Note: This was originally published on my old blog on 10/30/12
After weeks of adding mileage and focusing on my form and strength, it was time for me to start tightening up my diet and focus on “fueling”. I eat Paleo about 90% of the time and due to gluten sensitives am GF 99% of the time. This created some difficulties when I needed to start loading up on carbs leading up to the race.
I picked up Runners World Performance Nutrition for Runners as a guide on recommendation from another Group Ex instructor and it was extremely helpful. I decided it was easier to incorporate GF friendly but not necessarily Paleo friendly carb options. This consisted of spaghetti with GF Trader Joes noodles, pizza from Rustico on Chickpea crust and lots and lots of veggies!
Feeling pretty good the day leading up to the race, I focused on relaxing and finding some peace about the race. As a highly competitive person, I had some expectations for the race. Primarily, finishing the race was number one. After that, I had my own personal time goals that may or may not have been all that realistic. I can comfortable sustain 9:30min/mile pace for about 10 miles. Attempting to maintain this pace for the full 26.2 or push myself any faster was not a great idea. I knew that going in this race was going to be about finishing, not trying to be the fastest out there. Knowing that and being okay with that are two very different things!
Race morning I got up at 5AM and gathered everything I was going to need for the race. At the Expo before the race I picked up a new racing belt (the Flip Belt) to use and in that I packed my iPhone (in a plastic bag just in case), two packs of Gu, my inhaler, chapstick, my ID, a credit card and a $20. Then I jumped up and down a few times to test the weight and bounce. Then I packed a shirt for after, deodorant a chafe stick and some extra water in the bag I planned on dropping at bag check. When that was set, I grabbed my breakfast (a Paleo Krunch bar and Justin’s PB&Honey pack) and headed to the metro.
The Runners Village was just outside the Pentagon and I got there early enough to fuel, drop my bag and catch a prerace church service. At about 7:15, I headed to the corals by the start line. While waiting for the race start, two Ospreys flew overhead.
At 7:55, the race began. With 30,000 runners, it typically takes just under thirty minutes for everyone to cross the start line. I crossed the start about 12 minutes after the race officially started. The first 5K was pretty slow and I was averaging a pace of just under 11min/mile. After a few miles the crowd started to thin out and I was able to increase my tempo. Of course that is when we hit the first hills of the race. Overall, MCM is a pretty flat course, which is why its considered a great race for first time marathoners.
Just after mile 9 I came across my first personal cheerleader! My good friend works at a studio in Georgetown and she set up a table outside to greet the runners as they went by. I missed her, but she did leave a poster outside with my name on it!
Between miles 10 and 11 I found my husband and parents. That point was very close to mile marker 16, so as I made my way around the Hains Point loop, they moved to meet me there. By the time I hit mile 20, I was feeling great. As anyone who has ran a marathon before will tell you, that is where the race really starts. The longest I had run to date was 15 miles, so I knew there was a bit of unpredictability as far as my energy and strength.
Up to that point, I was very careful with fueling and hydration. I packed two Gu and grabbed two part way through the race although I only consumed three. They gave out orange quarters about 10 miles in, sport beans at mile 20 and two donut holes at mile 24. On recommendation from another marathoner, I stopped at every water station and alternated between Gatorade and water. Towards the end I had both and a second cup of water when I could. It ended up being the perfect balance for me. I was not full enough to be uncomfortable and my energy was solid.
Unfortunately, energy is only part of it when you are running that many miles. Between miles 21 and 22, my foot swelled enough to start causing some serious discomfort in my knee. By mile 24, my gait was seriously compromised and I was slowing down considerably. It was stiff enough that I alternated between walking and running and tried to stave off the pain just a little longer.
I hobbled across the finish line at 4:53, under my public sub 5 goal. I didn’t hit my personal one, but I’m not certain it was all that realistic. The rest of the day was pretty painful, but I was able to get around. The following day was sore, but not nearly as difficult as immediately after the race.
I’m not sure I will run another one, but I’m not discounting it entirely. I have a lot of work to do on my gait and increasing my speed. Your first try at a distance is always a PR, so I have room to get that time down a bit if I put in some more speed training. I had the strength, stamina and I fueled properly. What it really comes down to is the mechanics and getting the swelling under control so my gait isn’t compromised.
A marathon isn’t for everyone, but I definitely recommend it if you enjoy running even a little!