Potomac Marathon Race Report

November 18, 2013

“Hello, welcome to the Dulles Courtyard” said the friendly attendant as I entered the lobby on Friday night.  I thanked her and she checked me in.  I then proceeded to my room and went inside.  Oh no, this won’t work.  Bill was coming in the morning and would be staying with me the following night and this room had one bed and a pull out couch.  I quickly called down and asked for a different room.  She said problem, I’ll be right up with the new keys.  Oh OK, nice.  5 min later she was walking me to my new room and she stopped in front of the door and looked across the hallway at the large ice machine and said, you know, this may be loud, would you like a different room.  I looked at the ice maker as a large loud load of ice dropped somewhere within the machine.  “Well, if you don’t mind that would be nice” I said envisioning myself waking up every 15 minutes throughout the night.  She was more than happy to help me out and went back to the desk to get yet another set of keys. 

Upon her return, I followed her to my third and final room and as we walked down the hallway I remembered my little superstition.  I’m not exactly superstitious, but I can’t help but associate my room number with the race outcome.  Many times it has happened that the room number predicts my fate.  I know I’m probably just a victim of selective reinforcement and you can make numbers mean anything in hind sight, but I can’t help but look at room numbers and try to interpret what the numbers are trying to tell me.  “Here you go Mr. Mescal” she said politely as she opened the door.  “Thank you” I replied and she walked down the hall.  I then turned and stared at the room number in disbelief… 

Bill arrived the next day and we drove to Georgetown to pick up our packets .  I couldn’t believe how crowded downtown St. George was.  We eventually found a parking spot and headed toward the running store for our packets.  As we approached the main street, we passed a huge line of people that was wrapped around a building and was probably 50 yards long.  It turned out that the line was for a cupcake shop.  Wow those must be good cupcakes.  We proceeded to the Running Company where we were able to our packets and get some valuable information for the morning procedure.  Bill had signed up for the early start so he could get a 1 hour head start, but they told us that if he started early he would not eligible for age group awards if he got one, so he decided to start with the 9 AM group. 

We left Georgetown and decided to drive to the start area of the race so we would know exactly where to go in the morning.  It was a good thing we did, because we were lost for quite some time before finally finding the start area.  Better to get lost that night than on race day morning.  By the time we found the park where the race was to start, it was dark out so we really couldn’t see much as we drove through into the heavily wooded park and into the parking lot.  I wanted to see the trail we would be running on, but it was so dark, I wasn’t sure where it was even.   Just then we noticed a woman with a dog walk across the lot and into the woods.  That was a little strange as a sign at the entrance said the park closed at sunset, but we just figured people must live near here and used the park all hours of the day.  We started to leave but then decided to go back and see if the trail the woman went down was the one that led to the Toe Path which was where the race was to be held. 

We turned around and shined our headlights down the trail.  There was a slight rise, so we couldn’t see very far so we decided to go for a walk and see what was down there.  We hopped out and I dug through my packet for a small clip on light that they had given us and the packet pickup.  As I did Bill went on down the trail where he came across the woman we had seen earlier with her dog.  It turned out that she was lost and had gotten stuck out there in the dark and couldn’t find her car.  I think we frightened her when we turned around and followed her down the trail, but Bill quickly eased her nerves by telling her why we there.  He then suggested that we walk her back to her car and so we did and all was good and we got se walk about a half mile on the trail that we would soon be racing on.  It was wet, but a fairly firm trail.  It started to rain just a little and I hoped the trail wouldn’t get too wet overnight.

We left the park and returned to our room for really good night’s sleep and before you knew it we were back on trail getting ready for the race.  The trail get not get very wet over night and felt pretty firm.  The course consisted of 2 out and back loops.  The half marathon people would finish and the fulls would turn around and go for a second loop.  There was a water table set up at the turn around and they had boxes of Power Gels.  That is the gel I use in races, so I was able to put 2 of mine back in the car and just planned on grabbing some off the table at the half way point.  The volunteer assured me that there would be plenty there for me to grab and he was right it worked out perfect. 

At the start, it quickly became evident that several guys had seen the results from the previous year like I did and decided to have a go at winning this race as well.  There was prize money and the winning time last year was high 2:50’s.  The gun went off and we headed out.  In the first mile we organized into a six person pack out front.  Someone asked who was in the full and we all raised our hands.  There was a huge gap between us the next runner, so it was funny that we had all shown up for the full and half leader was well back.  We joked about maybe we should just take the half win and make it an easy day.  That of course was not an option for me, as I was here for number 7 and a new sub 3 state, not just for prize money.  We all joked around a little, but deep down we all knew this was gonna be a race and any one of use could take it.  My thoughts then were, I could get first place or I could 6th place.  This was going to be fun.  The race was on.

After about 5 miles of running around 6:20 pace, well except for a 6:01 in mile 2 which was a little aggressive, but it felt so good running that fast with a pack 6 guys, I felt pretty good and dropped the pace to a 6:10 ish pace.  Most of the guys dropped back, but one guy stayed with me.  We continued on like that taking turns in the lead through the turn around.  It was so cool to run with someone with a pack of wolves right on our heels.  The first half of the race went by very quickly.  My legs felt pretty good, but not great.  I was able to hold a decent pace though, so I continued to stay with this guy.

At the half way point the guy that was with me told me he was thinking about just finishing the half and calling it a day and sure enough he surged ahead and turned down the shoot to win the half.  I have to admit that I was a little relieved.  That was one less guy to compete against, but at the same time it was really helpful to have him to run with.  At the half point turn around the clock read 1:20 and some change.  I went to the table and grabbed my gels, but in doing so I screwed up the turn around and missed a cone, so I went around the cone and the 2 guys behind me caught up to me.  Doh!  I lost the little lead I had gained, but whatever, I quickly headed back out for the second loop.  I dropped the pace quite a bit right there and the next time I checked, I probably put about 30 to 45 seconds gap between me and those 2 guys.  That was encouraging, but there was still a lot of race left to go. 

Around mile 17 or 18, I heard some loud footsteps behind me and before I know it a runner came up from behind to catch me.  I told him nice surge because he must have been flying to catch me that fast.  He seemed to have a lot left.  We talked a bit and it turned out he ran a 2:38 in Boston so I told him I ran a 2:37 in St George 6 weeks earlier so we both knew we were pretty equally matched.  I didn’t mention to him that I had run a marathon every weekend since.  I didn’t really want to give him any extra confidence.  An equal exchange of information is fine, but no need to give him too much info at that point in time.  After a short discussion he got back on his fast pace and went on ahead.  He continued at that pace until he got about 30 to 45 seconds ahead of me.  Then the gap sort of stayed about the same through the last turn around.  At the turn around, I estimated the guy behind me was about 50 seconds back.  I didn’t see anyone else, but it was a little crowded with half marathoners and marathoners on their first loop, so I wasn’t 100% sure so continued to push.

As we got into the last 6 miles of the race, the clock seemed to reach a dead stop.  The miles inched by very slowly.  My legs began to feel a little rubbery.  I tried not to, but I couldn’t help but remember that I had a lot of races in these legs and they could decide to shut down late in this one.  At that point, I stopped focusing on the leader and started worrying about the guy behind me.  I could see him, but just the thought of him being there pushed me on.  Up to about mile 21 or 22, I was still able to hold a nice 6:20 pace, but all of a sudden, 6:30 became hard to obtain.  I pushed on giving back a few seconds every mile to the 6:30 bar.

 I really hadn’t even thought about my finish time until very late in the race.  I was so focused on the competition that the time seemed irrelevant.  I knew I was well under 3 hours, so I wasn’t worried about the clock in that way.  By mile 24 or so, I got a pretty good look back and could not see anyone for at least a minute back.  At the same time I couldn’t see the leader for at least a minute forward.   I figured if I just held steady I would get second place.  Not what I wanted, but I would take it.  Looking at the time, I knew I was just a hair over 1:20 at the half and probably on pace to get a 2:46 worst case.

As I approached the finish I looked at my watch and I was close to 2:45 so I sprinted the final tenth of a mile and crossed the line just under 2:45.  My watch said 2:44:58 and I had started it a second or so early to give myself a cushion.  Yes, a 2:44.  But alas, as the race did not have timing chips, there was a person yelling out the times as runners went by and I had finished with several half marathoners, so my official time was 2:45:02.  Only a few seconds, but 2:44 sounds a lot better than 2:45.  Oh how I missed the timing chip at that point.  Oh well, I was very pleased with a 2:45 and the second place finish.

After the race I got to meet all the guys I was running with and we exchanged stories of the race we had just run and how we felt about the course and the weather and promised to look each other up on FB and went on our way.

I would say that the course being completely on a dirt/gravel road, made for a soft ride for the feet and legs, but late in the race I felt like the softness was draining my energy a bit.  I still think this is a very fast course for some reason.  I can’t quite figure out why.  The distance was spot on if not a hair long, the surface was firm, but not pavement firm.  There were absolutely no turns except the three turn arounds and no road crossings, so may that was it.  I don’t know, but it seemed fast.  Maybe it was just the competition.   If these guys had not shown up, my race may have been a completely different story and my time would probably have been much slower.  Overall, I was very happy that they were there and the race turned out the way it did.  This is what racing is all about.  Several equally matched runners going at it.  I loved it even though I didn’t end up getting the win.

I waited for Bill to finish his race and took some pictures and headed for the airport.  I had passed Bill several times in the race and he was able to give me some much needed info regarding the other runners.  It also always gives me a mental lift when I pass my teammate and we exchange words of encouragement.

…as I stared at the room number, I was shocked.  Sometimes I roll it over and over in my mind as to what the numbers could be telling me, but there was no need for that here, the number’s message was loud and clear.  My room number was 222.  Well, the Marriott brothers have spoken and after 2 room changes they have decided my fate and this time they were spot on.  Next time I go for a win, I’m requesting a first floor room.


Potomac River Pre Race Report

November 16, 2013

OK, I’m ready to race this weekend.  Number 7 of 7.  I ran a mid week interval run at race pace and it felt easy.  I hope that’s a good sign.  I plan on going out pretty easy in this one.  It is a 4 loop course on packed gravel.  It is very flat with no turns.  I will try to stay with the lead pack unless they go out too hard.  If that happens, I will stay on pace even if I lose sight of them.   Well being a 4 loop course I will know where they are at several points in the race.  I’d li...

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OBX Race Report

November 13, 2013
Race number six.  I went to this race as a master elite, so I got some perks, but no staged water.  Oh well, I just went back to carrying my gels.  I figured I would need more than normal, but having 7 days to recover, maybe not so much.  It turned out, I used 3 gels during the race.  Pretty average.  The weather looked good on the forecast, but the wind was showing different directions depending on what web site you looked at.  Turned out it the temps were great, but the wind was switching d...
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OBX Pre Race

November 10, 2013
Well, 7 whole days to recover and my legs feel great.  They felt great all week.  I've never felt better the day after a marathon.  I ran almost a mile before it even dawned on me that I had run a marathon the previous day.  That was a good sign.  All week they felt really good.

It looks like perfect conditions for the OBX race tomorrow.  The Outer Banks are beautiful.  I had a nice night walk on the beach just now and am ready for bed.  The race course looks flat and fast except for one huge ...
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Monumental Race Report

November 10, 2013

Marathon number 5 went pretty well.  I ran as a master elite runner at the Monumental marathon.  The weather worked out perfect again.  I have been so lucky with the weather.  There was a slight wind, but not too bad maybe 15 mph.  For this race, Jessie went with to be my helper.  On the way down, she prepared my water bottles and we arrived at the export just in time to turn them in to be staged at the 10k, 20k, and 30k marks.  That was nice, I didn’t have to carry any gels.  That helps a ...

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Monumental - Pre race

November 1, 2013
Getting ready for the Monumental Marathon tomorrow.  Everything feels good.  Did one last shake out run this morning.  I get to have water bottles out on the course, so I need to get those ready and turn them in at 5:30 at the expo.  That's nice because I lost my fuel belt, so I don't have a good way to carry my gels.  I'm going to tape them to the water bottles.

The goal for this race is of course sub 3 hours, but if I feel good I may go faster and try to win the masters or at least the age g...
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Dawn of the Dunes Recovery

November 1, 2013
The recovery period between and DOD and Monumental is a short period as DOD was a Sunday race adn Monumental is on Saturday.  That extra day does mean a lot.  So, I ran the least number of miles this week.  I ran a good 5 miles on Monday with the kids at Strider practice.  I felt great after about a mile.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well I felt and could have gone much longer, but time ran out.  An easy 3 to 4 miles on Tusday and a Fartlek workout with the youth Striders on Wed for 5 m...
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Dawn of the Dunes Race Report

October 29, 2013

This was a nice race.  It was nice to sleep in my own bed the night before a race.  Unfortunately I didn't spend enough time in my bed, but anyway I got up and got to the race and felt pretty good.  It was a little chilly out, but once we started running it was fine.  I couldn't find my fuel belt, gloves or arm warmers so I borrowed Jessie's gloves, used my back up arm warmers and stuck my gel into my wrist bands and my shorts.  It worked out pretty well.

As the race started I eased into a 6...

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Louisville Recovery week

October 28, 2013
The recovery from Louisville went pretty well.  I think the post race message helped a lot.  I ran some intervals at race pace on Wednesday and a few short easy runs during the week.  The worst part was I had to travel for work on Thursday and Friday and then I was on my feet doing work at home all day Sat and at a party SAt night.  I knew I would feel that during the race Sunday, but life goes on even when you are racing consecutive weekends.
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Recovery Day 1

October 21, 2013

Louisville recovery day one.  So far, so good.  First test, got up with very little soreness.  Calves a little sore, but quads just tight.  That is a good sign, but I’m not out of the woods yet.  Sometimes the soreness comes later.  I’ll know tomorrow.  Second test, I jogged down the stairs.   Wow, that’s a great sign.  If I’m able to trot down stairs with no problem right after getting out of bed, it usually means my recovery will go well.  OK, so first few tests show positive result...

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About Me

I am a 48 year old marathon runner going for 7 sub 3 hour marathons in as many weeks.