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Race Result

Racer: Amanda Shuman
Race: Marine Corps Marathon
Date: Sunday, October 30, 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Female 25 - 29
Time: 3:36:02
Overall Place: 1244
Age Group Place: 56 / 1516
Comment: 2nd marathon/beautiful weather/PR to end the season!

Race Report:

There are a lot of intrinsically important things I learned after my first marathon last year, which I will re-cap from the race report I wrote:
- don't drink alcohol the day before
- screw conservatism, it's better to pace yourself 'cause your legs will eventually go anyways
- my nutrition with gels works
- don't park a car somewhere and then not remember where it is

(I apparently still forgot the last important one: "bring more ben gay patches for the way home" which I will have to remember next time.)

So, I may have mentioned to several people and in recent reports: I have been beefing up on running since returning from my sojurn in China. Thanks to a helpful coach I added a more structured interval workout and a more informed tempo run to my weekly schedule. This was not easy given that I have been out of the country for a significant portion of the time. I was a bit worried about getting my long runs in, and I even had to run 16 miles the day I flew to Sydney. Nevertheless, it's always easier to run in home territory than in a foreign country (even if it IS Australia).

I went into this marathon thinking a couple of things. First, I have wanted for a few months now to qualify for Boston. I don't know where I'll be next fall -- some PhD program I hope, but who knows where. This may be my last time on the east coast for a while, so better do it while I can.

Another underlying goal I've had for a while: I need to prove myself. I mean, I was running solid in training runs and then getting out to some of these events and falling on my face. It's all a mental battle for me. When I'm on the course I not only question why I signed up for this race, but why do I care whether or not I actually finish? or make a certain time? In the end it always comes down to one key element: I can't stand to lose at this game called life. I hate it more than anything else. And with a venegance. The last semester I was in college I vowed to make straight A's because it would bump me above cum laude to a GPA for magna cum laude. It was a hell of a lot of work, but I did it. So when I said this year by GOD I am going to qualify for Boston, I was willing to do just about anything to do it. It's just my nature. Who cares if my last marathon time was 4:12. I'm going to get this done.

So I worked my tail off August, September and October to make this race happen the right way -- it is, after all, only my second marathon. I don't have that much experience with pacing or the wall, but my training helped immensely. It also helped that I sandbagged Reston and DU Worlds for it. I knew I had to if I wanted this to be my focus. I also let my swim and bike training (especially the swim) slide quite a bit.

Week before the race:
Tapered fully. My longest run was 3 weeks out (3h15min-22.5miles) and from then on cut it back. The last week I had several much shorter workouts where I just took it easy, nothing too difficult for too long, a few accelerations here and there. I can't say I really watched my nutrition, that would be a lie. I ate a lot of chocolate before and after the race. And I made sure no mexican or chinese food was on the schedule.

The only really awful thing that worried me was the demand at work. I had a few really late nights, presentations, off-site nonsense, the whole works. I was sleeping weird hours.

Day before the race:
Went out for an extremely short 2.5 mile run. The weather was very pleasant, albeit a bit cold.

Received some great last minute advice from Alex which would prove to be very beneficial race morning. I'd never actually seen the MCM course before -- never spectated or anything. It was good to have someone who'd run it look at the map and tell me specifics. Discussed my race strategy: go out with the 3:30 group but if they go too fast break off -- pace, pace, pace. Don't forget to eat gels at the right times. Don't overdo the downhills. Watch out for the bridge(s) and mentally prepare for those.

Got to the race expo late (5pm). It had died down. My dad and I went running gear shopping but had to leave after an hour - to quote him "I think I've o.d'ed on running gear for the next year." (In the end it was good to drag him along. After seeing the competition he now believes he can not only do a marathon but beat some of these people.)

Went home and ate. I can't think about a race the night before or I won't be able to sleep at all. I found out nothing helps cure that problem better than watching a comedy, in this case Napoleon Dynamite. (It also helped ease start line nerves when I saw some guy with a VOTE FOR PEDRO shirt on.) I think this is a new race tradition for me since I watched SNL celebrity jeopardy and anchorman the night before Du Worlds and slept incredibly well without nervousness.

Morning of:

I just have to say, my mom is one heck of an AWESOME person. She took care of me the whole day. She drove me to the metro while I ate, got the metro tickets, carried my stuff for me so I didn't have to check it, cheered for me, and at the finish line was ready to wait on me hand and foot. (She even ran onto the metro afterwards to grab me a seat to sit before someone else could get it.)

So there I am at the start and thinking about my goals again. I found the 3:30 pace group. Introduced myself to Scott, who tells everyone he usually does the 3:20 group. Uh-oh. Also met two girls around my age doing the same thing as me: they want < 3:40 times.

Decided to ditch my long sleeved top and gloves 5 minutes before the start. Best idea of the day.


To be honest, a lot of this is a blur. I was pacing the 3:30 team and chatting with some of the people. Met several people, talked about goals, where they were from, etc. But mostly when you're pacing you're watching the time. Early on (mile 6-7), I was ahead of the pace group and realized that was a mistake. So I fell back in. Next thing I know, there's Aaron! He's approaching mile 8 (or was it 9?) along Rock Creek. I yell "Aaron!" "Hey Amanda!" Nice to see a friendly face! :)

I keep pacing. We're hitting the mile markers a minute ahead of 3:30 pace, running < 8 minute miles. For me, that's fairly fast. I was a bit worried about not making the time. But I thought to myself, if I can run all those intervals at 7 minute pace, and this isn't hurting me, then I'll be ok. If I don't feel good, I'll back off... remembering my legs will die eventually anyways, somewhere between 20-23 probably.

So, the rest is a blur until Hains Point. I remember hitting the half way mark and thinking "hmm 1:43 is a good time" faster than 3:30 pace. At Hains Point it gets lonely, not much around just the group and me. When we are coming back around towards mile 19 is when I start to feel them pull away from me. I passed by another friendly face, a friend from the gym. He says "hey Amanda, you're going much faster than 3:40, way to go!" Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I start to think...

Then: mile 20. The bridge. Oh my god, that is the most boring part of the marathon by far. The wind wasn't terrible but it wasn't great either. I think, just make it across. Arlington is a much more interesting part. Who knew the bridge is not 1, but 1 and a HALF miles long. That was the longest half mile of my whole life. Once in Arlington, I start to feel better. I picked it up again, the 3:30 group had just made the turn around and I thought, maybe I can make it back to them. I was doing pretty well out of Arlington and onto the next bridge and then mile 24 (?) it hits me -- my right calf cramps up. The pain was unbearable. I trotted for a few, stopped and stretched, trotted again. I delt with it for at least a half mile before I figure out how to run on my heel without it hurting too bad. Took my last endurolyte I had packed (and wasn't going to use) and thought maybe there's some magic in that thing to make the pain go away. I passed by some poor guy on the bridge who was trotting/walking and sweating out a massive amount of salt. I offered him my last gel.

I looked at my watch as I passed mile 25: 3:26. I can walk the rest of the way if I have to, I thought briefly. But I can't finish walking, and what's more, if I stop I may not be able to start again. Keep going... the spectators helped at this point. Not many around here, but I see the crowds start to get larger. around 25.5-25.8 I would guess, someone shouts "one more mile to go!" and some guy yells back in a sharp voice "LESS THAN ONE MILE" and the spectator laughs, even though this guy didn't sound like he was joking at all...

And there's the finish -- I see the hill, the crowd, and I get pumped up. All the pain in the world couldn't stop me from getting up that hill to the finish around the corner, I look at my watch it says 3:35 something and then-- I'm done! Wow! I did it! I made my goal!

I walk over and take the finish line photo ASAP. Last year I forgot to do that at Richmond...not this year. Then I downed a powerade in what must have been < 30 seconds. I walked out of the finishing area and my mom hugged me, took a picture, and then hey! there's Coach Bob! :) He comes over and congratulates me, and soon after gets me pretzels, banana, powerades, water etc. I see Aaron and run over to say hi "I made my time!" I shout. (Sorry about the shouting Aaron :)). As I sat on the grass and my quads inverted with charlie horses in terrible pain I couldn't care. During the race I said outloud "not now, not now! wait til the finish" and it worked. I made my time!!!!!! (Well, eventually I did care. I found the massage tent and got my free massage. And apparently if you finish early enough there's not much of a line :)).


Went home on the metro, showered, ate, read, ate, rested, ate, went to bad fairly early. Woke up with the stiffest legs I've ever had. Right now I'm ready to write a letter to GMU (my employer) thanking them for making the entire campus handicapped accessible -- I've used the ramps for every step I could today.

Here's what I've assessed about my training and race:

- Training with intervals and tempo runs has brought my running to a new level. Just remember to taper far enough out.
- Nutrition during the race was generally right on. I ate two gels spaced out at 1 hour and 2:05 or so. I had 3 endurolytes. Took water in at every stop. I could have used more water, especially towards the end and one more gel around 2:45-3 wouldn't have hurt.
- I tend to dawdle on long runs and in long races so the pace group was a great idea for me. The guy yelled at me when I was going too fast ahead of the group, and encouraged us to get water at every stop (otherwise I probably would have forgotten), not to mention the camaderie of people with the same goal generally kept my spirits up and my mind focused. I didn't have much time for my mind to wander.
- I need to learn how to run differently -- I think perhaps my calf cramping was due to the form I use.
- Bring my mom along :)

All in all, I had a fantastic time. And now I get to try this Boston thing too. Now, ready for some down time and the off-season... :)