Thursday, March 2, 2017

George Washington Birthday Marathon - February 19, 2017

Your Wish is Granted
Finally, a George Washington Birthday Marathon with pleasant weather.  In previous years, there have been winds that felt like fingernails from the Arctic raking one's face (2013), or weather so bad that the race was canceled (2014), or weather so very bad that the race was postponed a week AND then canceled after one loop because of Snowzilla (2015).

A five minute walk to the start
But 2017 was different. Sunny skies and a promise of temperatures approaching 70 degrees meant no need for Little Hotties in the shoes, multiple layers of shirts, gloves, tights or any of the other accouterments necessary to preserve warmth.

And the traditional 10 a.m. start means no need to get up early for the twenty-five minute drive to the start.

Jennifer picks me up around 9 a.m., we arrive in a timely manner, pick up our bibs and shirts, greet Caroline and her friends, and Mark and his colleague Kerry, and walk to the start.

The only decision I have to make is whether to carry a water bottle. With aid stations about every two miles or so (a total of ten on the three-loop course) I opt to not carry one. I stick gels in my pockets along with Succeed! salt tablets and we walk to the start.

I have a modest goal for the day - finish under five hours. I figure that a 2:20 / 2:40 split gets the job done.  While it is early in the year the course is generally flat, with only a significant downhill at mile one which is a significant uphill at mile 25.

Looking bad about mile 19
Jennifer and I run easily for the first loop. We watch a red-tailed hawk circle over the fields looking for a meal. I check our pace against the five hour pace band I'm wearing and am pleased to see that we are ahead of it. By mile 8 we are about five minutes to the good. We'll need that for the inevitable slowdown the second half. At the same time we don't want to go out too fast.

About eight and a half miles into the course, which runs on and around the USDA Agricultural Research Center, we pass Bio Control Road.  That launches us into a riff on other potential road names - "DDT Drive," "Round-Up Road," "Raid Road," "Daconil Drive," and "Agent Orange Avenue." Passing Entomology Road leads to more suggestions: "Ant Alley," "Wasp Way," "Cricket Circle," and "Roach Road."

During the second loop the sounds of gunfire from the Trap and Skeet Center south of the course increase. It's Sunday, so people may have attended church early and made it to the range by noon.

 We reach the half marathon mark in 2:13. It's right before the aid station at the turn from Beaver Dam Road onto Springfield Road. I tell Jennifer to go on and that once I'm done tweeting my progress I'll catch up with her.

Looking must better than I was at mile 24
(Photo by Hai Nguyen)
Be Careful What You Wish For
Try as I might I cannot catch her.  Gradually see pulls further and further ahead. She lingers a bit at the mile 15 aid station and I start to close the distance, but once she leaves the aid station the distance widens.

And I am not feeling strong.  The decision not to carry the water bottle is taking a toll.  Even though I'm drinking two or three cups of water or sports drink at each aid station, my mouth and tongue are parched within a very short while.  By mile 18 my pace has risen to over 12 minutes per mile and it only gets worse from there.

I run a bit with Mac M. along Beaver Dam Road around mile 19 and 20.  He is running a bit slowly today, partly due to the temperature, and partly due to his 4:15 marathon the week previous.

My pace continues to deteriorate, By mile 21 it is over 14 minutes per mile. Leaving the aid station at mile 22 (the same one as at miles 8 and 15), Mark and Kerry catch me.  I hang with them for about a mile, and on the long gentle uphill on Powder Mill Road they pull away.

Looking at my watch and the pace band tells me that I'm not going to finish under five hours.  I'm waking more than running.  At the bottom of the hill at mile 25 I begin the long walk up.  The sun is directly in my eyes and I try to shade them with my hand, while looking down at the double yellow lines. There's no traffic on Research Road so I don't need to worry about traffic.  Even after cresting the hill and heading downhill running isn't easy, and I walk a large part of it.  Finally, with the mile 26 marker in sight I try to push, if only to avoid the ignominy of a 20 minute mile.  I succeed, but only barely - 19:59 for the final mile.  That's slower than my normal walking pace.

I made it over the finish - barely.
(Photo by Raj Bhanot)
I cross the finish in 5:21:26, my worst marathon finish ever, and the first time since 2006 that I have gone over five hours. I drop into a chair as I doubt that I can walk back to the rec center without passing out.  Someone brings me a cup of water and that helps revive me.  Finally I feel good enough to head back and walk with Michelle R.  Her husband was texting her to see if she wanted to go to dinner with friends but she declines, citing not only the marathon but the 50K she ran the day before.

Jennifer, having finished in 4:50 (she perfectly executed the five hour plan with 2:23/2:27 splits!), is patiently waiting for me.  Mark and Kerry finish in 5:08, a big PR for her.

My 5:21:26 is good for 116/153 overall, 81/103 males, and a surprising-to-me, better than expected 10/18 in my age group. Apparently I was not the only person affected by the heat.

Swag: Shirt, Bib and
Combo GW Party Medal and Bottle Opener

1 comment:

  1. Kenneth,
    Thank you for the kind words and the great photos! Congratulations on a fine run; we hope you'll join us again in 2018.
    Ben Richter
    Race Director
    George Washington's Birthday Marathon