Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon

March 17th, 2012

After training for most of the winter, my running the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon here in DC almost got derailed entirely thanks to an ill-timed sinus infection. I got the all-clear from my doctor to run it, though, even though I still had four days of antibiotics to go.

Rock ‘n’ Roll bought what used to be the National Marathon and Half Marathon, which had started back in 2006 (and replaced the short-lived, one-time-only DC Marathon). From 2006 through 2011, I ran all but one of the National’s half marathons, skipping 2010 only because some friends and I had gone down to Virginia Beach that same weekend to tackle the Shamrock Half Marathon. The National had been showing increasing signs of being in over their heads as the race grew, though, with outright incompetence on some aspects. So although it meant a much more expensive race when Rock ‘n’ Roll took it over, I looked forward to seeing how they’d handle the race administration. And, it seemed like a good a time as any to tackle a full marathon again, since my last had been in January 2010 as part of the Walt Disney World Goofy Marathon and a Half Challenge.

First, the actual putting on the race part? Excellent. Well marked mile points (unlike last year’s race, where the first marker was at mile 9), lots of race support, a much better starting line situation, easier packet pick up… you name it, they handled it quite well. Worth the extra money.

As for my running of the race? Well, there were some good parts and some not-so-good parts. I ran the first 21 miles with my good friend Ben, and doing that was a real joy. I’ve had a lot of marathons where I ran the majority or all of the race by myself, and I’d forgotten how nice it is to have someone else to keep you going. Charlie, Andy, Peter, and Joey all came out to cheer, and that was also greatly appreciated. I also got to see my co-worker Holly in our starting corral. So, all good stuff.

On the down side, the temperature spiked while I was out there from below 50 to over 70, and just like the Florence Marathon, that spells disaster for me. I end up slightly dehydrating no matter how well I’ve been hydrating before and during the event, and when you’re cramping and feeling lousy it’s not going to be a good race. For me, that started around the halfway point, but I put on a brave face and tried to push through. Around mile 19, though, I knew the back half of the race was going to be difficult, and told Ben that since he was feeling strong to please feel free to ditch me at any point. He decided that at mile 21 he was going to pick up his pace a bit, and did just that (and had a strong finish, hurrah!).

I actually ended up walking all the way to mile 23; I felt horrible, not just physically but mentally. My stomach was upset (a combo of forgetting to bring something solid to balance out the gels… hey, it’s been over 2 years since my last marathon… and the antibiotics), I was discouraged, and my “running” with a minute walk break at the mile markers was barely faster than my speed walking. I did focus on another guy walking in the distance that looked quite fit, and managed to get most of the way up to him by mile 23. From that point I shifted over to a “run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute” pace, and that was a huge improvement, getting me moving at a much better clip that I’d been for about five miles. Still, a huge relief to finish. None the less, not counting Disney (where we stopped for photos twenty times and had run a half marathon the day before) it was much, much slower than my previous two races. A little disappointing, although it was under some adverse circumstances that were ultimately out of my control.

I’d also been having some shin pain on my right leg leading up to the race; I’d figured it was just a shin splint but right now we’re doing some tests to make sure it’s not anything else. As it turns out? Stress fracture. Whoops. Well, now I can join that club of people who ran a marathon with a broken (or at least fractured) bone. Nicely played, Greg, nicely played.

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