2012-03-04 - B and A Marathon

26.2 miles @ ~9.1 min/mi


On Sunday 4 March 2012 the planets come into alignment and I join the Sub-4 Club. The B&A Marathon is a well-organized race sponsored by the Annapolis Striders. For me it's a solo affair, pleasantly uneventful. Cool dry weather. Steady pace. Aggressive fueling, hydration, and electrolyte management. Flat, fast course. Lightweight shoes. Comfy shirt. Warm gloves. Plenty of pockets in shorts and pouches on vest. No stumbles or falls. Happy ending!

The official results put me in 148th place overall of 329 finishers, 10th among the 26 males 55-59 years old, with a 3:59:24 gun time and 3:58:15 chip time, at an average pace of 9:06 min/mi.

Marathon Comparisons

My 17 road marathons over the past decade tell an interesting story. Note in particular the column of differences: in only three cases is the second half faster than the first, a "negative split". Each resulted in a PB (personal best). Hmmmmm!

Event Time First Half Second Half Difference
2012-03-04 - B&A Marathon3:58:15~1:59.5~1:58.8-1
2012-02-19 - George Washington Birthday Marathon4:20:09~1:59.7~2:20.421
2010-11-27 - Northern Central Trail Marathon4:15:34~1:56.4~2:19.223
2009-11-28 - Northern Central Trail Marathon4:01:06~1:56~2:059
2009-10-25 - Marine Corps Marathon4:25:30~2:11.7~2:13:82
2009-02-15 - George Washington Birthday Marathon4:30:20~2:16.5~2:13.8-3
2008-02-17 - George Washington Birthday Marathon4:43:37~2:17.1~2:26.59
2007-02-18 - George Washington Birthday Marathon5:04:30~2:22.8~2:41.719
2006-10-01 - Wineglass Marathon4:59:47~2:24.1~2:35.712
2006-02-19 - George Washington Birthday Marathon4:59:58~2:28.6~2:31.43
2005-11-13 - Rock Creek Park Marathon5:13:00~2:32~2:419
2005-02-20 - George Washington Birthday Marathon4:49:20~2:26.6~2:22.7-4
2004-10-31 - Marine Corps Marathon5:28:30~2:35~2:5520
2004-02-22 - George Washington Birthday Marathon5:11:17~2:33.7~2:37.64
2003-11-09 - Marathon in the Parks5:03:34~2:24.7~2:38.914
2002-11-17 - Marathon in the Parks4:55:09~2:10.8~2:44.434
2002-10-27 - Marine Corps Marathon4:52:59~2:16.9~2:36.119

Observations and Analysis

Two weeks ago I run the GW Birthday Marathon more than 20 minutes slower than today's performance. Yes, the GWBM course is a bit hilly, but I like hills. The weather is virtually identical. So is my gear, and my nutrition. I weigh a couple of pounds more at the B&A. There's a similar amount of training before each, a similar amount of candy in my pockets. The first half of both races take a hair under 2 hours, virtually identical times. The entire difference occurs in the second half, in spite of my subjectively pushing just about as hard. Why did I run out of energy in the GWBM? I have no idea!

Before the B&A I attempt to pick up friend Cara Marie Manlandro's swag for her, since she can't run today with an iffy ankle after her GW Birthday sub-4 triumph. The race officials won't give out gear without a signed letter, so no joy. I wander about, drink water, take an S! e-cap, suck down a gel, and eventually line up with the masses toward the back of the pack. Over a thousand folks are doing the half-marathon today, and over three hundred are trying the marathon. Dozens more choose to start early. Bib color distinguishes the different categories.

More than a minute after the "Go!" signal I cross the starting-line mat and the race begins. I follow CM's prescription, which she reiterates in conversation, voicemail, email, and text-message: begin slowly! The first few miles are in the 9:20's. We zig-zag along neighborhood streets, then join the B&A rail trail heading southward. I catch up with and pass dozens of runners who blasted out too fast and are already regretting it. A young lady with waist-length dreadlocks is ahead of me. "Great dreads!" I compliment her, and tell her that son Robin's are only down to his shoulders at the moment. She counsels patience.

A steady trot for the next half dozen miles brings the GPS cumulative pace display gradually down to 9:05, where I hold it for the rest of the race. At aid stations every few miles I uncap my bottle (thanks, Caren!) and let volunteers dump in Gatorade. To keep my mind occupied, on every hour and half-hour of elapsed time I take an energy gel. At the 15 and 45 minute marks I swallow a Succeed! electrolyte capsule. Aside from a single peppermint candy that I pop in my mouth before the start I don't take any other food from the aid stations, tempting though the munchies sometimes appear. I'm on a mission.

With the race's proximity to the Naval Academy there are flocks of Navy-garbed competitors. "Go Navy!" I say to them, to provoke the obligatory "Beat Army!" countersign. Army runners respond to my "Go Army!" with their compulsory "Hooah!" A few people recognize me and offer greetings, but sadly I don't remember their names. There are lots of Korean runners and Marathon Maniacs, but few visible from MCRRC. A couple of men push cerebral palsy victims in racing prams. I cheer race leaders when I see them approaching on the out-and-backs.

The mysterious feeling of weakness in the right leg reappears between miles 10 and 15. Is it a quadriceps muscle issue? Or something involving the nerves to that area? Or purely in my head? Maybe it's somehow connected, one friend speculates, with the hip adductor tightness that I feel after mile 20?

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/B_and_A_Marathon_2012_splits.gifDuring the second half of the race to rest the weary legs I take a few 15-second walk breaks, but compensate for them by immediately accelerating a bit beyond steady-state pace. As the chart shows my speed is remarkably steady. During the final few miles I push a little faster, partially out of concern that my GPS might be in error and I might end up a few seconds slower than four hours. In the end, however, I've got 105 seconds to spare.

Throughout the race whenever I notice tension I consciously tell myself to relax. I hold fingers in a soft Parvati-style mudra, thumbs touching middle fingers. The "Ronin" shoes tied loosely are comfortable, as are the soft New Balance shorts and the Annapolis Striders vest. On heavy rotation in my mental jukebox are Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" and The Coors' "Breathless". Temperatures hold in the mid-40's. Winds are moderate (5-20 mi/hr) and mostly from the northwest. They blow in my face for most of miles 7-19, but I tell myself that I'll enjoy being a leaf in front of them for the final stretch. There's one frustrating moment, near mile 23. An unexpected out-and-back on a side road is required, and I didn't noticed it on the course map. "Are you sure?" I inquire of the race officials who are directing runners off the bikepath and onto the street for a few hundred yards of hairpin bonus distance. They're sure.

The final sprint along town streets takes me back to the high school. I unzip my vest so the finish-line photographers can capture my bib number, just in case the timing chip fails. The official clock is safely under 4 hours — hooray! — so with my start far behind the line I'm safe. After catching my breath I snag a slice of pizza and chat with comrades Jeanne Larrison and Katie Poole, who did the half-marathon, and Chris Powers who finished the marathon near me. I tweet the result and drive home.

On the way I see a car stopped on the shoulder of the highway with someone in running garb bent over next to it. Is he examining the ground, or throwing up? I'm reminded of a dear friend's experience after her first half-marathon. My legs ache, but it's the usual pain (piriformis?) that sitting in the driver's seat provokes, not anything related to the race. No blisters, minimal chafing, relatively little delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), no groaning when descending stairs. Within a few days I'm out running comfortably.

Split Data

Stopwatch and GPS agree, most of the time, to within ~10 seconds. The exceptions are probably due to mis-located mile markers or GPS fluctuation.

Mile GPS Watch Comment Mile GPS Watch Comment
19:279:36149:008:11~0.9 mile from half-marathon marker
29:23?missed mile marker #2159:239:25
39:2218:38total for miles 2 & 3169:018:59
49:069:06179:058:27suspiciously low — is mile marker misplaced?
58:589:04189:049:51compensatingly high
13.1?0:42half marathon marker end 2:411:41final 0.31 mile on GPS, 0.2 mile official marker

GPS trackfile total 3:58:18, watch total 3:58:20, due to my lack of synchronization in starting and stopping them. Official chip time = 3:58:15.

^z - 2012-03-15

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