Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

Well since we last visited here on the blog on Saturday night it was snowing in Washington DC. I was checking the weather every five minutes, and had changed my mind for the 32nd time in 8 hours about what I was going to wear. Oh and I jotted down these benchmarks for a successful marathon.

Let's see how I did...shall we?

 1) Go out slow. Slower than you think, Coffee. Don't even think about pace til you top the "big hill" at mile 2.5. ACCOMPLISHED

2) Thank every single Marine for their service and sacrifice. Every. Single. One. ACCOMPLISHED

3) Enjoy the day. This race is the reward. ACCOMPLISHED

4) Finish Strong. The only thing that matters is the final 10K. ACCOM--err well, I'll let you be the judge of that.

5) Cry like a baby when that Marine Lieutenant puts that medal around your neck. When you've done something to earn a Marine's respect, you've done something. ACCOMPLISHED (Sorry Lieutenant...I hope those tear stains come off your uniform...)
We arrived into Washington DC on Friday to cool, but manageable temperatures. The first thing I noticed was a lot of wind a LOT of wind when we met our chauffeur at the airport curbside pickup.

This is only the beginning of our pampering by our host all weekend...
We went directly to the National Guard Armory and into the expo. Yamma Hamma what a line to get in. We got there just a few minutes early so we waited in RFK Stadium Parking Lot for a while. By the time we got to the Armory the line had subsided, and we went to pickup our bibs.

4 digits are lighter than those with 5 digits (less ink..less weight..faster times) so register early! haha
A few spins around the expo, which is now affectionately called "Trick or Treating for Marathoners". A few swipes of the credit cards and we were done. In my line of work, I'm used to trade shows being about marketing; at a marathon expo, everything is about SELLING...BUY NOW. I don't think I'm wired that way. While Kesha (our host) and my wife bought a few things, I couldn't help but think.."I could find that cheaper online." Oh, and I tried a different flavor of Nuun...I am still NOT a fan. I did have a chance to stop by and see my friends at Arctic Ease I may be in a promotional video too...I hope they edit out all my bumbling for words.

With the expo behind us we made a trip to my favorite burger place in Arlington. Ray's Hell Burger. If you're ever in the DC area, go check it out, the burgers are amazing.

Under that slice of cheese is a hunk of American Beef so big you'll not want to eat for days.
Our host had provided a great space for us, and had bottles of water for us everywhere. She didn't want us getting dehydrated before the race. Later Friday night we spent time with Kesha's family and had a big pasta dinner...time to carbo load!

On Saturday the plan was to go to the Kids Fun run back in DC where Kesha's daughter was planning to run.. Unfortunately Mother Nature decided to dump wet snow on us instead. Nearly all day there was some kind of freezing precipitation coming down. The Kids run went on without us it seems....Rain or Shine! We passed the time on Saturday with a treadmill shakeout run, and a trip to town to eat/shop/do anything but think about the race. It was difficult however, as this is what we saw the entire time we were out...


Do you know how much of a panicked feeling you have seeing snow everywhere the day before your run? I trained in 80-90 degree heat with ridiculous heat indexes all summer....not snow/wind/ice. The weather reports said it would all be gone by Sunday morning, so we had to take them at their word. We watched Spirit of the Marathon (again) and hit the sack early for a 4am wake-up call.

At 5AM on Sunday it was plenty cold, and the wind didn't help matters either. We drove to the Falls Church Metro station and had to wait in the cold, cold concourse on the train. We were bundled up heavily, but there were some that were there in shorts and t-shirt...three hours before the race. I decided NOT to wear tights, and opted for shorts, a long sleeved compression shirt and my personalized shirt and beanie hat. But pre-race I had stitch of clothing I could find covering me.

The walk from the metro to the Pentagon was long, but it kept us moving. Space was plentiful, and so were the porta-potties at the Runner's Village near the Pentagon. Baggage check was efficient and easy.

TIP: On a cold/windy morning a Porta Potty is about the warmest place you'll find.

Soon, we had paratroopers falling from the sky, then a flyover by Marine Osprey aircraft and of course, the National Anthem. Drew Carey was somewhere on the microphone starting the race, but I never saw him. Once I got into my corral, I snapped one last photo...



The howitzer blasted, and we were off. It felt good to get running finally.

TIP: Although it is a great idea to bring clothes to shed at the start, you should throw them to the sides of the race course. Don't leave them in the middle of the road for people to trip over. This especially goes for the garbage bag people.

Goal 1: Start out slow. This was a bit easier than I thought. My feet were frozen so they didn't want to go anywhere, plus much of the beginning of the race is uphill. I was positioned in front of the 3:45 group to start, and wanted to keep in front of them, but less than a mile in they passed me. From here on I will affectionately call the 3:45 group "the blob". I would say there were 30-40 runners that were in this group, and they covered the entire roadway. The first time I encountered them, I had been in a bit of open roadway, and suddenly I felt like I was in the middle of the Indy 500. The blob passed me on all sides. They stayed so close, you couldn't break away, couldn't pass, couldn't do anything other than keep pace or get spit out the back end. Keeping my promise to go slow, I got spit out the back end, and vowed to keep the blob in my sights.

Mile 1-8:40-Not quite as slow as I wanted, but I'll take it
Mile 2-8:53-Better
Mile 3-8:21-Warmed up, and now on the big downhill.

The next several miles just seemed to click off quick. I know that sounds weird, but they really did. There wasn't much going on the course at this point, so it was just about keeping up with the runners around you. I was a bit concerned already that I had made a mistake by wearing the compression shirt. It was hot in the sunshine, but cold when the wind hit you.

Mile 4-8:03 More of the big downhill
Mile 5-8:19
Mile 6-8:23
Mile 7-8:34 On the last big incline for the day.

Soon we hit Georgetown and the George Washington University area. There were tons of support, and people were calling my name like crazy. I felt like a rock star. At one point a runner ahead of me shouted out "Who is Randy?" and I answered that I was. He chuckled and said his name was also Randy, and he couldn't figure out how all these people knew his name. As we left the GWU area, I finally passed the blob, after tracking them for several miles.

TIP: Put your name on your shirt. It makes all the difference in the world.

Mile 8-8:21
Mile 9-8:20
Mile 10-8:23
Mile 11-8:05 We hit the first crowds near the National Mall, and what a boost of adrenaline!
Mile 12-8:19

It was now time for the lonely trip out to Hains point, which I had been worried about. People had told me that crowd support was sparse, and it could be even more windy out there. The trip to the end was ok, and I just kept clicking the miles off, and I was feeling good. When we got to 13, I can't really explain what was waiting for us.

There was a cheering section that was as pumped and crazy as I have ever seen at any race. The only thing I can compare it to is watching those crazy crowds at the Tour de France every year. There was loud music, dancing, people in costumes, shouting, cowbells, high fives...it was simply amazing. The people at Lulemon Athletica Georgetown put on this display, and I have to say it was by far my favorite part of the course. It was simply amazing. If this blog somehow makes it to anyone who was a part of that group, please accept my dearest thanks! Pumped full of emotion and energy, its time for the trek back from the Point and into DC.

Mile 14-8:22
Mile 15-8:24
Mile 16-8:31

I'll say it was about here on Independence Avenue where I first started feeling the first twinges of something wrong in my stomach. The Mall was so crazy, and packed full of spectators, I can honestly say that I saw NO monuments other than the Capitol building. All I focused on was the crowd lining both sides of the street calling out my name. I think its tough try to see the sights...the crowd is just too big. I was looking at funny signs more so than looking at monuments!

Mile 17-8:33
Mile 18-8:35
Mile 19-8:36

Ok...something is definitely wrong. It was at this point that I told myself I would make a pit-stop at the first available chance, so I did. Unfortunately it didn't help. Well I should say physically it didn't help my symptoms to go away, but it helped me mentally know that I wasn't going to poop myself.

Mile 20-9:17
Mile 21-8:18 Rebound!
Mile 22-8:23
Mile 23-8:27

At this point I am still ahead of the Blob, but the abdominal cramps are hitting me HARD. I'm using every motivational quote, every thing I can think of to power through these things. There is plenty of crowd support in Crystal City, but its just not cutting it. I'm trying to press on my gut or find anything to give me relief.

I succumb to the cramps. I kneel at the side of the road, trying to recover. This is not something I planned or prepared for. I've never felt like this before. I look at my Road ID..."Pain is temporary...quitting lasts forever". Gotta keep moving. So I get up and start walking. No sooner than I begin walking, the blob passes. OUCH. There goes my "B" Goal of 3:45.

Mile 24-12:22 Honestly, this mile might be even longer because of autopause on my Garmin.
Mile 25-10:43

In these miles, I just kept moving forward...no more stopping. I could walk when I had to, run when I could. Just get this thing finished. Nothing I did seemed to provide relief.

Nearing Mile 25.5 crowds really started to pick up again, and I vowed to myself to run the rest of the way out. I had been told that you had to race up a steep hill, then the finish would be at the top. WRONG. You race up a steep hill, then take a hard right turn, and the finish line still looks forever away.

I was on empty, and hurting, but I wasn't going to stop at this point. I had to finish strong.

Mile 26-9:14

Finish time 3:54:30. This is a PR by 1:44 over my previous marathon.

Here is my finish video. You can see me enter the frame when the race clock hits 3:55:47 I'm in a red shirt on the left hand side of the course. When I cross, listen for a guttural shout about 3:55:55. That would be me. I don't recall making that sound.

The moment I crossed, I broke down into tears (its my thing apparently). I felt like I had nothing left to give. There was still a bit of a hike and some waiting in line to get my finisher photo, so I was able to compose myself for the pic...
For $39.99 for a single digital image, you'd think they could actually include the flag atop the Memorial, and fix the sign where there was no glare, right? Here's my finisher page with all the photos
On the walk to Rosslyn where the finish festival was held, I had some time to think and ponder....

On one hand..type A me is mourning the opportunity that just slipped away to hit my 3:45 goal. Had I been able to just lay down three 8:30 miles I would have still hit about an 3:43 marathon. Did I just squander an opportunity because I was too conservative with my on-course hydration/nutrition? Is that what just happened here? I didn't drink enough water? Really?

On the other hand, I'm thinking, all those problems I had and I still hit a new PR? I think that is a testament to my current level of fitness compared to Charlotte. And was able to do it on perhaps one of the greatest race courses in all of the sport? This was a very good day.

The attitude of the latter won out. I thought about the often used Confucius quote which says "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

And with that realization, this was a GREAT marathon. I wanted to take a hatchet to my PR, but a scalpel still did the trick. We can read, and talk and blog about everything in the world, but marathoning takes practice. This is only my SECOND one. I'm often in so much of a hurry to be "good at it" that I miss the lessons. Experience was my teacher, and I will take her lessons to heart. I am ecstatic over the finish, and the weekend as a whole.

"Congratulations on a job well done"~Marine Corps Lieutenant
I cannot thank everyone enough for the kind, encouraging words, both on the course, by text, by email, by Twitter by DailyMile and in person. None of this would be possible without our support team back home to keep the kids while we're out on marathon adventures.

Surely this trip wouldn't have been more fun without the hospitality of my friends Brett and Kesha Kingswell, and their adorable kids Kenzie and Carter...and my new friend Callie the Labradoodle. Their "extra mile" attitude and hospitality was overwhelming. We could have stayed at a 5 star hotel and would not have been better taken care of. I will forever be in a debt of gratitude to their family for taking in a couple of sweaty marathoners.

Christy and I at the Finish Festival with Kesha, our Hostess with the Mostest!
Lastly, a big kudos to my wife who overcame incredible adversity just to get to the starting corral and finish with a new PR of 4:41 herself. She is an amazing woman, and I hope she'll tell her story about her experience here soon.
Now...In the immortal words of Clark Griswold....WHERE'S THE TYLENOL?!?!