It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished my 3rd Marine Corps Marathon, the 38th MCM. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on that day and am ready to share the journey with you.
First let us go back a bit to 6 months before the MCM, and we are now in a post-Boston Marathon bombings world. It hit the running community hard but we all stood up and we took to the road in solidarity. Back then I thought: ok this is it, I can do it this year, I want to try to qualify for Boston as my personal tribute. It is a tough time to hit for a marathon, one I had never even come close to; but I had been training hard 6 days a week and wasn’t about to slow down. Yet then suddenly, almost 3 months post Boston on 7/7 my world was hit by another IED on the other side of the world and I received that phone call that no military spouse ever wants to receive. We are extremely fortunate because it could’ve been worse. I am thoroughly convinced that daily rosary and prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel are what shielded Troy that day. After that my training was never the same. My focus completely changed and though I was extremely grateful to have Troy home the adjustment was very difficult! Reintegration is tough but tossing in the suddenness of your soldier coming home due to an injury throws things to a whole new level. By the way, I want to give a shout out of thanks to my amazing friends and family whom helped me out immensely in the days before Troy came home. Y’all know who you are and I love y’all very much and am eternally grateful for your help.
Ok well here we were now 3 months out from my 3rd MCM and even though I was running faster than ever, I had doubts in my ability to hit a Boston Marathon qualifying time now. In August I ran the milestone half marathon as a marker to see how I’d do; although I ran my best half marathon time it solidified for me that I would be lucky if I even hit a sub 4 hour marathon, so I adjusted my goals. My goal was to now hit 4ish hours. All of my training pointed to this being a realistic goal. My training hadn’t been as intense for the last couple of months, which honestly is the time frame to be honing in on solid training. Then another blow – the government shutdown and just a couple weeks before the marathon there was talk that the event would be cancelled! Luckily the government reopened just in time, yet still that mentally messed with people’s training plans. I know I know the shutdown was rough but the fact that it threatened a huge event with major economical implications for the DC and metro DC areas goes to show how far reaching and crazy silly some of the shutdown theatre was!
On Thursday, October 24th, after a morning full of meetings and “work” we packed up the van and headed up to NOVA (northern Virginia). We made it just inside Virginia before calling it a day.
The next morning we took off from the hotel and completed our journey to my sisters house (only about 3 hours left to go at that point). On the way we of course passed Marine Corps Base Quantico and seeing the triangle made the reality of the weekend start to set in.
We made it to my sisters and decided to head to the expo for packet pick up. One thing I had always hated in years past was the craziness of being at the expo on Saturday, the day before the event. I had hoped that going on Friday would help me feel relaxed the day before instead. Sophia and Ceci stayed at my sisters with my mom, and Tedy went with Troy and I to the expo.
After a slightly annoying trip on the Metro (FYI folks the machines to get a smart trip card only take $1, $5 or $10 and the ATM only spits out $20 and they don’t give change at the booth yet luckily we found a lady selling candy bars and she kindly made change for us) we made it to the DC Armory for packet pick up and the expo!
After a potty break (kudos to MCM for having a special military ID card holder entrance because I probably would’ve peed my pants if I had to wait in the main line) we picked up our packets and headed into the expo. Side note folks – look back to my blog from earlier this year about expos because for big events you typically have to go to multiple places until you’ve gathered everything for the event! I was right about going to the expo on Friday vs Saturday that’s for sure, it was much less crowded than I remembered. The only crazy crowd to me was the 2 hour line to buy the official merchandise gear. Which by the way folks if you look online they typically have it on the website as well. I still have yet to buy anything extra because I feel like the prices are ridiculously insane! I’m not the kind of runner who buys another $40 plus dollar shirt or something when the event already gives me a pretty cool shirt as part of my entry. After we gathered all of our necessary gear we browsed around the expo. BUYER BEWARE – I have been to numerous expos and have left extremely disappointed in the “deals” very rarely anymore does an expo carry something that my local store can’t get for me and with that the prices haven’t been better than what they normally are at the amazing Georgia Game Changers (my local natural running store in Richmond Hill, GA). Honestly only two booths had true “deals” 1) Newton had last seasons models of shoes at phenomenal prices. Aka $80 for a pair that’s typically $130. 2) NUUN had a 2 for $10 deal that tossed in a decent MCM themed water bottle as well. We spent a whopping $10 on some NUUN. One thing I like about expos though is that they often give you the opportunity to learn more about the companies that sponsor the event and the charities that benefit from the event. I will say though free swag has significantly decreased over the years but that’s expected in this new fiscal reality that we all live in. Yet one cool freebie we participated in was with USAA, they had a photo booth and so we decided to have our picture taken. We filled out the sign and decided to dedicate our runs on Sunday to Troy’s battalion especially since they’re still deployed.
After the expo we grabbed some dinner (I still epically failed at eating properly the day of an expo) and headed back to my sisters house.
Saturday, the day before the marathon was probably the most relaxed I had ever been before a large event and honestly I wasn’t as relaxed as I wanted to be though. I’m not sure if it’s a nerves thing, or a being away from home thing, or what but the night before a big race is always nerve wracking! We went over our game plans and I laid out my clothing for the next morning.
For the first time in large event history for me, I chose to utilize the clear bag we were given so I could drop it at the UPS trucks in the morning and have things at the finish line.
After a restless nights sleep and a very early alarm my sis, Troy and I headed to the metro. Nancy would be participating in her first marathon and Troy was going to meet up with my dad to pace him through his first official 10k. When Nancy and I got off the metro at the pentagon the sites and sounds were familiar. It was pitch black, cold and a herd of people! Side note if you ever do the MCM like many large events it’s a good mile plus walk to he actual runners village. Honestly I wish I turned my Garmin on so I could track how far it truly is! Stop 1: security check point. There has always been security at this event because you’re in the pentagon parking lot but standards for what types of bags you can have with you have gotten tighter since the Boston bombing. Stop 2: porta-potty. While waiting for the lovely facilities (truly though MCM does a good job and has a ton of them along the entire course so they really aren’t that bad) we watched the amazing Wounded Warrior Jump Team do a pretty rocking opening ceremony! Stop 3: UPS Truck. After the UPS truck I started to shiver uncontrollably. I have no clue what hit me, my jacket wasn’t that heavy, I still had sleeves and ear warmers on but I just couldn’t get warm! Final stop: the starting line (which again is a decent walk and yet again I wish I had my Garmin on just out of curiosity). While going up to the start I was reminded of how small of a world we live in because a guy behind me got my attention and said hey Georgia Game Changers I’m from Richmond Hill. Dear whomever you are: I’m sorry we didn’t get a pic together at the time, I was way too zoned on the start and still trying to figure out how to warm up.
Here’s my pics from the start.
Shortly after arriving at the start the cannon boomed and we were off. I hated leaving my sister. A big part of me wanted to stay with her. We went our separate ways but she never left my mind. Disclaimer: these are my raw feelings and they aren’t all sunshine and roses so please don’t tell me how I should feel because you can’t rewind time and hey you’re not me (it kinda bugs me that I even have to put this disclaimer but not every race is pretty, especially when you’re at the marathon level, you hit such crazy highs and lows). Honestly from the beginning I felt like crap! My body temperature just wouldn’t regulate! After the first 5K I ditched my 4ish hour goal and just wanted to beat my time from the year before. By the 2nd water station I had ditched my sleeves (tip: I’ve done this many times and it works great – I get the $2ish long socks from Target and cut the toe they keep my arms warm and I don’t feel bad about tossing them) and for the next couple miles debated getting rid of my ear warmer (tip: either buy a cheap ear warmer or if you can sew take some fleece scraps and make your own, that’s what I typically do because then again I don’t feel bad about tossing it) and finally did by the next water station. Yet of course about a mile after I ditched my ear warmer I got cold again and couldn’t seem to regulate my body temp again! At that point I was mentally starting to lose it. Plus there had been a really annoying turn around where we completely slowed down to a slow walk. You see they re-did the course a bit and got rid of the gianormous hill around mile 8 and replaced it with an out and back. I’m not a fan of out and backs because I get distracted at looking at who is in front of me and who is behind me. Plus it bugged me that I didn’t see anyone I knew, mainly that I didn’t see my sis. By mile 10 I just wanted to make it to the half marathon mark and found the inspiration to do so by the two things pictured below.
On the right is that Georgia Game Changers guy I had originally seen at the start and on the left is the Run to Remember tribute where the street is lined with pictures of soldiers whom gave it all in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as flags with streamers of the names of these soldiers. As always I was moved and this year I started to get super emotional and cried thinking of the guys I’ve known that were likely to be named on one of those streamers. I wish I could’ve walked through it and read them all but I solemnly ran through praying for them all and ended my prayers with one of thanks to God for bringing my soldier home.
Once I hit the half way point I stopped at the next set of porta-potties for a break, hey this running a marathon thing is long and when you’ve gotta go well, you’ve gotta go! Like I said before, I simply mentally was not in it and so I set another small goal and that was to make it to the gauntlet, mile 17 with time to spare. I happily hit the gauntlet and knew I had just 3 more miles until the dreaded bridge so I tried to enjoy the scenery and even stopped to take some pics.
Top Left – actually taken earlier in the race just before entering into the Georgetown area. Top Right – Washington Monument. Bottom Left – my favorite sign along the route. Bottom Right – said building where those people “work”.
Then I hit mile 20, I did it, I BEAT THE BRIDGE! I was so excited and exhausted and even though I typically run a 10K well under an hour I knew I didn’t have it in me to pull something like that out of my butt! So I enjoyed the scenery a bit more though honestly I think many people on the bridge were feeling about as crummy as I was because it looked like an episode of the walking dead with zombie runners on the route just trying to muster through to the end.
After the bridge and hitting the water stop entering into Crystal City I began to wog (walk/jog) through a part of the course that I loathe. Not so sure why but I’m going to blame that it’s an out and back that makes me dislike this part of the course. Yet then I heard my name, turned around and yet again saw just how small of a world it is we live in – it was David (my friend Amy’s hubby and fellow Ft Stewart folk)
When we saw Amy we took a little break for pics and greetings and then headed back onto the course. Honestly David got me through Crystal City. We only ran together for about 20 minutes or so but it was just what I needed to take my mind off the part of the course I hate the most. Once we hit the Dunkin Donuts aid station I waved him on to go ahead and finish up. I was hurting and simply thankful for him getting me through that part. After that I wogged my way through the rest of the course texting Troy along the way. I also received a text from my friend Jennifer, she wasn’t able to make it up and deferred her entry but she was cheering me and others on from afar. She must’ve known I was hurting and sent me just the words I needed at the time to help me power through to the end. At 26.1 I saw my dad and Troy as I turned that final corner and charged that stupid little painful last hill up to the finish. I was crying as I hit the finish line that race did not go as I had planned and took way more out of me than I imagined. I was flooded with mixed emotions and thankful to have made it through another marathon!
Here’s my official splits vs my watch of course I went more than 26.2 hey I did stop to use the porta-potty half way through remember. Though honestly at the time I couldn’t figure out how I had accumulated so much more mileage than the actual course; I guess that goes to show just how fried my brain was.
Then came the long haul to the finish festival and yet again I wish I had reset my Garmin to calculate out of curiosity how much extra mileage I logged after the event. I met my dad and Troy at the UPS truck then while walking to the family link up area we ran into David, Amy and their two adorable kiddos (my kiddos have never been out to see me race a big event and honestly it’d probably be a bit too chaotic for them to handle right now.) it was so good to see them again, after chit-chatting a bit we bid them farewell and then the awkward wait began. There had been some issues with the MCM app and receiving runner notifications. Then the time when the course closes hit and still no word from Nancy. I had a sinking feeling and so I have her a call. She didn’t complete the marathon but I am extremely proud of her! It was her first time attempting something this crazy and in my opinion a DNF is better than a DNS. She made it to the gauntlet, 17 miles – that’s huge! She’s had a ton of things to overcome, especially physically, and I’m not going to get into the details of it all because it’s her life and not mine but I hated seeing her cry. I hope she knows how proud I am I her and how much I love her and how blessed I am to have her as my big sis. Not many sisters attempt some of the crazy things we have and it may not always be pretty but it always makes for a good memory.
On that note folks I realized a lot about myself and my relationship with the marathon distance as well. I’ve had time to discuss it with Troy and have determined that I really don’t like running that distance alone. So I’m taking a bit of a break from the traditional marathon and we currently have OKC 2015 penciled in on our calendars. I also learned a lot about myself as an adult athlete and honestly running is boring – I totally prefer triathlons instead. Don’t get me wrong I still have other running events that I’m signed up for and will continue to run some shorter distance events but will be taking some time off from the marathon world for a bit.
Finally, even though I had a tough time getting through the 38th MCM and even though it is a tough course it is still my favorite and will always hold a special place in my heart and I’m sure I’ll return to it one day yet for now I just want to give a shout out to the Marine Corps for yet again putting on a stellar event that truly lives up to it’s name: “The People’s Marathon” OORAH!
Troy rocking his MCM 10K Mock!
Me rocking my MCM Mock. Side note – LOVE the new tech mock; I’ve already worn it more than the other two I have combined!
*updated on 12 November 2013 to correct grammatical errors*