Marine Corps Marathon 2016: Race Recap

On Sunday October 30th, 2016, I ran my first marathon. A few days later my mind is still swirling with so many emotions from that day, and from the whole weekend. The experience of my first marathon, the Marine Corps marathon is something I’m not sure I can put into words, but I’ll sure try to. It’s going to be a long one, so buckle in for the ride.

Friday – Shakeout run + Expo day

After picking up my mom at BWI after a crazy week at work (as a first year SLP, they’re all crazy) I was excited to run on Friday. The taper crazies hit me earlier in the week and I was incredibly moody. I ran two super easy miles and almost fell on my face as I was turning into my complex. Running felt harder than it should have at first, but I felt great by the time I was done.

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By mid-morning we were headed to Alexandria, VA, where we were staying. After a quick lunch we took an Uber to the Expo, which was in National Harbor. While the area was beautiful and everything was new, I don’t get why the expo was there. It was a hassle to get there as it wasn’t accessible by the metro. Uber worked well on the way in, but took forever because of the traffic and the water taxi was a nice way back, but was a little pricey and then we had to wait over half an hour for the hotel shuttle to get back to our hotel.

Bib + shirt pick-up went smoothly. The Marines who gave me my bib eased my nerves by talking about Forrest Gump, my favorite. After picking out goodies at the Brooks store, my mom and I waited in line for almost an hour to check out. Remind me to get my jacket online next time. We spent another hour or so exploring the expo, stopping by the Balega/Fleet Feet, Nuun, Sweaty Bands, and BeeCause Charms booths. I had been saving my pennies, but my mom seriously spoiled me. I can’t thank her enough! I would have stayed and browsed longer, but the more crowded it got, the more overwhelmed I felt and I had to get out of there!

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Saturday: Pre-race prep

Saturday morning we slept in, then made our way on the metro to Clarendon. My mom’s birthday was a couple of weeks prior, and all she wanted was to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. I was happy to show her how to use the metro for the next day, so it worked out well. On the way back to Alexandria, we stopped in Rosslyn to explore the finish area. It was calming to see how the finisher’s area was laid out, and to see how far I would have to walk after running for 5+ hours. We also took some time to appreciate the Iwo Jima memorial, as it would be crowded the next day. My father was a Marine, and my cousin was in the Marines for 26 years – it was a great way to reflect and appreciate their service as the marathon grew closer. We were also privileged to see some Honor Flights of veterans at the memorial, which was a cool experience.

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We arrived back to the hotel to have Ben waiting for us. Another friend, Laura, joined us for some cards and take-out italian food before it was time to get ready and head to bed. I was in bed by 10 and surprisingly slept like a rock!

Sunday morning: Race day!

I woke up at 4:10, shortly before my alarm. Ben and I were out the door by 4:50. Since the metro wasn’t opening until 7, we had to take two differerent shuttles, then walk almost a mile to the runner’s village. It was already pretty warm, so I left my throwaways in the room, aside from some socks turned arm warmers. After about an hour, I dropped my bag at the UPS bag drop, and we made our way to the start. It was a beautiful sight as the sun came up and we could see Rosslyn in front of us, and the Washington Monument in the distance to our right. After a couple of porta-jon trips, a November Project bounce, and settling into our corral, we were ready to go.

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The morning wasn’t complete without a picture with a Marine!

Miles 1-3: Rosslyn – Elevation wise, these were the hardest miles of the race. It started all uphill. I really didn’t mind, as I planned to start slow and knew the hills would help with that. We ended up starting faster than I planned, and I felt bad when I kept telling Ben to slow down. I was feeling good, but I really didn’t want to regret it later on. My watch was already ahead by .2 miles at the 3 mile mark. (11:57, 12:03, 12:32).

Miles 4-14: Nice and steady – After leaving Rosslyn, we eventually got into a rhythm with 90:30 run/walk intervals. I could tell Ben pretty much hated me for holding him back, but he agreed to run with me and that was my race plan :P. These miles flew by and I really enjoyed myself. The Blue Mile at mile 10.5-11.5 was moving and emotional; it took all I had not to cry. Around mile 12, I got bored running around Haines Point and the heat started to get to me. Besideds a slight side stitch, I felt pretty good, aside from the mental struggle. (miles consistent between 11:12-11:50)

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Miles 15-18: Overheating – After returning to the National Mall, the sun was starting to shine and the heat started to take a toll on me. Not only that, but I could start feeling my right ITB starting to tighten up. I looked everywhere for my mom, called her, and she was nowhere to be found. My saving grace was getting a text from Jake saying he was at mile 18 (right before the bridge) and knowing that the NP cheer station was coming up. I ran so hard to Jake when I finally saw him, gave him my (really gross) hat, and tried to mentally prepare myself for “the bridge”. (12:47, 12:26, 12:37, 13:02, watch now .25 ahead).

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A “I’m smiling but I really hate this” face. Running or walking? Who knows.

Miles 18-20: THE BRIDGE – Oh, how “Beat the Bridge” earned a new meaning. I knew that runners had to “Beat the Bridge”, however pace wise I wasn’t worried about the time cut off so I didn’t really think about it. It was seriously the worst. No protection from the sun. No water. Going from thousands of spectators and bands, to nothing. As we ascended the bridge, my right knee locked up from the ITB tightness. I tried to stop and stretch, but I knew it wasn’t going to help. I had 8 miles left, was on pace to run around 5:15, and my ITB was going to ruin my day. These miles were so miserable, and I was so happy to be done with it just a bit after mile 20. (13:02, 12:43, 12:48).

Miles 21-26: The death march – While in terms of my heart and lungs I felt great but I was in so much physical pain from my knee that I mentally started to give up. I was frustrated, and kept telling Ben to leave me so I could just finish slowly, alone. There was no way I was giving up, but I knew I couldn’t speed back up. Running around the Pentagon the first time was so boring, and while coming into Crystal City to water, music, spectators, and people giving out ICE (I LOVE YOU), I just couldn’t get my mojo back. Eventually, I changed my stride a bit to compensate for my right leg, but it didn’t help much.  I did have one lady tell me that I was a good “rabbit” and she had been trying to catch me for 14 miles, so that did make me feel a little better. Heading back onto the highway for the last two miles made for a lonely “death march”. I was over heated, beginning to feel some dehydration creeping in, and really didn’t want to run on my hurting leg any more. Walk break selfies became a thing to make Ben let me walk more, and I stopped more often to try to stretch out my ITB. (Miles between 12:48-14:40). (Fun note: we ran alongside Jeff Galloway for a whole like, half a mile! We passed him around mile 8, but he caught up. Run/walk works!)

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“My watch says 26.2! But I haven’t gotten to the 26 mile marker yet! I can’t bend my knee!” smile

Mile 26-end: I did it! While I walked more than I wanted to in the last half mile or so, I felt renewed energy knowing I did it, and I persevered through the unexpected happenings of the day. I saw a great friend of mine before the last hill. After walking a few steps half-way up the hill, I saw my boyfriend and his goofy wave in the grandstands. Despite the pain I was in, I gave it my all and finished with a smile. I finished my first marathon! Official time: 5:32:17.

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This is getting pretty long, so I’ll save you the post-race details. In short, there were so many people that finding anyone was chaotic. Someone told me I couldn’t leave the beer tent with my drink, so I poured it in my Nathan bottle and went on my way. Almost 3 hours later I finally had a meal, dropped my mom off at the airport, and was home to watch the Walking Dead with Jake. (But actually, I napped while he watched)

Thank you so much for all of your support, despite my sporadic presence on here lately. I felt it so much! I’m not sure where to go from here, but I for sure know there are many more marathons in my future.

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Harpoon Octoberfest Race Recap

On Sunday I made the drive down to Windsor, Vermont for the Harpoon Octoberfest Race (3.6 miles) at the Harpoon Brewery. I’d been wanting to go there for a long time, and I figured this was my perfect opportunity since I had a long weekend from school. I signed up just a week beforehand and was really excited to test out my race strategy/outfit before the Baltimore Half Marathon.

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My friend Sam and I pulled off the interstate at 10ish and immediately ran into some traffic getting into the brewery. Thankfully we were parked by 10:20 and by 10:35 I had my bib, beer wristband, and beer tickets. There were so many people in festive outfits which totally made me in the mood for this Octoberfest run. I loved being in my element and getting to share it with a friend from school. After a quick stretch I placed myself about 3/4 of the way back in the start corral and waited for the gun my garmin to fail to connect to the satellites.

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SO HAPPY to be at brewery #20 (#13 in Vermont).

I was so socked in for the first mile to mile and a half. There were over 1,100 racers and I was right in the middle of all of them. The worst was about .25 miles in, as we went through a steep, narrow uphill out of the brewery. Thankfully I was able to run to the side so I wasn’t stuck walking behind everyone before my walk interval began! I hated only having my watch read the time. I reached the 1 mile marker in 10:33. Much slower than I wanted, but it could have been worse for all the weaving and slowing down I had to do. There were also three good hills in the first mile.

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Mile 2 was really good, as there were two good downhills in the section. I finally started feeling good and had more room. My running pace was faster and I hit the 2 mile marker (next to a german band) with a 9:22 mile 2. Then came an awful uphill that I was so happy to make it up running but died at the top. Then another hill. It was brutal. My third mile was 10:40 and I was mad! 

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Finally I could hear the music from the brewery and I stepped it up. I knew I wanted to finish the 3.6 mile race in under 36:00. I gave it all I had and before I knew it, I was at a steep downhill going back down into the brewery. I started passing everyone in front of me and finished with my watch reading 35:40. Yeah, I was a little happy to run the last .6 miles at an 8:30 pace for an average pace of 9:45 and 637th place.

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My favorite part of this race? The beer mug! We were given it filled with water (perfect), and got to fill it with beer during the Octoberfest festival that followed. It’s my new favorite cup. But honestly, I finished this race loving everything. I was on a runner’s high through Monday night. Plus, after I was done running Sam and I had a great time having a few beers, listening to the “oompah music” and people/dog watching.

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Race Strategy: 

While my garmin never connected to the satellites I still ran with it to keep to my 4:1 run:walk intervals. Sure, I probably could have done this race straight out, but my main goal for this race was to get a feel for what this weekend’s half marathon will be like. I plan on doing intervals, as that’s how I’ve been training to come back from my leg injury. I wanted to know what it felt like to do the intervals during a race. To be honest it completely sucked at first. It sucks to be passed, especially while walking just 4 minutes into the race. But it was also very nice to pass people, as the walking made me able to push the pace in my running segments. I was also happy to run all the hills, as I’ll be facing quite a few in Baltimore.

Race Details:  11 am start (LOVE). $40 reg, which came with two beer tickets, a food ticket, and the souvenir glass. T-shirts were available for $25. Instant results were available for the field of 1,136 (big for Vermont!). Octoberfest followed where you could drink and eat all day! There were fun bands and activities like “keg bowling”. We didn’t stay too long but I loved what we saw. Top runners won nice steins/glasses and cases of Harpoon beer. Free race pictures are available as well. I can’t wait to see mine when they are finally available!

While I plan to be in Maryland this time next year, I would totally travel back to Vermont for this race. The course was challenging but manageable, everyone was having a great time, and the Octoberfest festival was a blast. I wish we could have stayed longer but there’s no way I could have stayed then driven home :P. This race definitely made me feel confident about where I’m at. I can’t believe I’ll be running half marathon #6 is just 3 days away!