2017 Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

Summary of the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon

Intro

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is one of the biggest marathons in the country and a huge celebration of all things running and all things America. This was my third marathon, my first being almost exactly one year prior (3:09 in Baltimore), and I had high hopes for this one. My aggressive goal was somewhere in the 2:46-2:48 range, but leading up to the race I wasn’t very confident in my training so I decided to shoot for that in the first half and play the second half by feel.

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The morning went according to plan. I got to the starting area in plenty of time, ditched the hoodie and sweatpants I was wearing to keep warm (that I got from Goodwill the week prior), and when the gun went off it was ON.

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Race Recap

0-5k|Net Time: 20:00|Section Pace: 6:26|Overall Pace: 6:26

Part of this section I took a little faster than I should have because I spotted Mike Wardian (legendary marathoner / ultra marathoner) and wanted to hang with him for a little while. I wish I said hi to him but keeping up with his pace at the time was a struggle and he eventually pulled away from me. After crossing the 5k mark I felt good and was happy with my pacing.

5k-10k|Net Time: 39:33|Section Pace: 6:17|Overall Pace: 6:22

Much of this section was downhill and I threw down some fast miles. I could tell going downhill at the speed I was would be something I’d be feeling later in the race, but it felt so good at the time that I couldn’t slow down.

10k-15k|Net Time: 59:03|Section Pace: 6:16|Overall Pace: 6:20

Still feeling strong, still feeling fast.

15k-20k|Net Time: 1:18:38|Section Pace: 6:18|Overall Pace: 6:19

Still feeling good but pace is slipping a little.

20k-25k|Net Time: 1:38:31|Section Pace: 6:19|Overall Pace: 6:20

I passed the halfway mark here in 1:23. I knew that was fast, and since I could tell my pace was already starting to slip my aggressive goal of 2:46 was out of the question, but was hopeful 2:48 was still in the running.

 25k-30k|Net Time: 1:58:48|Section Pace: 6:31|Overall Pace: 6:22

The pain and suffering has begun…

30k-35k|Net Time: 2:19:47|Section Pace: 6:45|Overall Pace: 6:25

I think this part of the course went around some of the monuments in DC. Couldn’t take any pictures but I tried to soak it all in as my legs were screaming at me. It also started warming up by this time, but I was doing my best to stay hydrated and cool at each water station.

35k-40k|Net Time: 2:41:47|Section Pace: 7:05|Overall Pace: 6:30

My hopes of 2:48 were gone by now, I was just hanging on for dear life. The internal struggle of whether to throw in the towel and do some walking was growing as the pain in my legs grew stronger, but I’d regret it if I did so I kept marching onwards.

40k-Finish|Net Time: 2:51:30|Section Pace: 7:07|Overall Pace: 6:32

Towards the end there isn’t much crowd support which made the pain even worse. The finish line is at the top of a short but significant hill, and I did my best to run up it as fast as I could. I high-fived a marine and limped across the finish line.

(Strava Data)

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Reflections

I know I was capable of a better time. The temperature towards the end probably played a factor (it was up to the 70’s by the time I finished), but there were a couple of things I think I should have done differently for this race that would have helped my performance.

  1. Not start out as fast. This was is obvious but worth stating. It’s always better to start a little on the conservative side. I knew that but stupidly didn’t follow it.
  2. Wear better shoes. This was another dumb mistake I made. I’m long overdue for a new pair, the shoes I ran in have about 600 miles on them and I could tell early on that they’re best days were long behind them.
  3. Focus on training 3-5 weeks out. Right when my training should have been peaking I started changing things up and not putting in the quality workouts I should have. This probably affected my performance on race day but also my confidence.

Summary

Overall I still managed to get a PR and I’m happy with that. The course had some really beautiful sections which were nice to see along the way. Despite feeling awful by the end of the race I gutted it out and didn’t get injured, and for that I’m grateful.

For the next week or so I’ll be recovering but I can’t wait to ramp the training back up and start prepping for the next race.

Boston is only 6 months away!

NJ Balloon Festival: Running With The Balloons 5k Race Report

Race report from the 2017 QuickChek NJ Balloon Festival 5k

Last month I ran in the Running with the Balloons 5k at the 2017 QuickChek Festival of Ballooning in NJ . It was an interesting venue with a unique start to say the least, and a very fun experience. This race report is a little late, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

  • Distance: 5k
  • Goal: sub 18:00 and get a new PR
  • Date: 7/30/17

So let’s talk about this race!

The race starts out in a grass field, after the hot air balloons have made their morning ascent. That was an incredible sight to take in. After the balloons were off in the distance, it was race time.

The first half mile or so was on that grass field, and the footing was a tad tricky. There were large tire tracks (maybe tractor tracks) on the ground, so I had to be extra careful with how my feet were landing. It was nice and flat at least.

After the grass section we got to a gravel road, which then led to a normal paved road. On the paved road there were a couple of hills which I was not expecting. I thought the course would be almost entirely flat since it was on an airfield, but the off-airfield sections had the hills.

For the first mile I was in a group of about 5 people, chasing the lead pack. I soon realized that if I wanted any chance to catch the leaders I’d have to make a move early, so I separated from the chase group and took off on my own.

The course was pretty uneventful until you get back to the airfield. Unfortunately the leaders were too far ahead and I was never able to catch them, but the chase group didn’t catch me either. I finished about a minute behind the leaders, but also a minute ahead of my chasers, all on my own in that awkward little not-lead pack but not-chase pack spot.

My time was 17:40, a 22 second PR! I was really pleased with that result. It earned me 6th place overall and a little age group award medal.

After the race I hung out with my friend at the festival, picking up as many freebies and snacks as possible, and we stuck around for the evening balloon ascent where I was able to get a bunch of pictures.

All in all it was a successful race. It’s not every day you get to set a personal record and attend “the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America” (according to their website).

 

Have you participated in any special, unique races? Let me know!

Marine Corps Marathon Training Strategy 2 Months Out

Training strategy for the Marine Corps Marathon

With just about 2 months to go until my next goal race, the Marine Corps Marathon, I wanted to quickly check in with my training and talk about my progress leading up to that race.

Rock The River Race Photo

For my previous marathon, the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon (check out my race report here), my training was lower mileage (peaking at a 71 mile week), and focused more on speed work, with lots of progressive and fartlek runs.

For the Marine Corps Marathon, my goal is to beat my LA Marathon time and finish somewhere around 2:46. To do this, I’ve decided to try focusing on elevation gain and higher mileage. My last 2 weeks of running have been my highest recorded mileage weeks ever according to Strava, at 95 and 90 miles respectively. I’ve also been averaging about 3,500 feet of elevation gain per week for the past month or so, which isn’t a ton but it’s almost triple what I was averaging in the past.

My overall average pace has been slightly slower than in the past, but I’m not worried about that. I’m hoping that speed will come with the mileage I’m putting in. I still get out to the track for a little speed work, and add some fast marathon pace miles into some of my runs, but as a whole I’m less concerned with running fast during training.

We’ll see if this strategy works out, but I have a good feeling it will. I can tell that my legs are much stronger than they’ve ever been due to the miles and elevation. My only concerns are staying healthy, and whether my legs will remember how to go fast.

 

What do you think is more optimal for marathon training when trying to get a fast time: more speed with fewer miles, or less speed with more miles?

 

Thanks for reading!

2017 Los Angeles Marathon Race Report

My attempt at going sub-3 at the 2017 LA Marathon

On March 19th, 2017 I ran my second ever marathon, the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. This race holds a special place in my heart as I’ve made frequent trips to this city to visit my friend who attends UCLA. Already being somewhat familiar with parts of the course, and having trained harder than I ever had for any other race, I was confident I could improve upon my previous marathon time of 3:09 and hopefully manage a sub-3. At the very least I wanted to avoid blowing up in the last few miles like I did at that prior marathon, but that’s another story.

My training loosely followed the Hal Higdon Advanced 1 marathon training program. I basically did easy runs on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, speed work consisting of track intervals hill repeats or fartleks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a long run and medium long run over the weekends. My mileage peaked at a 71 mile week during this training block, and I had a 1.5 week taper leading to race day (I’m not a fan of tapering, it’s so boring, but important).

The day before the race my two friends Adam and Marissa and I attended the expo / packet picket. This was quite an ordeal. After jogging the mile to the train station to keep my run streak alive, taking the train to downtown LA was fine and finding the expo was a breeze, but man was that place packed. The actual packet pickup section was ok, but the expo… that expo was like a beehive of runners buzzing around. I wound up waiting on line for 15 minutes to buy a Skechers Los Angeles Marathon branded hat and a singlet (I’m a sucker for functional souvenirs), but we didn’t stay around for too long after that. There were some snack freebies (not too many disappointingly), and I picked up a couple of GUs for the race, and then we got out of there. If you’ve ever seen the movie Finding Forrester, it started to feel a little like the scene when William gets separated from Jamal at the basketball arena and hides under a staircase. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, hydrating, and focusing.

Waking up the next morning at 3:45am wasn’t so bad, and I took a Lyft to Santa Monica City Hall to catch a shuttle bus to the start of the race, Dodger Stadium. As luck would have it, our bus driver missed his exit and got lost! But with a little help and direction from a passenger we got to the area we needed to be with time to spare.

After stretching for a bit I just sat on the ground and waited until it got close to race time, to save my legs for the hell they were about to go through. Fortunately I got to start pretty near the front in corral A, so passing and bumping into people wasn’t an issue.

Los Angeles Marathon 2017 Start Line
Start Line of the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon

After the gun went off (or was it an air horn, I can’t remember), I settled into a comfy pace. Miles 1-13 consisted of some pretty steep downhill sections, and a long uphill one that was tiresome but since it was towards the beginning it wasn’t a race-breaker. There was some good crowd support and the aid stations were all nicely stocked. I passed the 13 mile marker right around 1:28, so I knew my pacing was pretty on point.

The second half of the race was where I realized my time could be better than I thought possible. Running through Hollywood and Beverly Hills was really cool; I wish I could have taken more pictures but settled for looking around at everything.

Beverly Hills Los Angeles Marathon
Somewhere in Beverly Hills

Around the 20 mile mark, my friends captured this quick video of me passing by, and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity for a couple high fives!

The race ends with a gradual downhill section for the last few miles, so I decided that if I felt good that’s where I’d open up my pace, and as luck would have it, I felt great. I closed the race at about a 6:10 pace over the final 4.5 miles (5:40 pace from 40km – finish), and finished with a time of 2:54:21, easily surpassing all of the goals I had for the race.

After crossing the finish line and walking what seemed like another mile to the finish festival area, (seriously, that walk needs to be shorter, we just ran a darn marathon), I got my medal which was awesome and super heavy, and met up with my friends again. I got myself a free beer and a ton of random free swag (bottle opener, thunder sticks, chapstick, and a bunch of delicious Clif bars, amongst other goodies).

And thus concludes the story of my 2017 Los Angeles Marathon adventure. Almost everything went smoothly, the course was great, and I smashed my goal. I’ll be trying to improve upon my marathon time this October at the Marine Corps Marathon, and I’ll be sure to post about that race leading up to and after it.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about this race or my training (or whatever) feel free to drop me a comment.