Marine Corps Marathon 2013 recap

Well. Marathon #2 is in the books, and I think I can split this race into three categories:

Physical. This thing was PHYSICAL: I felt great until mile 12, when a woman right in front of me stopped suddenly to walk and I had no escape route other than to hop up onto the curb next to us; when I landed, I rolled my left foot in a slightly odd manner. When I hopped back off the curb, I landed awkwardly, and two steps later knew I’d aggravated the ankle strain I think I sustained in mid-August. It never bothered me again, not even during my 20-milers, so I never got it checked out. From then until mile 14, I thought two things: one, there goes 4:30 for my goal time, and two, I might have to think about dropping out, because walking was not an option and running on it hurt. Running faster on it let the adrenaline dull the pain, however, and by mile 15 I felt like I might be okay. Mile 16 was when I told myself that I was NOT going to drop out no matter what; if I had to crawl to the finish line, I would. The ankle nagged at me a whole lot throughout the rest of the race, especially on the rougher pavement of 395 and the roads around the National Mall, and unfortunately the worst during the uphill to the finish (because I was pushing off of it to propel myself uphill), but I fought it out. I also knew I was worn out around mile 24, but it wasn’t as bad as the exhaustion I felt in the last 10k in Richmond last year, which I attribute to more miles during training. It did hurt to finish, yes, but I felt stronger throughout the end than I did at the end of Richmond, which was one of my non-time-related goals for this race.  However, I do need to work on finishing stronger, as my splits below will show.

Mental.  This thing was MENTAL: my first thoughts were, after starting so slow, how can I meet my time goal? It was very difficult to convince myself to a) take it slow and b) believe that I would still reach my goal at this early pace. This was very discouraging in the first 8-10 miles, though after the half I started to feel better about it. I didn’t really realize I could get 4:40 until the 35k mark, when I finally decided that all the math I’d been doing all along (subtract about 20 minutes from the gun time clocks at the markers) was in fact correct- of course, this is also when I slowed down a bit, because okay, yeah, it was HARD and I was hurting the requisite amount (not to mention the ankle – the ankle!), plus I stopped at both water stations near the end to drink and dump some water on my head. But, no excuses- and you know, it’s not productive to think “oh, I could have broken 4:40 if I hadn’t done these two or three things”. You know what? I PR’ed by 22 minutes in this race. 23 wouldn’t have been any better, and 22 isn’t any less sweet. I am effing PROUD of myself. I dug in and found something in me to get me to the end – one of my favorite signs early in the race, that I kept telling myself throughout, was “You CAN do this and you WILL do this. FIND A WAY.” Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have Marines shouting at you “dig deep!” and “you’ve come all this way to finish this thing, get it done!”.

Emotional. This  thing was EMOTIONAL: My grandfather was a Marine, and my mom was able to find his emblem pin and mail it to me so I could wear it during the race. (A little bit of family when they can’t be with you, it turns out, is a HUGE thing.) I started getting a little weepy while we were on our way to the starting line, watching the parachuters and the first bits of light from the sunrise, thinking about the past 4 months and what they led to, and what I was about to do for the next 4ish hours. During the race, I went through the gamut of feelings: I had some fond memories of old friends running towards and through Georgetown, marveling that 14 years ago (when that place was part of my life for a bit) I would never have thought that I’d be back there running a marathon. I also went through fear (can I make my goal? Is my ankle irretrievably messed up? Can I sustain this pace? Am I hurting myself by not slowing down?), disappointment (Saint missed me at our first two planned viewing spots; starting slower than I wanted to), utter happiness and joy (he found me at the third spot, and ran all across the National Mall to chase me and take pictures), love (how can I not love someone who does that for me?), irritation (some stretches of the course are on long but thankfully flat highways but still – you can’t see the end no matter how far you stretch your vision, and it’s demoralizing), elation (donuts at mile 24 are AWESOME), so much laughter and fuzzy feelings (at the signs and the spectator support and the people calling out my name that I’d written on my bib), pride (at my fellow runners who shouted encouragement to one another, especially the hand-cyclists who had difficulty getting up the hills), gratitude (for everyone there, especially the Marines), to elation (I am going to finish strong, and I am going to shatter my previous marathon time). All of this whomped me in my gut when I crossed the finish line and got in line to wait for my race medal; the corrals for those are lined with Marines who shake your hand and say “Congratulations, ma’am. You did great.” I lost it there, and started bawling like an idiot, and it didn’t get any better when the Marine actually gave me my medal. There were race photographers taking pictures of runners right after receiving medals, and I’m sure there’s one of me with my hands over my face, shaking from the crying. Totally attractive! But, it was such an emotional moment, the culmination of all of that hard work plus the Marines who have been through things I can never imagine telling me I did something great. I couldn’t help it. I’m getting weepy now even thinking about it. And then you get to get your finisher’s picture taken in front of Iwo Jima, which is something else entirely. And then, after getting food and water and jackets and getting my drop-bag and making my way over to the meetup area… seeing Saint. I didn’t lose it again, but I was close. I tell him how much I appreciate that he comes with me to these races and is there to support me, but I feel like he can never really understand how much it means to me.

But hey, that goes for everyone else who supports me, too. I have no words left other than “thank you”.

Here are my splits, per the race website:

Finish Time
Finish Net 4:40:29
Finish Gun 4:58:16
Location Net Time Clock Time Time of Day Pace Pace Between
5K 34:55 52:42 8:52:47 11:13 /mi
10:41 /mi
10K 1:08:06 1:25:54 9:25:58 10:57 /mi
11:21 /mi
15K 1:43:25 2:01:12 10:01:17 11:05 /mi
10:26 /mi
20K 2:15:50 2:33:37 10:33:42 10:55 /mi
10:11 /mi
Half 2:22:47 2:40:35 10:40:39 10:53 /mi
10:26 /mi
25K 2:48:07 3:05:55 11:05:59 10:49 /mi
10:06 /mi
30K 3:19:33 3:37:20 11:37:25 10:42 /mi
10:23 /mi
35K 3:51:51 4:09:38 12:09:43 10:39 /mi
10:51 /mi
40K 4:25:35 4:43:22 12:43:27 10:41 /mi
10:55 /mi
Finish 4:40:29 4:58:16 12:58:21 10:41 /mi

I ran negative splits…  mostly. The thing I need to work on for my next marathon, it seems, is finishing – so, maybe there’s a 22-miler in my training future?

So, you ask, how was the course itself? I’ll talk about the expo first before I get to that 🙂 I went on the last day, and got there around 11am, and was aghast at how long the line to get into packet pickup was. It got 10x worse by the time I left, so it seems I dodged a bullet there. But, once I got in line, we moved really quickly, and I was done in about an hour. Then I had to go wait to get into the expo itself to pick up my participant shirt, but that was only another 15 minutes. Aside from the packet pickup tent being completely dark when I finally made it in – which I thought was normal, but I later learned was not normal as there had been a power outage in the tent. But I fell over the poor people in front of me because our eyes hadn’t adjusted from the bright sunlight to the complete darkness of the tent, so we were all stumbling around like zombies, haha! – I have no qualms with the process. All things considered, I thought it went really well. I didn’t spend too long at the expo since I’d made lunch plans in downtown D.C. with a friend while I was waiting in line, so i hightailed it out of there after getting my shirt, which I’m sure my wallet also thanks me for. (It does not, however, thank me for the somewhat expensive beer lunch I then had, but that was worth every penny, because it’s rare to get a long 2-hour liquid lunch with one of your most-missed friends. And yes, I did eat food, too. :P)

I also have no qualms with the shuttle to the race itself, which picked up and dropped off later about a block away from my hotel. I left early enough Sunday morning that we arrived at the starting area with about an hour to spare, which was plenty of time to pee and check my afterwards-bag and ask a couple of spectator questions for Saint. I also got to see the awesome skydivers who came down with an American flag, which was really cool. The shuttle on the way back got stuck in traffic, but still delivered us to our original point one block from the hotel, which was a godsend given how shot my legs were at that point. So, logistics-wise, I would say this race did an incredible job considering the sheer numbers of people and jurisdictions that required coordinating.

Okay, so, now! The course itself, which was new this year after they changed miles 6-8 to go around Rock Creek Park.

Miles 1-3 were pretty uphill, which I’d known from the elevation map. I didn’t mind this, since it helped ensure a slow start. I kept my throwaway sweatshirt on until mile 3ish, and then I chucked it roadside; it got warmer as the sun rose, but then when the clouds came around mile 10 it got chilly. Once we hit mile 16 the sun came back out and it got warm; at the finish, it was about 60F but breezy, so the finisher’s jacket was a welcome accessory. Anyway, miles 1-3: out of the Pentagon area and through Rosslyn, which had some really great crowds for such an early hour.

Miles 3-5 took us over the Key Bridge and into Georgetown, which was a lot of fun because of the crowd support (and also, running over the bridge, which I’ve only ever been on foot on once in my life, and it was a very hot summer evening walking to a party from Rosslyn). I had some happy memories here, and started feeling really good about my pace and the race in general. (This is otherwise known as the Fake Early-Race Euphoria which you have to learn to ignore, because it can cause you to go faster than you want to at this point.)

Miles 5-9 were a bit odd because they doubled back on one another; this was the loop up by Rock Creek Park, so we could see the runners coming back as we were going in. That was actually fun, and both sides were cheering one another on. I started getting excited during this stretch, because I thought I’d see Saint around mile 11 in just a short bit.

Miles 10-12 were the descent along the northern bank of the Potomac down to Hains Point; Saint apparently was waiting for me at mile 10, on top of the Route 66 overpass, but I completely missed him, and I actually spent a lot of time during this stretch scanning faces in the crowd to see if I could see him. The advantage of that was that it helped me not realize how long these miles seemed, even though I did a mental happy dance at the mile 10 marker because we’d finally broken into double digits.

Miles 12-15 were the loop around Hains Point, which did have a few spectators but was composed mostly of signs. They were all really funny or inspiring signs, though, so it became like a game to see which sign was next to see if it could outdo the one before it. My favorite one was “Knowledge is realizing that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that you shouldn’t put it in a fruit salad.” Totally random, but it made me laugh! These signs were great because they helped take my mind off  the ankle issue detailed above, and they helped me keep pushing when it felt really lonely and awful.

Miles 15-17 were the wonderful stretch out of Hains Point (I’ve never been so happy to see an EXIT sign in my life) and towards the National Mall, which was where I saw Saint for the first time at the corner where the 17-mile marker was. Crowd support here, and through mile 19, was some of the loudest and most awesome of the entire course.

Miles 18-19 became an exercise in watching Saint sprint ahead past the crowds to get pictures of me at random points, which I thought was really funny – shouldn’t be the only one running this thing?? I also was tortured by the smell of the grilled food coming from the street vendors near the Smithsonian museums, and I laughed when a fellow runner heard me and presented a bag of chips he’d clearly just bought from one of them, asking me if I wanted some. (I politely refused – nothing new on race day!)

Mile 19-20 and a bit beyond was the one leaving the Mall (goodbye crowds) and heading towards the 14th Street bridge, which is the bridge you have to beat by a certain time before they reopen it to traffic. I was in no danger of missing the cutoff, so that was fine, but the experience was anticlimactic, because once you “beat the  bridge” you then have to run over it, which is a good .75 miles of running… on… a… bridge. It was warm, I was a little tired but too badly so, and it seemed like the bridge would never end. At least when you go over the Key Bridge you have a visible endpoint and visible destination; no such luck on the 14th Street bridge, so you keep going and hope it will end at some point. It does, at mile 21, and then you run on 395 for another mile before you get to Crystal City. Mile 21-22 is just running on a highway, and I’ll state it plainly: it sucks. You can see Crystal City off to your left, but you swear they keep picking it up and moving it the closer you get to it, and then just when you start to despair because that means the donuts are even further away, you make a gentle left turn and then are off the ramp and WHAM! Crystal City is having a party and YOU are invited!

Miles 22-24 were in Crystal City, and were SUCH a welcome relief after that awful bridge. I was hurting a bit through this part, but the crowds and the donuts and the 35k marker clock that told me I could actually hit 4:40 if I just kept pushing helped me get through these miles. It was neat passing the mile 23 marker that I’d walked past on Friday night on my way to the Metro, and I knew then that the donuts were just around the corner. And oh, heavens, those little doughy sugary rounds of perfection- MCM, that was EXACTLY the boost I needed to keep going, and even more so because the last two miles were just…

Blergh. Blergh! Miles 24-26 took us back towards Rosslyn and behind the Pentagon, and while I knew the finish was not far, it was hard to visualize. It was a lot of running on roads that seemed to go on forever, even when we entered the Pentagon area. I’m really grateful for the Marines standing in that area because their motivational shouts were just the thing I needed to hear at that point (though really, I’d probably do anything that a Marine yelled at me to do – you don’t mess with those folks!). I’d missed a couple of mile marker signs earlier in the race so I thought I’d missed the one at 25 when it finally came, and then it seemed like forever and a damn day to 26. I knew vaguely where 26 was since we’d passed it on our way out to Rosslyn at the start of the race, and it was kind of neat running past the starting line area again and thinking “hey, wasn’t I just here a few hours ago?”, and thinking about all I’d seen and been through between those two times. But that damn sign took forever to show itself. And then it did, and then I realized that this race was about to be over. I got a little sad around mile 23 when I had the same realization, but here it turned to grim determination, because that hill towards the finish line is A Thing, and my ankle was killing me and my calves were seizing up a bit. But out of the corner of my ear and eye I heard and saw Saint among that giant crowd, and I think he said he was so proud of me (awww). Honestly, the crowd was pretty much the thing that carried me across the finish line, because my legs were just about done at that point. I finally remembered to look up, and I saw the clock turn to 4:58 and just started laughing and smiling like an idiot- I’d done it! I’d hit 4:40! Arms in the air, and I’d have leaped with joy if either my legs or ankles could manage it.

And then I was off to the medal area to have my silly emotional breakdown. The rest of the story, you know, to a point: once I found Saint and we made it onto a shuttle, we got back to the hotel as fast as we could because I way overshot the late checkout I’d been given, and we got locked out of our room so I had to beg the front desk to let me in so we could get our stuff (and, um, so I could take a quick shower, which I shower-beered with a Flying Dog Raging Bitch, about which I have zero regrets and in fact highly recommend). Then, we went to a local bar to watch the Redskins game (and so I could stuff my face), which is not worth wasting words on (sigh), and then we drove back to our respective homes (after I, um, bought a Cold Stone milkshake so I could keep stuffing my face on the drive. Again, I have no regrets.) I arrived at 10:30pm and was fast asleep by 11:15, having taken this morning off work (wisely), so I got to sleep in until 8:45. GLORIOUS. I’m a bit sore today because I didn’t have time to stretch at all, not even in the shower, but that will work itself out.

And now, time for some post-mortem:

What went well: Running more miles during training helped a lot, especially in the last 10k. Taking gels every 3 miles after 6 miles kept my energy up, and I timed them well around the donuts at the end. Training with donuts during my 20-milers worked, because I knew they wouldn’t make me sick on race day. Carrying my own water bottle with me let me sip water whenever I wanted, instead of relying on water stops (though there were a TON of them- MCM definitely does this right!). Starting out slow helped me conserve energy for the finish. Training on hills prepared me for the hills throughout, and at the end. Not stopping to pee probably helped me cut a few minutes off my time, though I was wishing by the end of the race that I’d stopped maybe once.

What didn’t go so well: Thankfully, not much, though there are two things I can think of right now: I still don’t think I drank enough water, because I was parched by the end and chugged two water bottles and was still parched afterwards. My brain does stupid things when it’s chilly and tells me I don’t need to drink as much water as I do when it’s hot, which is not exactly true, so I need to be better about drinking more water during my long runs. My finish was strong, but not as strong as it could have been, so I need to work on finishing my long runs faster. Some speedwork might help with that. Also, my ankle; what was up with that? I should probably have it taped or wrapped for my next marathon… speaking of,

What’s next?: I’m taking most of this week off, then probably going out for an easy 6-7 miles on Saturday. I’m pacing a friend through her first half on November 16, which I’m really looking forward to, and then training in earnest resumes again for a marathon on March 29. (Right now I’m thinking “my God, there’s no way I can do this AGAIN that soon”, but I know I’ll feel differently by Friday, if not sooner) I’ve yet to decide if I want to see if I can shave another 20 minutes off my MCM time, but I confess I was tempted to say “yes” when Saint asked me yesterday “so are you going to go for 4:20 in the Creeper marathon?” Right now I’ve come out healthy and happy from this one, so I don’t want to make any major running decisions just yet.

Pictures to come soon when Saint emails them to me! Thanks for reading and supporting- let me know if you have any such experiences to share 🙂

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15 Responses to Marine Corps Marathon 2013 recap

  1. jonfitzsimon says:

    So AWESOME! Great job!!!

    I woke up they day and thought to myself that you were currently running! Ha!

    Way to finish strong! Congrats again!

    • kmt4n says:

      Haha, thank you! And thanks for the reblog as well – I appreciate it!

      • jonfitzsimon says:

        For sure!

        I might run the MCM next year! My brother lives in DC and if be able to crash at his place. That’s what brothers are for, right?!?! 😉

      • kmt4n says:

        But of course! They’re moving to a lottery system next year, so it may not be easy to get in- if you can somehow manage to make it here in May for the 17.75k that they do, you’re guaranteed entry. Beyond that, though, you’re at the mercy of the running gods. If you decide to try, I wish you luck!

      • jonfitzsimon says:

        Dang it!!! Lol.

        That’s a bummer for sure. One of the reasons why New York isn’t as high on my list. I might have to do Chicago then. We shall see!

      • kmt4n says:

        I’d love to do Chicago one year. I hear it’s rather flat, haha 🙂 As you say, we shall see!

  2. jonfitzsimon says:

    Reblogged this on twenty six point two and commented:
    Here is a recap of this past weekends Marine acorns Marathon! Great job!

  3. piratebobcat says:

    Not cool of that runner to just stop with no warning! Needs a lesson in race etiquette! Congrats on pushing through!

    • kmt4n says:

      Not really, but in a race with 35,000 people I sort of expect race etiquette to go flying out the window. I did see one dude later on weaving through people who somehow managed to cut off another guy just off to my left- I truly believe he didn’t mean to do it, but he had at least 5 feet of open road on each side of him and he brushed this guy within inches. The guy fussed at him, which I don’t blame him for, but still – in a race this big, there are going to be slip-ups. That said, the vast majority of people who stopped to walk were careful to look around first and make sure they weren’t about to cause a pile-up. Several people also had signs taped to their backs that said something like “Caution: Runner stops to take frequent walk breaks. We ❤ Jeff Galloway!" I appreciated those – and you know, I never did see one of them walking!

      My next marathon will be less than 100 people, so I'm not really expecting to run into this issue again. (har har) 🙂

      Oh, and thanks!

  4. Wow, what a re-cap! Congrats on the strong finish.
    I took my own water on my last marathon also. I had some elctrolite mix in the bottle and I got to avoid the early and crowded water stops. I also fuel early and often.
    I bet you can knock 20 minutes off. Believe it!

    • kmt4n says:

      Thank you! I may experiment with different nutrition types for my next marathon – I said that last time, and didn’t do it this time, but I knew I was salty (literally) after this one and it wasn’t even that hot, so I clearly need to change *something*.

      I’ll think about believing it on Friday. 😉

  5. Pingback: A few Race Reports | Imarunnerandsocanyou

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