Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

This weekend I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with my friend Alyssa- it was our second Marthon together (we ran Chicago with another friend in October 2013), and both our moms graciously came to visit and watch for the weekend.

I've tried to hydrate plenty and to eat a lot of healthy, carb heavy foods. Including the no-so-healthy shrimp scampi gnocchi at Farmers Fishers Bakers. No apologies. Breakfast is some hot oatmeal with honey and peanut butter, some room temp water, and two cups of coffee. One successful poop and we get in an uber to head to the race! It's raining- thank goodness for those dollar ponchos from target and a toss-sweatshirt with a hood.

We get out of the car and follow people walking, and almost immediately run into a crowd of people at the security gates. We wait almost 25 minutes in this crowd- everyone is getting nervous and nobody has a good idea of what's going on- plus it's raining. There's also a lot of non-runners in line, apparently there to lend pre-race support. When we finally get to the front of the line, they waive us through the VIP section because we don't have bags to check-- I wish we'd known this 25 minutes ago. We stop to pee at the portapotties at the top of the hill, and walk down the hill that we'll eventually have to run up at the end. We're walking past the start line as the wheelchairs roll past- we've missed the howitzer start but figure we'll have time to get into the corral. It turns out the corrals are leaving much quicker than we expected, so we hop in, ditch our stuff, and start running!

I can't remember too much about these first few miles, except that I forgot to turn on my Garmin until abouta 1/4 mile in, and once I turned it on, it wouldn't connect. We were rolling up and down tiny little hills, seeing people cheering from the bridges above us, there was a giant mexican flag, and I was trying to get the wiggles and jitters out. There's always a twinge of pain right at the start as I get going and I always have a moment of "oh crap, should I really be doing this", but more than anything I was excited and happy to have started moving. The rain wasn't too bad here, and my hat kept most of it out of my eyes. \

We turned left onto that first big hill on Lee Highway, and I remembered how much I'd trained on this stupid hill. We saw our moms cheering right at the turn-- the Key Bridge Marriott was such a great location to stay and a great base camp for them. Alyssa ditched her Detroit Turkey Trot shirt super early, but I decided to keep mine on- I felt like I was heating up from the inside but the rain was cooling me down and I kind of appreciated having my arms stay warm. We were running up the "wrong" side of Lee Highway- I'd only ever run on the side by the custis trail, so that tiny little downhill was welcome, even if it made the second half a little steeper. At this point I was still feeling happy and comfortable, and being close to home on a familiar hill made me happy. At Adams street there's that first water stop,and you get to start cruising downhill, and there was so much crowd support- this is where I first started feeling so grateful to have the opportunity to run this marathon.

As soon as we crossed under the bridge at the light where Spout Run and Lorcum Lane intersects, I told Alyssa how happy I was to be running here- especially since there's no sidewalks and its not a place I can usually run. The road has been redone last week and it's SO nice and smooth- it's a little crowded here but we're chatting and I'm happy. One guy tells me that he likes to break the race into a 5k to warm up, two ten milers (he likes to think about the army ten milers) and then another 5k to finish. I decide that I like that so much better than thinking of it as 2 ten milers and a 10k. My watch finally connects to coordinates, and I hit start right as we cross the 3 mile marker, so that I can keep myself distracted with some mental math by adding 3 to whatever it says on my watch. The uphill on the exit ramp toward key bridge is not noticeably tough and our moms are right at the top- so nice to wave and say hi! Thank goodness for that bright blue coat- they are so easy to spot.

The bridge has these happy bright rainbow balloons everywhere and it's making me happy- it's also so fun to run right across the middle of the bridge! There's a few people cheering but it's mostly pretty empty- I am thinking this would be a great place to send people to cheer if I ever do this again. At this point I'm thinking I might do this again. We turn right into M street and it's kind of empty- I'm so disappointed! I'd hoped there would be crowds- there's a few spectators that are really quiet as they're waiting for their mom/dad/sister/husband/whoever to run past. I whoop at some of them to get them to whoop back. Maybe it's the rain that's making everyone gloomy. We turn downhill to Wisconsin and it doesn't feel as steep as it had in my training- my knees are relatively happy! Alyssas shoe is untied so we take a quick moment on the left sidewalk and get going again. As we turn left onto K street, the cheers are echoing under the bridge and I'm feeling like FINALLY there's the crowds! Closer to foggy bottom I hear someone shouting my full name and it's Todd- but I'm almost past him and on the other side of the course- I'm so thankful he spotted me in that shirt.

We loop right and around to get on Rock Creek parkway- I've been dreading this part and I'm pleasantly surprised at how happy I am. There's plenty of spectators wherever they can stand, and although it's crowded, it's not bothering me too much. Alyssa says she has to stop and use a restroom here, so we keep our eyes peeled for a row of portapotties without a long line. Just after the turnaround we scoot over to stop- a guy plows right into me when I pull over, even though I'd raised my hand and made sure nobody was right there when I stopped. He must have been darting around someone and not seen me. As long as we're stopping, I take the opportunity to pee too and grab my first gu- salted caramel. We cruise down toward the lincoln memorial and we have our eyes peeled around the 10 mile mark for our families but we never see them. I point out that my favorite place in DC is where the steps come down from the lincoln memorial and how you can see across the river to Rosslyn-- there's a band on the steps! I love bands! I take one headphone out for a moment to listen.

We are happily cruising on the flat past the Kennedy center and I remember almost falling in the Nike Women's Half 18 months ago- I point this out to Alyssa and we try to avoid the potholes.
As we get onto Haines Point, I'm prepared for low crowds and some boring parts, and mentally ready to just bust through it. My right hip starts bugging me like it did 6 months ago at the Cherry Blossom 9.4 miler and the Broad Street 10 miler, and I decide it has to be temporary, like the kinds of things that hurt for a quarter mile or so and then go away. It doesnt. Some running group has set up signs every few feet on the right side of the road- those are awesome for keeping everyone entertained. The wind really picks up and I remember why everyone gets frustrated about all DC races using this path-- but it's understandably easy to close this off and add miles to a course.

As we get into the first part of the Wear Blue Mile, I am surprised at how big the signs are with the faces and names of people who've died on both sides of the street- and so many of the people were so young. There's formal military portraits but also faces from happy occasions- I lose it at a picture of a dad holding a newborn daughter and a woman whose picture shows her beaming with a formal updo. It's impossible for me to run and cry and breathe all at the same time- I'm literally choking up and feeling like I'm having an athsma attack. I'm trying to be present during this mile, for these people, but also trying to not kill my lungs, especially this early in the race. As we move up towards the wear blue team holding American flags and cheering, I'm really really losing it- I'm trying to high five everyone on my right who has a hand out, and thinking about these people who've all lost someone taking the time to volunteer for this race. I'm trying to say thank you to everyone, and mostly can't breathe, it's all I've got to choke out "thank you's" and keep my legs moving. I walk through the water station, which was desperately needed when we do the turnaround, and thankfully the wind is so much less on the inside of the point.

We know our families will be "near a bridge, by lincoln" on the mall. I have hugely underestimated how far it is from Haines Point to the Lincoln memorial, and my hip is now really bugging me- it hasn't gone away and is now a sharp pinchy pain. I am also hot and crabby and regretting every skipped run and every beer since August. I'm scanning the crowd for our families and in retrospect, this might have been a little bit of a wall. When we see our families as we make the turn, I stop for a second and burst into tears when I say "Mom my hip hurts so bad" and hold onto her to stretch for a minute. She's incredibly concerned and I'm trying to say I'm fine but just hurting, and give her my [smelly, wet] turkey trot shirt- she gives me three advil in a tiny tube and we head off again. I feel bad that I'd made her worry so much - she'd asked if I wanted to stop, and I said no, I was fine, but just needed my mom for a moment. I take the three advil as soon as we hit a water stop, and stop to stretch my hip/it band briefly at a corner.

We cruise over to the capitol and I'm feeling a tiny bit happier- I've had that advil and a gu (vanilla bean, I think!) and I love that there's fewer trees here- it's nice to see the sky! My arms are feeling flappy without the compression of my shirt, but I'm happy to be cooling down a little bit. We see Todd right after the turnaround, and again we're on the wrong side of the street and practically past him by the time we see him! I tell him I love him and keep moving. As we make the turn onto 14th street, I'm so happy about the crowd support and Alyssa and I are both confident that we're about to beat the bridge. Mostly, my lungs and most of my body are fine- I'm a little bit more sure that I'd trained for this, and as long as I can ignore the hip pain, I know I'll be fine.

We are on 14th and on a bridge but not confident it's THE bridge. We keep crossing over little streets and the Haines point runners and finally see the expressway bridge stretching out in front of us. It's windy and endless and I'm trying not to be crabby here- I know we're almost back into Virginia! I also have absolutely no idea where we're about to go in Crystal City- that's a part of the course that I've not trained on at all and a tiny bit of fear of the unknown is kicking in-- mostly because I know that Iwo Jima is to our right, and we're about to turn left. Mostly, I dont remember too much about that darn bridge except that it was endless and we just had to push through it. I think I took a caramel macchiato gu here. In my head, beating the bridge is as much about getting past it on time and not having to get on the sag wagon as it is about mentally and physically just getting past that beast.

As we get into the beginning of Crystal City, I'm amazed at how many people are out-- it reminds us both of the Chicago Marathon in 2013. After the first water stop, we walk up to the first purple flag, and then keep going. We can see all the people next to us coming back on the other side of the street and I have no idea how far this out and back is going to be. I really love how many people are out and cheering, and the sun is starting to come out- I just want to be on the other side of the out-and-back. We turn around the block, and they have a fire hydrant on-- I'm annoyed because it is not that hot and I do not want to be wet. I try to block it with my arm and hat and can't see where I'm going- thank goodness I didn't hit anyone or fall. During that block, Stephanie from the cycling studio runs in to say hi for a moment- I'm so touched that she recognized me and happy to see a familiar face! We get out of the downtown and over toward where it gets more industrial- I tell Alyssa I have no idea where we are. I definitely don't want a donut from dunkin, but I do want water when we get it.

At about 2.2 miles left, my garmin dies. I realize I've probably killed the battery with all the searching in the first three miles, and that we've been running for about four hours- that's definitely a mark in the "pro" column for looking at a new & fancier one when they come out this fall. I consider letting Alyssa go ahead and walking to the finish- at this point I feel exhausted- again I'm regretting any missed runs and some of my more "creative" nutrition choices. We get back towards the starting line and I know I can do this, I just really dont feel like it, but know I'd regret it if I didnt push. Alyssa has more sense than me and we keep running.

 After we run through where we'd started, I know we're getting close to that stupid hill. We take the left turn and I am eye level with people's butts- it's somehow less steep but also a lot harder than I expected. Alyssa and I get separated as we both put our heads down, pump our arms, and chug up that stupid thing. I took the right turn and tried to get over closer to Alyssa so we can finish together. I have no energy to kick it in to the finish- I just try to cross it, but there's people in front of me so I can't even speed up a little bit. We finish together, and I'm a tiny bit annoyed that people are stopping before the second electronic tracker-- I want to get over that thing asap, even if it's only a 10 second difference.

As we walked over toward medals, my hip is REALLY hurting- I'm limping more than I should be. We take pics with the marines who give us medals and official ones at the iwo jima memorial- I'm a little teary again at having finished, at the marines who are there volunteering, and at all the people who've finished this race. We get into the very slow line for food and gatorade, and then head over to find our families. Thank goodness for the new iphone app findfriends.

When I got home, I spent most of the afternoon/evening laying around the apartment- my mom made me soup and a sandwich and we chatted for a while, I called my dad, put my mom in an uber to the aiprort, took a bath, took a shower, watched tv. Todd came over, we had pizza, and he massaged my leg a little, and then I crashed into bed. Note: I didn't do any mobility or really moving around at all- big mistake. I was SO sore the next day- usually after long runs I do a lot of stretching and moving to prevent this!