Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 Marine Corps 1/2 Marathon

This is the first race i have had over 5k.  As I was preparing for this race, I tore a medial meniscus (right knee) in early January - had surgery in february and have been trying to get back to running since, without much luck. I was hoping for sub 2hr race, but didn’t know if my legs would hold up for a full 2 hrs of running. I had experienced some lower calf muscle pain, mostly in my left leg, that basically limited me to 2 training runs in the 2 weeks before the race. Other than some shin splints last year, I had never had calf pain before - it really make running hard. Part of the reason for this is the time-off from the knee surgery, but the other part is that I have changed to some Newton running shoes (which I love), but that does tend to put more strain on the lower calf's during the familiarization period - which I have not had time to complete yet.


So here's how the race went.

We got to the race venue with not much time to spare. Logistics were super easy - parked at a commuter lot and took the shuttle bus/coach to the venue. The starting line was a short 1/2 mile walk away. We were running a little late, but we had just enough time check our bags, and then walked to the start line.  Since we were relatively late, we didn't get a chance to get further up in the line, so started somewhat near the back of the pack. It took a little over 4 mins of walking with thousands of others to get to the start line.

The first 1-1.5 miles were a little tough - the pace was slow, as I was trying to make my way through the crowd, sometimes finding a hole in front and darting through it - with some more ducking and weaving I finally got to the point where it thinned out a little and I could hit my usual stride (slow and steady) - this was about the part of the first small uphil section.  Reflecting on the race aftewards, that first mile was a good way to warm up.

The weather was nice, overcast and not too hot. The first water station was around 2 miles in - it was a bit hectic, with all of the people around. But like the rest of the race, the people manning the stations were super friendly and did an excellent job.

I ran the race using my Polar RS300x with the footpod.  It was amazing how many people wore similar devices, it seems mostly garmin's. Mine is set to beep every 1/2 mile - I use that to check my pace. It was easy to tell the garmin's at they have a distinctive chirp. I saw many people with ipod's - one was even singing out loud as we made our way through old-town Fredricksburg. I did hear another racer get our her phone and ask whoever she was calling to get her an asprin!

At the 6mile mark I was feeling ok - hr seemed to be in check (averaged 155bpm, which is pretty low for me), my calf really started to hurt - I changed my stride pattern a little (more heel strike) which seemed to help, and managed to keep to a sub 9 minute mile pace (actually a little faster).
Even though it wasn't a hot day, i took advantage of each water station, I sipped 1 cup and poured another over my hat. The downside of this was that as the water dripped down, and of course mixed with sweat - my race number started to unravel. By 7 miles the top 2 pins had pulled out and by mile 9 I just ripped it off and put it in my pocket.

Miles 7 & 8 & 9 passed by without any problems - the sportz beanz at the food station were great!  I had not tried them before, was nice to have something that tasted good. I actually kept chewing on them until the hill between miles 10 & 11. I had spoken to some racers about the hill alongside the hospital. Whilst my pace dropped to around a 9:30/mile.  I managed to get through it well, passing many along the way. The tough part was after the main hill, you get a little break with some flat and a little downhill, then there is another up-hill as you get close to crossing I-95. The last 3 miles were the toughest for me, most of it is up-hill, and even the last 1/2 mile was on a little grade.

I finished as strongly as I could - closing the last mile in around 8 minutes. My goal was 2hrs and I managed to cross the line in 1:53:55! That was really great and did exceed my expectations. With a real lack of good preparation, it shows that my fitness level is really good. I look forward to doing this race again with some better prep and no calf pain - perhaps I could shoot for 1:40's. It seems that the time I have spent in the pool has really helped with my endurance. Except for the last 3 miles (the up-hill part) I felt pretty relaxed and was not breathing heavily at all. I did notice a lot of people seemed to be breathing very heavily. I guess that was reflected in my 155bpm average. Last triathlon I did my average HR was in the 170's (just short of 1hr 30 mins).

Post finish was well organized. As you walk along they have water and powerade, some food (bagels, bananas, oranges, pretzels) and after I picked up my back from the bag check, there was a very nice lady with an iPad - she typed in my race number and was able to tell me my official time.

Interestingly enough - my Polar watch tells me that I ran 13.21 miles - considering that I couldn't run the shortest possible course, that is pretty accurate.

Average HR155bpm
Max HR198bpm - may be a faulty reading?
Finishing HR183bpm
Average Pace8:42
Fastest Mile8:11 - mile 12-13
Slowest Mile9:07 - mile 1-2