Thursday, November 1, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 10/28/12

Marine Corps Marathon - wow. I had many people tell me "this is the best event you'll run in...words can't really describe how great it is" and they were right. Washington DC, the monuments, the

We signed up for the Runners World Challenge. Basically it just got you fun amenities - a weekly e-mail fro Bart Yasso with tips and pointers; a training plan (if you wanted it), on-line communities/groups for support (never even looked those up), special packet pick up at the Expo (great - no line to wait on), a strategy session (probably the best part), pre-race tent with food, drinks, private bag check and port-a-poties (that made it worth every penny), post race 'party' at the Artisphere (basically a meeting room in a neat building where they had free massages, food, drinks, tables, music, and your bag waiting for you). All in all, it just added to the great experience.

At the Expo you went through security and bag search (it is DC), and met the group at the RWC (Runners World Challenge) location. The magazine editor was there, David Willey, Bart Yasso, Jen (who e-mailed everyone and was a go to coach)....they talked to us about the day, got us all excited and pumped up. A neat experience. We walked around, waited on a loooong line to Brooks to buy a visor (for me) and cap (for Tim). Waiting on line someone noticed my Ultra Beast green shirt - Lisa, who ran the team UB. Fun!!! We talked Ultra Beast, marathons, etc....she was so happy and told me how she was carrying a flag with her charity group for the entire marathon. Wow, very impressive. Ran into two other guys (from FL, can you believe it) who also had Spartan shirts on and we chatted with them for a bit. You meet Spartans everywhere!

The race strategy session that afternoon was great. Amby Burfoot, Boston champion, reminded us to go out slow. Talked about how you want to burn fat first, not glucose, and if you go out too fast you'll burn the glucose first (which is bad). Go out easier than you need to so you burn fat first, and save some glucose for the later miles. Remember to fuel your body on the way. Forgetting (or being too tired, or too out of it) to take a gel, or whatever, can be the difference between petering out and PR'ing. Great advice. The race director, Rick Nealis (20 years of service as a Marine) was there to give us pointers, let us know about the course, and tell a ton of fascinating stories (the guy can TALK). He talked about stealing Oprah from the Chicago marathon (which was to be her first) to come do MCM. After all the organizing and planning that took, he was offered a job from Oprah's team. He talked about the race in 2011, how when running past the Pentagon you could hear nothing but footsteps. It was that solemn. We learned how they go over Arlington National Cemetery with heat sensors overnight to check for people; how they had divers in the water (because the race goes over bridges) to check for explosives; how the logistics of a huge marathon itself is hard - imagine doing one in the Nations Capitol. He told lots of fun stories, had everyone laughing, and answered every question that came up. We learned that the Marines that work with him race day (carrying stuff, guarding, etc) all have to be 6'4" - and he makes them carry big heavy stuff just for fun. :) The Marines that give out the medals? They are all 2nd Lieutenants, and it's nice for them to hear 'Thank you Lieutenant", so I made a mental note not to forget that race day. He also said "please, don't get upset when they call you Ma'am. They are trained to say Sir and Ma'am; ladies don't get upset" (that was funny). Rick said that the Marines are usually not allowed to accept hugs, but on race day they are (not sure if that was a joke or not but I made a second mental note about that). 

Race Day!

We stayed at the Key Bridge Marriott (thank you Facebook, reading posts from former marathoners and looking at corse maps helped me pick this hotel) which ended up being the location that the Runners World team was staying at too! We were up and headed out around 5:45 and sure enough, Bart Yasso, David Willey and walking out the door right in front of us. We just followed along, since we had about a mile walk to the start. We walked toward the Pentagon and right alongside Arlington National Cemetery. Such an amazing sight. You could see the Washington Monument lit up in the distance. We walked through the starting line area, to the Runners Village where the RWC tent was. A few quick speeches from Bart and David, some resting and Port-a potie use, and we were off to the start line. The weather was cool but overcast, no rain yet. Some wind, sure, but nothing horrific. 

Walking to the start with thousands of other runners, everyone chats and smiles. We passed a  DC officer in full gear who raised his gun (with red light beam thingy) and yelled "YOU ON THE BRIDGE - MOVE!" Guess you were not supposed to be on the bridge by the starting line that morning! Everyone kind of looked at each other and nervously laughed. I said "I might need that guy at mile 20 to keep me moving" (I sure did!)

Waiting at the start, the speeches and music was the best I have ever experienced.

The Warrior song by Hard Corps - wow, just wow. Just what I needed to get pumped up!

The race itself was amazing. The first 7-8 miles was interesting - some inclines, a few radical (but short) downhills, leaves on the road (beautiful), tons of spectators, fun signs (Paul Ryan already finished!   I'm tired too from staying up all night making these signs!), and aid stations manned by Marines. There was a turn around area at mile 13 - and headed back, through mile 16, the wind got me. I was getting tired. I had hopes for this race - not sure why, my training was iffy and my pace was way off for months, but I still had hopes - and I was slowing down. Never stopped until I hit a water station at mile 22 - and made the fatal mistake of going for the first Marine I saw for the cup. I AWAYS go for the cups in the middle of the station, or the end (it's way less crowded) but this time I messed up. Maybe it was intentional - I was tired, I know you get stuck and end up having to walk around/out/away from other runners.....who knows. But I walked. Then I started running (jogging, at this point, let's be real) and my hips said "No thanks, we do not like this". I felt like someone tightened the screws in my hips way too tight - I had no swing. Looking back, I know I drank enough (grabbed the Gatorade on the course and not just water) but I forgot my calories. My body just needed more fuel and I didn't give it enough. I'm not happy with my time at all, but I'm ok. Specific numbers and times and comparisons I'll save for a different post. I finished in 4:16 which again, is sucky for me. Faster than Nashville, sure, but there is a hugs difference between "I PR'ed" and "I ran a 3:50" I could care less about place, or PR  - what was the time? It's a hugely personal number - my fantastic race (or my sucky race) could mean jack squat to someone else. It's MINE. My daughter's kindergarten teacher used to always say to the kids "I want you to do YOUR personal best." What my best is might not be your best. But try to do YOUR best. I think about that a lot.

The Marines lining the finish line were amazing. They were all clapping and cheering. You crossed the line, and there they were, all lined up as you made your way to get your medal (it seemed like a long walk for some reason!). I made a point of shaking every hand that I could. I just walked down the line and said "Thank you, thank you, thank you" for every "Great job Ma'am; nice job', etc. It made em feel so good. Got to the Marines handing out the medals, and he said "Thank you for participating today Ma'am" and put the medal on my neck. I said "Thank YOU Lieutenant. I heard you were allowed to accept hugs today." He said "Is that right?" and I said "Yes, so I need to hug you" He laughed and gave me a big hug, and then I turned to the Marine next to him and hugged him too and said "Thank you for your service!" They were smiling, but it really made MY day. I saw one person who had a picture of his mom on his shirt, with Angel wings on it. He was crying  and the Marine said "She is very proud of you, Sir" (so incredibly touching). Got my picture taken at the Memorial, and walked off to find Tim at the RWC room/meeting area/building (how to describe it? I don't know). 

Walked through the finish line area, the family meet up area, and headed to the building (right by the UPS baggage claim trucks, not really far but it kind of felt like it). i was walking up the steps and was recognized by Amby Burfoot (!!). He ran up to me and asked how I was, did I need anything, showed me where to go (it must have been the pink visor he recognized or something. Everyone involved with the RWC was fantastic and made you feel very special). I walked in and got my bag, and went to get a massage. Waited for a therapist to free up (no line which was incredible, but had to wait for one to free up) and ended up with the editor again, David Willey. He asked how my race went, and we talked about half marathons vs full ones, how they are so different, what to do differently, etc.... it was really great. I felt like everyone there just wanted to listen and hear your experience and help in any way. Fantastic stuff. Tim was sitting on a bench right next to the guy who was ready to massage my legs. He ran a 3:18!!!!! Unbelievable. Incredibly fast. That's 7:30 pace people - really, really hard to do for 26.2!!! SO proud of him!

Marine Corps Marathon - my new favorite most inspirational race. The Ultra Beast still hangs on as my favorite overall event - being part of the first one ever, having no clue what was in front of us, the people, the terrain, etc etc etc - but for a road race experience? I don't think I will ever be able to compare ANYTHING to this. It's on the top of every list for a reason. This one I will do again. Tropical Storm Sandy - well, we had a crazy trip home (flights cancelled, hours spent trying to re-book with airlines who had no idea when things would re-open, rinding a rental car, driving west and then south in rain, wind and then snow, only to fly home from Charlotte on Tuesday). Loved every minute of this one (ok maybe not miles 22-25, but that's to be expected) :)