Saturday, April 5, 2014

Best Worst Marathon Ever (Runners Marathon of Reston)

Marathon #6 is officially on the books.  It was my worst road marathon time ever, but it was also one of my best runs.  I am super proud of this run.  On a whim, I decided to sign up for Runners Marathon of Reston.  I was hoping for one last long supported training run before the 50 miler, and Reston is always hilly so I figured this would be a good one.  On the day I decided to sign up JD ended up being the very last person to register.  I e-mailed the race director explaining the situation and asking if there was a wait list.  She was so kind and allowed me to register so that we could both be able to run.  (Reason #1 to love this race.)

So the course is essentially two 13 mile loops around the Reston area.  Some of it was on area roads, but there were large sections on paved running trails through the woods in the back of the neighborhoods.  This added some interest to the course since we would be running the same loop twice.  They had the course well marked with signs as well as a white chalk mark on the ground all along the trail.  It was very nice just to follow the chalk mark on the ground.  As long as you saw white chalk, you were good.
I don't think there was a flat mile on this course.  It was consistently rolling although there were really no monster hills.  All of the little ups and downs especially on the trail started to wear on the legs.
Elevation profile for 1 loop
It was nice to do a local marathon so we could just have our regular Saturday routine with no hassle of travel or hotels.  We picked up our packets on Saturday afternoon.  Packet pick up was really easy and quick.  We got awesome swag including a race tech tee, water bottle, RUSeen gloves with race logo, and a buff with the race logo.  That's a lot of swag for a local marathon.  (Reason #2 to love this race.)
Awesome swag!

On Saturday night there was a lot of debate about the clothes because the rain potential was 50% for most of the race with decent temperatures at the start but supposed to fall rapidly throughout the race and also gusting winds.  I had originally been going for arm warmers with a tee, but then I decided for the long sleeve base layer due to the wind potential.  I didn't really bother with rain gear because it usually makes me too hot and humid and is really uncomfortable for me to run in.

Flat mama
On race morning it was pouring as we made our way to the race.  Luckily we were able to stay warm and dry in South Lakes High School cafeteria.  It was awesome to have the use of warm, dry bathrooms that weren't crowded right up to race start.

I was in a foul mood due to the rain and just really didn't want to run this marathon mostly because it was a training run and not really a goal race.  I'll admit that I was being a complete bitch right up until race start.  We stood in the pouring rain and sang the National Anthem and then we were off on the course.

Start line photo...Mike Wardian just wants to start running so he can go home in <3 hrs.

I did smile a little at the start as I saw Maniac Larry and we briefly chatted how this was so different from two weeks ago. Temperatures were not too bad at first, but then the wind really started to hit us on the road.  For some reason I had to pee by mile 3 which never happens to me.  Luckily there were plenty of porta potties along the way so I hit the porta potty near the aid station and moved.  The aid stations at this race were reliably every 2-3 miles and were well stocked with gels, fresh water, Gatorade, bananas, oranges, and even some unexpected junk food that I normally ignore.  By mile 4 we hit the trail section, and my hands were just frozen from the cold rain.  I had them bundled up in my shirt, but that wasn't helping much.  The runners who had gloves on were not in much better shape because the gloves were just soaked.

  At around mile 6, half marathoners started to pass us, and I hated every single one of them.  I was seriously considering bailing out at the half marathon point because I was so cold.  Every single one of the halfers passing me would try to be encouraging by saying "halfway there", and I would grunt back that I still had 20 miles to go.  There was an annoying out and back section at mile 7 that only the marathoners had to do so I hated the halfers even more then.  Luckily as we left that section there was this awesome woman in a picnic shelter playing a keyboard and singing.  It was freezing cold and raining, but this woman was out there entertaining us and trying to lift our spirits.  (Reason #3 to love this race.)  At mile 8 aid station, I peed again (what was going on here...I'm notorious for not peeing at all during marathons!).  At this point I couldn't get my honey stinger chews open so I bit open my waffle packet because I was starving.  I devoured the waffle going through that aid station.  Back onto a long section of trail through the woods which blocked some of the wind. Somewhere around here a runner passed me and noticed my MRTT shirt.  We exchanged a few words about what chapters we were with so that was really awesome to get some encouragement on the trail.   We came back out of the woods, and I had to pee again at mile 12!!  I was drinking a normal amount of water so I was really starting to get irritated by the number of toilet breaks that I was taking especially since my hands were so numb that it was hard to get my capris pulled back up.  The we hit the MRTT aid station which was so incredibly awesome.  My friends were there, and they had hot chicken broth. (Reason #4 to love this marathon)  Leave it to the moms to know how to fix you up right.  I was really wanting to throw in the towel at this point due to the cold, but I got two small cups of broth down and headed out thinking that I would make a decision when I passed the school.

I got to the split for the half and full and just stood there for about a minute.  I really wanted to quit because of the cold.  I talked to a volunteer who was really encouraging, but I was still wavering.  My legs felt awesome.  I was running comfortable 11-12 minute miles, but I was just so cold and the idea of the warm dry school was so tempting.  As I'm wavering, an awesome masters woman Marathon Maniac passes and tells me that Maniacs don't quit and to keep going with her.  I had talked to her a little earlier on the course, and she was really cold as well.  I decided to go ahead and stick it out and run with her for a little while.  We got separated on a hill when she needed to walk, and I was feeling good and still running.  At this point the rain was starting to feel harder and hurt a little.  Then all of a sudden at mile 18, we started getting pelted with huge pieces of hail.  At that point all I could do was laugh.  The weather conditions were just so comical.  I was also feeling really good about how strong my legs were feeling.  I never wanted to walk and in fact was feeling stronger about my running as the miles went on.  Normally, I hit a wall around mile 18 and just really start to break down.  This time I focused on owning mile 18, and I got through it.  Then I focused on getting to 20.  20 was once again the annoying out and back, but it was a little more fun this time because I was seeing more marathoners and everyone was encouraging each other.  A deer also sprinted right out in front of me at that point as well.  The awesome keyboard singing lady was still out there singing too! I peed 4 more times on this loop.  I think the cold and the rain were making me feel like I had to pee urgently because when I would pee I wasn't peeing a lot.  I think I used every porta potty on the course.  At this point  was telling myself to get back to the moms and the chicken soup.  When I did my spirits were really up, and I was feeling strong.  I started passing a lot of runners in this section and felt like I was running really well.  The hail eventually let up around mile 22 and went back to freezing rain/sleet with seriously gusting winds.  The volunteers and Fairfax police were amazing standing out there in that weather for 6 hours just to keep us safe on the course.  I was so impressed and so thankful for their efforts.  I also have to note that it was really cool because some of the homeowners who had houses backing to the trail would open up their patio doors when they saw a runner coming by and yell out encouraging words.  On the back half of the course, I was eating mainly from the aid stations mostly banana and oranges, but I had two Oreos too.  Normally cookies gross me out during marathons, but I was seriously craving them during this run (must have been the cold).  As I hit mile 25, I started to pick up the pace because I knew that the freezing cold was almost over.  The weather had one more little surprise for started snowing huge snowflakes.  As I hit the track for the last 0.2 miles I was running into a wall of wind with snowflakes swirling all around me.  As cold and wet as I was, I was so happy about this run.  I felt so strong and positive through those last miles even in awful weather conditions.  I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal, and actually kept running because I wanted to get in side the school.

I got inside, found JD, and got my dry clothes.  It was awesome to have warm dry bathrooms to change in.  You could also use the showers if you wanted to.  The post race food was amazing (chili, hot pizza, bagels, muffins, sandwiches, hot coffee/tea/cocoa, pop, cookies).  (LOVE THIS MARATHON!)

So even though I got my worst road marathon time and had the worst marathon weather ever, I had one of the best experiences.  I felt like I put it all together mentally and was really happy with how strong I was at the end.  There was no walking during the marathon, and my pace was pretty much steady throughout.

Splits were 1:10 at 10K; 2:35 at 13.1; 5:21 finish for a pace of 12:17 (12/18 40-45 female; 163/203 overall).  I wasted a lot of time on bathroom stops as well as my indecision at the halfway point.  I also wasn't in any hurry at the aid stations so I think my actual running time was more likely in the 11s which feels awesome on no taper, on a hilly course, and in bad weather.

I would highly recommend this marathon to other runners.  The course is challenging, but it is truly worth it.  It was an amazing experience.  You could tell that Reston Runners and the race directors put a lot of thought into the marathon.  It was a race that was really put on by runners not by some big corporation that had no clue what runners really wanted.


  1. I've always wanted to do this race-glad I didn't pick this year. It looked particularly brutal. Congrats!

    1. It was a really well done race. I would totally recommend the half and the full.

  2. WOW. That is hard core. I thought about everyone running that weekend and how miserable that weather was. This is truly a testament to your strong will.