Part 11: THE BIG DAY! (OMG I’M SIGNED UP FOR A MARATHON!?!)

At 5:00 AM and the alarm on my cell phone sings: “GOOD MORNING BABABABABABABABABA GOOD MORNING BABABABABABABABA GOOD MORNING BABABABABABABABA BEAUTIFUL DAY IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY!”  My response: UGH!  IS IT REALLY TIME TO WAKE UP ALREADY?!  I did not get a good night’s sleep, it’s tough to come by these days with a teething and nursing baby.  I crawl out of bed and head to the bathroom, grabbing my clothes that I had set out on the dresser the night before.  I sleepily brush my teeth, wash my face (smacking it a few times & say to myself WAKE UP) and put my hair up in a pony tail secure with matching orange and black hair ties.  I get dressed and every bit of clothing I have on is part of the theme – HAPPY HALLOWEEN – I cover myself head to toe in orange & black!

I go down stairs and look at the clock and think ugh it’s so early blah!  As I put an english muffin in the toaster I hear Nancy come down the stairs, the look on her face is what I imagine mine to be, it says, really, do we have to do this?  Can’t we just go back to bed?  It’s so early!  We sit together at her dining room table and eat our english muffins and bananas (classic pre-race runner’s fare) we go over our game plan.  After we’re done eating I finish packing our bag.  We then lace up our shoes and head out the door.

We get into her truck and get ready to go before we even pull out of the parking spot I say “Oh $#!+ I forgot my sunglasses!”  So I run back into the house, up her millions of stairs and grab my Oakley’s!  I run back and say “It’s so dark out right now, I almost forgot them, that would’ve been disastrous once the sun came up!”  (FYI:  Nancy, Dave & I have all had corrective eye surgery; they had PRK and I had LASIK.  We all agree that it was one of the greatest things we ever did!  Only thing is that your eyes become more sensitive to light than they were before so you really depend on polarized sunglasses.  I am thankful that Nancy gave me my first pair, some Maui Jim’s and this past spring I added a pair of  Oakley’s to my sunglasses collection so that I could have a pair just for activity such as running.  So if you ever see me wearing sunglasses and you’re like why in the world is she wearing them right now?!  Well, now you know!)  We finally leave, luckily we decided to leave “early” so just in case we started “running late” we would still be on schedule.  We arrive at the Blue Line Metro Station, park, walk down to the platform and board as the red lights are flashing signaling that the train is about ready to depart.

While on the train we look around and realize that we are two of few decked out for the holiday – HAPPY HALLOWEEN FOLKS!  Nancy got a couple strange looks as people glanced down and saw her hot pink tights (she totally looked like Barbie from Toy Story 3 with her bright blue top & hot pink tights).  As my stop drew closer I put black tube socks on my arms (Nancy cut off the feet) and black gloves on my hands (the inexpensive 2/$1.50 one’s you can get at Target).  We discussed our post race meet up details one more time and wished each other luck!

As I depart the train and head out things are jam-packed with people!  Yet the jam steadily flows like molasses up the escalator (oh what a surprise, one of the escalator’s is out of service) and out the Pentagon Station!  It is still very dark out and I have NO CLUE where I am going so I just follow the crowd!  The crowd keeps walking, and walking, and walking to the complete opposite side of the Pentagon – it had to have been over a mile of walking!  Finally the runner’s area in the Pentagon parking lot is in sight but there’s a big jam again.  I go to the side with other folks and quickly realize that I need to get back towards the middle.  This jam was a security check point – that’s right folks, we had to be searched before we were allowed into the runner’s area!  It was most likely because of all the craziness that’s been going on lately with shots being fired into the Marine Corps Museum, around the Pentagon, and other places.

Once I’m cleared to go in I head for the port-a-potties and stand in line.  I love talking to people while you’re waiting in line, our biggest complaint was non-runners using the port-a-potties, geesh folks come on, we have somewhere to go!  The closer I get to the port-a-potties the smellier it gets.  I keep telling myself and others to remember to breath through the mouth not the nose till you’re done!  It’s finally my turn and I adhere to my own advise while I hover above the disgusting seat!  I sanitize my hands like crazy and head to the start.

I jog to the sign with my goal finish time (3:40-3:59), hop the corral, and hear someone call my name.  I look up and see one of the ladies I had met at the 1st Time Marathoner’s event on Friday!  I say: “HI!  HOW ARE YOU?  WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT WE WOULD RUN INTO EACH OTHER LIKE THIS?!?!”  We talk for a bit about our goals and our crazy experiences since we last saw each other a couple days ago.  We wish each other luck as the announcer preps us for the start.

THE CANNON’S BOOM SIGNALING THE START OF THE RACE AND WE ARE…still standing there!  For a few minutes we just stand there, dancing in place to the music!  Then we start to slowly jog and move towards the official starting line.  As we move to the start, I glance to the sides and they are covered with clothing and I think, I really hope someone collects all of these shirts and pants and donates them to a shelter!  As I cross the starting line I raise my hands in the air, cheer and wave to the camera’s (my Dad said he couldn’t find me on TV – too many people in black and orange)!  Here goes nothing!

As I mentally prepare myself for the first 3 miles, because they are supposed to be hilly, a woman falls in front of me.  Dodging her so as to not trip as well I ask her if she’s ok and she’s quickly getting up and going again.  I think geesh that sucks, we aren’t even a mile into the race and someone has already fallen!  It amuses me how many people are pulling over to “relieve” themselves; this is my biggest fear and I really hope that I don’t have to go until I’m done running!

The crowd carries me through the first 3 miles and as I cross over the marker for 5K (28 minutes 58 seconds) I think WOW, WE’VE ALREADY GONE 5K?!  Around mile 5ish I take off the tube socks – where my elbows were are white, and they are soaked with sweat; I take off the gloves and ball them all together.  I hang onto them for a while and say that I’ll ditch them at the next water station.  As we approach the next station I ditch the ball and grab a PowerAde thinking it was water, oops, so I slow down a bit to drink it, and I hear one of the Marine’s say: “Water, white cups, farther down!”  Now I know, black cups are for PowerAde and will be first at the station then the water will be in white cups towards the end of the station.

Before I know it I’m crossing the marker for 10K (58 minutes 19 seconds); I hit the split button on my watch and think, this is faster than most of my 10K finish times for races this year!  As we go by Georgetown University I can see the elite runners coming back from the turn around point.  They’re making their way down a steep hill and then I remember that the biggest incline is coming up around mile 8.  As I power up the hill I realize that it’s no worse than the hills through Nobles and that in general the hills on the course for the James Joyce Ramble are more difficult.  If I can do that then I can do this!  At the end of the “toughest part” of the course is the 15K marker (1 hour 29 minutes 9 seconds) and I am still feeling good and on pace.  As I cross the 20K marker (2 hours 17 seconds) I am comfortable with my pace still but wicked hungry!  Luckily just around the corner I see a sign for the food station and it’s supposed to be Clif Shots so I get excited because I’m thinking that they are the energy bloks that I trained with!  Then as I see the Marine’s I realize that they are not what I thought they were but are the “GU” like packets, which I’m not a huge fan of because it’s not GU!  So I grab one of each flavor and as I’m walking I force myself to take down a couple as well as chug some water.  As I cross the Half Marathon Marker (2 hours 8 minutes 21 seconds) pick up my pace and start running again.  At this point I think, I’d really like to run a Half Marathon one day!  Then I ponder that thought and say to myself really Liz, you just ran a half marathon!

I hit the 25K marker (2 hours 33 minutes 59 seconds) and though I am a bit off pace I’m still feeling good and not worrying too much about it.  Then as the 30K marker approaches (3 hours 9 minutes 20 seconds) and I finish up some more food I think to myself ok Liz, pick it up now, start using some of that energy reserve because you’re feeling good and you’re about to “Beat the Bridge” so get going!  I see where Nancy’s start was and emotion kicks in and I start to tear up a bit thinking: I’m almost done, and Nancy is done with her 10K, and I am so proud of her with all that she’s accomplished this year, I’m so lucky to have such an amazing big sis!  I wipe a tear from my eye, look up and there it is, just ahead of me, the dreaded bridge!  20 Miles are down!  What’s another 10K?!  As I’m running across the bridge I look to the side and see cars dead stopped in traffic!  I look around me and see lots of people walking, EMT’s going back and forth on their bikes, and a wheelchair group of Marine’s pushing a Wounded Warrior.  As the cross wind hits me I start to tear up again and think of Troy and how proud I am of him and all that he has done this past year!  I start to get a bit dizzy as the wind hits me again, so I begin to walk.  After walking for a minute I say to myself, come on Liz, pick it up and just get over this damn bridge!  Yet every time I start to run I get dizzy again.  It’s the bridge, the way the road looks is making me dizzy – ugh!

Finally I’m over the bridge and into Crystal City!  I walked through the water station, drank a PowerAde, drank a water, and dumped water on me.  Once through the water station I start to run again and the dizzy feeling is gone.  I see other people going through what’ll be the next water station and I see all the bright-colored flags and think, it won’t be too long now until I’m at the turn around point headed out of Crystal City.  As I stare at all the bright-colored flags I tear up again thinking of Sophia and how much she would enjoy something like this.  They say that Crystal City is the place to take kids during the marathon.  I’m so overwhelmed with emotion that I begin to walk again.  Why am I so emotional?!  I jog/walk/jog/walk between the flags.  Yet every time I start to run I start to cry!  So I have to walk to catch my breath!  Whatever this feeling is, it’s worse than labor!  The bright-colored flags and cowbell’s start to annoy me and I just want to get out of Crystal City!  I walk through the water station, repeating what I did at the last one.  This time I see all the people on the other side that are just entering Crystal City and I am thankful that I’m out!

As I cross the 35K marker (3 hours 49 minutes 28 seconds) I think to myself COME ON LIZ YOU CAN STILL BEAT OPRAH!  Yet as I head down the road and run again, I HIT A WALL!  WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RUNNER’S HIGH THAT’S SUPPOSED TO KICK IN RIGHT ABOUT NOW?!  I FEEL ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE!  SERIOUSLY, I COULD TOTALLY HAVE A CHILD WITH OUT ANY DRUGS NOW!  THIS IS HORRIBLE!  I cross the 40K marker (4 hours 33 minutes)  COME ON LIZ YOU HAVE A MILE & A HALF ISH TO GO!  MOVE BODY MOVE!  Yet my body doesn’t want to move and I’m literally talking out loud to myself!  I hit the 25 mile flag and say to myself, COME ON, JUST OVER A MILE TO GO – YOU CAN DO IT!  Yet my body disagrees with my mind!  I hear music in the distance and see the 26 mile flag MOVE IT BODY MOVE YOU ARE ALMOST DONE!  As I turn the corner I realize OMG THERE’S A HILL!?!?!?!  CHARGE THE DAMN HILL LIZ!  IT’S NOT EVEN THE BIGGEST HILL OF THE COURSE!  JUST GET UP THIS HILL AND YOU’LL BE DONE!  Finally I make it up the hill and cross the finish line with a time of 4 hours 50 minutes 46 seconds!

It’s all over!  UGH!  I feel worse than I did after I had Sophia!  The jams begin again as we slowly march towards the IWO JIMA MARINE CORPS MEMORIAL.  A Marine wraps a mylar blanket around me and then I stand in line to receive my medal – I tear up – I DID IT!  I stand in line to get my picture taken next to the memorial – I smile – I DID IT!  As I head out to the family meet up area I wonder, why are so many people trying to get in, just go to the family meet up area!  People are collapsing left and right and folks shout out, Medic needed!  I grab a couple of bottles of PowerAde and water; I grab my bag of food, open it to see what’s inside and dig into the packet of pretzels!  Once in the finish festival area I talk to folks around me and help guide them to where they need to go – apparently I’m the only one who can read the big huge yellow signs!  I stop at the Ocean Spray booth and taste samples of various cranberry juices, it makes me miss Massachusetts.  I take a bunch of craisin samples and head towards the big yellow sign C-D!  Nancy approaches me and I say, “Let’s just go home!”  As a nursing mother, I am ready to get back to my baby!

Nancy and I share our experiences on the way back.  When we board the train, I am afraid to sit down for fear that I won’t be able to stand up again.  Finally we take a seat and my body feels like it’s in another world!  We get off the train and head to the truck.  Our conversation goes back & forth something like this…Where did we park?  Ok not this level let’s go up another.  Where did we park?  No way we parked this far down!  Where did we park?  Are we sure we’re on this level?  Where’s the truck?  Is it on this side?  No, it’s on this side remember?  No, I don’t remember, it was so early in the morning!  Where did we park?  Ok, there it is!  We load into the truck and recall that there’s a Dunkin Donuts in the shopping plaza outside the station.  We “run” into Dunks & get a dozen donuts and a cup of coffee…hey, we deserve it & plus “AMERICA RUNS ON DUNKS” 

Now to answer the question on everyone’s mind…would you do it again?  YES!  Only under the following condition: SOMEONE ELSE RUNS WITH ME!  Troy and I have discussed running a marathon together, and I think that’ll be the push I need to qualify for Boston because that dream is still in my heart!  Also, Nancy’s next step is a half marathon and I really want to do a half marathon so I’ll happily support my big sis through that!  Then if she want’s to do a marathon, I’d support her through that as well!  Running the 35th Marine Corps Marathon was an amazing experience chock full of crazy lessons for life!  “26.2 – been there, run that!”

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