Sunday, March 12, 2017

RNR DC Marathon Race Report - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, The Lesson

Hey Everyone!  I ran my first marathon!  The RNR DC

Below is WAY too much detail for anyone that is not a full on running geek (like me).  But, here goes anyway.  It's my therapy to write all this down....

Thursday and Friday off work
This is my first big race (more than 1,000 people), my first marathon, and my first race in DC.  The DC thing is important, as all my previous races have been in the 'burbs where I can park near the start line, and wander over a few minutes before the start.  I live about an hour out of DC on a good traffic day, and I had to drive to DC for packet pick up, and I was getting completely OCD / anxious about the I just took the two days off.  Thursday was packet pick up and Friday was spent "trying" to lounge around and rest up, since I had a 4:00 alarm for Saturday morning.

Race Morning
My wife, my planned ride to the race - has the full on flu.  Luckily my son (18 yo) and his friend Gabe agreed to get up at 4:00 on a Saturday and drive me down there.  Pretty awesome for two teenagers - shout out to Hunter and Gabe!  Thank you very much!
Got to the race easy peasy, found the "drop off" zone, and walked over to the race start arriving around 5:45, plenty of time for the 7:00 start.  Met some really nice people while waiting around for the race.  Runners are all pretty cool, supportive people!

Race Strategy
I've hit all my MP work in the low 6:40's - on stand alone workouts, and at the end of long runs.  My plan is to run all the flat miles around 6:45, and let the pace go up on any uphill sections - the goal is to finish around 3:00.  In addition to my workouts, my last HM was 1:25:30 and I've run Yasso 800's in 2:55 (x10) - all pointing to a 3:00 goal.

It was a cold and windy morning.  24 degrees at the start with 15 mph winds.  29 degrees at 10:00.  I decided on two layers up top (one thicker), tights, gloves, and hat.  this was about right, except my gloves were two hands went numb, and the ends of right hand fingers are still "tingly" - (might have some "real" damage?).

The course is quite hilly around DC.  Two big hills at mile 6 and 23 - each about 200 ft.  Garmin says the climbing for the whole race is a little over 1,000 ft.

Race Start
About 6:30 I drank a bottle of UCAN; 6:50 I walked up to Corral 1, did my usual warm-up exercises of leg swings and lunge matrix, took off my extra (throw away) clothes, and off we went!

The Good

First 5 miles: Based on my Strava splits, I was able to control my pace the first 5 miles.  I was in a pretty large group of guys, and settled in pretty good, got a little fast on mile 3 -
  • Splits: 6:45 / 6:45 / 6:37 / 6:41 / 6:43 - (about right, maybe a little too fast).
Mile 6 - 10: Mile 6 / 7 had a couple good climbs, I let the pace go some to adjust as I planned.  Then mile 8 - 10 were more downhill, I feel the paces here were pretty good - I might have gone over the top of mile 6 a little too hard - it got pretty steep the quarter mile.  Mile 7 I started drinking the UCAN I've been carrying.  Drinking on the down hills, to minimize the affect of my breathing.  At mile 10 I'm feeling good.  No issues so far.  I did let the bigger group I was running with go on the hill at mile 6, and tagged onto a smaller group coming up from behind.
  • Splits: 6:54 / 7:04 / 6:44 / 6:36 / 6:39 - (pretty good considering the up's and down's)
Mile 11 - 15:  I threw the UCAN bottled down around mile 11.  I had "almost" finished it.  I SHOULD HAVE finished it.  I didn't drink enough.  I felt fine, but was having trouble getting it down.  I practiced it during my training, but it was different in the race...gotta think about that one.  At mile 12 I picked up a bottle of Gatorade from my Son.  Thx Hunter!  At mile 12.5 I passed my friend Kyle and his family.  Big "pick me up"...thanks!  The RNR site says my Half Split was 1:29.  I was now running with one other runner from Europe who was tracking by kilometers which made for some funny conversation (of should I say a couple words between breaths)
  • Splits:  6:47 / 6:59 / 6:49 / 6:41 / 6:48 - (still feeling good, but starting to feel the effort)
Mile 16 - 20:  I didn't recognize it at the time, but my pace started to drop off some at this point.  I let the European go, and grabbed onto another runner who was holding a good pace I thought I could hold.  Mile 16 - 17 crossed a river and got us out to an exposed section of the course, going over the bridge sucked.  Running back into town against the wind sucked more.  At the mile 17 market I took a gel.  Mile 18 turned down wind, which helped, but I was losing steam.  I remember the mile 18 timing sign said 2:03:xx.  I was happy with that because that is right about where I wanted to be.  But on mile 19 - 20 I started suffering and got a side stitch, which slowed me some more to try and get my breathing back.  I passed Kyle again at mile 20 - with cowbell in tow - he ran along and said how you feeling?  I remember saying "Like shit!".  Kyle gave me some words of encouragement which pepped me up some, I had my breathing back now...
  • Splits: 6:54 / 6:54 / 6:59 / 6:53 / 7:03
The Bad

Mile 21-22: Starting to slow a little more now.  Really trying to focus on the present, keep my form, and get some motivation's kinda' working.  I was supposed to take a gel at mile 21 - I didn't.  By mile 22 I'm struggling mightily....
  • Splits: 7:02 / 7:32 - losing it....
The Ugly

Mile 23-26.3:  Mile 23 is the second big hill of the race, about 200 feet.  As soon as I started the climb my right hamstring locked up.  I mean....STOPPED working and seized.  I  panicked some and tried to run thru it, then my left hamstring locked up.  I started walking.  Never had this before.  Someone ran by and said "Want a gel?"  I realized I hadn't taken my gel, so I took it while walking / jogging up the hill.  Mile 24 was downhill, and I managed to run down it.  Mile 25 was flat - and my calves cramped up and locked, and I wasn't even able to walk for a few minutes.  I started getting cold and got the shakes.  I tried to keep moving forward - walking / jogging / standing.  Mile 26 was just about all walking.  I couldn't even take two steps running.  It really sucked, it felt like I was getting hypothermia.  Around the mile 26 mark Kyle showed up again and walked along side me.  He said something like "If you finish within 2 minutes you get a BQ" - this got me moving again.  (Side note:  I'll be 50 in a few months, so my Boston BQ is 3:25).  I was able to sort of hobble to the finish....I was totally out of it at this point.  Shaking from the cold, and I couldn't see or think straight.
  • Splits: 10:27 / 8:31 / 11:26 / 15:37 / 4:11 (last bit)
Total Time:  3:23:06(I was on pace to 3:00 - 3:05 or so, thru 22 miles)

I was completely out of it after the race.  I was shaking uncontrollably and disoriented.  Luckily, my son found me and walked me back to the car with my arm over his shoulder.  I couldn't walk on my own.  I put on dry clothes in the back of the car, threw up the little bit of post race Gatorade I could get down, and continued to shake terribly for an hour in the car - with my hips and calves continuing to cramp.  It's been 24 hours post race now and I can walk - sort of - but stairs are very difficult.

The Lesson
  1. The marathon is the real deal.  I can't "finish" on guts like races up to HM.
  2. I must have "hit the wall" around mile 21-22.  I need to re-think my fueling...I think I need more calories / glycogen.
  3. Cramps - are what really stopped me in my tracks.  I think I could have saved a 3:10 marathon if not for the cramping.  I've already started researching how to stop the cramping....
    1. I've found some ideas on strength training
    2. Changes to my long runs (?)
  4. I've now run a marathon and know what everyone's talking about.  I now GET IT.
    1. So...experience is the best lesson?  Maybe....
  5. I will run another one some day...but I will also study what happened in this race and do my best to adjust and improve.  I will get up again....I see the Myrtle Beach SC marathon is flat....that's one year away.
Congrats to all those folks who finished the RNR DC marathon yesterday!  I now have bigger respect for all marathon finishers than ever! 

Sorry for the long post....thanks for reading.  Any comments?  Got your own marathon war stories?


  1. Hey congrats on finishing! I do have to say (didn't want to say it before), RNR DC is a rough marathon course. I've never done the full, and I don't intend to - if I'm going to invest the time and money to train for a marathon, I'd rather invest it on a better race. And the wind (which was a headwind for you guys during the toughest miles didn't help.

    If you want thoughts:

    1) yes - the marathon is completely different from other races - you have to stay patient for so very long. At Grandma's one year, I stayed conservative through 13 and then started working - that was a mistake, as I fell apart at the end. I'd go so far as to say that the qualities that make one a good 5K runner hurt in the marathon, and vice versa.

    2) I note that you went out right on pace from the gun. I've had greatest success with a very slow first mile or two. It pays huge dividends at mile 22.

    3) yup - fueling is essential. I go through at least 8 gels during a marathon, and I'm a lot smaller than you (you and I met once, you may recall). What works for me is just to ALWAYS be nursing a gel, and to try to consume as many as I can without getting nauseous.

    1. Thx for ur advice / recommendations. I do remember meeting u at the Leesburg 5k/20k! I def need a better fueling strategy. And the course was tough. I REALLY under estimated the marathon. I completely fell apart in the span of about a half mile. I've read ur marathon posts before - I'm gonna go back and read them again now with "experienced" eyes. I might try the Philly marathon in November - I now have this desire to solve the marathon puzzle. I'm gonna try the GW Parkway 10 mile in 6 weeks too - my first shot at that distance. Glad to hear from u....thx