Monday, May 3, 2010

Potomac River Run Marathon: May 2, 2010

This race took place in the Carderock Recreation area, on the C&O tow path in Maryland. The race was billed as “the easiest marathon in America” because it was flat and on a softer running surface than pavement. The only thing the Race Director couldn’t predict was the weather. The race had two start options, the early start at 6am(for those who want to start early or need more than 5 hours to finish) and the regular start at 7am. I kept going back and forth in my head about which start to do. I finally decided on the regular start, because even though it was a training run for me, I wanted to be with the “regular” starters – it made my race seem more official. In retrospect, especially with the heat, I should have taken the early start. It was actually like two different races, each with about the same amount of people. I also think I would have done better with that hour of cooler weather. But, alas, that’s not what I did so no use fretting about it.

I set my alarm for 3:15am and was on my way shortly after 4am, arriving just before 6am (I probably still could have taken the early start!) I met Dana Casanave who was doing her 15th marathon of 52, while raising money for 25:40, a group that works with children in Africa affected by the HIV/Aids epidemic. Her article was featured in the Washington Post. I wanted to see how she was doing, because, in August, I am planning on doing 15 marathons in 15 days while running across Virginia. My goal is to raise funds for Teens Opposing Poverty ( Her IT band was bothering her and she was hoping just to finish.

We walked to the starting area, where a very beautiful Mrs. Maryland International said something (that I couldn’t hear) to start the race. A trumpeter and a french horn player played the National Anthem. Then they ran back to put their horns away, because they were both running in the race. Shortly after they got back, the race began.

I decided my goals for this race based on my 20 mile training run Tuesday. I felt I could hold a fairly decent pace for the first half – try to hit as close to two hours as possible, then do more of a long, slow jog for the second half, but trying to maintain a consistent pace.

So I had in my head:
1 – Under five hours
2 – First half: 2:00 but not more than 2:11 (a 10 minute pace)
3 – Second half: try to maintain a good steady pace
4 – If things are going well, try to get a PR (under 4:48)

The race was two out and backs. So I divided the race into 4 legs and focused on just finishing a quarter of the race at a time. It was pretty flat; there are some small dips and rises but nothing serious and all the aid stations were at the top of these rises (so a good excuse to walk for a moment). I started off well - the first leg and was averaging between 8:54 – 9:39 min/mile pace. I hit the turn around at 1:01, so I thought maybe I could make it back in 2:05. However, the sun was getting hotter and I was unconsciously slowing down. The second leg averaged 10:00-10:56 min/mile, the slower miles were when I stopped to refill my water bottles. I was drinking a lot, and pouring water on top of my head. As I neared the half-way point, I passed an older gentleman who was speed walking. He had started at 6am. His shirt said “Dr. Roy, Born 1932.” Well, if a 78 year old man can get out in this heat and run, I certainly can. (It was his 102nd marathon – he wore Bib#102). I was beginning to have another serious problem. My arms were rubbing against the edge of my tank and were red and raw. At one aid station, I ran up to the table and asked “Do you have any vaseline?” She replied, “No, but we have Gatorade.” I almost burst out laughing, I guess she thought vaseline was some sort of drink! I was running steadily along trying to focus on just keeping moving and was averaging anywhere from 10:49-12:00 min/mile. A gentleman kept leap-frogging me (I think he was having bathroom issues because he would run ahead, then disappear, only to come up behind me again). At one point he said I looked like a veteran, a nice steady pace. I guess when you evened them out I was probably running about 11:30 minute miles. But then I think I made him mad, because he wanted to talk and I told him I wasn’t much of a talker. I mean I would have talked to him, but he just took off ahead of me again. I turned the corner for the last leg. If I could keep that pace, I could maybe, might PR! But did I say it was hot? I was taking the endurolytes, but I could feel my legs starting to get tight. Miles 20-22 were at 11:38, 12:39, 11:39. Then right after mile 22, the legs did cramp and I was forced to walk a bit. I tried to run as much as possible those last four miles but my pace slowed considerably: 13:46, 13:02, 14:10, 14:01. Around mile 24, I just felt terrible, poured more water over my head and kept going. By this time my arms were raw. I was trying to hold them out from my body so they wouldn’t touch anything. I think the pain of them is what made me feel so rotten at mile 24. The last .38 miles (according to my Garmin) were at a 12:57 pace. When I hit the mile 26 marker, I mustered up enough gas to pass one of the 6am starters right at the finish line. She was a runner in the 1980s, did ultras, had done the Vermont 100 and some others (she liked the road ultras), had gotten out of running and this was her first marathon and her first venture back into racing. I talked with her for a bit after the race as we went to get our post race snacks. They had tons of food for the amount of people racing: Smart Puffs (which were gluten free!), pizza, bagels, bananas, etc. He had enough gift certificates that everyone got an award. I got a $25 gift certificate from I thanked the race director for the certificate and asked if he would provide better weather next year. Apparently, Mrs. Maryland is a meteorologist, and he already put his request in with her. We’ll see what she can do.

I realize now that if I could have just maintained a 12 minute pace in those last four miles I would have had my PR. But what are you going to do when your legs cramp? This has happened to me before and I have not found a suitable solution to the problem yet.

The good things – I made it under 5 hours, I was within my time range for the first half, and I maintained a fairly consistent pace up until the last four miles.

The bad things – I sweated a lot which threw my electrolyte balance off, I cramped, I chafed (I screamed in the shower when I got home, it hurt too much to even put pain relief gel on the skin).

My husband looks at it this way – “just think of all the things you learned to help you when you do your 15 in 15 in the middle of August, the hottest month of the year!”

This distance haunts me. I do fine up to a half-marathon. The ultras are only about finishing, and I am content to be a back of the packer. But the marathon… The Warrior Princess rises up within me – she’s mad! “We are going to battle! We’re going to conquer the marathon. We’re going to run it into the ground until it can haunt us no more.” Battle plans are being made. We’ll be back.