Tuesday, March 28, 2006

RR - Washington, DC

Race Report
National Marathon
Washington, DC
March 25/06

As I mentioned in my last report this marathon was originally not on my 2006 itinerary.
However a few months ago the race director sent me a letter with an ‘offer I couldn’t refuse’ – free entry into the race! Why? Three years ago I had registered for the DC Marathon that got canceled because of the Iraq war. I never did get a refund for the $75 entry fee! So the race committee for this brand new/inaugural National Marathon decided to offer all those runners who got screwed three years ago free entry into their race. A nice gesture – and it only cost me about $1000.00 (air fare, hotels, meals, etc) to accept the ‘free’ offer!

I accepted the offer for 3 reasons:
1) It was free???
2) I needed to run a 2nd marathon in DC as I work my way around the 50 States + DC for a 2nd time
3) I thought it would be a neat idea to run a marathon on my 62nd birthday (the actual day) and I figured I should be able to win my age group and the $100 cash award since I would be in good shape after the Sarasota Marathon.

Turned out that Meatloaf’s words in one of his better songs were so prophetic “Well, two out of three ain’t bad”!!!

As most of you know I had a great race and time in Sarasota – but then my running life encountered some hardships/difficulties. I continued to push my training program to prepare for DC and one week after Sarasota my right hamstring started to tighten and protest during a speed workout. Fortunately I was able to back off before tearing it but had to rest for a few days and run easy miles for the next week. Just when the right hamstring started to feel OK we traveled to Dallas, TX where I did a nostalgic 9-mile run around White Rock Lake with Fast Freddie at an 8-min pace. The left hamstring started to talk to me by the end of that run and two days later when I tried to run an easy 10 miles the hamstring tightened and locked up during the 1st mile. I was forced to stop and limp back to my car and the leg became so stiff and sore that I couldn’t run – could barely walk without pain for 2 days.

I had already decided that I was going to DC no matter what because I wasn’t willing to throw away the $1000 in prepaid expenses and even if I couldn’t run I could still celebrate my birthday in DC with my sports manager! On Thu morning I tested the leg by walking and jogging 4 miles. It hurt – but I figured if it didn’t hurt any worse than that I could walk and jog the marathon? I also managed to get an appointment with my masseuse that day in the hope that she could help sort out the strained/injured muscles.
The leg really hurt that evening but I took that as a good sign as I alternated ice and heat on the aching muscles.

On Fri morning the sports manager and I left for DC. After checking into our hotel we drove over to RFK Stadium to pick up my race package. I had to rent a car because the race started at 7am on Sat but the Metro did not start until 7am? A problem that needs to be looked at because driving around DC is not fun! By the time we returned to our hotel and contacted some running friends for dinner the leg was starting to feel much better. We enjoyed a pleasant pasta dinner with a very close friend from NYC – Edson and a lady friend Admas (from Ethiopia – lives in NYC). As we were walking back to our hotel I started to believe that there might be a slim chance that I could run/jog the marathon the next day???

Sat was race day – and my birthday! I drove Edson and Admas to the start line at RFK Stadium. The sports manager stayed in bed! The forecast called for CHILLY weather and rain/snow flurries and she was not getting out of bed for that! Fortunately the forecasters were only partially right. It was a chilly 38 F but the rain and snow never showed up. In fact we had some sun and temps around 50 F when I finished – it was great running weather! The organizers were hoping/planning on 5000 runners for the two races – a Marathon and a Half but there were only 1000 in the marathon and 1200 in the Half? I think the qualifying times placed on both races reduced the numbers of competitors?

Both races started at 7 am. I had planned to go to the back of the pack and walk/jog the 1st mile to test my leg. However my friends wanted to be close to the start line so when the race started I had to move to the side of the road where I could jog slowly and watch in frustration as more than a thousand runners passed by me in the first mile! I jogged the 1st mile loop around RFK Stadium in 9:28 – my slowest mile of the race! Although the left hamstring sent a slight ‘twinge’ down my leg with every foot plant the pain or discomfort was much less than expected so I continued to jog/run. I caught up to Edson near Capitol Hill at 3 miles and decided I would run with him for the first Half. We ran past the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Memorial and passed mile 5 in 44:26 – just under a 9-min pace and much faster than I had expected/hoped? As we looped back past the Monument Edson made a pit stop and I never saw him again? At that point the leg felt pretty good and I felt strong and full of energy. Maddog was urging me to let him loose! It took all the willpower I had to control/contain him. I reminded him that two days earlier I wasn’t even sure I would be able to walk/jog the marathon. I was doing well and I didn’t have any confidence that the hamstring would hold together for 20 more miles? A 9-min pace represented a sub 4-hr marathon. I would be very pleased with that time! I continued to jog and passed mile 10 in 1:29:33.

The first 10 miles had been flat and fast. If I had been healthy I could have scorched that section of the race. Again Maddog urged me to let him loose. I decided to hold the pace until the Half and then re-evaluate? Good decision! At mile 11 the half marathon runners split off and the marathoners entered Fort Dupont Park – and the hills began! The next 15 miles of the course were mostly hills as we ran through Prince George’s County, MD. I crested a BAH (Bad Ass Hill) at the Half in 1:58:44. I decided that if I could hold my current pace and finish under 4 hrs without screwing up my leg any further I would be pleased with my race. I passed mile 15 in 2:15:54 and maintained a steady pace through the next 5 miles of hills to reach 20 miles in 2:59:37. I was right on a 9-min pace. The leg was OK and I still felt strong. I thought about pushing the pace for the last 10 K but then wisely asked myself - WHY? Plus I was looking at mile 21 that was another BAH! I climbed that BAH in 9:23 and suddenly my right hamstring and knee started to hurt?? I figured that I was subconsciously changing my gait and stride to compensate for the left hamstring injury and was putting too much stress on the right leg! My primary goal for the next/last 5 miles was not time – but to focus on running my normal stride and relieving the stress/pain on the left knee!

I reached mile 23 in Capital Heights, MD in 3:26:29 and re-entered DC for the final 5K. The right knee now hurt more that either hamstring? I was very concerned that I was going through another of those vicious cycles that I went through 18 months ago. Remember? I had pushed the old bod through a stress fracture in my right foot and tore up my left knee requiring surgery. I did not want to go through that cycle again. So I really focused on relaxing and correcting my gait and stride. I passed Admas at mile 26 (she had a great race and placed 2nd in the 50+ age group). I crossed the finish line in 3:54:46 - can’t get much closer to a 9-min pace than that??

As I was cruising along the final 5 K I had thought to myself that if I had been healthy/injury-free I believe that I could have run that course in maybe 3:25 with all the hills? When I checked the preliminary results at the finish line 1st place in my age group was – yes – 3:25. It might have been a good duel/challenge if I had been healthy?

But considering the circumstances I was happy with my time and 5th place in my age group. I had expected to finish much slower. And although both legs were hurting/screwed up I don’t think I suffered any serious injury?

As Admas and I waited for Edson to finish I met several friends and members of the 50 States + DC club that I had not seen for years. After the race and a normal hot soak in the tub back at the hotel the sports manager and I decided to explore DC. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the Smithsonian or National Gallery so we played tourist and visited all the landmarks in DC. After a few much-needed beers at Mr. Smith’s in Georgetown the sports manager treated me to a fabulous dinner at La Chaumiere –one of the best French restaurants in DC- to celebrate my 62nd birthday.

Considering the circumstances it was a good trip. Like Meatloaf says “two out of three ain’t bad”! I had a nice birthday and I had crossed DC off my list for the 2nd loop without suffering any serious injury.

The hamstrings and knee are still sore but a good massage and treatment with ice/heat and a week’s rest should help them heal enough to let me run the Martian Marathon next weekend? No silly – the race is not on Mars!!

Stay tuned for the next report.

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