March 26, 2011. The sixth running of the National Marathon in DC. The first three years I ran the half, the past two and this year the full. Cold morning, under 30 degrees but at least it is not raining or snowing and the winds are gentle. Caught a ride from my neighbor P, who is training for another ironman, does crazy adventure races, and has also run all of the Nationals. He has me laughing so hard at several points that I have to wipe my eyes. Only another trail runner understands how important it is to find a strategic parking spot near the Anacostia river and to have lots of paper towels. Loyal running partner Mark Zimmermann phones me and tells me that he will join me at mile 10-10.5 and run "a little bit" with me. I am not sure if I will be able to find him but vow to look for his beard.
Race starts at 7 am. At 6:35 we reluctantly leave the warmth of the truck and make our way up the hill from the parking lot, through the corrals and into the Armory to the bag check. The crowds are crazy but fortunately P is tall and shoulders his way along while I jog to keep up. Good warm-up. The first year of this race I think there were 800 runners total. This race was sold out at 12000+ although 3/4 or more will do the half marathon and some surely won't show up because of the cold. Last year it was 70 degrees.
At bag check I meticulously check all my gels, vaseline, garmin, ipod and water bottle. No cell phone: my new phone is too big and nice to carry without chafing my back or ruining the phone. I decide to get into a fast corral because of all the first-timers who have no idea of race etiquette and will clog up the first few miles. Lined up with the 3:45 marathoners....NOT!!!
Gun goes off slightly late. So happy to be moving. Chose race ready shorts and Masters' Orange long sleeve shirt with my Cody's Crew singlet on top. Lucky black hat and gloves (they got me through my first JFK 50 Mile in 2008). A peace sign hair band that won't fit on my head so I wear it like an ascot. First few miles are somewhat chaotic but not too bad. I let the fast runners slide by me, trying to run as efficiently as possible, listening to all the nervous chatter around me and visualizing how the other runners are wasting all their energy dashing around the course and yelling. 10:21, 10:08, 9:42, 9:24, 10:21. I try to settle in. My plan is to stay around 10MM for the first half and gradually pick it up until the final 10K, where if I have anything left I will kick it. Five sips of water every 15 minutes. Gel or Succeed every 45. Trying not to take any advil.
The hills start at mile 4 or so as we up to Dupont Circle and into Adams Morgan. 9:22, 10:41. Hit mile 7 in the Burger King bathroom, waving at the Latina behind the counter as I dash in and out. Real toilet paper--sweet! 10:11. I think I see Mickey's black Cody's Crew flag up ahead on one of the hills but it is only a glimpse. 9:45: down the hill around the Howard University dorms where the kids are out in full force and going crazy. Around the reservoir I stop to stretch my IT bands and realize I had better take some advil if I am going to be able to push it out. One prescription strength advil and my first Succeed. Mile 10: 9:30 and there is Mark waiting for me! I scream and wave (the only time I scream all day) and he jumps in with me.
Mark and I chug along for the next 10 miles. He chatters away and talks to lots of people as he offers me candy, gels and his personal version of ice tea. Even though it is cold, the cherry blossoms are out. I tell him I want to hold 10MM so he keeps track of our overall pace since he jumped in. 9:41, 10:16, 10:08. I tell him to be on the lookout for great discarded stuff and he obliges, picking up full gel packs (enough to pay for his subway ride home) and the orange ear band I spot around mile 17 and ask him to go back and get. It matches my Cody's Crew outfit and I can wrap it around my arm and use it to wipe my nose. When washed later, it is quite nice.
We get rid of the half marathoners as they peel away to the right to their finish line. Ahhh the peace and quiet is so nice! 10:07. Mile 14 there is yoga student S working the aid station and he offers me a gel and a huge on the fly yoga hug. 10:17, 9:59. We talk to two Happy Trails runners, one of whom is running BRR 50 with us in two weeks and the other, his wife, is running her first postpartum marathon. Their son, Jason, is eight months old. I tell Mark that once we get under 10 miles to go I am going to start to push. He tries to caution me but it falls on deaf ears.
A word about goals. Ran New Orleans six or seven weeks earlier in 4:37 with walk breaks up to mile 16. Pancake flat. In between, heavy duty hamstring and hip strengthening and lots of torture from Dr. F. Speaking of whom, when he tortured me the day before the race, he challenged my 4:15 goal and threw down the gauntlet: "you can run 4:05". Ha. Best marathon ever was Yonkers 1994 in either 4:07 or 4:11. I can't remember and their records don't go back that far. Post babies PR was MCM 2007 in just under 4:18. Dr. F: "have you been doing speedwork?" Me: "ummm...I have been running downhill fast and taking lots of spin classes." Besides, this race is a training run for BRR 50. I want to go into my two week taper just sore enough to make me taper. More importantly, I am TERRIFIED of speedwork. I am too old to run fast (46) and I hate feeling like I am going to throw up. So why did I sign up for Rock and Roll Savannah in November? (oh yeah...that will be my fast fall marathon where I try ONCE AGAIN to qualify for Boston after I recover from Hampton 24 hour).
We talk about weight. Rule of thumb is every pound lost is worth a minute in a marathon. For Christmas, I gave my husband a consult with a dear friend who is a sports nutritionist. She put him on a low-glycemic diet and I took charge of his meals. She gently suggested that I might benefit from it as well. Our three day food diaries pre diet were very revealing. I am a sugar-holic and don't eat anywhere near enough protein. Fast forward two months: husband is down almost 30 pounds and I have lost at least 15 since BRR 50 last year when I whined to Mark and Ken Swab from mile 30-40 about how the pounds of fat were shaking my legs and torturing me. No wonder I had low back pain. That and finally waking up and smelling the coffee about core work. (Thanks, Dr. F for forcing me to work my core.)
9:37, 9:58, 10:02. Through the 9th street tunnel where Garmin loses its signal and miraculously finds it on the other side. Snaking around through the Harbor area and talking to two guys training for an Iron Man. I decide I will chase them for the final 10K. I find a portapotty with no line AND hand sanitizer. How lovely! I have not used a single aid station because I am carrying my 20 ounce Nathan in my waist pack which lasts for 10 miles. At mile 7, the Safeway was handing out 20 oz bottles so I had that. I stop briefly at the aid station right before mile 20, intending to grab power aid but only got water. It is ok... I can do a gel, Plus I am starving now. Several bites of protein bar. 10:13 is this HUGE uphill bridge with scary metal grating over the Anacostia river.
Mark peels off before the bridge with many well wishes and thanks exchanged. He takes the subway home and kindly calls my husband to give him a detailed report of my status. My dear husband has not a clue about pacing or marathons and only knows I am running one today (Yesterday: "how many miles are you running tomorrow?")
I finally decide to turn on my ipod. Sadly, my favorite knock off ipod shuffle died last week after 3 faithful years with all my best running songs. Last week I bought a real ipod shuffle and loaded what I thought were great running songs on it. Turns out I loaded a bunch of yoga songs and some crazy Mexican folks songs from husband's ipod, or at least that is all I can find as I struggle mightily to figure out how to work the nano. Probably should have tried this earlier. 9:32(Bono and MJ Blige). 9:31 (a random mix of Neal Young and Jackson Browne). 9:26 (just get me of this f-ing course and up this hill.) 9:26 (the crazy loud bluesy mariachi music that is actually QUITE good). 9:22 (Shelter from the Storm--I am sobbing now). 8:23 (downhill towards the Stadium fiddling with the ipod again for long enough to hear a cute race volunteer on a bike cheering for me as he passed: "Come on ma'm you can do it, you look so strong, go baby, go!"). This damn course is always long. Every year I wind up with 26.6 and this is no exception. Plus the last .6 is ALL uphill. (David Girish--It's All Good). WHAT IS GOOD?? I am gonna die. What kind of RD tortures people like this? Am I going to puke? Do I care? 8:44 for the final .6 and I am DONE. Actually, it IS all good. Garmin says 4:20.54 for 26.6, 9:48 overall pace. Official race results:
1787 32/80 F4549 4:25:33 4:20:54 9:58 Kate Abbott 46 F 205 Fairfax VA
I wander around. I want no food. P. said to find him in the beer tent. Where is the beer tent? Oh look, there is a Bud Lite truck-- that must be it. He qualified for Boston (AGAIN) with 3:26. Two tiny beers--that's better now. Collecting drop bags we garbage pick shamelessly from discarded clothing around the start and discarded drop bags. Drop bag loot (coupons and give-aways): Four cases of free water from Safeway, 140 free downloads from some on-line music store I never heard of, $2000 worth of sunglasses and watches (we think that is a gimmick although the night before I had been convinced that I got a special gift because it was my birthday AND my sixth time), four of these magic shaving cream vials that Mickey had raved about on a training run, lots of udder budder and pain cream. Throwaways: two extra-large volunteer t-shirts (these are actually clean and the volunteers gave them out)--night shirts for my two younger boys, a green running shirt that when washed, fits husband perfectly, a purple nubbly sweater that, despite P's remark: "that is a GIRL sweater and look at that color", when washed is lovely and soft and I may wear it to work, and a golf jacket that is completely preppy and when washed eldest son decides it will be perfect for middle school next year.
Stay tuned for BRR 50.