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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Gulf Coast 1/2 Marathon Recap

Did you get your presidential debate on last night? I hope so; it’s incredibly important for you to be as informed as possible.  Alright, that’s the end of my public service announcement.  I’m not a political blogger so I don’t like to talk politics….I like to talk about running…and eating!  As promised, my Gulf Coast 1/2 marathon recap is finally ready for your viewing pleasure! I’ll try not to bore you with too many details but this 1/2 was absolutely fantastic!  I give it two thumbs way, waaaaaay up and already have plans on making this an annual race.

Ok, bad blogger confession.  I left my camera & phone in the car so I don’t have any pictures during the race and the professional pics haven’t been released yet. 😦 I’m sorry.

Race weekend started off Saturday with me packing enough food to feed an army my travel snacks.  I am absolutely incapable of traveling without food – thank you clean eating.  Because I eat clean going out of town takes a bit more planning then it used to.  I know that if I don’t have food packed I’m going to be incredibly limited on my options on what I can eat.  Plus I always like having extra food for my running girlies.  If you ever meet me, I promise you will not go hungry!

Now that I’ve shown you my clean eats.  Let me show you my not so clean eats.  One of my favorite parts of race weekend is the clean eating hiatus I take for my pre and post-race meal.  See exhibit one (pre-race mufaletta, a classic New Olreans sammy, Dicristina’s) and exhibit 2 (post race club sammy with fries at Camellia Cafe). What can I say? I love my sandwiches!

Sorry, I digress.  Back to Saturday… My friend Karla and I drove over to Mandeville, Louisiana, to pickup our race bibs and t-shirts.  I was super excited about the shirts because the other Gulf Coast 1/2 I ran in Florida had an awesome shirt.  I was disappointed.  It’s just so blue.  And boring.  And not even dri-fit.  But I did love my bib! I decided to do something different and put my Twitter/Instagram handle on it just for fun.

Then it was time for race morning.  At the lovely hour of 4:50, alarms started going off.  Good morning sunshine….It’s race day! A quick check of the weather (don’t pretend like you don’t check the weather before doing anything else) revealed that it was already 71 degrees and 90% humidity.  Fantastic race conditions….

I threw this tree pic in here because I want you to see the gorgeous southern oak trees that were all along the course.

We got to the start area and hit the fantastic port-o-potty lines one last time.  Spoiler alert this next part is TMI.  I waited and waited and finally it was my turn.  So I hop into the john and first check for TP.  None.  Ok, I can deal with that.  I’m a runner, it happens.  But then I notice some, uh, semi-solid stuff (gags) on the outside of the potty.  Nope.  NOT HAPPENING. I high tailed it out of there and yelled some words of caution to the next few people in line.  I ran the entire race needing to pee – ugh!

At this time it was a few minutes before the race started so I hurried to line up.  They didn’t have specific corrals (just recommended times) so it was first come, first serve which meant I was waaaaay in the back.  It was cool though I decided the night before to not race but just let my body do what felt right.  If I set a PR great.  If I didn’t set a PR, great, my body would still like me.  If you remember, in my post last week, I struggled with the decision to run it as a training run or race it.   I just didn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on myself.  I still ran with my Garmin but I had it programed to where I couldn’t see any stats that way I wasn’t tempted to monitor my progress.

Did I mention it was still insanely early when we got to the race?

So the race gun went off, and I spend the first mile bobbing and weaving in and out of runners.  Faster runners passing me, me passing slower runners.  You know, the whole circle of life type thing.  Early on in the race I got to wave hi to Mindy from Road Runner Girl.  We were supposed to meet before but I forgot my spibelt (my checklist failed me) so I decided to leave my phone in the car.  Even though we didn’t officially meet, I at least know there is a super cute person behind her blog – hi Mindy!!

I remember passing the 3 mile marker and thinking, “Yay, I only have 10 miles to go”! It’s funny how marathon training can warp your sense of reality. The course took us along the lake front which was gorgeous! Lots of guys fly fishing.  I briefly considered jumping in to cool off.  Then before I knew it I passed mile 6….and mile 9… By mile 10 I could tell I was going at a fairly decent pace.  Surprisingly, my body wasn’t fatigued at all and the running just felt effortless.  I had no idea if I was doing a 9:30 pace or a 10:15 pace but I had an inkling that I would at least PR by a few seconds.  Then finally I saw mile 11 so I started my countdown. Only 20(ish) minutes left.  Anytime I get close to the end of a run I like to countdown the minutes instead of the distance; it just seems to make things go faster.

I still had a ton of energy left so I kicked up the last mile and booked it to the finish line where I was greeted with a surprising 2:07:07 a 7:40 PR!! My Garmin said 2:07:03 but, between you and me,  if I had known I was only a few seconds away from 2:06 I would have kicked it up sooner.  The total distance was 13.23 which made my pace 9:36; not bad considering I walked through all the water stops.  This was the lowest stress race and I really enjoyed listening to my body; just soaking in the atmosphere and running with no prerogative.  A sub two hour 1/2 is totally in my future! Buuuuuut first, I have to tackle the MCM!

Sweaty finisher’s pic.

Hooray for functional race bling – a bottle opener!
What do you think of my lovely sweat line?

Question:  Have you ever hit your race or workout groove and surprised yourself at the results?

Barely a 4k Beer Run

This weekend I ran my first 4k.  Nope, I didn’t hit the wrong number on the keyboard.  You read it right, a 4k; and a fun one at that!  When I heard about Yazoo’s Barely a 4k Beer Run I was instantly intrigued.

Swag! T-shirt and beer glass from the run.

I didn’t find out about the run until Thursday but after a few e-mails to my favorite running buddies we were all signed up.  I’ve noticed that it doesn’t take much arm twisting when beer is involved…..plus I have the best running friends ever!

Hooray for awesome running buddies! (Even made some new ones.)

The run was in Bay St. Louis at a place called Sloppy Dogs (perfect for a beer run, right?!) and started about 8:45.  It was super informal; no bibs, no timing clock, just a bunch of runners (and some non-runners) getting together over a common interest.  Any guess what that common interest is??

Totally inappropriate but, oh, so funny!

Before I knew it the race director (and I use that term loosely, he was much more laid back) started shouting out directions about which roads to turn on.  We lined up haphazardly and then were off.  I shouted good morning to a family that was out for a walk and they asked if we were running a race.  I briefly entertained the idea of telling them we were running from zombies but managed to scream we were running for beer instead.  They laughed and joked about joining.  Fast forward a bit… A mere 18 minutes and 4 seconds later, the run was over.

As promised, there were plenty of frosty brews at the finish and lots of happy runners!  Now I have to admit, while I may talk a good talk, I don’t actually care for beer.  *Gasp*  I know, that’s almost un-American.  I did at least take a few sips and, as far as beer goes, it was pretty tasty.

Nice. and. frosty.

I had the so much fun at this 4k and it’s seriously up there on my list of favorite races.  It was awesome getting together with other runners outside of the competitive race atmosphere and I loved that it was the type of run that people from all fitness levels could feel comfortable completing.  Today starts my first day of training for the Marine Corps Marathon – yay!

Question: What’s your favorite fun event and why was it so awesome?

Just “Du” It

This past weekend I was able to check another goal off of my {Before I Procreate} list.  Yay!  #9: Race in a duathlon.  This weekend was Jackson County’s Bicentennial Duathlon in Ocean Springs and I knew I just had to take advantage.

My running buddy Lorena signed up, too, which made this race even better!

It was an “easy” duathlon made up of a 2 mile run, 2 mile kayak, and finished with another 2 mile run. 6 miles total.  Easy, right? HA! Wow, did I underestimate this duathlon.

This is me ignorantly thinking that kayaking 2 miles would be a breeze. HA!

The race didn’t get started until 8:15 and the weather was a balmy 86* with 99% humidity.  Suicide weather for a runner whose not acclimated.

Ready. Set. GO!
Bonus points if you can spot Lorena and me. (It’s pretty easy…)

Pretty soon we were off on our first two miles.  This part was effortless and before I knew it I was at the staging area pushing my kayak into the ocean.  At this point I was pretty pleased with myself.  I had maintained a great pace on the 2 mile run and now I only needed to kayak two miles.

We looked like a little line of ants.

About 5 minutes into the kayaking portion, I knew I was in trouble.  It had been almost a year since I last kayaked and I apparently thought I was much better than I actually am.  I struggled with the current to keep the kayak straight and I really started to feel the heat.  I may or may not have considered swamping my kayak just to cool down…. I shouted some words of encouragement to others kayaking and I was comforted by the fact that I wasn’t the only runner struggling.

I’m about 500 yards from the shore in this shot. YAY!

Finally, after almost 40 minutes I could see solid ground.  Yes! As I pulled my kayak up onto the beach I realized just how soggy I was.  I seriously felt like I had peed my pants – obviously, I was wet from the ocean; not because of incontinence – and my shoes felt like they weighed a ton.  I didn’t care.  I was so ready to get my legs moving again.  I took off and hit my running groove and coasted back to the finish line.  A volunteer was handing out cups of Gatorade and I believe I proclaimed my undying love for him; I think I may have been a bit delirious.

It took me 1:17:00 but I had finished my first duathlon (8:45 pace on the run  portion and 42 minute kayak).  I was so happy to finish and actually ended up taking 3rd in my age group.  I really want to venture into the world of triathlons so this was kind of like getting my feet wet.  I’m a big fan of baby steps.  Rome wasn’t built in a day. Also, I need to hit the gym big time to increase my upper body strength.

My pretty trophy.

What’s something you’ve been wanting to accomplish in life? Tell me in the comment section; I loving hearing people’s goals!