March 28, 2015 7:00 AM
Written by Owen:
When planning out my training for the Boston Marathon, I decided to pick a race a few weeks before Boston that I could use to judge my fitness level so I can pick a pace for Boston that is appropriate. I found the Marine Corps 17.75k, which was 23 days before Boston, and is an ideal distance. It's 17.75k in honor of the year the Marine Corps was "born", which works out to 11.03 miles.
A nice bonus is that by finishing this race you get a guaranteed entry into the highly coveted Marine Corps Marathon. So even though I have already completed marathons in Virginia and Washington DC, I'll be running the Marine Corps Marathon in October because it is too good a chance to pass up.
Back to this race...
My family had a lot going on, plus to save costs, I decided to just do this trip by myself. It would give me some good alone time with my mom and step-dad, Torre.
Thursday, March 26th, 2015:
Michael had a track meet, so I scheduled my plane to leave late enough that I wouldn't miss his meet. My family drove me to the airport, where I watched the Tarheels lose a very close game to Wisconsin who advanced to the Elite 8. I got on the plane a few minutes after my zone was called because the game was finishing. That cost me the overhead room, so I had to gate check my bag.
I flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. My mom and Torre came and picked me up and drove me to their house in the rain, which is less than an hour drive South on I-95, as long as there isn't traffic, which there almost always is. Traffic wasn't bad and we made it there shortly after midnight.
I was really grateful to Torre especially since he had to get up for work at 5am the next morning.
Friday, March 27th, 2015:
When I got up, Torre had already left for work. I went out and did my 2-mile traditional pre-race shakeout run around my mom's neighborhood.
When I got back, she made me a nice homemade breakfast. I had to work, so I set up my laptop at her table and went about my work for Microsoft. My mom set up her computer at the table and we talked while I worked. She made me a nice lunch.
When Torre got home from work, I logged off from work and we made the short 15 minute drive up to packet pickup in Woodbridge, VA. It was held at VA Runner, a nice running store. After packet pickup, we had a really good meal at Olive Garden. I had these really big rigatoni type noodles with Alfredo sauce, and shrimp. It was absolutely delicious until I bit into what I thought was a shrimp, but turned out to be a huge chunk of garlic. My mom said it best when she joked she was glad I wasn't on a date when I did that, because my knee-jerk reaction took over and I spit that out as fast as I could.
We got home, planned our attack for race morning, and went to bed.
Saturday, March 28th, 2015:
This race shuttles everyone (runners and spectators) from several public parking lots to the race. So that adds a little time to how early you have to arrive. The race started at 7 am, and we were supposed to be at the lots by 6. I am always paranoid about getting there on time, so we woke early enough to get there by 5:40.
Temperatures were around 30°, but the wind was really strong and cold, so the "real feel" was in the teens. Thank goodness there was a very accommodating church that let as many as could fit come in out of the cold until right before the race.
|Montclair Tabernacle Church was nice enough to let everyone stay warm before the race.|
We stayed in there until about 10 minutes before the start. When we got back outside, the sun had come up and most everyone was in line in the chute that led to the start. There were no corrals, I thought they were waiting to let us walk up to the start and I would use that opportunity to try to go near the front. By the time I realized this was the start, it was too late, so I started near the back.
A minute or two before the start, I had to decide how much clothing I would peel off and give to my mom. I considered running in my sweater like I do when I train, then tie it around my waist mid-race. But I hate doing that when I'm racing. So I took off my coat, my sweater, and my pants and started cold. I was in shorts, and a long sleeve running shirt, along with my beanie and gloves.
I made the right decision. I used so much effort running around everyone to get to the front that I never noticed the cold. In fact, I tucked my beanie and gloves into my belt after only the first couple of miles.
My goal was to average my BQ pace, which is 7:26 per mile. That meant running around 7:00 on the downhills, and around 8:00 on the uphills. I lost about 30 seconds during the first mile because it was impossible to run that fast with all the people.
The first five miles or so, are all on a packed dirt/gravel road. The area had received quite a bit of rain leading up to the race, but none on race day, thankfully. That left some areas muddy, but not too bad overall. The hills leading up to mile 4.2 weren't that noticeable, but I sure noticed that hill at mile 4.2.
|Elevation profile for the race|
After the hill at mile 5, I was still behind by about 30 seconds. It turned on to a paved road and flattened out. I did the math and figured if I beat my splits by 10 seconds per half mile I'd be in good shape, so that's what I did. I was really in a groove on the pavement (I definitely prefer that), and was ticking off the half-miles and thought I could maybe do it, when the course turned back on to a dirt/gravel road at about mile 9.
There were three consecutive hills that just killed my quads after all the up and downs I had done. I didn't think I was going to make it, but knew I was close to the end. I pushed through. Once I saw the finish line, I gave it all I had and really sprinted.
In order to achieve my goal, I needed to finish in under 1 hour, 22 minutes. I finished in 1:21:40. I was really proud of my execution, and will now go into Boston confident.
|After the race|
We drove back to the house, and I used my "Access Granted" card they gave me at the finish line, and registered for the Marine Corps Marathon. I got showered, and we headed out to shop for my mom a new TV.
We went to Best Buy, where the guy was really helpful and educated us on all the features, and complexities of today's TVs. In the end, we didn't buy from there because they were out of the TV that we wanted.
After lunch at Firehouse Subs, we drove to Sam's Club where we got a really good deal on a new Samsung 55" Smart TV and Sound Bar. They also bought me "Unbroken" on Blu-Ray as a prize for my performance in the race. I had just found out I took 6th place in M40-44 out of 200 in that division, and 49th overall out of more than 2,000.
We spent the rest of the day installing the TV. We had a delicious dinner my mom made, featuring manicotti, and I pigged out on Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints, of course) I had bought earlier.
Sunday, March 29th, 2015:
We got up, had a nice breakfast, and went to church. It was a really good Palm Sunday service, featuring a lot of baptisms, where they spent a lot of time telling the stories of everyone involved.
|Church on Sunday morning at Mount Ararat|
|Torre at the gun range|
After shooting, we stopped at a roadside stand and got some ice cream. We drove home, where my mom made a delicious roast for dinner. We played cards (Hand and Foot), and my mom won.
Monday, March 30th, 2015
Monday I got up and my mom made another good breakfast. Torre was already at work, and I started my work.
On my lunch I did my 7.5 mile training run. My quads were still pretty sore from the race, but they got worked out by the end of the run.
After my run, my mom made me a homemade ham and pineapple pizza that was delicious. I ate the entire thing.
When Torre got home from work, we went to eat at Chipotle. While we were eating, the pastor of their church walked in. I could tell he was in a hurry, but he made time to come and sit with us and have a really nice talk for around 10 minutes.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
Tuesday I had 8 miles on the calendar, which I did, and then my mom made another pizza which I devoured.
After Torre got home from work, we had dinner at Chili's, and they took me to the airport. Malissa and the kids came and picked me up at the Charlotte airport.
My Garmin data from the race: