On Friday, I made my way from work to the expo, hoping that the Craigslist guy, who was switching his full bib with my 10k, wouldn’t flake on me.
He didn’t, but even though I was late getting into the expo, he was even more. So by the time I was ready to explore, I had very little time to look around. I still stopped by the Brooks part of the expo, and bought some MCM gear — because just like Chicago, might as well show off, no?
I got to meet B.o.B. from Discom-BOB-ulated Running! How cool is that? She is super nice! We chatted for a bib, then I went off on my way to try to see some of the expo — but ended up bumping into more people I knew (seriously, I bumped into about 4 different people I know), and left without seeing anything! B.o.B. was disappointed that this years shirt was too masculine, but I actually think it’s kind of cool. Aside from the high neck, that’s typical of MCM race shirts and totally unflattering, the back looked pretty awesome:
Hugi and I went back to the expo on Saturday, but it was PACKED with people, so we didn’t stay long. I spent the rest of Saturday home, relaxing (I may or may not have napped a couple of times), then off to carbo-load with Karl. For some odd reason, I didn’t get a bit of sleep. I wasn’t nervous, I even took a couple of melatonin to help me doze off, but no luck.
Getting to the race on Sunday was a nightmare. I had checked the start line, and realized it was a 2 mile walk from my house. Not wanting to walk 2 miles right before running a marathon (plus it was cold), I decided that it would be best to park in Crystal City (a 5 minute drive from my place) and take the shuttle. BIG MISTAKE. Even though I got to Crystal City at 6:15am, and my plan was to meet the group at 7am, I didn’t actually get to bag check, where our meeting point was, until 7:20. The line for the shuttle was hundreds of people long. I ended up standing for about 50 minutes, thinking how stupid I was, when I could have walked the 2 miles in much less time than that (and it would have been a lot less stressful too).
Luckily, Jane waited for me, so I wasn’t stuck running alone. Why the hell do I look like I weigh 300lbs in the picture below? *sigh*
We checked our bags, made our way to the porta-potties, waited a long time in line until after the official start and finally walked over to the start line. There’s an advantage to being in a big race: even if you miss the start by 15 minutes, you still have plenty of time to get to the start line — and you’ll still have to wait around to cross it once you do so… I even took a shot of me where you can see my brand new arm warmers that I got for my birthday from Kathy! They were great, but by mile 4 or 5 I had already pushed them down as I was too hot. Once the sun was out, it got warm quickly, but not hot — the weather was perfect, just perfect, for a marathon. Ah, if it only had been like this in Chicago…
We started the race running towards Rosslyn, passing the Key Bridge, and into Arlington, on an area I never run in, and of course, this was the beginning of the hills! The way back to Rosslyn was so pretty though, as the leaves were changing, and you could see the Cathedral across from the Potomac River. It was peaceful. Of course, you can’t see a damn thing in my picture, but I promise it looked nice.
Back in Rosslyn, we went straight into the Key Bridge, taking Canal Road. Right when we got to the Canal Road, who do I see coming with the crowd going in the opposite direction? BOB! I gave her a big shout out, she looked back and wave, but no idea if she actually recognized me!
As I’m running, I look to the side, and what do I see? The C&O Canal Trail! (Both of my twenty milers were there!) It was nice to be on an unfamiliar road, but looking down at my familiar trail!
I needed to pee badly around this time (note to self: drinking two G2′s on my way to the race was not the best idea), and had to do the old pee-behind-the-bushes move. Super, super classy. But Jane and I were still keeping up pace, and a couple of minutes in front of our 5 hour goal time.
We hit a steep uphill shortly after that, then it was downhill to Georgetown (where the crowd support was great). From there, we ran past the Kennedy Center, where I saw Karl and Kathy for the first time (yay!), under the Memorial Bridge, into Hains Point. I’ve had many training runs in Hains Point, so I was ready for how boring it was. It’s actually really pretty around there, seeing the Potomac on one side, the Anacostia River on the other, but the course was still crowded (and it was crowded until the end), so I wasn’t looking around me as much as I was looking forward. At Hains Point, we also found the one bathroom with no lines, and took advantage of it. It was a bit off the course though (hence, why no one else was using it, you had to know it was there), but since our group barbecues are at Hains Point, I knew there was a bathroom behind the playgrounds and off we went. We were right: there wasn’t a single person in there. Plenty of toilet paper, running water… Beats a stinky porta-potty any day!
This stop is what made us officially behind our 5 hour mark. It was also shortly after this, at mile 14, where my feet started hurting badly. The front of my shoes (they’re fairly new, remember?) felt way too tight, and it hurt with every.single.step. A lot. I could feel blisters forming, and I was in a lot of pain. Not the same type of pain as before, where I feared it was an injury — this was very much shoe related. Do you know when you wear uncomfortable high heels for hours on end and your feet just HURT? Yep, that’s exactly how my feet felt like. EXACTLY. I think I’ll have to go back to the store and try something else. They were just too damn uncomfortable.
Around mile 15 my right calf started cramping up, and by the time I reached mile 16, every few steps would bring a feeling of an electrical shock behind my right calf. I saw Karl and Kathy for the last time until we reached the finish, and I yelled out “pain relievers, I need pain relievers!” Jane stopped with me until Karl opened up the bottle, and I took some. Jane pointed out how pretty this part of the run was, and I took out my camera, for the first time in over 10 miles — I just wasn’t feeling the pictures this time, I was struggling. But I got one shot of the Lincoln Memorial…
We kept on running, but my calf wasn’t getting any better. Jane suggested I take an extra endurolytes pill, to see if that would help. I also stopped quickly to stretch it out on the sidewalk — that seemed to help, and a half mile later, the shocks went away.
It was around this time too, when I was considering giving up and walking. I had calculated everything in my head, and knew that I could “beat the bridge” even if I walked (the 14th street bridge is at mile 20, and a bus slowly starts going up the bridge, picking up any runners who don’t make it in time before the bridge reopens to traffic, if you beat the bridge, you can finish the marathon). I figured I could walk the next 10 miles, and still make it by the cut off time. I wasn’t running under my name after all. Jane convinced me to keep on going at least until mile 20. I told her I would try.
As we were approaching the Capitol around mile 18, I knew that we would be heading out to the last part of the course…
Jane was super excited, because it was around mile 18 when she had to drop off the marathon in Chicago and get help from the medics. She was officially past that by now, and still looking and feeling great! I felt like shit, but Jane definitely deserved a picture!
We finally got to the mile 20 marker, and started looking for Kristy. Kristy had run the MCM 10k that morning, and offered to pace us for the last 6 miles of our race. I was so excited when I saw her, even though my energy level still sucked. Kristy joined us and tackled the bridge with us. Miles 20, 22 and 23 were my slowest miles Going over the 14th street bridge for the second time in a week (we went over that at the Army Ten Miler just a week before) sucked. I was exhausted, and though my calf was a lot better, my feet were still screaming in pain. I had hit a wall at mile 14, and couldn’t shake it off.
Kristy did try her best to cheer me up, and her energy level was great. Oh, don’t believe me? I was even able to fake a smile!
Yep, Jane was still feeling awesome. I just kept telling myself “5 miles to go, 5 miles to go…” I wish Kristy’s energy had been contagious!
But I can still TOTALLY fake it for a camera. Seriously, if you look at the picture below, you’d have no idea I was in so much pain. Well, except for the major heel strike going on there — when the front of your foot hurts so much, you kind of avoid using it… Jane’s enthusiasm? Totally real!
But the bridge is just soooo boring. I don’t know how Kristy managed to run this three times in a week (the 10k followed the same course as the last 10k for the marathon).
I pushed it through. We passed through Crystal City, which was an out and back route, and a bit boring, despite the great crowd support. I had run through Crystal City twice this summer on the two 5k’s I ran, and this is also where my Wednesday’s group run starts at, so of course, there was nothing new to see (not that I was even paying attention to anything at this point). Somewhere in Crystal City I passed Hugi, who had run the 10k, and ran back home so she could stand 2 hours cheering for me, and we totally missed each other…
When we hit mile 25, I stopped looking at the Garmin, and just tried to concentrate on finishing it. This was also our fastest mile, because we all wanted it to be over with. At mile 26, Kristy saw Jen and jumped off the course to join her. Karl was right by the hill at Iwo Jima and him and Kathy were cheering for us. I sprinted up the Iwo Jima hill, which was my biggest mistake — I got to the top and realized I was done, just done, but I still had about 100 yards to the finish line. You know how it feels like seeing the finish line that close and having NOTHING left? Jane started sprinting, and noticed I couldn’t pick it up, and waited for me (seriously, she was an angel. There was no way in hell I would have run the whole thing without her next to me!).
We finally grabbed each others hands, put them up in the air and crossed the finish together. The official time? 5:04:00 (Jane finished a second in front of me — she deserved it!) That’s an 11:36 pace. I was again so short from my goal, but still unbelievable I got close to it at all, considering how miserable I was. I started this race afraid for my left foot, and though I had pain, none of them were injury related.
It was such a different experience than Chicago. In Chicago, I got a second wind at the Half Marathon mark, and hit my wall at mile 19. I was bored, just bored out of my mind. It was tired, it was hot, but my wall was all mental. At the Marine Corps, mentally I was ok — I had company with me throughout the whole thing, which is what I need to push through, but this time my body didn’t want to cooperate. Being in physical pain just sucked. It felt like I was running with strappy heels. My feet were in agony.
Jane was ecstatic, because this was her first marathon where she ran the whole thing. She had successfully completed two marathons before, but she had walked at least five miles on those. When we passed mile 21 she was giddy with excitement: “This is the furthest I’ve ever run in my life!” It seems that running with a slow poke like myself, I kept the pace pretty comfortable for her, so even though she was tired at the end, she wasn’t dying (gosh, I totally was dying!).
We parted ways right after the finish, when we got a professional shot in front of Iwo Jima, and she went home to change and head over to Patrick’s place for the after party (Patrick lives in the same complex as her).
I then took a self portrait of my tired but accomplished self… The smile this time wasn’t completely fake.
And of course, I had to take a picture of me and the medal that was such a disappointment:
I picked up my bag at bag check, met up with Karl and Kathy, and we headed over to Patrick’s house, where I got to take the torture devices off my feet, munch on a bit of food, and Jane and I had the luck of having this unflattering finisher picture taken of us…
I also got to play with Patrick’s old medals. So though our medal this year is cool, it doesn’t compare to the previous years. Here is a side by side comparison… I really love the Eagle, Globe & Anchor shape of the other medal. Apparently it even won an award this year as best medal! Why change what’s working??
Said that, it still look pretty nice on my medal holder! (ACK! I’m running out of space!!!)
I swore I would never run a marathon again. This time I was just so miserable in pain. But of course, now I’m already thinking of what I can run next year… (Maybe Ottawa Marathon in May?)