Marine Corps Marathon: Race Report

Expo Friday

  • Mega security getting in the DC Armory.
  • Crowded, loud and hot.
  • Selection was good but not great.
  • Needed more drinks!
  • Thing 2 was enamored with the Flying Pig Marathon medal.

Touring Saturday

  • Toured the White House (holy wow)
  • Flopped down on a double decker tour bus and saw the sights with as little time on the old feet and as much food and drink as possible.
  • Gorgeous day, kind of warm for running though. What would race day bring?

Race Day

I was on a runner-crammed train bound for the Pentagon by 6am. Thank heavens I did not drag the Caveman and kids out with me. They’d venture out closer to starting time.

Once we got off the train it felt like we walked 10 miles to runners’ village where I immediately joined a potty line. Once again my uncanny ability to find the slowest line in the entire village did not fail me. I had to sprint for the starting corrals after. It was very windy but just barely raining. Anybody’s guess how long that would hold. We were treated to a flyover: tandem Osprey Helicopters. You know I love me some badassery and this filled the bill.

Violations:

  1. I raced in calf sleeves for the first time. Ever.
  2. I bought an iPhone arm holder thingamabob at the expo and wore that for the first time too. Because I was expecting Sandy to make an appearance and change the run to a swim, I double sealed my phone in zip-lock bags before zipping it in.

I jumped the corral fence and got in who knows where. Way back. Too far back to hear the starting cannon over the festive Gangnam Style that pulsed through the air. At last I passed under the starting arches. Holy shit. Here goes.

If you’ve been hanging with me here you know my goals for this race were not lofty. I’ve played cat and mouse with injury since August 5. First the TFL strain, which pseudo healed then reared its ugly head again. Then, to make things more interesting, a strained, screaming calf. Long runs became pool runs and bike rides and fits of swearing. I taped and iced and stretched and wrapped and hoped and cried. I slept with Tommie Copper only to 2-time with Zensah during the day. Zensah when you make a full compression bodystocking I hope you’ll name it after me. After a single 16 miler 6 weeks ago and not one step of  running except for the Zooma 5k over the past 2 weeks, suffice it to say, I was in no shape to run a marathon. It was not going to stop me though. Not. This. Time.

I knew going in I did not have my physical game. All the more reason I needed to really bring it mentally. I was going to finish because I said I would. I thought I could. I KNEW I COULD. That or the Marines would need to remove me from their fine course. With force.

Goals:

C: Finish Dammit! Make the cutoff at the gauntlet and beat the bridge. That’s a 14 minute pace. I can power walk that pace…..right?

B: Run 13 miles. Then anything goes to the finish.

A: Run 16 miles. Can’t imagine the ole bod holding up for more than that. I’d be elated with 16.

I started out at 10-10:30 miles, and hoped to hold that for as long as possible. It felt effortless. PAIN-FREE! I did not expect to have TFL pain this early but totally expected the calf to be a huge problem like it was at Zooma a week earlier. I planned to walk up the significant hills in the first few miles but I felt strong so no need.

I was overjoyed to be running at all. Pain-free was icing on the cake. I saw Caveman and kids at about 1.5 miles. Yay now they can go touring. I didn’t plan on seeing them again until 16 or so somewhere along the National Mall.

We wove through town with great crowd support, then had some delicious, winding downhill through a very scenic forested road. At the 5k point though my left hip was grinding as it does when I’m really slow, so I tried opening up my stride to no avail. Shit. I ran with it for awhile then tried  walking to see if it would hopefully ‘reset’. Miraculously it did. We were crossing a bridge and I was back in business by mile 4.

Every mile marker I’d check my average time and when it was in the target 10:00 range, I’d tell myself ‘4 minutes in the bank’ (remember 14 minute pace course limit). I may have been obsessed with this number.

By mile 7, my 10:00 pace was no longer ‘effortless’ (thank you lack of training) but I could still hang and hang I did.

By mile 11 the first glimmers of TFL pain came on.  Totally forgetting I’d packed Advil in my fuel belt per Tink’s recommendation, I imagined a large, gridded sorter and mentally put my growing fatigue in one box, the TFL pain in another and continued on to hit the B goal: 13 miles.

One of the many great things about the MCM course is there’s always something beautiful or inspiring to distract from your agony. The fans are fantastic and plentiful and in the few places there are none the views are stunningly scenic. Well maybe not on the bridge of the living dead, but that comes later. I could feel the temps dropping and the already strong winds picking up.

The miles were still ticking away fast and I was feeling good and oh so grateful to have come this far at all. TFL hurt but not more than I could handle so I sucked it up. Having Marines lining the course helped that suck-up process immensely. At mile 15 or so a piercing alarm sounded through my Yurbuds. WTH? Dead battery? It wouldn’t stop so I pulled over, dug out my phone from it’s double Zip-lock shroud and saw it was a GPS tracking alert. The Caveman was up to his tricks. I figured he’d use it to track me on the course but an alarm?? I later learned he hit the alarm by mistake.

I was in the National Mall now, working toward my A goal. Crowds were thick and boisterous. I spotted Bart Yasso and high 5’d him. I’d met him at a party in Boston back in 2010. Great, great guy.

Mile 16 came and went and soon after I was past 17.5 (the gauntlet) as well. Still freaking running. Wonders truly never cease. I saw Caveman and the kids at 19 in front of the Capitol building. Caveman was holding my jacket. Did he think I was going to quit? I gave them a thumbs up and carried on, heading out to ‘beat the bridge’ at mile 20.

I’d love to tell you I felt incredible and sailed across that bridge and blazed in to a triumphant finish. But it was the bridge of the living dead that I mentioned earlier. I carried Accelerade and gu’ed at water stations every 5 miles or so. I had a good rhythm going but it all ground to a halt around mile 21 on that damn bridge. It was a big sucker. The skies were angry and the wind heaved up in ominous swells. My fuel belt was dry. I gu’ed, waiting for the water station that never came. It was that god-forsaken, never-ending bridge of the living dead that unravelled me. The walk breaks started.

By the time the bridge ended I was wrecked. I could not get enough to drink. The nausea started. I did not want anymore GU but I knew I needed it. The course tortured me with an insidious incline that would not end. It was time to pay the price of poor training.

At mile 24 the Dunkin Donuts logo glimmered like a mirage. Being the donut whore that I am, I took some even though they were the last thing I could stomach at that point. A single molecule-sized nibble confirmed it. No donuts for me.

I gathered whatever strength I had left (read none) and headed down a steep on-ramp to a closed highway. The end just HAD to be in sight. Two miles. Come on. You can do anything for two freaking miles.  This is when my calf finally spoke up. But there was no stopping now. The crowds were super thick again and we turned off. Still did not see the finish though. Then I looked up. Way the hell up. Holy effer I needed to climb up there??

I did, but I was gimping so I walked a touch of the steepest part. And at last, 4 hours and fifty-one minutes after I started, I. Finally. Finished!

The finish was epic and touching and Marine-filled and special. My own personal Marine presented me with a medal and, get this, saluted me.

We got ‘recovery jackets’ rather than space blankets. Like all marathon finish lines, the air was electric and celebratory and fabulous.

Final Words: Gosh how I loved this race. I think it’s my new all-time favorite, despite the fact that I ran it almost an hour slower than my best. If I lived closer I think I’d run it every year. It’s that good. You NEED to run this one!

The whole military/pride of country thing is super inspiring. There is so much beauty and history to meditate on throughout the course. One can’t help but dig down and find their strong. The race itself is very well done and has tons of character. Beyond the usual water/Gatorade/gel stations you’ll find oranges, Sport Beans and yes, donuts. While not necessarily hilly by normal standards, (remember I’m a Chi-town hill pansy) there’s lots of up and down. If I were to train for this race (ha!) I’d train for downhill. My quads were destroyed. The only negative I have is the course was quite crowded at my pace for the entire race. I was kicked three times. Too many elbows/pushes to even count.

A massive PW but a resounding triumph over injury. I think this is my favorite medal ever too. I was uber sore the next day–12 hours in the car fleeing the hurricane zone did not help. Amazingly though, I felt much better the second day. My TFL was tender, but not crazy painful after the race. It was painfree the next day. Calf seems to be fine too.

 Mission Accomplished!

Comments

  1. says

    I am so happy for you that this turned out so well! Your own personal marine.. cool… and you look so great in all your pics, would never guess you had a bit of struggle at all. Happy happy.

  2. says

    I’ve been waiting for this! I am so impressed that you were able to finish- you are one tough chik. Those last miles are always tough, I can’t imagine how hard it would be with the lack of training. But you did it- congrats!! Rest up and heal up!

  3. says

    Going into this recap, I’d have said that NYC was the only giant race out there that I’d consider doing. But MAN YOU MAKE ME WANT TO RUN THIS!

    So happy for you! So proud of you! Your finish line moment had me in tears. CONGRATS! Epic. Simply epic.

  4. says

    Congratulations!! I raced this weekend too and was also very undertrained, must have been a theme! :) You did a great job pushing through and that Marine salute after getting the medal was very cool. I think NYC is still my favorite though.

  5. says

    SUCH a cool experience!! I would love to run this race someday – or just a marathon in general… And that story about the GPS alarm is hysterical. Props to your hubby for wanting to track you, but I think I would have been angry!

  6. says

    I loved this!!! You stuck it out and did it! This report reminded me so much of last year and the way I felt and things I saw. I’m so happy the race was when it was and didn’t get cancelled! Congrats for getting through and not quitting!

  7. says

    So glad you had such a wonderful experience and YAY for your body holding up so much longer than anticipated. Way to stay strong and fight the mental battle for those final miles. You did great, lady! I hope to have a chance to see this race! Congrats! :)

  8. says

    Marcia, great job! I love how the descriptions of the wind and the swirling clouds mirrored your experience. As always, you were stylish and eloquent–you made me want to run this one for sure. Congratulations on toughing it out!

  9. says

    You are amazing!!!!!!! Im so happy for you! That is seriously a huge task, and you did it!!!!! You should be sooo proud! Spa <3

  10. says

    Wow you are such a strong willed woman but I knew all along that you were not going to let the pain win! Congratulations on such a great race. Sometimes it is these kinds of races that show us what we are made of! Congratulations!

  11. says

    What a great recap!! You may not have been able to do the training you wanted, but you had some major past history and fitness banked to help make the difference. It sounds like an amazing race…way to push past all the obstacles you encountered through training and hit those goals! Sometimes what could look like a disappointment from the outside is really a huge victory. Definitely one of those times!

  12. Andrea says

    Great great job! You’re making me want to run it again. Love that you got a white house tour in. I haven’t been since I was a kid.

  13. says

    Congratulations! I’m so glad you were able to finish and run for such a long time pain free. Hope you are enjoying your post-marathon recovery!

  14. says

    Congratulations! This is definitely one of the marathons on my list of must-do-races, glad you enjoyed it despite the training woes!

    If your daughter really liked the Flying Pig medal – I think you should come join me at Flying Pig in May!

  15. says

    Okay…I am now home from work and can comment whereas I couldn’t from my phone when I read this :). All I have to say, my dear friend, is that you are AWESOME!!!!!!! Seriously, that race was cursed for you from day 1 I think but you kicked it’s butt. Take that MCM!! Rest up, Louise…we have some adventures in 2013 (we just don’t know what they are yet – haha :)).

    Love you, girl!!

  16. says

    I’ve found out this year that PWs are only relative. If you did way better than you expected then how can it be a worst?!! There was no worst in your race. You did great!

  17. says

    So. Incredibly. Happy. For you!! You must have been feeling on top of the world for finishing the race you weren’t even sure how you were going to do. Congratulations on pushing through and still coming in sub-5! Hope your recovery is going well! :)

  18. says

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!! So happy for your huge triumph! That is fantastic, we all knew you could do it! I’d say Advil-up before the next race, but next time you’ll be in top shape and won’t need it!

  19. says

    YAHOO!!!! I’m so happy for you! That bridge sounded horrendus, and my stomach turned for you after the DD. Seriously, great job running that sucker, very proud of you : )

  20. says

    WooHoo! This was a great recap! It really makes me want to do this race! I’ve heard in the past that its a great first time marathon and you’ve made me want to do it even more now! Glad you aren’t in too much pain now! Hope you are recovering well! :)

  21. says

    Ugh, I had so many thoughts in my head, then got distracted by DONUTS!!! Hee hee hee. Jk. CONGRATS! I am so happy this went so well for you, that you mostly loved it, and would do it again! :) And so happy you did not have a whole lotta trouble from your body!

    Another report I read said how crowded this race is! Is it because the streets are more narrow? I never felt crowded at NYC or Chi! Of course, I am uber slow :)

    And I am with you on the downhills – much harder than up!

  22. Carrie@familyfitnessfood.com says

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! I’m so happy for you. While I still don’t know if I’d ever run a full, I think that this one would be on my bucket list for sure.

  23. Michele says

    Congrats! Your description of the course and festivities almost makes me tempted to try a full marathon…it sounds like a great race! I’m glad you were able to finish and I hope so rest and recovery are ahead now.

  24. says

    for being undertrained and injured i think you did really well! :) congrats on finishing! every race recap i have read has said nothing but positive things about this race. definitely a must do for me!

  25. says

    congratulations!!! amazing job toughing it out. this has to be such an inspirational race – and the marine saluting you at the finish, i’d be like no no no – you guys do way better things! i do hope to do this race one day though.

  26. says

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