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2012-02-19 - George Washington Birthday Marathon 2012

26.2 miles @ ~10 min/mi

Great news: dear running friend Cara Marie Manlandro smashes through the 4-hour barrier and runs today's GWBM in an amazing 3:53:56 to join comrades Kate Abbott and Jennifer Weiland in the elite sub-4 circle. Brava, CM!

Sad news: CM rolls her ankle badly within sight of the finish line and may not be able to run the B&A Marathon with me in early March. Boo-hoo!

Predictable news: As usual I start off too fast, lose energy during the middle half of the race, and in spite of pushing hard for the final miles only manage to finish in 4:20:09. It's my third-fastest marathon thus far, and improves my course PR by 10 minutes over the 2009-02-15 - Washington Birthday Marathon that CM and I did together, her first marathon ever. Given the hills of the GWBM, which some folks say make it 15 minutes slower than a flat course, I did OK.

Pre-Race: Ken Swab kindly picks me up and gives me a ride to the Greenbelt Community Center where the event begins. He and buddy Jennifer Weiland take the hour-early start. Caroline Williams, silver hair shining to match her smile, greets me at registration and gives me a hug; with her permission I pick her up and can't believe how light she is. I give her and Jennifer a couple of Snickers candy mini-bars at the starting line, which reminds Caroline of how I saved her at mile ~35 of the 2011-11-19 - Stone Mill 50 Miler DNF with the same gift. In spite of my best efforts, while cheering the early-start runners I inadvertently walk too close to the timing mats, which pick up the electromagnetic tags in my bib and record me likewise as an early starter in the DC Road Runner Club preliminary race results. Back at the Rec Center, Jay Wind in line ahead of me at the men's room admits that he has a three-decade streak of GWBM finishes to extend. Jennifer Bevan-Dangel sits with CM and me, and during conversation we discover that she ran the Frederick Marathon with CM in 2009, a tough year of frigid rain. CM warms up for the race by working on SAT practice math test questions. I look over her shoulder and suggest answers to the geometry and algebra puzzles.

In the Event: CM and I start together at 10:30am. My feet feel frisky and I dash ahead for the downhill initial miles, fantasizing that today is a sub-9 min/mi pace day for me. Reality intervenes after ~11 miles when my energy level falls and I slow to the 10-11+ min/mi zone. Somewhere before the half-marathon mark, which I cross in ~2 hours, CM passes me. Neither of us notices the other. I suck down an energy gel and swallow a Succeed! electrolyte capsule every half hour. They ward off my nemesis, leg cramps, but I still get mysterious feelings of weakness in my right quadriceps intermittently after mile 15. Later I also get tight hip adductors — not flexors, as CM laughingly corrects me when I apologize for pointing to them. At mid-race my goal shifts from 4:00 to 4:15, and degrades again when at mile 22 I decide to just go for a sub-10 min/mi overall average, 4:22. Pushing hard to run up the final hills I make that target.

Postscript: After crossing the finish line I amuse onlookers by managing to bend over and pick up an empty plastic bag on the ground. "That was harder than the race!" I say. Rebecca Tsai of New York City finishes five minutes ahead of me. We walk together back to the Greenbelt Rec Center and chat; I learn that Becky ran the JFK 50 miler and is hoping to improve her time on that and perhaps in other ultramarthons. Ken and CM and her husband George greet me. We compare notes, eat, drink, and head for home.

Data: The GPS trackfile is high by ~1% in distance, so on the average its pace data is low by ~6 seconds/mile. Most of the error seemed to appear during the first half dozen miles. Splits according to the GPS: 8:40 ⇒ 8:20 ⇒ 8:55 ⇒ 9:01 ⇒ 8:53 ⇒ 9:17 ⇒ 8:56 ⇒ 9:14 ⇒ 9:20 ⇒ 9:00 ⇒ 9:07 ⇒ 9:43 ⇒ 9:58 ⇒ 10:07 ⇒ 9:56 ⇒ 10:43 ⇒ 10:31 ⇒ 10:28 ⇒ 11:09 ⇒ 10:56 ⇒ 11:36 ⇒ 10:51 ⇒ 10:28 ⇒ 10:32 ⇒ 10:20 ⇒ 10:39 plus 8:23 pace for final ~0.4 mile fraction.

Conclusion: Yes, I shouldn't compare myself to other people — especially not to an elite retired long-distance swimmer (CM), nor to young, hard-training, fast, tough ladies (Kate & Jennifer) — especially when I'm almost 60 years old and do only ~25 miles/week. But hmmm: since each extra pound I carry costs ~1 minute in marathon time (~2 sec/lb/mi) if I can lose 20 lbs. from my current upper-140s tonnage then I'm nearly sub-4, eh? And maybe doing zero (0) mileage between 5 Feb and race day, to let my injured right metatarsals heal, was a suboptimal taper? Guess there are still some opportunities for improvement ...

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/GWBM_2012_z.jpg

(Mark Zimmermann at GWBM'12 near the mile 22 Aid Station — photo by Bengal Richter)

(cf. Washington Birthday Marathon 2004, Washington Birthday Marathon 2005, Washington Birthday Marathon 2006, Washington Birthday Marathon 2007, Washington Birthday Marathon 2008, 2009-02-15 - Washington Birthday Marathon, ...) - ^z - 2012-02-26

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