Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

In Wednesday’s post I recapped my weekend fun around DC and at the expo but I left you hanging for my race recap.  Sorry, that wasn’t very nice.  Forgive me?  Since this was my first marathon and because I ran it in memory of my brother I really wanted to put some serious thought into the recap; he deserves it.  So bear with me, this is going to be a long post and have lots of pictures (you’re welcome Mom & Dad).

In the interest of making the recap easier to read, I feel like I need to introduce you to the two names you’ll see the most.  1.) Mary – She’s like a mom to me.  2.) Stacey – My die hard training buddy and constant race partner.  Now that you know these girls I can just call them by their first names. 🙂  So here it is – the good, bad and the ugly from the MCM.  (Ok, there really wasn’t any ugly.  I just like being dramatic.)

Sunday morning started with an early wake-up call.  Mary’s alarm went off at 3:45a.m. (which is really 2:45 my time).  I had my alarm set for 4:12 but once I heard her alarm go off I was wide awake.

It was race day! The day that I had been prepping for for the last four months.

I got up, got dressed, ate some breakfast and of course snapped a few pictures.  Mary surprised me with her shirt which read on the front, “I’m with the birthday girl”.  I loved it!!

After we put our shoes on, we (Mary, myself and our hubbies) walked a few blocks to the race shuttle.  I chatted with a lady who was running the marathon and told her this was my first one.  Have you ever noticed that people always have input when they find out something is your first? She immediately likened running a marathon to giving birth.  It’s long and painful but 100% worth it at the end.  Sheesh lady! I didn’t need to hear that – I don’t have kids for a reason and labor is one of them.

After we made it to the starting area we were surprised to find that the military chaplain was just starting a prayer service.  This just made my day.  It was amazing fellowshipping with other believers right before the race.  Definitely helped get my mind right.

After the prayer service ended Mary and I said goodbye to our hubbies and then huddled together to try to warm up.

It was cold, humid, and I kept getting splattered with random drops of rain.  I said a quick prayer that Hurricane Sandy would hold off long enough for the race to be done with.  We hit the port-o-potties a few times and headed off to the official start line where we heard the National Anthem and watched the flyover.  It was incredibly moving.

Right after the flyover we met up with the girls I trained with.  It was so great seeing everyone’s smiling / nervous faces!

Just a few minutes to go.  The atmosphere was electrified; the excitement and tension almost palpable. Veteran marathoners encouraging the newbies, newbies nervously watching the actions of the veterans.  25,000 sets of feet with the same goal to accomplish.

I was too busy soaking in the atmosphere that I didn’t hear the howitzer blast which signifies the start of the race.  However, I felt the crowd start surging forward, pressing me towards the start line.  No times for nerves now.  This. Was. It.  I crossed the starting line and embarked on my journey through the 26.2 miles of the course.  (This is where I put my camera away so there aren’t many pictures until the finish.)

The first few miles of the course were gorgeous, winding through the outskirts of the city.  It was completely picturesque with vibrant golden, cardinal, and amber colored leaves floating around us as we ran.  It was very overcast but the temperature was perfect and there wasn’t any rain.  The only downfall was the fact that the course was so congested it was hard to get up to speed without literally running into someone.

At mile 5 I opted for a potty stop; I knew the lines would be shorter earlier in the race verses later.  It was around this point that I happened to look over into the woods and BAM hello naked booties.  Apparently some runners didn’t want to wait in the potty line.  My mom taught me better.  I tried to not look over into the woods again.

Everything was going  flawlessly until the water stop around mile 7.  This is where Mary and I got separated; thankfully Stacey and I were able to stay together.  I stopped a few times to look for Mary and I kept thinking I would be able to spot her and reconnect.  After about 2 miles I knew that wasn’t going to happen so I did something most runners would never do.  I pulled out my cell phone and started making calls in hopes of locating her.  I called my husband to tell him I what happened and kept my fingers crossed that he and Greg (Mary’s hubby) could help us reconnect.  I managed to keep my pace but I never imagined I’d be talking on the phone during my first 26.2.

I was so upset about loosing Mary that I didn’t notice a lot of what was going on around me between miles 8-11.  Around mile 12 a guy behind me decided to try to use me as a speed bump.  Not on purpose; the race was just so congested with runners that this was almost inevitable.  I felt what was about to happen as his shoe brushed mine and I was able to dodge him falling on me.  I turned around just in time to see him writhing on the ground clutching his elbow in pain.  I felt terrible but there was nothing I could do.  It was also around this point in the race I noticed someone had put large pictures of Marines that had been killed in action.  This was a much needed reminder as to why I was running this race in the first place.

The miles were flying by. 12…13….Half marathon….15…and before I knew it Stacey and I passed mile 16.  I looked over at her and said, “I hate to be the one that points out the obvious, but we only have 10 miles left!’  I was feeling great and our pace wasn’t too far off from what we trained for.  I passed Mary’s husband at mile 18 who told me I was about 10 minutes ahead of her.  I ran backwards for a little bit (I got some crazy looks from other runners) and then made the decision to stop and wait for her; it was much more important to finish together then worry about time.  (I looked at my splits and my time for mile 18 was just short of 21 minutes.) Stacey was sweet and hung back, too, and as soon as we saw Mary we took off.  I had never been so happy to see her face!

The miles kept ticking by and before I knew it, I was looking at mile marker 23.  We passed my hubby on the sideline and it gave me such a boost to see him cheering us on!

This is a really awkward shot of mile at mile 23. All smiles after seeing Jody.

By mile 24 my body was starting to fatigue.  I was having some fairly intense GI cramps (I broke the cardinal ‘don’t ingest anything new on race day’ rule) and I could feel my right IT band starting to get tight.  The wind picked up (thanks Hurricane Sandy) and I was starting to slow down.  It was right around this time that we were treated to Dunkin Donuts on the course.  They were stale but gave me the sugar kick I needed to finish. I need to mention that the crowd support was amazing during the entire marathon but especially encouraging during the last few miles.

The last part of the race ended with a killer incline leading up to the Iwo Jima Memorial.  This was a tough way to finish but I really wouldn’t expect anything less from the Marines.  Stacey, Mary and I crossed the finish line together and I just remember giving both of them a huge hug.  I had become marathoner!

*MARATHONER*

The sweet Marine that placed the medal around my neck.

I had anticipated bursting into tears as I crossed the finish line but I was surprised to realize that I didn’t shed a single tear.  As we stood in line to collect our medals, my calve muscles and IT band on fire, I couldn’t help but think about how excited I was to already be signed up for my next marathon.   I think I’m officially hooked.  Admittedly, one of my character flaws is that I’m always thinking about what’s next, instead of basking in what just happened.

We got disposable jackets instead of space blankets.

Me being silly showing off my medal and Semper Fi socks.

Hands-down, the best athletic supporter ever!

The official chip time was 4:55:47 (only one second different from my Garmin) and the actual distance was 26.75 miles (I guess that’s what happens when you run backwards for a bit).

This was such a huge accomplishment and even though I didn’t run it in the time I trained for, I have no doubt that I can run a 4:30 marathon.  It’s important to remember that some races aren’t about time but merely the journey itself.  Preparing for this race was very cathartic and really allowed me to work through some residual issues with my brother’s death.  I miss Roger terribly but I feel like I have more closure and I’m so blessed to have run this race in memory of him.

It was humbling running side-by-side with amputees, men in wheelchairs, and seeing all the pictures pinned to people’s shirt.  The race was not nearly as physically or mentally exhausting as I thought it would be and I think it’s because I kept thinking about everything that Roger, his brother’s-in-arms, and all of our deployed soldiers went/go through.  If they can fight to keep me free, I can run 26.2 miles in honor of them.

As for how I felt physically after the marathon, I was {pleasantly} surprised at how little I hurt.  I was pretty stiff Monday but was back in the gym Tuesday for some easy cycling and upper body strength training.  And since my next marathon is in 3 months I’ll be getting up early tomorrow for a 10 mile run.  If you have ever considered running a marathon, I urge you to do it. Don’t let fear, hesitation or self-doubt get to you.  It takes grit and determination but if you can commit the time, you can accomplish it!

Question:  What’s your proudest accomplishment in life? A PR? An award? Children? College Degree? Tell me, I love hearing about your achievements!

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MCM Weekend Fun

Happy Halloween y’all!! I hope you have something spooktacular planned for tonight! Me? I’m just going to take it easy at home.  I know, I’m such an old lady…

I did it!! I’m officially a ‘marathoner’!!  It was the most amazing experience and I seriously can’t wait to do it again!  But before I recap the race, I want to recap the weekend first.  It would be sensory overload for me to try to mash everything into one post.

*MARATHONER*

The weekend festivities officially started Friday with Jody and I flying to DC. I was so excited to board the plane with him because up until late Thursday afternoon we were thinking that he wasn’t going to be able to go thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully he was able to get his flight worked out to where he left right after the race.  Me = happy!

We had a layover in Atlanta where we grabbed a highly overpriced turkey panini before boarding the plane to DC.  After a very uneventful flight –just the way I like it– we arrived.  I’m a sucker for American flags so it was nice being greeted by the red, white, and blue.

We hopped the shuttle to our hotel and enjoyed a splendid sunset from our room before heading out to grab some grub.

Jody and I decided to claim Friday night for ourselves since the rest of the weekend would be spent doing marathon stuff.  We ended up at Kora where I ordered a hand-tossed pizza (carbs, right?) and a super tasty pineapple-lime mojito.  Then we went back to the hotel and waited for Mary (she’s like a mom to me) and her husband Greg to arrive.  Mary’s been training in San Antonio to run this race with me.

The next day we headed to the expo to pick up our bibs, t-shirts and free stuff.  It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to me to pick up my bib.  I’m always afraid that something’s going to go wrong.  Like me forgetting my e-card, or me getting lost in their system.  But, like normal, everything went fine.

After picking up my shirt and bib we headed across the street to the expo.  I have to admit that I was fairly disappointed in the expo.  I don’t know if it was because we hit it the last day or what but it just had a wonky feel to it.  I wasn’t crazy about the vendors and there wasn’t very many freebies.  C’mon, we all know freebies are the best part of the expo.

One really fun thing at the expo was they had a Marine Corps band playing some swing songs.  This made my former band nerd self incredibly happy.  It was really cute because there was an elderly guy (obviously retired military) that plucked a young girl out of the crowd and started twirling her around to the music.  You could tell that he was having a great time!

This was a really cool tribute bike in memory of fallen Marines.

Wall of motivational blurbs for the runners.

After the expo we met up with my hubby for lunch.  (Jody had to stay at the hotel to work on a presentation that he was giving Monday – boooo.) Mary and I opted to carb-up for the marathon during lunch instead of having a heavy supper to make sure everything digested well.  I ordered some sort of chicken farfalle pasta in a spicy vodka cream sauce.  Maybe not the safest pre-marathon meal but I like to live on the edge a bit.  Also, I knew I’d have at least 16 hours if my system decided not to like it.  And it. was. tasty!

After lunch, Mary and I took the Metro back to the hotel to relax while the guys went and did some sight-seeing.  We stopped and picked up some celebratory wine for after the marathon.  I also had a mini birthday celebration at the hotel thanks to my dad and my cousin Bridget but I’m saving that for my birthday post.

Finally, it was time to head to bed.  I laid out all of my gear that way I wouldn’t have to search for stuff the next morning.

With Hurricane Sandy I didn’t know what type of gear to wear I needed. So I had cold weather and warm weather laid out. I opted for warm weather.

This is when it started to hit me that I was running a marathon in just a few hours.  I don’t know why but I didn’t experience any pre-race jitters.  I was incredibly excited but I didn’t have any of the doubts or second guessing like I expected.  I think after spending so much time preparing for the race I was just ready to run it; there’s only so many emotions you can go through before you’re just ready to be done.

Then it was beddy-by time for Gina.  I needed to get some beauty rest before the 3:45 alarm went off.  It was definitely a great weekend and a great kickoff to the run.  The only bummer was my training girls stayed at a different hotel so we didn’t get to do a lot  together. I did get to meet up with them at the race. 🙂

Stay tuned….The race recap is next!

Question:  Do you typically get pre-race jitters or are you just ready to get it over with?

MCM Training Recap: Week 13

After last week’s not so fantastic training I was determined to get back in the right frame of mind this week.  And I’m happy to say that I loved week 13 – I guess maybe 13 isn’t an unlucky number after all.  I may have enjoyed it a bit too much…the training plan called for 36 miles but I ended up doing right around 57. (To be fair 16.5 of those miles were from cycling.) My legs are pretty trashed…

Week 13 started out on a somber note as I ran 3.1 miles for my brother’s 31st birthday Monday morning and then ran my scheduled training run Monday night.  Tuesday’s run was 8 miles of speed work (Yassos) which means lots of running in loops.  Sounds boring right? Well it can be but on this particular run I got to make a new friend – yay!

My training partner Stacey and I were running and noticed an elderly gentleman sitting  in a wheelchair on his porch.  I waved at him the first time we ran by and he waived back.  The second time we ran by he gave us a thumbs-up; the third go-round he yelled to us that we were “looking good”.  Well by the 4th Yasso I couldn’t stand it anymore so I stopped and trotted up his ramp (he looked a bit frightened… I can’t blame him; I was covered in sweat) and introduced myself.  I told him if I was going to keep running by him we at least needed to know each other. His name was Duckie – how cool!! We chatted briefly, I told him how much his cheering meant to us and then Stacey and I continued on.  Duckie continued to cheer us on for the next few Yassos – he totally made my night.

Thursday’s run was a marathon pacing session; nothing worthwhile to report there.  Then it was time to get ready for my last 20 miler!  It’s so hard to believe that I was getting ready for my last long run before I start tapering.  After my epic 21 mile run two weeks ago I had really high hopes for this run but I’m not going to lie, this was a super difficult run.  We (me + my training girls) spent the first 3(ish) miles in the pitch black dodging open man-holes (no joke, I wouldn’t be surprised if a person went missing from falling in one) and jumping huge sections of the sidewalk that were torn up from Hurricane Isaac.  Not off to a good start.  Then we tackled a huge incline and since this was an out and back run that meant that we would be tackling the same huge incline at mile 15.5. Yikes! Now,  throw in the mix that I was having pretty bad GI cramps the entire 20 miles…  Not fun.  We did get to see an amazing sunrise and we had some really gorgeous scenery along the way.

Beautiful sunrise over the beach.

We ran by this church just as their bells started to toll. Very cool.

Really cool carving from a dead tree.

But by mile 19 I was beat and all I wanted to do was finish…which thankfully we did!

Flashing my gang signs…HA! It’s supposed be a 20.

We stopped at a local farmer’s market to “refuel” before heading home.

Drooooool…..

Ok, so the ginormous cookie really wasn’t mine.  I got it for my hubby. (I’m such a sweet wife, right??) I bought a cranberry scone but greedily devoured it before I could snap a picture – woops.  I headed home, showered, changed and then headed back out for a 16.5 mile bike ride on the Long Leaf Trace with my hubs.  ❤ ❤ ❤

I love this guy so much!

Blinded by the light….Sorry, I’m just abnormally pale.

I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to hold up during the bike ride but they did pretty well.  I totally feel it today, but ll-in-all, it was really a fantastic Saturday and a terrific training week altogether.  Now I’m just excited, nervous, anxious to see exactly what this ‘taper madness’ people talk about is and before I know it the MCM will be here!

Question:  Have you ever experienced ‘taper madness’? What did you do to combat it?

MCM Training: Week 11 Recap

Week 11…..done!! I absolutely had a blast during training this week; all 38 miles of it!  My legs aren’t too happy with me right now and my IT band has already made it known that it wants some group therapy with me and the foam roller for the beating I it gave earlier, but all-in-all I feel fantastic and accomplished!

Accomplished: Proficient as the result of practice or training <an accomplished dancer>.

Well, I’m swapping dancer with runner.  Although, I would love to be a dancer, I’m just not that graceful.  Case in point, I fell down the stairs after my long run yesterday.  Woops.

Thumbs up on my 21 mile run!

My midweek runs aren’t really worth mentioning other than the further I get into this training, the more the intensity dials up.  I’m loving the speed work but between strides, Yassos and marathon pacing sessions, my legs are like jello and begging for a day off.

So I gave them Friday off and most of Saturday. I did do a one mile test drive on my new kicks Saturday; 7:21 pace for the mile, not bad, Gina, not bad.  So my legs were pretty fresh and happy for Sunday’s 20 miler.  Yep, you read that right, 20 miler!  I have been eyeballing / dreading / anticipating this run on my training plan since May.

Saturday night, I gathered all my gear together so I could sleep as long as possible but when my alarm went off around 4:00am I was not ready to get up.  I begrudgingly drug my behiny (thanks Stacey for that word – love it!) out of bed to make the 45 minute drive to meet my running girls.  We usually do our long runs on Saturday but had to swap it this week due to some scheduling issues.

When we finally got to our meeting, I went potty one last time (TMI? sorry…), and then we were off! We did two 10 mile loops.  The first loop was uneventful except for a snarky runner tell us that we were running on the wrong side of the road. Really?  I just looked at her and said “Good morning”.  I’m well aware of what side of the road to run on. Some people, I tell ya… I did get to run through a gaggle of geese which made me less aggravated.

Somewhere around mile 12 I lost my running girls.  They stopped to grab some water but I kept going, not wanting to break my pace; I knew the route so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.  As much as I love running with my girls, it was surprisingly nice to have time to myself to ponder the wonders of the universe and come up with a solution to world peace.  Ok, just kidding on that; I didn’t come up with a solution for world peace.  But I did take the time to meditate for several miles and work some things out in my head.  It’s amazing what some miles on an open road can do as far as sorting out life things.

One of the lovely views from the run.

I heard my Garmin beep and realized that I’d made it to 18 miles and still felt fabulous.  Then another beep. 19 miles.  Finally, the beep that I’d been anticipating my entire summer….20 miles! But I wasn’t ready to stop running yet – crazy, right? I ended up doing 21 miles total – I can’t believe it!!  I got back to my car, grabbed my Cytomax and Clif Bar and then dipped my legs in the pool. Sooooo nice; almost instant relief.  We hung around the pool for a bit and then we stopped at Cracker Barrel where I got a protein/pancake fix! It was great and I ate almost all of it!!

I didn’t run the 21 miles at a fast pace by any means (it wasn’t slow either, just average) but I’m very grateful to have had the experience.  I’m reminded at how fortunate I’ve been to avoid injury during this training as several runners I know have had to defer their MCM entry to next year.  I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it is to make that decision.

Question:  Have you ever found your groove doing something and not wanted to stop?