MCM no. 44

Day 186 race report

I woke up the morning of the race at around 3 AM, having slept maybe 5 hours. Originally I set my alarm for 5 AM, but I felt I needed more time to prepare. The night before, I was too tired to pack my things after coming back from a hiking trip. It was the first time I woke up this early for a race. I know, with Ultras, there might be a day I will be at the course by 1 or 2AM in the morning.

I had my early breakfast. Cold breakfast because I was too lazy to cook. I had to have some food in me. Packed. We had to pack a second breakfast because by the time the race starts, I would be hungry again. I was out of the house by 5. I took the metro (light rail) to the starting line. Metro opens at 6 just for this event. I drove to a far away station in Springfield instead of taking a closer one, Vienna. The reason being, is to avoid making a transfer. I did this race back in 2017, and by the time waiting for transfer, I could barely made it to the race start, given that time, I missed the first train and had to wait for a second one that was like 15 minutes later. That 15 minutes was a big different. This time, no transferring and I made sure I was at the station 15 minutes prior the first train in order not to miss it. I barely made it on time for that due to not familiar with the station and the parking. The train moved out the station exactly on the dot. I got on my train. There were lot of runners like me. My race started at 7:30. I got to the race around 6:30. But there were a lot of people when I arrived, 30,000+ of them. It took us some time to leave the station and to get to the starting line. This time I came a little bit earlier and avoid the crowd like I did back in 2017. But there were still a lot of people. From the metro, we had to walk about a mile to the runners village. By the time I got to the village, and gone through security check, the starting time was near (only 30 minutes left). I walked up to the starting line and that was a long walk too (maybe quarter mile long). 50K has only 1700 runners and we felt many has dropped out due to the rain.

We had a tropical storm blowing from Texas. It hit us around 7-10 am. I have been watching this storm system since the beginning of the week. We were hoping it would skip us. There were a lot of water coming down from the sky. Bucketful of water. The race started on time. Luckily the storm did not last too long (maybe for couple hours). It came down early and then went out of the area, fast moving storm. We had sunshine for the rest of the race.

Having run the course before, this time I was well prepared. I did not go out too strong. Last time I tired myself out by mile 13. This time I am doing the Ultra 50k, which added about 4.8 miles more. The course still remained much the same. We did the extra 4.8 miles at mile 4.5, when we left the normal marathon race course and run a 2.4 miles out and back before rejoining the marathon course.

By mile 4, the elite runners already caught up with us. We ran about half a mile with them. Note we had a 25 minutes head start. We left the regular course at mile 4.5, and came back in. By the time we came back in the course many runners already ran passed. It was raining heavily at the time. Many runners were already walking. I assumed they were doing 16-18 mins per mile. We the 6:00 finishers were still going at 11:33 mins per mile. This was one of the greatest concern for the ultra runners. We would come in from behind and it would be a challenge to move pass the slower runners. While there were a lot of people, I was able to still pass them. Based on simulation, we would be passing 6000 people the first few miles. We passed a lot of people, but it was very hard to keep count. I was running between 10:30 a mile and 12:30 min a mile pace depending on the crowd. Experience definitely helped at this point. In the previous Marine Corps Marathon, I was expending too much energy weaving in and out of the crowds that by mile 13, I was completely exhausted. This time I was basically going with the flow and passing when I could. I know I would pass them, but I did not get frustrated if the person in front was a bit slow. I know they would a bit slow until the very end. Since they closed both sides of the street, I could run on the opposite side. Not many people did (they fear of being DQ I think for going off the course). I ran mostly on the opposite side (or on the median) to pass people. And it was great. I did not have to weave in and out the crowd too much.

Most people were respectful, they used hand signal to let people know they are stopping. There were not too many people running in big group this time. I could get by most of the time. There were just a lot of people. The course did not really spread out until their mile 13 as expected, our mile 18.

The rest of the race was mostly uneventful. Being an ultra runner, I brought my own water and food. I had more experience than the rest of the crowd. I did not slow down at many of the aid stations unless I ran out water. I got some oranges and gels from the aid stations later in the race, when I did not see that many people crowding there. I felt I was one of the few around me who could keep the energy up. I ate early in the race, before even the first official food station. I had real food (peanut butter sandwiches). I did not “hit-the-wall” until final two miles. Even then, the last minute gel got me through. One word about those gels, it almost turned my stomach inside out. I thought I was about to double over and throw up. Maybe I was drinking too much water by that time.

About pacing, I was with the 6:00 hour group. I was mostly in front of them. They were going maybe 30 seconds faster than the supposed pace in the beginning. We were running at 11 min pace until mile 5. Then the pacer decided to make a time correction by walking couple minutes. I had my 5:00 (hour) marathon pace band (I felt as long as I get to the 26.2 mile, I could finish the rest of the way). I arrived at the 26.2 mark exactly at 5:00 on the race clock. The last 4.8 miles took me an hour to get through.

I walked much more in the final few miles. I stopped for beer (from the crowd) and a picture. Bummer too the rain ruined my camera phone. A fellow marathon maniac ran up to me and we took a picture together with her phone at the final few miles. The final hill was hard. Having ran it before, I knew the hill was not long, so I pushed on. It was hard. Many other people flew by me. I crossed the finish line at 5:58:something on race clock time. I did not run a perfect even pace, but it was the first time, I arrived exactly at the time I wanted to arrive.

I think picking a 6:00 arrival time was arbitrary. I felt it was a bit too fast for me. I could have picked 6:15 or 6:20, then I would not have felt so rush. I did not want to push too hard, since I have one more race (a 50 miler) in three weeks, and that one I have been training on/off for over a year. I hope this race did not ruin my body for that one. I was not supposed to go all out on this race. I felt I was nearly there.

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