by Paul Meloan
The race comes on the heels of a period of sustained run-focus training with the Montgomery County Road Runners half-marathon program. This race is not my main focus of the winter (that being Ironman New Orleans 70.3) but three weeks away from my “A” race for this winter, I thought it would be a good barometer of fitness. My out-season training before January was 2-3 concentrated bike trainer sessions per week (45-60 min each) and 2-3 runs per week (30-60 min each) and no swimming. Right before the program started I ran a 5k at 24:09 (7:46 pace) which was reasonably hard, but not all-out. McMillan Running puts that as equivalent to a 1:51:38 half marathon.
Program: 11 weeks of increased long runs, starting at 7 miles and lengthening to 14 miles each week. One focused speed session each week. At least one other run of moderate intensity. Bike training stayed at 1-2 interval sessions per week (45-60 min). Added occasional pool sessions (light intensity) when I remembered where the pool was located. 😉
Race venue: National Half Marathon in Washington, DC. Start/finish area at RFK Stadium complex, one loop running clockwise west down the Mall, north up Connecticut Ave, east across Adams-Morgan and Shaw, south down North Capitol, then back east to RFK. Largely flat course, with slight sustained climb from mile 4-6, then corresponding downhill from 9 to 12.
Race weather: Perfect. Sunny, 32 at start, modest breeze from the east. No issues at all. Ran in long-sleeve race-T shirt, UA compression brief, running shorts. Sugoi winter hat and lightweight gloves.
Race Day nutrition: breakfast of oatmeal, Clif bar, two cups of coffee consumed 90 minutes before start. No more pre-race Pop Tarts! One Clif gel 15 min before race start. On course: 2 8-oz bottles Infinit Nutrition custom blend carried in Fuel Belt, one each consumed at mile 4 and mile 8. Took small cup of water at mile 3 (mouth felt dry for some reason). Nothing else.
The race is two events in one: a marathon and half-marathon, with both running concurrently on the same course, with a turnoff to the finish area half-way back at RFK, and the marathoners headed out for a second loop over a different course. The venue is well-done for a race this size (2800 marathon finishers, 9200 half-marathon finishers). DC Armory is open, spacious, and climate-controlled pre-race and is immediately adjacent to start/finish area. Easy drive in the no-traffic pre-dawn period, and ample parking in RFK stadium lots. Five minute walk up to the Armory. Bag check was indoors, as were the bathrooms. The line for the men’s room was short and moved (I think the women will have a different view on this one). On the course, there were ample water/PowerAde stops, which would have been nice except I like to pack my own. No one around me complained for lack of beverages. Several portajohns on the course as well, in case you have failed to plan properly (not this time for me, thankfully). Only one beef about the course: no mile marker signs on the half-marathon course except at Mile 10. This must have been a screw-up somewhere, as this seems basic. My Garmin had the course at 13.26 miles, which is a significant variance over the stated 13.1 half-marathon distance.
Post-race there is very basic, plain food and water available. I tried a chocolate milk drink they offered, and discreetly found the nearest trash can for it quickly. Chocolate milk totally rocks after a good race, but the imitation stuff they offered was questionable. The Armory was open and it was easy to retrieve my bag, get changed and stretch for about 15 minutes before I left. The volunteers working inside were cheerful and efficient (thanks folks).
My race effort was measured: I kept it around 8:40/mile for the first half of the race to see how I felt. Feeling good at the halfway point (and realizing the second half was downhill) I picked up the pace considerably and had my best miles for the last three of the race, running each around 7:45/mile. I did some quick head-math at mile 11.5 and finished hard thinking I could beat 1:50 if I did, and squeezed it in under the wire at 1:49:56 on the result page. If my Garmin was right and the RD was wrong (unlikely, for sure) then my time was even better for a course that was slightly long. A boy can dream. Realistically I think I could have run it harder the first half, and taken off maybe two minutes or so overall, but since this was not an “A” race that made little sense today. Still, I am pleased with an overall improvement on run fitness from the program after 12 weeks.
The National Marathon & Half Marathon is a good addition to the DC race calendar. I paid a fairly high price for my late decision to register, paying almost $100 since I did not register until after March 1. However, if you know you want to do an early spring marathon or half-marathon in the DC area, the race is certainly worthy of your consideration. I think the half-marathon is a particularly useful (and fun) barometer of early-season fitness for triathletes, and will probably do it again next year. Hopefully I won’t pay the $40 procrastination tax when I do.
Rust never sleeps
by Paul Meloan The race comes on the heels of a period of sustained run-focus...