Sunday, November 25, 2012

NCR Trail Marathon. Sparks, MD. 11/24/12

A few weeks ago I though about running the NCR again for time.   Last year, I ran it but to pace  friend.  I was not in marathon shape back then and had a lot trouble sticking with my friend for the first half at 8:00 minute pace.  She went on to run a BQ which was the plan.  I faded to a leisurely run/walk for a 3:55.

On Jan 1, 2012, I was able to focus on getting back into shape.  That is when I started doubling up my runs most days and started streaking.  I am now up to "Days: 329 Distance: 3,133.9 mi"according to my log.

In 2009, I was running super and it has taken me three years now to get out of shape and back into shape.  It is almost exactly three years later and I am either matching or besting all my lifetime PR's.  So when lining up for the NCR, my PR marathon course where I ran a 3:15:47 in 2009, I was hoping to crush that time today.

I knew it was supposed to be windy.  It was also a bit colder than the past NCR's since the start time was bumped up to 8:30 am instead of 9 am and the wind was kicking at gusts expected to hit 25 mph.  The temps were mid-30's with the wind making it feel sub-30. Brrr!  For me this is just outside of what I would consider my ideal marathon weather (little too windy and too chilly making me wear too many layers and that slows me down).  However, just two days earlier I ran a PR 8k in 6:25 pace so no matter what the weather was like today I was going for it!   Besides, I expected the trees along the rail trail to shield much of that wind (I hoped).

Before I continue with the report, I want to thank Jenn P. for coming down to the race, driving me and her husband John to the start and then taking great care of me after the race by dealing with getting my crap out of the hotel and taking me back to my car.  I couldn't park at the start and she helped us avoid the busses by dropping us off in the morning.  Thank you!

The Race:

I decided to wear my TEAM FIGHT shirt to show my support for the Ulman Cancer Fund that has helped me in many ways as a young adult diagnosed with Cancer.  It was great to see Team Fight shirts out there.  I was proud to represent a group that does so much good!

Gun goes off and I know we have a big down hill start that I plan to take full advantage of. M1 - 6:36.
This does not concern me at all.  I did not have to work for that pace and knew I would settle down once we hit the flats.   M2 - 7:08.

The tow path is about a 1% average incline to the turn around which is just past 13.5 miles out.  I feel the wind in my face for parts of this and actually feel good about the idea of a tail wind and a decline on the way in.  I am cruising along, not working very hard at all.  I am watching my Garmin for pacing, but the trees seemed to be messing up the data.  I was bouncing around between 6:50-8:00's the entire time and felt like the watch wasn't really giving me very helpful information. (It is not set for instantaneous pace, it was just having trouble picking up signals I guess).

I glanced at it during each mile, but made a point to not look at my splits at the mile mark because I knew I was running well, as fast as I could sustain without going too hard. It just didn't matter what the watch said.  So now is the first time I get to see my splits! :)

M3 -7:19  
M4 -7:13
M5 -7:15
M6 -7:07
M7 -7:17

I decide to gel every 6 miles. I had no trouble consuming the gels on the run.

The course is basically flat.  It is a hard packed rail trail making it more like a road race through the woods.  In fact, I wore my Brooks T7 Racers for this!  They were perfect!

It can become very lonely out there.  I am good at running solo, but it can be hard to sustain a race effort when there is so few people around to actually race.  I ran much of this race completely alone after we all spread out on trail.  Either I was passing men or they were passing me, but never once did I settle in to run with, behind, or near anyone else for any extended length of time.  Spectators are only present at places where the road intersects the trail.  These points were several miles apart.  Only groups of about 5-10 people made it out to cheer or volunteering.  I did a lot of thinking while out there and it felt just relaxing to simply run fast in complete silence.

I did notice some wind kicking up around Mile 8.  I believe the "steepest" part of this OUT occurs between mile 9 and the turn around.  As soon as I hit 8, I could feel myself working too hard this early so I back down.  I made a decision to try to just settle in and relax so I could maximize my effort on the way back when we get the decline and hopefully a tail wind!

M8 - 7:38  
M9 - 7:20
M10 - 7:33
M11 - 7:37
M12 - 7:17

When I ran the D&L Heritage marathon a few weeks ago, it was cold.  I didn't bring endurolytes with me, since I use those mostly in warmer conditions.  However, I felt so sluggish in the second half I wondered if some E-caps would have helped me feel more pep?  Today I stashed 4 E-caps on me and at 12.5 I figured I should take them since water should be at the half marathon mark (They had a relay exchange at that point.)

Rather than fumble at the water station, I took them out at about 12.8 and popped them in my mouth. (Bad move). As I approached 13, there was no water stop.  Oh crap!  I slowed down a lot and tried to swallow these pills with out water and almost threw up.  It was not pleasant! (Next time I will just carry a salt packet).   Swallowing those tabs was just not happening, so I tucked them under my tongue hoping my saliva would not eat through the gel coating releasing all that disgusting powder before I could get to water.  I finally got some fluids at the 13.5.

M13 - 7:43  (1:35:30 split)
M14 - 7:38

I was pleased with my 13 miles split, predicting about a 3:12, if I could match what I did on the way out.  This could be possible on the return on this course.

After we ran out to the 13.5-ish, turned back towards 14, I tried to focus on digging for speed where I could.  I took that second gel.  Just before 13, I saw Jessi leading (as expected) and she and I exchanged encouragement.  On my way back, I saw Dave L. looking strong.  And then I saw John who shared that I was 2nd woman!  I thought I was, but I was getting a bunch of mis-information b/c spectators did not realize that the relayers (yellow bib) were running with the marathoners (white bib) and were counting both.

M15 - 7:26
M16 - 7:27
M17 - 7:27
M18 - 7:25

Ok, so this wasn't going as planned!  Where was that speed?  LOL.  I realized by mile 18 that I was just incredibly tired and the stupid wind was not at my back.  I still felt like it was in my face again and I was kind of bummed about that. (I should have taken that final gel, but I failed myself there. I have to remember to do this next time).

It was getting hard to run with speedy form. I found myself settling back on my heels more and it seemed like my feet were just slamming into the ground rather than bouncing off.  I ran through a water stop and heard someone handing out water call out "Shannon! Is that you?!"  I grunted "Uh- huh" and he called out "Go McGinn!" (I found out later that was Christian.  I was too tired to turn to look as I ran past).  However, being cheered for by name unexpectedly gave me a mental boost. Thank you Christian!

M19 - 7:20
M20 - 7:25

Once hit 20, it was all about damage control. I was trying to run fast enough to not loose too much time,  while not also getting myself into deeper into a energy depleted hole that would stall me later when we tackled the hills in the last 2 miles.

I was really fighting to stay moving at this point.  It was very hard work.  I was looking at my watch too much.  It was taking forever to just cover a half mile.  I was struggling.

M21 - 7:28
M22 - 7:38
M23 - 7:33
M24 - 7:39

At 24, we leave the trail and get back on the roads where we have no shelter from the wind and have two significant long steep hills to deal with.  The worst of them in mile 26.  I was actually doing well out here.  Even though the pace was slow, based on the guys near by, I was moving the fastest on the road.  On the hill, I passed a few of men who passed me on the trail.  Sometimes it becomes clear that all those miles in training do make me stronger than I realize.

M25 - 7:50
M26 - 8:05

As we turned the final corner, I found myself in what felt like a slow motion kick to the finish against a man who started next to me at the beginning.  It was almost comical to try to hurry up into the strong wind. I think he said "Oh, you can have it!" and didn't even care to try to race me in.  We were both exhausted!

Last .2 - 1:50 (8:02 pace). 

I really love this race.  It is just hard ENOUGH.  I have to work out there and can get a great result.  I am so thrilled to have been less than 30 seconds off a PR for a race I did not specifically train for. Another gel could have made that difference, or maybe not.  Who knows? Who cares? ;)  I went for the PR today and maybe a less aggressive start would have resulted in a less significant fade, but I am not sure if my time would have been much better off for it.   All I can do is find another marathon and try again and ideally hold around a 7:15 longer.  But honestly, I could not be pleased had I run even faster.  What a great race!

Time: 3:16:11 (24 seconds short of a new PR).
OA:  29th place
Gender: 2nd place Female


  1. Way to go, girl! I'm so impressed with how fast you recover. Keep up the good work! :)

  2. Nice running Shannon! I am glad you are feeling great again and are happy with your running! Super nice streak also!!