Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - That's a Wrap!

Yet again, my life distracts me from producing timely blog posts!

After crossing the finish line and having a good little cry of joy, I tucked in behind some of the Marines in the receiving line and waited for my husband.  The minutes started ticking by and I started to panic a little.  He shouldn't be that far behind me... we only separated for the last 10K... tick tock.

Finally, his tallness appeared through the crowd as he inched down the line, shaking the hand of every Marine in attendance.   The pain on his face was obvious but he didn't miss a single Marine.  By the time he reached me, all he could say was CRAMPS!  He leaned on me heavily as we waited for our picture in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial - again - Great Dane and Chihuahua mismatch.

We inched our way to the hotel and by the time I put the key in the door, he was in FULL cramp mode.  I raced (hobbled) around, peeling bananas and making icy NUUN to help with his electrolytes but he was nauseous and having none of it. Cramps it is!  Enjoy that.

Five minutes into CrampFest, we got a call from Mark's dad.  Our cousin Robyn fell at mile four and was in route to the hospital.  What?  Oh, and even though she fell at mile four, she bested her PR from 4:47 to 4:11! Hello ROCKSTAR!

In the fall she scraped her forehead, chin and both palms.  She knew she'd knocked her knee but didn't lift up her compression pants to check the damage.  And that's a good thing because THIS...

is what was under those compression pants... OH MY GOD! So gross and yet so completely amazing that she rocked that time!  Amazing, right?  Warrior.

Fifteen Franken-Stitches later and she was in a car racing her way back to Portland, Maine to beat Hurricane Sandy.  Bye Robyn!  Nuts.

Soon after that phone call, I got a distressed call from my beautiful friend Poonam just after she crossed the finish line.  She definitely struggled but my girl finished with that glorious medal around her neck.  I give her every single ounce of credit for battling to the finish.  You did it sister!

My friend Dawn from Barbados ran a great race after training entirely on a treadmill - a feat I cannot comprehend.  4:12!  Big Congrats!

My sister-in-law Jodi finished her 6th MCM with a time of 4:14.  Her friend Stacey ran her second marathon in 4:20, and my rekindled friend Laurie came in at 4:18 - well off her usual pace but her old friend "hamstring injury" came by for a visit around mile 18.  Again, battled through!

Dinner was great with my family and friends on Sunday night.  Everyone doing the "marathon shuffle" with lots of laughter and race recapping.  If I could've sported my Marathong without it falling to pieces, I would have :)

The relentless teasing by my husband for leaving him in the dust began at dinner and continues to this day.  Shots like "Hey, will you pull up that picture of us crossing the finish line together?  OH! That's right, it doesn't exist!" Or... shouting out "Hey wait for me!" when I get up to go into the kitchen.  Hahaha... this will haunt me forever.  That's love.

The Takeaway:  There is so much goodness in pushing myself to the limit. I was inspired and a little haunted by memories of the finishers at Western States.  When I felt like my ankle would just crack off, I remembered their faces as they crossed after four consecutive marathons.  The human body is capable of that - I witnessed it with my own eyeballs.  Certainly, I can give my best in this one!  As always, I am grateful to my body for cooperating and my mind for staying focused.  I am grateful to my family and friends who annihilated my Facebook page while I was running.  I knew you were watching in real time as I stomped each time pad.  It was an awesome feeling!

If you've ever had a nagging thought that you'd like to complete a marathon, I urge you to just take one step toward that goal.  Even if the thought makes you laugh out loud, you can do it.  Everyone can do it.  There are plans that will get you across that finish line even if you've never run a day in your life.  In taking those first steps, you will become the inspiration for someone else.  You will change the health of those around you.  You will find out what you're made of.  You will change your life.

Thanks for sharing in this journey!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - The Race Recap

The Weather Channel has predicted "heavy rain" from 9 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. The creativity of garbage bag clad runners is inspiring.  See Jodi:

I absolutely despise wearing a hat when I run but I have sucked it up and placed a lid on my dome in light of the dire forecast.  A hat and $6 jacket are my Hurricane Sandy armor.  The girl in front of us said it all...

From the hotel we had to walk past the start line and then filter back father to find our corrals.  We timely it brilliantly, and found ourselves standing just feet away from the Marines as they performed the Color Guard, the singing of the National Anthem and the flyover of the two Ospreys.  I cried.  I always do. I love America.

The faster runners in our group lined up around the 4:00 corral and Mark, Poonam and I kept on walkin' until we reached the 4:29 corral.  We were packed in like sardines but the crowd was happy and not a drop of rain had fallen.  So many people telling everyone to have a good race.  People yelling OORAH in honor of the Marines.  The announcer telling us 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 seconds...  KABOOM!  The Howitzer cannon was fired and just like that, The People's Marathon was in full effect!

Sardine Can!
I needed to get on my pace of 6:30/km as soon as possible and I did.  Mark hung with me and we started to tick off the miles together.  I carried by big hand-held water bottle and Mark carried no bottle. He stopped at every water stop while I shuffled down the middle to wait for him to catch up.  I stopped after every 10K time pad and filled up my bottle - he shuffled down the middle until I caught up. We didn't discuss this plan but it was all working out.  The Great Dane and the Chihuahua somehow keeping the same pace.

The first 10K clocked in at 1:05.  If I could keep that pace, I'd come in around 4:32.  Feeling good, haven't broken a sweat yet.  THIS is the beautiful part of training in Barbados and then running in the fall stateside.  No sweat, heat fatigue, cars buzzing by or potholes - except for Crystal City.  You feel so good and fresh, it's scary.

In Georgetown a couple came up behind me and the husband said "Hey, I guess we just cancel each other out!  All I eat is meat!"  I should note that I was wearing my No Meat Athlete tech shirt during the race.  Most people that comment say "Hey, me too!" or "Great Shirt!" or "Go NO MEAT!"  I had never been blessed with the carnivore narrative.  I laughed and said "Yea, I guess we're a net zero!"

I thought we could leave it there but then his wife pipes up behind me with "You should come down to our marathon in Carolina.  We have bacon-wrapped pork as the post-race snack at the finish.  You should eat more pork!"  I said "No thanks, I'm all set!"  When I wanted to say "You should call me from your hospital bed after your angioplasty!" or "I can hear your arteries screaming from here."

They moved in front of us but we all kept the same pace.  I could feel Mark's eyes boring into the side of my head so I finally turned to look at him.  He said "Proud of you. You could've unleashed.  They don't mean any harm".  I agreed and kept on running but just then, the guy jetted hard right to a water station and yelled for his wife to come over.  Instead of merging right, she stopped dead right in front of me.  I fell into her pretty hard (out of my control) and then gave her a "gentle" push to the right.  It felt kinda good.

The second 10K clocked in at another 1:05.  So far, so good.  I started eating my food and drinking water even when I wasn't thirsty.  It's hard to gauge thirst in the cool weather but I know that dehydration is the worst case scenario so I keep drinking.  The energy beans are a good sugar hit and I kicked back a Clif Builder Bar 1/4 at a time over a few miles.

Still running together, still not a drop of rain.  The third 10K clocks in at about 1:08 (I think).  We're losing a little time but I'm more concerned about coming up to "The Bridge".  Miles 20 - 22.  Slow, steady uphill with no race support and no spectators.  It's the killer of the race.

Just before the bridge we went through the water stop and I did my shuffle but it took me a few minutes to realize that Mark did not materialize as usual.  When I turned around to look, he was nowhere to be found.  I panicked for a second and then just took off.  I knew he would want me to run my own race because we'd talked about it 100 times.  Last year he came and found me on the course as I was slowing down to find my girls and shook some sense into me.  Reminding me that I put in all those hours and my race was not about anyone else and to GO.  So I didn't wait. Over half of the runners were walking on the bridge and although my left ankle was killing me, I made a vow to myself not to walk a single step on that bridge.

Mile 22 heading into Crystal City, I started walking through the water stations to roll my ankle and stretch my back.  Crystal City is the biggest party on the course.  Bars are open, people have stereos blaring on the sidewalks, lots of spectators, a beer station and a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin station.  Nothing adds more levity to mile 24 than a camo-wearing Marine saying with a straight face "Chocolate Munchkin Ma'am?"  Based upon my donut admission in Part I, you can surmise that I partook of the Munchkin.  Sugar Explosion!

Out of Crystal City and onto the highway past the Pentagon for the finish.  There were a lot more spectators on this section last year but I think Sandy got the best of people.  The thousands of spectators around the finish were up in the distance and all that was left was the vertical climb off the highway to the Iwo Jima Memorial and the finish line.  The crowds pack in so close up that hill that they create a lane only about 2-3 runners wide as you're trying to get.up.the.hill.  It's inspiring and maddening all at once but there is no shortage of support!  Screaming, screaming, screaming... GO GO GO!!!  Take IWO!

And I did.  In 4:44:05.  A 17 minute improvement over my first marathon time last year.  I finished in a time I can live with for another year (or less, I might do Sedona in February!) and more importantly, I finished happy, healthy and smiling.

I teared up as I came through the receiving line of 50 Marines who are there to shake your hand and thank you after you cross the line.  Thank ME?  YOU are the miracle.  That you would voluntarily serve our country with your very lives.  I am humbled by your bravery and sacrifice.  Semper Fidelis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - The Run Up

I'm finally tucked safely back into my island home after a week long marathon extravaganza.  Here are the gory details and I mean gory... especially in the race recap.  Hope you've got a strong tummy!

Thursday Evening:  At the eleventh hour of packing, I received a package from my girlfriend Angie (of Ironman fame) with this letter and bracelet:

No matter what happens this weekend, "every little ting'/ gonna be alright"... Much love to you Angie!

Friday Morning:  All that stands between me and Washington D.C. is Hurricane Sandy.  What could go wrong?  The captain decided to change the flight plan to Miami because he had flown through the storm the previous afternoon and (I quote) "it's not fun".  To accommodate the new flight plan, we needed more fuel.  Remember, this is Barbados.  The fuel truck hooked up to the plane and the pump promptly broke.  They scrambled to get another fuel truck and by "scramble" I mean... well, you get the idea.  We were so late in to Miami we actually had to sprint to the gate ala OJ.  No worries, I had my magic bracelet!

Friday Night:  Met up with my friend Laurie from Portland that I hadn't seen since 1994!  SO great to catch up and learn about each other's lives.  She has done many amazing things with hers and I couldn't have asked for a better reunion.  Our "link" in this life, Brian Kalimanis, passed away in 2001.  I know for certain he was smiling down on us as we tried to pick our way through the Ruby Tuesday menu looking for vegan options.  I settled on four veggie "sides" and 32 oz of wine.  Not pretty.  

Saturday:  We got up early and made it to and through the Expo in good time.  ALL anyone is talking about is the weather.  How much will it rain?  What time will the rain start?  What kind of winds are we expecting?  Weather weather weather!  Mark and I picked up two disposable water-proof shells for $6 and called it good.  I only brought my running skirt which led to hours of discussion about buying and wearing new tights for the race.  Never try anything for the first time during a marathon.  I followed that sage advice and decided that I'd rather have wet legs that could possibly dry than wet pants chaffing for an eternity.

Saturday Night:  We all convened for our Last Supper at an Italian restaurant by the hotel.  The weather was warm enough to sit outside where we were treated to a dog fight between a Doberman and Newfoundland.  I wanted to cry the whole time the owners were trying to pull the dogs apart.  All emerged unscathed but my heart was pounding out of my chest.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law Jodi had given us pre-race gifts that lightened the mood considerably...
The front...

The back...

And lest we forget... Mark's "Monument"
Yes, these are the prototypes for our little family brain-child:  The Marathong.  Jodi used stickers to customize our undies and it didn't even matter that they were all extra large.  I laughed so hard I cried.  What dogfight?

Sunday Morning:  Got up early and coerced Mark into bringing me two glazed donuts from the buffet in the lobby. I never eat doughnuts but for some reason, the pure sugar rush before a race gets me going and doesn't upset my stomach.  So, donuts it is!  I also ate a veggie burger and drank two iced-coffees.  All systems were GO in the bathroom (totally appropriate information when discussing a marathon) and the streets were dry as we headed out to the start.

It seems that not one of us had a decent camera all weekend but at least we got this "phone photo" just before we walked the plank to the start line!

From Left:  Stacey (from Pittsburgh - FAST runner!), Cousin Robyn (squatting), Sister Jodi (in trash bag),  Handsome Husband, ME (my what pink socks you have!), Laurie (from Portland- she hates this and ALL photos) and Poonam (my beautiful from from Barbados, recently back in D.C.)