year the Marines were founded and I guess I can be happy that the Marines showed some mercy and went with KM instead of miles). With the 7 AM start I was up before 4 AM and scarfed down a PB&J sandwich for my pre-race fueling. The predicted wind chill was going to be in the 20s, but when I went outside it didn’t seem all that bad so I decided I would wear shorts and a long sleeve top instead of tights and long sleeve top. I thought about not wearing the monster knee brace, but I remembered the first couple of miles of the course were a little bumpy so I decided I would stick with the knee brace. After some FRing to loosen the legs up, I was off for the 40 minute drive toward Prince William Forest Park. There was little traffic so I got to the commuter lot off 234 and got on the shuttle bus and to the start line with more than an hour to go before the start of the race. When I got off the bus I made a beeline (are there beecircles?) for the porta potties and after that I noticed it was much windier than in Arlington. Thank God the church that is close to the start line opened its doors to the runners for it gave me a chance to stretch a bit and stay warm (yes, readers that reference was intentional). After some stretching and generally staying warm, I got a message from Kim at Kim runs Miles with Smiles that she has arrived. Kim had interviewed me for the Cherry Blossom blog and had signed up for this race after seeing a tweet of mine (and is going to make Marine Corps her first marathon(so basically the fact she was freezing her butt off was all my fault)). I left the church and met follower #9.
And more importantly she met the Pig.
So I then went to gear check to check my stuff (duh). The year before it was one of the first things I did, but I waited this year since I wanted to keep my sweats on longer. This turned out to be somewhat of a mistake since the line for the gear check was pretty long. This year more runners finished the race (2165 vs. 1747 the previous year) and I think this lead to longer lines for everything. After gear check and a quick pit stop, I made it to the start a few minutes before the 7 AM start.
So like last year there was a mass walk from the corral to the start line and soon we were off on our 11.03 mile journey.
We were quickly on the trail and the trail seemed to have more gravel than I remembered and with the recent rain the ground was certainly muddier than the year before (though not really muddy either, just mushy). I got boxed in a bit at first but I didn’t worry since I knew most of the first couple of miles were downhill and I could make up some time. I hit the first mile at 9:24 I was like “WTH that was slower than last year!” I tried to pick it up but I never could hit a good groove and the 2nd mile was also slower than last year at 9:25. I all of a sudden was hit with the possibility that not only would I not make my goal of knocking 5 minutes off my PR, I might actually be slower than last year. This was not a particularly pleasing thought and I was able to push the pace a bit after mile 2 when the course leveled out. I was glad to hit the pavement just after mile 3 but I wasn’t able to pick up that much speed though at least I had stopped losing time to the previous year. However, once I hit the downhill part during mile 4 I was able to get below 9 minute miles (8:46 for mile 4). Between miles 4 and 5 is the big hill on the course. I was tempted just to pull back and treat the rest of the day as a long run, but I made the decision at the base of the hill that even though I wasn’t on a great day, I would try to push my way through it.
The hill was just as I remembered it but I did managed to get up the hill faster than last year so I finally started to gain some ground on my former self. Although I still was having trouble getting in a good rhythm, it was at this point in the race I knew I was in better shape than the previous year. The previous year I really slowed down after the hill and this year I was able to recover and get back on pace. It was still a struggle, but I was trying to mentally push it even though my body still felt pretty sluggish.
After mile 7 the course was more downhill and I was slowly adjusting to the up and down nature of the course and started to push the downhill piece more. It was also at this point I stopped listen to the music and paid more attention to my breathing (which sounded somewhat like Darth Vader with an asthma attack, but let’s not delve into that).
At mile 9 we made the turn to go uphill on the trails that we started the race. There was a short out and back at mile 10 that was around 1/4 mile flat each way. This was really the only time of the race I felt good and was able to hit a nice consistent pace and felt good about my turnover.
I was able to push the last mile (8:45) as with a push to the finish. There was a sign toward the end “1775 Feet Until Access Granted” which I thought was pretty cute and actually useful. I turned on the jets and in the end I was able to knock over 3 minutes off my time from last year thus making it a PR for my 17.75K distance.
I came in 483 out of 2165 runners and in the upper third of my age group (I always assume in my age group several people just don’t make it but given my age that probably happens to a certain number if we are running or not).
So what did I learn? One, you can overcome poor starts. Also, I think I need to put some thought into how to better deal with how to push mentally when physically I’m not feeling it. I also need to be more careful about expectations. I ran faster than last year and there aren’t too many races or years I can say that about. I need to work on acknowledging my accomplishments (long time readers of this blog are going “duh!”). On the good side I actually did a negative split so for all of you who didn’t think I could ever do that, I would stick out my tongue out at you, but this being a blog that really doesn’t work very well.
So at the finish they gave out a medal (new for this year) and handed out the Access Granted codes for being able to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon without having to go through the lottery. Last year I agonized over whether to sign up or not since I had never run a marathon. This year I signed up minus the agonizing.
So the next race is Cherry Blossom in a couple of weeks and I hope I can build on that to run a 10 miler PR. I guess my marathon training will be starting fairly soon as well.