10/26/2014 Marine Corps Marathon 10K
Official Time: 1:23:12
Place out of Females Age 35-39: 555/675
Goal Accomplished: REACH! I ran the whole way. :)
The Marine Corps Marathon Health & Fitness Expo is a great event! Unfortunately it's also a HUGE event, since the races are likewise huge, and my 3-year-old son and I had to wait an hour in a line that stretched all the way around the building in order to go through security and get inside. The kiddo handled the wait well, but it was really sort of ridiculous. I hope they find a way to streamline the security process in the future.
ANYWAY, once we survived the super long line and security checkpoint, I picked up my bib from a very polite Marine (is there any other kind?) and then headed back upstairs to SHOP! I picked up some fun headbands, one of which I wore in the race (I know, I know! Nothing new on race day! I just love breaking that rule. Hahaha). I also got a few running and triathlon stickers which I may or may not put on my car, as well as some flavors of GU that I hadn't seen at REI. We sampled water flavored with Nuun, and also some Clif products. My son got a cowbell and a piece of candy from the Wounded Warrior Project booth, and was very excited to hug the MCM mascot and pose for a picture. :)
All in all, we had a great time at the expo, though I worried that all the walking had given me a blister!! I was very careful of my left big toe for the rest of the day, and thankfully a full blister never developed then or during the race. WHEW!!
My perfect plan included getting to sleep early that night, but we got home late from a Halloween event with the kids and had to get them all to bed, and then I needed to make signs in support of my friends running the marathon, and finish frosting the cupcakes I'd made for my friend Sherene. She brought me cupcakes after Iron Girl, and I wanted to return the favor when she crossed the MCM finish line, on her birthday no less! Fortunately, any other prep for a running race is minimal compared to a triathlon, so I was not overwhelmed with other tasks to do. Still, I got to bed later than I'd hoped.
I started off the day on the wrong foot by completely oversleeping. My alarm went off, and I heard it, and I turned it off....and didn't get up. Already two of my plans for getting my friend's cupcakes to the finish line (since I couldn't very well run with them!) had already fallen through, so I was depending on getting up early enough to drive to Crystal City and park there. That way I could take the post-race shuttle to my car and retrieve the cupcakes, then cheer on my friends on the marathon course, and easily shuttle back to the finish line. However, I HAD to leave early enough to have plenty of time to find parking and then metro into DC to the 10K start line. I had no back-up plan if I couldn't find parking, and I knew it would fill up early. Oversleeping meant the Crystal City plan was too risky, so I had to scrap it and just drive to the metro nearest me to go into DC. (My final back-up cupcake plan involved my husband bringing them to me at the finish line sometime in the early afternoon...yeah, that didn't happen either. :-( So now I still owe Sherene some cupcakes!!)
Let me say right now -- the mishaps were only JUST beginning. Luckily I had done some Metro research the night before and happened to notice a note that the station closest to my house was closed for the weekend, so I'd have to drive to the next one up. I got to this other station and found that I was on the wrong side of the tracks from the actual parking lot and had no idea how to get to the other side. My choices were to drive around looking for a way and potentially wasting time, or parking in the "kiss and ride" section and hope that they don't ticket on the weekends. I don't use Metro much anymore, so I'm no longer familiar with all those details. I did notice another group of runners a few cars over, and decided if they were going to risk parking there, I would too.
My next struggle was with the farecard machines. My husband's old SmarTrip card was no longer working, and the machines from which you could buy new ones were likewise not working. I had no choice but to buy a paper farecard, which would make my trips cost more. So frustrating! But finally I had a useable farecard and was through the gates. I hopped on the escalator up to the tracks....and it stopped when I was about halfway up! Yes, okay, I'm a runner, and a triathlete, and in good enough shape to run a 10K, so walking up the rest of the way was not going to kill me. Still, it seemed like an eerily bad omen. LOL
Once I was finally on the train and on my way, I was able to take a deep breath and calm myself from the craziness of the morning. I knew I was going to make it to the start in plenty of time, and had nothing left to focus on at that moment but my race and the experience. Just like in 2010, the train full of runners had a festive energy that I soaked up and thoroughly enjoyed. That energy carried me from the train to the mall, where I quickly got through the security checkpoint (note to those who plan to do this race: I got off the Metro at Archives/Navy Memorial rather than switch lines, and it was a great decision, because the security line on our side of the mall was short and fast. The throngs coming from the Smithsonian stop on the other side of the mall had huuuuuuge long lines to wait in!). I passed by the starting line and had to snap a pic of the Marine color guard.
I took some time to get my bearings and take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of race day. Being in such an iconic part of our Nation's Capital, I figured a selfie was in order, so I grabbed a shot with the Washington Monument in the background. Before long, I realized that nearly every racer I saw was also taking a monument selfie. It would be funny if we could all post those pics in the same place somewhere! Next I noticed that the porta potty lines were pretty long, so I joined one. By the time I was done with that, it was time to really get ready. I ditched my official race t-shirt, and put on my awesome new "Semper Fi" headband I'd bought at the expo, along with my SPI belt with race bib attached. After I checked my bag to the UPS folks, I snapped a few more pics, including one more monument selfie with my "game face" on, and then a shot looking off into the distance to where the race would eventually end. Rosslyn looked soooooo far away!
Why does my game face look like I'm trying not to laugh??
See these those tiny buildings waaaaaaay in the distance? Yikes!
You know my goals for the race, but I haven't told you my plan for achieving them. I actually came up with this plan a month ago or so, and tried to use it in my long training runs, but could never stayed focused long enough. The plan was to dedicate each of the 6 miles to someone in my family, starting with my husband and working my way down through the kids. The last .2, straight uphill to the finish, would be just for me.
The start of the race was fairly uneventful, since I knew what to expect having done the race before: big crowd, slow progress from the back corrals to the actual start line, lots of walkers to dodge early on, etc. The course had changed slightly since 2010, giving us more time in DC before heading over the 14th Street bridge, and that was cool. We ran toward the Capitol a ways, then crossed the Mall and ran back towards the Washington Monument. At the second turn, there was a huge group of Marines lined up along the left side, giving high-fives to all the racers who went past. I saw what was happening and darted across from the right side of the street to the left -- no way was I going to miss out on Marine high-five action! :)
My dedication strategy worked perfectly right from the start. Each mile, I kept the person in mind, thinking of all the things I love about him or her and praying for all of them as well. I tried to imagine what that person might say if he/she could see me at that moment, and during the rough spots I summoned their spirits to keep me going. I was sad that my family couldn't actually be at the race with me, but by dedicating my run to them, I really felt like they WERE with me the whole way!
In general, I can't say enough good things about this race. The course is not too hilly (except for the finish, of course) and has plenty of great scenery and some crowd support. The atmosphere out on the course is jovial and encouraging and overwhelmingly positive. As I ran, I thought about not just my family but also the last time I did this race and what it felt like, physically and mentally, and how far I have come since then. I felt strong and confident most of the time; my rough moments did come, but not when/where I expected them! I thought about walking a few times, but I was afraid that my knees would start to hurt, making it nearly impossible to start running again. I decided that my safest bet was to keep running the whole way and not walk until the race was done, and that's exactly what I did!
I was inspired by many of the other runners, but especially a man who passed me in the final mile, running on not one but TWO prosthetic legs. Holy cow -- if he could keep going, I sure had no excuse to stop! The last mile was also extra meaningful for me because it was the mile I ran for my daughter, which made me think a lot about the body image issues she'll face in her life and how I long to help her grow up confident in who she is, with little concern for how others perceive her appearance. I want her to learn from my active lifestyle that women can be strong, and strong is beautiful, but also that no matter how conventionally beautiful she might be, that's still one of the absolute least important parts of her identity. I want to teach her to love her body for what it can do, not hate it for not meeting some arbitrary standards society has for how it should look -- and the best way to teach her this is to model it myself. And above all, I want her to love herself enough to focus on being kind and brave and smart and strong and all the positive traits that matter so much more than physical beauty. With that in mind, I finished the 6th mile strong and headed to the dreaded hill.
Running just for me -- for who I am, and for who I am trying to become...for what I've been through and for what lies ahead...for all that is inside me and for all that I am trying to put out into the world -- I leaned in and killed the hill, and crossed the finish line feeling amazing!
And tired. I also felt tired. For fun, I thought I'd get a selfie to show y'all how I look after running six point two. I almost look like I ran TWENTY-six point two. Heh heh.
I call this my "game OVER face."
Last time I ran this race, I was in such a daze at the finish that I wandered around for a while and totally passed by the medals. It wasn't until I saw other runners wearing theirs that I realized I'd missed them and went back to find them. This time I was DETERMINED not to miss my medal, so I carefully followed the crowds right to the chutes, pausing to admire the Iwo Jima Memorial in the background.
As I posted on Facebook after the race, having a Marine put a medal on me was an awesome experience, making it a beautiful moment mixed with both pride and humility. And my Marine was particularly awesome, posing for pics with several of us and being patient when my first 2 attempts at a photo didn't work. :)
Oh, and he was pretty cute too.
For some reason, I didn't feel like posing for one of the official "finisher photos" in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial, but then at the last minute I tried to snap a selfie before I left the area.
You can...kinda....see....the flag???
The rest of the day can best be described as a "hot mess." I made my way through the Finisher Festival, snagging as many freebies as possible. (One of my favorites was the free watermelon...they were giving away containers of it, and the sweet, cool, juicy fruit tasted A-M-A-Z-I-N-G after the race!!) Then I collected my "Mission Accomplished" jacket, which kept me warm while I wandered to the UPS trucks to get my checked bag.
Finally I was ready to head to Crystal City to cheer on my friends in the marathon, but pretty much nothing else went according to plan after that. Though I was getting text updates about where my friends were on the course, I still managed to miss them in the throngs of runners passing by, so they never got to see the signs I'd made for them. My cow bell kept malfunctioning. I had a raging headache (probably from the lack of caffeine...my coffee pot had broken the day before and oversleeping meant there was no time in my hectic morning to stop and buy a cup!), and I grew hungrier by the minute despite having eaten some of the free food right after the race. I took the shuttle back to the finish line to try to meet up with my friends there, but my phone battery had died and for some reason would not cooperate at the free charging station provided by USAA.
I did get to see one of my friends briefly, but then ran into trouble trying to go home because the lines for both the metro and the shuttle buses had grown exponentially throughout the day. I had done a ton of walking already and my feet were toast, so I couldn't bear the thought of standing in a line. Basically, I bonked, and I bonked hard. I was too hungry and tired and headachy and foot achy to function at all, and I felt weirdly disconnected from the world since my phone was dead. I sat down on a step in front of a building for a long time and tried just to relax and clear my thoughts. Finally I got the idea to walk to the metro station at Arlington National Cemetery. It probably took the same amount of time as I would have spent in line at Rosslyn, but at least I was moving forward. Plus the route took me past the finish line and end of the race course again, so I could watch some of the later marathon finishers. I felt very inspired by the people finishing in 6+ hours, because that's probably how long it would take me if I ever attempted a marathon, and I admire anyone who can push through the pain for that many hours!!!
Once I was on the train heading home, I could relax and start to shake off all the mishaps and foibles of the day, and focus on what was great about it. My race felt amazing, and I'm very happy with my time. It was a little over 6 minutes slower than last time, but was actually faster than I expected! My average pace was better than it has been in any of my long training runs. I don't think I could have asked for a better run that day. Plus the Marines really put on a fantastic race, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience twice now. I plan to run the 10K again next year, and hopefully this time my husband will be running with me! (There, I put it into writing...he has no choice but to make it happen now! Hahaha!)
I'll leave you with what seemed to be the motto for this year's race, which was plastered on everything, including our little boxes of free post-race food:
Not the hashtag...the other thing. ;-)