Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 National Marathon Recap ...

Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: 3/26/11
Temperature: A chilly 36 degrees at the start
Official Time: 4:15:48 (9:46 pace) for 26.2 miles
Garmin Time: 4:15:49 (9:39 pace) for 26.48 miles
Place in Age Group: 161/305
Overall Place: 1662/2872


The Good:

The Weather: Back in October when I registered for this race, I pictured the perfect Spring morning for race day. A low of 40. A high of 56. It was going to be magical. But of course, that didn't happen. Three days out from the race, forecasters were calling for a HIGH of 40. I wasn't quite sure what I thought about that. But, as it ends up, the weather was pretty much perfect. Sure, it was chilly as we waited in the corral, but by mile 4, I had ditched my gloves and was feeling comfortable in my outfit choice. By mile 20, I was happy it wasn't any warmer.

Cruising to a Sub-2 Half Split: There was a time, like seven months ago, that I would have killed for a sub-2 half marathon. And even when I finally accomplished that goal, it was tough (despite Tall Mom's best efforts to make it easy on me). But on Saturday, it felt like the easiest thing ever. I ran the first 12 miles of the race with IronJ and KC (they ran the half) and we chatted pretty much the whole time. It was so much fun to run with them and such an amazing feeling to look at my Garmin when we hit mile 13 and have it read 1:58. The coolest thing was that even though I knew we were racing, it never felt like it.

A new PR: One of my running goals in 2011 was to cut 30+ minutes off my marathon time. I knew as long as another catastrophe didn't strike on race day, I would be able to do it. Although I did have a few missteps during the race, my first half was strong enough to carry me through to the finish and I walked away with a 33:50 PR. And a marathon time I can be proud of.

Racing/Traveling with the Posse: I think this one's a given. Yes, running is an individual sport. And yes, on race day, you are the one who needs to bring it. But, I don't think there is anything better than sharing your running triumphs and struggles with your friends. Every single moment of our race weekend was awesome. From the expo ...

to the start ...

to the finish line ...

It was perfect.

Making it to the Start in One Piece: National was marathon number four for me. And it was the FIRST time I made it to the start without a total catastrophe. For my first and second marathons, I showed up with an ankle injury and walked miles of the races. For number three, I caught a stomach bug and spent 15 minutes of the race in the bathroom. But nothing was going to stop me this time ...

Our outfits: We looked fab. Obviously. (Note: there was a Yankee fan on the course who tried to hate on us. I beat his sorry butt.)

G "coaching" me to the Finish: Last November, I got the privilege of pacing G in the last 4.5 miles of her marathon. She walked away with a HUGE PR. I walked away able to take some credit for it. On Saturday, G got to do the same for me. And thank God she did.

The last four miles of the race were tough. Mentally, I was there, but physically, not so much. "The Quads" were failing me. And the hills weren't helping. But G helped me push through. She knew how to keep me moving. Even if that meant threatening me. (Note: I walk through water stations since I can't run and drink. She told me that if I didn't start running again that she would take a picture of me walking and post it for everyone to see. I'm going to show it to you anyway ...)

I couldn't be more thankful for G and all that she does for me. She is truly the best running partner EVER.
Meeting Bloggy Buddies: Although I failed to take a single picture, I did meet a few bloggers before and during the race. I ran into Katie as we were walking to the start. I spotted Jen in my corral. And Rachel introduced herself during mile 2.

Post-Race Recovery Drinks: Milkshakes. Enough said.

The Bad:

The Course (scenery):
OK, I will admit that I wasn't overly concerned with what was going on around me, but every time I think back to the views along the course, all I can think of is UGLY. I know we ran past several historical landmarks. I've been told there were cherry blossoms. But, the parts that stuck out to me were ugly and boring. Behind RFK stadium - ugly and boring. Along the water in Anacostia - ugly, boring and scary.

The Course (length): So, I know that most courses run long. But, this race was INSANE. When I finished, my Garmin read 26.48. Not too bad, but considering that my watch lost the signal at least three times while we ran through tunnels (one that was at least .3 long), this course was SUPER long. (Note: SpeeDee's Garmin read 26.9)

The Course (topography): I knew this course was hilly going into it, but I was not expecting rolling hills for the last three miles (most of the HUGE climbs were in the first half). My legs were shot at that point and I struggled. If you are going for a PR, this is likely not the course for it.

Failing to Pick Up G at Mile 21: After I split from IronJ and KC, I was looking forward to meeting up with G at mile 21. I was mentally prepared for it. I knew that I had eight solo miles and then she'd help me make that final push. But, when I got to mile 21, she wasn't there. And at mile 22, she wasn't there either. I was convinced that she thought she missed me and that she had left. But, rather, a crappy course map and a horribly placed Metro stop in Anacostia prevented her from getting there. When I finally saw her at mile 22.5, I felt like a new person. Such a mental boost.

The Ugly:

Almost Missing the Start: The logistics of getting to the start were horrendous. It took over a half hour to get our car out of valet. The traffic was crawling. Shuttles were running late. The Metro only opened an hour before the start. At 6:40 a.m., we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic about a mile from the start. All I could think was that this was going to be the catastrophe that ruined my race. Scared that we wouldn't make it in time, we got out of the car and walked. Total fiasco.

Hitting the Wall at Mile 13.5: I knew that running with my friends for the first half was going to keep me on pace. And I knew that splitting from them was going to be hard. But I wasn't prepared for what would hit me just after mile 13.

When the half marathoners ran to the finish, I was feeling strong. I saw Katye on the course and told her I felt good. Then she snapped this picture, and it must have sucked the life out from me.

Less than a half mile later, I had lost my mojo. The course was desolate. And ugly. The marathoners were sent on a loop behind RFK stadium through the parking lots. There were no spectators and I knew there was a hill coming up. It defeated me. I couldn't imagine running another 13 miles. I didn't even know if I could make it to G at mile 21. It took me until mile 18 to get my groove (and my hope) back.

Cramping at Mile 24: When G picked me up at mile 22.5, I told her I couldn't quench my thirst. I had finished the liter of water in my hydration pack and had drank at the last two water stops. My face was caked with salt. My fingers looked like sausages. I needed some sodium, but there was none to be found. By mile 23, my quads were cramping up every hill. I did my best to run through the pain, but I didn't want to risk an injury either. I would make it 3/4 of the way up and need to massage my quads. And then I could start running again. It was rough. And I'm still feeling the burn.

Complete and Utter Chaos: I'm not really sure that anything ran smoothly with this race. From the disorganized start to the lack of mile markers to confusion at the finish, this race was a cluster. Unless some serious changes are made, I will never run this race again. And I wouldn't recommend it for anyone else ...

Up Next: Another attempt at a sub-1:55 half at the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon, 4/16/11

64 comments:

Jen said...

Great recap! I agree the logistics were HORRIBLE! I have written a lengthy letter to the race officials about these concerns. So disappointed to be a local and have it go down like that. You rock.. you know it! And super cool to meet you!

Steel Springs said...

Congratulations on the huge PR! I'm so impressed that you overcame all of those obstacles with such a great time. I hope those quads relax soon! You've got that sub-1:55.

Little Miss Runshine said...

Love your outfits!!
I didn't enjoy the marathon last year because it was hot for me. I felt like I was going to pass out!

Congrats on the PR!! With the long course that is especially impressive! Even though you had some challenges you still finished and in great time!!!

Laura said...

Congrats on the PR and so love the outfits. I cannot 'commute' very far for a race..I am way to paranoid about missing the start....

April said...

Great job! Congrats on the PR! That's HUGE!! Love the outfits too!

Marlene said...

WOOHOO T! Way to kill your goal of a 30+ minute PR. And running a comfortable sub-2 half as part of a marathon of a marathon is a testamentto how much your training has paid off, even if the wheels started to come off. Way to hold on tight when things started getting hard. I'm glad you had the support you needed out there b/c it sounds like the second half was pretty miserable.

Boo to crazy logistics and an extra long course... definitely not factors that usually contribute to a smokin' PR!

I'm so happy for you! Congratulations!!!! Bask in the PR glory!!

BigHappyFamily said...

Great recap. I am local to this race, and now I know I don't want to bother!

Love your outfit. They should let you run the Boston just for looking so good in Sox gear.

Anne said...

Considering the significant lack of organization for this race...you did AWESOME!!! Fantastic PR, great pics, of course gorgeous outfit...and an amazing time. Great recap! Congrats T!!


http://anne-asthmaandthegiftofrunning.blogspot.com/

Carly said...

Congrats on an awesome finish and a fabulous PR!

MCM Mama said...

So proud of you!!!! You did a great job on a really tough course! Way to go!

I have to agree with you on this race though. I will never run it again. Two days later my quads are still shot (I could handle that if the actual race had been a good experience...)

Sorry I didn't see you guys, but I was in a crabby place and didn't want to share my lack of mojo that morning. ;o)

Rachel McPhillips said...

Your outfits rock.. I am now on a mission to find an Alabama inspired outfit. :)

Personally, I think you freaking rocked it.. I know the cramps and the mishaps and loss of mental mojo can really wear on how you feel about the race, but you are amazing. That is a rad PR. I am so proud of you!! Thanks for sharing your struggles through the course with us.

Michelle said...

You look strong in the pictures. Just imagine what you can do on a flat marathon course (like Eugene Oregon)

amy said...

Way to push through some tough mental challenges to totally rock it! That's a huge PR, and the fact that it wasn't easy makes it even better. Congrats!

Run with Jess said...

Great race recap... TWO THUMBS UP on your time, drive and ultimately a PR!! Sounds like one that you will not forget. Sucky that race organization left such a bad taste in your mouth. But I truly appreciate all your honest feeling as the race unfolded... it helps to mentally me for my first full in Oct.

Jogging with Fiction said...

I LOVE the pictures! You guys looked seriously awesome in your outfits. Congrats on your PR!

Michelle said...

Great recap! And congrats on the huge PR!! Absolutely love your choice of running outfit!!

Silly Kristal said...

Good Job! Nice work on the PR, nothing comes easy and your hard work paid off!! :)

Allison said...

Congrats on the new PR! I was keeping an eye out for you and your awesome outfit, but I never saw you!

My Garmin had 13.29 for the half, so I'm not surprised your marathon was extra long.

Rebecca T-W said...

I don't comment very often but I've been reading for awhile..Awesome Job! Love the outfit and congratulations on your PR! Reading your blog has definetly made me work harder and inspired me to run further, so thanks!!

Mamarunsbarefoot said...

You look sooo adorable! I am so proud of what you've done, that is an amazing PR!! Keep going, inspiring!! I hope you are basking in that after marathon glow!

kat said...

Yes, yes, well done, big congratulations all the way from little old England.

Katie said...

for some reason, seeing you just before the race gave me a HUGE boost. you looked tough and strong and i'm so happy that you crushed your time goals for this one!!!! tons of congrats!!!!

kimert said...

Congrats on the PR! You guys look great, love the outfits!

Emily said...

Congrats on the PR! I love that you schooled the yankees fan.

That definitey is not an easy (or accurately measured) course. You kicked ass!

fancy nancy said...

Congrats again! Yankee fans can just shut it! It didn't sound like an easy race which makes the PR that much sweeter I'm sure! Great job and good luck on the 16th!

Jesser said...

Congratulations!!! Excellent recap.

(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

Oh, I've been waiting for your report! Congrats on your PR...so proud of you (and G!).
With all you, G and Katye have had to say about this race and lack of organization, it is now off my bucket list. I wanted to do it to see DC, but it sounds like being a regular tourist would be a much better plan.

Becka said...

You did so awesome!! And on such a tough course!

The course WAS awful and boring and ugly... glad it wasn't just me that thought that but I only had to see it once. The course ran super long for me on the half also, garmin measured 13.39.

You are a ROCK STAR!!!! *\O/*

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great report.

I actually like that things don't always go smoothly with the logistics of racing. I think it speaks to the level of desire runners have to compete. You have shown that you were driven to reach the goals you set for yourself. That is the greatest accomplishment of your experience. Everything else were just potential road blocks that you over came to get there. When others give up or say it's too hard runners say is that all you've got?
Awesome job hitting that goal! Now on the next one.

Shelley said...

Congratulations on running a great race, in spite of everything!

Runners Fuel said...

COngrats on the PR!! Love the outsifits!

irunyourun said...

I did warn you that this race was awful -- all my friends who ran it last year decided not to run it again. I only ran the half bc I scored a free bib, but I was miserable the whole time...

And what's up with the mile markers??? This was NOT a cheap race (the half was $95!). Really, they couldn't have splurged on mile markers? I had so many people asking me what mile we were at when they saw my Garmin.

Have you done the Marine Corps Marathon yet? Highly recommend. VERY scenic, great course, super organized. It's sold out now, but they do allow transfers, so that should open up in a couple of months. (It's really worth it!)

And if you want a shorter DC race, the Army Ten Miler is also a lot of fun (my favorite course -- it feels downhill most of the way, even though it's really not!). Registration opens on May 15th.

(Ok, I wrote too much!)

Julia said...

LOVE your race recap...you did a good job reviewing the race. Also...I am still so amazed at your PR...way to ROCK OUT! Love the outfits as well...and SO GLAD you beat that yankees fan!! haha! Way to go! Excited to follow you as you pursue your next half :)

Rae said...

AWESOME PR!! Congrats!

Katie A. said...

Great race recap girlie!!
I am beyond proud of you! Once again, you pulled off a performance with less than stellar conditions and ran a GREAT RACE!! You totally have that 1:55 in you & I can't wait to see you do that!
Bask in the glow of marathon PR and enjoy the hurt, you earned it!

Dash said...

Great recap! congratulations on your new PR, you all look very cute in your outfits!

Iris said...

Congrats on the PR! Amazing race, but disappointed to hear about the race logisitics. National is one I want to do someday. Also, where do you get your socks?

Margie said...

Great recap! I agree that the course was pretty ugly and boring (and scary) at times- I especially disliked the metal grates on that one bridge and everything on the other side of the river. It was ugly and the sidewalk was broken, the wind was against the runners, and it just felt off.
You're going to nail a 1:55- you are extremely well-prepared!

Kerrie T. said...

Yay, T! You rocked it!!!!

Great recap. I've been reading about what a cluster this race is. Yikes. Hope they take a look at that.

ann said...

I did this race last year and had none of the problems that I did this year. Traffic, parking was a nightmare. We left the hotel, 5 miles away, at 6:05. I got to the race at 7:01! I never saw one mile marker or any GU. Great job on your race!

Morgan said...

Way to go on the HUGE PR girl! You def fought through some tough stuff but you did it and came out the other side in one piece AND closing in the 4 hour marathon. I hope you are basking in that afterglow!!!

Angie Bee said...

Good for you!!! Congratulations!!
You need some nuun chica :)

Kittee said...

Great Recap and Awesome PR HONK HONK!!!

Any all you ladies looked Fabulous in your running outfits..

Emz said...

you
freaking
rock.

Tricia said...

congrats!

Stephanie Anne said...

Congrats!! LOVE the outfits!!

Liz said...

first, congrats on your HUGE pr! that's awesome.

second, i'm in love with your race day outfit. i'm a huge sox fan and think it was absolutely PERFECT!

and last, i'm with you about NEVER doing this race again. i ran the half and i did get a pr, but the anxiety and panic this poorly organized race caused just isn't worth it.

and i just have to say it one more time, the outfit... it's rockin!

Wells L said...

Great recap - way to keep your cool under the pressure that chaos can bring . . . especially for someone as organized as you are.

Wondered if you might be willing to post about what you did mentally to get through the 13.5-18 (or 22.5) miles. The mental part of running is by far the hardest for me. I think I'm not alone in this (obviously, the mental part challenged you). Just wondered if you would share what you did/do to push when everything you have says "you can't do it!!!" And, if you want to talk about it, do you have any suggestions for "training" to overcome/combat this?

Love your blog - hope sometime to meet you in the real world.

SupermomE12 said...

You did such a great job!!! Way to go!!!! Hope your legs are starting to feel better. :) Congrats again!

ajh said...

Congratulations on a good make that great race. I really enjoyed your report. I liked the way you organized it.

I was considering this race but had heard about the poor organization from Em which is my pet peeve. I also hate ugly courses. Maybe I will try the lottery for the Cherry Blossom next year and if I don't get that oh well.

Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman said...

Another blogger I follow (Run With Sam) ran the half marathon and made a strong point about a turn where spectators and half marathon finishers had to cross the full marathon path (she even posted a picture of what looks like a person-traffic nightmare). It didn't make it into your "cons" so I assume it must not have been too bad. Am I right?

Here's her post: http://runwithsam.blogspot.com/2011/03/race-5-suntrust-national-12-marathon.html

Twila said...

I am so inspired! but I hate the bad race review : ( I thought it would be great

Courtney @ I CAN DO THIS said...

Nice job! That's a PR you can be very proud of!

Beth said...

Congrats on your huge PR!

I agree, this race has a lot of bugs that need to be worked out. But it is my favorite hometown course. I hope they figure it out!

Julie D. said...

Great recap! Love your honesty...the good, the bad, the ugly. I think that is exactly the journey of a marathon...and you ran it darn GOOD, T. Way to go!! congrats on your HUGE PR!!! great race.

Silly Girl Running said...

1. Congrats!!!

2. Great recap!

3. Cramps: that sucks! Plus, I don't understand why they didn't have little packets of salt on deck. Most races do.

Stefanie D. said...

Nice job on your PR! 30 minutes is such an accomplishment!! Loved the recap. You are amazing!!

Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

Enormous PR!!! WOW! I had heard a lot of this about National Marathon, so sorry to hear it confirmed. A very amazing time... and I think you have that sub-4 in the bag when the right course comes along. Congrats, T (love the photo with the T, btw).

meredith said...

Congrats! You are an inspiration. way to push through the pain and the wall to a great PR!

Colleen said...

First of all, great job on a HUGE PR. But second, thank you so much for the honesty about this race. With it being such a popular race, I would have expected more from it. Sounds like it didn't make your race totally peaceful which should be the race director's job. You shouldn't have to worry about things.

Way to get it done girl!

Judi said...

Congratulations! What a great race!

Alex said...

I am so glad that other people thought the course ran really long! My Garmin measured 27.17 at the end! I would really have preferred not to run that extra mile...

Lexie said...

Great recap! I ran the Half and agree that there was some major false advertising about it being "fast" race with minimal hills--yowzer were there hills! I rode the metro to the start and it was crazy how LONG it took to get there--I think they are planning to fix that problem, so it ought to help out for next year! Awesome job on doing the FULL!! I was feeling so sorry for the marathoners as they were trudging up the hill as I was on my way to the finish! Awesome job on your time!!

Wifey said...

I'm late. I suck. But you, my friend, KICK ASS!

Winks & Smiles,
Wifey