Monday, October 31, 2011

"Always Earned, Never Given."

OOO-RAH! The 26.2 milestone has been met!  The 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon was a success for myself and as well as the friends of mine that also ran.  This training season I focused the majority of my training on triathlon, specifically for the Ironman Augusta 70.3 while throwing in a 1x/week long run for the marathon training.  Comparatively the only part of my training plan that was lacking was more than 1 run of 20 miles or greater.  I completed my longest run of 21 miles 3 weeks pre-marathon while everyone else I know did 2-3 20+ mile runs. So here's a look at my journey to becoming part of the 1% of people that will complete a marathon.

My roommate Jesse and I headed over to the race expo on Saturday afternoon to pick up our bibs, shirts, and free samples of peanut butter, among other things.  The weather in D.C. on Saturday was absolutely horrific - 35ish degrees with a snowy rainy freezing cold wintery mix.  Not my idea of nice fall weather, nor marathon weather.  We had been watching the weather for a few days and knew that it would probably be chilly on race day but no precipitation.  At least the expo was inside and we only had to deal with the wintery mix getting to and from the Metro.  The expo was packed.  We squeezed through the crowds for a little bit of time and even stumbled upon the American Physical Therapy's booth with the Move Forward campaign.  To our surprise the 2 PT's working the booth were 2011 GWU Grads, so nice to see familiar faces!  The coolest thing about the booth was the free souvenir picture you could get, so of course Jesse and I struck a nice pose in front of our favorite neighbors house.

Saturday evening was calm.  I did a bit of carb loading at my brother's house and figured out my race day plan.  It seem so "easy" in comparison to planning for a triathlon.  No bike to rack, no transition to set up, etc. - I was out of my element.  I decided to take Metro to the Pentagon check a bag of my warm clothing about 30 min before race start and use the port-o-potty.  My other option would have been to walk from my apartment (about a 40min walk).  I was happy I chose this option as it allowed to dress warm, bring my wallet and phone, and have warm clothes at the finish line.  I decided on my clothing for the race as well.  I have always known I despise being cold so I went for the cold weather gear option.  I work my spandex shorts under my running tights, a dri-fit top under my half zip, cheapo running gloves, and my 70.3 hat.  I knew I could throw away the gloves on the course if need be and with a predicted high of only 46 and a starting temperature of 36 I wasn't worried about being too warm.  I went to bed around 9:30 with a 5:30 alarm set and on the ready.

Race morning I woke without the alarm - ate my usual breakfast of champions - Special K Red Berries with banana and Almond milk.  Got dressed and headed to the Metro.  I was crazy see hoards of marathoners at the Metro stop both near me and as we rolled through Rosslyn.  My plan went smoothly as I had plenty of time to use the port-o-potty and check my bag before race start and I didn't get to cold since I was able to keep my warm jacket on until checking the bag right before heading to the start line.  The pre-start festivities included wounded warriors parachuting down and two MV-22 Osprey's flying over as well as the National Anthem and a moment of silence before sending off the wheelchair and hand-cycle athletes.

The last 10 minutes before the starting gun seemed to last forever.  I was ready to get this thing underway.  I decided to break the race up in my mind as two 10-milers and a 10k.  It sounded like a great plan.  In my mind I wanted the first 10-miler to feel easy, the second 10-miler to require focus and the last 10k to require a hard effort.  Indeed these statements came true, just about as true as they could come.  So I give you my race report as if you were in my mind.

Miles 1-10
Runner's getting ready for the start with Maroon 5's
Moves Like Jagger!
The beginning of the course was a bit crowded but nothing too horrible.  Rubbing elbows with a few people here and there but never felt like I was being held back due to crowds or slow people.  The first 8 miles have 98% of the hills on the course.  Every hill I thought "go glutes go" and kept pace up the hill.  Mile 1 seemed like nothing - which in the course of marathon is a good thing because it is nothing.  With all the hills in the early part of the race there was some constant leap frogging with the hand-cycle participants with made it quite exciting on every downhill.  Runner's would start screaming "wheels on the left" and everyone would move over and a hand-cyclist would go flying by.  I took a few sips of water every couple miles at the aid stations.  The aid stations didn't seem to be creating a traffic jam at all so I opted for the hydration option.  I was feeling great as I crossed the 5k and 10k splits.  My 10k split came in to be 51:29 - I was holding my pace and felt absolutely comfortable continuing at that pace.  At this point I realized 3:40 would be possible it I held pace for 20 more miles.  Coming down MacArthur down towards Georgetown was awesome.  It was downhill, the runners had opened up a bit and I finally felt comfortable shedding my gloves.  My absolute favorite part of the course was running down MacArthur which was quite sparse in the fans/supporters category into jam packed Georgetown.  People lined the both side of the streets in Georgetown, there was music and cheering and the energy was incredible.  I ran on with confidence thinking this is my turf now, as my weekly long runs leading up to MCM included a large majority of the upcoming part of the course.  I crossed the 10-mile marker a little over 1:20.  A consistent pace and a 10-miler PR all while feeling great and running with a smile on my face.

Miles 11-20

So fast brother couldn't get a good pic!
The gorilla handing off performance enhancing PowerGel.
This section of the course brings you along the Potomac river towards Hains Point.  Many people have a negative attitude towards Hains Point.  Lonely, boring, what have you.  I on the other hand adore Hains Point.  I spend a significant amount of time every week running and biking there and love the escape from the city it offers.  There was a surprising large amount of spectators down at Hains Point including a huge group at the end of the point for the 13.1 mile mark.  I hit the half-way point around 1:47 - a half-marathon PR and still right on target with my pace and 3:40 still in my sights.  At this point I had taken one gel at the one-hour mark and was preparing to take another at the two-hour mark.  I knew my brother and Kara would be on Hains Point and all of sudden there they were with a rowdy bunch from UMD cheering and of course Rory was in his gorilla suit, because why not?  I accepted 2 gels from the gorilla at mile 14 and ran on still feeling great.  Around mile 15 I really began to focus on holding my pace.  I was beginning to count down the miles and quite excited to be in the single digits very soon.  At mile 17 I cruised through "The Gauntlet" as I continued to hydrate every couple of miles.  I saw a fellow DC Tri-er as we headed toward the capital and gave him a shout out - I believe this was his first marathon as well.  I came around the capital and my legs were beginning to ache, specifically my quads.  As much as my heart, lungs, and body wanted to hold pace I began to feel like my legs wouldn't move.  I knew the last 6.2 was going to be all heart but I knew my pace was slowing as the 3:45 pace group swallowed me up whole at mile 19.  I stuck with them for about a mile and knew I had to let them go as we were nearing mile 20.  My 30k pace was 8:35min/mile with an estimated finish time of 3:45:02 still on track for a much better than expected finish time.

Miles 21-26.2
Nothing prepares you for what the last 10k is going to feel like.  My quads were barely working and mentally I was beginning to wonder if this would really be possible after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride.  I got my head back in the game and was ticking of the final 6.2 two miles at a time.  I was aware my pace was slowing, a lot.  I could only push as hard as I could push, which with two quads barely functioning is not hard.  I didn't walk, I ran on through Crystal City.  The Dunkin' Donut Munchkin stop was at miles 22 & 24 - I did not see a single runner take a Munchkin.  The smell made me want to gag.  Crystal city packed with spectators, cowbells, and voovoozelas, but no amount of encouragement or PowerGel was making my quads feeling any better.  Around mile 25 I saw Hugh, thanks to another runner who said "Hey, Hugh".  I promptly looked up and there was Hugh, by himself on the side of the highway cheering us on.  My 40k split had dropped to a 9:06min/mile pace with an estimated finish of 3:58:35.  I knew I could push on to take the Iwo but getting there under 4:00 was seeming to be a challenge.  Finally some orange slices, mile 26, a slight down hill and a sharp turn later I was beginning the climb up to Iwo Jima.  Running up hill actually felt better, probably because I used more glutes and less quads.  My brother and Kara were right there on the hill cheering their butts off for my one last push to the finish line.  26.2 done.

Waiting in a line for the finisher's medal was difficult my legs wanted to crumble but I think it was good for them to be forced to stay slightly active.  My mind was stuck on the fact that there was no way I would be able to do that at IM Louisville.  If I had been given the option right then to drop out or stay with it I may have just dropped out.  My lower portion of my face including mouth and jaw were numb, this a new sensation.  I collected my medal and space blanket and followed the hoards toward the food table on onward.  The spectators were kept to the other side of the fence from the athletes and I was not able to link back up with Rory and Kara at the finish line festival.  I downed some water and 1/2 a Gatorade which seemed to help the numbness of the mouth and jaw.  I continued making my way toward Rosslyn for the finish line festival while making a quick pit stop at a medical table for some Tylenol, though I really wanted Ibuprofen darn it.  It was quite a walk to the baggage check but I made it there just in time as per my usual about 15 minutes post finish I started shivering uncontrollably.  I promptly pulled out my fleece jacket and re-wrapped myself in my space blanket.  I headed back up the road to get a finisher's shirt and got in touch with my brother on the phone. In Halloween fashion the first solid food I ate after the race was a small pack of Reeses Pieces :) The place was insanely crowded and I did not have much energy to do anything and seeing that my brother and  Kara were walking toward home so we could all go to brunch I decided I would head that way too.  At first I thought I would Metro but the line was crazy insane just to get into the station so I scoped out a Circulator bus that took me to Dupont Circle to meet up with the brother. 
Great photo of Rory at the finish with DC in background.
A solid morning capped off with an awesome brunch, chocolate milk, and a super comfortable Lazy Boy.  I had earned it - never again will I run my first marathon.  I'm glad I did it.  I don't think I'll do another one before IM Louisville but I will run another marathon.  Possibly Chicago, NYC, St. George?  Eventually setting my eyes on a BQ.  The drop in pace was disappointing for me but a learning moment.  For now I will work back in strength training for triathletes/endurance athletes, continue to work on technique and build my cycling legs so 26.2 doesn't seem like such a daunting task at the end of an IronMan.  

What was you first marathon? How did you feel after?
36th Annual Marine Corps 2011!  My quads are non-functioning.  In PT language a large functional limitation for me would be sit --> stand.  I'm proud of the accomplishment and 1 day later I'm ready to train for and complete IM Louisville (not physically but mentally).

What is your favorite way to recover? 
I do love an ice bath but did not partake yesterday.  I always recover with chocolate milk.  Today I am headed into clinic to treat myself with e-stim and ice after a short 0 resistance elliptical session. The more I remind the legs to work the better off they are.

Did you race this weekend?  Are you doing any turkey trots?
The DC Tri Turkey Trot is next weekend with a 5k and a 10k option.  Depending on how I feel the 5k may be in the cards.  I am also doing the Huntsville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.


  1. You are AWESOME and LOVED!

  2. Awesome that you stuck with it and ran through the end! Congrats on hard work paid off! Don't worry about Louisville, you've got months of great training ahead of you; you're well on your way to conquering the IM. Love you!

  3. Great job Holli! Enjoy and relax before you even think of IM training. You have a coach for IM right? Let me know if you need training thoughts. Simon